The Original Margarita Festival

September 16, 2014
The Cosmopolitan hosted the annual Original Margarita Festival. Mixologists from all over the valley compete to win best margarita. Last year, the title went to the Velveteen Rabbit. This year's event had 25 competitors. Admission was $40 and included all you can drink margarita samples. I was fortunate to win tickets from Yelp.

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It felt like a hot summer night at the Boulevard Pool. Thankfully, there were plenty of margaritas to help keep cool. Although, chile peppers were the theme of the night. Many drinks were laced with spiciness from jalapenos, hatch chiles and even ghost peppers. The margaritas themselves might make you sweat.

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The Cosmopolitan posted the recipes in case you'd like to learn more about the concoctions.

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I only missed trying two: Amerigo Di Firenze and Mamacita's Margarita. The latter was attempted, but they were having technical difficulties while attempting to impress judges. The former was completely overlooked, I missed their set up. There were many margaritas that weren't too our liking, but it was still fun to try them all. The contenders for our favorite were She Loves Me Not, Pumpkin Zen Passion, Honey Salt Tangerine, Beso Del Diablo, J & J Spicy Honey Brown and the Amazonarita.

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The one I'd love to try again was the She Loves Me Not, with Tanteo Jalapeno Tequila, sunflower heart, and pineapple puree. They earned my wooden chip; we left before votes were tallied and the winner was announced. I've seen no mention of the winner yet today... maybe someone is nursing a hangover? At any rate, it was a neat event to showcase our local talent.

Oregon Coast

September 11, 2014
Monday, we hit the road for Tillamook. We wanted to see the coast and we love cheese. Tillamook is one of my preferred brands so a stop at the factory was a must. On the way out, all was restored in the universe. The driver ahead of us was a complete dick. He'd drive slow as can be until we reached a passing zone, then he'd channel Speed Racer. It took us forever to pass him. Traffic overall, along the coast, was heavy and congested. Seems everyone planned a coastal getaway over the holiday.

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Tillamook County is home to more cows than people. You will believe it when you get a waft of the air. There is no mistaking that dairy farmers rule the roost, Tillamook is a co-op that produces cheese, ice cream, yogurt and sour cream. Factory tours are available daily; they are free and self guided.



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On our visit, production was extremely limited due to the holiday weekend. We only saw a few 40-lb blocks of cheese being packaged. At the end of the tour, you get free cheese samples and all sorts of products are available for sale. They also have a cafe, I had been ogling the grilled cheese on their website and had to have it. Only I was denied, it was 10am and they were serving breakfast and they had no room on the grill (not even for a wee grilled cheese). Frank was determined to get me a grilled cheese so we drove down the street to Blue Heron, they specialize in Brie. Which is one of the few cheeses (along with goat) that I don't particularly enjoy. They did have a Tillamook grilled cheese on the menu, I anxiously awaited biting into the crunchy gooey deliciousness. Unfortunately, what I was presented with was slightly melted cheese pressed between toast. My craving was not the least bit satisfied. Oh well. I make a damn good grilled cheese on my panini press (yes, I made one soon after we returned home).

From Tillamook, we planned to drive the 101-N to see as much of the coast as we could before we had to head back to Portland. We had our flight to catch later that night. You pass a couple bays before reaching the Pacific. Our first stop was Rockaway Beach. We stayed long enough for Frank to enjoy a cigar and build a small dam. Then, I wanted to move on to find coast with more character. Cannon Beach was our destination.

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It was far too crowded to stop for lunch like we planned so we continued on. It was a surprise how little of the 101 actually took you along the coast. Frank made every effort to get me views of the ocean, but the roads just weren't carved out the way we would've liked. As we approached Seaside, he noticed helicopter rides and no reservation was required. After giving it some thought he busted a U-turn and stopped to check it out. After a short video, and swipe of the credit card. We were above it all in a helicopter. It was a first for both of us. It was an amazing ride between Seaside and Cannon Beach. It gave me a perspective of the coast I couldn't get any other way. It was awesome!!

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While we were on the coast, I had to try some local seafood. We had lunch at the Bell Buoy Seafood Restaurant. It's a no frills quaint stop on the freeway. Friendly service and tasty chowder, crab cocktail, and fried halibut.

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After lunch, we drove back to Portland. The ride back felt like we took a Delorean instead of the Chrysler. We stopped for gas and the station had the old fashioned pumps, they sold groceries, bait, hunting gear, and cds. It definitely felt like we stepped back in time. Oregon is full of charm.

Back in the city, we checked out the Riverwalk. We found a quiet bench near the Hawthorne Bridge, we soaked up the sun and enjoyed the peaceful afternoon as we watched the pink boxes world go by.

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It couldn't have been more perfect. We were parched and stopped at the Bean & Tree for something refreshing. I ordered a berry smoothie and Frank chose an iced Oregonian coffee. It's made with hazelnut milk and honey. I don't know if it was the Stumptown Coffee or the hazelnut milk but this was a special drink. Maybe not to Frank, but to me, it was. I rarely enjoy iced coffee and this one was delicious. I've been craving it since. My berry smoothie tasted more like apples, which is right up Frank's alley so we switched. Our thirst was quenched, but we had grown hungry.



I chose one last restaurant for us to enjoy before heading home. Tasty n Alder was my pick. They didn't reopen for dinner until 5 o'clock and a long line had already formed. I feared we wouldn't have enough time and sought out alternate options which ended up closed for the holiday. We found ourselves back at Tasty n Alder, and a table was available against the window by the bar. It was hot & sweaty there with the setting sun beating in, but I'm happy we stuck it out. We were in for treat.

