Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lompoc Brewing Holiday Beer Tasting/Holiday Ale Festival Preview

Disclaimer: Our beer tasting was complimentary, but all of our opinions are our own. Thanks to the lovely Chris Crabb for the invitation! 

Recently, we were invited to Lompoc Brewery's Sidebar to taste a number of holiday beers they have released for the 2013 season. My co-bloggers had both visited Lompoc locations (one has been reviewed for Happy Hour before), but I don't think either of them actually tried the beer. I was excited about this tasting for a few reasons. One reason was that I saw we would be tasting NINE beers! Need I say more? The other was that we would get a sneak peek of the beer that they will be serving at the 2013 Holiday Ale Festival, another event that I will be attending for the first time this year!

 Upon arriving, we received a pint of Entropy Cream Ale. This wasn't one of their official holiday beers, but it was one of my favorites of the evening. Throughout the night, we received tasters of all of their holiday beers except one, the Blitzen Spiced Golden Ale, which was still fermenting. Too bad, because the description sounded like it would be right up my alley.

The first holiday beer that we tried was the Cherry Christmas. This was a light, fruity flavored beer that is typical of the kind of beer that I like to order; you could taste the sour cherries in the blend. I enjoyed this one a lot. The Jolly Bock was next, and it was just okay to me. It was a lager, and I think I am just not that big of a lager fan. The Brewdolph, a Belgian Style Red, really hit the spot. I liked the light fruity flavor, and this was one that I would choose to order again. The Holiday Cheer, which was listed as a robust vanilla porter, was one of my least favorites. No matter how hard I try, I just am not a dark beer fan. Chocolatey/coffee-like flavor just doesn't appeal to me in my beer. I was a fan of the C-Sons Greetings IPA, however. I am a big IPA fan, and this one really delivered without being too overpowering. This was probably my second-favorite flavor of the night (and we were given a big bottle of it to take home--I let my husband have it to make up for him not being able to go with us).

The Old Tavern Rat Barleywine was pretty good (and strong, at 9.4%), but there wasn't anything especially memorable about it for me. They also gave us a Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat. As the name suggests, it was aged in Bourbon barrels, and it had a very strong flavor. My co-blogger liked it a lot (she seems to have developed a taste for whiskey since the whiskey tasting that I couldn't partake in). This was my least favorite beer of the night.

Finally, we got to try the Revelry Red Ale, which was made especially for the Holiday Ale Festival. I can tell why they saved this one for last, and why they are bringing it to the Ale Festival! This was the best beer of the night! According to the description, it was a blend of Big Bang Red aged in whiskey barrels with sour cherries and Big Bang Red aged in port barrels. I am definitely going to try this again at the Ale Festival. After we were done tasting beers, we were invited to hang out and have even more beer. We each had another half pint of the Entropy Cream Ale, but then we had to get going since it was a school night!

I haven't been to many beer festivals (even though it seems like Portland has beer festivals at least once a month), so I am especially excited to attend the Holiday Ale Festival from December 4-8. Held under a covered tent at Pioneer Square, they are offering more than 50 winter ales. While I received a free media pass (I know, I can't believe we are considered part of the media either), I am bringing my husband as well. To attend, you need to purchase a tasting package, which is $30. It includes a mug and ten tasting tickets. One tasting ticket gets you a four ounce pour (unless it is a special beer, which costs two tickets). You can also buy a package in advance for the same price, which gets you twelve tickets instead of ten. There are lots of breweries represented that I am excited about, including Burnside Brewing Company, Elysian Brewing Company, and Fort George Brewery. Check this link for more information: Holiday Ale Festival Beer Lineup.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bumpers Bar & Grill

21935 NE Halsey Street
Fairview, OR
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 9 - close, Monday through Saturday
ALL DAY Happy Hour: 9 AM - 10 PM, Sunday

Fairview is not the most conveniently located place, so suggesting Bumpers Bar & Grill for happy hour might not seem ideal UNLESS you work in East County. Which we do. And after one of the longest shortest weeks of the school year, happy hour seemed like an absolute necessity. Happy Hour the day before Turkey day might also seem less than ideal, but I found it to be a great way to prepare. I ate more than I should have and that will help me eat more than I should again.

Bumpers has one of those tiered menus, with prices ranging from three to five dollars. Drinks are discounted, too. They have discounts on beer and wine, well drinks, and margaritas. The back of the menu boasts half-price martinis, but they're only available on Tuesdays (note to self...).

