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Cow Paddy Stompers at the White Eagle August 27, 2010

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Cow Paddy Stompers

Cow Paddy Stompers photo Eben Waggoner (www.ewagphoto.com)

Tuesday night I went out to see some live bluegrass at the White Eagle Saloon in NoPo. On the way we stopped for a beer at the Widmer Brother’s Brewery down the street. I liked Widmer on a random Tuesday. There were people there but it was not too crowded. And something about walking by rooms of large, shiny brewing tanks on the way into a pub makes me feel relaxed and at home. I ordered a Drifter, the old Widmer standby, but then I tasted the X114 (which is not listed on the website). I wish I had tasted the X114 before ordering. It is a damn fine IPA. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it at other bars.

Thw show at the White Eagle started with another band, The Big Ideas. I was busy catching up with friends so the music was more background for me. About 10 PM the Cow Paddy Stompers took the stage. CPS has a tight knit local following that the Oregon Music News describes as “Grateful Dead-like”. I don’t know that I would go that far, but the crew definitely livens up a pub. There was not as much dancing at the White Eagle as I have seen at other CPS shows, possibly due to lack of space, but as soon as the band started playing, the energy level of the bar lifted and the crowd was engaged.

Cow Paddy Stompers shows are always a good time. Bluegrass is fun, easy to listen to music in general and the guys in the band are great at engaging the crowd and keeping things lively and light. If you are looking for a good time and some good tunes, a CPS show will certainly fit the bill.

I liked the White Eagle as a venue. It has a homey vibe, the music is easy to hear but not incredibly loud, and there is an outside patio to hang out on between sets or if you want a break or to talk. I’ll be checking out the lineup there in the future.

Perfect Sunday- Hiking, Wine, and Beer June 18, 2010

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Sorry, I got delayed on posting this. Last Sunday the weather was perfect! 75 degrees and sunny. It was one of those days that makes all the grey and rain worthwhile. I took full advantage of it.

We headed out of the city about 10 AM and drove out to the Gorge. We did the Eagle Creek to High Bridge hike. I had done this hike in January on a rainy day. It was a little more crowded now that the season has started, but still an amazing hike. You walk up and past three waterfalls along a river with terrific scenery the whole way. It is no wonder the hike is so popular. I want to come out and backpack in this area later in the year. the hike is an out and back with about 400 feet of elevation gain. It is 6.6 miles in total (but you can do longer or shorter routes).

After the hike we headed to Hood River. My friend Ben is a member at Naked Winery and it was the member pick up party. When I have money again, I am definitely going to join the club at Naked. It costs $48, four times a year for two bottles of wine each time. But with the membership, you and your friends get unlimited tastings at the winery and at events where Naked participates. There were five of us in total and we all were able to taste more than 10 wines for free because we were with Ben. Naked really caters to its members. There were snacks provided as well. And if you pick up your shipments at the winery, you can trade bottles you are not interested in for similarly priced ones you like better. Their Cabs are really nice and their Barbera, while pricy, is amazing.

After Naked we headed down the street to Double Mountain Brewery for food and beers. They have good pizza and excellent beer. I am a huge fan of the IRA so I got a growler to take home with me. Since the weather was nice, Double Mountain had the garage doors open on the patio to let in the fresh air and give us views of Hood River while we ate and drank.

Days don’t get much better than that!

Off to San Francisco for the weekend. Will report back soon!

Helvetia Half Marathon June 14, 2010

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Running

Photo Danielito

Saturday my friend Paige and I ran the Helvetia Half Marathon. It was a great day for a run with clear skies and sun- almost too much sun. The race started in Hillsboro near the Intel campus and went through rurals roads in Helvetia. It was well organized with roads closed or partially closed for the entire course and regular water stops every mile to mile and a half. The start was a bit of a cluster with no signage for where runners should line up and no pace groups. But after that, the race went smoothly.

There was no shade after mile seven so runners were quite warm and sweaty by the finish. There was a medical team attending to a runner just after mile 12 so I think the heat may have hurt a few people. The course was hilly and had lovely scenery. The biggest crowds of spectators were not surprisingly at the Helvetia Tavern.