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We started with Charcuterie board, followed by scrumptious Korean Short Ribs, with the best kimchee I've ever had and we finished with fish tacos that were perfection. We've had pretty great fish tacos in San Diego and Mexico, but this set the bar. They were outstanding. I wish we had time to order more. But time had run out, in fact, we also ordered scallops but there was such a lull between courses we cancelled the request. We needed the bill, we had a plane to catch. Oh, my last beer in Portland was pFriem Belgium Strong Blonde (Hood River, OR).

Getting a cab back to the airport was an ordeal, as I mentioned before, but we caught a beautiful sunset and saw a clear shot of Mt Hood on the way to the airport. It was like Portland was offering a hug good-bye. We flew Alaskan Airlines (same price as Southwest, but better schedule) and had no complaints. I've never planned so little for a trip before. However, it worked out beautifully. We had such a great getaway. Portland, we'll definitely be back.

Buoy's Best on Urbanspoon Tasty n Alder on Urbanspoon

The City of Roses

September 10, 2014
Sunday, we started our day at the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. It was around the corner from the car rental, since they weren't open quite yet we decided to see what the fuss was about. There was a line out the door that built up down the street. It took us just under a half hour to claim our prize of a half dozen doughnuts. We kept ourselves amused with the doughnut names while we waited. They accept cash only. You'd think the armored trucks would do pick ups hourly for the draw this place seems to have.

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We drew all sorts of attention at the car rental with our pretty pink box. It was funny, that you would spot people all over the city at various times of the day with their very own pink box. After waiting in a lengthy line, we had keys to the Chrysler and we hit the road for Multnomah Falls. Meanwhile, we dug into our sweet snacks.

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The lemon chiffon crueller was my favorite pick. It was loaded with way too much icing, talk about a sugar rush! But it was damn tasty. Frank really enjoyed the Memphis Mafia fritter. It was a banana fritter loaded with chocolate and peanut butter drizzle and piled high with chocolate and pb chips. Rebel Donut in Albuquerque remains my favorite, but I'm happy we stopped to learn that "the magic is in the hole".

The drive to Multnomah Falls was like a dream. Seriously. It was like some alternate universe where the rules of road are obeyed. Drivers were considerate! I've never seen anything like it. Slow traffic stayed to the right, the left lane was used to pass. It was a thing of beauty!

Speaking of beauty, The Columbia River Gorge is gorgeous. The Multnomah Falls are a breeze to locate and view, unlike our waterfall experiences in Ecuador. It was a short walk to the bottom of the falls and an easy half mile (paved) hike to the bridge; it's about a mile to the top of the falls. The falls are the tallest in Oregon at 620 feet.

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I couldn't help but pet the furry trees. I wanted to name them all Jeffrey.

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Next, we stopped at the Bonneville Dam. Frank and I often visit dams, since we find them fascinating. The dam was named for the man who charted much of the Oregon Trail (who else sat in a group around an Apple computer in class and played Oregon Trail until they died of Dysentery?), it is primarily used to generate electricity, but also helps with flood control and river navigation. Additionally, it has a tremendous fish ladder. It was wild to stop and watch the Chinook Salmon (and others) work their way upstream. We also viewed them underwater, where the fish counts are done.

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We drove to hood river and had lunch at Double Mountain Brewery. It was suggested by our car rental agent. It's a super cute town loaded with wineries and breweries. The pizza was good, but frankly not all that special. We enjoyed a Cluster Fuck IPA and Sacre Bleu with our lunch.

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Then, we set off to find Mt Hood. We'd been in town two days and hadn't spotted it once. We drove to the ski resort but it was closed. We never got a clear shot of Mt. Hood, but we did see it. Mission accomplished.

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While in Portland, I had to see the St. John's bridge so that was our next stop. We also viewed it from Cathedral Park.

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I also wanted to visit the International Rose Test Garden, I might be allergic, but I love to see rose gardens. This was the largest collection I've ever seen. I now understood Portland's moniker, "The City of Roses."

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The Japanese Gardens are also located in Washington Park. Admission is $9.50pp, we passed on this one too. Instead, we set out for snack we sought out Devil's Dill Sandwich Shop. We opted for the No. 4 which has braised beef, cheddar, grilled peppers and onions, and horseradish aioli pressed between a mighty delicious ciabatta roll. I liked it but wished it had a crunchy or crisp element. It was a mushy mess.

We went back to the hotel to rest a bit and form a game plan for dinner. I wanted something uniquely Portland with farm to table dishes. My search led me to the Veritable Quandry. This restaurant has been a gem of downtown Portland since the 70's. It was near the hotel so we were able to stroll over and work up an appetite. There were so many delicious items to choose from we narrowed it down to Bacon Wrapped Dates, Duck Confit Spring Rolls, Poached Egg and Smoked Bacon Butter Lettuce with Crispy Cornbread, Chinook Salmon and Housemade Spaghetti with Eggplant and the Chocolate Souffle for dessert.

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The dates are stuffed with Chèvre, unfortunately, I do not enjoy goat cheese so these missed the mark for me (matter of personal taste), but it left more for Frank to enjoy. He found them very yummy, with crisp smoky bacon, sweet date, crunchy almond and creamy Chèvre. The spring rolls were right up my alley. I adore duck. The Wasabi ginger sauce was perfect for dipping. We shared the salad and it was simply tasty with a Buttermilk White Cheddar Dressing. The Salmon was beautifully prepared and served with a mediterranean medley of hummus, grain and vegetables. Frank's spaghetti was stellar. The noodles were perfectly al dente, the tomatoes were bright and fresh and the eggplant was so rich it seemed to melt like butter in your mouth. Dessert was the perfect end to a lovely meal and service didn't skip a beat. We fell for Portland all over again.

Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom on Urbanspoon Devil's Dill Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon Veritable Quandary Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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