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San Francisco Hound Returning to Portland for New Years

Season's Greetings Portland!
Thank you again so, so much for your wonderful advice the last time I visited the city in May for a truly spectacular week of extraordinary beer, cocktails, wine tasting, food, and of course, lots of fun! Here's the thread from the last time I was in town: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844561

Just to recap from my only two trips to Portland, in May and the other in 2010, here are the stops I've made:

Restaurants: Higgins, Le Pigeon, Pok Pok (twice), Biwa, St. Jack, Broder, Toro Bravo, Bunk Sandwiches, Grüner (only was able to try the burger), Apizza Scholls, Tin Shed, Kenny & Zuke's

Carts: Nong's Khao Man Gai, Potato Champion

"Other": Salt & Straw, Ken's Artisan Bakery, Cacao (drinking chocolates plus Xocolatl de David and Sahagun truffles), Coco's Donuts, St. Jack Patisserie

Coffee/Espresso: Stumptown Annex for cupping, Stumptown at the Ace, Spella, Sterling, Water Ave.,Courier, Coava, Public Domain, Barista NE, Barista Pearl

Breweries/Pubs: Cascade, Deschutes, Widmer, Tugboat, Hair of the Dog, Upright, Amnesia, Horse Brass, Apex

Wine Bar/ Cocktails: Bar Avignon, Clyde Common, Kask, Beaker & Flask, Teardrop, Rum Club, Ten 01 (I hear it's gone?

)

Willamette Wine Tasting: Trisaetum, Penner-Ash, Adelsheim, Carlton Wine Studio

Now, we resume our regularly scheduled programming, and return to beautiful Portland for a wedding, followed by the New Years holiday. It's so wonderful to see how much deserved national publicity Portland has been receiving this year...from Alan Richman to Serious Eats month in Oregon...and because of this magnificent food culture, it's always so hard for us visitors to trim our lists!

I'll have 6 days and 6 nights, keeping mind that 1 night is taken by the wedding, and 2 of the days/ nights are New Years Eve and Day, so I'd love help in uncovering who will be closed and open for these holidays. I'll also have a car and unlike last time, I'm staying Downtown instead of in the NW.

The "ones that got away" from my last visit and I vowed to go to the next time were Olympic Provisions, Tasty n Sons, Ken's Artisan Pizza, and Paley's Place, along with tasting at Clear Creek and coffee at Heart and Ristretto.

Since the rest of my traveling party has either never been to Portland or has spent very little time in town, we'll certainly re-visit Pok Pok (again), but I would love to hear your thoughts on the lesser-known unique dishes there since I've tried most of the standards now.
I also will make sure we re-visit Salt & Straw, Hair of the Dog, Kask, Clyde Common, and Spella-- all personal favorites of mine.

I already have a reservation at Paley's Place for New Years Eve-- I need to try the legendary spot and we've all lived in France, so want to try some of Chef Paley's classics.

Other than that, let's plan a spectacular trip! I've tried reading lots on the new places in 2012-- Ox, Luce, Lardo. Drinks at Woodsman Tavern, Hale Pele, and Imperial.
There are also plenty of places I've missed that are older than just a few months and very captivating-- Tanuki, Evoe, Ha & Vl, Beast, Laurelhurst Market, Navarre, Nostrana, Natural Selection, Aviary...
And also let me know about bakeries, little snacks/taste sensations (thanks Leonardo so much for the tips on wineries, the Coco, and what to get at Cacao last time!), coffee spots, cocktails, breweries/pubs (definitely going to try Bailey's and Saraveza). I've still never tried a Schnitzelwich at Tabor or a Pine St. biscuit.

Lastly, we'll have a wine tasting day with probably 4 or so stops...currently Soter, Stoller, Elk Cove, Brick Lane, Bergstrom, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, and a potential return to Penner-Ash are on my radar. I can't hit them all...advice would be very appreciated! We always prefer to sample at the winery instead of tasting rooms in towns. Lunch at Paulee might be in the cards too that day...

I can't wait to return...maybe I can find Alan Richman's favorite stinging nettle flan somewhere. Happy Holidays everyone!