There was a beer garden for runners after the race (but no free beer with entry unfortunately). Entry did include a burger or garden burger from the Helvetia Tavern, but the line was so long when we went to get them, we decided to go ahead and pay for food elsewhere. I think I had a personal best time for a half marathon, but my results are not listed in the official race results so I am waiting to hear back and see if they can find my official time. I hope so.

After leaving the race grounds, we went to the Cornelius Pass Road House for beers and burgers. They have a spacious outdoor patio with picnic tables made from large logs where we sat under umbrellas and hung out. As my friend Jason likes to say about McMenamins, their tagline should be “It’s not about service”. It took awhile to get our drinks and food, but the atmosphere was great.

Yesterday was another beautiful day and I was outside to appreciate it. More about that in tomorrow’s post!

Hopworks and Vino Vixens June 11, 2010

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Hopworks Beer

Hopworks Beer

I had some friends in town to show around this week. Wednesday we hit Bridgeport, Bailey’s, and Tugboat. But I’ve already written about those places. Last night we headed over to the SE for some food and drinks.

We started the evening at McMenamin’s Market Street for happy hour drinks ($3 pints and wells). The plan was to go to the free wine tasting at Thirst and check it out, but when we got there at 5:45, we were told there was a 45 minute wait to be seated if you did not have a reservation. I have heard that Thirst is a more pretentious establishment than the Portland norm, and this reinforced that. I’ll give it another chance someday though.

Then it was on to Hopworks for dinner. There was a 20 minute wait for tables so we had a beer in the bar while we waited. As normally happens when I am at Hopworks, a table in the car area opened up before our pager went off. Hopworks is quickly becoming my favorite Portland brewery. I have been fighting this because I feel like it is the “in” brewery in town, but their beer is just really really good. I stuck with the IPA all night. It goes down so smoothly and has just the right amount of hops. I’m thirsty just thinking about it.

For dinner we started with the pretzel sticks. The sticks themselves were a little harder than I would prefer, but the ESB beer mustard was terrific. I split the BBQ chicken pizza with one of my friends and the others had salads. The pizza is good. Nothing spectacular, but certainly a decent pizza.

After dinner we walked across Powell to Vino Vixens. It was my first visit to the wine bar. The guys behind the counter were super friendly and knowledgeable about wine. I liked that if there was something they did not know, they said so. You can do tasting flights at Vino Vixens or buy by the pour or the glass. They let you sample wines for free before you commit to having a glass. I’m a big fan of this policy. I ended up going with a Cabernet/Sangiovese blend from California. It was tasty. My friends went with a Riesling and a Pinot Noir. We stayed at the bar in the front room with the wine store. There is also a back room and last night there was a belly dancing show that was well attended. I expect I’ll be back at this wine bar again in the near future.

The World Cup started today. I’ll definitely be going out and checking out bars to watch the matches at. Today it’ll just be the Cheerful Tortoise, but I’ll branch out more next week. Tomorrow I am running the Helvetia Half Marathon so I’ll report about that as well. I’m excited for sun and warmer weather starting this weekend. Maybe it is finally summer in PDX??

Summer Preview Day! June 6, 2010

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Rose Festival

Christina intrigued by Giant Sausage (photo Annie Smith)

Saturday in Portland was a little sneak peek of summer. And man did we all need it! Today is the usual grey with intermittent rain but it looks like more summer type weather is on the horizon (I say hopefully). After this nasty May, Saturday reminded us all why we put up with this crap. Sweet, sweet summer in Portland.

My friend Annie came in from Seattle on Saturday for a quick visit. She arrived at 11 AM and we headed over to Bridgeport Brewery to sit outside and have some lunch and beers. I had heard that Bridgeport has great burgers, but we were planning to go to the BBQ and Brews fest later in the day so I went with the tofu and veggie wrap. It was pretty good, but I did have a little burger envy when Annie went for the burger. Next time for sure!

