Getting it right from the top

A native Californian and still a worshiper of the sun, I oftentimes get blue in the gloom of Portland's dark, cloudy and rainy days. Trust me, I spend countless amounts of time day dreaming about the perfect part of the world to relocate to and bask in 80-degree, sun-drenched weather day in and day out.

For now I'm Portland-based, and with my recent focus over the past couple of years to the world of food, I could not think of a better place to be. I sit within 25 minutes of Oregon's burgeoning wine county, about an hour from it's one-of-a-kind coastline that sits to the west, and can go east for an hour to reach it's snow-draped mountain peaks and log-cabin resorts.

In between sits the Willamette Valley which boasts an incredible myriad of local perveyors that haunt our award-winning collection of restaurants, local grocery stores and area farmers' markets. We're in one of the most fortunate locations in the United States that has the ability to savor an abundance of locally grown and locally produced high-quality foods right in our own backyard.

That's why I have to admit that I was a tad proud after reading an article today that I stumbled upon at the New York Times online. Since Day 1, our new first lady hasn't held back on communicating her thoughts for what she expects to come out of her new kitchen.

If you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed since the first day she took stage--those incredibly toned biceps! And I've heard that her husband (our new leader of the free world) still is quite religious in keeping his morning running routine. This family is fit and is very outspoken in their promotion of a healthy lifestyle. What's more, the Mrs. is a huge supporter of using locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and overall more nutritous products being served in the White House, and across the nation.

From the NY Times article:

In a speech at the Department of Agriculture last month, Mrs. Obama described herself as “a big believer” in community gardens that provide “fresh fruits and vegetables for so many communities across this nation and world.”

To read the full article click here.

Photo by Keven Lamarque/Reuters

The story also stated that locally grown goods have been served in the White House for quite some time under the last administration. For some reason it just wasn't touted. It's a great stance that's being taken from the top by our country's leaders to communicate to the rest of the nation the importance of eating locally and healthfully. Looks like change just continues to chug along these days...

And for me, for now I'll stop my whining about the cold days and grey skies. The rain leads to gorgeous summers, lucious greenery and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables that I get to enjoy all year round--and at best during the spring/summer farmers' markets! As for the sunshine and 80 degrees? Those conditions will continue to scream, PTO (Personal Time Off)!




Time for happy hours and cocktails

Now yes, I know it seems that everywhere we turn we're faced with some terrible news that we're in a recession, that business are closing left and right and that we might as well bury our heads under our pillows and forget about seeing the sunshine of hope ever again.

Well, for me, that last part is just too ridiculous for words. I think that it's this time where it's more important than ever to get out, spend some time with good friends and take some weight of those stressed shoulders with some good food and spirits. And in turn, support the local economy...just a tad.

Below are a couple of good excuses to get out and give yourself that much-needed break you deserve. Round up a few friends, family members, or your significant other and go spend some time with a few smiles on your face.

Nostrana restaurant recently introduced a new $5 or less happy hour menu featuring savory plates from its hand crafted, local menu offered every night of the week from 9 p.m. 'til close.

The menu includes wine, beer, authentic wood-fired Italian pizzas, the signature Insalata Nostrana and more.The perfect dinner for two for less than $20, Nostrana's happy hour menu boasts carefully selected wines and full-size entrées - culinary treats that won Executive Chef Cathy Whims a James Beard semi-finalist nomination this year.The complete happy hour menu follows below.

l'ora dell'aperitivo - happy hour
Pizza Margherita - house-made mozzarella, tomato and basil - $5
Pizza Marinara - tomato, garlic and oregano - $5
Charcuterie - selection of artisanal and house-made meats with accoutrements - $5
Insalata Nostrana - radicchio and Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and sage croutons in a Caesar style dressing - $5
Olive Plate - $3
Bar Nuts - $3
From the rooster bar:
Moretti pale lager - $3
Hales' Red Menace amber ale - $3
Campari & soda - $4
White or red wine by the glass - $5

Nostrana's Happy Hour is available nightly from 9 p.m. to close with a one-drink minimum. Nostrana is located at 1401 SE Morrison, Portland 97214. For more information call 503.234.2427 or visit Nostrana online at http://www.nostrana.com/.

House Spirits Distillery, makers of Aviation Gin, have been running a series of Wednesday-night happy hour events the distillery calls Recession Proof Mixology (RPM). Every Wednesday, the House Spirits crew visits a different venue around Portland. The talented bartenders at each venue mix up some of the most unbelievable cocktails you'll ever taste with House Spirits' locally produced libations. Throw in the restaurant's happy hour menu and you'll experience a fun evening of food and drink that won't break your bank.

This week's RPM will be hosted at Bar Avignon located on SE Division Street in Portland. The evenings usually run from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., but I'd suggest calling as each venue's time may be different.

RPM is hosted every Wednesday night, and the venue changes each week. The group plans to continue RPM through 2009. Those of you on Facebook can visit the list of upcoming restaurants where you can catch RPM by typing Recession Proof Mixology in the search box in the top right-hand corner of your profile page. Or for further information on the next RPM contact matt@housespirits.com.



Around Town

With Portland's restaurant scene burgeoning at the seams, it's a wonder how so many places stay top-of-mind with those looking to fill their growling appetites. Below are two unique programs that would catch any foodie's--or pet lover's--eye from a couple of female chefs on Portland's long list of "Ones to Watch" that I wanted to share.

Jenn Louis and her team at Lincoln are at it again. Louis recently launched a series of three-course dinners that range from $25 to $30 per plate and puts 12 lucky diners on 12 plush stools around her kitchen table for an up close and personal, and I'd say special, dining experience amongst the magic that happens behind the scenes.

Diners can call ahead and reserve a single spot at the table, or reserve all 12 spots for a group of their most favorite foodie friends.

From Lincoln:
To make a reservation, please call 503-232-4675. Here's this week's dinners.

Thursday, March 5: $25

Arugula with blood oranges, pear, almonds and citrus vinaigrette
Pork shoulder with soft polenta and roasted onions
Chocolate slumpcake with nibs and crème fraiche

Friday, March 6: $30
Roasted beets with fromage blanc and salsa verde
Bourride of clams, mussels, true cod, potatoes and fennel
Chocolate espresso cake with maldon salt and crème fraiche

Saturday, March 7: $30
Fried fennel with lemon aioli
Puree of cauliflower soup with porcini charlotte
Braised flank steak with olives, red onion and potato gratin
Almond cake with poached pears

Sunday March 8, $25
Chicken curry with chickpeas and garam masala
Green cabbage with mustard seeds and ginger
Apple and carrot raita
Basmati rice
Vanilla ice cream with butterscotch

Did she say braised flank steak with olives, red onion and potato gratin? I think I also saw two of my favorite words used together: lemon + aioli? Sign me up!

Dinners start at 7 pm. Please call 503-232-4675 for reservations.

Space is limited; if you find yourselves without any dinner plans late in the day, they may have some last minute cancellations.

"TLC" Pet Mingle
The second special event I recently came across was from chef Courtney Sproule, mastermind behind Portland's din din dining series of intimate dinners hosted at a variety of the city's venues. Sproule has joined forces in a collaborative effort with local photographer Tim Gunther, Liz Kay, owner of I Walk the Vine wine t-shirt company and Will West, a local singer-songwriter.

The collaboration is a benefit for Dove Lewis, Portland's nonprofit emergency animal hospital.

What's more? You get to bring your pet and have your picture taken--with your pet--by Tim himself. And this mingle comes at an unheard of cost--just $10! Ten dollars to bask in food and wine pairings from Sproule, have your pic taken with your best friend and get exclusive access to Liz's designs? I need to borrow a pet!

Further information from Sproule and team:

Pet Mingle
March 14th
3:00 – 6:00 PM

an afternoon of good food, wine,
live music & photography

· Portland photographer Tim Gunther will capture you & your pet.

· Wine & food pairings by din din's Courtney Sproule.

· Live music by singer-songwriter Will West.

· Silent auction – music, food, wine, vet packages.

· Trunk show with I Walk the Vine apparel.

Ticket proceeds will benefit Dove Lewis Animal Hospital.
Tickets are $10 - this includes all of the above!
Limited amount will be sold so buy early.

Tim Gunther Studios
917 NW 19TH, suite E
Portland OR, 97209
½ block south of Lovejoy

Purchase tickets by clicking here
Or call 503.547.5833

Get out and enjoy what's going on around town!

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