Monthly Archives: October 2014

Bramhall – A New Speakeasy for Modern Times

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Bramhall, the new bar on Congress St at the former site of Bramhall Pub was the subject of my recent Saturday night investigation. With my mind on my whiskey and my whiskey on my mind, we made our way there to meet a small group of friends for some good times.  It wasn’t particularly easy to find though and we had to work from the address as there was no street level sign for the “secret” location.

Once we found the building and determined the bar was downstairs, we followed the steps down the right side and circled into the hideaway. We entered and were immediately blown away by the atmosphere. The interior was almost entirely brick and truly had the feel of a speakeasy. With only a few seats available at the bar, the place was bouncing with patrons. To the right were the tables and a slightly gothic candle set up. To the left was the bar, massive walls of booze, and a special board with a few drink suggestions.  We sat at the bar.

We were quickly approached by a bartender of the finest kind – one that was ready to provide menus and drinks lickety split. The drink menu provided beer and wine while the food menu gave a selection of imaginative snacks and sandwiches. I was set on one of my favorite libations – a bourbon Manhattan. After requesting some suggestions as to which whiskey I should consume, I chose Buffalo Trace. My wife ordered a savignon blanc. It wasn’t long before we had our sweet sippers and I was ready to enjoy every last drop.

Following a couple slurps of my cocktail, the bartender indicated that the table behind us appeared to be emptying; soon it did, and we grabbed it. Our friends arrived and sat down with us. They then ordered a selection of wine and beer and we proceeded to shoot the shit and enjoy our drinks. My Manhattan was a strong offering in more ways than one. This was definitely a whiskey night and this one hit the spot. We considered ordering some food while admiring the very well done scenery. Because Bramhall didn’t have a full dinner menu, we decided that it would be best to just order snacks.

After some contemplation and suggestions from friends and staff we all made our food decisions and soon a bartender stopped by our table to take our orders. I went with the Loaded Crisps – crisps, cheese curds, applewood smoked bacon, scallion, creme fraiche. Others ordered another two apps – Garden Grazing – housemade hummus, grilled veggies, flatbread and No Meat, Just Cheese – 3 artisanal cheeses, pickled apples, pickled red onion, marcona almonds, crostini. We were all pretty excited about our orders. The food coming out all looked great and we were prepared to try it.

In less than two shakes of a lamb’s tail, our food paid us a visit from the kitchen. Without a doubt, I was primarily interested in my crisps. They looked like a combination of nachos and potato skins. I tried one. I perked up. What in the hell was I eating? The crisps were barbeque potato chips. Hold up! If you had told me that ahead of time that I was ordering barbeque chips that were sneakily turned into barbachoskins, I wouldn’t have ordered the little buggers, but they were good. Really good. And all the toppings on them were outstanding, especially the bacon. I tossed my hands in the air. The loaded crisps had defeated my idea of good nacho-y food. I continued to shove them in my crisp hole. Everyone else clearly liked their snacks too and devoured them with intensity.

All our drinks we’re finished and I ordered another Manhattan – this time with Knob Creek. Everyone else doubled up on theirs too. We all continued to chow down, enjoying our crispy, cheesy, crunchy plates of food. When our new drinks came out, we finished our food and continued to drink until we, or rather I, became unintentionally intoxicated and served up the sort of discussions whiskey has a way of coaxing out of me. After entertaining myself and possibly offending everyone else, we were ready to make a break for it.

When all was said and done, my portion of the bill came to around $30 including tax and tip.  Bramhall was really fun, reasonably priced, and had an incredible atmosphere and decor. It would definitely qualify as an anytime hangout. The place wowed me as soon as I walked in which is also when the party started. From there it just got better. I would undoubtedly recommend this place to anyone for a great drink and some unique snacks. Next time, I’m ordering one of the drink specials – they’ve got to be good. I hope to see you there.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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Grace – Cheese Be with You

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Grace, formerly a church, and now one of the largest restaurants in Portland, has been serving up food and drink since 2009.  I hadn’t been there in a couple years and had never had any food there but I figured it might be nice to go back and at least have some pre-dinner drinks on a Saturday night when I was ready to party like it was the second coming.

Upon walking in, I was reminded of the sheer magnitude of the building itself. With cathedral ceilings, the giant, circular, main-floor bar, second/balcony level, and open kitchen, Grace is lot to take in. When we got there, it was more packed than the Vatican at midnight mass; every seat in the house was taken. We walked upstairs to see if there were any seats at the upper level bar available. There weren’t, but from the heavens, we saw two bar seats open up on the main floor. Under strict directive from my wife, I ditched her and ran to commandeer the prized bar spots.

We relaxed in our seats for a couple minutes and were brought three tablets – food, drink, and bar snacks. We weren’t sure we wanted any food, but we were definitely in for some holy water. The drink menu was full of beer, wine, and cocktails, but what piqued my interest were the drinks under the heading of Seven Deadly Sins.  A few of them sounded good to me. My wife told me she was looking to order a sangria but didn’t see it on the menu. I wavered between various “sins” before settling on Pride – Tito’s Vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, lime, and rosemary lime cranberry simple syrup.

It took a little while to get someone to come back to us for our commandments, but it eventually happened. My wife asked about the sangria. They just changed to their fall menu and were almost out the bartender noted, but they might have a little left. Mrs. Portlandeater said she’d take it. Like a godless heathen, I ordered the Pride with pride. As I waited, I noticed that the drinks looked a bit girly which I tend to enjoy. My feminine sensibilities were in full effect.

The bartender delivered water – which he quickly turned into sangria – to my wife. My drink slid in front of me in all it’s red, fruity-looking greatness. Sitting in it were cranberries crucified on a curly toothpick and a sprig of holy rosemary.  My wife tried the sangria and seemed to find it just as she remembered – delicious. I then tried my drink. Jesus Christ! It was stronger than hell and that combined with it’s pretty red color made it more confusing than Mary Magdalene dressing up as the Virgin Mother for Halloween. The cranberry and lime worked well with the vodka and cointreau while the rosemary give it a hint of sizzle. My wife tried it and thought it was too all-powerful for her.

Sipping our drinks made us feel reborn. I started to think I might need a snack and prayed they might have something to suit my needs. I looked at the bar menu. The menu contained a combination of apps, raw items, charcuterie, and cheese. The last two seemed interesting to me, but I hadn’t had any cheese lately, so I was leaning toward that. In my world, cheese isn’t just important – eating it on a regular basis is practically gospel. I finalized my decision and went with Condor’s Ruin – a sheep’s milk cheese from Georgia.

After a few more sips of my drink, the cheese came out on a stone with lots of goodies including some slightly-leavened bread, raisins on the vine, apple slices, marcona almonds, and the cheese itself. I took all parts of the platter and put it together to try my first bite. Hallelujah! The buttery, crisp bread was the perfect base for the sweet fruit, crunchy almonds, and rich, creamy cheese. A bartender came by and told me how great that cheese was. I told her she was preaching to the choir.

I nibbled, crunched, and devoured every last crumb on my plate. Then I finished my drink. I wanted more, but by some miracle, I settled down and stopped ordering since I had somewhere else to be. My wife finished her sangria. We rejoiced. Even though we didn’t order much, everything we had was superb. We didn’t stay for dinner as the meals are very pricey and I’ve heard mixed reviews of the food. The drinks and bar snack prices are in line with the rest of Portland though. In truth, I may try a full meal there soon. I feel like it might be worth it based on that experience. So how was Grace? Amazing!

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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Blue Spoon – Little. Blue. Delicious.

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I never hear anyone talk about Blue Spoon. Maybe it’s because I don’t talk to anyone. Maybe it’s because they only have five or six tables and even fewer bar seats. Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you. But whatever the reason, I had to get back to the tiny restaurant on Munjoy Hill so I could remember what the place was all about. My last time there, the restaurant made me feel very “at home” as did the tiny, well-stocked bar and I thought that might be a feeling I’d like to experience again.