We stopped in after school (and long before the dinner rush) to find plenty of seating in the bar. It wasn't empty, but it didn't really start to fill up until we were on our way out. The servers were attentive and the food came out almost too fast. It was all quite remarkable.

The only disappointment was the inconsistency of the food options. Or, rather, the inconsistency of the value of those food options. They had great onion rings, perfectly good waffle fries, a decent french dip, and more. But when comparing the burger (served WITH fries for only four dollars) to the quesadilla that resembled something I could have made in the microwave when I was eight (for three dollars) things just didn't seem to match up. The tiered pricing is great, but some of the low dollar items aren't worth even that without a little dressing up, if you know what I mean. A spoonful of sour cream, a ramekin of salsa, or even a sprinkling of green onions would have been enough to make this seem worth the effort. It's great that they have so much to offer, but you really need to know what not to order when walking in the door with such a mishmash of options (again, note to self...).

I'm not opposed to returning to Bumpers. I just need to go in a little more informed, that's all. And, after one visit, I know that much more.

Food: Nearly Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


Bumpers Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Old Salt Marketplace and Supperhouse

5027 NE 42nd Avenue
Happy Hour Wishlist

During the summer, I have plenty of time to spend researching new restaurants. I check a number of websites, peruse the right magazines and newspapers, and keep a running list of places I need to try. During the school year, it's a lot harder to find the time. Instead of checking out menus and planning back-to-back happy hours, I'm busy grading quizzes and creating new lessons that keep my students engaged. Instead of planning ahead using reliable tools, I have to find the newest places for happy hour the old fashioned way. That's how I found the Old Salt Marketplace and Supperhouse. It is just down the street from Fernhill park, the new afternoon go-to on sunny (or, at least, dry) days. Driving by the Old Salt again and again while driving to and from the dog park put this place at the top of my must-try list. And I am oh-so glad. It is a new favorite, for sure.

Another perfectly located neighborhood bar, the Old Salt marketplace is about halfway between Prescott and Killingsworth on NE 42nd Street making it easy for those in the the Cully, Concordia, and Beaumont neighborhoods. Actually, it's pretty easy for anyone in NE as both Killinsgworth and Prescott provide easy routes to and from both sides of the quadrant. And it's not just a dinner place. The Old Salt is called a marketplace for a reason. They've got pantry items, root vegetables, bulk olive oil, more meat than you can imagine, and salads that are screaming "take me on a picnic." All that, and an actual farmer's market--right there at the restaurant--each and every Thursday afternoon.

The only thing that Old Salt doesn't have is an official happy hour. They do have a bar menu with snacks ranging in both size and price, but nowhere did I see a posting for discounted anything between the hours of this and that. Maybe later in the winter, or after the newness wears down, they will consider adding something of the like. I know it's a draw for me, and I assume other customers as well.

On the bar menu, I found a number of tempting food items. So much so, that I am eager to go back. Soon, I hope. We opted for the pickle plate, fancy potatoes, and a bowl of grits.

The Gouda Grits are cheesy and delicious and perfectly creamy. Not everyone loves grits like I do, but these are most definitely worth the try. The Gouda might be enough to get you through the bowl. For me, it's the texture that I desire the most.

The Salt Potatoes were interesting in color, and caused me to be a touch concerned about the process involved in preparation. After an incident with duck fat-fried potatoes this summer, I have to be a little more careful about what I bite into. According to the menu, there's nothing meaty about this dish. And after walking through the marketplace on the opposite side of the restaurant, I am convinced that their appearance had everything to do with the variety of potato they started with.

Pickle Plates are all the rage in Portland (and probably every other metropolitan city known to please its patrons). This one was piled high with carrots and peppers, cucumbers and beets, eggs and beans, and more. I loved almost everything I tasted. My favorite--mainly because it was something I hadn't encountered in the past--was the pickled kale stalk. It was super sweet. So much so that I thought for sure there was rhubarb on the plate. Thankfully, the bartender was knowledgeable enough (about the cocktails, the beer, and the food) that he could quickly help us to be better informed.

There were a number of intriguing cocktails listed on the bar menu. They had an abundance of beer and wine to choose from too, by the way. I, however, was in the mood (not exactly a craving) for a whiskey sour. I am learning to like them more and more and I have found that these neighborhood bars are the BEST places to order them. The drinks are always made well and the cherry garnish is stellar (almost) every time.

