Upright Brewing Turns One and Throws A Party

March 31, 2010 Comments off
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 Comments off
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: ,

Broadway Across America Portland presents CATS

March 28, 2010 1 comment

I admit, I have never seen CATS, so with this being my first time, I had very high expectations. Considering it has been performed for 27 years over five continents and 26 countries, and it won seven Tony Awards in 1983 including Best Musical, I expected to be dazzled by a theater experience of a lifetime. While the musical performances from the Broadway Across America traveling cast are impressive, I did not love the show. I’m hard-pressed to say I even liked the show. I went as far as to ask friends and family afterward if I am crazy and everyone else actually loves CATS, but every single person I asked felt the same way – silly premise, lacking in substance, an 80s over-the-top production.

To say there is a story is bordering on ridiculous, and the lyrics to many of the songs are just as ludicrous. I found myself saying, both at intermission and after the show, that I just don’t get it. What is the appeal? Nothing really happens, and there is no character development so we have no one to really care about. The only thing I liked was the first performance of the well-known song “Memory”, mainly because it was the first scene to actually have any substance, and the actress singing has a beautiful voice. After about 30 minutes I tried to just focus on the music. The traveling company slightly redeems itself with outstanding vocals from every member of the cast.

If you happen to be a fan of CATS, this Broadway Across America Portland show closes Sunday, March 28, and tickets start at $23.50. I sat in the orchestra ($63.25) and the view was excellent, even if the show wasn’t.

Categories: Theater Tags:

Portland’s Micro Distillery Boom

March 24, 2010 1 comment
Drink Spirits

Drink Spirits

Updates to On Portland have been a little sluggish over the past month or so and that’s because we’ve been hard at work on launching a new site and project focused on spirits like Top 10 Irish Whiskey PicksAn Exploration of Tequila and Mezcal, The Gin Fizz called Drink Spirits.

Portland is at the center of a revolution in spirits that is very reminiscent of its role in the explosion of micro brew beer. Now on the SE side of Portland there’s an established Distillery Row with several key micro distilleries making artisanal and craft spritis.

Some of these notable distilleries include:

In addition to exciting things happening on the micro distillery front Portland’s cocktail scene has been exploding.  Some of the cocktails being served in Portland are as good or better than you’ll find in places like Los Angeles, Chicago or even New York.

Some of the notable things happening in this space:

  • Teardrop Lounge launched a massive new cocktail menu with a mix of classic cocktails, cocktails from notable bartenders around the country and home grown drinks from the amazingly  talented: Daniel Shoemaker, David Shenaut and Ricky Gomez. (1015 Northwest Everett Street)
  • Beaker & Flask another bar getting national attention with a mix of classic cocktails and locally designed drinks and buzz worthy bartender Elizabeth Markham behind the bar (727 SE Washington St)
  • Laurelhurst Market award winning bartender Evan Zimmerman is doing monsterous things with a tiny bar at the back of this notable ‘steak/deli’ restaurant. Hand cut ice and extremely inventive drinks have won Evan huge acclaim  (3155 East Burnside Street)
  • Clyde Common – Neil Kopplin has helped put Clyde on the map with extraordinarily solid classic cocktails and a bar menu which consistently draws the crowds. (1014 Southwest Stark Street)

In some cities you’d find bartenders competing against each other, but in Portland they all come together an collaborate under their  Oregon Bartender’s Guild with monthly events you don’t have to be a bartender to attend and an annual distiller’s festival that has been getting some national attention.

With Drink Spirits now off the ground and running we’ll have a lot more frequent updates here at On Portland and we invite you to check out some of the key articles on the spirits site:

Legally Blonde The Musical in Portland

February 18, 2010 1 comment
Legally Blonde The Musical

Legally Blonde The Musical

It’s refreshing, from time to time, to treat yourself to a night of entertainment that is simply fun and lighthearted. This is what you can expect from Legally Blonde The Musical. The 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon has been adapted for the stage, infused with music and dance, and is touring February 16-21 here in Portland as part of the Broadway Across America series.

The premise is simple: college sorority president and blonde bombshell Elle Woods has everything going for her – perfect clothes, perfect friends, perfect boyfriend/future husband Warner Huntington III, until said boyfriend heads to Harvard Law and dumps Elle for someone more “serious”, Vivienne Kensington. Determined to get her man, Elle manages to get herself into Harvard and sets a plan into action to get Warner back. It never occurs to her that she could fail, that no one will take her seriously, or that she might fall for someone else.

The role of Elle Woods is played, for the majority of the Portland run, by Becky Gulsvig. She keeps up with the high energy demands of the role and has a striking resemblance to Reese Witherspoon. For those of you planning to see the show later in the run, I would shoot for one of the performances on February 20 and 21 to see Portland native and Tigard High grad Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone in the role of Elle. I wish I could have seen a show with her to see some local talent.

Most of the rest of the cast are what you would expect from a traveling show. The vocals vary, some performances are stronger than others, and they double and triple up on actors playing multiple roles (not my favorite). When it comes down to it, however, this is a musical based on a fairly silly romantic comedy, so you have to keep that in mind and just enjoy the spectacle. The show does have some very funny and cute moments, like the first time Elle’s chihuahua, Bruiser, runs on stage and delivers “lines”, the marching band and cheerleaders at Elle’s admissions interview at Harvard, the “Take It Like a Man” number during which Elle’s law school friend, Emmett Forrest (played by D.B. Bonds) changes clothes on stage behind a tiny changing room door, and the courtroom scene with the entire ensemble singing “Is He Gay or European”.

An upbeat, spirited production, and dizzying number of pink costumes, Legally Blonde The Musical is entertainment that lets you just turn off your brain and enjoy.

Legally Blonde Runs at The Keller Auditorium 2/16-2/21. Get more info from the Legally Blonde The Musical National Tour Site.

– @PDXHeather

Categories: Events, Portland, Theater Tags:

Portland Public School Redesign Means School Closures

February 4, 2010 4 comments
Skip McKallip, member of the Grant Cluster Parents for a Thoughtful High School Redesign

Skip McKallip With The Map of Portland Schools

The idea sounds like a good one: update the structure of Portland Public High Schools to accommodate the changing population and needs of an ever-developing higher education platform. The unfortunate thing is that the plan may ultimately be less about updating individual schools, meeting their needs and helping them succeed, and more about trying to creating an equal divide across the district of offerings and students.

In representing the board at a recent Grant Cluster Parents for a Thoughtful High School Redesign meeting, Portland school board member David Wyde laid out the issue:

Read more…

Categories: Schools Tags: , ,

Hot Cocoa with Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

January 18, 2010 Comments off
Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee House

Tessy and Tab at Heart Coffee

Here’s something that is uniquely Portland. Tessy and Tab Reading Club, a twice per month subscription by mail ‘magazine’ for early readers (aged 2-6) is located on the east side of Portland.  One afternoon late last year, magazine publisher Judy MacDonald Johnston followed her love for coffee to the newly opened  Heart Coffee on  NE 22nd and Burnside.  She was so taken with the coffee shop that she decided to make it the subject of the an issue of Tessy and Tab.

The result is a pairing of two fantastic local craft businesses, each with a strong vision and passion for doing something unique.

Tessy and Tab Reading Club is a breath of fresh air in a market where even 2 year olds are heavily marketed to. Focused on developing early readers, it delivers two printed booklet-like magazines per month via mail.  The club helps instill the the love, passion and skills for early readers. It provides an exceptional ‘marketing free’ environment for kids to learn to read. We’ve been subscribers to the club for many years and have given subscriptions as gifts. It’s a truly exceptional publication and it’s located right here in Portland.

Heart Coffee is a relatively new coffee house and roaster (run by notable snowboarder Willi Yli-Luma). Featuring one of the simplest and most straightforward menus I’ve seen in a coffee shop, Heart Coffee has an extremely myopic focus on servering the absolute best coffee you can get in a cup.  While I was there for the “Cocoa with Tessy and Tab” event they were roasting beans. You’d think that they were conducting a science experiment.  I’ve seen beans roasted in many places in town, but never with such intense focus and attention.  The coffee served at Heart is out of this world and is in the league with some of the very best coffee in Portland.

