Culinary Adventures: Chocolate Cherry Cobbler

Culinary Adventures: Chocolate Cherry Cobbler recipe. Cherries and chocolate, together in harmony.

 

I was trying to decide on a dessert recipe to bring to our friends’ BBQ the other week and the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine showed up in the mail with a really good looking chocolate cherry cobbler recipe on the cover. I realize that last sentence makes me sound like  a Minnesota housewife, but hey–don’t knock BHG. They do have good recipes and landscaping ideas.

I decided to give it a try. I made a few adjustments–I couldn’t find ground chipotle chili powder so I used regular chili powder, and I couldn’t find frozen tart pie cherries at the grocery store I was at, so I got sweet black cherries and some fresh rainier cherries and mixed them together.

Better Homes and Gardens’ Firecracker Chocolate Cherry Cobbler recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart red cherries
  •  Milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart round baking dish.
  2. For the biscuits, in a medium bowl combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate. Add the 1/4 cup milk and stir until just moistened. Knead the dough 3 to 4 times in the bowl until it holds together. Form the dough into a disk.
  3. In a large saucepan combine the 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup flour; stir in cherries. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cover to keep warm.
  4. On a floured surface roll biscuit dough out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut dough with assorted 2- to 3-inch star-shaped cutters, rerolling dough as necessary. Spoon hot filling into prepared dish. Arrange dough cutouts over filling. Brush cutouts with milk and sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until filling is thick and bubbly and biscuits are baked through. Remove and let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Honestly, I didn’t purposely plan on doing star shaped cobbler biscuits like the recipe said to, but I happened to find a star shaped cookie cutter in my baking drawer that I didn’t know I had, so I did. You can do any shape, or use a small drinking glass to cut rounds.

chocolate-cherry-cobbler-1

chocolate cherry cobbler

Pitting the fresh rainier cherries was kind of a pain in the butt but not too bad, since I was mixing them in with the already pitted frozen black cherries. Do make sure you stir the cherry mixture, it will start burning on the bottom and sticking. Keep the heat on medium, don’t turn it up too high.

chocolate cherry cobbler

I also deviated from the recipe a bit by adding chocolate chips to the cherry mixture after I poured it into the pan. I think next time I would even add a few more.

chocolate-cherry-cobbler

I had exactly enough stars to cover the cherries in the pan (including the last gimpy one in the corner). I just has to taste good, right?

chocolate cherry cobbler
Chocolate cherry cobbler ready to bake

The cobbler turned out pretty good and everyone seemed to like it. We ate it with vanilla ice cream. I do think that not using tart pie cherries made a difference though, and if I make this chocolate cherry cobbler again I will make sure I can get tart cherries.  I would also do salted butter instead of unsalted. I usually use salted butter in all baking projects, the extra salt brings out the flavor a bit more–especially with chocolate. I’d also like to try it with the chipotle pepper instead of regular chili powder–that sounds delicious.

Chocolate Cherry Cobbler
Chocolate Cherry Cobbler

If you have a star-shaped cookie cutter and can get some good tart pie cherries, this chocolate cherry cobbler recipe would be a good one for the Fourth of July.

Our Favorite Travel Shows

Our favorite travel shows: finding something real in a sea of campy touristy schlock.

 

Even if you’ve just stumbled onto this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that our number one obsession is travel. Because we are regular people with full-time jobs, we can’t travel all the time. Therefore, we like to feed our addiction when we can by watching travel shows and documentaries.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of really bad travel shows out there. Whenever we start looking into a new place to visit, I do a search on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon instant to see if there are any good documentaries on our destination. Looking at photos and reading about a place is one thing, but it’s even more exciting to see quality film footage.

Some documentaries are so bad I don’t make it through them. Travel hosts are overwhelmingly peppy, fake, and take you to all the major attractions gushing about how great everything is. They rarely show you anything real about the country and culture.

Psssst: Rick Steves! There’s more out there than Europe!

We do have seven travel shows that we’ve found and recommend to get around all the BS and actually learn something. I realize this list is a bit Bordain-centric, but what can I say–he’s one of the best.