I am ready to return to Old Salt again and again and hope that I can convince others to join me. It's obvious that it's already well known--we were there early enough to get a seat at that bar, but watched as the tables filled and a wait list was started--but I don't want to give them a chance to ever close their doors. I'd prefer a second location, or two, to that.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets (although I'd prefer an official happy hour)


Old Salt Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remedy Wine Bar

733 NW Everett St.
Tuesday Night Flights available on Tuesdays 4-10 p.m.

Disclaimer: Our wine and snacks were complimentary, but our opinions are our own. Thanks to the lovely ladies at Little Green Pickle for inviting us!

We got invited to Tuesday night flights, a wine tasting event that takes place every Tuesday night from 4-10 p.m. at Remedy Wine Bar. Each Tuesday, Remedy offers two different wine tasting assortments. You will be served a trio of wine selections all centered around a theme. The best part is the personal table-side education on the wines. I was able to attend the theme tasting of "Mighty Malbecs". I learned so much from this event, and the owners made me feel welcomed and able to ask questions about the wine. Sometimes in these venues I feel a little out of place because I'm not a wine intellectual. I just know what wines I like and what I don't. It was nice to be educated in a very relaxed, friendly environment.

The building is gorgeous inside and out. I love the modern yet charming and cozy d├ęcor. Immediately, I was drawn to the brick building with high ceilings adorned with charming hand made chandeliers. ( I didn't notice they were made out of bottles until almost the end of the night.)

Look closely, and you can see what looks to be like glass wine bottles tipped upside down to create these beautiful and unique chandeliers. Are you as stunned as I was?

Yes, we tried plenty of wines, but I guess I was a little more obsessed about taking pictures of the food. Here is the menu of the food we tried with our wine pairings. The prices are also listed. Every snack we had with our wine was delicious, but I definitely had a favorite or two!

We started the tasting with a glass of the 2009 Valle de Uco Tierra Divina Old Vine and some of the spiced almonds. Next the servers brought us the cheezy bits, a.k.a. cracker crack! You will become immediately addicted.

I love cheeze-its, and I've seen on Pinterest how to make your own; it looks very time consuming, but if I could make them taste like these cheezy bits I would do it! These are made with a very buttery pie crust-like dough, then cut out into bite-size crunchy pieces that melt in your mouth. They are baked and then heavily sprinkled with a Rogue blue cheese powder. We had to ask for more! The owner told us whenever he walks into his wife's office, her coworkers crowd around him asking, "Where are the cheezy bits?" It would be dangerous if these were sold in a store. I could literally eat an entire box!

Pictured above are the spiced almonds next to the cheezy bits. The next snack were the warm olives.

I love assorted olives, but I don't think anyone has ever served them to me warm. I like them warmed up. They were a perfect pairing for the Malbec we were tasting.

This was my favorite dish of the night, White Bean Puree Tarte Flambe with Delicata Squash, Onion, and Lardons. It was a very crispy, crackery crust with a flavorful, smooth textured topping. I wanted more!

The cheese plate came next and was served with several different cheeses, a relish, and pickled strawberries. Remedy considers itself lucky to have a cheese expert on staff!

If you're going to have a cheese plate, you need a meat plate too!

We ended the night with a celebratory cheers and a thank you to Remedy wine bar for the delicious food and wine.

If you find a wine you love at Remedy, be sure to go right around the corner to Corkscru wine merchants to pick up your favorite bottle. The owner of Corkscru is a partner and general manager of Remedy Wine Bar and helps supply and select the wines that are served at Remedy. He is very friendly and knowledgable and will help you select the perfect wine for any food, occasion, or palate preference. Thank you Remedy Wine Bar for the great food, wine and conversations!


Remedy Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 08, 2013

Hawks View Cellars and Irving Street Kitchen

Disclaimer: Our dinner and wine tasting were complimentary, but all of our opinions are our own.

Note: Some of these photos were taken from the Irving Street Kitchen/Hawks View Cellars websites as we had some technical difficulties.

After a great adventure at Portland's Feast, we were lucky enough to be invited to a celebratory wine pairing dinner hosted by Hawks View Cellars and Irving Street Kitchen. We tasted six small plates and seven wine pairings. I had my favorites of both, but overall the food and wine were A-MAZE-ING!

