TOAST 2015 Giveaway Winner

As promised, folks, a winner for a $45 General Admission ticket to Toast 2015 has been selected from last week’s post I put up announcing the contest.

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Since I’m still learning how to do cool stuff like plugins for contests and such, I simply used a random number generator that I found on the internet to select a winner for the giveaway. I numbered the seven comments left on my prior post as 1-7, the two tweets as 8-9 and the three Instagram comments as 10-12.

And…the winner is…

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Which means that Melissa wins the ticket to TOAST 2015 at Leftbank Annex on March 7th!

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Congratulations, Melissa! If I may say so myself, you do have impeccable taste choosing the Crazy 88 at Departure as one of your favourite Portland cocktails. Please e-mail me at saltwatercoffee@hotmail.com your e-mail address and full name so that I can e-mail you your ticket :)

As for everyone else, I still HIGHLY encourage you pack your lunch a few days next week and use that money towards a ticket to TOAST so that you also can have the opportunity to taste 120 different spirits from 40 distilleries and munch on bites from Smallwares, Olympic Provisions, The Bent Brick, Stella Taco and the up and coming Ringside Grill.

For ticket and event information, click here!

TOAST 2015 Ticket Giveaway: 40 Distillers and 5 of PDX’s Best Chefs

Do you like any of the following?

Rum, Brandy, Tequila, Absinthe, Aquavit, Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Tacos, Charcuterie, or Asian fusion food?

Now, let me ask you this: Are you free on March 7th between the hours of 4 and 10pm and have the means to get to the beautiful Leftbank Annex event venue in Portland? If you answered yes to both questions, then I’ve got a helluva surprise for you.

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The Oregon Distiller’s Guild will be putting on the 5th Annual TOAST, a celebration featuring forty distillers from Oregon, the rest of the Northwest region and around the globe. There will be the opportunity to taste 120 different spirits with no limit on how many you can taste and delectable bits from   renown local Chefs Elias Cairo (Olympic Provisions), Scott Dolich (The Bent Brick), Matthew Fields (Stella Taco PDX),  Johanna Ware (Smallwares/Barwares) and Kevin Schantz (Ringside Grill) to soak up the booze.

The Leftbank Annex venue is perfectly accessible by public transportation with the Convention Center MAX stop and Portland Streetcar within a couple of blocks.

Now, do you sound tempted yet? Yes? Ok, fabulous. So, here it is, I have a General Admission ticket valued at $45 that I will give away to a lucky winner on Tuesday, February 24th. How can you enter to win?

1) Leave a comment telling me what your favorite cocktail in Portland is (or if you don’t have one, your favorite cocktail in general).

2) Follow me on Twitter (@Sara_Korhonen) and tweet the link to this giveaway and use the hashtag #TOASTWITHSLIM

3) Follow me on Instagram (@lilslimlady) and comment on THIS POST which distillery you are most excited to taste from.

If you do all three of the above then yes that does qualify you for three entries, if you do two then two and if you do one then one. Best of luck my comrades…and hey even if you don’t win still get a ticket before they run out! General Admission ones are $45 and include event entry, a commemorative tasting glass, food from popular local chefs, samples from 40+ distilleries and the Oregon Distillery Trail Scout book. The VIP ones are for $60 and come with everything the GA tix do PLUS two specialty cocktails, access to the VIP area and access to the after party with the distillers.

Portland Dumpling Week: So Far So Fab

In case you have been living under a rock (or I suppose just don’t religiously follow Portland food news), the first annual Dumpling Week is well underway here with only two more days left (well technically a day and a half).

There are nineteen restaurants participating with their own take on the dumpling and if you print out your Dumpling Passport from The Oregonian’s website you can collect stickers from the various participating businesses and qualify to win a prize! Check out the full directions and info HERE

Anyhow, I got quite a late start to Dumpling Week since I’m not normally a big dumpling muncher but then the Instagram FOMO set in and I decided to hit up my ever so reliable foodie partner, Anne and create a master plan to conquer as many dumpling destinations over the course of four days. I still have five restaurants to hit tonight and another three I’m planning on for tomorrow, but I thought I would share with you all the dumplings I’ve already indulged in so that you can also get some dumpling FOMO and hit these spots while you still have the time.