1. Parts Unknown

Travel shows Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Myanmar
Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown

Anthony Bourdain’s latest travel series on CNN, Parts Unknown, is by far the best travel show out there at the moment in our opinion. This is not a show for tourists. In Parts Unknown, Tony moves away from food-centric travels and explores the places the tourists don’t go. The change from the Travel Channel to CNN is very apparent–the show is more cerebral and focused on culture and sociopolitical issues of the countries and regions he visits rather than on food and sightseeing.

The cinematography has also received an upgrade since No Reservations. It is beautiful, truthful, and introspective. This isn’t a show Bourdain would have been able to do in his earlier years, this is a show to be hosted only by a well-traveled intellectual. He has learned a lot about the world in his vast travels, and wants to delve deeper. All episodes feature Bourdain in the company of locals who are guides and informants into their lives, politics, and culture.

If you’re a traveler (not a tourist), and are looking to see and learn more about the world and the reality of the places he visits, you will probably love this show as much as we do.

 

2. No Reservations

Anthony Bourdain’s second show, No Reservations is a close second favorite of ours to Parts Unknown. It was a show on the Travel Channel, with quite a few seasons (most on Netflix but also for sale on DVD). The show is mostly centered around food, and how food is central to all cultures. Each episode visits a different location (abroad as well as places in the US), and Bourdain is paired up with a local guide to show him around. Every episode is different, but follows a basic formula: Local street food, fine dining and modern culinary trends in the area, and visiting his host’s family for a home-cooked meal. Many episodes also feature Bourdain getting pretty plastered with the locals, and his subsequent search for a local meal that doubles as a hangover cure the next morning.

Travel shows Anthony Bourdain No Reservations

Bourdain’s dubbed-over commentary throughout the show is just like his writing; insightful yet snarky, full of vinegar, and comic relief. He is always respectful of his hosts, and eager to learn everything (almost everything) they are willing to teach him. He eats everything that is served to him, and I must say he is braver than I am (not sure if I could eat raw bloody seal meat and organs straight out of the animal in Greenland), and I must applaud him for that. No Reservations is another show for travelers, not tourists. If you’re looking to see some real culture, or just really like food, this is a great show. Be warned, it will make you hungry.

 

3. Departures

Travel shows Departures TV Show
Departures

I’ll be honest; when I watched the first episode of this show my reaction was “ugh, who are these trustafarian frat boys?” We kept watching, however, and we’re glad we did. Departures is a show about late-20’s Canadian friends Scott Wilson, Justin Lukach, and Andre Dupuis (the rarely-seen camera guy) dropping everything and traveling the world for a year (or so they thought).

It became quickly apparent that Scott is the brains of the operation, while Justin is all heart. While Scott does his tour guide duty of explaining where they are and what is going on to the camera, Justin is off chasing a chicken, eating too much chocolate, or pestering a camel. Scott diligently learns some Japanese phrases for their travels in Japan, while attempting (and failing) the entire time to get Justin to learn “arigato.”Justin made me cringe a bit at first, but he eventually grew on me. He loves kids and animals, will try anything with no hesitation, and provides the comic relief to the show that makes it a lot more balanced. After season two I found him to be quite endearing.

Season 1 starts with a road trip across their native country of Canada, and then they dive right in by going to Jordan and then India. As the show progresses and more countries are visited, they seek out culture and landscapes further and further off the beaten path. Food isn’t much of a focus here– the culture, history, and natural beauty of their destinations is the main objective. As the show moves on, you can see their culture shocks becoming fewer and their cultural understanding grow.

Travel shows Departures TV Show
Scott and Justin in Departures.

What really makes this show however, is the cinematography of Andre Dupuis. Andre gets some fantastic shots, almost on par with the cinematography in Parts Unknown. He does a great job of highlighting the beauty of each country they visit–both the people and the landscapes.

Season 1 ends, and their year abroad is over, but the three friends can’t sit still. As Scott Wilson says in the opening credits of the show, “the travel bug gets in you, and it’s got you.” There are two more seasons (we’re still waiting for season 3 to be released on Netflix), and I’ve read about a new show they are doing called Descending, about diving around the world. I may break down and order the DVD from their online store if Netflix doesn’t release both shows soon.

