Visit Lovely Pacific City

Last week I posted about our Mother of All Storms trip to Pacific City, Oregon, but the trip wasn't all about the beer. Well, mostly, but not all.

We drove out on a Friday, which just happened to coincide with the first snow in the coast range, the hills/mountains dividing the coast from the Willamette Valley and the Interstate 5 corridor. The northern route, from Portland which heads to Tillamook, is a higher elevation and had snow on the ground, so we went south to Salem and headed west to Lincoln City, then north to Pacific City. We avoided any snow threats, but as you can see the clouds were pretty damn ominous at the coast. This is looking out at the ocean over Pelican Pub and Brewery.

And this is looking out at Haystack Rock.

Wait, I can hear you saying, isn't Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach? Yep, it sure is. And in Pacific City. And there is, apparently, another one further south in Bandon, Oregon. (Yeah, I didn't know that until I looked it up either.) These rocks are called sea stacks or offshore monoliths. They were created of basalt from volcanic eruptions in the Grande Ronde mountains 10-17 million years ago (thank you Wikipedia) and were once connected to the land, but years of erosion from the ocean now leave them standing as offshore sentinels.

Pacific City's Haystack Rock is actually taller than Cannon Beach's - and the second-tallest in the world - but doesn't get near the press as it's brethren to the north. Why? Our theory is because the Cannon Beach one is close enough to walk to at low tide, while this one is not. Or maybe it just had a better PR team.

This is looking north towards Cape Kiwanda. Just to the right of this picture are some towering dunes which would be very cool to explore were it not rainy and 40 degrees.

But you know what? It was Mother of All Storms weekend and this was a storm...it's impossible not to find some beauty. This picture below was taken just a little before sunset.

This is Misaki and I standing on the porch of Pelican Pub and Brewery the next day. It was still cold and windy, but the rain had let up. During the summer the pub has tables out here, right next to the beach, and dogs are allowed as long as they stay in the sand. When we went previously Misaki broke the rules and hid under the table on the concrete pad next to the stand, but she's so perfect no one cared.

The Wildlife

We found some unexpected wildlife near our hotel. I saw all these black shapes over in an RV park and though they were rocks. Until they moved.

Rabbits. Tons of them. And not the normal wild bunnies you see out here, but big, built bunnies that look like pets.

I asked the front desk at the hotel what the story was with all the rabbits. They seemed not exactly tame, but not as fearful as wild rabbits normally are. She laughed, which made me think they get this question a lot. Apparently there was a rabbit breeder in the area many years back who wanted to get out of the business and didn't know what else to do, so she released the bunnies to the wild.

Surprisingly to us, they have thrived. Usually released domestic animals don't do so hot with predators, but she said the population has gone up and down over the years and they have just always stuck around. Apparently they can be seen all over town as well.

And hey, we found the Easter Bunny!

The Hotel

Speaking of the hotel, we stayed at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, which is right across the street from the brewery. Check out that link. It's interesting because the Inn, the brewery, and a few other businesses in that immediate area work together to build packages for tourists. I'm not sure if all are owned by the same people or if this is simply a mutually beneficial partnership, but it makes planning easy.

The room was nice and we'd stay there again. It was clean and well managed, and our only complaint was neighbors down the hall being loud around midnight. Then again, we stayed at an inn across the street from a brewery on a Friday night...

Obviously dogs are allowed for $20 extra per night. That fee got Misaki a blanket so she could chill on the couch - which she doesn't get to do at home - and a bag of local dog biscuits, which she liked.


Only being in the town for one night and having Misaki with us limited our food options, but we still had some good meals.

Stimulus Cafe - See the hotel pic above? This is the business in the lower right corner of the building. We had a few espresso drinks from there - eggnog latte, mocha, and caramel macchiato - and each one of them was a tad too sweet. I want to like them because they use Stumptown beans, but the sugaryness was just too much.

Pelican Pub and Brewery - The pub takes orders over the phone and does take out, so given the weather and the proximity we ordered dinner Friday night and breakfast Saturday morning from here.

Dinner (menu link) was fish and chips, made with cod, that came with beer battered fries, coleslaw, and tartar sauce. I'm not usually one for tartar sauce, but this one had a great dill flavor. The fish was solid, not too greasy, but those fries were damn excellent. We'd order this again. We also ordered the risotto cakes, which came with a red pepper coulis, sauteed chard, and topped with a mushroom and fennel salad. The cakes, which sounded like an arancini, really didn't have much flavor and were a tad too oily for me.

For breakfast (menu link) we split an order of the crab cake eggs Benedict, served with hash browns. This was hands down the best thing we've had from Pelican (well, apart from Mother of All Storms, at least for me). The crab cakes were hearty and well done, the eggs cooked perfectly, the Hollandaise creamy goodness, and the hash browns crunched perfectly.

Greatful Bread Bakery - On the way out of town we stopped here to check out a bakery many people had good things to say about. I picked out a pesto baguette, an apricot and sour cream scone, and a cinnamon twist. All of them were okay and we'd go back if we were staying in Pacific City again, but it's not a destination type of bakery for us. The scone I personally didn't think worked very well, but that's probably just me.


We reached the coast really early on Friday, way too early to check in, so we drove up 101 to Tillamook to check out the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Dogs are not allowed inside - which made cheese lover Misaki a tad sad - but she was a good girl in crate for a few minutes while we grabbed some nibbles.

We bought a bag of cheese curds (squeaky cheese) mostly for her, but we like them too. Also picked up some fudge (dreamsicle - interesting) and some smoked white cheddar, which is excellent. Since it was lunch time we grabbed some ice cream - vacation calories don't count, remember? I ordered a scoop of the new pumpkin and one of Grandma's Cake Batter. Neither of them, in our opinion, are keepers (last summer they had a Birthday Cake flavor that was much better). Wifey ordered a scoop of French vanilla with a scoop of orange sherbet. That was predictably fantastic - it's sad the orange sherbet is a Cheese Factory exclusive, because it would always be in our freezer.


On the way home on Saturday we headed into Lincoln City, but stopped first at a random viewpoint just south of Pacific City. Misaki hopped up on the stone wall to check out the view.

We basically hit Lincoln City for three things: coffee, caramel corn and a bathroom.

Mojo Coffee - Here I just ordered a large mocha, which comes with four shots. Really? They understand that if I want a larger size that doesn't mean I want it sweeter and need more espresso without having to order extra shots? (This is sarcasm - I totally agree with this practice.) Starbucks, take note. I enjoyed it and I'd go back (they also use Stumptown beans).

Candyland - One thing we must always get when we go to the beach is caramel corn. It just seems right. This trip we stopped at Candyland, some place I hadn't been for years. It's right in the old "downtown" part of Lincoln City on Highway 101. The caramel corn was okay - it had this odd flavor we still can't place (and oddly dissipated over time). But hey, caramel corn is still caramel corn. We might go back here, we might not. The woman behind the counter could see Misaki and Wifey in the car from inside the shop and asked me about the dog, what breed she was, etc. Then she offered to dog sit if we needed it. I'm not sure if she was serious or not, but, um, thanks?

We stopped at the beach access at the mouth of the D River (I guess they don't like saying "Devil's") for a bathroom break. Misaki took a liking to the beach grass.


And then it was time to head home. At the last minute, just east of Rickreall, Oregon on Highway 22, we decided to take a quick side trip to Cubanisimo Vineyards for wine tasting. A while back another winery had recommended their rosé, so we were in the area and figured what the heck.

Our tasting that day was for six wines, which costs $5 (or nothing if you buy a bottle). As it turned out we liked five of the six, something that has never happened at any other winery we have visited. Usually we like at most one or two, but at Cubanismo we even like the pinot noir, something else we don't usually go for (despite Oregon being so well known for them). It was just before Thanksgiving so they had already started their specials for the very popular wine weekend, and since we liked so many of the bottles we went with the 2010 Rosado de Pinot Noir, the 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (a blend), and the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. That last one will go very, very well with a nice steak, but all of them were excellent. I urge you to check out the photos of the vineyard and if you are in the area to check them out. The grounds are beautiful and their people very down to earth and knowledgeable.

We came home with three bottles of wine, a case of beer, baked goods, and a ton of great pictures. What else could you ask for from a weekend away? We definitely want to go back to Pacific City and next time may rent a house and stay longer.


Thanksgiving at The Country Cat

Wifey and I decided to buck tradition a bit this year and eat our big Thanksgiving meal out. We decided on The Country Cat, one of our favorites in Portland and a place we tried to get a reservation at last year but they filled up too fast. I got us a reservation for 2pm on Thanksgiving Day and this is what we got to eat ($45 each for an amuse bouche, salad, entree, and dessert).

First up, the amuse bouche. Starting at the top and going clockwise: truffled deviled egg; whole wheat cracker with beer cheese spread and a housemade pickle; and a toast topped with chopped crab and grilled shrimp.

The egg was nothing special, but the other two were quite tasty. They call the beer cheese "Judy" according to the menu - I'm sure there is a story behind that, but I don't know it. That was our favorite of the three.

For my salad course I chose the red wine marinated beets with blue cheese, candied bacon and rosemary toasted walnuts.

I don't even really like walnuts, but these were excellent. The beets had great flavor and worked well with everything else. I love the blue cheese, but see that huge chunk? Either it was too much or I didn't distribute it evenly enough in my bites, because I had a big chunk left at the end. No, that's not a problem.

Wifey chose the mixed field greens with blue cheese dressing.

This was...a salad. Because of the "field"ness of the greens it was a tad bitter, but the blue cheese handled that nicely. Nothing special.

For my entree I chose the double cut pork chop and rosemary mashed yams with whole grain mustard plum sauce. The chop was served on a bed of braised collard greens and topped with two roasted figs (that's what's on top of the chop in the pic below).

Everything on this plate was excellent. The pork was cooked through evenly with a very tasty crust, and the yams and collards provided great flavor contrasts. The figs felt a tad out of the place just because they were so far to the sweet side of things, but still tasty. I can't wait to go back to Country Cat for their normal dinner menu to try out The Whole Hog.

Wifey chose the more traditional meal as her entree: brined, smoked and braised turkey, Granny Criss's stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, honey glazed carrots, and cranberry sauce.

Both light and dark meat came on the plate. You can see the dark meat in the top left of the picture; it had been shredded and tasted almost like pulled pork. Each of these items were fantastic on their own, and together it was like a perfect symphony of flavors.

I should note, we were also served biscuits to go with our meal and as usual, The Country Cat nailed them. Love those biscuits.

Both of us, trying not to stuff ourselves too much, barely ate half of our entrees to ensure leftovers and to leave room for dessert. My dessert was an apple-cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream (menu said caramel, but it was definitely just vanilla).

I wasn't sure about the cranberries, but they turned out to be well cooked and not tart at all. Considering it takes much longer to bring a cranberry to the same consistency as a cooked apple that means this crisp wasn't nearly as simple as it seems. The flavors blended nicely, but that caramel ice cream would have added a nice layer of decadence to the dish. Still, really enjoyed it.

Wifey chose the chocolate pecan pie.

We weren't really sure what form the chocolate would take in contrast to a regular pecan pie, but apparently it was mixed in with the normal pecan pie innards, large drops on top of the pie, and then a sauce drizzled over the plate. (This is where I note chocolate pecan pie slices that came out of the kitchen after ours also had whip cream. It wasn't on the menu so I wouldn't think of complaining - not our style - but it's noteworthy.)

Both of the desserts were solid, but not up to the same level as greatness of the rest of the meal. To be honest, were it not included in the set price I'm not sure I would have ordered them - it depends on what the price would be.

Service was generally prompt and not as chaotic as it sometimes can be. Overall we had a great time and a great meal and we'd recommend the Thanksgiving meal to anyone who is interested (you know, next year). Would we go back? Yes, but there are also other places around town who do their own Thanksgiving specials we'd like to try out.


2011 Pacific-12 Football: Week 13

Another weak week for me last Saturday with my picks going only 3-3 to make me 57-26 on the season. Maybe Civil War week will be nicer to me.

There's some interesting dynamics this week. With USC's upset of Oregon, ending their slim nation title game hopes, the Trojans can end UCLA's season with a win this week. A loss by the Bruins (very probable) and the Sun Devils (less likely, but possible as the Devils downward spiral continues) and a win by Utah (also very probable) would send the Utes to the Pac-12 title game as the South Division champion. A UCLA upset and they win the south. If ASU wins and UCLA loses, ASU wins the south.

In the North Oregon takes the division with a Civil War win. If they lose, Stanford plays for the Pac-12 title and a shot at the Rose Bowl.

I think the Beavers will play tough against the Ducks, but the only way they have a chance for an upset is if they make zero turnovers. If they play the Ducks even in that category or if they come up negative, they will get beat. Next year when this freshmen-heavy squad is a year older and the game is at Reser, the Ducks better be ready.

And with that, on to this week's picks! Rankings in parentheses (AP, ESPN). All times Pacific.
(Time - Matchup - Network - Pick)


12:30pm - Colorado at Utah (NR, 35) - ROOT Sports - UTAH
7:15pm - California at Arizona State - ESPN - ARIZONA STATE


12:30pm - Oregon State at Oregon (9, 9) - ABC - OREGON
1pm - Louisiana-Lafayette at Arizona - No TV? - ARIZONA
4:30pm - Washington State at Washington - Versus - WASHINGTON
5pm - Notre Dame (22, 24) at Stanford (4, 5) - ABC - STANFORD
7pm - UCLA at USC (10, NR) - ROOT Sports - USC

Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, Oregon, California, Utah and UCLA are bowl-eligible. USC has enough wins, but is not eligible for the postseason. That will do it for the conference, who won't fill all their bowl obligations, especially when Stanford is chosen for the Fiesta Bowl.

Who do you pick?


Mother Of All Storms

Last summer Wifey and I stopped in Pacific City for a quick bite on our way up the coast and ate on the patio of the Pelican Pub & Brewery. I had never been there before or tried their beer, but after a solid meal and a tasty Kiwanda Cream Ale, I was ready to try some more.

I had heard stories about the Mother of All Storms, a bourbon-barrel aged barleywine released in the fall bringing scores of visitors from the Willamette Valley into this small beach town. The beer only makes it to a select valley locations, and even then that's if the small run doesn't sell out at the brewery itself. And the taste? It's legendary.

So fall came and we wanted to get out of town for a night, and we came across this deal, a combination deal with Pelican and the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, situated right across the street from the brewery. Keep in mind, I've never even tried this beer, but decided what the hell. I mean, who doesn't need an entire case? They even threw in a free T-shirt with the beer's logo (it says 2010, but who am I to quibble?). Plus, if we got to see an actual storm, that would be nice too.

And it was pretty stormy, at least on Friday. The rain was heavy, the clouds dark, and the wind viciously cold.

The next day the sun broke out of the clouds a bit, and as promised a case of 22-ounce bottles and a T-shirt were waiting for me at the front desk. A case!

Yes, of course I opened one when we got home that evening. I mean, how could I not, since we spent the night and drove to the coast and back for it. Plus, I have quite a few of them - might as well get started, right?

This beer has a very nice nose if you are a bourbon fan (I am, as you can see in my comments about Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, Full Sail's Top Sail, and Boulevard's Bourbon Barrel Quad). It pours a very, very dark amber, but isn't nearly as viscous or syrupy as some other beers. As the beer warms in various turns you will get flavors of malt, caramel, vanilla, and oak.

And it should be allowed to warm a bit, for this is a sipper if there ever was one. Why? At the time of bottling this beer is a 13.5% alcohol and as it ages - as it should age well in the bottle if stored correctly - that number will go up. To be real honest, half a bottle of this is plenty. Unless you really don't have any other plans that night, it's best to share with someone or even stick half in the fridge, where it will be fine for a couple days.

All of that adds up to a ringing endorsement from me. I'm glad we went out there and I'm glad I have so many of these, but it probably wasn't necessary. I'd go back next year to pick up a couple bottles on release day, but I don't drink enough beer - and like variety - to justify an entire case. Maybe splitting it with someone.

Either way, if you find yourself driving north from Lincoln City and want to stop for a bite and a beer, Pelican Brewery is the place to go. And, if it's November and you want one of the most exclusive and well-balanced beers in the state of Oregon, pick yourself up a Mother of All Storms. Or a case.


Pizza At Via Tribunali

If you've been coming to this blog for awhile now you know we love pizza. All kinds. American style, northern Italian, New York, Napoletana - anything. And between places like Ken's Artisan, Apizza Scholls, Dove Vivi, Nostrana and Lovely's 50-50 Portland has quite a nice mix of pizza varieties.

But until now Portland did not have a pizzeria with a pizzialo certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. What is that? The short version is they train and certify pizza makers (pizziali) in the making of pizza Napoletana - that is, pizza styled in the history of Napoli (Naples). Why there? Because, it's the best in the world. Anyone who tells you differently simply has not been there to experience it. (Full disclosure: I have. I spent the summer between my junior and senior years at the University of Oregon study at the Universita di Perugia per Stranieri (University of Perugia for Foreigners) and on one weekend trip we took the train all the way down to Napoli where one of my roommates, who had been to Italy before, took us to this tiny whole in the wall pizza place that was simply amazing. I don't know the name, I could never find it again, and I have no idea how it compares to what is considered the best in Napoli, but I will tell you the quality was simply amazing. It's difficult to put into words, to be honest. It's one of those things that when you put it in your mouth you just know you are having a transcendent experience. So yes, I'm a big fan of anyone who gets certified and will never say it's just another certificate. Well, maybe it is - a certificate of being awesome.)

Enter Via Tribunali. Via Tribunali started in Seattle and just a couple weeks back opened their first restaurant outside of Washington with a spot in downtown Portland next door to VooDoo Doughnuts on Second Avenue.

We tried Via Tribunali a while back on a food tour through Belltown in Seattle and really enjoyed it, so when the rumors started up almost two years ago about Portland getting their own outpost, we were of course excited, so on a recent weeknight when we didn't want to cook we checked it out.

First impression? Via Tribunali Portland is dark. Very dark. You walk in off the street and the building is long and narrow, with a bar to the right and booths on the left. At the far end of the bar sits the legendary pizza oven and a few more tables are to the left. In the very back is a stairway that leads up to more tables in a balcony (this is very similar to the setup at Little Bird Bistro and Mucca Osteria, so apparently this style of buildings is common in the older part of downtown Portland).

The tables are lit with candles and are the only thing with which to light the menu. I get the vibe they are going for, but it could be just a tiny bit brighter.

On to the food. We ordered two pizzas (sadly, no pictures since we forgot the camera, but the lack of light would have made it problematic). First was the MARGHERITA (pomodoro, fresh mozzarella, grana padano, olive oil, basil) for $13 (grana padano is a hard cheese, comparable to parmesan, and pomodoro is Italian for tomato, which in this case refers to the sauce).

To be blunt, this is one of the absolute best pizzas we've ever had. It's simple, but perfect. The crust had a nice char, thicker around the edges and thinner, almost soft, in the middle. The sauce also was perfectly seasoned and the cheese was spectacular. We'd get this again in a heartbeat.

Our other pizza was the VIA TRIBUNALI (pomodoro, smoked mozzarella, cherry tomato, ricotta, bufala mozzarella, grana, basil) for $17. This has an interesting presentation. Imagine a normal pizza with toppings. Now, imagine a quarter of it folded to the middle on each side. Then, sprinkle down the middle with bitter greens - that's the Via Tribunali namesake.

Just like with the other, the flavors were were very, very well done. If we had one beef it was with the topping distribution. The sausage and tomatoes didn't make it all over and clumped in spots. Again, the crust was nicely charred and hit the perfect amount of chewiness.

That crust...it's perfect. I told Wifey it transported me straight back to Napoli, it was that good. And really, that's the key to a real Italian pizza - the crust. Toppings are just there for flavor, not as the focus, and at Via Tribunali they take that to heart and execute it very, very well. It's no surprise their pizziali have the Napoletana certification.

Is this our favorite in Portland? Well...who knows, really? I tend to be most excited about whichever I've had last and each one of our favorites (mentioned at the top of the post) has something that is unique about them. This one, I will say, is closest to Italy and brings back those memories of a great two-month stay back in college. I really, really need to return so I can bring Wifey and so we can experience the flavors of Italy together. Until then, Via Tribunali, Nostrana and Mucca Osteria are going to have to be good enough.

We will absolutely be returning and can't wait to go back.

Oh, and one more thing. Keep in mind a key piece of physics if you sit in the balcony as we did: heat rises. And that pizza oven? Super freaking hot. I was wearing a sweatshirt because it was cold outside and by the end of the meal I was sweating. Not good or bad, just something to keep in mind. If you wear something warm, make sure it's a layer and you can take it off. I wasn't comfortable with the shirt under my sweatshirt, so I just suffered.

Have to Mention

If you order a pizza and don't finish it, or take your leftovers to go, they will be boxed in this:

(Photo via Scott's Pizza Tours)

Apparently these boxes are made by a company in Italy and Via Tribunali buys them for their stores. Their logo is nowhere on the box (a sharp departure from any pizza place I'm familiar with), but it definitely is...memorable, isn't it?


Another Visit to Bakery Bar

Wifey and I have a place we really like to hit up for brunch on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It's a small place out on NE Glisan called Bakery Bar, just a block up from Cuban restaurant Pambiche between 29th and 30th. They have a wide array of baked goods, an espresso bar, small and tasty breakfast and lunch plates, make cakes and things for special events, and also serve drinks.

Bakery Bar is in a bright, orange-red building set back from the road with picnic tables and plenty of outdoor seating where one can bring a well-behaved dog (Misaki hasn't been...yet). Service can be a little chaotic. Closer to noon on the weekend there may be a line out the door to sit and eat, though anything can be ordered to go. Inside they have seating for around 35-40 people. (Apparently I wrote about them two years ago...well, they are still yummy.)

We've been enough times now I think I can make some more comments on them. The service is, just about always, not in a hurry. It takes time to be seated, time for a waiter to take your order, time for your food to come, time for boxes and the bill to come, and time for payments to be processed. This is, of course, normal, but at Bakery Bar it's always twice as long as necessary - or more.

So if you are in a hurry and want a quick bite, Bakery Bar is not the place for you. However, if you want to sit back, relax, and enjoy some good conversation because you don't have much planned that day - or nothing planned at all - this is a great place. The atmosphere is lively, the service is friendly, and the food is pretty dang good.

On our last visit I ordered the D-Bear Bowl. I have no idea where the name comes from, but it's their tasty rosemary hash browns topped with sausage gravy, two eggs, and two strips of bacon (optional add-on - of course I said yes). I ordered my eggs over easy (why I'm not sure, since I prefer medium).

All of this together I enjoyed, but by itself some of the elements weren't great. The eggs, for example, didn't have much flavor. Maybe they aren't cage free and the chickens don't enjoy a well-rounded, healthy diet? I have no idea, but they just tasted a tad weak for me. The bacon, also, wasn't anything to write home about, and I would have liked a tad more rosemary in my hash browns (I think they have started using less than they used to). 

But when all of the elements are mixed with the sausage gravy, which is always super damn fantastic...let's just say it's a satisfying meal.

Wifey ordered a special, the eggs Benedict with ham with a side of the rosemary hashbrowns.

This was also a solid dish. The Hollondaise was well done, the eggs cooked well, and their English muffins are always pretty tasty. However, like with my plate it needed a little more...something. Seasoning? Salt and pepper? Not sure.

Also, if you ever go, always order a bourbon caramel latte (which you can add an actual shot of bourbon if you like) - you will never, ever regret that.

We'll go back despite the little things, but I think it's slipped just a bit on our list of places we love in Portland.


2011 Pacific-12 Football: Week 12

Humbling. Last week was my worst I can recall, going just 2-4 to set me at 54-23 on the season. I'm pleased I was wrong about Stanford, but who seriously could have thought Colorado would pick last week to actually show up? And Sun Devils, what the heck is going on?

This week we once again have some nice matchups, highlighted by USC's visit to Eugene. The Ducks cannot afford a letdown.

Here's another storyline for you that will be going down in Corvallis: Is this the beginning of the Nick Montana era for the Washington Huskies? (And yes, Joe is his father.) Montana has played well when given plays and starter Keith Price likely is out this week. Will he get his job back? Or will he fall out of favor like Ryan Katz did for the Beavers, or Jeff Tuel might be after the performance of Connor Halliday at Washington State?

Even the not as good teams have intrigue this time of year.

And with that, on to this week's picks! Rankings in parentheses (AP, ESPN). All times Pacific.
(Time - Matchup - Network - Pick)


12:30pm - Washington (34, NR) at Oregon State - ROOT Sports - WASHINGTON
2pm - Utah (NR, 36t) at Washington State - Fox College Sports Atlantic - UTAH
4:30pm - Colorado at UCLA - Versus - UCLA
5pm - USC (18, NR) at Oregon (4, 4) - ABC - OREGON
6:30pm - Arizona at Arizona State (33, 36t) - No TV? - ARIZONA STATE
7:15pm - California at Stanford (8, 9) - ESPN - STANFORD

Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, Oregon, California and Utah are bowl-eligible. USC has enough wins, but is not eligible for the postseason. UCLA has five wins and at least one of them will become bowl-eligible this week.

Who do you pick?


Dinner at Mirakutei

A couple months back I wrote about a fantastic lunch Wifey and I had at Mirakutei on East Burnside and I commented about how we needed to go back for dinner. So we did.

I won't rehash the history of the place. I'll just say we went for dinner on a Saturday night and did not have to wait at all - it was about half full. This, dear readers, is a travesty.

We started with some tempura - shrimp and broccoli.

Very lightly breaded and cooked just enough so not to be greasy but still be done thoroughly. 

And of course we had to get the gyoza, which were so damn good before. (We wanted the fried rice that we had before, too, but unfortunately it's not on the dinner menu.)

Again, cooked just right with a bit of crunch on the outside and the pork and onion mixture inside still soft. 

We also ordered a sushi roll, one called the crunchy roll, with shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, and a couple other ingredients. It was fantastic. 

Next up was kara-age, or fried chicken. Skinless pieces of chicken breast, lightly fried and a tad salty. Perfect.

Our last item was a special of the night, a slow cooked piece of pork belly. It melted in your mouth, both the meat and the fat layers. The sauce was a little sweet, too, which was a nice complementary flavor. I could eat this every night, though I may die of a heart attack or something.

Conclusion? Mirakutei is fantastic for lunch OR dinner! Seriously, go - it's right there at the top of best Japanese restaurants in Portland (as you can see, we've tried many). Kurata is good, but not quite this good, and Yuza, Wafu, Shigezo and Biwa are in a slightly different category as izakayas. We haven't yet been to Murata or Yakuza, but they are on the short list.

Oh, one more thing: this entire meal was $33. Not bad at all.


Venturing Into Trappist Beer

I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I do like to sample new things and gain appreciation for the most well respected flavors and traditions on the market. And while I still cannot drink a Guinness - it's too harsh for my palate - I have enjoyed the few beers I've had that claim to be traditionally Belgian in influence.

So if I like those, why not check out the giants in the field? That, and the encouragement of friends, led me to decide I needed to try out these Trappist beers.

A few weeks back when I made my pilgrimage to Belmont Station for Pumking they also had this:

What better way to get a feel for a classic Belgian than a sampler pack of Chimay? And hey, free glass - sold.

I started with the Red Cap, pouring into, of course, the new glass.

The red has a very rich, dark orange color with a nice head on it, pouring very smoothly. The nose is mildly sweet with some spiciness. I expected a very rich flavor from the smell and color, but I didn't get that. It wasn't bad, just a little flat, in my opinion (which, I see, doesn't match 1,400+ reviews on Beer Advocate). I also felt the alcohol showed through a tad too much, almost overpowering the flavors of the malt and the spices. It wasn't bad, really, just wasn't the greatest thing ever.

Next up was the Triple, in the bottle with yellow label.

I really liked this one. It had a slightly sweeter, more fuller flavor than the red. I was a tad surprised by that because the color was lighter in the glass (had about the same amount of head). A tiny bit of fruit in the nose. I'd have this one again.

Last up of the Chimay gift pack was the Blue Cap, predictably the one with the blue label.

This was, by far, my favorite of the group. It had a great nose, a little bit fruity and with a nice yeastiness, like rising bread. The Blue pours a rich, dark auburn/orange - almost a mahogany color. Unlike with the other two Chimays, the alcohol is almost non-existent in the flavor in favor of various fruits. Definitely the most balanced of the group.

Overall I would buy the Blue Cap again, I'd drink the Trippel if available and in the mood but I wouldn't seek it out, and the Red Cap I probably wouldn't go back to.

