Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bay Area Weekend Highlights: Cream, The Trappist, Bi-Rite Creamery, Mikkeller Bar, and Mission Chinese Food

Two weekends ago, Doug and I flew to the Bay Area for the San Francisco Rock n Roll Half Marathon. It was our third half marathon but definitely more challenging than the Portland or Seattle halfs we had run previously thanks to all those SF hills. Of course, we rewarded ourselves for our efforts with lots and lots of good food and drinks. Here are some of our favorite stops from our trip: 

What: Cream
Where: 440 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA
Honeys Heart: Ice cream sandwiches



Lauren and Kyle graciously played host to us for the weekend. After a tasty dinner at Tacolicious in Palo Alto on Friday night, Lauren suggested we get some dessert at Cream, a custom ice cream sandwich shop.

Cream offers a menu of 20 ice cream flavors and 10 cookie options. You can pick two different cookie flavors for your ice cream sandwich, or you can diverge from the ice cream sandwich thing and get a milkshake, malt, float, or just plain ice cream or a cookie.

We all agreed that these messy, melty sugar bombs were quite delicious but very filling.

What: The Trappist
Where: 460 8th St, Oakland, CA
Honeys Heart: Mikkeller's Spontaneous Series on tap 


Lauren, Sarah, Doug, and I headed to Oakland to watch the Mariner's beat the A's (yeah, that win was unexpected) on Saturday afternoon before moving on to The Trappist, a Belgian beer bar in the Old Oakland neighborhood. 

The Trappist has over 20 beers on tap as well as several bottles and some food offerings. Lauren and I both sampled some beers from Mikkeller's Spontaneous Series. The series features oak-aged lambic beers with various fruit additions. Lauren opted for the Mikkeller Spontanpeach while I chose the Mikkeller Spontancassis. Both were very good and, as we would find out the next day, a very good deal considering the price of Mikkeller bottles.We also liked the nice little patio out back.

What: Bi-Rite Creamery
Where: 3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA
Honeys Heart: Ricanelas ice cream (cinnamon with snickerdoodles)


After a two-hour drive back over the Bay Bridge (yep, you read that right... so much traffic), we were more than ready for dinner. We did some carbo-loading at Zero Zero before making a quick stop for dessert at Bi-Rite before heading back to Palo Alto.

Bi-Rite makes all their ice cream, soft serve, and baked goods by hand in small batches using local, organic ingredients.

I opted for their take on salted caramel (it had a much darker caramel flavor than any salted caramel ice cream I've had before) and ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodles). The ricanelas was so, so good as was Doug's pick of malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate pieces. Plus, while I'll give it to Salt & Straw that their line does move relatively fast, Bi-Rite really has their ish together. We breezed though their block-long line in under 10 minutes.

What: Mikkeller Bar
Where: 34 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
Honeys Heart: Um, everything


Doug did quite a bit of research before our trip and was adamant that we stop by Mikkeller Bar after the half despite the less than ideal parking situation. Maybe we were all still feeling the affects of those running endorphins, but seriously, all the beers that we tried here were excellent. Every single one.

Mikkeller obviously puts a lot of care into the selection of their beers and the way they serve them too. The menu is divided by what temperature the beer is served at: 40o, 45o or 55o.

Some group favorites included Siren/Mikkeller/Hill Farmstead Limoncello (tart Imperial IPA), Mikkeller/Prairie American Style (American IPA w/ Brett), AleSmith Speedway Stout, and Tahoe Mountain Double Burgundy (farmhouse with black currents).

One caveat: we found out the hard way that the Mikkeller Spontaneous Series bottles on the menu are only 11oz (maybe the menu mentioned that, but we didn't notice)- so yes, that $25 price tag is a bit exorbitant, though Lauren's Mikkeller Spontanmandarin was really good. 

(Also, you should definitely read this NYT Magazine piece about the founder of Mikkeller and his twin brother who owns another of our favorite breweries, Evil Twin Brewing. Interesting stuff!) 

What: Mission Chinese Food
Where: 2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA
Honeys Heart: Pork Jowl and Dumplings


After finishing our beers at Mikkeller, Sarah, Doug, Lauren, Kyle, and I all wanted to grab dinner in the city before Doug and I had to catch our flight back to Portland. After much deliberation, we reluctantly decided to head to the Mission for burritos (Lauren was hoping to take us somewhere with a little more hip factor). But, as luck would have it, we happened to pass by Mission Chinese Food on our way to burritos and saw that there was no line and no one on the waitlist. Whaaaat??? Usually Mission Chinese has a 1-2 hour wait so this was a big deal. Obviously burritos were no longer happening.

Some quick online research gave us an idea of what to order. Here are our favorite dishes from most-loved to liked-a-lot.

#1 Stir-fired Pork Jowl with crunchy radish, radish greens, chicharrones, and shiso.The radish greens were my favorite part of this dish as they soaked up all the delicious sauce and were super tangy and flavorful.

Grandma's Pork Dumplings with pea tendrils, garlic chives and ham broth. A very simple dish executed to perfection.


Squid Ink Noodles with something or other (sorry, the online menu doesn't have a description of these).

Tea-Smoked Eel with fresh rice noodles, chinese celery, salted plum hoisin, braised pork, and cognac soy.

Ma Po Tofu with braised shiitakes, aged chili paste, sichuan peppers, and scallions. This was incredibly spicy. Perfect for Lauren, but the rest of us stayed away.


Thanks Lauren, Kyle, and Sarah for a great weekend! We'll be back soon!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portland Restaurant: The American Local

What: The American Local
Where: 3003 SE Division St.
When: Thursday - Sunday 5pm - close, Closed Mondays
Honeys Heart: Shiitake Mushrooms!

I could write a fluffy intro, but let's get the point. Go here. Order the Shiitake Mushrooms. Now.


Okay, if you haven't left and are continuing to read this post, I can get to the fluffy stuff. Katie and I hadn't seen each other since our date the week before and we had lots of weekend debauchery to share...and of course that's more fun over a cocktail or two!

We got to The American Local and quickly identified our cocktails of choice. I ordered their Juniper Gin ($9) drink- no surprise- with gin, New Deal ginger liqueur, jasmine-hibiscus honey, lemon and CO2, while Katie channeled her SALEP knowledge and ordered the Raspberry Beret ($9) made with Wild Roots Raspberry vodka, Imbue Petal & Thorn (a local vermouth), rhubarb, and lemon and topped off with sparkling wine. We agreed that we could make pitchers of her drink and sip it on my deck this summer- perhaps we've found our 2014 annual 4th of July party cocktail?


After we got the most important part out of the way, we immediately requested guidance from our bartender, Brett (we had guessed his name was Jeff or Scott- close right?!) on the food menu. Broken up by seafood, apps/fried foods, veggies, skewers, and larger plates, there was a lot to choose from. We finally settled on the Fried Salmon Grit Cakes ($7), Shiitake Mushrooms ($8), and an Octopus Skewer ($7).

Favorite first: Roasted shiitake mushrooms with fregola, nettle pesto and ground prosciutto.


Fregola is a chewy, bead-shaped pasta from Sardinia and its texture combined with the mushrooms made the dish both interesting and heartier than expected. The pesto added a nice brightness to bring balance to the heavier elements. Beyond being delicious, it is also a generous portion. Katie and I were both craving it the next morning- yes that quickly, and yes at 9am. I may be bordering on overselling this dish, but we would seriously be happy going and each getting our own bowl.

The octopus skewer with breadcrumbs and harissa was perfectly cooked and we thought the spice was a real highlight of this plate. We've noticed harissa, a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste, popping up more and more lately and we're definitely on board with that.


The fried salmon grit cakes followed two pretty phenomenal choices and suffered in comparison. Grits don't have much flavor so the cakes just tasted like fried oil with flavorless fish on top and a sprinkle of dill. Not our favorite, but the other items more than made up for it.


We were definitely on our second cocktail by this time. Brett made me a Corpse Reviver and Katie got a Japanese 75 made with sake . I had too many corpse revivers during my recent visit to Salt Lake City (of all places, right?) so we switched.


Our first couple cocktails went down like water and it was time to slow down. Brett made Katie an espresso cocktail and I agreed to a whiskey drink. I've found recently that I'm more of a rye whiskey fan, while Adam is not, so Brett introduced me to High West which makes a combo bottle- perhaps the best of both worlds!


As expected, a third cocktail inspired more food. Jenny, co-owner and manager of The American Local came out to say hi and highly recommended the Brussels (8) saying they are "everybody's favorite" and they would soon be replaced with spring/summer veggies. I can see why they're popular. The surprising combination of brussel sprouts with blood orange and miso was savory and fresh.