We arrived with a couple of friends in tow and I couldn’t help but notice that the sign out front was blue with a…wait for it…white spoon. Confused and conflicted, we entered the restaurant and were promptly taken to our table for which we had reservations. We were given some nice looking food and drink menus, greeted by our waitress, told of a couple rotating beers that were not on the menu, and left to our own devices while we made some important decisions.

As my mind swirled around the drinkosphere, I considered a cocktail, but instead settled on a beer. When the waitress came to the table for our order, I chose one of the rotating options we were given, but it so happened that they were out. My next selection was the one that took it’s place – Bissell Brothers Baby Genius. Another beer and a couple wines were added to the order and the hunt was on for the perfect food items from the menu.

The food menu had four sections – tapas, starters, salads, and dinner. Even though I was feeling a little picky, I still had my eye on several items to consume. I was leaning toward a tapas item and a dinner, but which one I would choose was a mystery. I put all the tapas items in my mind for consideration, shaking them like dice and hoping I wouldn’t roll snake eyes – that sounded disgusting. It was too confusing, so I worked on choosing a dinner first. Last time I was there, I had the Bistro Burger, but my wife gave high praise to the Chicken Under a Brick. Although it just sounded like squished chicken to me, I figured it would be something different to try, and I do usually enjoy poultry. According to the menu, it came with pepper relish, polenta with fresh corn, Swiss chard, and honey sweetened chicken jus.

Our drinks arrived and the waitress came back shortly after for our food orders. My wife and I ordered the brick chick. Then we threw in Crostini – one with ricotta and preserved lemon, and one with goat cheese and balsamic fig jam. For good measure, we added Fried Fingerlings with cumin and lemon aioli. Orders of some Chick Pea Fritters, “The Salad”, and Mushroom Risotto rounded out the table. Satisfied with our decisions, we sipped our drinks and anxiously awaited our kibble.

Appetizers came to the table after a short wait. I tried a fingerling. They were great. The aioli was delicious and pretty standard except for the pronounced lemony zing which I enjoyed. The crostini were also top notch. Both were very tasty, though I preferred the one with goat cheese and balsamic fig jam. Our counterparts across the table had no complaints and seemed to enjoy their chow as well.

After we were done our apps, the waitress came to take our plates away and apologized for the noise on that night. There was a large party which she said was causing the place to be louder than usual. It honestly wasn’t bad and just gave it the feel of a bigger restaurant with a larger crowd, but didn’t take away from the enjoyment of our time there. Even though part of the allure of Blue Spoon is it’s tiny dining room and quaint feel, I didn’t mind that it was more of a party than usual. After all, I consider myself a party person.

There wasn’t much time between finishing our apps and receiving the main course. It was time to dig in. My chicken consisted of two bone-in pieces sitting on top of polenta in jus. It was topped with the pepper relish and Swiss chard sat on the side in jus. I took a bit of the chicken. It was very flavorful, tender, and moist – yep, moist. The pepper relish added to it and resembled a fresh salsa. I munched on the chicken for a while and then tried the polenta, knowing that I’m not generally a fan of the cornmeal product. I tried it. It was, in my assessment, tolerable, but still as good as any polenta I ever had. Then I added some pepper relish to it. Whamo! That was exactly what it needed. The polenta was reborn. Next I tried the Swiss chard. I’m also not a fan of cooked greens, so they were okay, but I would have been fine without them.

Everyone finished their food and happily tapped out. There were no looks of disgust on anyone’s face. In fact, everyone enjoyed their meal greatly. Despite the fact that I ordered a meal where I wouldn’t normally like half the components, it was damn good and the main part of it – the chicken – was superb.  Our meal and drinks came to about $145 before tipping but you could eat there for much less or much more. Prices of their items vary greatly and many can be ordered in varying portions. However, no matter what you get, Blue Spoon provides a really cozy atmosphere, great food, and primo service. You know what to do. Stop by today and tell ’em Peterpeterportlandeater sent you.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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