Thursday, January 20, 2011

Portland "Man Trip"

Recently a group of my friends made a "man trip" down to Portland. What says "man trip" like driving down I-5 to the land of the skinny jeaned, flannel wearing, full service gas station, no sales tax paying Portland hipsters? Well honestly, we didn't go to Portland because of the "manliness" of the city, but rather because it's the closest city with an NBA basketball team. Remember the Sonics and the National Basketball Association? Nope. OK, well for those of you who do remember the NBA, the only way to get in some live action professional basketball is to drive down to Portland.

Besides our craving for some basketball, we also were up to filling up on some delicious Portland grub. Being a "man trip" I made sure to scout out a few hearty food pit stops for us to visit. Last time we made this trip, we were in and out in one night and all regretted it on the drive back, especially our very kind yet exhausted driver Pert. So this time around we decided we would go down early, have the whole day to explore Portland, catch the Blazers game, eat a great late night dinner, sleep it off, and then head back full and refreshed. It ended up being a good plan.

It ended up being a pretty good game that came down to the final shot. My friend's and I are pretty big NBA and fantasy basketball fans, so this trip was extra special for us. Basically I drove three hours to see Wesley Mathews and if you get that reference you probably share my passion for the NBA and want a new team to come to Seattle.

After leaving early in the morning and discussing how everyone in the car loves breakfast foods, we decided to hit up The Stepping Stone Cafe. Emi and I blogged about it the last time we visited Portland. Amazing meal and a great, greasy, filling way to start off our day. My friend Gabe got the cinnamon roll french toast and the "Dilemma" which was described as hashbrowns covered with fresh spinach and Tillamook cheddar cheese. It reminded me of Ann Arbor's "hippy hash".

I also doubled up and got the house made cinnamon roll french toast and the eggs benedict. Not sure why, but I split it with Pert, still regretting that decision. I could have had another plateful. This was one of the best eggs benedicts I have ever had. I order a lot of eggs benedict and these kicked ass. Perfectly poached egg, great flavorful hollandaise, delicious ham, and perfectly toasted English muffin. The potatoes were also amazing, buttery, salty, and a little crunchy, but soft. Again big shout out to my friend Kenny for recommending this place to Emi and I a couple years back.

After wandering around NW 23rd, we checked into the Downtown Portland Embassy Suites. Awesome hotel and great recommendation from Gabe. We were located in The Pearl District and walking distance to Henry's Tavern. Over 100 beers on tap, all you need to say. If you're looking for a wide selection and for some Pacific Northwest beers this is your place. Also for happy hour try their hot dog sliders.

Now back to why we stayed at the Embassy Suites. Free happy hour and free breakfast buffet. Sounds too good to be true, but we proved it to be true. From 4pm-6pm nightly they have free beer, wine, and well drinks for anyone who stays at the hotel. We only had one drink, but definitely a great way to differentiate yourself from other hotels. Also in the morning they had all sorts of breakfast food including an omelet bar. Just make sure to get there early or expect a line.

After the game we had late night reservations for the Gilt Club. I heard about this place from the Food Network. It was known for it's unique dishes and late night menu (they serve dinner until 2am), which was perfect for a group of guys starving after the game. I started off with a Moscow Mule - vodka, house made ginger beer (you could really taste the spicy ginger), lime and ginger zest, and a spritz of soda served in a copper cup.

Sorry for the poor lighting. Gabe took these photos which still turned out really great with his cell phone. On TV the place was well lit and cheery, but when we arrived it was dark and a little fancier than we were expecting it to be. People were dressed in cocktail dresses and suits. Luckily since it was freezing, I didn't sport my B.Roy jersey, would have really stood out.

What did stand out from my recollection of the show was their home made pork rinds. They scrape the fat off of the pork skin and then deep fry them until they expand into wafer rinds. The rinds were served with a lime creme fraiche and house made hot sauce. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. The rinds were too salty and the "house made" hot sauce tasted like Tabasco with too much vinegar.

However the wild boar poppers were pretty solid. They were served with a house Dijon and red wine fig jam.

The restaurant was nice, not too noisy, not too quiet, warm, and a great place to grab food to end the night, however my biggest complaint was that it was too dark! I now understood how you really do use all of your senses when you enjoy a meal. From the smell of the food, to the taste and texture, but you also need to be able to see it! Honestly this is the first time I've seen what my dish looked like. It just looked like dark blobs. I think I would have appreciated it more if I had known exactly what I was eating.

I ordered the "Quail in a Jar" - cabbage, house cured bacon, foie gras, meat glaze, on bacon liver mousse toast. Above is the bacon liver mousse toast.

Gabe had the waitress pose with the jar for the photo, he knew it would make a cool entry in the blog. Basically they cook everything, quail included, in a small Mason jar, and then dump it out over the toast. This was my first time ever eating quail. Delicious, tender, and delicate, but too small. I could have eaten a whole flock or family of these things. Honestly the dish wasn't that great. I think they were trying a little too hard. Since I couldn't see anything I sort of missed out on the foie gras and house cured bacon. All I tasted was the sweet glaze, cabbage, and liver mousse toast, with some quail... Oh well I'm happy I tried something different and will definitely keep me eyes out for some more quail, I just hope they serve me three of them on a dish next time.

Gabe and Steve opted for the better choice, filling up with a burger. They ordered the Painted Hill ground beef burger with a fancy (Fourme d'Ambert) bleu cheese, pickled beets, thick cut house cured bacon, and greens. Steve let me try his burger, greasy, filling, and half the cost of my quail.

Great trip and something I think we all agreed should be a yearly tradition. I already have a few places in mind for where we should eat next time. Let me know if you have any Portland favorites.

- Kyle

1 comment:

  1. Who is Wesley Mathews? Oh right--MAN trip, guess I am not the target audience. I would drive 3 hours to see Andrew Keegan. Anyone get that one??