BOLLYWOOD THEATER: Minced chicken and pork Momos (vegetarian version available too) $8

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These plump bundles of meat are momos, a delectable comfort food prevalent in Nepal and Northeastern India around the Himalayas. Having spent a week in Darjeeling in the past, I am an adorer of momos and was thrilled to see that there was a place in Portland to offer them. While these momos were delicious and full of mincemeat I found the dumpling skin to be a tad too thick for my liking.

IMPERIAL: Georgian spiced beef and pork Khinkali with herbed yogurt $8

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Plump, juicy and filled with brothy goodness, these dumplings were definitely one of my favourites so far. Essentially you’re supposed to hold the nub, take a big ol bite and suck in the juices while holding the bowl underneath your chin for any broth spillage, then dip and douse in the herbed yogurt. Quite the savoury treat these dumplings are.

LITTLE BIRD BISTRO: Goat Cheese Gnocchi  with mashed English peas, lamb tongue, pea tendrils and fresh Oregon truffles $17

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Little Bird’s contribution to Dumpling Week just may have been the most photogenic of them all. And yes, it was also spectacular in taste whether it be the fresh pea puree, umami-ness from the truffles or the pickled lamb tongue complimenting the chewy gnocchi morsels. While certainly on the pricey side, I’d advise splitting with a friend because this is one dish that should not be missed.

GRASSA: Crispy semolina dumplings with Dungeness crab, porcini, mint and house pancetta $12

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Oh dear Lord, this rendition of a dumpling dish is in the same vein as Little Bird’s offering; a melange of flavours and textures that form a beautiful piece of culinary art. The large crispy dumplings are stuffed solid with Dungeness crab and sit in a decadently buttery porcini and caramelized onion strewn sauce. So damn good.

BOXER RAMEN: Potstickers filled with pork, ginger and chives served with pickled carrots and a garlic ponzu sauce. $5 (NOW SOLD OUT)

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Perhaps one of the most dumpling-esque of all the dumplings, Boxer’s extremely affordable potstickers make an awesome appetizer. Plus their pickled carrots are fantastically spicy. I’ll admit I’m quite forlorn for all of you that didn’t get to try these since they sold out today; however fear not, I believe the potstickers reside on Boxer’s regular menu.

DEPARTURE: Shrimp Dumplings made with palm sugar, ginger and crispy shallots $11

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Top Chef finalist, Gregory Gourdet’s winning shrimp dumplings encompass everything that a dumpling should be. Three chubby pouches of goodness show up in an appropriate dumpling basket (I don’t know if that’s what its actually called but you get what I mean). They are meaty and fabulous and the dumpling skin is super sheer allowing maximum flavor potential. So bomb. You have to get them.

 ST. JACK: Quennelle de Brochet (poached and baked pike dumpling with a mushroom, crayfish and cognac sauce)

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Perhaps my favourite of all the dumplings so far. While the description might sound adventurous, this classic Lyonnaise dish is the epitome of comfort food for a cold day. The dumpling reminded me of mashed potatoes and the sauce, an incredibly rich tomato and mushroom strewn accompaniment. Delectable beyond belief.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get your dumpling on ASAP! On that note, I’m off to try the ones at Son of A Biscuit, Kachka, Ox and Lincoln!

Café Castagna: A Family Style Mediterranean Menu Tour

Café Castagna may be the first “nice” restaurant I ate at in Portland. Several years back when I was a junior in college, a couple of friends and I ventured over to this splendid SE Hawthorne establishment in order to try their famous burger. It was of course, splendid yet for some silly reason I never ventured back up until a couple of weeks back when Irene of Watershed Communications invited me to join herself and other Portland Bloggers with trying the newly revamped menu.

Last July, Chef Wesley Johnson was hired by Café Castagna and he took the reins on reformulating the menu to a nouveau Middle Eastern cuisine abundant in fresh vegetables and herbaceous accents. Chef Wesley, formerly worked under Chef Michael Solomonov at the famous Middle Eastern restaurant, Zahav in Philadelphia and also spent a significant chunk of time in Israel/Palestine studying the cuisine of the region.

