Slaying The Green Dragon

November 13, 2008 4 comments
The Green Dragon Portland

The Green Dragon Portland

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about restaurants closing due to a dramatic drop in business (including the sad news that one of my favorite Portland restaurants Kalga Kafe closed).

This week we received news of an entirely different sort:

The Green Dragon, an extremely popular watering hole for Portland’s tech set, and the standing location for the ever growing Beer & Blog has been set to be sold to Rogue on Friday November 14th.

Initial response has been overwhelming negative to word of the buy out with some pretty harsh comments posted over the news the popular brewpub may be transformed into a Rogue Taproom.

The Green Dragon has made its name for the ever changing wide variety of brews on tap, regular ‘meet the brewer’ events and as the destination of choice for many Portland tech events.

To commemorate the slaying of the Green Dragon Beer & Blog will be holding a final sendoff for the beloved brewpub on Friday (reportedly the last day for the dragon).

The sale of The Green Dragon in such a challenging economic environment lends great weight to the view that the area surround The Green Dragon, Grand Central Bowl and Holocene is destined to be Portland’s next big hot spot

The Green Dragon will be missed. We hope other beer bars like The Horse Brass, Belmont Station, Bye and Bye will step up to fill the gap created by the sale of the Green Dragon.

Ed note: Read the good follow up piece in Draft Magazine about the Rogue purchase of the Green Dragon

Categories: Beer, Books, Food, Interview Tags: ,

Portland Milk Premiere with Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and James Franco

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Sean Penn in Milk - Portland Premiere =

Sean Penn in Milk - Portland Premiere

This Friday, Hollywood comes to Portland with a red carpet premiere of Gus Van Sant’s latest film Milk.  The event will be held at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (1037 SW Broadway) as a benefit and celebration of the 40th anniversary of Outside In (a local charity which serves homeless youth and low-income adults)

As with any red carpet premier the list of people expected to attend can change, but early word is that Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn and James Franco are all expected to be there. PDXPipeline is reporting that Mayor-elect Sam Adams and The March Forth Marching Band are also expected to be in attendance.

Milk is one of Gus Van Sant’s highest profile films in years and it tells the story of prominent gay activist and San Francisco city politician Harvey Milk during the years leading up to his assassination in 1978.  Early buzz from some select critics who have seen the film is very very good, and this is a fantastic opportunity to see the film early and support a really worthy cause.

Tickets for the Milk red carpet debut are available for purchase online (via Ticketmaster) and at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) box office (1111 SW Broadway). Prices range from $37.75 – $71.75. The event starts at 8:30 pm.


Here is the Milk Trailer:


Categories: Events Tags: ,

Portland Family Adventures – Interview

November 12, 2008 2 comments

portland family adventuresFor On Portland’s inaugural interview we decided to talk to Portland Family Adventurer Vince Schreck about his experiences running his site and dragging his family to the ends of the area in search of the next great adventure.

When, How and Why did you first start Portland Family Adventures?

In November of 2007, after getting a very expensive quote from a web development company, I decided to create Portland Family Adventures myself. In about 2 weeks, I had the website setup and ready  – I did about 90% of the work myself WordPress. I always thought the difficult part would be getting the site built; however, I quickly learned that the real challenges are:

  1. continually updating it with quality content
  2. site monetization
  3. search engine optimization.

Why did I build it? At the time, I was having a mid-life-crisis about my career that has me in front of a computer all day long. A friend asked me, “What would you be doing if money didn’t matter?” I didn’t need to think about that at all – I quickly replied, “I would spend as much time with my son (and family) having adventures all over Portland.” I love activities that kids enjoy. I thought this would become my new career – that is my ultimate goal. Also, and even more importantly, I think there was a need for this type of site. There are plenty of family websites in Portland, but they don’t provide the detailed information, pictures and videos that parents want.

Is there something unique to Portland that makes a site like yours possible?

