We had such a positive response to our Portland Staycation piece that we’ve decided to seek out more quick, easy and affordable ways to get a quick escape without having to plan or spend for a big vacation.
We didn’t quite know what to expect from Portland Tub and Tan, located in the Montavilla neighborhood of SE Portland. The business is only a stones throw away from less than fantastic neighborhoods beyond 82nd Avenue. But Montavilla is going through quite a revival and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with our time at bars, restaurants and movie theaters in the neighborhood. So we decided to take the plunge and give Portland Tub and Tan a try.
Between the deep recession and Portland’s native artisan culture, the DIY (‘do it yourself’) movement has seen explosive growth here. Mississippi Avenue in North Portland is quickly becoming an epicenter for this growing movement with many local businesses focused on providing resources and tools for Portlanders to take charge and do things themeselves.
Up the street from The ReBuilding Center and Pistols Nursery, and around the corner from SewPo, the newly opened Mr. Green Beans hopes to become a headquarters for do-it-yourselfers interested in everything from roasting their own coffee beans to making their own cheese, soap and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
KoiFusion@1 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 KoiFusion@1 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.
KoiFusion@1 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, KoiFusion@1 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.
KoiFusion@1 is at 1300 NW Lovejoy. (hours will be 4-midnight to start with lunch being added in the near future)