Being half Saudi/Palestinian and raised part of my life in Dubai, I was extremely excited to try out Chef Wesley’s concoctions and see how he was meshing middle eastern flavors and cooking techniques with seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Kicking a Beehive: Mezcal, Drambuie, Grapefruit, Honey, Salt & Honey Crystal Rim
Kicking a Beehive: Mezcal, Drambuie, Grapefruit, Honey, Salt & Honey Crystal Rim

Upon arriving for the family style dinner, I ordered the “Kicking A Beehive,” a delicious and beautifully concocted craft cocktail blending the smokiness of mezcal with a hint of citrus from the grapefruit and a tinge of sweet from the honey. Café Castagna also now features a $45 bottle wine list which provides an affordable way to try a quality red or white alongside your meal. Even better is that the bottles drop to $40 if you and your dining companions opt to choose one of the tasting menus for your dinner (there is a $30 and a $40 option in which the Chef selects your dishes for the evening).

As you can see above, it goes without saying that we had an extremely generous selection of items from the menu to try including nearly all of the vegetable/salad dishes. The flatbread with dips is an excellent sharing starter at only $10 with a hot and chewy zaatar dusted flatbread and a choice of creamy labneh, herby Turkish hummus and smooth and succulent chicken liver mousse to dip it in. The fried panissa was also excellent, a super fluffy and healthier alternative to French fries (panissa is chickpea flour). As for the salads/veggie dishes, everything was excellent whether it be the summery and light citrus/ginger salad or the excellent roasted carrots topped with some feta, mint and zhoug. There was also an impeccable roasted brussels sprouts dish that I forgot to picture which featured chickpeas, preserved citrus, black olive, aleppo chile.

And if you thought the starter dishes were a treat, then just take another glance at the main dishes we got the pleasure of indulging in. The celery root and parmesan agnolotti may be on of the best pasta dishes I have had in recent memory and in fact would be one of my top three dishes of the evening. It was perfectly al dente and a theme park of the finest grade of umami flavors. Irene (who is Italian) was swooning about it all night so you KNOW it is legit. There was also the Cipaille; essentially a massive Middle Eastern meatfest of a pot pie that reminded me somewhat of the Moroccan dish Pastille which also features a mix of meat, puff pastry and cinnamon/semi sweet flavours. Chef Wesley was also so kind as to serve us a sneak peek of a dish not yet on the menu- a Persian wedding rice rendition mixed in spices such as saffron and dried fruit/nuts topped with a housemaid rabbit roulade and rabbit chunks. If I wasn’t already so full I could’ve gone to town on that delectable pistachio and plum infused roulade.

Then there was dessert…

Profiteroles with a tahini/pistachio ice cream
Profiteroles with a tahini/pistachio ice cream

The IDEAL light dessert to end an incredibly abundant and diverse meal. These profiteroles were like mini ice cream sandwiches stuffed with a tahini and pistachio ice cream which reminded me of the tahini “halawa” my mom used to buy my sister and I as kids.

If you haven’t checked out Café Castagna yet, then add it to the top of your “To Eat” list ASAP! There is no better place to take a vegetarian or vegan dining companion as the selection is plentiful as well as anyone who loves a good dose of quality meat. If you’re a fan of the fare available at Levant and Mediterranean Exploration Company, then you will adore what Chef Wesley Johnson has up his sleeve. Café Castagna is also open for brunch on weekends as well as Happy Hour and yes, that burger is still indeed on the menu and still just as fantastic (if not better).

A huge thank you to Chef Wesley Johnson, the staff at Café Castagna and Watershed Communications for hosting such a fantastic dinner*. I will most definitely be back soon!

*This dinner was free of charge, however all my reviews and statements are true to my personal experience and opinion. 

Sh%t Food Bloggers Do.

Blogger Lunch at Ringside Fish House

Last month, I (internally) celebrated the four year anniversary of Salt Water Coffee. FOUR YEARS. While the earlier posts tended to range from Fashion Week recaps to videos of me in my closet talking nonsense and picking my split ends to spaghetti squash recipes; I did manage to eventually find a niche and not stray too far from it. The past three years, Portland’s Food Blogger community has become significantly more prominent with its own Facebook group and countless dinners/cocktail parties/tastings hosted by local PR firms and restaurants/bars/artisans in the industry. In the past couple of years over the course of the 100+ events I’ve attended, I’ve collected a list of tidbits that signify Food Blogger Culture. Enjoy.

Blogger Lunch at Ringside Fish House
Blogger Lunch at Ringside Fish House

It is not rude to be on your phone 95% of the time; in fact it would be rude to not touch your phone because then how the hell would you be tweeting/instagramming/taking notes about how that duck was prepared or what sort of barrels that wine was aged in?

Favoriting tweets and liking pics from someone sitting right next to you that you’ve never spoken to before is so not awkward. 

