April 30, 2007

Hiking Near Forest Park (Terwilliger Blvd)

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Tonight I masqueraded as a nature lover and a hiker. Kristin and I hiked up on Terwilliger Blvd, the Council Crest trail. It was beautiful.

My little camera phone doesn't really do it justice, but trust me, it's a good-looking forest. Also, some good looking medical students frequent the trail, running mega-macho paces up the windy, hilly dirt path. An added benefit.

April 28, 2007

Spring! (Portland) Yes, it's true!

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My crankiness on Friday night was wiped out by the beautiful sunny weather and warmth that hit Portland on Saturday. I sat on the railing of my porch and watched the sailboats, my feet hanging down into the bushes, which are now blooming with pretty red flowers (not sure what kind they are, but they are nice!) Portland is beautiful, especially when it makes the effort to be happy and sunny! I am looking forward to a busy week including: working a lot, Happy Hour on Wednesday, possibly a concert later on Wednesday night, First Thursday in the Pearl District and the Cinco de Mayo Festival on the waterfront on Saturday. It will still be spring if it rains, but my steps will be so much more springy if it doesn't.

April 27, 2007

Berbati's Pan (231 SW Ankeny)

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Willamette Week printed their Best New Band 2007 list last week and held a free concert at Berbati's Pan on Friday. The lineup was Laura Gibson, Horse Feathers and Shaky Hands. Free concert is hard to turn down.

The thing about Fridays is that after a long week of work, I want to either sit and talk a lot - get everything out of my head and into the air, or I want to dance it out, or listen to loud music to force it out of my head. That's just me. Fridays are about expending all the energy that has been pushed aside in my head all week.

We got to Berbati's right at 9. The concert was to start at 9:30. It was not too crowded, but it was already hot. There is virtually no ventilation. As more people crammed in and started smoking, the more uncomfortable I got. Then Laura Gibson took the stage.

She had short hair, in a bob, curled under and clipped away from her face with a baby barette. She was wearing a powder blue dress with slightly puffy almost cap sleeves. The dress came down just to her knees, just above her brown leatherish boots. She hesitantly took a hold of the microphone and said "Hi." Almost like a little girl who was going to kindergarten for the first time and who was just introducing herself to her teacher. She giggled and tucked her hair behind her ear.

Then she started singing. I think. I'm not quite sure because I couldn't really hear her. The loudness of the crowd was beating her up quite well and she was not putting up a very good fight. The applause after her first song could barely be heard above the noisy audience talking to their friends about their week, which is what I really wanted to be doing, but I was with my sister, who loves this type of thing, so I was playing along.

Laura Gibson never got any louder. I'm not sure if I like her music because I couldn't really hear it. She was dressed like a little girl, talked like a little girl and sang like a little girl. Her shyness and humility was annoying. I mean, come on - she was just voted one of the best new bands in Portland and she gets up there and hems and haws around, as if she is afraid that she was going to get in trouble. "I'd like to dedicate this next song to Amy at Willamette Week, who grew up in a small town. And also to [someone else] who also grew up in a small town. And also to any of you who grew up in a small town. Or any town. Anywhere." Giggle. Giggle. Hesitation. Quiet, mumbling song that sounds sad, from what I can tell, but have no idea what the hell it was all about.

To be fair, she might be an amazing artist, given the right venue. Maybe Mississippi Studios? Or Pix Patisserie (I heard that she played a great show there once). But for heaven's sake, don't feed her to a getting-drunk crowd in a hot and smoky venue on a Friday night. That's just not fair.

I left after five or six songs because it was blazing hot and smoky and the din of the noisy crowd competing with a I-don't-have-the-confidence-to-sing-louder-than-people-are-talking singer was way too annoying for me. I went home and watched Lifetime. It was seriously much better than the concert.

Berlin Inn (3131 SE 12th Ave)

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Friday. Worked all week. Need some good food. Sister wants to check out Berlin Inn. Looks like a house. They have a patio. We sit down at the patio. They have nasty, dingy white plastic patio furniture with super ugly tablecloths. We order Garlic and Gouda Fondue with bread, sausage and apples and some Porta Sticks (strips of portabello mushrooms breaded, grilled and served with red pepper sauce, as well as dill creme fraiche).

They serve us water in dingy plastic I-got-them-for-cheap-from-an-estate-sale glasses and the water tastes just like the glasses. The waitress does a trick for the neighboring table by doing some kind of swirly flippy thing with her hand while still holding onto the empty serving tray. Tricky!

We get our food, which, as it turns out, is quite good. The fondue is tasty, thick and cheesy - better than The Rheinlander, I would say. The bread from Grand Central Bakery is fresh and the sausage and apples are good as well. The Porta Sticks are excellent, though the sauces are quite flavorless. We have to ask for silverware. "I thought it was finger food, but okay." The waitress is defensive about her decision to not give us silverware. This is amusing.

Please Berlin Inn, consult a designer about your patio. It is ugly. And tell your waitress that you should always give your guests silverware. In the event that they have a phobia about eating with their hands or something. At least give them the option. Geesh. But keep up the good work with the food thing - you've got a good thing going there.

**Note: Berlin Inn is considered a dog-friendly restaurant. They even have a menu for dogs. Seriously. If you love your dog a lot, you should take him to Berlin Inn and have a date night. Just the two of you. Bark. Bark.

April 26, 2007

South Park (901 SW Salmon St.)

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Birthday celebration on Friday the 20th. South Park. Friends, free dessert and one big fat bill. It was a fun night.

The almond-stuffed dates wrapped in jamon serrano were just as good this time as the time before. Rich ordered oysters and I almost had one, then decided I didn't want to remember my birthday as one where I was fighting my super strong gag reflex at the dinner table and losing to a soft stomach. No oysters for me.

The waitress with an exotic accent (French?) was patient with us as our group trickled in one by one. Twelve all together. My friend Tina's daughter Juniper brought me a homemade paper vase with freshly picked flowers. That doesn't happen very often! Thanks, Juni!

My dinner of pork loin with gnocchietti was slowly enjoyed. The pork was perfectly cooked, moist and with juices still flowing. The sweet fruit compote that topped it was the perfect complement to savory pork and the crispy gnocchietti. For dessert I had Rich Chocolate Brandy Mousse Semi-Sweet Chocolate Served with Pistachio Vacherin with Cherry Yogurt Gelato . It looked amazing and shocker, it tasted amazing. And the waitress overheard that it was my birthday, so my dessert was complimentary. Very nice.

South Park has good atmosphere and amazing food. It's maybe a little expensive for a large group. Some of us left early, and we didn't realize until later when we paid the bill that someone didn't put their money in. Not sure who, but it was probably just an oversight. Awkward! Several of my friends pitched in to cover the diff. Thanks, guys!

The dinner was a great end to a great day. I turned 34! I couldn't drag anyone dancing with me and I was secretly relieved because I was tired. I hope it's not a sign of old age.

**Note: There is a cool article about the chef of South Park, Broc Willis, in the current issue (volume 12) of Portrait of Portland magazine. The article even includes a few recipes from the gourmet restaurant.

April 23, 2007

Lloyd Center Cinemas (1510 NE Multnomah Street)

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Last Saturday I was in the mood to see a movie. I had a choice. I was out at my parents' house in West Linn. I could stop by Bridgeport Village in Lake Oswego to catch a flick at their super-new, super-swanky Regal Cinemas. (The faux balcony in the lobby is particularly ugly and pretentious and hilarious at the same time, sort of like the huge statue of battling stallions that stands at the gates of an especially wealthy neighborhood in West Linn, where some of the Portland Trail Blazers are rumored to reside.) Bridgeport Village is clean, comfortable, but awfully rich-soccer-mom-y-with-super-coordinated-sweatsuits-and-sneakers-and-A-line-haircuts. For that, I was not in the mood.

I needed someplace where I could put my feet up, sit by myself and not be bothered or feel stared at. Exactly. I went to the Lloyd Center Cinemas in Northeast Portland. Not the greatest part of town. Not the worst part of town. Yes, there are multiple security guards at the theater. Yes, the floors are kind of sticky and I often feel like showering after attending a movie at this theater. But on a lazy Saturday, when my hair has been rained on just a little too much and my mascara is just a little too smeared and worn off and maybe I just discovered that I have been walking around with a big spot on my shirt all day and I want to check out a movie (Hot Fuzz) that no one else I know would want to see, this is the place to go.

When I walked in, the theater was full, with seats available sporadically until I reached the front two rows, where they were almost all empty. In the front row, a guy was laying down over about 2 or 3 seats, feet up and everything. I sat right behind him. During the movie, I could hear his contagious belly laugh (he was laying down the whole time) and it made me laugh even more. After it was over, he stood up to put on his coat and started talking, apparently to me, since there was no one else around us. "That was freaking hilarious. When they came on with all their British accents and everything I was like 'oh man!' but then it was freaking hilarious!" That it was. And so was he.

Watching a movie alone in such good company is totally worth the sticky floors and minor threat of violence. Hot Fuzz is really funny. But you should be a little sleep deprived and not feeling snobby about movies when you watch it. Maybe you should even stretch out over a few theater seats.

Heartsong Massage (Lake Oswego)

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In 2000, I was hired by a company that gave all of their employees free monthly massages. At that time in my life, I had never had a massage and the idea of it kind of freaked me out. But over the years, I came to adore, need and crave massages on a regular basis. Now, when I don't have a massage for more than 4 weeks, my muscles cramp up in my shoulders and I start getting headaches.

The best thing about going to see Lisa Still at Heartsong Massage every month for 7 years, is that we became really good friends. I think she knows all my secrets. When I am laying on a table covered only by a sheet, I find it hard to keep confidential things confidential and personal things personal because, well, there I am. At first it was nervous talking, the oh-my-gosh-I'm-naked-in-front-of-a-stranger talking. Then we really became friends. We've lusted after rock stars together, I've listened to her band play, we've laughed until we've fallen on the floor and cried when sad things happen.

The thing is, though - she is friends with all of her clients. Often when I get there early for my appointment I can hear her melodic laugh through the door and then watch her hug the person, and genuinely tell them to take care as they leave. Friendships with massage therapists are not for everyone. If you like to have a massage in silence, with new age music whimpering in the background, you can get that at any spa and Lisa will oblige if that's what you want. But you'd be missing out on knowing a really good person and a great friend.

April 19, 2007

Portland is Delicious Destination of the Year!

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According to the Food Network Awards, Portland is the best "rising city with a fast growing food scene". We already knew that Portland has a culinarily diverse foodie community, but thanks, Food Network for giving us National props! Sadly, Tom Potter could not make it to the awards to accept the great honor. I know that the 8 or 9 people who watched this award show are now aware of Portland's possibilities and could increase tourism by, say 8 or 9 people this summer.

Anthony Bourdain, of Kitchen Confidential fame, wrote a hilarious blog entry about the awards.

However strange the awards are (Best Food Combo: Burger and Fries, Best Professional Grade Appliance: Microwave, need I go on?? How exactly do you award a burger and fries for being a burger and fries?), Portland is Delicious!

April 6, 2007

Meriwether's (2601 NW Vaughn St.)

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I read this article today in Willamette Week and so when Kristin mentioned that she wanted to go to Meriwether's for dinner, I was intrigued. I had never eaten at a newly burned (not down) restaurant. "Do you have a reservation?" The host looked a little afraid of our answer. No, we told him. "Okay, okay, let's see - we might be able to put you at the bar, but there is a two hour wait for the patio. It wouldn't normally be this way, but we had a fire the other night and the dining room is completely closed, and we already had, like, a hundred existing reservations." We said the bar would be fine and took a seat.

The bartender was a sprightly young woman, with grapefruit-pink cheeks and a bright smile. She seemed genuinely happy to be there. I asked her if she could suggest some kind of a special non-alcoholic drink. She said in a slightly conspiratorial voice, "How about a basil lemonade?" Wow. I wasn't sure if that would be good or not, but it did sound exotic. Okay. I bought it. Then we ordered asparagus on buttery brioche with hollandaise sauce for an appetizer. Butter + asparagus + hollandaise + bread = heaven.

I ordered the goat cheese ravioli with stinging nettle butter. I really wanted to taste the stinging nettles. Kristin ordered a burger with bleu cheese. In the meantime, our bartender went to work on our basil lemonades. She plucked a few leaves off of a basil stem, added some ice and what I think was sugar water, then some fresh squeezed lemon juice. She pummeled the basil into the ice, shook it and then gave it a little stir. It was a deep lemonade. Solid complementary flavor, something to save to drink with dinner.

We waited about 45 minutes for our dinner, which was a little too long. And when I got mine, the bartender told me to enjoy my chicken liver ravioli, which was not what I ordered. However, at this point, I didn't want to wait another 45 minutes to get stinging nettles. The chicken liver ravioli was sauced in some type of basalmic buttery concoction and buttery basalmic concoctions are always okay with me. It was rich and light and perfect. And liver? No, I wouldn't have ordered liver on purpose, but it was fortuitously lovely. It was a satisfying meal.

We finished up and the bartender gave us our check. "This has been my favorite first day," she said as she took our cards. Her hair was starting to fall out of the little buns she had twisted at the back of her neck and she was a bit flustered, but smiling all the same. Since it was her first day, I can forgive the wrong ravioli. And, the basil lemonades were her treat. Who can be mad at that?

Meriwether's on Urbanspoon

April 1, 2007

Three Lions Bakery (1323 NW 23rd)

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So after the long walk/run on Saturday morning with Portland Fit, we decided to hit Three Lions Bakery for breakfast. I actually wasn't that hungry, but the attractive smell tickled my nose as soon as I got out of the car. The place was filled with people, (NW 23rd on a Saturday morning, of course!) and their display case looked yummy. I ordered an Oatmeal Raisin Scone, because it looked just like the ones my mom used to make when we were kids. It was buttery, crumbly and delicious. Just like the first one I ever tasted.

My friend got a breakfast sandwich on a croissant that looked great, along with some fresh fruit. The service was good, and it's a comfortable place to fill up on carbs after a good workout. Three Lions Bakery has five other locations. You should definitely check them out.

Portland Fit (NW 21st and Raleigh)

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Three years in a row I have joined Portland Fit, the Portland Marathon training program. The first year, I made it to the 7 mile mark. The second and third years, I made it to the Helvetia Half-Marathon and walked 13.1 miles. This year, I'm going to try to make it to 15 miles. Portland Fit costs roughly $100 for six months of training, seminars, free massages after the long walks and a free entree at The Old Spaghetti Factory, which frankly they should pay me to eat. It's a pretty good deal, all in all. The best part of the first three years was that on the first week, everyone walked or ran 3 miles and there were assistant coaches all along the route, cheering, clapping and encouraging me all along the way. Just having people cheer you on is well worth the $100.

This year, there were no assistant coaches cheering us on during the first week walk until the very end. That left me a little wanting. But there were really interesting conversations as I walked. A woman talking about getting the gene test for breast cancer and trying to decide if she should get a radical mastectomy and hysterectomy. Someone else discussing their problems at work. Relationship problems. I don't really like to talk to anyone that early on a Saturday morning, but I do like to listen. I keep my iPod loud enough to sing along, but soft enough to still hear people talking. That's the real entertainment.

Portland Fit is for all fitness levels, walkers and runners. There is no looking down on anyone. The coaches are encouraging and enthusiastic. The seminars are helpful and informative. Plus there's just something cool about taking a walk with a few hundred people early on a Saturday morning, across the bridges, on the waterfront, in the rain or sun - It's almost like you have your own real network, just like on those Verizon commercials. "We're almost there!" "Keep up the good work!" "How you feeling?" "Getting enough water?" Participants encourage each other. The runners don't care that there are walkers on the route. Walkers don't care that there are runners on the route. We're all part of the same team.

I am looking forward to the half marathon again this year. It's a super hilly route and everyone is super impressed when I tell them that I walked Helvetia. I don't tell the super-impressed people how many cuss words go through my head as I am forcing my feet to move during the last 2 miles. I'm always near the very end of all the runners and walkers and by the time I cross the finish line, most of the runners and walkers have been resting in the beer garden for a couple of hours and are really enthusiastic about pretty much anything, so I get the loudest cheer of all. Totally worth it.

The motto of Portland Fit is "Change Your Life". I love that. Five years ago, I never would have considered joining or walking a half marathon. But now I love it and want to tackle it each year. The first year, I needed oxygen right after I finished. The second year, I was a little slower but felt much better and didn't need oxygen. This year, I'm going to finish at least one minute faster and train on all the days that I'm supposed to. That's how I'm changing my life this time.