Since the issue of Tessy and Tab takes place at Heart Coffee, the owners of both companies invited local subscribers to come to Heart Coffee to share some hot cocoa and meet the reading club creators.  The baristas from Heart Coffee drew elaborate pictures in the foam of the hot cocoas and the kids colored in pictures of the barista’s animal alter egos from the latest issue. It was a fantastic pairing of two local businesses following their hearts and doing something special.

For More info:

Categories: Books, Family Tags:

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage Review

January 17, 2010 2 comments
Snow Falling on Cedars Portland Center Stage

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage

I honestly didn’t have huge expectations for Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of David Guterson Snow Falling on Cedars. So many popular books and movies have been poorly adapted for the stage recently and
Scott Hick’s 1999 film adaptation
of Guterson’s best selling book simply left me cold. Imagine my shock when I was blown away by one of the best productions I’ve seen on a stage in Portland. McKeon’s adaptation is simply amazing and coupled with Chris Coleman’s pitch perfect direction and uniformly excellent acting, Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage is nothing short of a triumph.

Set in the late 40’s and early 50’s, Snow Falling on Cedars follows the trail of Kabuo, a Japanese American fisherman accused of murdering a fellow fisherman in a small northwestern island town. The play flashes back and forth between the trial and the years leading up to it, covering the interweaving stories of the characters. Smack dab in the center of Snow Falling on Cedars is a look at the Japanese internment camps in America, enacted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Although Snow Falling on Cedars covers an important point (and arguably one of our lowest points) in American history, the play is more about the relationships and connections between the people involved than the history itself. Olivia Oguma and Vince Nappo play Hatsue and Ishmael, two childhood playmates who flirt with something more. Their relationship comes to a head with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There’s a devastatingly beautiful moment when Hatsue turns to Ishmael and says, “Look at me, look at my face, I have the face of the enemy!” It’s within a moment like this between characters that brings everything together and adjoins the greater narrative, the historial context and makes this play work so well.

A lot of credit goes to Kevin McKeon for his masterful adaptation of Guterson’s book. McKeon covers considerable ground in his stage play and really has a sense of how to capture and present the soul and essence of the book. McKeon often gives us just enough of a glimpse at something as he weaves back and forth throughout the lives of the key characters. This results in some truly magical moments, and while fleeting, they give us a tremendous amount of insight and connection with the story. One of my favorite moments of the play involves the coupling of Hatsue and Kabuo, a short scene played perfectly, almost magically; I’ll surely be thinking back to it a long time from now.

Director Chris Coleman, who has been playing around with inventive and minimalistic staging this year, really hits his groove working with McKeon’s adaptation. The staging transitions from scene to scene, emotional note to emotional note flawlessly. At one point we flash between the front lines in the South Pacific to a quiet and tender scene between two of the characters on the field of an internment camp and back again. Coleman’s actors never seem lost in the shuffle and he gives them a tremendous amount of faith and trust to carry off some of the most important elements of the play. In one scene two police officers, played by Scott Coopwood and Casey McFeron, pull a body caught in a fishing net out of the water and onto a boat. This entire scene is done using pantomime, and it executed so well you’d swear they had a real body on stage. I couldn’t help but think back to Coleman’s work on Ragtime and the show-stopping scene where Gavin Gregory (who plays Coalhouse Walker) sits down to play at an invisible piano.

It’s this kind of deep trust in the artform and the capacity of his actors that makes Chris Coleman a truly great director, and under his direction, the actors rise to the occasion. Olivia Oguma gives an award worthy performance as Hatsue, carrying her character through a huge life arch from pre-teen to a married woman with kids. Vince Nappo takes his character Ishmael on a similar journey and caps the show with an emotional moment that is simply amazing. Bruce Locke gives the role of Kabuo a rich texturing despite the fact that his character is extremely reserved.

Across the board the performances in Snow Falling on Cedars are excellent even though many of the cast members double and triple up, playing a variety of roles throughout the show. My one and only gripe about the production is its opening. The characters come on and speak in narrative to set things up. It works but not nearly as well as when we see the characters interact with dialogue. Admittedly, this is a minor issue and in many ways is like complaining about the frame on a true masterpiece, which is what this is.

Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of Snow Falling on Cedars is so good and Chris Coleman’s Portland Center Stage production is so well performed it has the potential to become a truly classic piece of theater. McKeon works magic with Snow Falling on Cedars, crafting a truly contemporary theatrical experience using classic theatrical tools, and in the hands of Chris Coleman the result is simply amazing. Snow Falling on Cedars has the potential to be the kind of show that moves on from its Portland debut to New York and then beyond. It’s a truly great piece of theater and is absolutely not to be missed.

Snow Falling on Cedars plays at Portland Center Stage 1/12-2/17. Tickets Start at $35.

For more information:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Xanadu The Musical in Portland Review

January 13, 2010 1 comment
Xanadu The Musical in Portland

Xanadu The Musical in Portland

It’s hard to write a review of Xanadu The Musical with a straight face. Part of me is thinking, “Really, you’re going to pick apart a musical based on one of the cheesier films from the 80’s?” and in truth there will be some people who click off their brain and just enjoy the brief 90 minute staging of this kitschy musical no matter what faults it has, and that’s fine. The problem with Xanadu The Musical is that it actually far, far worse than the movie it’s based on.

Adapted from the 1980 film with Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, Xanadu is a fantastical story of a Greek demi-god sent to Earth to be a muse for a struggling artist. In the process she breaks some cardinal rules, including falling in love and getting involved with the creative process itself. Peppered throughout the story are some classic songs from the film including “Magic“, “Suddenly“, “I’m Alive” and the theme song “Xanadu“. None of these songs are pure classics in their own right, but they do really capture some of the delicious elements that make the 80’s so fun to wax nostalgic over.

Musically this gives Xanadu a fairly solid base. Like Mama Mia, there’s enough of a musical foundation for a fun night of musical theater. Unfortunately the music is so subverted in favor of cheap gags and poor staging that it’s hard to genuinely enjoy it.

Elizabeth Stanley, who performs the lead role, has a fantastic voice, similar in tone to Oliva Newton-John, with a depth and breadth that truly fills the auditorium. But she so hams it up while singing that it’s really difficult to enjoy her genuine talent. When she isn’t singing, Elizabeth Stanley’s performance is really subpar. For part of the show she sports an absolutely horrid Australian accent. The accent is yet another aspect of the show played as a gag, but it’s so poorly executed it’s painful.

Stanley’s co-star Max Von Esson, who plays Sonny Malone, has such a small stage presence that he’s absolutely eclipsed by Stanley. Von Esson reminds me of the kind of performer you see on a cruise ship or at Disneyland. He awkwardly hams it up and then completely under delivers when it comes time to really sing. Von Esson even comes up short in terms of skating – in the grand finale he doesn’t even skate. With all the talent out there (including the cast-offs from all the seasons of American Idol), it’s hard to believe they couldn’t find a better performer to play Sonny.

Of all the other cast members the only other real highlight of the show is Larry Marshall, who has the unenviable task of performing a role originated by the great Gene Kelly. Marshall is one of the only genuinely talented and well rounded performers on stage. He seems to be the only one to be able to balance both the humor and the narrative of the musical and both sings and acts wonderfully.

One of the biggest problems with Xanadu The Musical is that it seems to have a fairly strong disdain for the time period which the film and story are set in. Throughout the show the 80’s are often referred to as ‘culturally devoid’ and references to most of the 80’s things are more pejorative than positive. The musical also seems to have a disdain for the very artform of the musical itself. It constantly pokes fun and commentates on the very institution of art that it is. This creates an undertone to the piece which is far from celebratory. Rather than trying to be so self referential, Xanadu had an amazing opportunity to celebrate the absolute over-the-top aspects of the time period and musical theater art form; instead, it seems more interested in bashing it.

The staging for Xanadu The Musical is an absolute mess. Rather than embracing the crazy and wonderful styles of the 80’s the stage looks more like a cheap, dull ampithere with columns and risers that accommodate on-stage seating. Having audience members sit on the stage has become fashionable after plays like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Spring Awakening. In both those productions the placement of these audience members served a purpose. Here it’s just another element tacked on to make the show more ‘hip’.  These audience members are out of place in this period piece and are only really there to help make the stark staging feel less empty.

