Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Seattle Beer 5k

I had the great fortune to get up to Seattle this past weekend to see Sir Paul McCartney play at Safeco Field. Man, can he rock! 3 hours of awesomeness including encores with the remaining members of Nirvana. It was a great concert, and the kickoff to an excellent weekend. 

But really...how does one follow that????

My friends Dennis and Rita offered up an incredible suggestion - join them as they lead the Beer 5k offered through their branch of the company, City Running Tours. It's exactly how it sounds...take a run to see the sights in the city, and top it off with a frosty brew. Exercise and beer? Count me in. 

The Beer 5k starts and ends at the Fremont Brewery (I will get to that later), and treks around the fun and funky neighborhood of Fremont. The tour takes runners along a relatively easy run (a couple of short and satisfying hills at the start) to see the artwork, Gasworks Park, and along the Burke-Gilman trail. We shook hands with Lenin, used our bodies as sundials, and even climbed on dinosaurs and trolls. Dennis and Rita were awesome guides (bias aside, of course), and filled the tour with photo ops and silly jokes. It was a great way to see a part of Seattle that I love, and learn something new around every corner.

We wrapped up, as I said, at the Fremont Brewery. I enjoyed the open-air feel of the space and the outdoor seating. The brewery was even dog-friendly, and I got to pet ALL THE DOGS!!!! I tried the Randall IPA. Unlike the intensely hoppy IPAs I usually find in the Northwest, this was balanced with hops and citrus. Lemon-y with a ginger nip, this was a great beer to sip while chatting with the other runners. 

Thanks Dennis and Rita!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Portland's Miracle Mile

On my last visit to Portland, Rick and I decided to hit up Southeast for an evening.  In doing so, we found what I now deem Portland's Miracle Mile. Portland, Oregon, that is.

Beer.  Wings.  Cocktails...with house made gin.  Orgasmic Southeast Asian cuisine.  Pie.  Ice Cream if you want it.  More pie.  And, two hot guys out on the town.  Portland style.

What the heck more could you ask for?

So perhaps I exaggerate a little, but the stretch of SE Division Street between SE 32nd and SE 35th was a pretty awesome place to spend a Friday night.

The evening started at The Hedge House, one of Lompoc Brewing's community brewpubs.  I'd never had Lompoc so I was excited to check it out.  A perfect sunny afternoon, we arrived with every intention of sitting on the patio, drinking some beer, and having some pub-food for dinner. Patio seating was full, but fortunately they have a really cool porch that is also available for beer-consuming pleasure. That hit the spot and added a layer of depth to our SE neighborhood experience. As I was sipping on my quite delicious Lompoc Specialty Draft (LSD) and it's 6.9% ABV splendor, I had a realization.

We were a block away from Pok Pok! Not to sound all Portland trendy hipstery, but I'm going to anyway...Pok Pok is one of my favorite Portland eateries. Specializing in authentic street food of Southeast Asia, we found Pok Pok *before* they were named one of the 20 Most Important Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit, or before chef/owner Andy Ricker won the 2011 James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest.

To Pok Pok for dinner, but there's always a line so the pro tip of the day is to get your name on the list and head across the street to one of Ricker's other joints, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, to await your table and drink fantastic coktails. House infused Kaffir Lime gin and tonics help pass the time for us, and an order of Pok Pok's famous Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings will get you prepped to head back across the street for dinner. Spicy, of course.

Back at Pok Pok, you can't go wrong with the menu selections. Rick and I had a spicy Isaan flank steak salad and a Chaing Mai sausage with herbs. Fantastic. They also make cocktails that will leave your loins yearning for more.

So if all of that wasn't enough, on the way back to the car is Lauretta Jean's hand made pie shop, right next to the Hedge House. Offering a variety of house made seasonal pies, you can choose as to whether you're feeling creamy or fruity and dive in from there. I tried the coconut cream pie and loved it. They also feature booze and Stumptown coffee.

If pie isn't whetting your whistle, Salt & Straw just opened a store across the street from Lauretta Jean's. It's about the best ice cream you'll ever have, although I don't often have the tolerance to wait in line.

So there's a perfect evening in Portland, all in the stretch of a mile on NE Division Street.

Actually, it's more like 0.1 miles if you're counting.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I like Big...Bottom Whiskey

Nestled deliciously in a office park in the fifth-largest city in Oregon, Big Bottom Whiskey is a delightful treat in the town of Hillsboro.

An area once inhabitated by the Atfalati tribe of the Kalapuya for thousands of years, in recent times Hillsboro has been more recently known as the center of Oregon's silicone forest with companies such as Intel, Yahoo!, and a variety of semiconductor companies calling it home.