You only know people by their Instagram or Twitter handle. But you know all about their opinion of Bon Appetit Magazine’s picks for Portland’s Best Restaurants or what they ate for lunch yesterday and the day before that…and the day before that…

“I can’t, I have an event.”- When your friends ask you if you want to go to Happy Hour.

You’re collectively confused when an event doesn’t have a designated hashtag, so you end up collectively creating one.

If you’re dining in a dimly lit environment, you show solidarity to other bloggers by shining your iphone flashlight/holding a candle near whatever they’re trying to photograph so that they can get a decent shot.

Nobody EVER starts eating until everyone has gotten a picture. 

Awkward silences are no longer awkward because you could just go instagram or tweet to occupy the time.

You can always bring up a controversy from Eater or Twitter to have something to talk about with other bloggers.

Chefs, notable bartenders, food writers for magazines/newspapers and PR Firm owners are your version of celebrities.

Exchanging phone numbers never seems necessary when you can just make plans on Twitter or Instagram. 

But then you will exchange numbers during Feast Portland because you’d rather keep it private when you’re giving one another the pros and cons of the opposing afterparties you’re at and which one you should attempt to venture to. 

Of course you care about what bay those oysters came from.

If you didn’t Instagram it, then you never ate it. 

You’ve developed an algorithm for how to choose your +1’s to events.

Not getting an invite to a brunch/holiday party/tasting/media preview that other bloggers you know did makes you feel like that kid that did’t get picked on the kickball team.

You’re probably married or engaged or living with your boyfriend and spend your excess income on Pop-up dinners, artisanal salts, a DSLR, and kitchen remodels. 

You have the utmost respect for PR Firms that make sure there is impeccable lighting at the events they invite you to and pre-send you all necessary guestlists, hashtags, social media accounts and menus to expect. 

Being retweeted by Carrie Welch, Mike Thelin or Gregory Gourdet is just like REALLY REALLY COOL. 

Feast Portland is the most turning up you will do in a given year. 

Your phone battery dying or your iPhone storage becoming full at the wrong time is an actual catastrophe. 

Anything to add? Let me know!

Sara’s 2015 Portland Holiday Gift Guide For Foodies

Since the holidays are in full session, I figured I’d join the plethora of Portland bloggers making holiday gift guides and curate one myself. All five gifts I selected are from Portland based purveyors and are guaranteed to be a unique present to that special foodie in your life. So nix the Sur La Table gift card and instead order one of these online (or better yet head to one of the retailers yourself).

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1. Jacobsen Salt Co. Tasting Vials Gift Set 

Jacobsen Salt is no doubt a staple ingredient amongst Portland’s finest restaurants and has gained fame for it’s delicious and unique infused versions so that you can add a tinge of salt to just about any dish whether it be a beverage, dessert, or a grass-fed filet. This gift set even made the Smithsonian’s Gift Guide this year! For $29.95 you’ll get the signature Pure Flake Salt, Lemon Zest Salt, Vanilla Bean Salt, Stumptown Coffee Salt, Smoked Salt, and Smoked Cherrywood Salt.

Price: $29.95

Where to Buy: Jacobsen Salt Co Website, Old Faithful Shop (Photo Credit)

2. Station Knives “The Byron” Chef’s Knife

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Otherwise known as The Bachelor, or The Chicken Eater, this small 6 inch knife with a wide blade is designed to be an all around kitchen knife for people that find larger knives unwieldily, or just too much of a commitment to clean. Station Knives are all handcrafted out of the finest materials right here in Portland, Oregon by Adam Sigal in his knife shop located across the street from White Owl Social Club. Join the legions of notable Portland chefs and bartenders such as Angel Teta (of Ataula), Jeff Seymour (of Interurban), and Anthony Cafiero (of Racion) who use Adam’s beautifully made knives. 