Absolutely yes! I don’t think the correlation between “Portland” and “Family Fun” is a big secret. I’ve seen Portland mentioned in many different articles as being one of the best places to raise a family. Running my site – experiencing adventures then writing about them – has given me a laboratory- for measuring that correlation. I’ve literally been to almost every park, playground, pool, indoor playpark, bike path, etc., in Portland.

I can say with confidence that parents here care deeply about the quality-of-life their kids experience. They care more about the food they eat and where it comes from, they care about pesticides in parks, they care about keeping parks clean, they want to ride bikes and walk to minimize car usage, and there is a strong connection to political and social awareness. It appears to me that parents want to play and be active with their kids, and want as much information possible about how to make these things tangible possibilities. My site provides that type of access, and I think that’s why my site has been a success.

How has the site impacted your life?

It has been an incredible journey. One of the best benefits of having the site is that I’ve created a permanent archive for my kids. Photo albums often get put on a shelf and collect dust. My kids will always be able to reference our adventures through my narrative, pictures and video! It’s almost like we’re creating a family legacy and sharing that beyond the scope of our immediate family. This has been such a positive – it’s a constant reminder that engaging with our children has the potential to make us better parents, and it’s good for kids too. The site is a sort of validation process that my hard work is paying off!

On the negative side, because I put so much into each article they take at least 2-3 hours of computer time to publish. Although I wanted to leave the computer behind, it has followed me into this new venture. I’m constantly checking the site statistics, emailing with sponsors, cruising the Internet for possible trips, editing or posting material. Maintaining the site is an incredible amount of work!

Top Adventure Great Wolf Lodge

Top Adventure Great Wolf Lodge

How has the site changed over the past year?

For the most part, I had a good plan right from the start; thus, the mission and guiding principles haven’t changed at all. There are definitely quantifiable changes that have occurred – over a 3 month period, my site visits went up 2500%, which was a direct result of changing the emphasis from “parenting” to “relocation/adventure travel.” I had no idea that so many people would start referencing the site from outside the Portland area. I get a lot of traffic from parents who want to move to Portland, or who will be visiting the area soon.

I didn’t think I would highlight as many businesses. However, many businesses are so family-oriented that it’s been hard to ignore them. For example “The Great Wolf Lodge,” which is a giant, indoor waterpark 90 miles north, had our family up for a visit this past summer. We had such a great time there! We are going to be visiting Timberline Lodge in December, Leavenworth, WA in January, Mt. Bachelor in February, and Sun River Resort during early summer ’09. One marketing person said to me, “We always welcome travel writers.” I never considered myself a travel writer, but in a sense, that’s exactly what I’m doing at times.

What’s the most interesting comment you’ve gotten from a reader?

The Oregon Zoo sent me some information in support of their recent ballot measure and wanted me to post it on my site. Because I supported the measure, I felt like I should post the information for them. When I did that, I entered the realm of “political blogging,” which isn’t in my mission or guiding principles.

A reader sent a pretty aggressive comment aimed at the Oregon Zoo. The message accused them of animal cruelty and much more. In some ways, I felt the reader had some valid arguments; however, the tone of the message was so political that I could not post it. I knew I made a mistake by taking a political position on a site that’s all about family fun. I took down the Zoo’s leaflet, and told the reader I couldn’t post their message on my site and why. I referred them to the Oregon Zoo directly.

What types of adventures are the most popular with your readers?

Surprisingly, by far the most popular article on my site is the North Clackamas Aquatic Center. I don’t know what it is, but Portlander’s love that wave pool! I think so much of the year parents are looking for indoor activities to escape the rain. Even if I take a closer look, inflatable jumping venues and indoor playparks do very well with traffic.

If there is a break in the weather, my site gets more active around hikes, parks and playgrounds. I did a piece on “Portland’s Best Parks,” and to the shock of many, a park in Wilsonville got the nod as “best overall.” Memorial Park is definitely my most popular article when it comes to outdoor destinations. It’s worth the trip to Wilsonville.

Winner of Best Portland Park

Winner of Best Portland Park

Of all the places you’ve discovered through running the site, Which have been your favorite?

