Creepy Art and Biker Bars

I started my holiday weekend with a girl’s night out with my cousin Anna. We met for a happy hour at a bar near my office, had horrible food but an okay beer, and then we walked what felt like a million blocks (ok maybe it was only a few) to the Portland Art Museum. I love museums; I’ve been to the Portland Art Museum many times but I still┬áhave not seen everything there. I visited one of my favorite paintings–

"Nature's Fan" - William Adolph Bouguereau

And then we saw the photography exhibit we went there specifically for (and were disappointed by). We finished our evening with an absolutely amazing exhibit by the artist John Frame. There was also a Rothko exhibit but that didn’t hold my interest. I was blown away by the John Frame pieces. His sculptures (puppets, really) were disturbing and odd, dark and nightmarish, but also creative and sometimes cute. Words cannot fully describe just how inventive his pieces were.

He would carve out these sculptures, sometimes tiny pieces with incredible detail, and make short films of them or take photos of the creations to tell the story. It was so cool. If this exhibit travels to your city, I urge you to take a look!

Saturday morning I went to the gym to workout. I’d hoped to go for a hike but the weather was “iffy” on Saturday so the gym it was. I had a really good 3 mile run (so ready to make the move to running outside) and an intense weight lifting session that had my muscles twitching. While I am satisfied with my progress and happy that I’ve increased my strength tremendously, I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t been seeing any physical changes yet. Perhaps I have reached a plateau with strength training and need to change things up?

After the gym, Michael and I saw “Dark Shadows.” As a teen, I watched the whole Dark Shadows TV show. I’d rented the VHS tapes from the library. ­čÖé I remember it being very soap-operaish. I loved it back then. How was the movie? It was surprisingly good. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it was much more serious than the previews made it out to be. It wasn’t as campy or silly as the previews were. In fact. we both felt like the humor about Barnabas being a “fish out of water” in a new era was very subtle. Still good and funny!

Saturday evening I met my friend Erika for dinner at Nicholas Restaurant. I’d had a Groupon deal for it and tried to use it several times but was discouraged both times by the long line waiting to be seated. There is almost always a line of at least 20 people waiting to eat at Nicholas. I don’t know about you, but that discourages me from going to a restaurant. Who wants to wait over an hour to be seated?

Luckily, Erika and I got there pretty early to avoid the crowds and the wait was about 5 minutes. The place was packed and noisy, but the service was fast. They brought the special bread out (similar to naan bread or like pita bread) with a dipping sauce while we waited for dinner. We only had about half of it before our dinners came out.

Erika and I both ordered the lamb gyros. They are my favorite at the local Lebanese restaurants I go to. My gyro came out with homemade pita chips and a┬átzatziki sauce. The gyro was fantastic and so filling. I don’t think I ate a ton of food but I was stuffed!

We finished up dinner and it was still early so we decided to walk up the street to the East End bar for a beer. Erika and I sat outside on the picnic table in the sunny evening catching up and drinking our beers (I had a Ninkasi Total Domination IPA). For about an hour I watched as a very black cloud slowly made it’s way in our direction. Half the sky was black and the other half was clear blue.

Suddenly I started seeing flashes of lightning in the distance. The air was still warm and I thought the storm was far away. I watched as it got closer. The lightning was more frequent, the thunder rolling in the distance. The sun had dimmed behind the clouds and those black clouds were now over us. A wind picked up and we both realized at the same time that the storm would be starting in seconds.

And it did. With booming thunder, flashing lighting, the sky opened up and it was a torrential downpour I haven’t seen in Portland since the dead of winter. It was shocking.

The metal band that had been unpacking their music equipment and bringing it into the biker bar to perform took refuge inside the doorway of the bar.

Erika and I joined the sea of black leather, army-booted, bullet-belted, long-haired metal dudes in the bar to wait out the storm. Someone commented on when the frogs would start raining down and Erika and I decided we’d order another beer to wait out the storm! It wasn’t quite the way I saw my weekend going, I would have preferred sunny skies and BBQ’s but I still had a great time.

QUESTION: How was the weather in your neck of the woods? Any grilling or camping?

Bar Avignon

It was a really dark and rainy night when I met my friend Ember for happy hour after work. A storm had rolled into Portland with high winds, heavy downpour and a chill to the air. We’ve been lucky for most of December with dry, cold, sunny weather. I guess that’s over with now! Time for soggy shoes.

I met Ember at Bar Avignon on SE Division. It’s in a trendy area of town that I used to live near. There is a stretch on that street with a bunch of amazing restaurants. Nostrana, a few cute bars and sushi places.

The restaurant was trendy and intimate–the perfect place for a date night or a fun night out with the girls to talk. It was quiet and the music was a mixture of trance and mood music. It was dimly lit by candles and had an extensive bar. The wine list looked impressive to me.

I ordered one glass of wine–their happy hour white wine special. The wine was crisp and tart, like a bitter green apple mixed with grapefruit. It was cool and refreshing and the furthest thing from a sweet wine. For dinner I ordered off the happy hour menu. First up: brussel sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and bacon lardons. Oh.My.God.

I have a newfound passion for brussel sprouts. They are kind of amazing. And mixing the flavors with bacon and hazelnuts was even more amazing. I loved the crunch and the texture. I will most definitely be trying to make this side dish at home in the future. I wish the pictures of the food had turned out better. I’m still learning how to use my camera. Give me time!

Next up: Washington mussels in a white wine, cream and tarragon sauce. It came with a large slice of bread toasted and tasting like creamy butter. I am most disappointed that the picture of the mussels didn’t turn out.

Ugh. Trust me, the picture is horrible but the food was fantastic. All of the flavors went together nicely and I really enjoyed chatting with Ember.┬áEmber ordered the creme brule bread pudding for dessert and I had two bites–delectable. The creme brule flavor in the custard on top was really interesting. I kind of wanted to order something off their cheese menu–the Humboldt goat cheese with olives sounded really enticing. But I skipped it. I had my sights set on enjoying Grandma’s banana bread at home for dessert.

Before I knew it, two and half hours had passed and happy hour was long over. It’s nice to chat with Ember because we have so much in common and she also lost a significant amount of weight. It’s fun sharing stories with someone else who has gone through all that.

I would most definitely come back to this place for happy hour. The regular priced meals were a little steep for my tastes but the happy hour was a good medium road.

QUESTION: What’s the average cost for an entree that you’re willing to pay? How much is “too much” for happy hour foods?