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Cafe Magnolia in SE September 28, 2010

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I apologize for being a slacker on this blog. Back in the groove now.

Friday night I rode the dinner shift for Portland Pedal Power (note to customers- those bikes are heavy to ride, tips are appreciated!) and then headed out to see the Cow Paddy Stompers play at Cafe Magnolia off Hawthorne at 32nd. It was my first visit to Cafe Magnolia and let me go ahead and spill a secret here- $2 pints all night on Friday. All pints. They have Ninkasi IPA and each and every pint was $2. On a Friday. Yes, I am a little excited about this.

Cafe Magnolia has a nice space. The bar area has some tables and the band played up in the front. The weather was great so the doors were open. There is another room next door with a couple of classic video games (Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong) and a small outside area. I didn’t try the sandwiches but heard good things about them. Josh, the owner, is super nice and enthusiastic about the place. If you are up in the area, I definitely recommend stopping in for a drink.

I have written about CPS shows before so won’t spend too much time on them, but they rocked on Friday. As usual, they brought a crowd and people danced througout the show.

After the show we headed down to Montage for late night eats. You gotta love a place that you can head into at 1 AM and get an inexpensive creole meal with friends under cool murals. I don’t understand why they don’t sell better beer, but you can go next door to the bar and bring a pint in if Ranier or Session isn’t your thing. They also do half price bottles of wine on Monday and Tuesday nights. All bottles. For real. I had the crawfish etoufee on the recommendation of Patrick, our server, and it was excellent. At less than $10, it is a steal. And the portions are big enough that I was able to bring it home disguised as a tinfoil mouse. Does dinner get better?

Later this week, entries about the Polish Festival, Sunday Parkways and the Bunk Bar.

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Wine Tasting by Bicycle August 31, 2010

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Elk Cove

Elk Cove Vineyard

It was supposed to be just another ride around Hagg Lake from the Grand Lodge on Sunday. But we were all tired and not really feeling it so my friend Mandy suggested we hit a couple of wineries and take it easy. Sounded like a great idea! Except the taking it easy part didn’t exactly work out.

We started 4 miles into the ride at Montinore Winery. They charge $5 for 5 tastes which is pretty standard in the Willamette Valley. At Montinore, however, you get to choose your wines from a list of 10 or so. Their Pinots are decent and their Pinot Noir chocolate sauce is to die for! You can ask for a sample. The staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable (I learned a lot about the difference between Hungarian and French oak).

From Montinore we decided to head up to Elk Cove or Kramer. What we did not realize was that once you leave Hwy 47, the three miles to Elk Cove is one giant, unrelenting hill. I was beat by the time we got there! The winery staff seemed impressed with us for making the climb. We paid our $5 and tasted their wines. They have very nice pinot noirs. The vineyard has amazing views of the vines and the surrounding hills. I tend to take out of town guests here.

The ride down the hill took no time at all. I maxed out at about 31 mph which is about as fast as I am comfortable with especially on winding roads. We then headed back toward Forest Grove through Gaston (which is actually a cute little town and may be worth a visit in the future) and stopped at Patton Valley Vineyard. Getting to Patton Valley was a challenge because from Old 47 the road is about a 3/4 mile climb on gravel and we all had road bikes. We walked and rode at intervals and there seemed to be a lot of muttering and cursing, but we made it.

We were greeted by two adorable black dogs and the owner of the vineyard. My friend Gretchen was pouring the wine. I had never been to Patton Valley before but I will be going there again. The second Pinot Noir they poured is one of my new favorites. Like most pinots, the $35 price tag is more than I will pay on a regular basis, but I will certainly keep it in mind for special occasions. Yum!

After bumping down the hill back to Old 47, we rode another eight miles back to the Grand Lodge to reward ourselves with happy hour food and a beer before heading back to Portland. I think I want to try biking and wine tasting in other areas as well. McMinnville maybe? Or Dundee? Any suggestions?

Timberline Hike, Wine, and the Bite August 9, 2010

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Bite of OregonAnother weekend, another friend in town. Here’s a little recap of the things we did that I have not written about previously (I don’t think).

Friday we drove out to Hood and did a hike from the Timberline Lodge to Zigzag Valley. It was about 5 miles roundtrip (not including the little off trail climb we did to see some more views). The lifts are still running up at Timberline so it was interesting to see people in ski suits while we wore shorts and tank tops. It was kind of hazy on Friday so we could not see Jefferson or any of the Sisters, but the views of Hood were nice. Next time I want to hang out at the Lodge for a drink, but we had to hurry to make some wineries near Hood River on the way home.

We went to Mount Hood Winery first. The winery has only been open for a year, but the vines are over 20 years old. The wine was not all that impressive in my opinion, but the tasting room has awesome views of Hood and thre are loads of windows to look through. The patio is worth a visit as well.

I’ve written about Naked and Double Mountain before so I’ll skip those.