My favorites always happen when my expectations are low, but the destination proves to be stellar! Many Portlanders don’t even want to entertain the notion that there is something fun for their family in say…Beaverton, Hillsboro or Wilsonville. These towns may as well be on another planet for most southeasterners. However, many of these towns have a pretty hefty tax-base, and they pour a lot of money into their trail systems and green spaces. Again, if you want to really get blown away by a park, visit Memorial Park in Wilsonville. It’s beautiful! I was also shocked and awed by the Fanno Creek trail for biking with kids. Letterboxing is also a fun activity. It’s like a treasure hunt with rubber stamps. We visited several parks to hunt for these hidden treasures.

I thought the Great Wolf Lodge would be okay…it seemed sort of weird to me…an indoor waterpark. It was so much fun that we didn’t even mind being inside for 3 days straight while the weather was so nice outside! It’s definitely been our favorite trip.

What are some of the challenges of trying to run a site based around your families activities?

I think the biggest challenge for me is, “Are people getting sick of hearing about my family?” Am I bothering them with this stuff? I try to keep the focus on the adventure, but inevitably, my family adds a compelling piece. There are also plenty of pictures and videos of my son, and I don’t always think it’s the best idea to put him out there like that. I definitely have struggled with his inclusion in pictures and videos.

My son is also getting pretty frustrated with the constant “video clips.” In some clips, you can even hear him in the background, “Dad! Put the camera away and stop talking.” It’s pretty funny, but I know where he’s coming from. It’s a bit much for him to have to constantly deal with the pictures and video.

Also, we’re certainly less spontaneous these days. We often go places just because I’ve yet to document the adventure.

What are some of the adventures you have planned for the future?

There are still some very common adventures I’ve yet to document. Since many of my readers are looking at Portland for relocation or travel, I want to make sure to get the “greatest hits.” For example, I don’t even have Powell’s books, which can be a lot of fun for a family who likes to read. So, my priority right now is to make sure I have the “blatantly obvious” adventures done!

In my second year, I want to expand the focus beyond Portland, but still remain within a 5 hour drive. We hope to explore more of the coast and also, I’d like to start to focus more on the “adventure” side. A family trip to Powell’s doesn’t seem to be much of an “adventure.” I want to get more trips like rafting, kite boarding, rock climbing, biking, backpacking, etc. As my kids get older, we’ll be engaging in more of these activities.

Visit Portland Family Adventures.

Categories: Interview Tags: ,

Last Call for Fresh Hop Beer

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Fresh Mt. Hood Hops

Fresh Mt. Hood Hops

2008 has been an unprecedented year for fresh hop beer. In October I attended the Oregon Brewers Guild The Fresh Hop Beer Tastivals at Hopworks Urban Brewery, there were so many people I had flashbacks to the Portland Summer Beer Fest.

Sadly, with the leaves now more on the ground than in the trees and the rains blanketing Portland, the time for these first fall harvest fresh hop beers is coming to an end. While many of the great fresh hop beers are tapped out, you can still find a few around town.

Your best bet right now is to pick up a few bottles of Deschutes Hop Trip.  I’ve seen bottles at New Seasons and the Deschutes Bewpub (210 NW 11th Avenue ) still has it on tap and has a few cases to sell.  Of all the fresh hop beers this year the Hop Trip is my absolute favorite. The beer is a beautiful blend of sweet, bitter and smooth, it’s magic in a pint glass.

Also on Wednesday, November 19th Belmont Station will be doing a “Last of The Fresh Hops Night” with a keg of Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Fresh Hop Ale alongside a cellared keg of Southern Hemishere Fresh Hop Ale. I can’t think of a more perfect way to close out the fresh hop season.

Categories: Beer Tags: , ,

Sip – One of Portland's Best Food Carts

November 11, 2008 7 comments
Sip's Owner Brian Serving Amazing Stuff

Sip at People's Food Coop

Despite our sometimes inclimate weather, Portland has a pretty phenomenal food cart scene. While many focus on fairly traditional food cart fair, a handful have unique offerings and are destinations for more than just a main meal.

