Monday, July 29, 2013

Paley's Place

1204 NW 21st Avenue
Happy Hour: 5:30 - 6:30, Monday through Thursday AND
5:00 - 6:30, Friday through Sunday

After having had the chance to meet Chef Vitaly Paley, I knew I wanted to try Paley's Place before the summer ended. It is said to be one of Portland's best restaurants AND they have a beautiful patio out front with seating that is so inviting it practically calls you by name.

Paley's Place offers happy hour every day of the week with longer hours on the weekends (almost unusual, I know). That makes it the perfect spot to stop at while shopping the popular blocks of NW 23rd and 21st. They have food large enough to make into meal or just small enough to curb your hunger. They offer just a taste of what's available during the dinner hour, which is enough to make me want to go back for more.

We started by ordering cocktails. They offer discounts on wine and beer plus a couple of key cocktails. I ordered the Moscow Mule--perfect for a hot day--and across the table was the Hibiscus Cooler. Both are just five dollars during happy hour. From what I read on the menu, it looks as though these are definitely summer offerings. Both of the beers listed (at just three dollars each) were summer ales.

The Happy Hour food menu offers all sort of daily specials. That's great because it means that they are using what's in season but it's not so great if you are likely to fall in love with a certain flavor and then want to order it again and again. It's tough when menus change. I know.

Most of the daily specials included some sort of fancy meat. That's perfect for meat eaters, but left me with just a couple of options. I selected two--one for me and one to share.

The fries were a great table item and came with the most delicious mustard aioli. It was all so delicious that it quickly became dangerously addicting. It's good that they provide the portion control by serving a limited number of fries and the aioli in a small ramekin. If not, I could possibly have taken things just a little too far.

The bruschetta of the day came topped with Fromage Fort and fancy red peppers. I can't say for sure what types of cheese were in the Fromage Fort mix, but I loved every bite. The peppers were a perfect pairing and the bread was just grilled enough to make the combined flavors that much better.

Across the table was the summer salad. For that day, it meant a salad that included spinach, strawberries, and hazelnuts along with an ample amount of goat cheese.

Paley's Place is most definitely on my list for repeat visits. I would love to return for Happy Hour but am also eager to try the dinner menu. It's fancy--which can mean pricey--but they offer most of the entrees as a full or half plate. That, in my opinion, is perfect. It means that I am far more likely to make it back in the near, near future because it no longer has to wait for a special occasion.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets


Paley's Place on Urbanspoon

Paley's Place on Foodio54

Wildwood - CLOSED

1221 NW 21st Avenue
Happy Hour: 4:30 - 6:30, Monday through Friday

I should be at Happy Hour right now. It's beautiful outside. But, no. Instead, I have grounded myself from all happy hour-ing until I catch up on my blogging homework. And since I know I will be hitting some new spots while at a conference in Bend starting TOMORROW, I need to keep typing.

Happy Hour during the summertime is blissful. Sitting outside in the sun, sipping on a refreshing cocktail, and knowing that I won't need to make dinner when I get home is summer at its best. Finding new outdoor happy hour establishments is one of my main targets this summer and I came across a great spot last week. It's not new, but it's new to me.

Wildwood is located on the corner of NW 21st and Overton. They have a substantially-sized bar and plenty of outdoor seating, all located far enough from the street that you won't be overwhelmed by exhaust. We arrived shortly after happy hour started to find many open seats. Later in the evening, though, it might not be as easy to get a spot outside.

Service will impress you either way, I am sure. They were quick to check on us, welcomed our questions, and did their best to make recommendations after having run out of what I'd ordered.

We started with cocktails and a small bowl of truffled popcorn. It was quite small, but that is usually the case with anything truffled. The flavor was strong and more than satisfying.

I was so very pleased to see that they had Happy Hour cocktails. So often it seems that restaurants only offer discounts on food. And when they do offer discounts on beverages, it's just beer and wine and nothing of much quality. This place is different. They have a long list of cocktails to choose from and none over five dollars. Beer and wine are discounted, too, with prices between two and five dollars.

I was a little disappointed to learn that they were out of potato croquettes. I had had my eyes on them long before walking into the restaurant. My next choice was the fennel and arugula salad which came with those super tasty bright green olives that I have been learning to love since early fall thanks to some close family friends. The salad was dressed in a a lemony vinaigrette and had plenty of shaved fennel.

