I mentioned in a previous post that I needed my own field trip and got my wish last weekend. Four of us trained it down to Portland, Oregon, for a weekend of ridiculously good food and cocktails. This town has it going on. Let me and my spicy booze connoisseurs take you on a tour.
- We were all aboard for afternoon cocktails.
Friday, 1st round
We took the Amtrak Cascades train between Seattle and Portland and this is the way to go. Of course we tried out the onboard drink selection. A split bottle of wine for “Dee” (who felt a straw was much more klassy than chugging it out of the bottle), a cranberry-vodka for me and a surprisingly good Bloody Mary – with real worstershire sauce and not a mix! – for PRS. Meanwhile, T. atypically abstained so I assume she had a few shots prior. It was a rolling prefunc for our weekend away.
Friday, 2nd round
Dinner on Friday night was at Southpark in downtown Portland. The drink menu appeared to have many exciting choices, but the server/bartender scrambled our drink orders enough that I’m a little confused about what we drank and when. We went crazy for what we thought was the Foxtrot – lillet blanc, gin and a reisling reduction – but was probably the Peartini – Absolut Pear, lemon juice, simple syrup and amaretto with a sugar rim. The food was delicious, though. Best of all, my three wine-loving friends declared it a cocktail weekend. To me, this is the equivalent of the drunken, “I love you, man.” Right back ‘atcha, my Sacsayhuamán friends!
Saturday, 1st round
Our pre-lunch cards and cocktails.
We started the morning with coffee and tea rather than Bloody Marys, so remedied that at lunch. Stopping in at Henry’s 12th Street Tavern, we were expecting a slightly dive place to play a few rounds of cards, but instead found a slicker bar and grill with exceptional food and drinks. The mention of their salad with pear, manchego cheese and jalapeno dressing and the smoked turkey ciabatta sandwiches still makes me drool. The Bloodys were cold, thick and just-right spicy, fueling us for lots of walking in the afternoon that included a trip to the liquor store (just can’t help myself).
There we stocked up on minis to recreate Southpark’s Peartini. Because it’s important to get travel souvenirs and buy local (this is credible, right?), I bought a bottle of Spicy Ginger Cello made by Loft, a Portland distillery. I also lucked into a sale – can you imagine, Washingtonians, a liquor store having sales? – on a huge bottle of absinthe. I’d say it will last me years, but realistically…
Saturday, 2nd + rounds – where the gluttony starts
Tapas at Andina: Mussels with salsa criolla.
I’d like to make up a love song to this night’s restaurant, as long as someone else sings it in public (my daughter at 12 months old told me she didn’t like my singing…harsh). Andina in the Pearl District is the whole package: truly fresh and innovative Peruvian tapas, entrees and cocktails in a bright setting with a great vibe. Rude as it is to talk with our mouths full, it was hard to stop commenting on how tasty everything was.
Andina's Sacsayhuamán (sok - say - hoo m-uhn) cocktail is both sassy and sexy...and too good to last long.
Andina also solidified hot peppers as one of our favorite cocktail ingredients with the Sacsayhuamán drink: Habanero-infused vodka with passion fruit puree and sugar, served up with a cilantro leaf garnish. Pre-Incan ruins in Peru, Sacsayhuamán is pronounced much like “sexy woman,” giving us another reason to love it. And it gave us another goal: trying out all the pepper-punched cocktails we can.
Saturday, rounds #3….wait, no, #4 or 5…or infinity
Our server at Andina pointed us a few blocks down to Vault Martini. Between the laugh-out-loud menu, people watching and mouthwatering cocktails, this may be the most entertaining bar I’ve run across. Their cocktail selection includes the 7 deadly sins plus 118 more drinks. How to choose?!? My friends went straight for the Habanero Martini – those peppers again! – with house-infused pineapple-habanero vodka and lemon juice, but my first drink was too underwhelming to remember the name. The Chocolate Martini with vanilla vodka and crème de cacao, on the other hand, was definitely memorable. Apparently they also had beer, wine and food but I can’t personally verify that.
At this point, let me give a shout-out to Portland’s street car – serving drunken visitors in the downtown corridor every night. If only Seattle was so smart.
Sunday, 0 rounds
The Vault was so cool that we never made it to our intended destination at The Nine’s hotel bar the night before, so we headed there for brunch on Sunday morning. The Urban Farmer is located in this hip hotel’s center atrium and features a Bloody Mary bar, but no hair-of-the-dog for us. We scored a table with cowhide benches and soothed ourselves with a great breakfast, leaving room for our next stop at Voodoo Donuts near the Burnside Bridge.
Wicked good doughnuts.
The bakery’s location was perfect since it appears tucked into a bar. Its slogan is “the magic is in the hole,” and while I can’t speak to that I can say you’ll find voodoo doll doughnuts, bacon maple bars and some more, er, risqué shapes.
After close to 48 hours of cocktail and food research, we boarded the train back to Seattle. I will have to check if Amtrak offers frequent rider miles because I am already craving several of our meals/drinks there. Hmm, Red Hook might run the Portland Marathon in October. Surely he’ll want a couple of martinis after running 26 miles?
A toast to Portland...and Dee's fab pictures!