 

4. Three Sheets

travel shows Zane Lamprey Three Sheets
Zane Lamprey travels the world in Three Sheets

If you like alcohol, and are in the mood for a little dose of comedy with your travel shows, you’ll probably enjoy Zane Lamprey’s Three Sheets. This guy got paid to travel all over the world and drink. I’m going to let that concept sink in with you for a moment.

Zane Lamprey has worked all over the world of television, as a comedian, writer, actor, producer, and editor with various networks. Over the four seasons of Three Sheets, he and his stuffed monkey Pleepleus explore the specialty drinks and alcohols of different regions in the world. He drinks everything from champagne in France, cachaca in Brazil, grappa in Venice, cobra blood in Taipei, and bourbon in Kentucky.

Travel shows Zane Lamprey Three Sheets
Zane offers a drink to his monkey Pleepleus

Zane eats everything, drinks everything, and learns something about the local culture from his local guides. The show is educational, funny, and generally entertaining. He has gone on to do a couple of other shows, including a fan-sponsored semi-continuation of Three Sheets called Chug on the National Geographic channel.

Travel shows Zane Lamprey Three Sheets
Zane drinks viper rum in Belize
Travel shows Zane Lamphrey Chug
Zane Lamphrey in Chug

 

 

5. A Cook’s Tour

Travel shows Anthony Bourdain in A Cook's Tour
Anthony Bourdain in A Cook’s Tour

A Cook’s Tour is Anthony’s first TV show on the Food Network from 2001. This show is centered mostly on food much like No Reservations, but Tony is much younger and much more naive. The cinematography is a bit rough but he visits a lot of interesting places and eats a lot of really delicious-looking things (and a few not so delicious-looking things, such as a big fat grub that he describes to be “like a twinkie, creamy on the inside”). This show is a bit older, but it’s worth checking out–especially if you’re a foodie.

Travel shows Anthony Bourdain Cook's Tour
Anthony Bourdain in A Cook’s Tour

 

6. The Layover

Anthony Bourdain’s final show on The Travel Channel is about what you can see and do on a layover in a major city with only 24 to 48 hours. The show is pretty good, but his snarky comments about the Travel Channel network throughout the show and his lackluster enthusiasm make it pretty obvious that he is just fulfilling a contract. Even in the cover photo for the show below, he looks less-than ecstatic. I can hear the photographer at the photo shoot: “Tony! Look like you’re somewhere exciting and exotic! How about chopsticks? Get him some chopsticks! Tony! Hold up the chopsticks like you’re about to eat beef tripe! There you go! Fantastic.”

Travel shows Anthony Bourdain in The Layover
Anthony Bourdain in The Layover

I will say that The Layover episode on Seattle did us Seattleites proud. He even went to Archie McPhee’s, the best store in Seattle. It was much better than the No Reservations episode that combined Seattle and Portland together and spent half the episode focused on some elite supper club we’d never heard of.

 

7. Long Way Around

Travel Shows Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in Long Way Around
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in Long Way Around

Long Way Around is less of a travel show and more of an adventure documentary. It documents the journey of British actor Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman on a 20,000 mile motorcycle ride from London to New York, through Europe, Mongolia, Russia, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada. There are only 9 episodes and the first two start off a little slow as they document their preparation. Their tour is an off-beat adventure well off of the usual tourist trail, including impromptu stays with locals, a few disasters, and several unnerving situations.

They have a second show about their ride from Scotland to South Africa called Long Way Down, which is still in our Netflix queue. I think the second journey may be a little more exciting than the first. We shall see.

 

Overall I think it is a little ridiculous how few really great travel shows there are out there. Maybe that’s what the majority of the US and Canada want–peppy, faux-enthusiastic, corny show hosts telling you how to visit the Eiffel Tower or Santorini. We want to know about the culture, history, and politics. Show me how a rural family in Mongolia lives and what they cook for dinner. Tell me what snake bile tastes like and why people in Vietnam drink it. Show me the best night market in Bangkok to get street food at, and what you recommend eating. Tell me why people in Zambia wash their dishes with ashes.

One thing that bums me out about the above list is that it is entirely male. I’ve seen a few female hosts on travel shows, and all of them were terrible. I’d love to see more shows hosted by intelligent women, particularly about traveling as a woman in third world countries. There are a lot of things to know regarding what you should wear and how you need to behave as a woman in specific countries that are essential to your safety and experience as a female traveler.

Hopefully we’ll see more travel shows like the ones above. If we can’t travel all the time, we at least want to learn and live vicariously through those who do. If you have any recommendations, please contact us!

 

Culinary Adventures: Atlantic Beach Pie

Culinary adventures: Making Atlantic Beach Pie. This southern-style citrus pie is super easy and tastes like a big creamy lemon bar. Great to bring to a BBQ!

I was looking at recipes for lemon pies on Pinterest and happened across a pin from NPR with a recipe for Bill Smith’s North Carolina -style Atlantic Beach Pie, and decided I had to try it.

Recipe from http://www.npr.org/2013/04/11/176279512/a-north-carolina-pie-that-elicits-an-oh-my-god-response

Recipe: Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie

Makes one pie
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.

While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

I crushed the saltines in the packages, and while I liked the chunkiness of the texture, it didn’t hold together that well. I think that next time I will crush a bit finer in either a food processor or a gallon zip lock bag. It did taste great though.

Atlantic-Beach-Pie (2)
Crushed saltines, butter, and sugar
Atlantic-Beach-Pie (4)
Baking the crust

For the juice I used my electric citrus juicer to squeeze lemons. I didn’t use any lime juice, just lemon. I would strongly recommend using fresh lemon juice over bottled, the bottled has an acidic taste that I’m not fond of. I only ended up needing one large lemon for the 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

Atlantic Beach Pie
Juicing the lemons
Atlantic Beach Pie
Egg yolk, lemon juice, and sweetened condensed milk mixture

The filling mix for the Atlantic Beach Pie was rather runny when pouring it into a pre-baked pie shell. The result after baking was a smooth, firm, custard however.

Atlantic Beach Pie
Filling the pie ready to bake

The Atlantic Beach Pie turned out delicious, and it was ridiculously easy. I sprinkled the top with a little sea salt like the recipe called for, and served with whipped cream. It tasted kind of like a big, extra-creamy lemon bar. I’m keeping this recipe in my mental lexicon of easy summer BBQ potluck dishes.

Atlantic Beach Pie
Finished pie
Atlantic Beach Pie
Atlantic Beach Pie
Atlantic Beach Pie
Atlantic Beach Pie

Portland Oregon 2015: Downtown and Buckman

A quick girls’ getaway to Portland: A concert in Vancouver, vintage clothes shopping, books, brunch, a creepy cafe, a horror theme bar, and some fabulous food.

I love Portland. It seems that I never run out of things to see and do there. It is a mecca for food, craft beer, vintage clothing stores, doughnuts, and strip clubs. This is the second of several posts you will see probably see on Portland, because it really never gets old. This weekend was a quick girls trip to Vancouver and Portland, and we got to explore a little more of downtown and the Buckman neighborhood in Southeast Portland.

One major drawback about heading down to Portland from Seattle on Friday is the traffic. My friends Brooke and Cass and I left Seattle at noon, and arrived at our Vancouver hotel just north of the Oregon border at 4:30. On Friday, the rush hour traffic is the worst, and you hit Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Vancouver’s traffic on I-5 on the way there.

There isn’t much to see in Vancouver, it is kind of a suburb city in Washington just outside of Portland. We were there to see the Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey show at the Sleep Country Amphitheater. We stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites nearby, which was nice and affordable at $89 a night.

Day 1:

We arrived hungry and tired of being in the car. Billygan’s Roadhouse was right across the street from our hotel, so we went over there for a bite to eat before the show. Paddy and I have eaten breakfast there twice on the way home from Portland, and their breakfast was good.

Billygan’s is one of those places that gives you free peanuts and you throw your shells on the floor. Always a good time.

Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse
Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse
Billygan's Roadhouse
Billygan’s Roadhouse

The food is your standard American diner/pub fare, and it’s pretty good. Cass and Brooke each had the baked potato and salad deal, and I had the teriyaki chicken burger with a side salad. Billygan’s is a pretty solid road trip stop-off, signs for it are posted on the freeway.

This was our first show at the Sleep Country Amphitheater. We had chosen the cheapest assigned seats in the back. There was a lawn area behind us with even cheaper admission, but we were glad we didn’t go for the lawn. The view looked bad, you had to fight for a spot (and keep it saved), and there was no cover for rain. The assigned seats are worth it.

Beer, wine, and snacks are served all over the courtyard outside the amphitheater, and you have to get a wristband for adult beverages from one of the little wristband kiosks walking in.

Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (2)
Food and drink courtyard outside the theater
Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (3)
Pre-show beers

Sleepcountry-Amphitheater-Vancouver (4)

The amphitheater was quite the teen summer fashion parade. The shorts are very short this year, and the waistbands are high. There were so many girls with fake flower crowns on that I kept looking at the merch booths to see if they were selling them but they weren’t.

After a 45 minute diva-like late start, Courtney Love took the stage. We were surprised that her show was actually not bad, with some old Hole covers and a few new (albeit not so great) songs. She gave the audience shit about the plethora of flower crowns throughout the whole show. She was pretty entertaining, but I don’t think there were that many Hole fans in the audience. Most of the audience looked like they hadn’t even been born until the mid to late 90’s.

Courtney Love Vancouver WA
Courtney Love
Courtney Love Vancouver WA
Courtney Love

Lana Del Rey put on a great show, with an elaborate set. Her dress made me think of Alice in Wonderland.

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey

After the show, it took us an entire hour to get out of the parking lot, and there were still a ton of cars behind us–who knows how long it took them to get out. Fortunately we were staying nearby, but it was a pain in the ass. Everything else was efficient and easy about the amphitheater, but the traffic back to I-5 was a total clusterfuck.

 

Day 2:

Cass had to head back to Seattle for a wedding, so Brooke and I were on our own for 24 hours in Portland. I’m a loyal Lyft customer back in Seattle, especially since when I first signed up for Lyft this winter and received a $20 ride credit towards my first 10 rides if used in a week. I figured Uber had to have some sort of sign up deal as well, so I signed up for Uber and found a $25 off your first ride coupon on Retailmenot.com. Our ride from Vancouver to downtown Portland ended up being only $7.00.

**Tip: If you haven’t used them before, wait and sign up for Lyft or Uber when you need an expensive ride somewhere and see what kind of deals you can get on your first ride.

I’d looked at brunch spots in downtown Portland and we decided on Tasty N Alder. There was an hour and a half wait, but we got on the list and gave our cell number, and then walked a couple of blocks over to Powell’s City of Books.

Powell's City of Books Portland
Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s is the book store to end all book stores. I visit it every time I visit Portland. They have a map at the front entrance to help you navigate the sections, and there are plenty of information clerks to help you find something specific. Best of all, they have used books and new books on the shelves, together in harmony. If there are six copies of the book you want, you can check the price on each one and decide how used or new you are willing to pay for. Powell’s is also a great spot for Portland souvenirs–they have lots of coffee mugs, guide books, and other fun items from the Northwest. (You always wanted a log pillow so you can be like the log lady from Twin Peaks, right? Powell’s will hook you up.)

Right as we were wrapping it up at Powell’s, Brooke got a phone call from Tasty N Alder that our table was ready.

Tasty N Alder was definitely worth the wait. They have a bunch of unique small plates and larger entrees, all meant to be shared. Sort of like a brunch tapas bar. Also on the menu is a selection of brunch cocktails and boozy milkshakes (called “grown-ass milkshakes.”).

Brunch at Tasty N Alder Portland
Brunch at Tasty N Alder Portland

I went for the “Tasty Mary” which was a classic bloody mary with a little sriracha and house-made pickled okra, beet, and mushroom. It was fabulous. Brooke had the “Elizabeth Taylor,” a sparkling cocktail with creme de violette and bubbles.