Price: E-mail stationknives@gmail.com for pricing details/customizations 

Where to Buy: Boys Fort, Workshop Vintage, Town Cutler (San Francisco), Hawthorne Cutlery & Gifts, Bamboo Revolution, Knives Ship Free (Hillsboro, OR), Mirador Kitchen & Home, Station Knives Website

3. Fossil & Fawn 2013 Pinot Noir

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What sets Fossil & Fawn apart from your typical wine label? Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher, self-proclaimed “itinerant winemakers,” set up shop wherever they can around Portland make their delicious wines from grapes grown at Crowley Station Vineyards. In fact, their most recent batch was made in the broom closet at SE Wine Collective and Enso Winery. Their 2013 Pinot is described as ‘A tightrope-walk balance of intense fruit and floral tones with nervy acidity, spicy herbal notes that evoke flavors of Italian amari, and what we think of as site-specific wet gravel earthiness. In short, it’s a kickass wine that is delicious now but will reward anyone who wants to age it for a few years.’ Plus, at an affordable $24 you can both enjoy the fruits of labor from a distinctly Portland label.

Price: $24

Where to Buy: Barbur World Foods & Everett World Foods and SE Wine Collective. All locations in the Portland Metro Area where Fossil & Fawn is sold are listed here.  

 4. Nuvrei Mac Bar 12-Piece Macaron Set

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Looking for a chic, delicious and gorgeous edible treat for the hostess with the mostest? Just because Portland doesn’t have a Laduree outpost, it doesn’t mean you still can’t get an equally delectable and beautifully crafted set of macarons. With flavors such as hazelnut, passionfruit, chai and salted caramel you might as well add one of each for a colorful and sure to please 12-piece set.

Price: $34 for 12-Piece Macaron Set, $18 for 6-Piece

Where to Buy: Nuvrei Patisserie & Cafe

5. Tickets to Chef’s Week PDX 2015 Dinner Series

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About to embark on it’s second year running, Chef’s Week PDX is a weeklong ode to community, collaboration and creativity. This ‘Dinner and party series pairs the talents of local culinary stars with peers from up and down the west coast. Chefs and makers collaborate on various themes highlighting their creativity and camaraderie while exploring the purveyors and artisans that showcase the best of Oregon.” Tickets to one (or all) of the dinners is the perfect gift for that special someone in your life who has an appreciation for innovative dining, supporting local talent and bounty and all in all loves a beautiful soiree.

Price: $125-$250 depending on event (for more information on events, check out this link)

Where to Buy: Chef’s Week Website

All the Meat and All the Potatoes: Raven & Rose Limited Release Beer Dinner

Having food blogger as one of my side hustles comes exclusively with perks. You get invited to tastings upon tastings whether they be for caviar, oysters, macarons or champagne. Every once in a while there’s also the opportunity to attend a dinner or a festival- those are the ones that you might want to raincheck your pedicure or girl’s nights for.

Last Sunday I had the honour of attending a media preview dinner with several notable beer bloggers and LeiLani and Irene of Watershed Communications for an event that will happen this Sunday, December 7th at Raven and Rose. If you’re a beer or delicious food connoisseur, then this is the event for you.

The menu for the evening included an array of seasonal side dishes and entrees served family style along with six Goose Island Beer pairings from Raven & Rose’s single barrel program spearheaded my notable Portland bartender extraordinaire, Dave Shenaut. We were all provided with an IPA to start off accompanying a heaping plate of Ken’s Artisan Breads and butter. One of the facets that made this pairing dinner unique is that we were then served a flight of four beers where we were encouraged to create and test out our own pairings using the salad, four side dishes and two entrees.

The beers in the flight were The Class of ’88, Matilda, Madame Rose and Bourbon County Stout. As the majority of the other attendees were beer bloggers, I’d advise checking out their blogs for more refined reviews of each of the brews. You can see  Kris of Beer Musings from Portland’s recap here!

I didn’t want to be blasphemous and admit this at the dinner, but being more of a wine connoisseur than a beer one, it was no surprise that my two favourites in the flight were the Class of ’88 and the Madame Rose. The Class of ’88 is a Belgian style beer that is aged with Michigan Riesling grape juice and Oregon Pinot Noir grape must and thus giving it a slightly sweet and winey tinge. The Madame Rose on the other hand is a brown ale aged in French oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels and thus also giving it that delicious bit of wine essence.

Now, let’s get onto the food…and little did I know what a feast we were all about to be in for.

Would you look at that! My sentiment is that Raven and Rose does not get half the accolades it deserves; with every time I have eaten there I have been thoroughly impressed at the wood-fired oven fare whether it be their flatbreads at brunch or the delectable assortment of meats and seasonal vegetables at their weekly Sunday Roast. This time was no different, the salmon and prime rib were both absolutely succulent and cooked to perfection whereas the twice baked potato and turkey pot pie played the swoon-worthy comfort food role given how it was below freezing just outside. Everything was absolutely splendid, and I’m extremely grateful that Dave Shenaut provided us all with take home boxes so that I didn’t have to say goodbye to an extra salmon filet or the remaining half of my baked potato.