Saturday we went up to Forest Grove for sake and wine tasting. We hit the sake winery, Plum Hill and then Elk Cove. Elk Cove is actually out past Gaston but it is worth the drive to check out the grounds and taste wine. Five tastes cost $5 and be sure to spend some time sitting outside and looking out over the vineyards. Dinner Saturday night was at Vindalho, an upscale Indian restaurant on Clinton Street. The food was all right, but I’d take Swagat on NW 21st over it any day. And $4 only gets you one naan. The shrimp dish was the highlight.

Sunday we walked down to the Saturday Market. There is a guy there named Eric who does these super slow exposure photos that have words written on them in lights. Check them out if you are down by the market. Really unique! Then we took advantage of the $3 Bite of Oregon entrance before 1 PM. We sat and listened to live music and sampled Portland beers. I know I should have tried something new, but I couldn’t help but get the Koi Fusion taco trio. I have to say that Korean burritos and tacos were a genius idea and that no one does them like Koi Fusion. Yum, yum, yum. Kristin, who lives in Sacramento and is used to great food, was impressed.

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!

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??

OMSI After Dark May 27, 2010

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I’ve been talking about going to OMSI After Dark for months now. This month I finally made it. And I will certainly be going another time.

We arrived at just after 7 PM. In the future I will try to get there earlier as there was a pretty substantial line to get tickets. It is $10 to get into the museum and that covers all of the exhibits, some special shows (like the dry ice bubbles- fun!) and free samples from local vendors. Beer and wine (Bridegeport, Coors, and Cooper Mountain) is available for purchase as are laser light shows and OMNIMax films.

My favorite free sample was the chocolate from Cocoa Velvet. They had samples of Hawaiian and Columbian dark chocolate, each with the same percentage of cacao. But the difference in taste was startling. It is due to the soil, we were told. I need to buy me some Columbian chocolate! My next favorite sample was wine from Cooper Mountain Vineyards. I actually liked their Pinot Gris better than the Pinot Noir, which is strange since I tend to prefer red wine. I do want to go and do one of their tours through the vineyard where they put you to work to earn your wine and talk about what it means to be an organic and biodynamic vineyard.

The regular exhibits in OMSI are geared for kids and are hands on and fun. You can make your hair stand up through static electricity, play connect four against a friend using a robot, and launch a rocket made from a soda bottle and filled with air and water. The Space exhibit I found a bit disappointing, but that may be because I am a science dork (yes, I went to sapce camp as a kid). The dinosaur exhibit was impressive with the full size T-Rex skeleton being the centerpiece.

We also went to see the Grand Canyon OMNIMax movie. It was entertaining. Like many of these films, it presented the theme of water conservation, then spent the entire middle of the movie showing a white water rafting trip and focusing on special effects without any mention of conservation, then ended with “Oh by the way, water conservation is totally vital”. I find that a bit annoying, but it was still not a bad way to spend $4.

This weekend I am headed to the coast for a backpacking/car camping combo trip. I’ll report when I return. Maybe I’ll even finally remember to take a picture or two to post.

What a Weekend Part 2- Food Carts and Pig and Pinot April 27, 2010

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Saturday was Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile, the food cart festival. Portland food carts are awesome and this was an inexpensive ($8) way to sample a whole bunch of them in one place. Unfortunately the tickets sold out a week before the festival so most of my friends ended up missing out on the fun. The festival kicked off at 5:30, but I went for pre-game beers at Silver Dollar and Tugboat Brewing so I did not arrive until about 7 PM. By that time a few of the carts were already out of food and many of them had extremely long lines. The cart I most wanted to test was Koi Fusion, but the line was so long I was not able to. My favorites that I did try were Bombay Chaat House (Indian) and Flavourspot (waffles plus).  PBR and Wine by Joe were on sale and there was live music. Overall the event was a good time, but next year I am going to get there early so I can taste all of the food without waiting on line (I hear it did not get crowded until after 6 PM).

Sunday, Plum Hill Winery hosted a pig roast and flag raising in honor of the troops in Iraq. On the way out we stopped at Sake One for a sake tasting. Sake One is the only sake winery in the area. They do tastings of six sakes for $5. The staff are very knowledgeable about the sake making process and the different types of sakes. We lucked out because this week was Spring on 47 so we ended up getting 9 tastes for $8 a person. We were able to try draft sake which has a very different flavor than the bottles. My favorite is their Organic sake followed by the Silver. All are worth a taste though. And they have so many varieties that you can come back and not taste the same ones.

Plum Hill’s party was in full swing when we arrived. We just missed the honor guard and flag raising, but there were snacks, pig, cake, and plenty of wine to go around. $10 included souvenir glass, wine tasting, and all the food you could eat. We thought they were out of pig, but then we found the cooking area where the BBQ master’s were cutting off large chunks on request. Live music was provided and bottles of wine were on sale.

On the way back from the vineyard, we stopped at the Grand Lodge for a beer and to check out the space for a friend’s wedding. The Grand Lodge hosted a medieval festival over the weekend, but they were tearing down when we arrived. We did still get to see a few people dressed as pirates (are pirates medieval?) and in other olde timey garb.