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  1. Sounds like a great upcoming trip! A hearty "yes" to your list of "ones that got away" - though my personal opinion on pizza is Apizza Scholls all the way. Do Tasty n Sons during a weekday to save yourself the 2 hour wait. I like their brunch (Burmese red pork stew) and happy hour menu ($5 burger and fried cauliflower) a LOT.

    As for others food recommendations, Ox and drinks at Woodsman for sure (but my personal opinion is you can skip a meal there...I was just there earlier this week and find the food to be fine, with certain high notes, but overall, uneven).

    A big YES to Tanuki (uber Portland experience), Ha V&L and Aviary. Aviary is one of my favorite restaurants in town...they offer creative, delicious food at a Portland price.

    Other things to think about...how about brunch at Beast? The dinner experience is unique, but I actually prefer the food during brunch. You don't get the much touted foie gras bon bon during brunch, but fingers crossed that they are starting off with their version of clafoutis. Same suggestion for Laurelhurst Market...consider dropping by for a super-casual lunch sandwich instead of doing dinner there. Yes to Ox as well...it is a great addition to the restaurant scene.

    Another place that might be interesting for first-time visitors is The Ocean - five "micro-restaurant" grouped together on NE 24th and Glisan. (http://chatterbox.typepad.com/portlan...) You're gonna want to try everything there, but exercise restraint and order tacos from Uno Mas, then go around the corner to the Pie Spot. I've tried all the restaurants except Slowburger and I think you can skip Basa Basa and 24th & Meatballs.

    1. So glad you have a reservation at Paley's for NYE - if stick around for midnight the chefs all come out of the kitchen and it is great fun.

      My husband is in love with the egg sandwich at Penny Diner - swears it is the best he has ever had. We are still struggling with liking Imperial - their menu tends to be too heavy for me most of the time and the cocktails we've had there have been less than good. But it is a great space and has a good vibe!

      Highly recommend dinner at Little Bird. They currently have a foie stuff quail that is outstanding.

      I would also suggest Lardo on SW 12th that opened recently for lunch.

      I wouldn't waste my wine-tasting time on a stop at Elk Cove .... but would concentrate on Bergstrom, DD and DS ... OK, now I'm thirsty!! :-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: ekc

        Wine tip: don't make it far-flung. Keep it in a tight area. Go to Eyrie!
        Really enjoyed your last report, and your enthusiasm for all things PDX. Enjoy!

      2. Thanks so much for the initial replies! EKC- I'm curious, what don't you like about Elk Cove? The wine or the tasting experience or both?

        A few questions I've encountered as I start narrowing down the selections even more-- for Ha & VL, I've heard Thursdays are the best, but we won't be in town on a Thursday. What others days would you recommend?

        Any opinions on choosing one of the city's excellent Rustic Italian-Pacific NW destinations-- Navarre, Luce, Nostrana, DOC?

        And how any opinion about the newer, smaller brew pubs? I don't know much about Burnside, Commons, Occidental, Migration, and several others.

        You've convinced me to think about re-visiting Apizza Scholls and now I'll for sure visit Tanuki this trip!

        1. Hello Portland! One day until I arrive in the beautiful Rose City-- I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

          Here's how the trip is lining up. Please, please send me your thoughts..mostly necessary for choosing breweries, wineries, and any advice on specific dishes at restaurants. Staying in Downtown, have a car starting Day 3.

          Day 1: arrive late morning
          Lunch: (between Nong's Khao Man Gai, EVOE, Ha & VL, Smallwares, Luce, and Navarre)
          Dinner: Tanuki

          Day 2: Lunch: (same as above except Smallwares isn't an option since it's a weekend)
          Dinner: Wedding

          Day 3: Lunch: (same as Day 2 options, but with more people and closer to PDX since we pick people up at the airport, then go to Columbia River Gorge)
          Columbia River Gorge
          Full Sail in Hood River
          cocktails at Whey while waiting
          Dinner: Ox

          Day 4: (New Years Eve)
          Lunch: Pok Pok (certainly Ike's Fish Sauce Wings. Would love advice on my unique items here since I've been twice)
          Dinner: Paley's Place

          Day 5: New Years Day
          Very few restaurants open per my phone calls and research...
          Lunch: Tasty n Sons
          Dinner: Laurelhurst Market

