Girl’s Pint Out

…And ironically, none of us girls actually ordered beer!

Saturday evening I headed out for the evening for my first official “Blogger Meetup”! I organized it awhile ago because I’ve been wanting to meet some of the Portland bloggers that I read every day and follow on Twitter.

The meetup was at one of my favorite Portland restaurants: The Sapphire Lounge. It’s in the trendy SE Hawthorne area and they have an excellent drink menu and really, really good food. The service has always been stellar at The Sapphire. All around it’s always been a fun experience going there.

It was a really nice Fall day in Portland. It sprinkled a little bit during the day but it wasn’t raining much, so that was good. I was glad I got to the Sapphire a little early because it got really crowded really fast!

The other Portland bloggers that joined me were Kalin from I’m an Eating Machine! and my friend Ember from Tigress Fitness. I’ve been wanting to meet Kalin in person for ages. She cracks me up. If you haven’t read her blog, I suggest you do. I suggest this post–it had my rolling on the floor. Kalin is Klassy.

The Sapphire is such a cool place with a retro vibe. It’s the perfect place for intimate conversations.

Ember is the friend that I helped with swimming earlier this year in preparation for her first sprint triathlon. I’m really glad that Ember and I are becoming friends. We ran in the same circles for years but never really “met” until recently.

I love meeting new people–especially when we have tons in common. I’ve successfully met and became friends with another blogger and had a great time! I’m glad this second attempt was also a success.

Did I mention that the drink menu at The Sapphire is extensive? It’s an impressive book of all sorts of drinks to appease anyone’s craving. Their specialties are in the whiskey or martini department but don’t let thatΒ deterΒ you if that’s not your thing. They have excellent wine too.

This time I ended up ordering the Nina Simone: Pomegranate & Grand Marnier with something sparkly in it. Mmmm. I loved this drink! It has become my new favorite drink at the Sapphire.

We’d made it there for the happy hour menu but my favorite dish isn’t on the happy hour menu. I decided to go for it and just order it: the butternut squash enchilada.

I love this dish and someday I’d love to try and recreate it at home. I’ve ordered something similar at other restaurants but they were never as good as this one. Ember and Kalin both ordered the Meze plate from the happy hour menu: hummus, tzatziki and tapenade with warm pita and cucumber. It looked really tasty.

Ember, Me, Kalin

We all got to know each other better and talked about running and triathlons, food and other things. Before we knew it, two and a half hours had passed. I’m so glad we all met!

QUESTION: Have you met any online people in real life?

Killer Hills That Killed Me

Monday morning it was hot. Like at 8am hot. I know I sound like a whiner compared to my dear readers who live in the South or on the East Coast but damn….! As a Pacific Northwester my entire life, I’m not used to heat. We ate a big breakfast and lounged in front of the TV for an episode of Entourage and Curb and then saddled up to go for a quick bike ride. It was quick because we didn’t have the time to set out on a long ride around town. We had some car shopping to do.

Instead we did Michael’s commute. Michael’s commute is fairly short but it’s all hills. Like uphill both ways kind of hills. There’s no route he can take to avoid the big hills so it’s just a matter of sucking it up. Which is great for Michael. He’s conditioned for tackling hills and recovering quickly. I’m more conditioned for longer bike rides. For example, he wasn’t bothered at all by the hills on the Portland Century but he was saddle sore after 72 miles. I had no issues in that department but those two hills in the Century were a challenge for me.

None of my pictures do ANY of the hills justice. One day I will go out there with a video camera and take video of myself walking up the mountains just to prove it. But trust me when I say the hills are challenging. We set out on the neighborhood loop of slow, steady, rolling hills. The first challenging hill is what I call “The Mini Wall” and it turns a corner right at the top.

That little dot at the top is Michael blazing a trail up the Mini Wall. What you don’t see is the steady upward climb right before this–for probably half a mile–complete with a stop sign in the middle. Just what I want to do when I have momentum going up a hill–stop and then start again. πŸ˜› The below photo is the steady incline to get to the Mini Wall.

