Thursday, August 28, 2014

Americana Series Part VI: Beer Country ... Exploring the Pacific NW with Gringo G ... Bend, OR!

The Place: Bend, OR … Beer Country!!

Gringo G’s Experience

Summary: Sometimes it is great to visit family not only so you can catch up and enjoy time with them, but also so that you can get to know where they live. This was definitely the case when Gringo G went to Bend, Oregon … he had a wonderful time with family and was introduced to a fantastic new place!

The Eats: First off in Bend was the Ariana Restaurant, which was recommended by family as a great upscale restaurant for dinner.

The service was superb, friendly, fast and exceedingly professional. The food was all extremely well executed in presentation, portions and flavors.

To start off the Gringo G and his dining party got delightful cocktails which were well mixed and creative. One that particularly stood out was the Blue Tequila Cocktail … which had a very interesting flavor.

The starters were served in generous portions and were excellent. The bone marrow with a beef consommé underneath was very rich and almost decadent (possibly Gringo G’s favorite dish at this meal) and the shrimp and grits with Spanish chorizo combined to form a nice beginning of the meal.

The dining party shared all of their plates; with Gringo G ordering the Quail in an interesting North Indian spice rub and his dining partners ordering the Cannelonis filled with fresh ricotta cheese and Scallops served over Risotto. Everything was delicious but the Gringo definitely liked his dish best … the crispy outside of the Quail’s skin with the North Indian rub was tantalizing for the taste buds when mixed with the yogurt sauce.

Overall if you are looking to spend a bit more for a fine dining experience in Bend, OR you should definitely give Ariana a try.

Ariana Restaurant
Shrimp & Grits with Spanish Chorizo
Salmon Tartare
Bone Marrow
Scallops over Crab Risotto
Quail with North Indian Rub

For breakfast the night after the feast at Ariana Gringo G went with family to McKay Cottage Restaurant. This place was packed for breakfast and for good reason. All of the baked goods (they even had a nice water jug with muffins and scones laying out for you so you could nibble on something while waiting to be seated) were very tasty as were the breakfast entrées.

The Lemon Zest Pancakes were very nice with that extra lemon flavor adding a nice extra kick … and the generous amount of fresh, fresh fruit on top made them irresistible as they were gobbled up before the mains arrived at the table.

The Eggs Benny dishes were all well prepared with a home-cooked feel. The Baja Chicken Hash Stack was almost outrageous in size and assortment of flavors. The other Benny plates were all also ample in size and with nice fresh ingredients.

This is a great place for breakfast but be prepared for a wait!

Marion Berry Scone
Lemon Zest Pancakes
Baja Chicken Hash Stack
Paulina Hash

The last stop was to take a Deschutes Brewery Tour and it was a very nice stop indeed. Deschutes is one of the oldest craft brewers in the U.S.A. and their tour was refined, entertaining and well organized. The tasting afterwards was very nice and the staff was very helpful. Gringo G also really loved the great beer.

Bend OR is Beer Country because famous brewers and breweries have been there for quite a while … and this has led to a surge in new microbreweries opening up all over town. Basically your beer options in Bend are wide open … if that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you!

Deschutes Brewery Tour!
Shifties ... Deschutes Employees are Lucky!
Deschutes Tasting!

The Lodging: The Gringo was fortunate enough to stay with family in Bend. This  is usually the best way to go when traveling and this trip to Bend was no exception.

Things To Do: 

Bend is adjacent to National Forests, high elevation lakes, rapids, great hiking trails, Ski Mountains and more so there is definitely a lot to choose from when not dining and downing wonderful beer!

The Gringo went kayaking with family at Hosmer Lake. This made for a wonderful time as the Lake and surroundings were pristine. According to Gringo G's relatives they often see Bald Eagles and Ospreys fishing at the lake. Gringo G even had the privilege of taking a dip in the ICE COLD water which was needless to say exhilarating without any wetsuit.

During the month of July there is a pro bike race called the Centurion, part of the BMC Cascade Cycling Classic, which is a closed circuit sprint race in Downtown Bend. The Gringo had a great time watching the pack of bikes slam by at full speed over and over again … it was really something unique to enjoy.

Lastly there is an event called Balloons Over Bend every summer where you can see Balloons take off and sometimes show off their colors to the surrounding crowds at night with their massive flame blasts.

Bend in the end was an amazing new place that Gringo G got to discover and helped wrap up his trip to the Pacific NW in serious style … it was a pleasure sharing this trip with all of my readers, hopefully you guys enjoyed it as much as the Gringo did!

Deschutes River
Deschutes River
Balloons Over Bend
River Running!
Centurion Race!

Coming Next: Traveling with the Gringo EXTRA Boston, MA!

REPOST Americana Series Part III: PART I BEERVANA Exploring the Pacific NW with Gringo G ... Portland!


The Place: Portland, Oregon - Beervana

Gringo G’s Experience

Summary: Portland is a very interesting place. From the quirky hotel, to the converted old brew-n-view theaters to the gardens to the people the Gringo G Mexico City Foodie got to know there, Portland was worth every minute of Gringo G’s visit.

The Eats: First up is the Portland Saturday Market (which actually operates both Saturdays and Sundays from March through December 24 annually) alongside the Willamette River adjacent to Downtown Portland. The market has an astounding assortment of local food and craft vendors.

Between sessions browsing through local crafts, from vegan soap all the way through gourmet chocolatiers you can have local Thai, Indian food or even gourmet sandwiches … It is not only a decent place to eat some street food but a place to keep yourself occupied while you eat!

The second place the Gringo G visited is Bollywood Theater a restaurant specializing in Indian Street Food dishes from all regions of India. Gringo G got to try a few dishes while waiting to be seated in nearby Pok Pok. The fried Okra with a yogurt sauce and a fresh lemon was delightly light, crunchy and tasty and the Gringo's favorite. The dish with Samosas and a nice ball of garbanzo bean mix placed in a tamarind sauce was nice and tangy. The last dish with boiled eggs floating in a warm curry with nice rice was also delightful. 

Fried Okra with Yogurt Sauce
Curry with Eggs

After Bollywood the Gringo moved onto Pok Pok, which it must be stated has become so popular that there can be up to a two hour wait (you can have drinks in their adjacent Whiskey Lounge Restaurant). 

No matter how long the wait the Northern Thai food is so outstanding that it will surely be worth the wait. The servers will encourage larger groups to eat family style (sharing all plates ordered amongst themselves) and it is a very nice way to dig into this fine food. The Gringo's party of 4 tried different dishes, one a wonderful noodle dish with coconut creme (very refreshing), another eggplant dish that was very interesting, Kaeng Hang Leh a wonderful pork belly stew that had a nice spicy curry broth and tender falling apart meat in the middle (very good but heavy) ... but despite the quality of these dishes the stars for the Gringo were far and away the corn on the cob with coconut creme slathered on top and the AMAZING Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.

The patron next to Gringo's tables literally rolled his eyes back into his head when he first bit into the wings ... the Gringo thought this to be a bit of an exaggeration but once the Gringo bit into the wings he realized why the other guest reacted this way. They are very nice and crunchy on the outside with a perfect blend of fish sauce and other ingredients and if you ask for them spicy they get a little special red pepper kick! This dish was possibly Gringo G's favorite dish on a trip that spanned 6 cities, 4 different provinces and 2 different countries!

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
Coconut Milk Noodles
Kaeng Hang Leh

After an extremely filling and pleasurable experience at Pok Pok the Gringo decided to walk around the Division District of Portland (where Bollywood and Pok Pok are located as well as S&S) to build up his appetite up for dessert (the neighborhood was very nice) at Salt & Straw. The wait to get your ice cream at Salt & Straw was about 20 minutes with a line about 100 yards from the front door of the famed Ice Cream joint. It is, incredibly, also worth the wait if not just to be able to try  some very creative and different ice cream flavors. The Gringo loved the Strawberry Balsamic with Black Pepper and the flagship Sea Salt & Caramel flavors which were amazing and served in very big balls on top of the waffle cone. The Rasberry & Cucumber flavor that another person in the Gringo's group tried was very refreshing and interesting as well. An absolute must for those that have a sweet tooth or a dessert streak in them!

The Line
Strawberry Balsalmic with Black Pepper
Rasberry with Cucumber

The last place Gringo G visited on his visit in Portland was the LePigeon restaurant. A restaurant that uses local products to create French inspired dishes with exceptionally detailed execution. The Gringo G has mixed feelings about his experience at LePigeon as many the fresh dishes were incredibly well presented and executed, particularly the squab which was very nice (hence the name of the place) (see pics below) but the pork shoulder dish even though presented well was still very tough and hard to eat. At the high pricepoint LePigeon charges everything should be perfect and it was not. Regardless eating that squab dish again would be enough motivation to make Gringo G return for another try!

The Squab
Crab Cakes
A Little Wine!
The Salmon
The Lamb Shoulder

Hospedaje: Gringo G went straight from a long day of international travel to his pre-arranged lodging, The Portland Mayor’s Mansion, an old almost colonial-era mansion that is now a 4-room bed and breakfast nestled aside cozy Laurelhurst Park in Eastern Portland. The breakfasts cooked by the B&B proprietor Dick are amazing and prepared fresh every morning.

The B&B Mansion is actually in the National Register of Historic Places and its preserved Colonial Revival Architecture brings you back in time to another era and Dick really encourages his guests to sit around the house and enjoy the property during their visits. Very relaxing.

The Portland Mayor’s Mansion is highly recommended for anyone visiting Portland and looking for a quiet, moderately priced option away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Portland. Plus the breakfasts are downright superb!

REPOST Comida Realmente Gringa III: Viajando con el Gringo G ... PARTE I BEERVANA Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon, USA!


El Lugar: Portland, Oregon - Beervana

La Experiencia Gringo G

Resumen: Portland es un lugar único con hoteles únicos y cines con sus propias cervezas hechas en casa, jardines exóticos y gente interesante que Gringo G, el Foodie de la Ciudad de México, conoció ahí. Portland valió cada minuto de la visita de Gringo G.

Comida: Primero mencionaremos el  Saturday Market (aunque en realidad funciona el sábado y el domingo de marzo al 24 de diciembre) en la orilla del río Willamette, a un ladito del centro de Portland. El mercado tiene una impresionante cantidad de comida local y artesanos.

Mientras rebuscas entre artesanías locales, de jabón vegano a chocolates gourmet, puedes comer platillos tailandeses, indios e incluso sándwiches de lujo. El mercado no solo es un buen lugar para comer comida callejera, sino que es bueno para mantenerte entretenido mientras comes.

El segundo lugar que visitó Gringo G es Bollywood Theater un restaurante especializado en comida callejera india de todas las regiones de India. Gringo G pudo probar varios platillos mientras esperaba a que le dieran una mesa en el cercano Pok Pok. Okra frita con salsa de yogurt y limón fresco, que fue deliciosamente fresca, crujiente y rica, uno de los favoritos del Gringo. El platillo de samosas y una agradable bola de garbanzos, sobre salsa de tamarindo, era sabroso y ácido. El último platillo con huevos cocidos sobre curri tibio con arroz fragante fue otra delicia.

Quimbombo con Salsa de Yogurt
Curry con Huevos

Después de Bollywood el gringo se mudó a Pok Pok que, debemos aclararlo, se ha vuelto tan popular que puede haber hasta dos horas de espera (puedes esperar tomando algunos cocteles en el Whiskey Lounge Restaurant al otro lado de la calle). Pero no importa qué larga sea la espera, la comida del norte de Tailandia es tan extraordinaria que definitivamente vale la pena. 

Los meseros le recomiendan a los que van en grupos que coman como las familias tailandesas (compartiendo todos los platillos entre ellos) y es una manera muy agradable de conocer esta cocina tan refinada. El Gringo iba en un grupo de 4 personas y probó un plato con fideos fríos, crema de coco y piña, muy refrescante para el verano; otro platillo con berenjena; Kaeng Hang Leh, un cocido de la barriga del puerco con un curry muy picante y la carne tan suave que se deshacía en la boca, muy rico pero pesado. Pero a pesar de que estos platos eran fabulosos, los favoritos del Gringo fueron los elotes con crema de coco y las INCREIBLES alitas de pollo con salsa vietnamita de pescado. El cliente junto a la mesa del Gringo estaba literalmente con los ojos en blanco cuando le dio la primera probada a las alitas. Al Gringo le pareció que era una exageración, pero una vez que probó las alitas se dio cuenta porqué reaccionó así el señor. Eran crujientes por afuera y con una mezcla perfecta de salsa de pescado y si las pides picantes te ponen un poco de chile. Este platillo fue posiblemente el favorito del Gringo G en un viaje de 6 ciudades y 4 provincias y 2 países (sin exagerar).

Alitas Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce 
Tallarines en Leche de Coco
Kaeng Hang Leh

Tras una comida placentera y abundante en Pok Pok el Gringo caminó por el bonito distrito de Division de Portland (donde están Bollywood y Pok Pok) para hacer un huequito para el postre de la heladería Salt & Straw. La espera para comprar helado en Salt & Straw era de unos 20 minutos y se extendía unos 30 metros desde la entrada. Es sabroso y vale la pena para probar helados creativos. Al Gringo le encantó el de fresa con vinagre balsámico y pimienta negra, así como el “clásico” de caramelo con sal de mar, que era fantástico, servido con bolas bastante grandes sobre un cono de wafle. El helado de frambuesa y pepino que probó otra persona en el grupo del Gringo era muy fresco y aunque suena simple tenía su chiste. Una parada obligatoria para dulceros y gente con ganas de postre.

La Fila
Helado de Balsámica de Fresa con Pimienta Negra
Cono de Frambuesa y Pepino

El último lugar que Gringo G visitó en Portland fue LePigeon, un restaurante que usa productos locales para crear platillos de inspiración francesa con una presentación bastante agradable. Gringo G tuvo una impresión ambivalente con esta experiencia, pues varios de los platillos estaban de 10, especialmente el pichón (por lo menos le hizo honor a su nombre), pero el lomo de cordero aunque estaba bien presentado era muy duro, casi al grado de no poderse comer y para los precios que cobran debería estar perfecto, pero no fue el caso. Probar el pichón una vez más solucionaría las cosas para Gringo G.

El Pichón
Pastelitos de Cangrejo
El Vinito
El Salmón
Lomo de Cordero

Hospedaje: Gringo G llegó directo tras un día de viaje internacional a su hotel: The Portland Mayor’s Mansion, una mansión de principios de siglo XX que ha sido transformada en un hotel bed and breakfast de 4 habitaciones enclavado en la orilla del parque Laurelhurst, en el este de Portland. El desayuno preparado por el propietario del B&B, Dick, es realmente de lujo y se prepara de cero cada mañana.

La mansión está en el Registro Nacional de Sitios Históricos y su arquitectura casi intacta te hace viajar en el tiempo a una época en la que la vida era bella. Dick es un buen anfitrión y le permite a sus huéspedes sentarse a contemplar la casa durante sus visitas. Muy relajante y hermoso.

The Portland Mayor’s Mansion es altamente recomendada para cualquiera que visita Portland y quiere quedarse en una opción histórica, de buen precio, alejada del bullicio del centro. Además el desayuno está incluido y es muy, muy, bueno.