          Day 6: Wineries Day
          Only Reserved is at Soter, looking at visiting 3-4 others
          Leaning towards: Bergstrom, Stoller, Domaine Drouhin
          Maybe: Penner-Ash (been before but loved it), Stoller, Domaine Serene, Ponzi, Eyrie (is it too far out of the way?)
          Lunch: Paulée
          Dinner: Aviary

          There's the plan, plus:
          Breweries, please help me narrow them down--
          For Sure: Full Sail in Hood River, Deschutes, Hair of the Dog, Bailey's Tap Room (near hotel), Horse Brass

          Others, would love advice: Bridgeport (it's a classic), Widmer (been but others haven't, it's a classic), Burnside, Breakside, Commons, Gigantic, Cascade (I've been and others haven't been), Alameda

          Cocktails:
          For Sure: Whey, Aviary, Clyde Common (been and love it), Kask (same), Woodsman Tavern, Imperial
          Others, would love advice: Hale Pele, Departure, tour at Clear Creek

          Coffee: For Sure Return To: Spella, Heart, Coava, Stumptown Ace, Courier
          New: Sterling (new location), Heart, Ristretto, Barista Pearl, Maglia Rosa

          Other: Return To: Salt & Straw, Courier for canelé
          New: Bake Shop, Little T, Sugar Cube, Blue Star Doughnuts

          And since I've never been...Voodoo Doughnuts. Ugh, I guess I need to go once for the bacon maple doughnut?

          Thank you so much for your help...so excited to celebrate New Years in your beautiful city! And it should be nice and sunny, too?

          5 Replies
          1. re: pats38sox

            The weather is drying out after two months of nearly nonstop rain

            Blue Star or Coco. Screw Voodoo. You can get Bakeshop at Ristretto. Sugar Cube is on the site of Lardo, they now have a large heated tent.

            Your new coffee picks are dead-on.

            Cocktails: been to Teardrop? Clear Creek is a great idea. Also do the New Deal & House Spirits distilleries.

            Horse Brass isn't a brewery. For the ultimate brewery day, come back for http://oregonbeer.org/zwickelmania/
            on Feb 16.

            Eyrie is slightly out of the way in McMinnville (great places to eat there), but well worth the trouble.

            New Year's Eve and some Days: http://portlandfoodanddrink.com/new-y...

            Pok Pok: Khao Soi, Pappaya Pok Pok, and some brussels sprout dish I just had.

            Navarre is always a good idea.

            Remember that the best downtown carts are closed nights and weekends. Nong's was open the 24th so probably open tomorrow but call first.

            1. re: Leonardo

              Yep I've been to Teardrop...it was very good, but I'd put Kask and Clyde Common above it. Clear Creek will certainly happen...only problem is we're car-less the day we'd be able to go there, so I'm trying to plan a little Clear Creek-Ristretto-Olympic Provisions-Bridgeport loop from the Downtown streetcar.

              1. re: pats38sox

                The two distilleries I mentioned are accessible on the eastside streetcar. Get an all-day ticket.

            2. re: pats38sox

              Hood River: Full Sail? Hell no, bag that and go to Double Mountain (which also has decent food , especially the pizza) the beer is sooooo much better: http://doublemountainbrewery.com/

              Whey/Ox is amazing. Just settle in and and have some great drinks and wait for the table. Yes, it is worth a 90 minute wait...although my last 90 minute prediction was only a 70 minute wait.

              Breakside, Gigantic, Cascade...yes. I hate the vibe at Bailey's, but the taplist and proximity keeps it on the list. Also great local taplist at Hophouse (one on SE Hawthorne in the low 40s, one on NE Brazee @15th) and a huge one at Apex (and Beer Mongers is across the street for a great bottle shop).

              Check out Roscoe's for a draft before you pop into Tanuki (which is the epitome of awesome, IMO) - it's a great, mellow local hangout that has an awesome taplist, with a nitro tap or two, - many local but some fabulously curated other taps. Pool tables, pinball, a couple of tvs...neither hipster nor true dive, just a great place to get a beer.

              Coffee list is good.

              No, skipping VooDoo is just fine, their marketing far surpasses their donut execution.

              If you like hard cider, we have a hard cider bar now too, Bushwackers. About 6-7 taps and the best bottle selection in town.

              Have a great new year here in PDX!

              1. re: JillO

                Bushwackers looks terrific! Double Mountain sounds terrific...I just know one member of our party thinks (too?) highly of Full Sail Pale Ale and Amber Ale.

            3. Clear Creek is a great idea. I am not a fan of the Eyrie wines and they are a little out of the way, so I would skip it. Definitely go to DDO, Stoller and Domain Serene.

              IMO, Nostrana is the best rustic Italian/NW of the four you listed, and they are open for lunch.

              I would leave Imperial for the last on your cocktail list. I have had less-than-successful cocktails there on more than one occasion, but would love to hear about your experience if you go.

              I wouldn't want to do Tasty and Laurelhurst on the same day. Is Ping open for lunch on NYD? I have had some great meals there.

              Skip Voodoo.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ekc

                Nostrana looks terrific-- they're not open for lunch weekends, so I'll work on going there Friday lunch.
                Tasty and Laurelhurst sort of have to be on the same day with the limited choices on New Years Day...the only other choice I've seen open is Broder. I've been there and enjoyed the smørrebrød, but certainly need to try the other two first before re-visiting.

              2. So excited to arrive in the morning!

                Quick 2 questions before I arrive for tomorrow-- sounds like omakase is the way to go at Tanuki? Or à la carte?
                Since I'm in the hands of hosts most of tomorrow, I'll try for EVOE or Nostrana for lunch...but I know the others will probably have ideas. Friday should be Little T breakfast/ Ha & VL late breakfast, Saturday at Navarre or Luce.

                Are Hale Pele and Breakside Brewing worth going out of the way for without a car? Friday is the only day that would work for them.

                Wineries-- Soter for sure and I have to visit Bergström from hearing great thiings here in SF about their Chardonnays. Stoller is the only one open to 5, so that is almost for sure a stop. So for the other 1-2: DDO, Dom. Serene, and a return to my favorite, Penner-Ash.

                If it helps, I adore Pinot Noir and all varietals. Others prefer only Chardonnay (what's wrong with them?!). And we love smaller estate locations...but frankly, all these wineries deserve a stop, so we can't go wrong at all here.

                4 Replies
                1. re: pats38sox

                  And absolutely going to try cider at Bushwhack, distilleries at Clear Creek, House, and New Deal...thank you for making me think outside the cocktail-beer-coffee box!

                  1. re: pats38sox

                    Distilleries have their own cocktails too.
                    Breakside is kinda out there if you don't have a car.
                    Only chardonnay, in OR?? Ouch. Make sure to call first, as some smaller wineries are closed.
                    Have fun. Looks like a great itinerary!

                    1. re: Leonardo

                      Even with a car, Breakside was a schlep, though we enjoyed it well enough (Aztec deffo a distinctive beer) and loved our meal at Firehouse across the street afterward.

                      Tasting flight of cider at Bushwhacker was fun, but the room is a bit bare and we didn't find it conducive to hanging out, plus it closes pretty early. Also really hard to find in a strangely addressed offshoot of a strip mall thingy and a bit out of the way even with a car.

                      I note the OP is considering Paulee and was just reading that Daniel Mondok just left, if that make a difference. Shoulda squeezed it in last trip I guess -- that was fast turnover.

                  2. re: pats38sox

                    Yes, omakase all the way at Tanuki - everyone at the table has to go that route, though...and large parties are fairly impossible there - 4-top MAX. Best and most reasonably priced sake list in town (in a town full of great sake lists), great cocktails, and if they have the Breakside's Aztec on tap, try it, it's delicious (especially if you can't get up to Breakside's Brewery). FYI, if there's a wait at Tanuki, walk down to Roscoe's - they are celebrating their 6th Anniversary starting today - lots of special stuff all weekend: https://www.facebook.com/events/13704...

                    I want to love Hale Pele, but I didn't love a lot of the cocktails I tried there...it is a fun tiki place, though. I like Breakside, but don't know that it is worth time/effort.

                    Last night I just watched the episode of Leverage that was filmed at Domaine Serene. ;o

                    )

                    Near Penner-Ash (btw, they are really nice folks, I got the opportunity to meet them at a wine dinner) is Adelsheim, Brick House and Trisaetum. Nice pinots at Brick House and Trisaetum, but Adelsheim ("Ay-dells-hiym" - no "sh" sound) is sure to have some Chardonnay for you (and maybe an Auxerrois) to try. I am not a Chard fan, so I can't say how they are, but I really do like a lot of their wines, especially their single vineyard pinots. I also really like Lenne' which is not far either, but I think they do exclusively Pinot Noir.

                    Full Sail is around the block from Double Mountain, so you could do them both...humor your friend and then go get some real beer and good pizza. ;o)

                    And I think you got the best of the local distilleries with those three. Clear Creek's stuff is just amazing - their fruit liqueurs and brandies are some of the finest anywhere. And if you like grappa, you are in for a treat.

                    Sounds like a fabulous trip - have a fun time and report back!

                  3. Planning a trip myself in one month - great thread.

                    http://endoedibles.com

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: uhockey

                      If you are up in the air between EVOE and Ha & VL

                      Go to EVOE

                      Ha & VL is good for portland, but if you are from Los angeles or SF with alot more asians and vietnamese restuarants Ha & VL, is just ok and forgettable.

                      EVOE is currently my fav. I go about once or twice a week. Strange thing is I hate sandwiches and that is what they do best.

                    2. Wonderful wonderful trip! Will report back next week. Quick 2 final requests for advice- any recs for what to order tonight at Aviary? And en route to PDX in the morning, coffee at Heart, what's a great bakery to swing by? Bakeshop or Little T?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pats38sox

                        In case you don't hear back from any local Hounds in time...

                        Too late for Aviary dishes (though I took a quick look and they still have two of the four dishes we tried in October on the menu).

                        For tomorrow am, I like Little T because of their kouign amann. The two scones I've had from Bakeshop were both supposed to be savoury but tasted too sweet for my taste.

                        Watch out for the weirdly low tables and chairs at Heart.

                      2. Hoping for a trip report soon :)

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Spibrary

                          Hey Portland Hounds,

                          Thank you again so, so, so much for your incredible advice! I've been swamped here the past few weeks, but now things are a little more open. So, don't worry, I'll have a trip report for sure next week, along with articles about my favorite stops at my website.
                          I will say-- wow, Tanuki is quite the experience and your advice on Aviary was spot on!
                          Wine tasted only at Stoller and Soter-- both were terrific. This is what happens when you spend an hour and a half at each winery...and am exhausted from day after day of several beer tastings. Strangely, my favorite two wines at Soter were both not Pinot Noir!

                          1. re: pats38sox

                            1.5 hours at each winery? The only time I've done that was for special occasions such as Thanksgiving weekend.

                            Don't tell me: Tempranillo at Stoller?

                            1. re: Leonardo

                              Haha...Soter did a fully guided tasting, so it was bound to be at least an hour.
                              Actually, the favorites at Soter were the superb North Coast Chardonnay and the Napa Valley Proprietary Red- 40% Cab Franc, 40% Cab Sauv, and 20% Malbec. Tony Soter used to work in the Napa Valley.
                              At Soter, it was the 2008 Helen's Estate Pinot Noir, but I loved both the JV and SV PN too, and the Turkey Hill Red Blend, which indeed does have some Tempranillo in it.
                              Both are terrific wine tasting experiences, right up there with Penner-Ash from the last trip.

                              1. re: pats38sox

                                Thanks for the report. What did you have at Stoller?

                                1. re: Leonardo

                                  Whoops my bad...Soter was supposed to be Stoller in the third paragraph...I keep mixing up the "S" vineyards!
                                  The star at Stoller was the 2008 Helen's Estate Pinot Noir, a special add-on at the tasting of one of their rare estate wines.
                                  I adored the 2009 SV Pinot Noir as well, and the 2010 JV Pinot Noir and the Turkey Hill Red Blend were also big winners. The 2011 Dry Riesling and 2010 Reserve Chardonnay weren't as inspiring.
                                  My articles on Stoller and Aviary are finally up, many more coming next week!-- http://trevsbistro.com/2013/01/25/win...

