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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
6031 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon