Thursday, February 28, 2013

Grand Central Bowling

Growing up in Portland, Grand Central Bowling was a godsend. Open 24 hours close-in on the SE side of town, I spent many hours of my highschool life chucking 4 pound balls like a shot-putter into the dark lanes during cosmic bowl nights. In 2008 the Concept Entertainment Group purchased the aging bowling alley and spent 2 years and $14 Million renovating this Portland institution into a swanky bowling alley for adults. With the renovation came hefty bowling costs ($48-$30 an hour) versus the $1 per game I was used to as a kid. But there are bargains to be had (late night Mondays - Thursdays are only $3 a game and an early bird special Saturday and Sunday). The food/bar menu has changed and now there is a fancy lounge with billiards on the balcony deck. So when my company held their annual winter party there I was completely psyched to relive my youth and check out the fancy digs that was recently ranked by MSN as one of the top 10 bowling alleys in the country! And yes, it is pretty damn swanky, but really adorable at the same time. I'd call Grand Central a boutique bowling alley if there ever was one. Either way we had a blast and definitely something Portlanders should do during the dreary winter months, it's just good old fashion fun with sliders even!

Grand Central BowlingLet's Go BowlingMike BowlingThe LanesBowling ShoesBowling LanesBowling Alley Sliders

Grand Central Bowling
SE 8th & Morrison Street

Monday, February 25, 2013

Little Bird Bistro Birthday Dinner

Portland doesn't have many "celebrity chef" restaurants. The only one that really comes to mind is Chef Vitaly Paley, winner of the 2005 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Northwest and 2011 Iron Chef America winner against Chef Jose Garces. However, that doesn't mean there isn't world class cuisine to be had in our fair city, cue: Little Bird Bistro

When Mr. Extravagance himself decided to have his birthday dinner at the upscale French Bistro we were anxious to see how beloved chef Gabriel Rucker's more bargain-oriented bistro would fair. Last year we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at Little Bird's sister restaurant Le Pigeon and was left a bit put off by the extreme flavor profiles of the highly regarded French Restaurant. Over the last year we had heard time and time again Little Bird was preferred to the over-the-top-palate of Le Pigeon, so we were excited to check out what all the hype was about and we are happy to report Little Bird was superb. Little Bird = Happy Belly!

Little Bird Bistro

Little Bird's interior reminded me so much of the cafes and bistros I visited in Paris many years ago with a long narrow dining room planked on one side by large mirrors affixed with planters and light sconces tacked directly into the mirrors, the frosted room dividers (much like the divider Amelie was writing the daily specials on when she turns into a puddle of tears after she is unable to talk to her true love), the light teal toned walls, red leather booths and tin tiled ceiling are completely French inspired. 

Little BirdTin Tiled Ceiling

We started with classic French cocktails with fancy European liquors like Chartreuse, Benedictine, Aveze and Verjus.


Seems as if we weren't the only ones anxious to try Little Bird because everyone had already checked out the menu online before arriving and already knew what they wanted for dinner before the delicious bread and salted cold butter hit the table. What a difference superior basics like butter and salt can do to elevate a simple plate of complimentary bread before our appetizers arrived. We asked for more bread and delicious butter several more times throughout the dinner. 

Superior Bread & Salted Butter

Soon the Charcuterie Board ($25) arrived. The charcuterie board was one of the best we have ever had. The portions at first seemed small for all of us to share, but was loaded with incredible precision and superior execution. This was a serious snack plate I would gladly splurge on time and time again!

Charcuterie Board

The pickled items included sweet bread and butter pickles, pickled apples with mustard seeds and a pickled quails egg. These were delicate and cleansed the palate beautifully between bites of the other Charcuterie Board's items.

Close Up of pickled items

The chicken liver mousse on a bed of pickled onions was the best bite on the board. Creamy, grainy and just all around satisfying, we asked for a second serving of the delicious bread to happily spread the mousse on.

Chicken Liver Mousse & Pickled Onions

Other Charcuterie Board items included a pork cheek potato croquette which was insanely delicate, perfectly swiney and deliciously creamy. The fois gras brulee was whipped with butter and covered in a sweet apple butter topped with a crostini used to spread the decadent concoction. Also included was house-fried chicarones or pork rind, a chopped lamb spread and the most delectable coppa ham we have ever had. I can say with confidence that this Charcuterie Board was adored by all, especially since it was nearly impossible to get a photograph once spreading knives and toast points were in play.

Charcuterie Board Pickled Items

The other appetizer we shared with the octopus terraine ($15). This dishes wasn't loved as much as the Charcuterie Board. A bit too smokey and fishy, served cold didn't help the flavor much either, but the rouille, fennel and orange salad was a great cleanser and a bit of earthy flavors to combat the octopus.

Octopus Terraine

Then came the entrees. The Choucroute Garnie: smoked pork loin, pork belly, garlic pork sausage with grilled weisswurst ($26) was a dish inspired by the eastern France region that is close to Germany. You could completely see the influence. This hefty plate contained the most moist piece of pork loin we had ever had, as if it was steamed before hitting the grill just to give it the char marks. Very memorable.

Choucroute Garnie - pork 3 ways

The Pan-Fried Trout with gribiche, fine herbs and radishes ($22) was impressively de-boned, a squirt of the grilled lemon, a lift of the fillet and enjoy the smokey trout meat. Also a really good dish, there's just something about fish and radishes that just can't be beat.

Pan Fried Trout

Both Little Bird and Le Pigeon are well known for their burger (which was on the menu this evening) but I opted for the Braised and Grilled Beef Tri-Tip ($28). Tasting like a slice of beef jerky that had been reconstituted in rich beef broth, this dish initially tasted a bit too salty (an issue we had with Le Pigeon) but soon we realized it's just because it's so dang beefy and utterly delicious. Served with potato puree, smoked cipollinis and roasted maitake. I could eat the maitake and cipollinis in the broth alone as a chunky soup. Delicious. But we will be back for that famous burger - oh yes we will.

Braised & Grill Tri-Tip

And finally the piece de resistance was the famous Little Bird Duck Confit ($27). When Mike goes to a new restaurant, he will single out the one dish he wouldn't, couldn't or had no idea the dish even existed. This unbelievably tender duck leg on a bed of lentils and garlic-scallion pistou was awe-inspiring (as in Mike googled to see whether there was a way to make confit easily at home). When this plate was done the only thing left was a bit of the duck leg. The duck skin was insane, how they managed to make it both crisp and melt in your mouth fatty is a wonder.

Duck Confit

We ended our dinner with a birthday dessert of Banana Mousseline, cocoa nibs dacquoise and walnut coulis ($8) and a Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee with poppy seed sable and vanilla bean whipped cream ($8). The Banana Mousseline was insane! Packed full of creamy banana flavor coupled with the walnut coulis this dessert completely hit the spot after the high profile flavors of our dinner. The Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee was a bit of a disappointment. Lemon and creme can be a miss, but the somewhat soft texture and bland poppy seed sable didn't help much, but the vanilla bean stiffly whipped cream almost made up for the unexciting dessert.

Banana Mousse CakeMeyer Lemon Creme Brulee

We love birthday dinners, it gives us reason to splurge on a meal we might not typically think of. European cuisine isn't high on our list of favorite types of food and rarely do we utter the words "I'm craving something French for dinner tonight" but after this delicious meal we're already plotting when we will attack that highly praised burger.

All Finished

Little Bird Bistro
219 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, Oregon

Friday, February 22, 2013

PaaDee Thai Comfort Food

Portlanders are completely spoiled. On any given night you can indulge in anything your belly & heart desires. So on a spring-like Friday night in February, we made plans to meet up with fellow-Portlander (ie knowledgeable in the local dining scene) for happy hour or dinner. After texting for nearly an hour trying to decided on what each of us may be craving or if we should try someplace new or go to a good stand-by (by stand-by we also mean no waiting for a table on a Friday). After suggestions for Italian, Tex-Mex and Soul food we decided to try a new Thai Restaurant none of us had been to yet and because we're still on the hunt for good Thai food in Portland.

After checking out the online menu and reading good local press for PaaDee Thai Comfort Food Restaurant, we decided to give it a shot. Located in a new multi-use apartment complex in the hip & happening neighborhood around East Burnside & 28th Avenue, PaaDee's modern exterior was inviting. When we arrived for happy hour (5-6:30pm) the sun had just set and the neighborhood was jumping with people everywhere.

We arrived with 15 minutes left to happy hour and ordered 1 of everything on the happy hour menu except for 2 dishes. We also ordered three of their specialty cocktails, one with rum, one with shoju and one with bourbon, and all three were terrific. Happy hour was off to a great start. Then the food started flying at us.

First was the skewers - squid and chicken. The squid skewer was fantastic - charred to perfection, tender and served with a chili lime sauce, a total bargain for $2 a skewer. The chicken was equally as good with a great smokey grilled charred flavor that matched well with the sweet sticky sauce.

SkewersGrilled Squid SkewerGrilled Chicken Skewer

We couldn't resist the house-made fish cakes. Deep-fried instead of often times steamed, these fish cakes were lemongrassy and the chunky cucumber relish made them irresistible.

Fish Cakes

Next came the noodle dishes. The Pad Kee Mao was a favorite for the night. Spicy with a slight wok-charred flavor which makes these noodles go above and beyond typical stir fried noodle dishes. The fresh peppers and basil added slight flavor to this well executed noodle dish.

Pad Kee Mao

The other noodle dish listed on the happy hour menu was an egg noodle soup with BBQ pork reminiscent of Chinese BBQ pork noodle soup. Also delicious, the lo mein noodles were chewy and toothsome and the broth was a light and refreshing, a total hit.

BBQ Pork & Egg Noodle Soup

We had to try the shrimp tom yum soup, this would be our gauge for authenticity. The soup base wasn't anything spectacular, but it was very good. Tart and slightly spicy the true winning element was the 3 enormous shrimps that came with the soup. We happily shared this bowl.

Shrimp Tom Yum Goong Nanh Kon

The last item to arrive was the Sriracha fish sauce glazed chicken wings. The coating was typical of this style of Asian chicken wings and beautifully fried, but the meat under the coating was bland.

Sriracha Fish Sauce Glazed Chicken Wings

All in all PaaDee was pretty good. A bit on the spendy side for dinner, but happy hour was a great deal for all the food and cocktails we ordered. Lunch looks to be a great deal with many dishes in the $7-$9 range, which is where Thai food dinner prices should top out at, but being located in a trendy neighborhood, in a shiny new building, I guess you've got to pay the bills somehow.

The decor was pretty minimum, which we liked with a long shared table in the middle. The bird cage light fixtures were adorable and reminded us of the bird market in Bangkok.

Birdcage Light Fixtures

PaaDee Thai Comfort Food
6 SE 28th, Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kokiyo Teriyaki

Now we're not going to start posting about every meal we have, but sometimes the most mundane lunch can be good enough to blog about. That's exactly how we felt about Kokiyo Teriyaki in the SE Industrial District. We've been on a bento/teriyaki kick lately visiting several around town, but none warranted a blog post as Kokiyo Teriyaki did. 

Looking absolutely nothing spectacular and definitely a quick lunch grab and go spot, Kokiyo is worth making a special trip, especially if you're on the east side and close to the river. We weren't expecting too much from the menu board so we decided to share a chicken katsu plate (yelp readers had commented on how much they loved the katsu), did someone say fried chicken cutlet? Hells yeah! Everything about the chicken katsu was fantastic - the dark meat, the breading, how no bits or corners were over crispy and dry and the katsu sauce was deliciously tart and tangy. The rice was perfect and the gyoza we ordered on the side were deep fried. This was the perfect wintertime lunch. Kokiyo Teriyaki was absolutely delicious and we can't wait to go back and try some of their teriyaki plates. 

Kokiyo TeriyakiStorefrontInteriorSaucesLucky Number 8Chicken Katsu Bento

Kokiyo Teriyaki
1234 SE 7th Avenue

Monday, February 18, 2013

The One Motorcycle Show

We attended the 4th Annual One Motorcycle Show a few weekends ago. If you are at all a motorcycle enthusiast, this is the show for you. If you like shiny metal things, this is the show for you. If you like cool, creative people surrounded by their love and passion, this is the show for you. And if you like to take photos of interesting shapes, colors in terrific natural light with really nice people who try not to block your shot, this is a show for me! This showcase was a blast. Dubbed as a motorcycle show to "get rare, weird, old, new, and all around amazing bikes together in one spot" it's organized and arranged more like an art gallery showing and was just a showcase full of new shiny expensive motorcycles but metallic works of ride-able art.

Motorcycle Gallery

So, let's bring on the parade of beautiful motorcycles.

Kawasaki On DisplayKawasaki

There were frankensteined-road-warriors.

Road WarriorRoad Warrior

Interesting custom motorcycles.

Three unique motorcyclesHandlebarsStreetside Harley DavidsonHarley DavidsonLong HandlebarsGoldie

Cafe Racers, of course, this is Portland after all.
 BSASuper SportRacerRed RacerSimple and SleekYamahaYamaha HandlebarsMatte Honda CycleMatte Honda

Shop owners showing off their pet projects and do a little advertising.

PCP Bike GuysPCP Custom

But the One Motorcycle Show isn't about advertising, there were lots of pet motorcycles people just wanted to show off.

Hover CraftThe Metal MotoMetal MonsterMatchyDJ'sFranken-mopedMopeds

There were so many interesting motorcycles. So many!

Sage & TanTractor SeatPrism BodyDiamondsGold DetailingDucatiWhite HondaDeusBMWsArielLE CustomProtected Light

Inside the showroom wasn't the only place people were showing off their motorcycles. Attendees showed up with equally as showcase ready motorcycles.

SidecarBikes belonging to people who attended the showNon-Show BikesAttendance Bikes

Of all the motorcycles which one did we dream of owning the most? This Moto-Guzzi. Sleek, minimal and just gorgeous.

Motto Guzzi

See you next year!