Oh…yeah…right, there was also a dessert course.

Bourbon County Barleywine with Black Sticky Gingerbread with quince sorbet, ginger tuile, poached quince and warm sweet cream
Bourbon County Barleywine with Black Sticky Gingerbread with quince sorbet, ginger tuile, poached quince and warm sweet cream

The dessert was also splendid- a brownie-like textured block of gingerbread cake topped with a refreshing quince sorbet; certainly a melange of textures between cakey, creamy, chewy and crunchy.

And since I had that filet of salmon as a leftover…I decided to take Dave Shenaut’s advice and turn it into a hash for brunch the next day:

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As someone with very few culinary skills, I’ve been trying to sharpen my repertoire of signature dishes past quesadillas and Middle Eastern style eggs. Here, I created a hash out of sweet potatoes, zucchini, red onion, chanterelles, rosemary, whole grain dijon mustard and king salmon all topped with a fried egg. It was delicious and it actually looks kind of pretty in my opinion.

A huge thank you to Watershed Communications, Goose Island, and the Raven & Rose crew for putting together such a delightful media preview dinner. There may be tickets still available for the open to the public dinner this sunday! Check out the Event Website for more info!

Restaurant Review: Bluehour

Kumamoto oysters <3

Bluehour just may be one of my favourite restaurants in the Pearl District. The ambiance is classy, chic and elegant with a menu that is both adventurous as well as comfortable enough to take someone who might just want a plate of pasta made solely with ingredients they’ve heard of.

This beautiful restaurant is located on the corner of NW 13th and Everett sharing a building with Wieden & Kennedy and has been providing Portland with fine, modern dining for over 10 years. The crowd ranges from couples on first dates, client dinners, families having a celebratory lunches to a melange of Portland’s upper echelon mingling over martinis at the bar.

I’ve been to Bluehour for happy hour and lunch countless times over the years. For one thing, they do have one of the best happy hours in NW Portland- it goes from 4-6:30 PM M-F (and 5-6:30 PM on Saturdays) and is one of the few spots of its caliber where a $20 bottle of bubbly is available (not to mention a vast selection of nibbles ranging from lamb sliders to bruschetta to their delectable Bluehour burger).

Splitting a bottle of Bubbly and a Cheese Plate at Bluehour Happy Hour a couple of months back
Splitting a bottle of Bubbly and a Cheese Plate at Bluehour Happy Hour a couple of months back
And another time at Happy Hour
And another time at Happy Hour

Besides Happy Hour, I last hit Bluehour’s impeccable lunch for my 25th birthday:

And finally, I got the chance to sample Bluehour’s dinner menu at last week’s Blogger Dinner hosted by the ladies of Little Green Pickle.

Bluehour’s menu is printed on a daily basis and aims to provide a selection of dishes that exhibits seasonally relevant regional ingredients in a unique yet refined manner. Chef Kyo Koo is an expert at combining the best of what’s available with his experiences in the kitchen to create one-of-a-kind dishes that will keep you coming back to see what else he has in store.

Our table setting
Our table setting

Besides the food, as one would expect, Bluehour also has an impeccable selection of cocktails. The bar manager, Gigi in fact led us in a hands-on “Make your own cocktail” tutorial:

Huge thanks to Gigi for being so patient with all of us as we muddled, shook and poured our own libations for the evening. This particular cocktail was concocted from muddled cucumbers and rosemary, a splash of Ginger liqueur, lime juice and 2 oz of Templeton Rye. Incredibly delicious and a great lesson in how much muscle it takes to be a bartender…shaking mine basically qualified as my exercise for the day (sad, I know).

Once, we all had cocktails before us, the supper service began…

The salads above were anything but your regular salad course. In fact the amaranth/truffle oil/king crab salad may have been one of my favourite dishes of the night- such a rich and unique blend of flavours and textures.

Of course, all these dishes were served family style. Definitely a thoughtful way to ensure that we all got to sample a decent chunk of the menu’s offerings. The risotto was luscious and velvety; ultra hearty and perfect for the blistery weather outside while the Chinese-inspired noodles were also delicious and full of black-bean bolognese encased surprises between the chunks of high quality meats. The salmon and duck were also impressive; I’m not one to typically order duck but this one was splendid, not too fatty nor gamey.

