Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 15 - 21

The recent warmer weather, ok HOT by Portland standards, seems to be influencing our taste buds as this week's best beers are dominated by light, bright beers that go down particularly well on a warm, sunny day.

Pono Brewing Kikiao - Pono, while founded in 2013, has expanded their offerings and the availability of them this year, much to our delight. Focusing on tropical and exotic beers, this one follows that theme and is described as a "South Pacific Farmhouse." The mango and passion fruit provide mildly fruity notes, with the green tea and farmhouse yeast keeping it from being one-dimensional. Super refreshing!

The Commons Citrus Myrtle - A seasonal take on their year round Myrtle, a tart farmhouse ale that uses Silverton-grown lemony Meridian hops, it is made with Buddha's hand, a citron fruit, and orange peel. Citrusy and easy drinking at just a hair over 5%, it's great on its own or with a sushi burger at Wasabi Sushi PDX that we checked out last week.

Culmination Momentary Lapse of Reason - A New England style double IPA dry hopped with Polaris, Cascade, Citra, El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops, this beer is all about bright and juicy. Nearly as easy drinking as the other two, its 8.4% does pack a bit more of a punch. Enjoyed at the McMenamins 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop in NW, drinking there was not a momentary lapse of reason, but a conscious choice because as much as we like to joke/poke them, Kyle curates a great tap list and packs the coolers with a selection of bottles and cans that rival other top notch bottle shops in town.

Xbeeriment Black Force One - The one beer that deviates from the sessionable and bright beers that make up the rest of this week's list, we did in fact enjoy this outside on one of last week's warm afternoons from taps at our neighborhood beer cart, Captured Beer Bus. The 10% smoked imperial stout is an import from a Denmark phantom/gypsy brewery and the first beer we've had from them. Starting off with an aroma that is deep and a bit salty, the flavor follows in depth without being deep sweet, finishing a little peaty and roasty.

As we head into Memorial Day weekend, a bit of extra time off for many hopefully, we wish you happy trails that are lined with, or at least lead to, great beer!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inside Wasabi Sushi PDX

We've all heard the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" but we also know we've gotten burned when we fell to the temptation of an awesome label/name only to find that the cover was far better than what was contained inside. So, too, are new food trends sometimes more hype than substance. Put all of those doubts aside as we take a look at Wasabi Sushi PDX's new brick and mortar location.

Three short years ago Alex and Phyu Naung met with Steven Shomler to discuss an interest in opening a food cart and in the fall of 2015 they did just that. The following year they opened a second cart and an indoor location at CARTLab PDX. This year they are opening their first brick and mortar location, complete with full catering capabilities, at 980 SE Madison. We had the pleasure of attending a preview of the new location yesterday, including a new addition to their menu - the Sushi Burger.

Steven, guru of all things food and beverage in Portland, has not only coached the Naungs but is also managing the bar at the SE Madison location meaning that the four taps are pouring an excellent selection of local, craft beer. Selected to compliment the food menu, the opening line up consists of Culmination Phaedrus IPA, Little Beast Bes, Ruse Translator IPA and The Commons Citrus Myrtle with Zoiglhaus and Sunriver kegs waiting in the wings. For non-beer or equal opportunity drinkers there are also two sake options from Sake One, a trio of Whoa Nelly! wines, a pair of Vin de Days wines and bottles of Reverend Nat's Revival and Deliverance Ginger Tonic.

While we were definitely impressed by the liquid offerings the food was most impressive as well. Sushi is possibly the most an eye-pleasing of all cuisines but here, especially in the case of the sushi donuts (above), that eye candy is taken to a whole 'nother level. Similar to a maki roll in composition, there are three flavor combinations, each competing to be the prettiest and served on a nori sheet to facilitate eating by hand just as one would a sweet, doughy creation.

One item, new and available only at the Madison location, is the Sushi Burger served with fries, that upon quick glance might be mistaken for something one is used to. But taking a second, more detailed look (and taste!) all four options are served on buns made from pressed Forbidden/black rice seared on the grill with a side of sweet potato fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning. We sampled the shrimp katsu version whose elements - avocado for creaminess, slaw for texture and a spicy sauce - combine with the fried shrimp to form a complete package. As with any delicious burger, this one will get messy by the end but the use of multiple napkins is well worth it. The sweet potato fries (a food we are admittedly not a fan of generally) are thinner than most, cooked to achieve actual crispness and find a perfect flavor partner in the Old Bay were so good that we ate them all.

In addition to the "donuts" and "burgers" there are Sushi B-Rittos (including one coated with hot Cheetos and containing wasabi sauce) that rival the bulk of many traditional burritos. Fans of more standard fare will find familiarity in the sushi roll and bowl offerings.

Tonight at 5pm is the friends and family, soft opening with the grand opening on Thursday. The full menu will be available tonight and as an added incentive, pints are specially priced at $4.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 8 - 14

This week's beers are all over the board in terms of style, size of brewery that made them and geographical location. Where they come together is that they all garnered a rating of 4 out of 5. With that, let's look at what made each of them stand out.

Montavilla Brew Works Warren's Big Barrel Porter - The only Portland (or Oregon for that matter) beer to make this week's list comes from one of our favorite breweries to drink at. The captain's chairs at the bar invite one to stay for a good long while, which we did, and as an added bonus to the beer, Flying Pie Pizza is just across the street. (Of course we got some of that as well.) This was tops of all the beers we drank there that night, starting out with a slight aroma and a flavor [especially as it warms] of gentle maple syrup with a touch of barrel. A very drinkable 9%, upon looking back at the check in saw a note that "it would be great with flan," which is particularly interesting since we don't eat much flan. But we'll trust our past self and roll with that idea.

Firestone Walker SLOambic Batch #2 - Firestone Walker does great things when it comes to wild ales and this one, fermented with blackberries, is no exception. Tart, sour and mildly fruity, it has held up well (brewed 1 1/2 years ago) and it was a treat for our tart/sour taste buds to be sure.

New Holland Dragon's Milk Reserve: Mexican Spice Cake - We've had plenty of beers that are designed to have a similar flavor profile to Mexican cake or hot chocolate and they've been done with varying degrees of success. This Midwest-brewed one is definitely one of the best. Starting off with an aroma of coconut (which is somewhat puzzling as there is no coconut in it...perhaps it's the vanilla beans?), the flavor is nice and spicy...eventually. This is a beer you gotta let warm up, so pull it out of the fridge/cooler a beer before you want to drink it but then savor every drop of it.

Other Half Hop Showers - Found in our beer fridge, we apparently forgot to put a note on it so that we could remember who gave it to us. There are two likely subjects but whoever it was needs to be commended. East Coast IPAs (and we don't mean the hazy, NE-style ones that have become so popular recently) have generally failed to wow us, being spoiled with the abundance of and skill used in creating hoppy beers by many West Coast breweries, but this one most certainly did. Thank you, Joe, Kris or whoever is responsible for gifting this to us!