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Portland Mini Staycation

June 24, 2010 No comments

One of Portland’s top industries is travel. It’s no wonder – our food, lifestyle, transportation system and sights are frequently covered in The New York Times, Travel Channel, FoodTV and other national media outlets. From late May through September, Portland sees a surge of visitors from around the world.

Living in Portland, it’s easy to overlook some of the amazing things that the city has to offer. With busy lives, it’s hard to carve out time to get away, so we decided to do a mini staycation – one evening after work through mid-morning the next day – something most people could do time-wise and within a modest budget.

The cornerstone to our mini staycation was the Garden Spa room at the Hotel Vintage Plaza [422 Southwest Broadway, (503) 228-1212].  Situated right in the heart of downtown, this hotel was a perfect base camp for our quick break.

We signed up for the ‘romance package’, which was just a little more expensive than the standard rate but well worth it. Mid-week room availability was really good and so were the rates.

Hotel Vintage Plaza Rose Petal Covered Bed

Hotel Vintage Plaza Rose Petal Covered Bed

The Garden Spa room at the Hotel Vintage Plaza was perfect – quiet, clean with every detail taken care of. As part of the romance package, the bed was sprinkled with rose petals, we had a complimentary bottle of champagne, and a $30 credit to Pazzo Ristorante or for room service.

Read more…

Categories: Getaways Tags: , ,

The Lion King Broadway Tour in Portland Review

June 20, 2010 4 comments
Lion King in Portland

Lion King in Portland

As a musical, The Lion King doesn’t measure up to a lot of its contemporaries. Outside its three signature songs “Circle of Life“, “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight“, the music of The Lion King is pretty clunky, uninspired and sometimes even awkward. Oddly enough, the music of The Lion King really isn’t the star of the show. Many of the musical numbers act as connective tissue between grand scenes awash in color, movement, dance and puppetry. It’s this wondrous magic and not the music which makes The Lion King the grand spectacle that it is.

Following fairly closely to the film, The Lion King Musical tells the story of the ‘circle of life’ of one lion cub from infancy through adulthood including his life challenges and adventures. The story is a fairly dark one where characters are often put into peril. One of the most important things to know about The Lion King Musical may be that is NOT really good viewing material for younger children. At least half of the show contains content that would be very challenging for kids under the age of 7 and some of the scenes are downright graphic. One scene depicts a fairly graphic death onstage, something far more intense than in the animated version. Read more…

Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert Review

Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert

Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert

I wasn’t really planning on seeing Sting on his current tour. After a ho-hum show a few years back at the Rose Garden, I decided that perhaps the best shows for Sting were behind him. I find it extremely difficult to watch some of my favorite performers from my childhood struggle to try to recapture a spark they have lost. Musically, there’s almost nothing worse than listening to a song you love, sung by someone you used to love hear singing it, and having it sound like someone doing a karaoke version of their own song.

I’m extremely grateful that I ended up seeing Sting in his latest tour “Symphonicity” on its first US stop in Portland, Oregon. Not only was Sting’s Symphonicity show a fantastic musical experience, it was a rare opportunity to see an extremely accomplished performer celebrate his work in a way that enhanced the memory of it rather than denigrate it.

Backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sting seemed to be right at home on stage with 48 other musicians. Sting has always been attracted to great music and musicians, from the mad genius of Stewart Copeland in The Police, Branford Marsalis in Bring on The Night, and more recently Chris Botti. Playing with talented people always seems to elevate Sting’s performance. Read more…

Portland Opera's The Barber of Seville

Portland Opera's Barber of Seville

Portland Opera's Barber of Seville

I really didn’t know what to expect taking my 8 1/2 year old son to the opera. When I first asked him if he wanted to join me to see Portland Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville, he gave me an energetic and brief “sure!” Did he know what he was in for? I hesitated telling him that The Barber of Seville is sung entirely in Italian, and that it runs well over two hours. I held off on dragging out summary sheets or doing any opera prep work. Part of me honestly believed that all that would scare him off.

It’s not all that unreasonable an assumption. There are a great number of people who are intimidated by opera – they live under the misconception that opera is somehow too fancy, unapproachable or requires some sort of pre-requisite knowledge or home work. Read more…

Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival – Saturday May 8th

Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival

Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival

While I spend a lot of time with Portland’s cocktail and micro-distillery world for DrinkSpirits.com, I can’t help but be drawn to all the amazing wine and beer festivals and events that take place in Portland year round.  One event which has always been on my radar screen is the Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival. Now in its sixth year, this home-grown event has blossomed into one of Portland’s more notable culinary expos.

