rehearsal dinner

Rehearsal Dinner

My fairly easy going Saturday turned out to be really busy! I got up a little early for the gym and got in a great workout. I hit the weights pretty hard–I feel like I’ve been slacking in that department lately what with traveling and training for the 5k. The scales have tipped towards cardio and while I’m still getting strength training in, it’s definitely not enough or as much as I did over the winter.

I met up with my friend Erika for lunch at Laughing Planet (I got a beef and black bean bowl) and we hung out there for a few hours chatting and catching up. I ran a few errands, went home and worked in the yard for about an hour talking to Michael about the rehearsal dinner planning and then we decided, why not go out and try one of the places we were thinking about?

We went to Firehouse Restaurant over in NE Portland. It’s a restaurant I’ve heard a lot about for several years and had wanted to check it out but never really make it to that side of town much. If we go out for dinner in NE Portland it’s usually somewhere on Alberta. Im glad we decided to check out this place. It was such a charming space, built in an old firehouse, and is the front runner for the rehearsal dinner.

The buildingΒ it a two story brick building with a glass garage door that opens up and makes it an open air restaurant. The interior walls were brick and they had charming old black and white photographs of what the building looked like before and the firemen who worked there. There was a humongous brick pizza oven in the corner and while the place looked small and crowded, there was actually a lot of seating available. There was the main area then a back room as well.

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Before dinner we checked out the space for large parties upstairs. You walk up an old, narrow staircase to the second floor and the area was large. There was a lounge area with a few couches, a bar,Β and a bathroom. Then there was the main dining room that could fit a lot of people standing for a cocktail hour or about 34 people seated. There were three large tables that fit 12 at two and 10 at one. It would be family style dining.

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The space was really cool and large enough for our rehearsal dinner. I totally fell in love with the space. It was very unique and “Portland.” It wasn’t just another banquet room in a restaurant. The exposed brick walls and windows overlooking the yard decorated with Christmas lights was very romantic.

Now, time to test the food. I had a taste of their wine selection and ended up picking the Montepulciano red wine that was really tasty. The Primitivo was way too sweet for me.Β Β 

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They had a three course meal option for not very much money. For $29 I could pick an appetizer, salad and entree. I went with that option and Michael did the $25 appetizer, salad, pizza selection. We picked several different things to get a taste of all we could get. The first was the arancini–fried cheese balls.

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They were piping hot and crispy and while they were good, they needed a dipping sauce. That would have made them fantastic. The other appetizer was the seasonal bruschetta. It was goat cheese, grilled asparagus in a lemon vinaigrette and shredded cheese on top. It came out on a large hunk of crusty bread. I liked this dish a lot but it would have been better had it been on smaller slices of bread. It was kind of difficult to eat. The flavor was great, though, very unique!

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We got a complimentary dish courtesy of the manager–it was the fried cauliflower. Michael remarked that it was like a play on calamari. The dishes were very playful in their interpretations. The fried cauliflower was so fascinating! It wasn’t breaded and it had a crunch to it that was delightful. It came with a lemon dipping sauce that was slightly overpowering. I think a garlic aioli sauce would have been better. The lemon was just the dominant flavor tasted. Still, loved the fried cauliflower!

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Next up was the salads. Michael got the romaine hearts which were basically a Caesar salad. It was tasty and had a nice presentation. He thought the salad was a little too salty. I had a few bites and it didn’t seem like it to me, but maybe it was.

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My salad was greens with dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese. I won the salad competition! Mine was fabulous!

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By the time our main dishes arrived I was pretty full. I don’t normally eat several courses when we go out to eat dinner. Sometimes we’ll split an appetizer and then get entrees, but rarely do we get all of it! I ordered the meatballs with kale. I’m glad it didn’t come with pasta because that would have been just too much food. Loved the braised kale and the meatballs were perfectly soft and crispy on the outside. I ate two meatballs and took the rest home for lunch the next day.

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Michael got the Zoe’s Pizza –soprasetta and mozzarella cheese. It was small but big enough for two people to share for a meal. The crust was PERFECT. It was chewy and smoky from the wood burning pizza oven. It was also very, very spicy. Surprisingly so. Michael’s only complaint was that it was a little on the greasy side which made the pizza slightly soggy in the middle. If they could fix that it would be perfect.