But wait - there's more!

Saying I'm trying Trappist ales and then only trying one brewery seems a little silly, doesn't it?

So I also picked up a Rochefort 8 at the suggestion of friend on Twitter, from the Abbey of St. Remy in Rochefort, Belgium (that link is in French, but if you use Google Chrome as a browser it will handily translate the page for you).

The 8 is the middle offering from Rochefort, and I picked it over the 6 and the 10 (John's Marketplace in Multnomah Village, just outside of Portland, carries all three) because...no reason. Just on a whim. I do intend to try the others at some point.

This beer had a very foamy head on it and poured a very rich amber color. It had only a slightly yeasty smell and little fruit. My suggestion? Let it warm up a bit and the flavors will meld very nicely. Also, don't drink it before having to do some serious writing for the night. It's less than a 12-ounce bottle, but be wary of that 9.2% - it sneaks up on you.

I did really enjoy the Rochefort 8, but of these four Trappist ales Chimay Blue was my favorite, with the 8 a clear second place over the other two Chimays. I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into Trappist ales and will at some point try the other Rocheforts as well the other breweries - Orval, Westmalle, and the like.

I don't know that I'll decide I like these better than my favorite stouts and porters, but they are a nice change of pace and just as enjoyable in their own right.


2011 Pacific-12 Football: Week 11

An upset by the UCLA Bruins last week left me at 4-2 on the week and 52-19 on the season.

This week, if you care about college football at all, you know is the red-letter game in the 2011 Pac-12 season with Oregon visiting Stanford. The winner of that game will (the world is 99% sure) win the Pac-12 North Division and host the conference championship game where they will be heavily favored to earn the conference's automatic BCS berth and perhaps be in the running for the national title game (if it's Stanford, probably not for Oregon). Whew.

I'm not much for detailed breakdowns, but seeing how the Stanford offensive line handles Oregon's fast defense to protect quarterback Andrew Luck should be entertaining. Plus, watching any team try and handle Oregon's offense is always interesting. If you read on you'll see my pick, but I went back and forth a few times before I made it.

Ted Miller, ESPN Pac-12 expert who I have linked to in this space before, has been adamant all season long Stanford would win this game. However, when it came time for him to make his own weekly picks (note his season record compared to mine) this week, he chose Oregon.

In other news, UCLA's upset win over Arizona State apparently has some thinking the Bruins could win the Pac-12 South. Yes, as of today they are in the driver's seat, but it won't happen. They will lose this week to Utah (while ASU will also win) and they are going to lose their final game at USC. Don't get excited Bruins; the Sun Devils will still play the Oregon-Stanford winner in the league championship game.

Oregon State-Cal is another interesting matchup because each week you never know which version of these teams is going to show up. I have little faith in Cal's offense and a lot in Oregon State's defense, which led to my pick.

And with that, on to this week's picks! Rankings in parentheses (AP, ESPN). All times Pacific.
(Time - Matchup - Network - Pick)


11:40am - Arizona at Colorado - Fox College Sports Pacific - ARIZONA
12:45pm - Washington (30, 29) at USC (18, NR) - FX - USC
3:30pm - Oregon State at California - ROOT Sports - OREGON STATE
3:30pm - UCLA at Utah - Fox College Sports Central - UTAH
5pm - Oregon (6, 6) at Stanford (3, 2) - ABC - STANFORD
7:30pm - Arizona State (28, 26) at Washington State - Versus - ARIZONA STATE

Stanford, Washington, Arizona State and Oregon are bowl-eligible. USC has enough wins, but is not eligible for the postseason. California, UCLA and Utah each have five wins and at least one of them will become bowl-eligible this week.

Who do you pick?


Another Brunch at ISK

A while back we had a fantastic brunch at Irving Street Kitchen in Northwest Portland, so last weekend we went back for another round.

I ordered the French toast bread pudding, which came with vanilla whip cream and warm plums.

Not only was it pretty, but it was damn tasty. With the whip cream it might have been a tad on the sweet side, but those plums melted in your mouth.

Wifey ordered the "Smothered Southern" with sunny side eggs, a biscuit, grits and chili creole. Fried chicken was optional and after the waitress assured us it was a breast and not brown meat, she added that as well.

It's a pretty plate, isn't it?

We finished with their butterscotch pudding, which we were told didn't come with cookies for brunch, only at dinner (never mind the visual evidence from our last visit in the link at the top of this post - but yes, it could have changed; on the bill it's listed as a "to go" pudding...hmmm). They did bring us out a molasses cookie, which smelled fantastic but ended up being dry and bland. The taste fell way short of the smell's promises.

The meal was very good, but we have a few beefs.