So there you have it. A full weekend of fun in and near Portland. Now that spring is officially here, I plan to be getting outside more and will be reporting about my excursions.

Inexpensive wine around Forest Grove April 9, 2010

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It is definitely beer that gets me out of bed in the morning (well not literally- usually), but I do enjoy a nice glass of wine now and again. And we all know Portland is a great place to be for wine lovers. But I’ll be honest, Portland wine bars can learn a thing or two about getting people to become repeat customers from the wine bars in Forest Grove. After a little plug for one of the few nearby wineries that does free tastings, I’ll expand.

I spend a good amount of time out at Plum Hill winery. I find myself out there hanging out with RJ and Juanita a couple of times a month. Plum Hill is new to the Oregon winery scene- they have only been open since 2008. They produce a couple of Pinot Noirs and a good range of whites and their most expensive bottle of wine is only $24. And tasting at Plum Hill is completely free. I miss free wine tasting. I used to live in San Francisco and had my little route of free tasting rooms up in Napa (where I’d usually buy a bottle or two before heading on). Here in Oregon, that is hard to come by (and I hear it is less and less common in Napa as well). Anyway, I’m a big fan of Plum Hill. If you find yourself out near Forest Grove for any reason (biking around Hagg Lake, sake tasting at Sake One, heading to McMinnville) I recommend dropping in. They have a great patio out back where you can sit and enjoy a bottle of wine with friends while looking at Mount Hood and the vineyards.

On to the wine bars in Forest Grove. There are two- Urban Dencanter and Friendly Vine. I like them both. Last Thursday I hit Urban Decanter. They have $4 glasses of wine until 7 PM on weekdays (one white and one red which changes every day). That’s a pretty good deal. But you know what is a better deal, we were deciding whether or not to have a second glass and the owner told us we could just buy the entire bottle for $10. A $10 bottle of wine in a wine bar. That’s unheard of! It has a great little cozy atmosphere and serves what I hear are terrific sandwiches. There are also lots of events and they do blind tastings on occasion. If I lived in Forest Grove I’d totally be a regular.

Yesterday I went to the Friendly Vine. It is more a wine shop than a wine bar, but they also do wine by the glass. What was great about the Friendly Vine, aside from Randy, the owner, who is awesome and really knows wine, is that you can taste the wines for sale by the glass for free before you commit. And Thursdays all wines by the glass are $5. I had a Primativo, which was a new wine for me. I’ll defintely be having it again. Yum! They provide snacks with your wine (chex mix type of thing) and you can get food from the restarurant next door. Friday nights they have live music and tastings from local wineries. Tonight’s is from Walla Walla. I’d consider going back if it wasn’t so far from Portland and my show here.

Spring Beer and Wine Festival April 5, 2010

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Saturday the plan was to hit the Spring Beer and Wine Festival before 2 PM to take advantage of free admission. But when we arrived at the convention center at 1:40, there was a crazy ginormous line to get in. Luckily the organizers sent someone around to pass out free tickets to everyone who was in line by 2 PM (props to them for that). I still can’t figure out why the line was so long as the hall was far from packed when we got in. I think the booths where you buy mugs and tokens were the bottleneck. Next year they should definitely have more than four.

The festival was run in the standard Portland alcohol festival format with $1 tokens exchangable for tastes or glasses of beverages. This festival was nice because some places were giving out free tastes of food and drinks. Food highlights were jerky, oil-free fried chicken, and pretzels and dips (lots and lots of dips). Drink highlights were vodkas and absinthe from Crater Lake and local Integrity Spirits. There were quite a few beers to taste from Oregon as well as other states. Most gave the standard slightly over a third of a mug pour but a few were more generous. I happened to be at the festival with a friend who is a member of Naked Winery’s Club so our whole crew started the day with free tastes of all of the Naked Wines (I highly recommend having a friend who is a club member). Their Barabera is pretty damn awesome!

Anyway, I can’t remember which beers I tried. The idea was to stick to ones I don’t drink all the time in town and to try and find the breweries that gave the best pours. By the end of the afternoon I was just trying to avoid waiting in line for a pour so I think I had a Lompoc beer. Or was it HUB? My palate was completely useless by then as you can probably tell. But overall I give the Spring Beer and Wine Festival two thumbs up. After the initial cluster getting in, the event was well organized and defnitely gave you a great buzz for not so much cash. I thought the breathalizers at the door were cool, but wouldn’t it be better not to charge to use them and maybe encourage some people not to drive home who don’t realize they shouldn’t? Just thinking out loud here…

We did make it to Smash Putt after the festival, but my memory of it is a bit hazy. I think it was way crowded, but a super cool idea. I somehow managed to get a splinter in my thumb and really need to remember that when I am around tweezers. Splinters are annoying.

This week I know I’ll be hitting LOST at the Bagdad tomorrow. I may try and stop into a Spanish conversation group at the Lucky Lab in NW on Wednesday and am definitely going to a show on Friday at Berbati’s Pan. I’ll also post a review of the Moon and Sixpence on Sunday nights later today or tomorrow. Stay tuned.