Portland Tales

October 13, 2016
Two years ago, we had the best time in Portland. I was eager to return. Frank's been back once or twice, but it never worked out for me to join him. Well, not until recently that is. Spirit ran a deal, like they often do, and I had just enough vacation time left so it was easy to pull the trigger for long weekend getaway. I was so looking forward to the trip! Of course, I started feeling sick a couple days before we were set to leave. All you need is plans, and germs inevitably strike. Nevertheless, I rested and was determined to be well for the trip. Unfortunately, the sickness had other plans. Still, I had every intention of making the most of it.

We flew out on Saturday morning, our flight was fantastic. It was on time, it wasn't full so we were able to move around a bit and the flight attendants were friendly and one in particular was a real comedian. After arriving in Portland, we sought out Alamo to pick up our rental car. I had booked it a few days prior for a hot rate on Hotwire. It would seem every other traveler had done the same, because we found the shuttle bus line about 40 people deep. That shuttle filled and we still had enough left behind to fill another bus. We were met with another long line at the rental counter, thankfully, the kiosk lines moved more quickly. We were able to retrieve our reservation that way, which saved quite a bit of time. From that point, it was a breeze and we were soon on our way, we had our pick from a row of vehicles and Frank chose a GMC Arcadia.

We were starved, I opened up my bookmarks on Yelp and saw that Tasty N Sons was nearest to us. I loaded up directions and we were off, or so we thought; instead, we found ourselves in a traffic jam. It was rather unexpected for a Saturday afternoon. At least, we caught a break by finding an open parking spot right outside the restaurant. There was no open seating so we left to wait yet again. We were seated just before brunch ended. We chose a bunch of small plates to share. Each was OK, but every dish was flawed in one way or another. It was rather disappointing.

Our home for the next few nights was a studio near Ladd's Addition. Yes, I booked an Airbnb based on its proximity to Apex Bar. We loved it so much last time, I knew we'd be spending more time there. After securing the reservation I was thrilled to learn not only was it close, but it was actually across the street. Kismet, baby! It was a kickass set up, it had everything we could possibly need. And the location? Superb! It was the perfect home base for our adventures.

We sort of struck out at Apex, though. The ciders I tried were good, but nothing exceptional. Frank wasn't digging the beers he chose either. So, we left for the neighboring Beer Mongers. Which we also loved last visit. There, I found a sour cider that was special and Frank took a liking to a Weiss beer.

Last trip, we found Tasty N Alder right before leaving for the airport, and it was fantastic. They had the best fish tacos and I've been dreaming of them since. So, when we started to feel a bit hungry we drove downtown for a fix. We knew there'd by a wait, we checked in and wandered around the block to pass the time. We sat at the counter near the kitchen, it was cool watching them work. We had a great charcuterie board, and chose a handful of other dishes, but nothing was particularly good. The fish tacos? Well, they were pretty gross. No joke. Talk about a bummer.

I had been pumping myself full of cold medicine all day to keep afloat, but I was waning fast. Frank was still hungry and determined to find some good eats. Veritable Quandry was Frank's favorite restaurant from previous visits so I looked that up, but it had closed. I threw in the towel. Frank took over and found an Argentine restaurant that sounded promising. Thankfully, Lechon was quite good. We had sweet corn and brisket empanadas and a glazed pork cheeks.

As much as I wanted to stay out and play. My body wouldn't have it. I was wiped out and pretty miserable. I drugged myself with cough syrup and went straight to bed. Unfortunately, neither Frank or I caught more than a few winks. I coughed. all. night. long.

We got an early start Sunday morning, we had plans to meet friends in Eugene at 11 o'clock. We grabbed breakfast at Pine State Biscuits before we hit the road. Frank loved their biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were pretty amazing. I tried the hashbrowns loaded with cheese, onions, ham and mushrooms. It was quite good, all except for the ham. It was oddly dry and hard.

The drive to Eugene was easy. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings to watch football. So, all was right in the world. Our friends met us there. We've been friends with Bill since high school and a few years ago he moved from Chicago to Bandon, OR to be with Anne. It was fun to catch up, after the games we had a bite at a bar near Putters. Then, we made a stop at Human Bean for a granita (just for you, mom) & espresso beans. We also checked out the Willamette River, and later, tagged along with them while they shopped at Costco. We've never been before. Bears! Oh my!

We had a late dinner at Pok Pok. Even close to closing there was still a wait for a table. We ordered the famous wings, eggplant salad, boar collar meat. ribs and a side of sticky rice. The marinade for the collar meat was great, but everything else fell a bit short. It seemed to be the theme for all of our favorites from last time.

Afterwards, Frank went to Apex for a beer and cigar. I was too tired to join him. I took a larger dose of cough syrup and had a fairly restful night.

It had been pretty rainy and cool, thus far, and the weather never improved. Each day, I'd hope to wake refreshed and feeling better, but relief never came. I had wanted to hike to Elowah Falls, but I just didn't have it in me. Instead, we drive the scenic byway and stopped at Lotourelle Falls since it was right off the roadside. The sights all along the Columbia River Gorge are stunning so we still enjoyed ourselves. I suggested we check out Thunder Island Brewery before heading back, and the view was lovely, but the beers were duds. I vowed to pick nothing else for the rest of the trip.

For lunch, Frank chose Guero's Tortas. Which were very good, the food truck trailer park also had a good gyro spot and some tasty draft beers. I was already wiped out. So, we napped back at the studio as another storm passed thru. The dreariness and cool air definitely made for ideal sleeping conditions. We watched Monday Night Football at Beer Mongers. Later, Frank chose Stammtisch for dinner, which was a gem. The beer was excellent, we also enjoyed potato pancakes, spatzle, sausages and pasta with leek fondue and brussel sprouts.

Again, I retired early. Hopeful I'd be well enough to enjoy our final day, but no such luck I felt worse than ever. It didn't stop us from one last breakfast at Pine State Biscuits.

After, Frank took me to Pittock Mansion. On a clear day you can see five volcanoes, this day the clouds hung low and only downtown could be seen.

We were in the mood for a snack so we sought out Gastro Mania for bacon wrapped grape leaves. They were mighty tasty! Frank enjoyed a gyro, as well.

Then, we wrapped up our trip at the Waterfront Park. I made a pitstop at Bean & Tree for an Oregonian Coffee since I was such a fan last time. You guessed it? It wasn't as good as I remembered.

We sat under a tree to keep dry and watched rainbows form over the Hawthorne bridge to pass the time. Before we knew it, it was time to return the rental and fly home from PDX. Despite the disappointing experiences, endless drizzle & chills, and even, having felt so crummy; we still managed to have a good time.

Down with the Sickness

October 11, 2016
They're back! Germs are alive and well. I, on the other hand, have been sick for nearly two weeks. Just like in February, I caught another upper respiratory infection. This time, I also had the pleasure of an ear infection. Of course, the gunk settled in right before Frank and I left for Portland. The trip is kind of a blur since I spent it in a cough syrup and cold medicine induced haze.

I was sicker than ever once we got back home. My level of exhaustion reached new heights. Coughing fits were endless. I had some of the worst headaches I can recall. My blood pressure was sky high, likely, from all the cough and cold medicine. I never had an ear infection before, funny how it felt like sinus pressure just without all the nasal congestion and/or runny nose.

I finished antibiotics a couple days ago, I'm feeling way better, but not fully 100%. I'm not convinced my ear is back to normal. I still feel like it needs to pop. I'm pretty hoarse, but thankfully, the coughing fits have ended. Sleep comes easy and tiredness seems to have no end in sight. I'd like to think it's all behind us now, but I fear it's only begun. 'Tis the season, I suppose.

Off the Hook

September 29, 2016

My brother and I go out for lunch most week days; thankfully, we have a slew of restaurants to choose from. However, we still find ourselves in a dining rut. We have our favorites, but we fear getting burnt out on them so we try to mix it up best we can. Komex (Buffalo location) is a top pick, because I've never had anything bad, the service is always friendly and the prices are quite reasonable.