Annie got the sampler tray so I got to try all of the Bridgeport beers. My faves are still the IPA, Blue Heron and the ESB. She was more a fan of the Porter, the Extra Pale and the seasonal fruity beer (which you can tell how much I liked since I can’t remember the name of it). We both got some color and eventually had to move to a table in the shade because we were too hot.

After Bridgeport we walked down to Powell’s for some book shopping. I am only allowed to spend short periods of time in Powell’s or else I end up buying 20 books so I met another friend for a beer at Ringler’s Annex. My friend had the bourbon flight which was a cool thing I didn’t realize that McMenamins did and the bartender also gave us a taste of McMenamin’s whiskey.

After a quick stop to drop off the books, we headed down to BBQ and Brews and the Rose Festival. To be honest, I was disappointed in the festival. Many of the BBQ places were out of meat (and it was only 5:30 PM). You could not have beer outside of the BBQ and Brews area even though there was another area that was roped off as part of the festival. And the crowd seemed to be very… not Portland, to put it nicely.

We needed some more food as we’d only had a few tastes of BBQ at the festival so we wandered down to Chinatown. I had seen the House of Louie many times and found the name amusing and wanted to try it. I wish I had not. Even with a pretty good buzz, the food was disappointing. I had lo mein and the noodles were overcooked to the point of crispiness. Christina’s chow fun was a bit better and Annie’s beef with broccoli was not bad. I hear that 82nd is now the area to go for authentic Asian cuisine in town. I’m going to have to give that a shot in the future.

We caught a little of the Starlight parade but the streets were fairly packed so we just watched from a distance. Annie was tired so I dropped her off and headed across the river to the Jolly Roger to meet some friends. The Jolly Roger is a cool little dive bar with a pool table and a great name. We drank cheap PBR tall boys and watched a fairly decent Sublime cover band. The chick drummer has a seriously good voice (she deviated from the Sublime theme a bit but that was a nice change).

Going back in time, Friday night I went to Beulahland for drinks before catching a movie at Laurelhurst Theater. Beulahland is a nice dive bar with a decent selection of local beers (rotating). They have a very smoky smoker’s patio in the back. Not a good place to hang if you don’t like smelling of smoke later. We saw the movie The Runaways which I was very surprised to actually kind of like. Yeah they played up the drugs and sex to make it sell but you gotta love Joan Jett and Kristen Stewart did a good job in the role. Outside of the annoying Twilight movies, she actually is a decent actress. Dakota Fanning is annoying, but we all knew that.

After the movie I decided to go and have “one more drink” at the Sandy Hut. But Sandy Hut is one of my favorite bars in Portland and the conversation and company was good and the next thing I knew, it was many $2 Rainer tall boys later and they were having last call. So much for my chill movie night.

This week I am going to a presentation  about the brewery business put on by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network on Wednesday. I’ll definitely write about that. I think the World Cup is getting ready to start so I need to figure out which bars will be worthy of my patronage for that. Any suggestions?

Camping on the Oregon Coast June 1, 2010

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Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast (photo Slone)

The plan was to mix backpacking and car camping on the Oregon Coast this weekend. We were going to start at Cape Lookout on Thursday and hike to Sand Lake to camp. Friday we were going to hike to Pacific City and meet some friends for two nights of car camping. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

 

We ended up getting a late start on Thursday because I had an interview, but we figured there is daylight until about 9 PM now. We arrived at Cape Lookout just after 5 PM and drove to the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking at the trailhead is day use only. So we went to the campground to see about paying to leave the car there until Friday evening. They will not let you leave a car there unless you pay for a campsite. And due to the holiday weekend, all camp sites were booked from Friday through Sunday. And the rangers told us there was “nowhere in Tillamook County” we could leave the car to do the hike.

I am going to take a moment to rant here. All of the campgrounds along the coast, including Cape Lookout, have hiker/biker sites available at a discounted rate for those who leave the vehicles and backpack or cycle from campground to campground. And the Oregon State Parks site has a map of the backpacking route down the coast. How are you supposed to backpack if you cannot leave the car anywhere?