My absolute biggest gripe with Xanadu The Musical is how nearly every moment of the show is played for laughs. The show is littered with so many cheap jokes and gags that it leaves very little room for anything else. This completely subverts the characters and the narrative so it becomes extremely difficult to care about anyone or anything in the show. I think it’s possible to play Xanadu over the top and still have some genuine moments between characters.

Ultimately Xanadu is one huge opportunity lost. The original movie had an element of huge spectacle which gets completely lost in the adaptation to stage. Xanadu could have been a flamboyant and unrestrained celebration of an era that wasn’t ever aware how ‘far out’ it really was. But, I don’t think the creative team behind Xanadu genuinely loves the material or the era they’re presenting, I think they saw a good opportunity to mount a Broadway production that would attract a 30something audience who would place very little demands on the play and would appreciate its short running time.

Xanadu plays at the Keller Auditorium January 12-17th. For more info:

(ed note: Portland Opera informs us that Max Von Esson sprained his ancle prior to the performance I saw and so did not skate as much due to it.)

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Avatar in 3D at Roseway Theater Reviewed

December 17, 2009 2 comments

AvatarI want to love Avatar, I really do. Almost everything that Director James Cameron has touted about the film over the past few years is absolutely true. The film absolutely breaks new ground visually with the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a narrative film (the best use of 3D overall I still think is U23D). Visually it is simply stunning. The world of Avatar is one of visual delights which rivals almost any film I’ve seen. The character animation is as close to human as I’ve ever seen. No films have had CGI characters and creatures which feel so alive. For the most part, Avatar is wonderfully acted. Sam Worthington is superb as Jake Sully, crippled Marine set free through the use of an avatar. Zoe Slanda is also fantastic in the lead female role, Neytiri, a Na’vi trying to protect her homeland from the invading humans. Even CCH Pounder puts in a stand out performance in a supporting role.

Unfortunately Avatar isn’t everything that it could be, or even should be. Side by side strong performances are some ridiculously bad ones. Giovanni Ribisi is laughably bad as a corporate boss focused on acquiring “unobtainium” from the land beneath the Na’vi. Stephen Lang is straight out from a bad Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damm movie as a Marine who will hit his objective at all costs. Also, I’m sad to report the actual Avatar script is extraordinarily predictable and uneven. Plot turns are so ridiculously linear and easily anticipated that there rarely is any sense of surprise in the story. Some of the dialogue is also extremely bad, laughably so (expect them to become rampantly overused as Twitter updates and Facebook statuses for months to come).

But with all its faults, Avatar isn’t a bad movie. Aside from the pure visual spectacle, there are some genuinely magical moments. In it’s 2 1/2 hour running time there are definite sections which pull you in and help make you forget the films many faults. And yet, Avatar fails at becoming a great film. James Cameron clearly has all the tools to create legendary cinema, and yet he fails here, relying on a bad script and some poor actors who knock his film out of contention for being truly great.

This of course leaves us with the essential question: should you go see Avatar? Even given all its faults and imperfections I’m recommending that, yes, you go see this film. Avatar is worth the price of admission for the visual spectacle alone, and it does deliver an extraordinary experience. But I’d strongly advise going into it with the understanding that it is a very imperfect film, that it has some really significant faults, and to be truly enjoyed those faults need to be ignored or forgiven.

Avatar is an exciting piece of cinema, its technological achievement will surely have a major impact on films that follow it. It also is the ‘killer app’ for 3D movies and is probably the film which will be credited with keeping 3D around and not letting pass as a fad. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been a great film.

If you’re going to see Avatar in Portland, I HIGHLY recommend you see it in 3D at The Roseway Theater. The Roseway is the best movie theater experience in Portland with the best digital projection and sound and it would be an absolute shame to see this movie any other way. The Roseway Theater is Located at 7229 SE Sandy Blvd. Avatar has a midnight showing on Friday December 18th and then runs 12:00 3:30 7:00 10:30.  You can also follow the Roseway on twitter at @rosewaytheater for updated showtimes and more.

Categories: Movies Tags: