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Tasty n Sons

A Brunch Restaurant.  Really, they just serve brunch from 9AM to 3PM.  Most restauranteurs wouldn’t dream of opening a new restaurant with a single brunch menu,   but the guys behind Toro Bravo have rolled the dice and looking at the waiting list on a Tuesday they’ve got it.
Tasty N Sons is located in Northeast Portland in the Mississippi Neighborhood, a part of Portland that has large bike corrals on the last parking spot of each street.   A black sign hangs outside of the unsuspecting feast that looms behind the door.  At the top of a small staircase the busy servers pause to welcome you and take you over to a table (during the week), its rumored that a line wraps around the corner on the weekend as guests wait up to an hour and a half for a spot.
The long narrow space has a cozy bar area and communal table in the front and a long banquette along one side that looks at the chefs counter and open kitchen.  The tables along the banquette are tightly spaced which could make recapping last nights adventures a story your neighbors are going to listen to as well.
Each place setting has a share plate which makes more sense once your server explains that their hope is everyone will share, to encourage sharing each item is brought one-by-one from the kitchen as soon as it is ready.  The menu is divided into two sections, smaller & larger plates.
The brunch cocktail list contains staples like the bloody mary and its cousins made with gin or tequila.  A number of fresh squeezed juice spiked with the good stuff make it seem justifiable to be drinking before noon.  The Ristretto Roasters coffee is excellent and its unlikely your cup will be less than half full throughout the meal.
The first item to arrive at the table was Kyle’s House made Granola with fresh Oregon strawberries served with milk and yogurt.  With the yogurt and strawberries the granola didn’t need any milk, it was a healthy portion but a little awkward to share, one bowl served with two spoons, wouldn’t recommend this one for a group of guys regrouping after a night on the town.
Next the Croque Madame arrived sitting in a pool of jalapeno maple syrup.  The syrup is amazing, the sweetness battles the bite of the jalapeno to create a unique combination.  Perfect for sharing, although everyone will be fighting over the syrup.
The Chocolate Potato Doughnut with creme anglaise was the perfect intermezzo.  A simple doughnut hole covered in warm creme anglaise, delicious but also quite possibly the most expensive doughnut in town at $1.50 per doughnut hole.
The Fried Egg & Cheddar Biscuit with Fried Chicken (also available with sausage) signaled that it was time to get back to business and push the doughnut plate aside.  The biscuit is flakey and dry compared to the juicy fried chicken, the fried egg pulls them both together to create breakfast bliss.  This dish is stacked tall so splitting can be challenging.
It felt like eggs were the secret ingredient in this Iron Chef breakfast competition; next to arrive was a fluffy Boudin Blanc Omelet with Dijon and asparagus.  The cajun style sausage went surprisingly well with the dijon, no one wanted to let this one get passed around the table.
Finally, almost as if it was planned, Auntie Paula’s French Toast with strawberry-rhubarb-maple & whipped cream was brought to the table.  The fluffy, not soggy, thick bread is the perfect vessel for loading up the berries & cream on each fork full.  The half order was more than enough, although next time I might just come alone and order the full sized French Toast.
Tasty N Sons
Brunch Daily 9AM-3PM
3808 N. Williams, Suite C
Portland, Oregon

Nostrana

Nostrana- Translation from Italian to English: Ours.  They believe this invokes local, simple food from honest ingredients.  The website states: Pure. Regional. Italian.  This writer agrees, read further as I recap my experience and share insight from Sommelier Dustin Wilson on Nostrana’s wine list.
The restaurant was selected as the location to celebrate my friend Marc’s 30th birthday.  On a Thursday night we met in a small hip style strip mall (think Frasca in Boulder) and entered the large room.  A bar flanks the right wall and windows open to the street and parking lot on two sides.  Your eyes are immediately drawn to the wood fired oven at the rear of the room in the open kitchen.
The chef & her team of Portland cooks (read beards and baseball caps) are uniformed together by tee-shirts adorning a pair of scissors, more on those later.  A towering backbar displays a collection of spirits and vintage poster prints of Bitter Campari L’Aperativo.
As one might expect after learning about the vision of the restaurant, the menu is laid out with strong Italian roots.  The first thing that jumped out to me was the word “Tonight” followed by todays date.  For me this is a great sign of a quality kitchen, it means that the menu is fluid with the season, farmers market, local fishmonger and the whim of the chef.  From the Antipasti section of the menu the cremini mushrooms & rhubarb mostarda made me want to try the Charcuterie plate which consisted of sopressata & saucisson salami and Prosciutto di San Daniele.  It was so good that the plate didn’t make it around the table, I kept it close throughout the course.
I was disappointed to learn that the kitchen had sold out of the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a 2-inch thick 1 kilo (35 ounce) Piemontese porterhouse steak.  My wallet was more than satisfied with the Tagliata a grilled rare Piemontese flat iron steak with arugula and an amazingly aromatic garlic rosemary oil.  I traded a few slices of steak for a snip of Marc’s Pizze.  I say snip not slice because the pizze is served uncut, as is the traditional Italian style.  Each pizze is served with a pair of kitchen scissors so you can cut yourself a piece (they are surprisingly easy and fun to use, no need for a pizza cutting wheel anymore).  The margherita pizze with Italian San Marzano DOP tomatoes, house made mozzarella and fresh basil was light yet full of flavor, next time I’ll start my meal with this.
The apple & rhubarb crisp which takes twenty minutes to prepare is well worth the wait.  The waiter said most people order it during the main course but waiting till after dinner was cleared gave us plenty of time for coffee before the crisp arrived.  The smell of cinnamon and spice filled the air as we each reached in for a bite.  I also tried the house made chocolate gelato which reminded me of my daily afternoon snack when I visited Milan.
As one might guess the wine list has strong Italian roots but wine director Nicholas Suhor did a great job of highlighting some Oregon gems as well.  I was surprised by how reasonably priced the selections were.  One of the hardest thing about dining with a group is finding a wine that will complement everyones food, we opted for a bottle of 2007 Roero Arneies made by Bruno Giacosa, it was the perfect apéritif for the evening.  From there we each turned to the selection of 15 wines by the glass.
My buddy Dustin Wilson of the Little Nell in Aspen glanced over the list and makes these recommendations incase you decide to try out Nostrana (at the very least you can impress everyone at the table with your extensive Italian wine knowledge.)
If you decide not to enjoy the Roero Arneis check out the Jermann “Vintage Tunina” which is one of the most famous “super-white” blends of Friuli.  The Cigliutti Barbaresco “Serraboella” 1997 at $135 a bottle is a killer price and is in its prime time to drink.  Dustin also recommends the G.D. Vajra Barolo “Bricco del Viole” 2001 which is a little known producer who makes some really pretty Barolo.  The ’01 vintage was great and with a price tag of $120 its hard to pass up, this is what I’ll be drinking on my next visit.
Let me know if you make it down to Nostrana and if you find the scissors to be a good way to snip your pizze!

Shopping downtown is much more interesting than an afternoon at the mall in the suburbs.  There is an endless supply of homeless/begger/street entertainer/run-aways that make every block a little more exciting than the last.  You get to pay $1.60 an hour to park and you get rained on between each store.

But for some reason, the energy of downtown Portland means I am willing to drive a little further and take a little longer.  There is something better about getting a cappuccino from a career barista at an independent coffee house that roasts their own beans than waiting in line at the cookie cutter Starbucks.

On a recent shopping trip I decided to duck into Urban Farmer at the Nines Hotel for an afternoon snack.  The Nines sits in what was once the downtown Meier and Frank department store, now the hotel occupies the top floors while Macy’s fills the street level.  After an elevator ride up to the 8th floor lobby of the hotel it is one right turn and you are standing infront of the Urban Farmer Restaurant.  The restaurant fills the atrium of the hotel, there are no views, but the skylights above allow for beautiful natural lighting, even on a rainy day.  I saddled up at the bar and enjoyed a selection of Happy Hour Bites.  The bar features a barrel of whiskey from House Spirits that is being aged behind the bar.

Mac & Cheese and the Charcuterie Board

The Happy Hour menu is affordable and  also offers discounts on house wine and draft beer.  The crowd tends to be a blend of business people and shoppers alike.  Service at the bar is attentive and portions are great for sharing, or making a whole meal for one out of a few selections.

Bathtub Gin

Sometimes its a good idea to listen to the locals.  On a recent Seattle visit more than a few people recommended Bathtub Gin for a cocktail.  The name alone was enough of a reason for me to check the place out.  I followed a few locals through the streets of downtown and then through an alley off of second ave.  There was a dumpster and trashcan and then a small door with an address plate to the left of the door.  I stepped inside onto a small landing and climbed the half flight of stairs up to the bar.  Inside there are two tables and a small bar with 8 or so barstools.  One bartender oversees the room and a second cocktailer works the room down another half flight of stairs.

The spirits selection is impressive, one can find selections from Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New York and the classics from Europe.  The cocktail menu is well composed with a mixture of classic recipes and modern drinks.  The beer selection spans the globe and there is something for everyone, unless your an MGD drinker.  As I posted up at the bar I noticed a library of books on the wall.  The collection looked like it was borrowed from Powell’s food and wine section.  The book shelves contained everything from Dale Degroff’s latest cocktail book to Savoy the classic cocktail recipe book.  As I sipped on my cocktail I turned the pages looking for what I would drink next.

The vibe at Bathtub Gin is unique, everyone there is excited to be there, patrons chat with eachother and the bartender discussing their favorite drinks as well as how the Mariners were playing that week.

A bookmark in one of the cocktail books

I highly recommend a visit to Bathtub Gin when your looking for a good drink with friends or solo.

Bathtub Gin- 2205 Second Ave. Seattle

5pm-2am nightly

Peach Caprioska

An updated recipe with influence from the national drink of Brazil, the Caipirinha.  The Caprioska is made with vodka instead of the cane sugar Cachaca.

Muddle 5 slices of Cucumber with 1/2 ounce simple syrup and 1/2 ounce lime juice.  Add 2 ounces of Peach Vodka and shake over ice.  Strain into a double rocks glass full of crushed ice and enjoy.

Sometimes its fun to sit in a bar and people watch.  Throughout my travels I have always enjoyed sipping on a beer in the lounge of a Four Seasons hotel.  The mix is usually a dynamic group of bankers, dignitaries, actors & others who have equally interesting backstories.  On my recent visit to Seattle I started the afternoon perched on a comfy leather couch within the lounge of ART, the restaurant inside the main lobby. I expected to spend way to much on a beer and my plan involved eating all the free nuts I could to justify the cost.

Pretzels and Popcorn

You will be surprised to find a nightly happy hour menu from 5-7pm Sunday through Thursday.  After ordering a beverage the cocktail waitresses rush over a selection of seasoned popcorn & pretzels.  As I sipped on my beer I decided on a cured meat plate for a whopping $5.00.   Other options on the menu include a buffet of all you can eat cheeses.  The value for the cured meats plate was great, the bread was served piping hot so as you wrap the prosciutto around each piece the fat begins to melt before it hits your mouth.

The Five Dollar Happy Hour

The Cheese Buffet

It turned out to be Seattle’s Restaurant Week so I opted to stay and move into the dining room for the first seating at dinner.  The $25.00 three course menu presented a large array of options, so many that I didn’t even glance at the regular menu.  I decided on seared tuna to begin, Lamb & a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. The next amazing value came when I opened the wine list which stated that on Sunday & Monday the entire wine list was 50% off.  I snagged a bottle of Betts & Scholl Riesling for less than the regular price at my wine store.   The restaurant also offers any bottle of wine from their list by the glass if you purchase two or more glasses, they simply divide the bottle price by 4 and charge you accordingly.   Who needs order half bottles when you can enjoy the entire list 375 ml at a time.

Service was spot on, the view over the sound was beautiful and the value was unheard of.  I have never been to a restaurant of this caliber and seen so many discounts, it speaks of the current situation but I feel that Art has tastefully discounted while maintaining their standards.

Art Restaurant @ Four Seasons Seattle

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Daily

Cheese Bar

In Portland the name Steve comes up if your talking about cheese.  Steve’s cheese was a small cheese counter in Northwest Portland featuring between 150 and 200 cheeses at any given time.  Recently they packed up shop and moved across the river to open Cheese Bar, a small beer and wine bar with a huge cheese case and cured meat case.

Cheese Bar

Theres no sign on the building, just a graphic on the glass door that reads “CHEESE”.  Once inside the bright wood floor warms up the rainy view out the window.  The cheese counter is the first thing your eyes are drawn toward.  Behind the case the bar extends the length of the room.  A chalkboard has the daily sandwich and cured meat selections.  An impressive beer list if offered for on and off premise consumption.  You order from the bartender and then find a seat, I hope more bar stools are on order for the window.  The place is laid back and simple but the meat and cheese are awesome.  The cured meats are sourced from Olympic Provisions and a husband and wife from Iowa.  My one complaint, the meat board was served with no vessel for getting the meat to your mouth (bread or silverware), lucky for me, I wasn’t sharing.

Meat Board at Cheese Bar

As I gazed into the cheese case, Greg offered assistance.  We ended up comparing some alpine raw cow cheeses, it was interesting seeing a few side by side.  You can tell Greg is passionate about his product.

Cheese Bar

Tuesday-Sunday 10am-11pm

6031 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon

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