Tasty Mary at Tasty N Alder
Tasty Mary at Tasty N Alder

We also shared the simple greens, potatos bravas, and the Korean fried chicken. It was all amazing. The Korean fried chicken came in a rice bowl with a fried over-easy egg on top. The chicken was crispy and boneless, which made it a lot easier to share and eat with the rice, egg, and kimchi.

Potatoes bravas at Tasty N Alder Portland
Potatoes bravas at Tasty N Alder Portland
Simple greens at Tasty N Alder Portland
Simple greens at Tasty N Alder Portland

After brunch we were ready to do some vintage shopping. Another great thing about Portland? No sales tax! As if you need another excuse to shop…

Our first stop was Ray’s Ragtime, which is also right next door to a plus size vintage shop, Fat Fancy. I am plus-sized, and it is difficult to find great stuff at regular vintage stores. Not a whole lot at Fat Fancy is vintage, but they have a lot of great stuff at great prices. I found a summer dress, a sequin skirt, and another pair of sunglasses to match my new bathing suit I got for this summer.

Ray’s Ragtime next door is a treasure trove of vintage clothing, costume jewelry, vintage hats, and mardi gras masks. Brooke found an awesome 60’s go-go dress and a bracelet to match, and I got a fabulous lime green vinyl purse.

Brooke and her new dress from Rays Ragtime
Brooke and her new dress from Rays Ragtime

We walked over to Burnside and stopped in at Buffalo Exchange, where Brooke found some great boots to go with her new dress.

It was edging towards late afternoon, and we were ready to check into our hotel and ditch our backpacks. We caught the #20 bus a short ways across the Burnside bridge to the Eastside Lodge, where we had a reservation. The Eastside Lodge isn’t the classiest joint, but at $100 a night including lodging tax, it was quite a bit cheaper than the more hip and more preferable Jupiter Hotel across the street. The lobby smelled like cigarette smoke, and I filled out our information on a handwritten index-card sized form. It was clean, however, and the beds were decently comfortable. Included is a mini fridge and coffee maker. No hairdryer built in, but we were able to check one out from the front desk. Bottom line: When I visit Portland, I don’t spend much time in the room other than to sleep. There are far better things to do.

We ditched our bags and explored Burnside a bit, which borders the Buckman neighborhood in Southeast Portland.  We found Bombshell Vintage, which had an impressive collection of 1950’s prom dresses and crinoline skirts.

Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland
Bombshell Vintage Portland

Rock and Rose a bit further down the street had an interesting selection of new and vintage clothes, as well as gifts and collectibles. There are quite a few other shops, restaurants and bars along Burnside to see as well.

Keep Portland Weird
Keep Portland Weird
rainbow watering cans portland
Hardware and garden store in Buckman

Further east on Burnside we stumbled across Hippo Hardware, a vintage hardware shop with a Hippopotamus fetish. We weren’t looking to visit a hardware store, but the hippos were calling to us.

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

Hippo Hardware is huge–two stories full of old antique hardware such as light switch plates, knobs, door knockers, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, and an entire upper floor devoted to antique lighting. If you’re looking for an antique chandelier or funky old knobs for a chest of drawers or cupboards, or really want a pink toilet, this is the place to go. The owner’s impressive collection of various types of hippos mingle with the merchandise on almost every shelf. They also sold T-shirts, and I’m kicking myself for not buying one. Next time.

Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland
Hippo Hardware Portland

It was 4:00, and we needed a break. Not interested in hanging out in our moderately skanky hotel room, we decided to find somewhere to sit down and get a drink. We consulted our phones, and Brooke thought she found a brewery up the hill a little further east. When we got there, it turned out to just be a bottling plant. We glanced around and saw The Sandy Hut.

The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland

It looked like the worst dive bar in Portland, but we were there. And we were thirsty.

The Sandy Hut (I recently read that locals call it “The  Handy Slut”) turned out to be the best accidental bar discovery I’ve ever made in Portland. We walked in the front door and past the Playboy pinball machine, and stepped straight into the 1960’s: old Hollywood mural on the wood-paneled wall, curved faux leather booths, and Frank Sinatra mixed with other hits from the 40’s-60’s played on the jukebox. The bartender was friendly, and the blended strawberry margarita she made me was strong and refreshing. The food menu even looked decent, and reminiscent of times past.