We may have ended up with another cocktail- to share- that was a recommendation from Jenny. Brett brews his own ginger beer and made us his Moscow Mule in a pewter cup. You can't really go wrong here.

If you haven't already concluded this from the review, we are really digging The American Local, highly recommend it, and will definitely be back ---those mushrooms are calling our names!

Monday, April 7, 2014

HHH Favorites: Cheese Fondue

Katie and I don't typically celebrate all the mini food holidays, but when it involves cheese we're on board. With National Cheese Fondue Day coming up on Friday, April 11th here are four Portland restaurants that should hit the spot.

Cheese Bar 
6031 SE Belmont
Katie's trips to Cheese Bar have only involved the cheese plates, but those are always tasty so we're assuming their fondue is too. Their Fondue of Alpine Cheeses with Toasted Levain goes for $10.


Elephants
115 NW 22nd Ave
Go for the happy hour Elephants Fondue for $3.95 with apples, carrots, and bread (hh is 5-7pm). Katie and I have a long history with Elephants and through our many adventures there this has remained a simple, but tasty staple. Give it a few minutes to thicken up for full enjoyment.

Gustavs
5035 NE Sandy Blvd
Usually Katie and I avoid bigger, multi-location restaurants but even though Gustav's has five spots now, it was started in Portland and they have good fondue so we're giving them a pass! My favorite- the Crab & Roasted Red Peppers Fondue ($12.95).

Allen Designs
Urban Fondue
2114 NW Glisan Ave
Disclaimer: we haven't had their fondue. Katie and I had an okay Bartini experience and then a very negative Bartini experience so we may have written it off. But here's the deal- it gets good reviews by other people, it's reasonably priced, its a good location, and I sort of doubt a fondue restaurant could mess up cheese fondue...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Portland Bar: Angel Face

What: Angel Face
Where: 14 NE 28th Ave
When: 5pm-midnight Sun-Thurs, 5 pm-1am Fri-Sat
Honeys Heart: Fish Board

Kel and I have been on a kick of hitting up new-to-both of us bars on Monday nights. While perhaps not the ideal night of the week (read about last week's debacle here), its fun to have a standing HHH date night again.

This week, we headed off to Angel Face, sister bar to Navarre. I've heard good things about Navarre (they serve small and large plates with Italian, French, and Spanish influences), so I was excited to see what Angel Face had to offer. Also, check out these walls:


Not wallpaper, fyi. All those flowers were hand-painted. But seriously, how fun is that? Plus, Kel and I had read that there is no cocktail menu at Angel Face. Instead, you just explain to the bartenders what you like- and you know that's like Kel's and my favorite thing to do (sorry, annoying like that).


Kel and I first grabbed a seat at the slightly awkward lower bar in the back before making the switch to the horseshoe-shaped main bar as soon as a spot become available. When the bartender asked what kind of cocktails we were looking for, we gave her the usual requirements: "gin, citrus, not too sweet." I threw in "floral" too, for good measure.


We ended up with a Jasmine made with gin, Cointreau, Campari and lemon for Kel and a Pegu Club made with gin, Cointreau, Angostura bitters, and lime juice for me. Classic and tasty.

For our next round, we told our bartender we wanted to try some cocktails with a little something more going on. Don't get me wrong, the Jasmine and Pegu Club were very good, but Kel and I do like to be a bit more experimental when we're out.

The bartender suggested a Last Word for Kel. It's made with gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime, which seemed perfect since Kel chose Chartreuse as her SALEP topic back in July. I got a Chamomile Sour. Couldn't tell you what was in it, but I did like how the strong chamomile flavor paired so nicely with the citrus.


We also tried Angel Face's Fish Board ($12/$18) which, as far as I can tell, features a rotating selection of seafood deliciousness. Our board included pickled mussels, smoked trout, pickled shrimp, a cod spread, and capers.


I think it was the Fish Board that really made our night. While the cocktails and service were good, there just seemed to be something missing at Angel Face, like it wasn't fully finished yet. But with the arrival of our food, I suddenly felt much happier with our choice of bar. Each item on the board was well-crafted, delicious and, equally important for us, interesting.

Angel Face opened recently, so it's certainly understandable that the best part of our experience came from the seasoned restaurant next door. I don't think Kel and I would be opposed to checking back in a few months from now to see if Angel Face has grown into its skin a bit more.