Of all these food carts Sip is my absolute favorite. Located in the courtyard of the People’s Food Coop (3029 SE 21st Ave), Sip is a small airstream trailer transformed into one of the best fresh juice bars in the entire city. Opened at the start of the summer, Sip made its name by offering devilshly delicious vegan milkshakes, so rich and tasty that even non-vegans could be seen licking their cups. In addition to its indulgent delights, Sip also offers a nice range of fresh and organic juices and smoothies.  On a recent trip I had a tropical green smoothie which is by far the single best smoothie I’ve ever had, anywhere.

With the turn of seasons Sip transitioned its offerings away from milkshakes and on more wintery offerings including hot soups and specialty drinks like milled cider, chai and hot coco. Recent soups have included Thai Red Curry, Vegan “Beef” Stew and Potato Leek.

Sip is a prime example of perfect simplicity, it’s the kind of place you can go, order anything, and know that it’s going to be fresh, organic and delicious.  There are rumblings that Sip’s owner is looking to expand and open a cafe in Portland, an extremely exciting prospect.

Here’s a copy of Sip’s Menu. Some extremely yummy drinks from one of my favorite Portland Food Cart:

Sip Portland Menu

Sip Portland Menu

Categories: Food Tags: , ,

WordSuck

November 9, 2008 8 comments
No Crowds at This Years Wordstock

No Crowds at This Years Wordstock

This year’s Wordstock was a mere shadow of years past. Perhaps the shows failing was the result of the tough economic times, or the shift in the board of Wordstock. Whatever the cause this year’s popular book festival was anything but festive.

There are a lot of places you can place blame for the failing of Wordstock: Widen & Kennedy’s horrid website made it almost impossible to figure out what was going on when (a prime example of form over function) it was nearly impossible to discern exactly how to connect with authors. Instead of being a useful guide to Wordstock the site was merely a Wordstock brand experience.

Blame could also be solidly put on the shoulders of everyone involved with the show’s logistics. Author signing tables were shoved in the far end of the convention center, behind a cage of ropes which left authors looking like bored lions on display at the zoo.  With no real signage there was no way to see who exactly would be signing when.  Authors were given tiny paper place cards to identify them in their misery.

Beyond the lonely authors just waiting for someone, anyone to ask them to sign their books, were the painfully depressed book sellers. As I strolled the show floor I heard several of the publishers remark that they hadn’t sold a single book the entire day. Many wore long faces and a few had simply given up and were abandoning their booths to commiserate with fellow publishers.

A former centerpiece of the show, the Target kids area was also depressing.  As we made our way over there just before 4pm they were already tearing it down and packing it away. Even the Target mascott dog looked bored.  My daughter asked if she could color and they told her no. Nice.

With the poor floor design it was almost impossible to see and hear the main authors.  When John Hodgman got up to speak the area was so confined I ended up standing in the Powell’s booth that blocked the way between the show floor and the main stage. I finally gave up trying to listen to Hodgeman and left (I simply could not see or hear).

Another failing of Wordstock this year was their inability to pull in the same level of word class authors as they have in years past.  Consider in years past Wordstock hosted luminaries as Gore Vidal, Ursula Le Guin, Sarah Vowell and Ira Glass. Between Powell’s special author events and Portland Arts and Lectures, Wordstock seems to be left pulling from second tier authors – this year’s highpoint was ‘That guy from the mac commercial”.

The one bright spot of the show was the alcove of comic book companies under the banner of “Stumptown Comics”. I met up with Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones who were there signing their respective books, but despite the fact that their area actually had people mulling around they informed me that nobody was really buying anything.

After departing from the completely depressing festival I decided to try to make the evening event “The Text Ball”. Unfortunately the logistical failings of Wordstock extended to this event as well.  Who in their infinate wisdom schedules an event across from the Rose Garden on the same night as a major sold out Basketball game?  How about the same night as BOTH a major sell out Basketball game AND a Winterhawk hockey game in the Memorial Colosseum!  I literally drove around and around for a half hour, driving as far out as the lloyd center and was unable to find a single parking spot (paid or otherwise) so I had to skip it all togehter.