                        2. Hello, hello Portland!!!
                          I sincerely apologize for my very unpunctual trip report (it's hasn't quite been 2 months now into the new year!). January was a blur after the trip with projects in SF and I just got back last week from Central America. But alas, here is the recap from my wonderful wedding and New Years trip to your wonderful city! Fortunately, I've kept lots of the menus to revive my memory. Please visit my website Trev's Bistro: www.trevsbistro.com for lots more in depth articles on the Portland experiences.

                          Overall, the trip had no rain, very little snow, and wow was it cold. Has it been a cold winter since?
                          Since my hotel was near the Alder St. cart pod, my opening lunch was the always superb Nong's Kao Man Gai enjoyed in the warmth of the hotel lobby. Then a crawl around the NW/ Alphabet District: Salt & Straw, Sterling Coffee, Clear Creek Distillery, and Ristretto in the Schoolhouse Electric Building. Ristretto's espresso had a bit of an off finish, but a beautiful body. Sterling's new shop is sublime, from the flowers on the tables to the glasses for espresso (yes, glass!).
                          Salt & Straw's flavor winners were once again sea salt with caramel ribbon and the exquisite seasonal figgy pudding and butter roasted chestnuts. I love how no matter how many dozens of people are in line, they always let you sample as many flavors as you want.
                          Clear Creek was great, letting you sample 5 spirits for free. The eau de vie de Douglas Fir is a classic, but I fell for the Loganberry liqueur (what is a loganberry really?) and the Nebbiolo Grappa, which I didn't enjoy as much later at Paley's Place.
                          Then onto a tasting at Bridgeport. It was across the board fine, but not spectacular. The Porter and Hop Czar won out, far and away above the famed IPA. Blue Heron is very unimpressive. The yuzu heavy Summer Squeeze Bright Ale was one of the better light beers I've had in Portland.

                          Then cocktails at Imperial. As I was warned by this board, they are still a work in progress. The vibe is a bit too unatmospheric also, it's like hundreds of other urban bistros.
                          Dinner then at Tanuki. Thank you so much for your tip here! Did the $20 omakase, some sake, a Breakside Aztec Ale...this is both excellent dining and an even more unique experience. I love how there is just 1 chef and 2 waitresses. I can't remember most of the dishes-- squid jerky, superb trout, a wonderful crab dish.
                          Finally, nightcaps at Clyde Common, where the barrel aged Negroni still reigns supreme. For the first time I also tested their Mezcal capabilities and they passed with flying colors.
                          That was Day One.

                          Day Two-- Coava Coffee, even better than my last visit. Such a great venue with the bamboo studio and I appreciate how they offer two espressos on bar (loved the single origin Guatemalan this time around).
                          Next, a terrific lunch nearby at Olympic Provisions SE with a dynamite cured meats, pickled carrots, and tapenade sandwich. Equally good was the "Olympic Mary" with a salami swizzle stick.
                          Then a visit to The Commons Brewery, a very charming tiny brewery in an edgy area of the SE, with some of the cleanest, crispest brews I've tried. Best was the Fleur de Ferme, full of exciting chamomile and hibiscus notes in a dark Saison body. At night, the wedding in Downtown with some excellent Pinot Noir and butternut squash agnolotti!

                          Day Three--Courier Coffee and, yes, those knockout cannellés. Afterwards, lunch at Navarre, another on the mark Chowhound rec. I love the small or large plates menu format to compliment the globe spanning creations. Everything was terrific, with the crab cakes using scallops and mushrooms as filler in place of bread going down as one of the best bites of the trip. Excellent Carlton Cellars Seven Devils Pinot Noir here too for the price.

                          After a day of exploration (love the aerial tram by OHSU!), visited both Gigantic Brewing and Hair of the Dog. Gigantic's IPA is formidable and HOTD was brilliant as usual and once again Adam was my favorite and I see no redeeming qualities in the Little Dog. Wow, was it freezing in the HOTD taproom!
                          Then onwards to Whey Bar and Ox. Our quoted wait time arriving at 7:30 pm was 90 minutes, but proved to be only about 40 minutes. Whey's "Things Done Changed" was the cocktail highlight of the trip, but the other selections were somewhat weak in spice, fruit, or spirits. They just didn't work and the service was too slow (and I'm very patient with bartenders compared to 99% of the world).
                          Ox was short of terrific, yet still completely fulfilling-- loved the octopus with tripe in a mint aioli, spectacular Brussels sprouts and butternut squash in a peanut Romesco, and the magnificent beef ribs in an apple-jalapeno bbq sauce. Others such as the grilled Maitake mushroom, the empanadas, and the smoked sturgeon dip were merely fine, and as much as I loved the chowder, I wanted even more jalapeno and marrow to get to an even higher level. As popular as the place is, I was shocked it wasn't louder.

