Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Portland - all about the east side!

Thre morning we left Seattle we had one important last meeting to do! Last time we visited the east coast in 2010 we got the opportunity to stay with Tim & Alex in Portland. We had never met them before that, they were friends to friends. Even so, they let us into their home and were the best hosts ever showing us all of the city. Also at the time we were there, Alex was pregnant with Anabelle whom we were now finally gonna meet! A bit weary from the pub crawl the night before we headed to their new home in Seattle. Soon enough we found out there was no time to be tired cause Anabelle stole the show right away! She showed us the house and garden talking nonstop, while cycling around in a ballerina dress! Best kid ever! Before we left Tim gave us some tomatoes from his new pet project a veggie garden(they were sooooo good Tim!).

We picked up our rental att Seattle Tacoma and a three hour drive later we found ourselves outside Emilys door in Portland! Emily is an old friend of Mimmi and we were scheduled to stay three nights with her & her boyfriend Claude in their fantastic house in historic district Ladd's addition, in southeast Portland. Claude works with building sets for movie production and he and Emily has transformed this old town house to a dream home! My favorite spot was their back garden that reminded me of Key west rather then being in Oregon. Palm trees, veggies, and hops growing everywhere and sharing space with a dog, a cat and three hens!

I'm gonna try to avoid making this a timeline post and instead describe the different parts of Portland. Like i mentioned earlier we've been to Portland on an earlier occasion and for that reason we didn't bother with the west side this time. The city is divided by a river and on the west side is downtown. It's not a bad area and the pearl district is worth doing if it's your first time. But it's on the east side where Portland shows it's true self. Divided into sections by bigger streets that go from west to east, the part where we stayed, Ladd's addition is located between Division and Hawthorne. If you look on this area on a map you'll see something unusual and pretty neat. Instead of the usual grid layout it's shaped almost like a wagon wheel. This setup gives the area a lot of character. Around here you'll find a lot of breweries and even more dive bars. Here are some of the diviest bars I've seen, and if you're into that like me, you'll love it around here.

A bit further north is Broadway. On this street you'll find some bars and restaurants but the real price is Hale pele! I'm a huge tiki fan and before my beer interest started consuming all my time I did a lot of research in old tiki drink recipes. This tiki bar is the real deal. It doesn't look all that from the outside, but as soon as you sit down in the bar you'll forget you're in Portland in an instance but rather on some tropical island. Staff is super friendly and know what they are doing. An extensive cocktail menu where we sampled four which were all delicious! 

Even further north you will hit Fremont. Follow this to the west and you will reach Mississippi avenue. This is hipster mecca and if you ever saw the tv series Portlandia this is the area they make fun of the most. You'll find plenty of bike-riding, coffe drinking young men with ironic facial hair. But it's also a really cool nightlife scene. Bars here are not as divey but still not downtown posh! Here you will find Amnesia Brewing. This is the brewery that started my real passion for beer. It caters mostly to the local crowd and beer is brewed wall to wall from where it's served. Doesn't get much more micro than that!

Another favorite in this area is Prost. Even for a hop head like myself I sometimes just long for a refreshing lager. I'm sad to say that a lot of bars on the west coast have started to refuse serve lager like they are all part of the big brewing companies evil. Instead they serve blond ales or k├Âlsch which is not at all the same. Luckily Prost serve beer european style with a focus on german and czech beer. It's also sitting next to one of the biggest gathering of food trucks in Portland! You can buy food from any of the trucks and bring into Prost!
Next up our daytrip to Mt. Hood...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Seattle part 3 - The day of the pub crawl!

Last day in Seattle and it was time for the brewery tour. We probably picked the worst day, a monday, since most breweries are closed then. We went with the ones that were open which took us to the Fremont area. We started with breakfast at Roxy's, a diner I praised on the blog earlier but I'm sorry to say they aren't what they used to be. Still OK, just not great. After that we hit Fremont brewing. I got a sampler plate where the most memorable one was their randall #2. A randall is a device which let's you infuse the beer with hops or spices between the keg and the tap. In this case it was infused with grapefruit, lavender & rosemary. It really picked up a lot of flavor!

Since it was pretty early in the day we decided on visiting nearby gas works park for some fresh air. It's super cool. It used to be some kind of refinery that was really toxic, but now the city has turned it into a really beautyful park right on the waterfront. A lot of kids were flying kites on a hill in the park. When we felt ready for it we walked back into Fremont and hit Brower's Cafe. An impressive selection of belgian beer but also some really good american craft beer. We did a side by side tasting of Anchorage galaxy wit IPA and Orval and I'm sorry to say the belgians won this time.

We moved on to Hale's Brewery. Hale's dates back to 1983 and is one of the first craft breweries in the US. We asked for a sampler to share and what we recieved was more like a total of 4 pints. It wasn't really possible to do a fare tasting when you're drinking that much(you cant let beer go to waste right?) but I remember being impressed with their nitro porter. Nitro is a way of pushing the beer through the tap that replaces some of the CO2. The result is a much creamier beer and also I thought it made the taste a bit sweeter on a side by side taste.