It’s a shame that Wordstock is in the state it is in. Portland deserves better. While you can excuse some of the shows failing on the bad economy the real issues obviously run deeper.

Photos from Wordstock:

Categories: Books Tags:

Kalga Kafe – One of My Favorite Portland Restaurants Closes

November 8, 2008 6 comments

kalgakafeCatching up on my local blogs this weekend, my jaw hit the floor when I saw a post over at the Food Fight Blog reporting that Kalga Kafe had closed. I can’t tell you how sad this news is to me. Kalga Kafe was one of my favorite restaurants in Portland.

Kalga wasn’t the fanciest of places, and it was often overlooked in the crowded Portland restaurant scene when it came to accolades. But I adored it. It’s a place which will always hold many fond memories for me and I’ll forever miss Sukhdeep’s phenomenal Indian food.

Kalga Kafe would have best been described as eclectic, it was one of the only places in town with Indian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Mediterranean and Pizza all on the same menu (and all served very well).

Kalga’s owner Sukhdeep Singh had a deep commitment to the food he served and the community which surrounded the restaurant. The cafe was maintained as a highly sustainable business using mostly fresh, organic and local ingredients.

It’s an extremely sad day when such a fundamentally good place like Kalga Kafe closes.

ed note: Looks like Sukdeep is moving to brazil.

Categories: Food Tags: , ,

Voicebox Karaoke – A Fantastic Addtion to Portland's Nightlife

November 7, 2008 4 comments
Scott Simon - Voicebox

Scott Simon - Voicebox

Karaoke is very popular in Portland, and as a result some find it very difficult to get up and belt out their favorite tunes in front of so many people.

Enter Voicebox, a brand new Karaoke ‘complex’ which just opened near NW 21st (2112 NW Hoyt St). Rather than a traditional Karaoke bar, Voicebox is divided up into six private rooms. Each room has the capacity for a different number of people (as few as 2 and as many as 24) and has its own private karaoke system.

Voicebox’s systems are all high end, with Samsung flat screen TVs and Yamaha speaker systems. The acoustics in each room are also ideal, one of the rooms has the feel of a recording studio and with the doors closed no one can hear your singing outside.  You won’t find a better sounding Karaoke experience in Portland

The karaoke systems are easy to use and let you queue up songs so you can spend less time picking songs and more time singing them. The the library of songs is pretty extensive but had some some notable holes (including Violent Femmes and Metallica).

All the rooms Karaoke connect to a center bar area that serves wine, beer, sake and light food with in-room waitress service so you don’t have to go out to the bar to get your drinks if you don’t want to. The staff at Voicebox is extremely friendly including owner Scott Simon, a former electrical engineer who got the bug to open Voicebox after a trip to Korea. Karaoke complexes are more common in Asia and Simon imported the idea while adding a decidedly North West twist.

Private rooms are rented by the hour with rates varying per room (the average is about $7 per hour per person) and Voicebox holds special events like an upcoming Karaoke Clinic for people to brush up on their karaoke skills.

Voicebox is a fantastic addition to the Portland nightlife scene. I had an absolute blast singing a ton of songs, many more than I’d ever be able to sing at a regular karaoke bar. I enjoyed taking risks and singing songs I’d never consider singing in front of a crowd (including Avril Lavigne’s Sk8ter Boy).  I really appreciated the fact there was no smoking inside Voicebox as going out to karaoke often means coming home reeking of smoke. Voicebox is an idea place for a birthday or bachelorette party and I can absolutely see going back with a group of friends.

Voicebox is at 2112 NW Hoyt St. (503) 303-8220. They do take reservations and I expect them to fill up on key nights very fast.

Here are pictures from the Voicebox opening event:

And Videos:

Categories: Books, Events, Karaoke Tags: ,

Oregon: a one-party state? – Yellow Journalism at Its Finest

November 6, 2008 3 comments

7417375_300This morning I was reading The Oregonian and flipped to the Metro section.