The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland
The Sandy Hut Portland

We left The Sandy Hut thoroughly refreshed, and hungry. My friend Eric, a former Portland resident, told us Biwa Japanese Izakaya in Buckman was his favorite restaurant in the entire city. He has also lived in Japan, so his recommendation held some weight. We walked to Biwa and stopped by a mural for a photo op along the way:

Portland mural

Portland mural

Portland mural

Biwa Japanese Izakaya (215 SE 9th Ave) turned out to be as good as Eric told us it would be. If you’re not familiar with Izakaya style Japanese restaurants, they are kind of like a Japanese tapas bar. Small plates meant to be eaten with beer or cocktails.

Biwa Japanese restaurant Portland
Biwa

We started with some fancy cocktails. Brooke had a drink that was called something like “so cool, so modern,” which was herbal and fresh and came with a green strawberry. I had the “wtf” which was reposado tequila, yellow chartreuse and cardamaro, the latter two ingredients I’d never heard of. The waiter told me if I like tequila I’d love it. I didn’t. But it was drinkable. Medicinal tasting, but drinkable.

We started with the “porkiest” pan-fried gyoza dumplings to share, which were the best gyoza I’ve ever had. The dipping sauce tasted house made and had a bit of an extra vinegar bite that really complimented the porkiness.

Biwa cocktails Portland (2)

Biwa porkiest gyoza Portland (3)
The “porkiest” gyoza at Biwa

Brooke had the masu (trout) prepared like BBQ eel, and the miso soup. She said it was good. I had the rice cake soup with pork belly and clams, and the onigiri (rice ball with tuna and mayo inside and wrapped with crispy nori). Both were outstanding. The tuna inside the rice ball tasted smoked, and the rice was seasoned perfectly. I wished I’d ordered two of them. The soup was also delicious.

We were still a little hungry so we ordered the karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken bites) to share and Brooke had the shiitake mushroom skewer. The chicken was delicious, and too much for us to eat. We had a fridge in our room so we took it with us for later.

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Masu (BBQ trout) at Biwa
Biwa pork belly clam rice cake soup Portland (5)
Miso soup and pork belly/clam/rice cake soup at Biwa
Biwa karaage fried chicken and shiitake skewer Portland (6)
Karaage fried chicken bites and shiitake mushroom skewer at Biwa

 

After dinner, we headed to a coffee shop in Buckman that I’ve been wanting to check out for a long time: Rimksy-Korsakoffee. On my last trip to Portland I’d made the mistake of assuming that since it was a coffee shop, it would be open in the day time and attempted to visit in the afternoon. It is open evenings only, from 7:00 PM to midnight. No alcohol is served, just coffee and dessert.

Rimsky-Korsakoffee inhabits a converted Victorian house. We walked in and took two menus from the table by the door, as instructed by the sign on the table and found a spot in the back room. It was busy, and the atmosphere was cozy. A woman played piano in the front room for tips. We ordered coffee, tea, and shared an ice cream sundae. Our waiter was peppy and flamboyant, calling us names like “sugar cookie.” He was very entertaining.

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Rimsky-Korsakoffee
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Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland (4)
Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee-Portland
Rimsky-Korsakoffee

One of the things Rimsky-Korsakoffee is most famous for is its bathroom, so naturally I had to check it out. It is located upstairs, which had 5 different doors. The doors were labeled “no not here,” “no no not here,” “not here either, silly,” “don’t even think about going in here,” and “bathroom.” I was really curious about what was behind doors number 2-5. I guess I’ll never know.

The bathroom lived up to its legacy. When I walked in I was momentarily startled by a life-sized doll with a receding hairline sitting in a kayak on the bathroom floor. The entire bathroom is painted like an underwater world, with mannequin feet dangling off of a dock on the ceiling, and a mermaid holding your toilet paper. I think the kayak man is supposed to be a corpse, and he is missing part of his arm (shark attack?). There is a story here, maybe someday I’ll figure out what it is.

