Nicholas Restaurant

Lovely Lebanese

How was your weekend? Was it eventful? Low-key? Are you frantically trying to finish your holiday shopping? Thankfully I am done with all of my shopping and spent the weekend kind of chilling. Michael had a horrible head cold and spent the weekend on the couch. I ran a bunch of errands (I was OUT of library books and had to get some new ones…I’m totally like a junkie with my books).

I did have a great workout on Saturday morning. I’d been avoiding running for about two weeks. I’d run a mile a few times and the most recent time my knee hurt a bit so I back off. Luckily, Saturday’s one mile run was mostly pain-free. I think I have to let my knees warm a bit but once they do, the run always feels great!

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You know why that number is so high? KETTLE BELLS.  If you haven’t given them a try, do so. It’s fun and gets your heart rate up like nothing else. This time I even graduated to a heavier kettle bell. I’m now swinging the 20 pound bell instead of the 15.

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After the great run and workout, Michael and I met some friends at Nicholas restaurant for lunch and a little mini-Christmas celebration. My friend Star, Sam and her boyfriend joined us. The restaurant on NE Broadway is much better than the one on Grand (much bigger and not as busy).

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They brought out the piping hot bread that I love so much. It’s similar to pita bread but thinner. I got caught up with my friends and we exchanged cards and gifts. It was time to order lunch and everything sounded so good, it was hard to decide.

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I love Lebanese food! The flavors are always unique and a lot of the time I struggle to detect what spices they used. The dish I ended up getting was “Freekah.” It was smoked Egyptian rice with ground beef mixed into it, pine nuts, almonds and topped with shredded chicken. The Freekah looked like rice but it’s a unique grain that seemed similar to Israeli couscous. I think the chicken had a hint of cinnamon in it. I’m sorry my photo didn’t turn out better, because the food was really delicious. I especially liked the taziki sauce. I could seriously put that on everything. I had a ton leftover for my lunch (yay!).

We spent over two hours hanging out the restaurant and then parted ways. Michael was still feeling a little under the weather so he laid down and I finally go to spend a few hours of my own starting season 2 of “The Closer.” It was a nice relaxing afternoon.

We wanted something light for dinner after eating such a big lunch so we had pork chops and Brussels sprouts. I didn’t like pork for a really long time. It was just a boring protein, I guess. I’m completely converted now. Boneless pork chops are a great dinner option for athletes or someone trying to lose weight. Did you know that 4 oz. of pork tenderloin contains approximately 193 calories and has 33 grams of protein in it? That’s so lean and healthy!

A boneless pork chop (4 ounces) can be between 150-180 calories depending on what website tracker you use (I see varying numbers). According to Livestrong that 33 grams of protein in a chop is more than half the typical adult’s daily needs. It’s low in fat and packed with nutrients. Pork chops are relatively lean, not quite as low in fat as fish or a chicken breast, but still leaner than red meat.

Another great thing about pork chops–all you really need to season the meat is salt and pepper. Simple, delicious. Pair the pork chops with your favorite vegetable side dish and you have a very, very filling dinner for less than 500 calories. We eat a boneless pork chop for dinner probably once a week. Usually it’s paired with steamed broccoli or sauteed Brussels sprouts.

If you were like me and thought pork chops were kind boring, give it another chance. Here are some good recipe choices for pork chops:

Pork Chops au Poivre

Pork Chops with Ginger-Soy Glaze

Skillet Pork Chops Florentine

Let me know if you try any of those recipes and like them!

QUESTION: Do you like Lebanese food? What’s your favorite thing to order?

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 have 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. 🙂 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 tzatziki 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?