Steve Dunn had a fairly wound licking piece about how Republicans in Oregon need to pick up the pieces and regroup. Dunn and I don’t see eye to eye, but his column is commentary.  So truth in advertising. Right?

Next I read the front page metro headlining piece (above the fold): Oregon: a one-party state? written by Janie Har and Bill Graves. If anyone is left out there that still believes that there’s such thing as the “Liberal Media”, you’ll want to sit down for this one:

Emboldened by Election Night wins across Oregon, Democrats now have unbridled power to raise taxes and fees when they meet in January

What the fuck?  This opening in an article that is labeled as a news story isn’t a quote or any other external reference by the authors, it’s an out and out slam against liberals as “Tax and Spend”. The article goes on to talk about how the Democrats are in control of the state legislature but might be restrained by the expectations of voters, some of which tend towards more conservative views.

At a core I think questioning a one-party dominated legislature is more than fair. Any time one party has a majority it’s important for the media to make sure there’s transparency and accountability. But this article is just absurd. It’s been one day since Barak Obama made his moving speech about people from both parties coming together and working together on the problems that face us. To have such an out and out partisan slam in The Oregonian as a news article is just out of bounds, so much so that I’d say it’s not Red or Blue but Yellow Journalism.

Interestingly you won’t find Oregon: a one-party state? online at Oregon Live anymore, the piece seems to have been pulled from their online edition.

Categories: Politics Tags: , ,

Wordstock – When Reading is A Party

wordstockPortland is one of the most literate cities in the country and so when we throw a book festival, it’s a big deal. Every year I make sure to make my way down to the sea of literature that is Wordstock. This Book-A-Palooza is a cornucopia of books, authors, readings, workshops and signings. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday with the main focus being The Book Fair at the Convention Center Saturday and Sunday 9am – 6pm.

The list of authors participating is completely overwhelming so here are the ones that caught my eye:

John Hodgman– You might recognize John Hodgman from The Daily Show on Comedy Central, but if not you’ve seen him play “PC” on many of the recent Mac commercials on TV. Despite the fact that people often say I look like Hodgman (I don’t damn it), he’s my top pick for Wordstock. Hodgman is as smart as he is funny, and it would be a mistake to miss him.

Heather Vogel Frederick – A true luminary in the youth lit category, Heather Frederick has penned a wide range of award winning books including: The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne, The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed and Spy Mice: For Your Paws Only. If you’ve got kids, make sure you don’t miss Heather Frederick.

Monica Drake – Put simply, Monica Drake is fucking amazing. Her book Clown Girl is inventive, original and extremely entertaining. Everyone knows that Chuck Palahniuk comes from Portland, and someday soon they’ll know Monica Drake. Catch her now so you can say “I knew her when…”

Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones – like peanut butter and jelly these two prominent Portland comic book creators are as complimentary to each other as you can get. Jamie Rich’s latest Have You Seen The Horizon Lately is one of the best undiscovered books of the year and Joelle Jones’s doodles are better than 75% of all the artists out there. Joelle is also a hot rising star with a new book out with DC.

In addition to the festival, Saturday night is the Text Ball at the Left Bank Project. I’m a huge fan of this venue which continues to develop as one of THE places in Portland to throw a bash!

The Text Ball is an opportunity for Portland’s rich literary arts scene to celebrate itself while supporting one of its most beloved organizations, the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Attendees are invited to come “dressed as text” and compete for prizes for the most grammatically-correct costumes. The theme this year is FIGURES OF SPEECH.

The Text Ball takes place Saturday from 6-11 at Left Bank Project 240 N Broadway.

The Wordstock web site sucks (Widen & Kennedy did a crappy ass job on it) but the physical booklet with the schedule is actually usable. So for the complete guide your best bet is to drop by Powells and snag a copy or pick one up at the show itself.

Categories: Books, Events Tags: , , ,