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In the hallway of Rimsky-Korsakoffee
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky Korsakoffee bathroom Portland
Rimsky Korsakoffee bathroom Portland
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom
Rimsky-Korsakoffee bathroom

I think if I was in high school or didn’t drink and lived in Portland, Rimsky-Korsakoffee would be my regular evening spot to socialize.

Rimsky Korsakoffee Portland

We settled up with our fabulous waiter and headed on to our next destination, the Lovecraft Bar. The Lovecraft is a horror-themed bar named after the turn of the century horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It was early, and the bar only had a few people in it. We ordered some beers and snagged the last available booth.  A dirty old biker guy sat on a bar stool nearby obnoxiously attempting to flirt with some girls sitting behind us. Fortunately, he left us alone.

Lovecraft-Bar-Portland
Lovecraft Bar
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Lovecraft Bar
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Lovecraft Bar

Shortly after we got our drinks, the fog machine turned on, and an electronic singer/performer started some entertainment on the dance floor. We stayed a little while longer, and then moved on.

No night out in Portland is complete without a visit to one of the numerous strip clubs in town. My favorite (and the only one I’ve been to, actually) is Mary’s downtown. Tonight we thought we’d check out Union Jack’s, which was directly across the street from our hotel.

Several years ago, I’d heard Union Jack’s was cool. Girls with tattoos stripping to punk music and ironically gyrating to 80’s metal hits. Very Portland chic. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It was pretty much your standard sleezy strip bar. The girls were working the room like party guests in g-strings to get the overwhelmingly male crowd into the back rooms for a private dance (or whatever).

We bought some beers and took a seat right at the back stage, armed with $1.00 bills to tip with. A few of the girls had some pretty amazing pole moves, some others were more mediocre–less acrobatic and more wrapping legs around gentlemens’ necks on the edge of the stage.

Union Jacks Portland
Image of Union Jack’s by Leah Nash http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-22104-strip-club-guide-2014-our-favorite-clubs-from-a-to-z.html

After a few dances, we moved back a bit to some lounge chairs and watched a while longer. Being the only two non-working women in the strip club (aside from two women who were there with their boyfriends), we found ourselves to be delightfully invisible. The girls were nice to us–complimenting Brooke on her dress, telling us we looked cute, but we pretty much safely avoided the hustle for the back rooms.

There was a lesbian bachelorette party that showed up at one point, and the guest of honor was invited up on stage for a public lap dance–all in good fun.

It wasn’t a bad experience, but I probably wouldn’t go back to Union Jack’s intentionally. There are far better strip clubs in Portland that offer classier and more unique stage shows without the sleezy hustle. I’ve got no problem with lap dances, but that type of club isn’t my scene. Mary’s is way better–if you are into a more of a casual bar with a stage show thing. Just make sure to bring singles to tip with.

 

Day 3: 

We checked out of the hotel and took the bus back across the Burnside bridge to the Pearl District downtown, and got our name on the wait list for the Byways Cafe for breakfast.

Byways Cafe Portland
Byways Cafe

There were three little tiny tables on the sidewalk, so we took one that opened up rather than wait for one inside. We never actually saw inside the place. The food was fantastic. Brooke had Meg’s veggie mountain with vegetables, potatoes, and egg, and I had the three day weekend (biscuit and gravy with scrambled egg). It was the best biscuit and gravy I’ve ever had (seriously). The biscuit was fresh and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. It was a pretty hearty breakfast, I was glad I opted for fruit instead of hash browns.

Meg's veggie mountain Byways-Cafe-Portland (3)
Meg’s Veggie Mountain
Byways-Cafe-Portland
“Three Day Weekend” at The Byways Cafe

After breakfast we walked down to the train station and took the Amtrak train back to Seattle (a four hour trip). We shared a train car with a gaggle of noisy girl scouts, much to the chagrin of the men in the seats behind us. Fortunately I had my ipod to tune them out.

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Portland train station

Train-Portland

It was another short and sweet trip to Portland. I am looking forward to a longer stay sometime in the future with Paddy. There are still many places on my Portland list to check out. Stay tuned.