Across the table was a burger. A pricey burger. With cheese, it came to eleven dollars. Fries were included and it was sizable, but a bit steep compared to other establishments (some within blocks of this place).

We ended the meal with something not listed on the Happy Hour menu. Since we were celebrating a birthday, it seemed right to taste a little bit of everything. Thankfully, we could do that without ordering one of each. At Wildwood, they offer a plate with tiny bites. There are five to the plate, and they rotate depending on what's in season (and how creative the pastry chef is feeling, I assume). Our five bites were perfect for summer but a bit too crusty in my opinion. I think it's just because they were so small. A tiny tart loses the perfect ratio when downsized. I still enjoyed every bite. I just wanted more of the middle, that's all. I suppose they'll all be different next time anyway.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets (blame it on the burger)


Wildwood Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Liberte Tasting @ Chef Paley's Imperial Restaurant

I tried to take as many pictures as I could while at Imperial for the Liberte Tasting last week, but I was so enthralled with what Chef Vitaly Paley was saying I just couldn't capture it all. Never before had I spent so much time face-to-face with the chef of a--no, three--well known restaurants. I have been a fan of cooking shows since I was a child (Graham Kerr was always my favorite to watch) but this was ten times better. Maybe twenty times. We got to watch, listen, learn, and TASTE it all.

The invitation for this tasting came as a bit of a surprise. All three of us were excited to attend, of course, but didn't really know what we were walking into when we arrived at Imperial. We were beyond ecstatic to learn that it was just going to be the three of us watching, learning, and eating the specially created recipes.

After introductions, we were invited to try the many flavors of Liberte yogurt. Most of them are available in two varieties, a non-fat Greek yogurt and a full-fat Mediterranee yogurt. I enjoyed having the opportunity to go back and forth between the two. I don't think I've ever been faced with so many flavors at once.

The first of the many recipes we sampled were the Hazelnut Yogurt Tea Cakes With Raspberries. The recipe includes one container of Liberte's Lemon Greek Yogurt but was also served with the yogurt on top to help emphasize the citrus background. I especially loved the streusel topping and am thankful that we received a copy of the recipe so that I can recreate them at home.

The second taste was one that I did not get enough of. I have always been a HUGE fan of Bananas Foster and to know I can create something just a delicious but without all the fat (and flames) makes me super excited. I will have to switch out the walnuts to pecans, but that's not hard at all.

Following the first two flavors, we moved from the small dining room just off the kitchen to the seats perfectly situated in front of the open grill. I remembered just how impressive the flames were from my first visit to Imperial earlier this year.

While seated, we were able to watch Chef Paley and his staff cook the next two dishes we were to sample. Both he and the people from Liberte went back and forth, describing the qualities of the yogurt and the history of the brand. I had always thought that Liberte was a new brand, ready to compete with big names like Chobani and Fage. Learning that it has been successful in Canada since the late 1930s was surprising but easy to understand--especially after just the first few tastes.

My favorite recipe from Chef Paley--and one that I've already attempted at home--is the Tikka Masala. I was so very thankful that they had read enough of our blog to learn that one of us (that'd be me) is a vegetarian. The chef made the sauce separate of the quail and only combined them after having plated some of the dish for me. Even without a protein serving as the star of the dish, the sauce was flavorful enough to make a meal. I loved the texture created by the onions and tomatoes and appreciated the flavors as they worked so well together without becoming overly spicy.

The Tikka Masala was served with grilled flatbread and a dish of Raita. I recreated the Raita at home as well but mine turned far more pink from the radishes. The recipe calls for both the radish bulb and the leaves. It also incorporates fresh mint and thinly sliced green onions. It's similar to tzaziki but with more than just garlic as the main flavor producer.

Before leaving, Chef Paley made one last dish. This time it was a more traditional use of yogurt (at least as I use it). By combining two of the yogurt flavors, freshly sliced peaches, chia seeds, and frozen coconut water, he was able to impress us with a delicious (and seriously filling) smoothie. We had the smallest sample while seated but left the restaurant with a to go cup that lasted the rest of the way home.

