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.

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018!

Portland Dining Month returns for it's 9th year with a few newbies on the lineup! Portland dining month presented by Travel Portland is already live and on day five with over 120 participating restaurants, including some local favorites and a few newbies to the group.  If you've not cruised the line-up this year then head over to www.travelportland.com to scroll through all of the amazing pre-fixe three-course options available all month long for $33 dollars. 

Since it's inception in 2009, Portland food lovers have enjoyed dining across the city during the month of March while enjoy three-course-meals at a discounted price. For me, and many others, this is the time of year when we get to pull out our Portland restaurant bucket lists and hit all of the places I've been wanting to indulge in, at a delicious deal.

New to 2018 Portland Dining Month's lineup is Feastly. Feastly is the highly sought-after dining pop-up experience featuring local and global chefs connecting curious dinners with a pop-up dining experience.  Feastly Portland and its community of chefs will throw Portland Dining Month pop-up meals in their dedicated space and through venues around town. For a full list of participating Feasty chefs, menus, and locations visit www.eatfeastly.com/pdxdiningmonth. The Feastly chefs participating in this years' dining month represent a diverse range of cuisines like Guamanian, Ethiopian, Turkish, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Nigerian cuisines. Another fun reason to eat through Feastly is some chefs will be serving vegan and paleo dinners, which is perfect for those with dietary restrictions. 

Also new to the 2018 roster are participating restaurants like Bistro Agnes, Southfork, and Alto Bajo. And, of course, some of my standby dining month favorites like Aviary, Little Bird, and Departure.

The full list of participating restaurants is available at www.travelportland.com/dining-month/. And, one important reason why we dine is for the participation with Oregon Food Bank. For every reservation made through the OpenTable links on the Travel portland website a donation will be made to the Oregon Food Bank's hunger-relief efforts. Do not skip this detail and reserve your table using those links!

And, in case you didn't catch my post and recap of last year's Portland Dining Month dishes head back to that post to see what a fun treat you can be in for. continue reading to learn about my strategy to sift through all of the overwhelming options of Portland Dining Month. 

MY PORTLAND DINING MONTH STRATEGY

2018's Portland Dining Month will be my 4th year participating, and every year since, I have discovered new strategies and tips on how to navigate my way through the menus, the restaurants, and the values. Now, I want to share it with you. The following steps are the very ones I take to cut through the overwhelming list of participants and how I maximize my time and money. These are the things I look for:

Who has been on my "to try" list?:

  • Pull out that never-ending list of restaurants you've had on your phone and cross-reference the entire Portland Dining Month lineup and note which establishments on that list are participating. If ever there was a great time to go for it and dine out, March is the month!

  • Now, if a restaurant strikes your interest and isn't on your list, by all means, write it down. The next few steps will help us discover if this is the month to go try.

  • Some of those restaurants that are on my "to-try" food list are Olympia Oyster Bar, Jack Rabbit, Bistro Agnes, Laurelhurst Market, Jacqueline, Cabezon, Renata, and lucky me, they are all participating in this years' lineup.

Take note of menus with multiple options:

  • This has got to be my favorite part of dining month; multiple options per course. Some restaurants have fun with dining month and allow dinners to make between two and three choices for all three courses. This means one thing, you must bring all of your adventurous dining companions. Bar Casa Vale, one of my favorite restaurants, is offering up a menu featuring two choices between all three courses with items normally found on their menu. Since the items are familiar you can easily slice through a good chunk of their standard menu options with plates like papas bravas or salt cod fritters, citrus salad or kohlrabi, albondigas or fideos. Or, since we're talking multiple choices a place like Farm House Thai Kitchen, one I have not been to, is also offering multiple choices for the second and third courses, and an additional fourth course. This would be the absolute best time to try a little of everything and learn more about the food!

  • Always bring friends that are willing to share or even split the courses. This is the best part of having foodie friends and having course choices. More ways to try it all without the dreaded commitment to a lone dish.

  • Another perk about choices, the second option tends to be a vegetarian-friendly course. A few restaurants follow the veggie-friendly courses including Departure who always offers choices for herbivores and carnivores alike, as well as The Woodsman Tavern (offering two choices on the second entree), Taqueria Nueve, Serrato, Nel Centro, and Renata.

Check who is really producing a deal:

  • This is the heavy work, but it must be done. In order to fully maximize dining month you have got to see who is really putting out the best bargain. I like to do this by reading the menu offerings and comparing the price points to the listed menu prices. Now, this doesn't always work for every restaurant. Some places will be offering special dining month menus so the items offered will not be listed on their website menu. But, remember, $33 is still a little steep when you consider that it's the price-per-head and that's not including cocktails and tip, so make your dining month is worth it. And, if you get a menu with listed prices online and the math just barely makes $34, skip it You're better off going at a time outside of dining month and enjoying the entire menu's offerings.

  • $33 for three-courses sounds like a deal up front but, beware of those places that already offer deals throughout the week, some even better than dining month. I'm looking at you "Monday dinner/ cheap eats."

  • This year's amazing deals that have caught my eye are Fogo De Chao, Ecliptic brewing (where you leave with a $10 gift card, bringing your total to far below $33 once you cash that card back in), Jack Rabit (where the main course covers $30 on the menu), and Headwaters where the main entree's price point does not fall below $18 and the desserts are no less than $9.

Last, and certainly not least, Who is offering the best dessert?