And, of course what’s a meal without dessert? Pastry Chef, Salina Rubio killed it with these beautiful final courses. None of the desserts were overly sweet and each blended complimenting textural components and hints of salt. The ideal way to end such a fantastic meal.

After last week’s Blogger Dinner, I will say that I’ll be back at Bluehour for more than just lunch or happy hour. If you’re looking for the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, have a ladies night, take a date/client/your parents, then Bluehour is sure to impress with both service and delivery. Plus, you can dress up (or down…I’ve admittedly been to Bluehour in yoga pants but in my defense it was spontaneous).

Restaurant Review: First National Taphouse

Course 1: Prawn Boule: Brunoise vegetables, prawns, brandy nosh, potato roll. Paired with First National Taphouse Baker's Blonde in collaboration with Vertigo Brewing

I’ll straight up admit I’m not a huge beer connoisseur, I prefer wines, but enjoy craft cocktails or a fine scotch the most (I know…how bougie). However, I’m always willing to try something new and I am one to enjoy multi-course meals that incorporate a beverage pairing whether it be wine, sake, or yes- beer.

A few weeks back, I returned home from tending to a tire catastrophe to find a gift bag at my front door from Watershed Communications with a Growler and an invitation to dine with a guest at First National Taphouse followed by getting the growler filled with my choice of brew.

One Wednesday night back at the beginning of October, my partner in flossiness Caitlyn and I dressed up and headed down to First National Taphouse growler in hand. The Taphouse is located adjacent to Portland State University, an area with a severe lack of non-college bar or non-fastfood-esque restaurants. The original location is in Eugene and both locations strive to serve locally sourced beers and gourmet pub fare.

Five Course Menu with Beer Pairings
Five Course Menu with Beer Pairings

Upon being seated, Caitlyn and I were handed a five course menu and beer pairing that would be our culinary itinerary for the evening. Mouthwatering, isn’t it?

Course 1: Prawn Boule: Brunoise vegetables, prawns, brandy nosh, potato roll. Paired with First National Taphouse Baker's Blonde in collaboration with Vertigo Brewing
Course 1: Prawn Boule: Brunoise vegetables, prawns, brandy nosh, potato roll. Paired with First National Taphouse Baker’s Blonde in collaboration with Vertigo Brewing

Such a delightful first course, a potato roll stuffed with tender shallot sauteed prawns, veggies and a delectable sauce. Also, quite the generous portion- the beer was light and summery (forgive me I don’t know beer lingo well enough to say something better)

Course 2: Artisan Cheese Terrine (Barbander Goat Gouda, Taphouse Ricotta, Ancient Heritage Hannah, Asian Pear) paired with Duche de Longueville Cidre Antoinette
Course 2: Artisan Cheese Terrine (Barbander Goat Gouda, Taphouse Ricotta, Ancient Heritage Hannah, Asian Pear) paired with Duche de Longueville Cidre Antoinette

This unique rendition of a cheese plate was RIDICULOUS. Caitlyn and I are the ultimate cheese heads so having a mini mason jar full of various delectable fromage to spread on pears and baguette was heaven on a plate. None of the cheeses were too pungent so if you’re on the fence about anything too strong, I’d say this is a perfect “cheese plate” for you. The cider was also a pleasant accompaniment, I’m a fan of ciders (probably because they aren’t too hoppy) so this was a great choice as it wasn’t too sweet.

Course 3: Honey Root Vegetable Boxty (parsnip, carrot, yellow beet, Irish potato pancake, spiced honey). Paired with Elysian the Great Pumpkin Imperial
Course 3: Honey Root Vegetable Boxty (parsnip, carrot, yellow beet, Irish potato pancake, spiced honey). Paired with Elysian the Great Pumpkin Imperial

Another innovative yet delectable small plate. The boxty is a potato pancake and this one was topped with a melange of fall veggies and spiced honey; all the flavours of fall especially when paired with the Pumpkin Imperial.

Course 4: Whiskey Pepper Steak Frite (Pepper Crusted Hanger Steak, Irish Whiskey Demi Glace, Microbrew Fries). Paired with Oscar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA Nitro
Course 4: Whiskey Pepper Steak Frite (Pepper Crusted Hanger Steak, Irish Whiskey Demi Glace, Microbrew Fries). Paired with Oscar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA Nitro

Well, you all know how much I adore steak so having a steak frites course is obviously always welcome. This was a delicious, lean, medium rare slab charred with a pepper crust and accompanied by the crispiest perhaps double-fried frites. The IPA being as hoppy as it is wasn’t my favourite, but appropriate considering it was being paired with red meat.