I enjoyed every minute of our time with Chef Paley and the people of Liberte. I learned more about yogurt and the many ways it can be incorporated into more than just a smoothie and left with a new favorite flavor. Unlike my co-blogger who wrote just how much she disliked the lemon yogurt, it quickly became my go to. I've been back to the store twice to stock up on it since then and will have to return for more soon.

Thank you Chef Paley and Liberte for the opportunity. It was memorable in both the experience and the flavors.


Dishcrawl - Portland's 5th Event, "Dish-Covering the North West"

The concept of a dishcrawl is not new to me. The fact that someone has made a business offering them IS. After years of reviewing Happy Hours, I've grown pretty accustomed to researching new places to try that are all relatively close to one another. It makes it a lot easier to hit up more than one new spot when they are within walking distance. It's also a great opportunity to really see what Portland's neighborhoods have to offer.

Dishcrawl does the same thing, but in a well organized fashion. And they offer these four-stop trips in cities across the United States. My husband and I had the chance to enjoy Portland Dishcrawl's 5th event, Dish-Covering the North West. We started at Nell's Cafe and continued our walk through the Alphabet District with our Ambassador, Irene, and a party of about thirty guests.

Each Dishcrawl is a bit of a surprise. The theme (or neighborhood) might be obvious from the event's title, but the exact restaurants aren't revealed until the event itself. Even the starting point isn't shared with the guests until just two days prior. And the rest of the stops aren't really clear until you make your way there. By the time we had finished our meal, we had been to Cafe Nell, the Bent Brick, Quimby's at 19th, and Besaw's.

Our first stop was probably my favorite and one that I will most definitely return to for an official happy hour review before the summer ends. As the starting point, Cafe Nell had just enough space in their main seating area to fit all of us as we got organized for the night. They had prepared a plate with four tastes from the menu, but started by serving a small ramekin of chilled beet soup.

As a vegetarian--and labeled with a green Dishcrawl name tag (color-coding at its best)--the plate of four tastes delivered to my seat were not the same as those mentioned by the owner of Cafe Nell. Thankfully, my husband has come to accept my obsession with food blogging and waited patiently as I took picture after picture of his plate.

While the event ticket does not include beverages, I did start my evening with a fresh strawberry margarita. It was huge--much more than I was expecting--but I was able to finish it before moving onto the next restaurant. Next time, I will stick to wine in order to avoid adding any extra work for the bartenders and the servers as a party of thirty-plus can be a bit much.

Our second stop was the Bent Brick. I had been here once before (on the day they officially opened to the public) and my co-bloggers will be there for an Urbanspoon event tomorrow. For the Dishcrawl event, they offered mussels, some of their house-made sausages, and fat potato wedges (that had apparently been cooked in duck fat). I was less than thrilled that we weren't made aware of the duck fat until after they had been served, but didn't put up as much of a stink as some of the other vegetarians in the room.

Rather than being seated like at the first stop, we were escorted upstairs through an area often used for food preparation into a space that would be perfect for a dinner party or small get-together. The owner made a special appearance to describe the food we were being served and to tell us more about the Bent Brick as he had intended it.

After allowing some time to mingle with the other Dishcrawlers and to speak to the owner himself, we were led to the third stop of the night. By now the sun was setting and the walk (although only a few blocks) allowed for more conversation. We learned that a number of people at the event tonight were there as a part of an official Meetup (with - a concept that is new to me but obviously very established as there are hundreds of different official Meetup groups in the Portland area). It was a great opportunity to meet new people and would be the perfect place to start for someone new to the area.

Quimby's at 19th was the most filling of all our stops and a place that would be perfect for a late-night outing. It is most definitely a bar, though, and not a family-friendly restaurant. Now that they are becoming more well-known for their food offerings, perhaps they will change to allow minors in up until a certain time of day.

The food options were quite fitting for the atmosphere but were made with a little more effort than you'd probably expect at any other bar. The macaroni and cheese, for example, was made with SIX cheeses, including blue cheese (which gave it a smokey flavor according to so many there that night). They also offered us pulled pork nachos (and some without for the veggies) plus fish tacos (again with a fish-free variety for me and the other green-labeled party goers).

Our last stop of the night was at Portland's oldest restaurant (and the first to have a liquor license), Besaw's. I have heard so many good things about this place and now know that it is somewhere I need to return (despite the wait that might accompany the visit).

