Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Things To Do In Portland, Oregon...If You Love To Eat And Drink Too Much...

I've been off the last week for my cousin's wedding, which he was kind enough to have in Bend Oregon.  Since Sj and I have been wanting to get out there for years, this was finally the kick we needed to get us out to the Pacific Northwest.  The last time we were there was for Ladd's twin brother, Shawn's wedding at least 5 years ago.  High time to revisit the area and try some new things! 

 We left on a Tuesday morning, and arrived in Portland at 1 PM their time.  Both being quite hungry, we made a bee line for something edible.  The week prior to our trip we just happened upon the Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods America episode that had been filmed in Portland, and took a few of our cues from the show.  Andrew did not steer us wrong!  The first place we stopped was Olympic Provisions, a place specializing in house made charcuterie (salami, sausages, etc.)  We stepped past the intriguing meat counter of a working butcher shop, past hanging haunches of aging swine, and into the very tiny dining area.  They had four different charcuterie platters offering up a wide variety of mysterious meat products for our consumption.  We chose the classic French plate which contained one of the best things I've ever had to eat: a pork rillet topped with a bit of olive oil and crunchy sea salt from The Meadow.  We also shared a sandwich of spicy Spanish sausage to really get our meat on.  They had a couple of local beers on tap and great servers.  Go there.  Seriously.  For those playing along at home, they have a Salami-a-Month club that you can order from their website!

Now, the Hunger Beast sated, we walked a few blocks under the monolithic overpasses to Bridgeport Brewery.  This is a venerable local brewery and one of the early ones to get distribution outside the Portland area.  The building is a large one, taking up much of a city block, but with little fanfare or attempt at getting attention.  Signage is minimal.  The pub itself is quite large, with multiple levels and seating areas.  Strangely they do not have a real bar, so you must order your drinks while sitting at a table.  The place was insanely hot when we entered, akin to a steamy sauna.  There were folks outside on the cooler patio, but apparently they were no longer serving beer out there, so we were stuck inside.  There was only one waitress working the whole place and we had a devil of a time getting served and then settling up when done.  We shared a sampler tray of beers that was fair, but not great.  The IPA was my least favorite, while the summer seasonal made with yuzu and lemongrass was at least refreshing in the heat.  The Old Knucklehead bourbon barrel barleywine was very good and probably my favorite of the bunch, but tough to drink in the oppressive heat.  Overall, not a fantastic experience, but I've had worse in brewpubs.  Interestingly, just about every brewery we visited in Oregon served food, a rarity in Minnesota thanks to a lot of old Blue Laws still in effect.

Next on our list of must-see places was the Cascade Barrel House.  This is where Cascade brewery has its barrel aging program, as well as a great tasting area to sample said beers.  They have a large outdoor seating area and an open tasting area/bar filled with tall tables made of old barrels.  Our server was quite good and knew a lot about sour beers.  About half the menu was their regular beers, and I'll admit we didn't even try any of them--we were there for the sours!  They did do tasters, but they were very small 2 oz stemware glasses and only 2 samples per person at a time were allowed.  The price was steep: 2-3 dollars for a sample, but keep in mind that all these beers are at least a year old and a ton of time and work go into crafting and blending them.  The regular sized glasses were more reasonable, but I had get samples in order to try them all!  Everything we had here was amazing!  They had a really good Gose (made with salt in the nearly lost German tradition.)  Lambics in flavors ranging from Kriek, to Apricot, to an amazing Strawberry all sparkled with intriguing fruit aromas and complex sour flavors.  One of their more popular beers is Vlad the Imp Aler, a Belgian strong ale aged on bourbon barrels; but they were also serving its un-aged and un-sour cousin: Anti-Vlad!  Most of my luggage space allocated to beer was used up at this early stop on our trip.  The best sour brewery I've been to outside of Cantillon in Belgium.

For dinner we met up with an old high school friend of Sj's that had noted our posts on Facebook, as well as her husband Josh.  We went to a cool hipster bar/restaurant with incredibly cheap $2.50 craft beer pints that night and ski-ball in the basement.  Totally can't remember the name of the place, but a cool stop. 

After this we headed back to our hotel, the McMenamins Kennedy School.  For those who have never stayed in a McMenamins before, I'll give a quick primer.  These guys buy old historic properties (many due to be demolished,) and turn them into hotels, pubs and theaters, trying to keep as much of the old character as possible, while adding strange trippy art and decorations.  Small creepy faces look at you from bends in pipes.  Odd cheshire cats peek from unexpected areas.  Each room in the hotels are named something unique.  The Kennedy School was an elementary school from the 1930's and keeps much of its charm.  There are multiple bars and pubs within each hotel, each with a different theme and different drinks, including house made beers.  Half the fun of staying at one of these places is exploring the nooks and crannies; finding the cool artwork; seeing live music or second run movies; discovering a soaking pool hidden on the grounds; wandering the forested grounds and making your way through a trail to find another hidden and isolated area to relax; and more.  These places are also notorious for having grumpy staff and mediocre beers, but we had great service while on this stay.

When we arrived back at our hotel, our friends joined us in the Boiler Room bar (located in the basement and incorporating parts of the old boiler and radiators into the design.)  We had a couple of those mediocre beers, and then I tried the McMenamins whisky sampler that tasted of rockets in flight.  I appreciate them trying their hand at distilling their own spirits, but they could use a bit more refinement.  From here we were able to head down the old wood-floored school halls to our room and crash for the night.  We fit a lot of action into just one afternoon!


Translucent said...

East Burn for the skeeball in the basement bar perhaps?
that would be my guess

Eric Wentling said...

That's the place! Cool 70's hanging wicker chairs too...