Right next door is Off the Hook we've walked by dozens of times, but never stopped inside. Fish and chips aren't typically what I crave so honestly I had given it much thought, but eventually curiosity got the best of me. I took a look at the menu and much to my surprise they also serve fish tacos. I do very much enjoy fish tacos, especially the fried variety. I love the crunch, the warm fish on the cool bed of cabbage. They also have chicken tenders on the menu, so Mike was on board to give Off the Hook a try.

Our server was friendly and since it wasn't too busy he gave us just the right amount of attention - keeping drinks full, etc. We were pleased to find a lunch menu that discounted the Thai fish tacos ($9.99) and the tenders ($9.99) for a couple bucks less than the standard menu pricing. Our lunch was served piping hot with a full basket of fries. Both the fish and the chicken were tender, the breading was crispy and not overly greasy. The thai sauce that was drizzled over the tacos had a wee kick and a bit of sweetness. Though, I prefer a more traditional fish taco. I did enjoy this twist. Overall, we agreed it was a nice change of pace.

Adventures in Louisville

September 28, 2016
Last month, we took a trip to visit Frank's brother. We snagged great airfare on Frontier to Cincinnati, rented a car and drove down to Louisville. This was our second time visiting Bob & Hugh, but they've since moved from the country into the heart of Louisville. They've gutted and completely remodeled their house, and it looks fantastic. Their neighborhood has prime location - everything is no more than 15 minutes away. Our last visit was during the dead of winter when Louisville happened to have an unusually frigid spell. A stormed dumped several inches a snow prior to our arrival too. Needless to say, the weather was less than ideal last time. This trip, though, was perfection. Not too hot, humid or cold; there was a little rain, but mostly sunny skies.

Deals on Frontier often come with some sort of catch and this was no exception. Our flight to Cincinnati was a red-eye. Hertz was one of the few car rentals open at that hour, so we were unable to competitively shop, but I did secure a good rate on an economy vehicle. Unfortunately, Frank did not fit in the Ford Focus that was assigned to us. We had to spend a bit more to upgrade to an Impala. At least, the ride was smooth and very roomy. Traffic was non-existent; we made it to Louisville in just over an hour. We were exhausted since neither of us caught a wink on the plane, but before we napped we wanted food. Bob suggested we go to Con Huevos. They weren't open yet, but we went to Please & Thank You. The guys all had coffee and I opted for their delicious chocolate chip cookie. It did not disappoint. Frank's iced coffee was made with sparkling water, a twist I hadn't encountered before.

Breakfast at Con Huevos was an excellent The Chilaquiles were an easy choice and they hit the spot. Frank also enjoyed his huevos rancheros topped with chorizo.

I did a terrible job of documenting the rest of our meals. In fact, these are the only two food photos I snapped. I suppose we were too busy enjoying conversation or too eager to dig in - I didn't even give it a thought until I uploaded the photos. I had to laugh because it's very unlike me.

Anyhow, after a nap, we were refreshed and ready to take on the town. We decided to begin with a pub crawl of sorts, the first stop was Great Flood Brewing Company. They were hosting a couple of rugby teams so it was a bit loud and rowdy. After one round, we opted to Uber to Monnik Beer Company. It was more subdued and they had some outstanding brews. The Saison and the Coffee IPA were my favorites. When hunger struck we moseyed over to The Silver Dollar.

There was a wait for a table so we bellied up to the bar to pass the time. They are known for craft cocktails so rather than going straight to beer, I wanted to try something new. I was overwhelmed by the options, since I'm not really into liquor... so, I played the part of the annoying customer. I asked the bartender to suggest something that didn't have that overpowering liquor taste, but also something that wasn't sweet. Fortunately, he didn't seem to mind my cluelessness and he whipped up something with mezcal. I haven't a clue of what was in it, but it was mighty tasty. Meanwhile, we moved over to the dining room. The menu has mostly southern dishes, but with a Californian honky tonk flair. Sounds weird, right? It is, but in the best way. It's one of those things you must experience. The service, food and drinks were equally matched. It was a great time. The brisket was good, not Texas good, but tasty nonetheless.

As we were headed out from dinner the skies opened up, we took it as a sign to retire back to the house. We had beers on the porch, chatted a bunch and made plans for Bob and Hugh to visit us for Thanksgiving. Plane tickets reserved, and all.

The next morning, we had a yummy breakfast at the house and then headed out for the day to play tourist. Ever since I conquered my fear of bridges, I've been rather fascinated by them. When I learned of the pedestrian bridge that spans the Ohio River I knew it was something I wanted to check out. The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad truss bridge that connects Louisville, KY to Jeffersonville, IN. We walked over to Indiana, strolled around Jeffersonville before heading back to Kentucky. It was interesting to see so many homes on the wrong side of the flood walls... I can't imagine what flood insurance premiums must be.

Next, we rented a pontoon boat for a couple hours to see the sights along the river. Before our reservation, we ran over to Lotsa Pasta to pick up cheese, salads and sandwiches for a picnic on the boat. It's such a great specialty store, I wanted one of everything! We really enjoyed ourselves on the boat, it was such a lovely afternoon.

We rode down the river just past the East End Crossing Project. The bridge is nearly complete; when done it will alleviate a lot of commuter traffic from downtown Louisville. We went by the Louisville Water Tower which is older than the one in Chicago. The Pumping Station recorded the 1937 flood crest, it's hard to imagine the flood waters being that high.

A stop at Sergio's World of Beers was a must! It was conveniently located near the marina. Sergio has friends in all the right places which allows him to secure the rarest of keg offerings. Plus, coolers line the entire place and they're filled with an eclectic selection from all over the world. It's a real gem. Bud light was appropriately priced at $89, I think the Budweiser was $99. Ha! I was overwhelmed by all the choices, I wanted a sour but it was difficult to choose only one. I went with a recommendation from the bartender. It was an outstanding sour from Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien, seriously, it was bucketlist caliber.

Later, we had dinner at Ramsi's Cafe. It showcases dishes from all over, Ramsi's definitely offers something to suit any mood. I opted for the fish tacos. The breading was light and not a bit greasy. It was the first I ever had fish tacos served with cheese, but it worked. Frank was pleased with his lamb burger.

On our final day, Bob took us to the Kentucky State Fair. I've never been to a state fair before so it was fun to see all the entries. Especially, Bob's chocolate chip cookies. They didn't win, but he has earned a ribbon for his habaneros (2014). Trump may not win the election, but Trump Ale did secure a blue ribbon, Bwhahaha.

After the fair, we had lunch at The Post. They have large pizza slices for only a few bucks that were pretty good, but it was the stromboli that was amazing! It was huge too, easily 2-3 meals worth. Dinner that night was at Bombay Grill. I'm not too familiar with Indian dishes so Bob ordered several for us to try. It was all quite good. Although, it was the cauliflower appetizer that I couldn't get enough of; oh my goodness, it was delicious. A little sweet, a little spicy and crunchy. If I'm not mistaken, it was gobi manchurian. I must seek it out at home.

We had a wonderful visit, after a farewell, we were on the road headed back to Cincinnati. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6am so I reserved a room near the airport on Hotwire. It landed us a deal at the Holiday Inn Cincinnati Airport which oddly enough is located in Erlanger, KY. Prior to this trip, I had no idea that CVG is not in Ohio.

Sleep sounded heavenly, but after checking in we decided to drive into Cincinnati. We were just too close not to visit the city. We stopped inside Jack Casino to have a look around and then did a quick drive by around the sights. We were impressed by the John A Roebling Suspension Bridge and the area around the waterfront between the Reds and the Bengals' stadiums. Our last stop was at Skyline Chili, the lights were on, but no one took our order at the drive thru. Which might have been for the best, never did I realize that Cincinnati Chili was more of a meat sauce than chili and it's served over spaghetti. It might be the best thing ever, but it did not look the least bit appealing on the drive thru menu.

Our stay at the Holiday Inn was very comfortable and it worked out beautifully for our early flight out of CVG. I must say it's nice having time on your side when flying from EST to PST time zone, our flight arrive shortly after 7am and I was only a few minutes late for work at 7:30. It was wild going home from work that day thinking that I woke up in Cincinnati, well, Erlanger, Kentucky.

Search This Blog