Like at Cafe Nell, the plates arrived with multiple small tastes of what the menu offers. This time, however, every bite was dessert. And every bite was like heaven. I tend to work my way around the plate (or from dish to dish) when faced with multiple desserts in order to find my favorite and the one I will end the night with. This time, I couldn't. Instead, I just kept going from one to the other to the next and back again until they were all gone. It was a perfect way to end the evening.

The Dishcrawl event is one that I will do again. Someday soon, I hope. I am also intrigued by the Neighborfood, an event that is described on their website but has not been--as far an I can tell--introduced to Portland just yet. I will make some suggestions for those who would like to join in on the fun in the future. First, be prepared to walk. They suggest comfortable walking shoes in the initial emails and they mean it. Second, be ready to eat A LOT. And third, know that your night is going to be a late one. This is something that only worked for me on a weeknight because I'm in the middle of summer break. Had it been a school night, I would have had a much harder time facing middle schoolers after being out past my bedtime.

The next Dishcrawl event is scheduled for September. The number of tickets is limited, so be sure to request yours right away.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Hilt

1934 NE Alberta St.
Happy Hour 4-7 p.m. daily, all day Sunday (one drink minimum)*

*Happy Hour not available on Last Thursday

For my birthday celebration, I decided to take the girls to a Happy Hour and Last Thursday on Alberta. If you don't know what Last Thursday is, you really need to go and experience it at least once. I LOVE IT! The city closes down Alberta, and artistic vendors and musicians line the sidewalks. Cultural sounds and wares can be found every step down Alberta, along with great restaurants. That's the good news.

The bad news is we were all set for Hilt's HH, and when we arrived we soon realized they DON'T have a HH on Last Thursday! UGH!!! We had all done our research and previewed the HH and drink menu online and were excited. There was NO mention online that HH would not be served on Last Thursday. So how were we supposed to know? Hilt should really put this on their website! No other restaurant I've been to on Alberta does this during Last Thursday.

Hilt has a limited Last Thursday menu that has some of the HH food and some of the regular menu food. None of the food is discounted, and you CAN NOT order anything else on Last Thursday except what is on their special Last Thursday menu. (But the waitress was super sweet and asked the cook for us if he would make a pizza, because it's on their regular menu but not their Last Thursday Menu).

So the food and drink below are on their HH menu, but I did not receive a HH discount because it was Last Thursday (even though I was there during HH hours).

I started with a "Strawberry Fever" DELICIOUS! It was strawberry-infused tequila, strawberry lemonade and a splash of soda ($7.5). This drink was a surprise because it's not mentioned on their online menu. I then ordered the "Biting Mule," which includes house-infused habanero Monopolowa, fresh lime juice, and Reed's ginger beer ($7.5). Again, the waitress was very helpful and suggested I get it served in a tall glass because it's SPICY. In the tall glass, I think the spice was just right to a little on the spicy side. My co-blogger thought it was too spicy. Depends on the level of spiciness you can handle I guess. I liked it! There are no discounts on fancy cocktails, but well drinks and taps are a dollar off during HH.  

To go with the sweet strawberry drink, I ordered the  Kasseri Fries. These were flavorful. The fries were crispy, and the Kasseri cheese on top added even more flavor. These fries were topped with a lemon herb seasoning ($3).

I'm NOT the vegetarian, but when I was viewing the menu online,  my first choice was the  Roasted Zucchini Garbanzo Burger. My co-blogger ordered it, but I had to have a taste. I really liked this. It was very flavorful. I think this is a great healthy swap for a burger. For HH I don't think it's served with the fries, but for $4.25 it's a great deal!

We had a large group of eight people, and the service was great! The waitress was very attentive, helpful, and friendly, but there was a snafu at the end. It says on the regular menu (but NOT on the Last Thursday menu that we were given) that parties of eight or more will be charged 18% gratuity and are limited to two cards. I totally get the reasoning behind this, but I really appreciate restaurants that will take all cards and separate checks. What was a real shock, though, was when we got the bill the waitress charged us 20% gratuity, not 18% like stated. I usually tip 20%, but to go ahead and charge the entire party that when it clearly states 18% is bad form! Customers always have the opportunity to leave more tip if they want, but to be so presumptuous...we couldn't believe it!

Food- Meets
Service-Nearly Meets

The Hilt on Urbanspoon