We decided we most def needed some food after this so we met up with Jenny at Bamboo garden. Bamboo garden is an extraordinary vegetarian/vegan restaurant. The selection is mindblowing! The best part was the fake pork in sweet sauce. If you're a vegetarian you have to eat here!

After filling up on food we still had some spark left in us so off to Ballard it was! We completed an impressive pub crawl of bars including The Dray, Molly's, Sweet Lou's, the tin hat and Chucks! All really nice bars in the Ballard area that I'll let you look up yourself!

It was an epic farewell to Seattle, now forever in our hearts!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seattle part 2 - Day of the double header

OK. We arrived yesterday in Portland, which means it's time to recapture the last two days in Seattle. Our hosts in Seattle, Timm & Jenny are probably the biggest sports fans I've ever met. The team in their heart? The Seattle sounders! So when we were still planning our trip they contacted us to ask if we could try to be in Seattle for this sunday. The reason was that they wanted to get us tickets for a double header. A double header means two games in a day, Seattle Mariners baseball game & Seattle sounders soccer game. Game day in Timms & Jennys house is serious business! Again we warmed up with mimosas before it was time for the first event, the baseball game. We met up with some of Jennys friends at Pyramid's alehouse. It's located next to the stadium so it was a great place to start. After a few refreshing drinks we hit the game. Just walking there was an orgy in the american cliches we've come to love. The air was thick with the smell of pop corn, hot dogs and cotton candy. Baseball is a family friendly sport and everywhere you'd see a lot of parents with their kids dressed up in Mariners apparel.

To be honest baseball is a pretty boring game and most people we met agree on it. A game can go on for hours and there's not a lot of action. However it is a quite pleasant experience. You meet up with friends, have a few drinks and chat. Occasionally someone hits a ball and you cheer for awhile. The big game for the day was however the Sounders game. We met up with some of Timms friends in a bar full of Sounders fans. The atmosphere was amazing. A derby with their worst rival Portland is the biggest event for them and it was equal parts tension and anticipation.

After a few steady pints we met up for the "march to the match". The march starts in Occidental park and ends at CenturyLink field where they play their home games. Pretty soon you are caught up in the chanting. Smoke sticks and flares color the skye blue and green, and as you approach the arena the singing escalate into a frenzy. We took place on the stands and the next 90 minutes we were singing, jumping & cheering as if our lives depended on it. It was one of the best experiences in my life! 

How the game ended? 1 - 0 to the Sounders! High on euphoria and with the pride reserved for the victors, we walked heads held high out into the warm Seattle night...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A long-awaited return to the west coast...

We are back! Those of you who have followed this blog know that I haven't had the time or energy to update it for a long while, but now it's time again! We arrived two days ago in our beloved Seattle! Back in 2010 we met some really good friends and we have since then planned on returning. So first stop was Seattle and we landed after a 24 hour marathon trip on Seattle Tacoma airport. A short taxi ride later we found ourselves in Ballard in north Seattle. Last trip we stayed in Fremont, but since our friends moved house, Ballard will be our home for the next few days! For those of you travelling to Seattle I highly recommend leaving downtown and go for areas such as Fremont, Ballard or Crown hill. These areas are everything I love with Seattle. Charming town houses, friendly neighbourhood bars and so full of life. After catching up with some old friends from portland we took another taxi to Timm & Jenny, our hosts for the stay. The last years I have developed a passion for craft beer and what could be better than one of the greatest bottle shops I've ever encountered sitting next door to their house. Chuck's 85th has over a thousand different bottles in their selection, and what a selection!

The two days we've been here so far has been a lot of catching up, old memories and bar hopping. Ballard and nearby Fremont offers a great variety of bars, restaurants & thrift stores. The beer selection has exploded since last time and in some bars you cant even find a lager. Timm started us of with his signature manmosas(mimosas, but dont you dare say it!!!) and then we randomly hit bars and restaurants. We stopped for food at Blue C Sushi, they have a revolving sushi belt with some of the best sushi dishes I've ever tried. When they pass your table you grab one of the belt. They are all color coded and priced accordingly. A bit pricey since it's hard to stop eating, but a sensational food experience. 

The day and folloving evening turned out to be a big blur of events, people, bars & beers. What i learned about the people from these parts of Seattle is that they are friendly, social, laid back people. As long as you dont give any attitude they'll embrace you with open arms. The night ended at a local favorite, the mexican restaurant El Chupacabra. Dishing out mission style burritos, generous margaritas and with a cheerful crowd of local customers, this is another must if in Seattle. We somehow managed to get back to the house sometime that night and as a nightcap we shared one of my findings from Chuck's, an amazing american sour beer!

I'll try to update soon but today is game day and we're in a hurry. Go Sounders!!!!