MY BIRTHDAY FOOD AND COCKTAIL CRAWL IN PORTLAND

HOW DOES ONE CELEBRATE HER BIRTHDAY ON A WEEKDAY... LET ME SHOW YOU HOW!

My birthday rolled around at the beginning of May and, as tradition would have it, I took a whole day to be selfish; doing all of the very things that make me happy  -outside of time with my little family.

So what kind of trouble would I get myself into for my birthday ?

Let me start by telling you I love a day off in the middle of the week, better than a weekend. So, naturally, as my birthday fell on a Tuesday I took the whole day off. This meant so many great things: little to no wait for highly coveted seats at top Portland places (which do not take reservations), no added costs of hiring a sitter since my child was at daycare, little to no traffic while hopping about town, and, a FULL day to myself at my leisure, THE BEST!

Before this wonderful day arrived I made a list or two of the restaurants and things I really wanted to do. Through much deliberation and I was able to sort my day out by timeline and location. I wrote out a Birthday Girl itinerary and woke up in the best mood as I had prepared myself a full day of eating, drinking, and general happy moments!

As luck would have it, I could only reach one gal pal to meet for breakfast but I still had a great day spent mostly alone. 

In true fashion I kick-started the day by getting a good sweat session in at the gym at a leisurely pace -which is uncommon since I only have 40 minutes most mornings- and promptly sat on the sofa -still smelly and hot from post gym bliss- and enjoyed my morning coffee. After a long shower I was ready to start birthday funday as planned:


Sweedeedee is a cute little shop in NE Portland that gives off massive Scandinavian vibes. This breakfast and lunch spot is always a weekend hit -with the lines to prove it-, and they make an insanely sweet pie that is often raved about. Leave it to me to make use of a weekday to conquer this place -instead of waiting with the throngs on a weekend.  

Ordered: breakfast sandwich on a biscuit, cornmeal cakes, and a slice of salted honey pie!

  • 10:30a coffee to go at Proud Mary

After my hearty and savory-sweet breakfast at Sweedeedee I needed to cut through the sugar and grease with a nice cup of coffee so I took a quick drive up to Proud Mary Coffee, a fine breakfast cafe and coffee shop with quite a huge following on the weekends. I ordered a cup of coffee to go expecting to head home and rest up for an hour. That was until I found myself driving pass confetti lined streets. I pulled my car over and realized it was petal confetti from all of the bloomed cherry blossoms. The sidewalks and some streets were lined heavily, it was a beautiful sight, so naturally, I had to document it. 

Spring is such a beautiful time of year in Portland. The contrasting splash of spring colors breaks up the grey skies and brightens up the dull weather.

  • 1 p.m. House Spirits Distillery Tour

One of the greatest things about Portland is we have zero shortage of fine artisans within close proximity who are perfecting their craft and graciously sharing it with us all much like House Spirits Distillery does, a local distillery located in SE Portland offering distilling tours right where production of their award-winning spirits are made. All spirits are small batch made and ethically sourced and here is where you can find made-from-scratch Krogstad Aquavit, Volstead Vodka, Casa Magdalena Rum, and many limited release spirits. The staff is incredibly helpful and very happy to explain the process, from the grain to the barrel, and the tours are a real behind the scenes glimpse into the productions of small batch spirits. 

House Spirits Distillery offers daily tours of the largest whiskey distillery in Oregon. Each tour is $20 per person and includes a spirit flight and a taste of House Spirits' whiskey wash.  

  • Weekday Tours available at the top of every hour, starting at 1p
  • Weekend Tours available at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays
  • 2:30p time to soak up the booze at  Maurice.

After tasting numerous samples of House Spirits Distillery spirits I had a wee bit of time to kill so I concluded that the most fitting of ways to burn some time was to enjoy delightful pastry treats and bites from Maurice, a cute Scandinavian luncheon shop in Downtown. 

As a huge supporter of variety and treating one's self, I had to order an assortment of bites like Chef Kristen's Smorbord De Jour which featured cottage cheese, rhubarb, greens, and peaches. Then, I moved on to more of her sweet offerings like the creamy and velvety smooth Black Pepper Cheesecake, the most creamy bite to spread across the roof of your mouth -in all the cheesecake bites you have ever tried. If I had the words to describe it so eloquently I would. better yet, just imagine sweet whipped butter melting into toast and that is this cheesecake. Lastly, I tried the Bird Seed Coconut Tea Cake, served warm and topped with a generous dollop of fresh butter and a golden pour of honey. Crunchy and nuttier than a squirrel turd but, absolutely tasty, make this a priority when you visit. that is, if she doesn't sell out. 