The festival features 40 of the top wines selected from a pool of Oregon craft wineries which produce no more than 2,500 cases or more. This year they’ve added a special section to spotlight top scoring reds under $25 and whites under $15. Judges for the 2010 festival include Claud Mann of TBS’ Dinner and a Movie, journalist and author Alice Feiring, James Beard nominated Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana, and Bernie Sun, Corporate Beverage Director at Jean-Georges Management, LLC. Portland’s top chefs will join the selected 40 craft producers and serve up sophisticated wine-friendly bites.

The 2010 Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival will take place at the Bison Building (19 NE 10th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232) on Saturday, May 8th from 2 – 6 p.m.   Tickets are $75/person and include one tasting glass, festival passport and access to pours from all wineries and food from all the featured restaurants.

Categories: Events Tags:

The Chosen at Portland Center Stage

April 10, 2010 No comments
The Chosen

Stark Staging Hampers The Chosen

Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is among several productions this season at Portland Center Stage that are based on a book or had previously been produced as a movie. It’s an almost unavoidable reality for theatrical companies to pack their slate with plays that people are somehow familiar with in some way.

Another unfortunate reality of modern theater is that the money available for productions has shrunken. Portland Center Stage’s artistic director Chris Coleman has embraced this fact and in many  of his productions this season has worked with negative space and  actor’s narrative or pantomime to fill the stage. This tactic worked extremely well for Ragtime and Snow Falling on Cedars but fails miserably with The Chosen. Read more…

Michael Bublé Concert Review

April 3, 2010 8 comments
Michael Bublé Concert Portland

Michael Bublé Concert Portland

A lot of performers have put on a suit, stepped up to the mic and made an attempt at the gold standards. It’s an alluring cannon of music which instantly resonates with a huge number of music fans. The problem, though, when you sing classic songs is that it’s nearly impossible for people not to compare you and your performance to the great performers who originated them.

Michael Bublé seems acutely aware of this fact and the range of his voice, and he uses the music and style of Sinatra, Nat King Cole and even more contemporary artists as a jumping off point for his own unique sound and style. While Bublé has a very strong voice he doesn’t have the same lower register / golden throat that gave Sinatra’s music those well-rounded, sweet lower tones. Bublé seems to acknowledge this and intelligently navigates his way thought the best-fitting Sinatra songs for his register, including “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “All of Me” which feature big high notes that Bublé can hit with ease. Read more…

KoiFusion @ 1 Portland's First Pop-Up Restaurant

April 1, 2010 No comments
Koifusion @ 1

Koifusion @ {1}

Portland’s food cart scene is simply explosive. Once thought to be just a sign of the bad economy, Portland’s carts have weaved their way into the local culture in a way that shows they aren’t just a temporary stop gap or money saving alternative – they are now part of what makes Portland, Portland.

Like any great experiment, the food cart universe continues to change and evolve, including cart clusters like Cartopias in SE and on N Mississippi, and cart-turned-restaurants like Los Gorditos II.

KoiFusion, one of Porltand’s most popular food carts, is furthering the experimentation with a “Pop-Up Shop” restaurant.  The pop-up shop concept is not a new one (with temporary stores taking over vacant retail space over the holiday shopping season), but KoiFusion is the first to try to take this concept and apply it to a restaurant.

[email protected] takes over the failing SOLO lounge in the Pearl (1300 NW Lovejoy) and puts Chef Joe Anderson, formerly of Carlyle and the Portland City Grill, into the kitchen with a menu that expands beyond what can be done in a cart. The most notable addition is the amazingly delicious “KFC – Korean Fried Chicken”. These crispy fried bite-sized drumsticks are a symphony of flavors which explode in your mouth. The “KFC” is a quintessential late night craving and a perfect accompaniment to a nice whiskey cocktail. Also on the new menu are Korean spiced french fries, which were equally delicious.

Although KoiFusion knocks it out of the park in the kitchen, the experiment is an abysmal failure on the bar side, with Joshua Palmer, the bar manager from Typhoon/Bo Bar holding on to some of SOLO’s vodka heavy drinks.  With a cocktail list completely dominated by infused vodka (with the exception of maybe one or two rum drinks), the [email protected] drink menu is a complete mismatch with the food. The two cocktails I tried  from the menu were mostly pre-mixed and the bartenders seemed to be completely disinterested in mixing a quality drink. The result was limp, punch-like drinks which were completely dull and boring.

[email protected] would do better abandoning its cocktail program all together and simply serving beer and whiskey with the spicy Korean fare. As much as I loved the food, [email protected] is still a bar and unless they can nail down that side of things this experiment could fail.