Course 5: Chocolate Porter Ice Cream & Young's Double Chocolate Stout Foam with Hazelnut Brittle. Paired with Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Course 5: Chocolate Porter Ice Cream & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Foam with Hazelnut Brittle. Paired with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

I apologize for the hidden hazelnut brittle, but man that was the star of the show for this dessert. The mason jar was more whipped cream like in texture than ice cream so this made a light and appropriate dessert that didn’t leave either of us overfull post meal. In fact the heaviest part of this course was certainly the double chocolate stout.

And...our growler
And…our growler

And we left happily with a full growler.

Overall, if you’re looking for somewhere with a casual (but not divey) vibe with splendid food and a generous beer list, then check out First National Taphouse. They’re apparently famous for their fried in duck fat chicken wings (which I am yet to try) and also have an enticing brunch and happy hour menu. I’ll definitely be back soon!

This post was sponsored as the meal for my guest and I was comped. With that said, the review is 100% my opinion and words. 

Give Me All the Sandwiches: Feast 2014 Sandwich Invitational

The Lardo slider

I know, I know- the Sandwich Invitational was something like two weeks ago. What can I say? The unemployed life gets real hectic sometimes between scoping out new opportunities and catching up on the sleep that your prior high-stress 60-70 hour work week job sucked out of you; so now that I’m bright eyed without the help of an under-eye ointment and have a 16 ounce mug of Stumptown, I’m ready to talk to you about sandwiches.

Someone once said (meaning myself, but I’m certain there is someone else in history that also said this) that all the best foods are arguably some type of sandwich. And there is a lot of truth to that considering the infinite concoctions one could create and still label as a sandwich.

Considering how epic the Feast 2013 Sandwich Invitational was, I was extremely grateful that for the second year in a row I was given a ticket to the invitational as a birthday gift from my friend, Anne. Though the event was not included in my Blogger Pass, I still felt the need to wear the tag- basically so I didn’t feel like an intrusive badger every time I wanted to run up to the front of the line and snap a few photos.

So, like last year, I did not manage to try every single sandwich because there were fourteen of them and I had little self control with the ones I want to get seconds on…but I did manage to try MOST of them.

Rick Gencarelli of Lardo’s pork burger also was slathered with some “dirty mustard,” peaches and American cheese. Despite drawing one of the longest queues of the night, they STILL managed to not run out. Impressive.

From what I did try, here were some of my favourites:

Paul Kahan’s gyro was absolutely out of this world! I personally like my sandwiches packed with saucy unique condiments and a juicy dose of meat and like the other options above the gyro killed it (and stole my vote). I was also a huge fan of Dustin Clark’s water buffalo short rib sando- Chef Clark was at the now shuttered Wildwood, which had been a personal favourite so I am certainly looking forward to the opening of The Oddfellow Social, his next culinary venture. Another surprising favourite? From Stephanie Pearl Kimmel of Marche in Euguene- I’m a sucker for anything with Middle Eastern flavours so her submission also got five gold stars from me.

Another favourite was of course Salt n Straw’s PB&J; also the winner of the People’s Choice:

Tyler Malek’s magical dessert dish was a scrumptious concoction of buttery grilled brioche topped with marionberry jam, peanut butter ice cream, whipped cream and peanut butter Cap’n Crunch. I’m salivating just recounting that.

Some of the other bites I managed to chew into included Broder’s ultra Scandinavian gravlax on rye rendition, Bar Avignon’s deconstructed Cubano and Dallas based FT33’s pimento and bologna sandwich (which if you ask me would be exactly what I would want to eat at 2am to soak up a night’s worth of cocktails).

The winner of the invitational from the judges’ vote was Bonnie Morales of Kachka with her smoked Sprats, egg, and smetana on butter fried toasts; an usual though gorgeously assembled sandwich. I didn’t try this one nor do I have a photo, but I’m sure if you peruse Pechluck or Michelle’s blogs you’ll be able to find one!

And with that, another ultra successful Sandwich Invitational under Feast Portland’s belt. Already looking forward to what deliciousness is in store for 2015.