  • Dessert is one of my favorite parts of dining out. whether it be classics like creme brûlée, a hot fudge sundae, or, even, a savory cheese board. Nothing excites me like a treat after finishing a meal. So, with that said, I do like a third course to be a treat course. Now there are a few exceptions like Yakuza, Olympia Oyster Bar, Buckman Public House, where instead of offering a sweet finish have turned course number three into an additional entree. This sounds like an even better deal for those who do not like sweets. Now if you want to know who has the keys to my dessert-loving heart then know that Laurelhurst Market is doing a great job of starting a relationship with their Dulce de Leche semifreddo with roasted banana, chocolate and hazelnuts -just take my wallet and cash savings account; Lechon is dishing out all of the smooth love vibes with a chocolate mousse tart with mango puree, raspberry and quinoa brittle -yep, just going to put my entire dinner in the fridge and go straight for dessert; and then there is Olympia Provisions massaging my heart with a Chocolate peanut butter parfait with creme fraiche and honey-roasted peanuts - Dairy Queen nostalgia with a grown ass attitude; and The Waiting Room is just tossing rose petals on my sheets with this Butterscotch cremeux with caramel, Jacobson sea salt, and Cashew streusel -I think it's safe to say I am in a full blown relationship with all of these desserts now.

  • I will not break or give a second thought to restaurants offering up pot de creme's -a dessert that requires roughly four ingredients, a blender, and refrigeration. I want the words brulee, brittle, streusel, chocolate shavings, coconut ash, passion fruit, and crust to fall somewhere on the dessert description. If you aren't playing, I ain't paying.

Now that we've narrowed down our list where will you be dining?

And, did you know I'm hosting a G I V E A W A Y ? Yep, Head to my Instagram Page @Maxenestrail and follow the requirements to enter and win dinner with me on behalf of Travel Portland!

Remember to book your tables using the the Open Table links on the Travel Portland page to help benefit our community. 


disclosure: I was have been invited to participate in Portland Dining Month 2018 on behalf of my friends at Travel Portland.  Part of my participation involves receiving dining vouchers for personal use and for hosting a giveaway! This post was at my own discretion and not in exchange for a positive review. All opinions shared are my own.

RINGSIDE STEAKHOUSE PRIME RIB MONDAY'S

Happy work week Portland friends, I wanted to share something really quick with you:

The Ringside Steakhouse on W. Burnside is currently offering an amazing special, a three-course prime rib dinner, every Monday for $35 -while supplies last. Three courses, $35 bucks, how can this go wrong?

Last Monday I went with my little family and was not disappointed. We started with a filling fresh green salad before my show-stopping second course arrived, a prime cut of prime rib cooked to my liking (medium). Along with the second course with a potato side of my choice and I chose the most excellent way to eat a potato, baked and loaded. our third and final course was the most wonderful and decadent ramekin of creme brulee.  Now, I consider myself to be very efficient at cracking the crust of a traditional creme brulee but this ramekin of burnt sugar on top of my thick sweet cream was, by far, the thickest layer of ice on my pudding pond that I have ever encountered. After applying enough force and breaking through the sugar crust I was rewarded with the thickest, and richest and vanilla bean dotted creme of my life. The creme brulee's made at the ringside restaurants cannot be beat, it is one of the best I have ever tasted!


BUEN PROVECHO!


disclosure: i was invited to dine at Ringside Steakhouse to help promote their new $35 three-course prime rib dinner. my hosted meal was not in exchange for a positive review, all opinions shared are my own.

OREGON WHISKEY HOUR AT RUE

OREGON WHISKEY HOUR AT RUE

 

Hey Portland friends! If you have been following me along on instagram @maxenestrail -the platform that I am the most active on- you've probably noticed that I have been unabashedly stuffing my face with all sorts of yummy eats and of course, lots of adult beverages -or as I say, "revenge for the nine months of baby-making sobriety". Aside from those indulgences I have been wanting to fill you in on a really cool way you, too, can get to eating and drinking just like I do.  One of the coolest little events that I've been going to lately is Bull Run Distillery's Oregon Whiskey Hour.

Oregon Whiskey Hour is a collaborative effort on behalf of our local whiskey-focused distillery, Bull Run Distillery with local restaurants and bars around town to create and feature drink specials using Bull Run's newly released Single Malt Whiskey. This once-a-month pop-up happy hour is a great way to taste how whiskey can make the transformation from shot glass to hand-crafted cocktail.

Aside from drinking handcrafted cocktails is the opportunity to expand your horizons on the world of whiskey as owner and distiller, Lee Medoff will be on hand to answer any questions as you taste test through Bull Run's whiskey offerings.  

Bull Run Highball: oregon single malt whiskey, ginger, lemon, mint, and bitters.

Play Crack the Sky #2: oregon single malt whiskey, bourbon, ancho reyers, and bitters

While enjoying these handcrafted whiskey-focused beverages I also enjoyed Rue's satisfying happy hour offerings!

chickpea paniss and oysters on the half shell

ALL THE INFO YOU NEED FOR OREGON WHISKEY HOUR:

www.oregonwhiskeyhour.com

facebook: Bull Run Distillery -hit like and stay up to date with their events tab.

fhe next Oregon Whiskey Hour will be Thursday, July 27th at Kell's Brewery from 4-6p

hosting restaurant for april's Oregon Whiskey Hour: Rue