1) That was not breast meat. Instead, it was a drumstick and a thigh. And yes, this is typical for fried chicken, but that's why we asked the question. There are restaurants around town - Screen Door comes to mind - that use white meat for their fried chicken. If we had simply been told no, it wasn't breast, we wouldn't have ordered it. Considering it was a $7 addition that's noteworthy. We probably should have been wary after the waitress didn't really seem too sure of her confirmation. It would have been easy enough for the waitress to say she didn't know and go ask, and we would have appreciated that extra effort. But she didn't and she didn't know the product. That's not okay.

2) Service in general was fairly slow. I'm not talking about how long it took to get the food, but at the end of the meal when it came time to bring out bill. I don't understand why any restaurant would take so damn long to bring a bill after diners are clearly finished with dessert, and then why it would take so long to process and return the receipt to be signed. It was busier than our last brunch, but the restaurant was far from "busy." Also, I should note she brought the bill without even asking if we wanted dessert, which we did.

3) Packing up the leftovers was a complete failure. In general I prefer to package my own leftovers because then I can pick and choose what I want, but many restaurants do it for you. Normally that's fine, but not for this meal. I finished my food, but Wifey only ate about half of each piece of her meal, and less than half of the chicken. Our waitress took away the plate and brought out a box which seemed small but we didn't really think much of it. After we got home and opened it up, we saw all that was in there was the leftover biscuit and just the thigh piece of chicken (the drumstick was partially eaten). No egg, no grits, and none of the chili creole. Not only did we spend an extra $7 for the chicken that wasn't what we were promised, but half of the leftovers didn't make it in the box.

And yes, my tip was less than I would normally give, but probably higher than was deserved.

Maybe our waitress was new, I don't know, but it left a bad taste in our mouths. We will probably still return at some point because the food really is very good - and we want to check out dinner - but we might be a little less patient if the same issues crop up again.

In the meantime, ISK is doing a take-out menu for Thanksgiving we are thinking about ordering from. At least then we don't have to wonder about service.


Misaki Does Not Love EzyDog

Pet owners are a little crazy, we know that. Still, after some research and hearing some recommendations on Twitter from other Shiba owners, we decided to get Misaki an EzyDog QuickFit harness. Harnesses are suppose to put less strain on the dog's neck than a regular collar and leash, especially if you have a dog with a mind of its own (meaning: a Shiba). 

Other Shibas can't be wrong, right? Check out Tokyo with her harness in San Diego, Prince Zuko wearing his in Yosemite Park, Phineas pimped out on the sidewalk in Jersey, and Kuri hiking in Hawaii. All of them proudly wear their EzyDog harnesses and their owners love them because they are, well, easy to put on and make the dog easier to control.

But ordering wasn't easy. We wanted the pink camouflage, which apparently meant a special order. We could have ordered it ourselves, but a store we stopped by to see if they had the color offered to order it for us. That saved us $5 in shipping so we said sure. They told us 1-2 weeks. Three weeks, a phone call, and an email later, it finally showed up. Rrrr.

Anyway, we brought it home, got it adjusted, and put it on Misaki in the house. She seemed okay with it.

Of course, upon further review, this is the look she gives us when we put anything on her. It's the "I can't believe I let you do this" look. By the way, anytime I see her sitting like this, Paul Wall's Sittin' Sideways pops into my head.

It was rainy that day, so we just took a couple pics and took off the harness. On Sunday it was a beautiful, chilly, clear, fall day, so we got the harness on her and took her outside. At first she didn't want to leave the house, but we didn't think anything of it. We managed to get her off the porch.

And then down a stair, where she didn't want to go any further. This is her "what the eff do you think you are doing to me?" look.

After some cajoling (and tugging) we got her all the front steps.

And there she sat, as annoyed as a dog can be.

We tried a little more cajoling and tugging, but she resisted.

And then she tried eating the leash, which doesn't bother her in the least with her regular collar.

She sat again and refused to look at us. There was no chance in hell she was going for a walk in the harness.

We have read stories about Shibas who refuse to walk on leash, throwing themselves onto the ground and whining, but they were always kind of funny in an "I'm glad that's not me" kind of way. Misaki has always loved loved loved going for walks and she gets excited every time we get out her leash.

But not with the harness. At least she doesn't whine, but that would be beneath her anyway. She'll just huff at us and give us condescending looks until we give in to her desires.

And, of course, we finally did. I took the harness back in the house and exchanged it for her collar, and she proceeded to go for a walk like everything was fine.

I'm obviously a little annoyed, after waiting all that time and dropping $29 on the harness, but what can I do?  I have a theory here. Misaki has never worn a harness of any kind, just a collar. I think she feels completely restricted with having the band of fabric now running behind her front legs. I have no idea what she thinks is going on with it, but she sure doesn't approve. What's funny is her son that we have met, Aizu, also refuses to wear a harness and when his parents make him wear it, he just mopes around.

What I think we are going to try is giving her treats when we put it on and let her wear it in the house, perhaps building up to another attempt at walking on the leash. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears (or eyes I suppose, since this is a blog and all).

Misaki may have won this round, this battle, but we'll break her yet. What? Just ignore that sound of a dog laughing in the background...