We started talking about where we should car camp that night to figure out the plan for the following day when it came to light that my friend had left her backpack in her garage in Beaverton. And that had our only tent as well as the stove and all of her gear. So I “camped out” in her guest bedroom in Beaverton.

Friday morning we drove to Pacific City and did a day hike. We were going to try and hike up to Cape Lookout and have our friends pick us up on their way out. But we hit Sand Lake at high tide and were unable to ford it without getting completely soaked so we just did an out and back. We met our friends in the evening at the Pelican Pub. We had the sampler of all the beers. The beers were not bad, but nothing to write home about (despite the impressive collection of medals that line the walls of the pub). The location is terrific though. We sat next to the window overlooking the beach and Haystack Rock (the other Haystack Rock- not the world’s third largest free standing monolith which is off Canon Beach).  The food was a bit pricy so we waited to cook dinner until we returned to our campsite.

We camped on Friday night at Webb Park Campground. The park is super convenient if you want to explore Pacific City. It is located right across the street from the Pelican Pub and a few blocks from the main downtown area. However, the sites are tiny and the park itself has a trailer park feel to it. I was not a fan and probably will not camp there again.

Saturday we did a day hike to the south down to Cape Kiwanda. We went back to the Pelican to meet another friend and I tried the clam chowder which was quite good. Then we made our way about 10 miles north to Whalen Island to camp for the night. The campground at Whalen Island was much nicer than Webb. The sites are not all on top of each other and you feel like you actually have a little space. The campground is spread out as well. There is a nice walking trail that goes around the island and is adjacent to the campground- we hiked it on Sunday morning. Note that camping on the coast gets rather pricy if you have more than one tent or vehicle. They all charge $20 a night per site (with an additional $5 reservation fee if you reserve in advance) and then charge $5 per extra tent and $3 per extra vehicle.

All in all it was a great way to spend the holiday weekend. Good people, outdoors, some exercise, s’mores, beer, and a nice fireside BBQ on Saturday night. The rain was sporadic and light which helped as well. I am definitely excited for summer when I plan to be outside every weekend. Hooray summer in Oregon!

There’s No Beer Like Portland Beer May 17, 2010

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I spent the weekend in rural Pennsylvania at my cousin’s college graduation. On Saturday night, we had dinner at the Iron Works Brewery in Lancaster. My uncle Peter and I split the eight beer taster tray and my uncle Marty got an additional three tastes that I also tested. Wow, do they have a lot to learn about beer. Their version of a pale ale, which they just called an ale but definitely had some subtle hops in it, was not surprisingly my favorite beer of the bunch. Actually, I don’t think I really can say I liked any of the other beers. I never imagined I could try 11 beers and only find one remotely palatable.

In Portland, when I do a taster tray, typically I enjoy a few of the different varieties. I like different types of beer, although IPAs are my favorite. In the summer I like lighter beers like lagers and pilsners and the occasional heffewiezen. In the winter, a red or brown ale is a welcome change of pace.  So it came as a surprise to me that I was so unimpressed with the beers at this brewery.

This is not to say, by any means that I don’t like beer in places outside of Portland, I do. But tasting the beers in Pennsylvania made me really appreciate how incredible the Portland brewing scene is and what a great group of diverse breweries we have. Now the only question is, which one should I hit next?

Alameda Brewhouse April 13, 2010

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A friend of mine works at the Alameda Brewhouse in NE. Sunday afternoon I was dog sitting for a friend out on Killingsworth (adorable black lab pup) and decided to swing by for a beer afterwards. If I lived in that area, I would certainly hang out at the Alameda Brewhouse regularly. The place has high ceilings and an industrial feel with enough decor to make it kinda homey as well as stark. I like the Pale Ale and next time I am there I will definitely do a sampler (it was Sunday and I was taking it easy). From what I hear, the head brewer sounds like a really nice guy and seems to know his stuff about brewing. I was surprised by how empty the place was, but my friend assured me it was an anomaly. The menu looked good too. Apparently Tuesday nights are the best nights for drinking with happy hour beer prices ($3 a pint) all night long. So maybe when LOST is over, I can make that one week.