I have done a few winery excursions in Oregon but had not had the opportunity to taste the wine of Hawks View Cellars. The origin story of this 50 acre winery is something you must ask owner and storyteller, AJ Kemp, about! It's a great family story. The winery does tasting by appointment only. I have already scheduled a second tasting for a group of friends. When you book your tasting appointment, get ready for great wine, stories, and new friendships.

Irving Street Kitchen is located at 701 NW 13th Ave. They serve locally sourced and sustainable foods. This restaurant is very modern but cozy at the same time. There is a dining section, a large bar, and an enclosed private dining room. Our dinner was hosted in the spacious and modern private dining room. The staff was very friendly and prompt. Every time they came to serve us I would thank them, and their response was always, "My pleasure!" It made me feel like they loved their job and wanted us to have the best experience ever!

When we entered the room we were greeted by a beautiful array of wine bottles and friendly associates. The first pour was of  the Hawks View's 2012 Oregon Pinot Gris. It has a very light, crisp and refreshing flavor. I was surprised to hear it is at 15% alcohol because it was so smooth. I could drink glass after glass of this one. I think it would be a great bottle to bring to Thanksgiving or other holiday/family/party events. I have to say this was my favorite wine of the night.

Pictured below is Irving St Kitchen Salmon's Gravlax served on rye crackers with gribiche (a sauce similar to a house-made tartar sauce but lighter and with a hint of dill). Paired with Hawks View's 2011 Oregon Chardonnay, this was a delicious light Hors d'oeuvre to go with a the hints of pear and honey from the chardonnay.

Next came one of the best parts of the night. The Guessing Game! I love silliness, games, and big personalities. Hawks View knows how to not only make great wine but to entertain! Owner AJ Kemp came around with a brown bagged wine and we had to guess the type. I'm not an expert wine connoisseur, but I do know that Pinot Gris is white and Pinot Noir is red, right? Well, not when it comes to the "Unicorn", the best nickname ever for Hawks View's 2012 WHITE Pinot Noir. This was a surprise- to me--a white Pinot Noir. I had never even heard of this before, but the results were delicious. I really enjoyed the undertones of peach and ginger. This wine was paired with one of my favorite dishes of the night, Chicken Fried Oysters topped with Herbsaint Aioli. I would have loved to have a few more of these moist, tender, flavorfully fried oysters.

The best PAIRING of the evening was the Marinated Pork Chop, Country Ham & Shelling Bean Ragout and Celery Root Apple Slaw with 2010 Hawks View Oregon Pinot Noir. This was my favorite for the evening. I've never been really good at understanding pairings, but when I tasted these two together I knew it was a match made in foodie heaven. The earthy flavors came together perfectly. This food dish was the absolute best of the night. When listed separately--beans, pork chop, celery root--these ingredients might seem bland, but when put together and flavored by the wonderful executive chef Sarah Schafer of Irving Street Kitchen, the dish comes alive. It is a flavorful, hearty, comfort, fall home-cooked meal. I wish I knew how to cook like this.

Next came the national comfort food--fried chicken with smashed potatoes, country gravy and greens. The chicken was fine but the greens were to die for! I wanted a whole bowl. Maybe it was because they were cooked in bacon!

This course was paired with the WHALE, 2011 Hawks View La Baleine. The whale is named after the owner's father. The blend of the "whale" changes year to year but the great story behind the name will stay the same and never be forgotten as long as AJ continues his amazing family storytelling. A large bottle of the whale is pictured center below.

The best way to finish off a meal is with dessert and a glass of wine. The dessert was a flourless chocolate torte sprinkled with Jacobson's sea salt. I'm embarrassed to say I actually asked for seconds. I couldn't help it. It was literally one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life! They didn't have extra except the display piece on the center table. I didn't........but I was thinking about it!

The torte was paired with Hawks View 2011 California Syrah. I am a Syrah fan and this did not disappoint. Hawks View uses their own grapes but they also import grapes from California. AJ explained that they get the grapes within 8-12 hours from California to Hawks View. The grapes are transported in a refrigerated truck and are processed within hours of their arrival.

This was a great evening full of wonderful food, wine and company. I recommend wine lovers or even wine newbies head down to Hawks View for a private tasting. Owner AJ is friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about his family legacy.

 If you haven't eaten at Irving Street Kitchen, it's a MUST! Chef Sarah Schafer delivered the best pairings I have ever had. No lie! I'll be back for a Happy Hour.