                          Day Four (New Years Eve): After a slightly snowy visit to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden (I've been to Portland three times now and am 0 for 3 in seeing roses in the Rose Garden!), it was off to Pok Pok for a big group lunch (unlike with the roses, I've been to Pok Pok 3 times out of 3 visits). All the visits seem to go the same way-- service is indifferent, the table gets crammed, pacing doesn't exist, you go thru a napkin a minute...Ike's Fish Sauce Wings are always top notch (much better in the spicy version I learned this time), so are the boar collar, the Vietnamese coffee affogato, and the sensational durian custard.
                          But, I just can't stand the walkie talkies and earpieces worn by the wait staff, and I still don't see the hype in the "Kai Yang" game hen or the bland drinking vinegars. The revelation this time was the "Yam Makheua Yao," a dish of grilled eggplant topped with a boiled egg. Maybe things have gone a little off track since the NY expansion?

                          After a visit to the Chinese Garden, we stopped by favorites from before: Kask and Deschutes. For some reason, I just can never see the greatness in the Obsidian Stout and Mirror Pond Ale at Deschutes, but Black Butte always tastes better at their brewpub. My favorite was the sensational, complex Human Sacrifice Stout with cocoa nibs and Guajillo chilis.

                          Kask- the first round of drinks were only fair. My previous favorite "Heaven's Kickback" leaned too far on the celery bitters. The bartender's choice worked better the second time around, especially a killer mezcal cocktail with Amaro and anise, and another with rum, Aperol, ginger syrup, and a "spicy" tincture. Terrific service.

                          Then the big celebration dinner at Paley's Place, an all around special experience. Yes, they don't make these often anymore. It's far from flashy and has flashes of misfires in a lackluster kale and butternut squash salad and an equally boring pasta selection I can't even remember. It's just so cozy and welcoming that you fall in love with it long before that exceptional burger. In theory, we were forbidden to have the burger in the dining room, but...we got it. Top tier, Minetta Tavern level burger.
                          The osso bucco, the seared foie gras with 30 year aged Balsamic, the consummate professional beef tartare, the Diver scallops a la plancha with roasted spaghetti squash-- all spot on. Desserts are as stellar as advertised, especially the cheese cart and the classic chocolate souffle cake. Great wine list too-- Bergstrom Paley's Place Cuvée Pinot Noir, Brick House Gamay Noir, and J. Christopher Sauvignon Blanc were all very notable.
                          After midnight plans fell apart, we ended up at...you guessed it, Clyde Common, for the midnight toast. I was irked that I ordered champagne for everyone at 11:50 only to see all bar patrons then get free champagne five minutes later...should've gotten a cocktail then! Later they informed me they didn't have any barrel aged Negroni (?!), but had an (inferior, though still fine) barrel aged Boulvardier. It's just not as special, maybe Bourbon just doesn't work as well aged with Campari. This was my first visit with Jeffrey Morgenthaler behind the bar, though he didn't make any of our drinks.

                          Day Five: I figured it would be a good pick me up for everyone to stop by Blue Star Donuts. Definitely a great idea. Eat your heart out Voodoo. Blueberry-Basil-Bourbon was my favorite, closely followed by a PB & J. The dulce de leche was the lone clunker, tasting of little caramel.

                          Then off to Hood River and sadly I not only couldn't convince people to try Double Mountain instead of Full Sail, we were stuck eating lunch at Full Sail too! Everything underwhelmed in the lunch and tasting, except for the 2012 Old Boardhead Barleywine, the "25 Lager," and the "Lord of Darkness" Cascadian Dark Ale.

                          After returning, we had the mandatory Horse Brass visit for Blue Dot IPA and the even more impressive Vortex IPA from Ft. George Brewing. Skip the chicken pot pie here.

