Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Portland's West End part 1

One day I was thinking a random thought, wouldn't it be great to vacation in Portland! Sounds a little strange considering I live in Portland, 5 minutes from downtown to be exact, but the thought occurred to me earlier this year when I won a gift certificate for The Mark Spencer Hotel. What a wonderful treat (I never win anything!) from my Pearl District Business Association.

 It took a bit to find the right weekend but my husband and I found one in late October. As with all cities, parking was going to be a hassle so we decided to ditch our car near Hawthorne (the Max line will be in our neighborhood soon and then only a short walk) take the street car and then the Max to the West End neighborhood. It was a cold and crisp late afternoon when we arrived at the hotel just on time for a nice happy hour meal and drink somewhere.
We quickly checked in, threw our bags down and picked up a Portland street map for the best local restaurants that serve happy hour.
Chris and I love light food so we found a sushi restaurant that was 2 blocks away from the hotel.

Masu Sushi is tucked away on the second floor, it is very beautifully decorated in a classy modern way and has a pleasant view of WE from the street windows. The staff was very nice and helpful when I couldn't figure out if I wanted a cocktail, sake or beer.
We ordered simple dishes, miso, tempura veggies, salmon, tuna sushi and a variety of non-sushi sushi.  Chris really liked the miso and I loved the tempura veggies, especially the Japanese squash and Japanese eggplant. The sushi was good, very fresh and we were stuffed after washing it down with a cold Sapporo.

 One of my favorite chocolate shops in Portland is Cacao and it is directly below Masu Sushi. I didn't have to say much to peek Chris's interest in buying some chocolate even  though we were so full. We weren't the only ones, Cacao was busy with people from all over the world, several languages were being spoken, different chocolate drinks were being drunk and a lovely selection of chocolate was on display for any taste bud. After drooling over the case with selections from Alma, Sahagun and several other chocolatier's from Oregon and Washington, we selected 2 orange sticks, a toffee bar (all dark chocolate) and a hot dark chocolate drink to share.  I was in a little bit of heaven and Chris couldn't stop saying how good the drink was. A sure sign he likes it a lot. So far, our evening plans were going without a hitch. We needed to walk off some of the calories so we walked around the neighborhood a bit.  We popped in Tanner, a lovely industrial decorated  leather goods store based in Portland. We chatted with the staff and planned a few possible gift ideas before we headed back out. Our next lucky shop was Radish Underground, I had wanted to visit this shop for awhile and we were lucky to find them open for their 4 year birthday party. Co-owner Gina was there so we chatted a bit, Chris bought Cristiano a journal book titled "the procrastinator's guide to whatever...." and we decided to move on.  Most shops were closed by this time so we did some window shopping before we headed back to the hotel to dress up for the rest of the evening.
A little while later, I in my dress and Chris in his jeans, headed over to the Crystal Hotel where in Al's Den there was live music for free.  We found a great spot not to far from the stage ordered drinks and listened to music from Nathan Baumgartner who is in the local band And And And.  Just as his set ended it began to get surprisingly busy in Al's so Chris chatted with someone who was familiar with what was going on and got the scoop about the next act, The Ed Forman Show, a comedy act that incorporates, comedy, music and interviews, it is a little like every other late night show out there. We decided to stick around so we shared our table with the food critic for the Portland Monthly, Allison Jones who was soon to be interviewed by Ed about seasonal foods and a delightful group of young buddies up from Newport out for the evening. Chris and I ordered another drink (don't order cocktails from here, they are weak, stick with the beer) and waited for the show.
So what can I say about Ed Forman? hmmm. it was entertaining but I wouldn't have paid cold cash for it. Not bad for a young comedian that truly looks like he is enjoying what he does. Try it out, he plays every Friday thru Sunday in Al's Den.

                                                                                         photo credit- RandySloan
The weather was still holding out for us so we walked a couple of blocks to Clyde Commons, I had read about their happy hour and since it was 12:30 and the sushi had burned off it was time to eat again. The bar was busy but we were seated at one of their large communal tables and we had it all to ourselves. The menu was great, we ordered a hamburger and their andouille sausage with pickles and mustard. The hamburger knocked Chris's socks off and I would order the andouille sausage again in a heart beat. I ordered their daily punch, I can't remember what it was and I am not sure I would order it again, it was good but a little strange, this is coming from a cosmo or a Black Butte porter girl, I don't experiment on my drinks a lot. It was late now and time for bed, the plan was to get up early, go find a breakfast joint.  A brisk walk back to the The Mark Spencer Hotel was a nice way to end the evening.
Part 2, "The morning" next week.