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With everything we had we enjoyed the food and it tasted great. Some of the things I criticize in this post are mild alterations that would make the food absolutely perfect. Just small tweaks it would be magical.

Even though we didn’t have room for more food, we wanted to get dessert to give it a try. The manager comped it for us, which was very nice. We ordered the ice cream sandwich. Holy moly! This dessert was AMAZING! The “sandwich” part was on the inside of the ice cream as opposed to the outside. It was topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate almond bark.

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If this is where we have the rehearsal dinner, that’s the dessert I want. It was so amazing! We left so full and happy with our experience. The “cons” didn’t make us rule this place out. I think everyone would have a wonderful meal here if this is where we had the party. The logistics of everyone getting from our wedding venue in Beaverton to NE Portland are kind of a pain and parking is all street parking but those are minor things.

We have one other place to check out but if it were up entirely to me, I’d pick The Firehouse. This is Michael and his dad’s choice though. Time will tell!

A Tour of the Dude Ranch

For my cousin’s wedding we were all staying at the Moon River Ranch. It was actually near Waco, Texas I think, but it was literally in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never been to a destination wedding before (I think this qualifies since most family had to travel from somewhere else). This place was NUTS. I had no idea what to expect from a working ranch in Texas. My expectations were blown out of the water.

We drove through the middle of nowhere, through scant towns riddled with poverty. Then drove 4 miles down a gravel road to the ranch.

The land was like a step into history. Words cannot describe what this place was like. The main lodge was humongous and like a maze. Every where you turned there was something new and cool to look at.

The decorations were rustic, bizarre and very cool. There were stuffed animals at every corner–elk, gazelle, deer, moose, you name it. There was homemade furniture, leather chairs made with animal fur. It was truly an old-western heaven.

The bear was the hit. We were so amused by it. You better believe we took tons of pictures with the bear.

Our immediate family was in the nearby farmhouse. I think it was the original farmhouse from back in the day. Unlike the main lodge, it was very very old and authentic–not a replica. Inside there was a big living room, a kitchen (with plaid carpet on the floor). There was a master bedroom and bathroom, and then the smaller bedroom with two sets of bunk beds. That’s where us “kids” slept. Michael slept in the top loft in that bedroom and I took one of the bottom bunks.

The farmhouse was looking over the pond. There was a pair of swans in the pond and palm trees around it.

There was a pool and lounge area. There were lounge chairs all over and it was very inviting. I knew I’d definitely be in that pool during the weekend!

There were fire pits all over the place with lounge chairs. We met the friendly ranch kitty who loved attention. She was a sweetheart.

There were horses, ponies and longhorn cattle. There was also buffalo!

We arrived a little before dinner time. We had some time to explore the ranch–there was so much to see!

Michael, my brother and Lisa and I also went out in the paddle boat on the pond. First the three of them went out and I took photos.

Then Michael and I went out together and we did the whole pond loop. It’s funny because we kicked butt at the paddle boat. I think it’s because we’re cyclists. πŸ™‚

We had just enough time to get changed and cleaned up before the rehearsal dinner at the lodge.

Dinner was buffet style BBQ. There was mashed potatoes with gravy, an amazing chicken curry with rice, baked beans, corn, garlic bread, chili, and some other stuff I didn’t even try.

I ate so much but it was absolutely worth it. The food was amazing. The chicken was the star of the night: Peach Whiskey BBQ Chicken. Oh my god! I must find the recipe for this and recreate it. It was the best chicken I’ve ever had (my uncle did great!). I ate too much but it was wonderful each and every bite.

We enjoyed some cocktails and socialized with the family. It was fun to see everyone. It was mostly our family on Friday night. The groom’s family was local so they showed up Saturday. Melina had family from England and Australia and it was one big mixing pot in the middle of Texas.

It was fun hanging out with everyone. My uncle played old videos of Melina as a kid and a teenager. They were hilarious to watch. Thank goodness my parents never had video cameras–I won’t have embarrassing videos at my wedding! πŸ™‚

The sun went down early, glowing red in the sky. It was weird to see the skyline without tall trees. I am such a Northwest Girl.

Michael and I headed back to the farmhouse after awhile. Some family members stayed up really late partying. I was so tired, my head hit the pillow and I was out immediately (which never happens to me). I slept like the dead and didn’t wake up even once that night. Good food, family and fun times = sleep like a rock.

QUESTION: Have you ever been to a dude ranch? Would you want to go to one?