                          Then dinner at the sensational Laurelhurst Market, one of a select few places open New Years Day evening. Loved the foie gras torchon, 12 hour smoked Wagyu brisket and Teres Major, despite the bland root vegetable strata with the latter, and a wonderful walnut pie with buttermilk ice cream for dessert. I wanted more from the marrow bones and a very off tasting mushroom side dish with Marchand de vin. Love the vibe of the place...need to visit for lunch next time!

                          Day Six: the best espresso of the trip at Maglia Rosa inside West End Bikes, a single origin from Stumptown. Top notch barista here, this is coffee for the most passionate coffee drinkers.
                          Then away to the wine country for tasting. I arrived at Paulee, only to learn it was closed, so we had lunch at Dundee Bistro (excellent caramelized onion-pear- hazelnut- Rogue Creamery bleu cheese pizza, but wasn't crazy about the Ayoub Memoirs Pinot noir).
                          Afterwards, we tasted at only Soter and Stoller, despite hoping for more. Each visit lasted 60-90 minutes...
                          Soter is a guided tasting-- favorite was the North Valley Chardonnay, but also loved all of the Mineral Springs Pinot Noirs and the Soter Proprietary Red from Napa.
                          Stoller-- definitely more corporate, but still a very affable host when we arrived at sunset. Loved the Turkey Hill Red, SV Pinot Noir, and JV Pinot Noir. Whites aren't too noteworthy compared to Soter or elsewhere in the Valley.
                          That being said, future visitors, these two and Penner-Ash should be at the top of all lists.

                          Back to Portland for dinner at this board recommended final spot for the trip: Aviary
                          Thank you, thank you, thank you. Service was far too slow and I wasn't crazy about the boring chocolate dessert or too sweet "Brix Layer" cocktail... but oh the food. Get the fried chicken salad with watermelon and baba ghanoush (!) Get the roasted black cod in a wondrous sake broth with kale and sour grapes. Definitely get the charred octopus with scallion pancakes and green papaya, along with the riff on agedashi tofu with sweet potato in place of tofu, accented by funky buttermilk, dashi, and trout roe. What a trip.
                          the signature crispy pig ear, paella style, with coconut rice, Chinese sausage, and avocado is deservedly one of the city's new iconic dishes. And Aviary deserves to be one of the city's iconic dining destinations.

                          Day Seven: En route to the airport, a terrific espresso at Heart (could fit right in in SF and the lighter roast is exactly like what I had in Copenhagen and Oslo), along with excellent figgy buckwheat scones at Bakeshop (cookies could be softer and more exciting, same story with the savory corn & gruyere muffin). Don't plan on eating there...no space.

                          And...that's the story for this trip.
                          In summary--
                          The Gold: Clear Creek, Clyde Common, Coava, Courier's cannellés, Maglia Rosa, Hair of the Dog, Gigantic, Navarre, Nong's Kao Man Gai, Olympic Provisions SE, Paley's Place, Aviary, Sterling, Tanuki, Soter, Salt & Straw, Blue Star Donuts

                          The Silver: Heart, Kask, Laurelhurst Market, Commons

                          The Bronze: Stoller, Ox, Ristretto, Pok Pok, Bakeshop, Dundee Bistro

                          Passable: Whey Bar, Bridgeport

                          No Award: Full Sail

                          The "Ones That Got Away:" Tasty n Sons (for the 3rd straight trip!), Beast, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Little T Bakery, Nostrana, Screen Door, Woodsman Tavern, Bergstrom Winery, EVOE, Natural Selection, Smallwares, Ha & VL, Grüner for dinner, and Castagna

                          Portland, you again provided a wonderful dining experience to compliment your beautiful city and for me personally a special visit to celebrate the wedding of two of my closest friends. I cannot wait until my next visit. Hopefully, I made you proud with this last trip! Thank you again so much for your help and taking the time to offer your very important thoughts.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pats38sox

                            So sorry about the Full Sail over Double Mountain beer and lunch...oy.

                            Yeah, I like Aviary too, the price point keeps me from going too often, but when I do, I always enjoy it. And I am so glad that you got to Tanuki. No other place like it on the planet, I am sure.

                            You did a great job! Thanks for reporting back!