  • 4p. Happy Hour at Departure with my food baes

With a whole day to myself, a babysitter on deck, and no time card to punch-out on I set myself up on a happy hour date with some of my favorite girlfriends. The destination, Departure. Departure is the ultra-hip restaurant on the 15th floor inside the of the swanky Nines Hotel. The restaurant is run by executive chef Gregory Gourdet, a Top Chef season 12 contestant and a beloved participant in Portland's local food festival Feast Portland. Departure's cuisine is pan-asian and does it ever satisfy the need for a variety of Asian dishes, tropical desserts and cocktails. Departure is the place to go for stunning views of Portland's cityscape and asian fusion bites. 

Ordered: Half of the Happy Hour Menu and a birthday dessert. Departure is an amazing place to eat for anyone with diet restrictions, they are vegan, gluten-free, diary-free, and vegetarian friendly! 

This last adventure of the night was a delicious spanish-inspired dinner at Bar Casa Vale, one of my favorite go-to spots for wood-fired seafood, tapas, and gin and tonics served in goblets. 


Well, there you have it. A full day of eating and drinking on a weekday. I know, I could have crammed way more fun adventures into my day but since I go to the gym extra early (6a) I knew it was going to be a very long day, plus, add having to put a kid to bed before going out to my last destination and that amounts to a even longer day on my feet. I was just a happy kid to do most of everything I wanted to do and even got some downtime in with my main squeeze. Below are the remaining things that made the list but not the cut for the day.

Great weekday birthday alternatives:

  • Kennedy Soaking Pools
  • Knot Springs
  • Brunch at Tasty n Alder
  • Spend an afternoon hitting balls at Top Golf
  • Food cart crawl through downtown
  • Dessert crawl down SE 28th (There is a lot of soft serve and desserts right on this street).
  • Coffee crawl through SE Portland.

HOMEMADE CRACKER JACK

HOMEMADE CRACKER JACK USING JOLLY TIME HEALTHY POP

My January Degustabox came packed with some fun snacks including an all-time favorite box of popcorn from Jolly Time Popcorn. I used my box of popcorn and jazzed the shit outta it by turning the popcorn and a few other snack items into one combined snack, a copy cat cracker jack mix!

Such a fun nostalgic treat! 


HOMEMADE CRACKER JACK

DIRECTIONS:

INGREDIENTS:

Preheat oven to 325 F, line two 9" x 13" baking sheets with parchment paper

In a large mixing bowl toss together the pretzels, pecans, peanuts, and popcorn. 

In a small heavy bottom saucepan put brown sugar, light corn syrup, and butter on low heat. Stir until melted and combined, when the mixture starts to bubble pull from stove, stir in vanilla. Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, carefully mix until everything is coated in caramel.

Divide and spread the mixture evenly among the two prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow mixture to cool completely. Break up the mixture into smaller pieces and serve.

*Avoid adding unpopped kernels to the mixture. Take popped popcorn from the top of a shaken bag to avoid unpopped kernels.

2 tbsp. light corn syrup

4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)

brown sugar

2 c. pretzels

3/4 c. peanuts

3/4 c. pecans

1 tsp. vanilla extract

half a bag of popped popcorn*


Cracker jack is snacking crack!

A wonderful combination of salty, sweet, caramel, and crunch... and so easy to make!


Thank you DEGUSTABOX for sponsoring this post


BUEN PROVECHO!

DUTCH BABY WITH ENGLISH PROVENDER LEMON CURD

As soon as I had seen this English Provender Lemon Curd in this month's degustabox I knew exactly how I would be putting it to use; on a freshly made dutch baby!

A dutch baby has got to be one of easiest breakfast items to whip up. It looks complicated and seem so fancy but in total seriousness I'd rather make a few rounds of dutch baby than to stand over a hot griddle dishing out waffles or hotcakes. The ingredients for a dutch baby are simple, the ingredient are already ones commonly stocked in your pantry; flour, sugar, salt, eggs, milk, and vanilla, so put on your apron and let's get to work. The only real fuss to a dutch baby is having ingredients at room temperature and deciding what toppings to put on it.

Don't these ingredients look common enough: flour, eggs, salt, milk, and vanilla?


DUTCH BABY WITH ENGLISH PROVENDER LEMON CURD

DIRECTIONS: 

INGREDIENTS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Blend milk, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt together in a blender until batter is smooth.

Melt clarified butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until bubbling; pour batter into the center of the skillet.

Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes, brush with 1 tbsp butter, drizzle lemon juice over top, dust with confectioners' sugar and serve with English Provender Lemon Curd on the side.

 

 

 

this is a Chef John original recipe which can be found HERE!

2/3 C, milk, room temperature

1/2 C packed all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp. clarified butter

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 mayer lemon, juiced

1 tbsp. confectioners' sugar

3 tbsp. English Provender Lemon Curd.

 


thank you DEGUSTABOX for sponsoring this post. 

recipe is an original from Chef John at Food Wishes


BUEN PROVECHO!

NEL CENTRO RESTAURANT TURNS 7!

Nel Centro
1408 SW Sixth Ave.
Portland, OR 97201
www.nelcentro.com

For years, and years I have driven by Nel Centro (located near all of the downtown performance venues and attached to the ultra trendy Hotel Modea), and each time wondered if I would ever make it inside for an "amazing meal and excellent brunch" as many of my friends have noted. as luck would have it I was invited to join in celebrating Nel Centro's 7th anniversary inside their spacious, light-filled restaurant a few weeks ago.  

Before being sat I noticed a huge outdoor sun-soaked patio filled with an assortment of wine, and beer drinking happy faces. I made a mental note to explore this area later. 

For our meal we were treated to a wonderful four-course dinner prepared by chef John Eisenhart, featuring locally sourced and classically prepared dishes from the French and Italian Riviera. Our wonderful meals were also paired with signature cocktails -a few of their frequently updated libations that draw inspiration from local theater productions- and wine from their expansive wine list. I was in heaven. That was until my stomach protested that another bite just wouldn't fit! I didn't eat another meal until lunch the following day; we were all certainly spoiled that evening. 

Upon arrival we were greeted to a tasty prosecco cocktail called the Magic Flute

Dinner at Nel Centro

our dinner menu for the evening

Dinner Menu at Nel Centro

-starters-

Wild Mushroom & Gorgonzola Pizza + Duck Leg Confit with kumquat gastrique

-salad course-

Roasted Beets with baked ricotta, hazelnuts, arugula, citrus, and fresh black pepper

-pasta course-

Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with english peas and lemon, paired with a 2014 delaille sauvignon blanc

Papperdelle with Braised Lamb Shoulder and smoked pecorino, paired with a 2013 tedeschi capital san rocco valpolicella ripasso.

-entree course-

-paired cocktails for our menu-

Did you know Nel Centro runs a cocktail program that often runs drinks in conjunction with current downtown Portland Theater productions? the drink below "Ol' Man River" was inspired by Portland Opera's 2015 run of Show Boat.

cocktails designed for portland opera

Being a fan of bubbles and alcohol, the magic flute was my absolute favorite, however, the Old Man River was a super strong candidate for number one. I am pretty partial to whiskey cocktails and I do love myself an old fashion but bubbles steal the win every time.

Below are a few of the delicious cocktail recipes for the drinks enjoyed during our evening at Nel Centro.


old man river at nel centro

Old Man River 

  • 1 oz Burnside Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Calisaya Liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Dolin Blanc
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters

build in a mixing glass over ice, share and serve in bucket

garnish with orange wedge and cherry



the magic flute cocktail at nel centro

Magic Flute

  • 1 oz Nardini Acqua di Cedro
  • 3 Dashes Grapefruit Bitters
  • Top with Prosecco

serve in flute + garnish with lemon twist

 


Shortly after we finished all of our courses we were treated to another fancy cocktail and an assortment of deserts in Nel Centro's private dining room, the Colosseum. The Colosseum is unlike any other private dining room in that they have a beautiful pool table, side wet bar, shuffleboard, darts, a big sofa, and flat screen TV.


Many of the items we enjoyed that evening are also items featured on their lengthy list of happy hour items:

  • mussels for $8
  • duck leg confit for $7
  • wild mushroom and gorgonzola pizza for $7
  • featured cocktails $6
  • house red, white, rose, and sparkling wines $6
  • draft beers $4

Nel Centro's happy hour list can be found here. 


Thank you so much Michelle, John, Nathaniel, and David for providing such an excellent meal and taking the time to teach and show us all of the reasons to have a full blown love affair with Nel Centro. I am smitten.

I can't wait to go back on a sunny afternoon and enjoy an other culinary trip to the French and Italian Rivera with bites from their happy hour menu while outside on their large private patio!


disclosure: 

I was invited to attend a hosted media dinner to celebrate Nel Centro's 7th birthday, all opinions shared are my own and  not in exchange for a positive review.