Portland Hunt and Alpine Club opened a couple months ago on Market Street in the Old Port. Featuring cocktails and Scandinavian food, it definitely has one of the better names for a restaurant in the Portland area. The bar, with its large selection of spirits piled high on the wall, is definitely a focal point of the restaurant. Getting a good view of it once I sat down, I was pumped to try a fancy drink.
Upon adjusting my bar stool and settling in, a bartender provided us each with two menus. One was a leather-bound cocktail and spirit menu – rich mahogany smell excluded – and the other a large, one-sheet menu with house cocktails, glass wine, draft beer, and food on the front and a map on the back. I wasn’t the only patron that night that immediately noticed the Late Night at OOB on the list of house cocktails. It featured the fine ingredients of rum, other things, and shame – a delicious combination.
Once I was able to rid myself of OOB memories, my wife pointed out the White Noise – elderflower, cocchi americano, and grapefruit zest. She had one when she was there previously and loved it. That didn’t sound great to me, so I popped open the leather-bound book. I asked about a whiskey drink from which they were missing an ingredient and eventually settled on the Bumblebee with rum, lime, honey syrup, and egg whites.
With drink orders placed, we moved to the food. Portland Hunt and Alpine isn’t really a place you would go to for a full meal. We were just there for appetizers anyway, but the food menu is sparse with four bords/boards, eight savory items, and one sweet treat. The bords looked awesome, with combinations of cured meats, seafood, cheeses, pickles, and more, but based on the price, I figured they were on the larger side for an appetizer. The savory items also looked excellent. I went straight for the Pickle Plate while my wife ordered the Popcorn which she insisted was “the best popcorn ever”.
Waters were placed in front of us and shortly thereafter came the cocktails. My drink was aesthetically pleasing with some lines on top which I thought might have been orange syrup of some sort. It was garnished with an orange zest. The taste was a great combination of sweet and citrus. The egg white added a bit of froth. I told Mrs. Portlandeater that I really liked it and she said hers was great too. She offered to let me try her drink. I did, but as it touched my lips, it took a second and then I decided it was horrible. I immediately took a sip of mine to wash out the taste. She then tried mine and hated it. I told her we should just stick to drinking our own drinks. She agreed.
In the middle of our beverage consumption, a couple sitting by us inquired about the Jagermeister Spice they saw sitting on a shelf. I was intrigued as I had recently seen an ad for it. The bartender showed us the bottle and gave us both a sample. I don’t mind the cough syrup taste of Jager, but for those who do, the Jager Spice has less alcohol than the regular version and a cinnamon and vanilla flavor that goes down pretty smoothly. Our food came out right after our Jager taste which is good because I was hungrier than a cannibal in an apple orchard.
My pickles appeared on a board and looked delectable. They included shallots, standard bread and butter pickles, a beet and carrot combo, and cauliflower. The popcorn looked pretty basic, through my wife continued to insist it was orgasmic. I started with a taste of the cauliflower. It was likely the best preparation of cauliflower I ever had with a good vinegar flavor and a solid bit of underlying spice. The beet and carrot mix was good but a bit heavy on the spice for a pickled option. I’m not sure exactly what it was spiced with, but it might have been cardamom or some other Indian flavor. The bread and butter pickles were sweet and delicious and the shallots tasted very much like a sweet onion as shallots often do. Overall, the pickles were a win.
I was ready to try this popcorn I had heard so much about. It was coated in green chiles, parmesan, butter, salt, and by then, probably my wife’s saliva. At my wife’s insistence, I trapped a small handful of the pan-popped kernel explosions sitting in front of her and dumped it in my mouf. A corn carousel created a carnival of carnal love on my taste buds. Butter and parmesan always work on popcorn, but apparently if you throw in just the right amount of green chile, it takes popcorn to the next level. It was delicious and unique. You might call it uni-corn.
Our food and drinks didn’t take long to finish. We put in an order for more popcorn and my wife had a second drink, sticking with a repeat of her first. I decided, after much contemplation, to have a second drink also and went with a Rye Manhattan. I tried Jim Beam Rye, but they had several varieties of rye on the shelf including Knob Creek which I will definitely be trying next time I am there. The Manhattan was made perfectly and came with a lemon zest garnish.
When our second order of popcorn came out, I think we might have eaten it faster than the first. It went great with whiskey. We took our time and sipped our drinks. When we were almost done, I looked at our tab and noticed that I was being charged for three Manhattans. I pointed it out to the bartender who quickly who quickly retorted that he was predicting the future and then corrected it. The correction also featured happy hour prices on our food. The total bill was 46 George Washingtons without tip. I’d like to take a moment and recognize that the menu prices did include tax which is great and really simplifies calculations for the customers and my OCD. I hope that in the future more restaurants will follow suit.
We finished up and paid. I walked out happy. Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is a great new choice in Portland for a drink after work with some apps or a pre-dinner visit any time. I believe that in a city saturated with restaurants that have bars, a bar that has a smallish restaurant but is focused on drinks is the type of place that can add something to the culture. The drinks were excellent…well, mine were anyway. The food we had was very tasty and the food everyone around us ordered looked very appetizing. The music selection featured a lot of older songs which was interesting, but I think it’s well known that pickled cauliflower and Harry Belafonte go together like shit and shingles. Stop by and get some Scandinavian food and a stiff drink for yourself. You’ll love their drinks, but if you don’t, just walk outside, pour it on the sidewalk, and declare that it’s for your lost homie Sven.
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