The good news about the Mini Wall: it may be challenging and steep but I recover from it very quickly now. It used to KILL me when I attempted it and I would need to stop at the top for a few minutes to rest and drink water, catch my breath. Now I just keep going, no resting. We looped through the Poison Oak Park (an empty park with signs about poison oak) and then looped around to Michael’s work.

This is where we get to the Monster Wall. It’s a short, neighborhood street that connects to the main road with a bike lane and it is literally a wall. It’s straight up. There’s no funny business when it comes to doing this hill. You either commit or just get off your bike and walk. It’s that steep. It resembles the second big hill in the Portland Century where everyone around me got off and walked their bikes up it.

I don’t have a photo of the Monster Wall because damn, it killed me. I was dying. I committed to the hill and ran out of gears. So I stood up in the saddle and had to climb up the whole way standing. And I barely made it. I got to the top and pulled over in the shade because I had to rest. My legs were Jell-o. It was brutal. This is how I feel about that Monster Wall:

Need further evidence of how challenging this freakin’ monster is? How about my heart rate when I got to the top and had to rest?

It peaked at 189 beats. That’s high for me. 189 is “I need to stop to catch my breath” high. We stopped for about thirty seconds and then continued home. There was one more challenge to face: the insanely vertical hill that we have to go DOWN. I hate this hill. Hatred. It’s so steep. Michael goes down it during his commute at 40 mph. It’s so awful in every way. It gives me massive anxiety. I would much rather go UP that effing hill than down it. I know, I’m crazy.

So we did that and then decided to do part of the loop again since we had time. We did the same Mini Wall and then turned around at the Poison Oak Park.

Then it was time to turn home and do the steady climbs and rolling hills.

Ride Stats:
Time: 1:09
Calories Burned: 557
Distance: 11.65

We headed to Noble Rot on Monday evening for dinner with some friends. The original restaurant we planned on going to was closed for the holiday. It took some leg work and lots of phone calls to find an alternative restaurant. I think it worked out for the best. I’ve wanted to check out Noble Rot for a few years now.

The restaurant is on the forth floor of the building with a deck overlooking the city.

The restaurant was trendy and cool looking. I liked the decor. Despite the hoity-toity look to it, the patrons were pretty casually dressed. But that could just be Portland. In Portland you can show up at a really nice restaurant in jeans as long as you have a nice button-down shirt.

It was a hot evening and it felt nice to sit out on the patio with the occasional breeze. I ordered a nice glass of wine to start. I tried their house Shiraz and was surprised at how lovely and mild it was for being a house wine.

Our friends arrived–Shoe, Michael’s old roommate and my friend Ember (she recently did her first sprint tri!). We shared an order of onion rings to start.

The onion rings were tasty, salty and crunchy without being overly greasy.Β  It was nice splitting it between four people (less fried-food guilt for me).

For my entree I ordered the panini with butternut squash, caramelized onions and goat cheese. I got the salad instead of the fries.

I loved the sandwich. It never occurred to me to put butternut squash on a salad and I love the idea. The flavors went together really well. Despite the sweet squash and onions it was not overly sweet. My salad was simple with onions and sunflower seeds (great addition). Ember’s salad looked really tasty, too. I think it was the endive and beet salad:

Shoe got the pork shoulder and he said it was excellent. Michael got the burger with fries. He said the burger was just “okay”–nothing special about it. He liked the bun a lot and the fries were really good–crunchy and not greasy.

The conversation flowed freely and the food and wine was good. I had a great time. The sun set over the trees.

It was a very romantic spot.Β  Michael wanted to order dessert and he doesn’t really need to twist my arm. πŸ˜‰

He ordered us the brownie with ice cream and caramel sauce to split. Shoe and Ember both got the creme brulee but they said it wasn’t very impressive.

The brownie was just okay–it was rather dry in my opinion. But I enjoyed the caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was a nice night and I was glad I got to end the long weekend hanging out with friends.

QUESTION: What was the highlight of your long weekend? And what’s your favorite panini sandwich combo?