What does this have to do with whiskey?  Absolutely nothing other than making the point that there really isn't much going on in Hillsboro, other than Big Bottom that is.  Oh, and a marginal semi-pro baseball team called the Hillsboro Hops.

It really is in an non-descript office park.

I first heard of Big Bottom over a year ago when they picked up a gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  I recall thinking to myself, "Whiskey?  Finished in a Port Cask?  Two of my favorite things!"

So what is this Big Bottom thing all about?  According to the distillery:
Big Bottom Whiskey Founder and Vice President of the Oregon Distiller’s Guild, Ted Pappas, started the company in 2010. As a 1991 graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, all of Pappas’ whiskeys are proofed at 91° as a tribute to his classmates.

Not only does Big Bottom Whiskey offer a 36% rye American straight bourbon, Ted also focuses on producing specialty finished bourbons such as the multiple awards winning, Port Cask Finished Bourbon.
The Big Bottom name comes from an old growth forest located in Clackamas County, Oregon, as reprinted on the labels.

Upon visiting the tasting room recently, Rick and I found 5 selections available for sample:
  • American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 111 Proof American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Port Cask Finish
  • Wild Bill Batch #2, finished in Tawny Port Casks
  • Single Barrel Cask Strength American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
As you can probably tell, this isn't your daddy's whiskey.
I tasted everything except the 111 Proof, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.  The Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a solid everyday drinking bourbon; the port cask finishes were quite unique as specialty spirits; and the Single Barrel was the star of the show.

Unfortunately for me, the Single Barrel sold out while we were in the tasting room so I wasn't able to snag a bottle.  I took home the Straight Bourbon Whiskey at a quite reasonable price of less than $30.

While a bit disappointed they didn't have any of their Zinfandel cask aged bourbon left, I was overall very pleased with our tasting experience and would definitely encourage you to visit next time you are passing through Hillsboro.

It's even worth a trip just to Hillsboro next time you're in Portland.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#WineWednesday: The California Invasion

As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

The last couple of posts and twitter messages I have talked about an upcoming trip to Oregon for a family reunion. Katie and I will be spending a week in the small coastal town of Yachats, Oregon spending time with family from all over California, Oregon, and as far away as Tennessee. It is going to be a great week and there will hopefully be a little time to get away to the Willamette Valley and enjoy some Oregon vino.

If you are like me, I tend to be asked quite often to be the person that picks out the wine for dinner, orders something off the wine list, or like this week, supply the wine for family events. While our family in Oregon is bringing several bottles from the Beaver State, we have been asked to introduce folks to California wine. As such, we are bringing up 7 bottles from our neck of the woods. As California gets ready to invade Oregon, I thought I would share my selections for the week.

2011 Colagrossi Duetto – a 100% Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Perhaps a risky choice as Oregonians sure do love their Pinot but the Russian River Valley is the place to get it in California.

2008 Quivira Vineyards Petit Sirah – 100% Petit Sirah and introduced for the family members who need their full bodied wines...I’m lookin’ at you, Mike Boyle!

2007 Wesley Ashley Wines Cuvee – A blend of Carignan (51.5%), Grenache (15%), Cinsault (14%), Petit Sirah (11%), Mourvedre (4.5%), and Pinot Noir (4%). An easy drinking red blend with a lot of varieties that most of the family will have never heard of...time to introduce them to something new.

2010 Frick Winery Viognier – A beautiful expression of this grape out of Dry Creek Valley. We’ll be on the coast but it will still be a little warm so a crisp white may be in order.

2011 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc – Continuing on the trend of introducing them to something new I am choosing one of my favorite wines right now and from a winemaker that helped to “shepherd my palate” into Rhone wines. I have also had the pleasure of working most of his bottling lines and my family loves a good story.

2009 Domaine Carneros Vermeil Demi-Sec – It is a holiday weekend so you have to bring bubbles. This vintage is not as sweet has previous ones and so is much more drinkable, in my opinion.
And finally,

2009 Domaine Carneros Brut – Such a wonderful “weekday” sparkling wine that is great on any occasion, or no occasion at all. Oh yeah, we’re bringing it in a magnum bottle. Bigger is better.

You may be noticing a couple trends in our selections. First there are several Rhone wines. Simply put, that is what Katie and I are drinking a lot of right now and thus what we have in the cellar. Second, there are several small producers (Frick, Colagrossi, Wesley Ashley, and Two Shepherds). This is also really intentional. Family can buy Clos du Bois or Coppola anywhere, but with this I get to introduce them to some really incredible winemakers that I have been fortunate enough to work with and have written about. Our family loves the story behind the wines and some of these wines, I helped to bottle. Introducing them to these producers is one more way to continue to support the smaller winemakers who are in it for the passion of making wine.

And with that, California invades Oregon. Next week’s post will come from the shores of Yachats, OR.

Until next week,