With the pop-up restaurant concept KoiFusion will have to prove itself every single month, as the SOLO owners can give give them the boot at any time. It’s a big bet on both sides of the equation.

It will be interesting to see if the concept is sustainable or if it’s just an interesting recession-era experiment. Either way, the food is worth seeking out. Expect long lines and short runs on their Korean Fried Chicken, but plan on grabbing your drinks somewhere else.

[email protected] is at 1300 NW Lovejoy. (hours will be 4-midnight to start with lunch being added in the near future)

Upright Brewing Turns One and Throws A Party

March 31, 2010 No comments
Upright Brewing Alex Ganum Gives A Tour

Upright Brewing Alex Ganum Gives A Tour of Upright Brewing

Upright Brewing is marking its first year in business with the special release of two beers and an anniversary party featuring sweets from Kir Jensen, owner of one of Portland’s best dessert carts, The Sugar Cube, and model for Upright’s Four Play seasonal beer.

I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek and taste these two new beers and was absolutely blown away by them.

One of the things you notice right away about Upright Brewing is how fanatical they are about detail. While typical Belgian farm-style beers are made in 1-2 weeks, Upright spends 2-3 months on their beers before they go out the door. A lot of this is attributed to a slow fermenting yeast that helps give their beers a unique flavor profile.

A big part of Upright’s success is their constant experimentation. Around the brewery are small carboys filled with things the brewmasters “just wanted to try out and see what would happen”.   One of these experimentations lead to a program they are calling “The Sixth Barrel Series” which includes the Four Play seasonal beer.

Four Play is unlike any cherry beer I’ve ever tried. While it does have a nice cherry undertone, the beer has an amazing complexity of flavors including flavors from the pino barrels it was aged in, funky yeasty flavors from the strains of bacteria introduced while in barrel, and a tropical current which includes coconut and banana flavors.  Four Play was done on a very limited run with only 80 Cases and 4 1/2 kegs produced. It’s a unique beer that will probably get snatched up extremely fast. The label of Four Play will certainly turn some heads as it features a bare-breasted Kir Jensen, a bold move for the beer and certainly something that will generate a lot of attention.

Upright's Four Play

Upright's Four Play Label

The other beer I tried was their new Apricot Anniversary Beer, a wheat beer with added apricot puree. It is by far my favorite fruit beer I’ve had yet. The beer captures the essence of apricot without being either too sweet or too tart, and it’s accompanied by a delicious bready yeast flavor. The beer has an amazing mouth feel which finishes dry and clean with a slight edge. It’s a remarkable beer and one that I plan on picking up before it runs out.

Upright Brewing draws most of their ingredients from hyper-local sources including Great Northern Grain malt from Vancouver, Mt. Angel hops, and local wine barrels from Oregon wineries (to finish some of their beers). This follows in line with their farmhouse style beer philosophy and it permeates throughout their entire business.

There are a lot of micro-breweries in Portland but none which produces as consistently delicious and exciting beers. Upright may not be on your radar screen, but they should be and their anniversary party is something to not to be missed.

Upright Brewing’s One Year anniversary party and beer release event happens Friday, April 9, 2010 from 4:30pm – 9:00pm at the Upright Brewing Tasting Room located at 240 N. Broadway, suite 2.  It’s in the Leftbank Project building downstairs in the basement.

Categories: Beer Tags: , ,

Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes in Portland

March 29, 2010 No comments
Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes In Portland

Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes In Portland

Several years ago I traveled to Japan with my family. It was a culinary adventure as much as a cultural adventure. In Kyoto our friends took us to one of their favorite restaurants which served okonomiyaki, Japanese style savory pancakes made right at your table. While I can’t say I loved the funky array of flavors in my okonomiyaki, I did really enjoy the experience of making it myself.

Slappy Cakes (4246 Southeast Belmont Street)  takes all the interworkings of the the okonomiyaki – batter served at your table, mixed with ingredients and cooked on an in-table flat griddle – and puts a distinctly Portland spin on it. Instead of savory Japanese pancakes, Slappy Cakes offers traditional pancakes with a wide array of mix-ins, from uber sweet chocolate chips to savory bacon and blue cheese.

Diners are offered a choice of batters including traditional buttermilk, buckwheat, vegan, peanut butter, and gluten-free.  To this they can select from a large list of mix-in ingredients including blueberries, lavender honey, lemon curd, chocolate chips, cherries, bananas, bacon, blue cheese, fresh herbs and more.  The pancake batter is delivered in a squeeze bottle which makes getting it onto the griddle extremely easy, and toppings come in little gravy boats. Read more…

Categories: Food Tags: ,