Monthly Archives: November 2014

Catbird Creamery Needs Your Help

Catbird Creamery – my 2013 Restaurant of the Year – is in need of your help exactly one week from now. They are in urgent need of a new location and will be starting an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to support that endeavor on 11/29. Stay tuned and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to learn how to help. They have the best ice cream and owners on earth and deserve any and all help they can get. Use the hashtags #savethebird #indiegogo11/29 and #best.ice.cream.on.earth. to show your support.

Timber – Got Wood?

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Timber is the new steakhouse in Portland earning some pretty good reviews. Knowing that, I had to go try it and see if the buzz was properly placed. On a Saturday after performing lots of manual labor, I thought it would be the perfect day to go stuff my face and enjoy a couple drinks. We made our way to the bull, bourbon, and felled tree themed restaurant, ready to enjoy the food and beverage we felt we deserved after a day of hard work.

Our reservations were for 7:00 pm and we were right on time. There was a small line of people trying to get in in front of us. We heard the hostess tell some potential customers that the wait was nine hours. It was a mistake, but the wait was still significant enough that they left. When we got the the front of the line, we were told it would be just a few minutes and that we could wait inside and get a drink at the bar if we wanted. We did go to the bar, but it was so busy that by the time we were able to get menus, our table was ready.

The table we were shown to was out of the way, past the bar, and up a few steps. We sat and looked at the menus. Someone who was not our server quickly visited and asked if we wanted anything to drink before our waitress came. We asked for water and a couple beverages.  I ordered the Whiskey Smash – Wild Turkey 100 Proof, mint, lime, and simple syrup – and Mrs. Portlandeater ordered the Strawberry Mojito – Bacardi, strawberry, mint, simple syrup, and soda. A waitress visited, informed us that drinks were on the way, and gave us a run-down of the evening’s specials. None sounded particularly interesting to me so I refocused on the menu. Soon our drinks came out with some wasabi peas. I immediately sipped my drink. It was simple, delicious, and the perfect blend of flavors with slightly more citrus than mint. My wife raved about her mojito and we continued discussing what to order while chomping on peas and sipping both water and non-water drinks.

From my first glance at the menu, I knew I wanted the Jalapeno Mac and Cheese – four cheeses, panko bread crumbs, and jalapeno. My wife agreed to share it with me. For my main course, I was considering a burger or chicken. I prefer both to steak which is good, because the steaks at Timber are pricey, running – on average – in the $50 range without sides. The burger was appealing to me as I wanted to see how the house beef turned out, but I also love rotisserie chicken and it came with a choice of two sauces. As a sauce guy, the sauce options looked amazing, so it was a difficult decision.

After some discussion, I made a final decision of the Timber Wagyu Beef Burger – lettuce, tomato, cheddar, brioche bun, and fries. For an additional cost, bacon, Portobello mushrooms, grilled onions, fried duck egg, stilton blue cheese, and foie gras could be added, but I decided to get it as-is. The burger wasn’t cheap – even with fries – at $18, so I figured it would be good without additions. My wife ordered the Caesar Salad – no anchovy – romaine, parm, garlic cheese croutons, and the traditional dressing – and a side of Thick Cut Onion Rings.

Before long, our jalapeno mac came out in a crock. It looked highly cheesy and was topped with a few bread crumbs and some sort of sprout garnish. We both dug in, spooning copious amounts on to our little side plates. I took a bite. By the fire that lights the floors of hell! The smoked gouda, pepper jack, parm, and cheddar all combined to make drippy, cheesy perfection while the delicious jalapenos were inserted to provide some heat and a practical metric ton of fantastic flavor. There’s a lot of food I like, but this was one of the very best things I’d eaten in a while.

We consumed all of the jal-mac, drank, and popped some wasabi peas.  Before our mains came out, I was ready for another whiskey and asked if they had a list; of course, I knew in advance that they did. I was delivered a “bourbon bible” – a list of the vast selection of bourbon, whiskey, rye, and scotch they carry at Timber. It came complete with details on where they were produced and full flavor profiles of the nose, palate, and finish. After reviewing many pages of whiskey options, I figured I’d try the Berkshire Bourbon out of MA in a Manhattan. I did check the price first as I knew some of their bourbon would cost more than a steak and I wasn’t rolling THAT hard. Mrs. Portlandeater ordered a savignon blanc.

Main courses came out within a reasonable time frame. My burger and fries were served with a side of ketchup and aioli. I put my burger together and got to work. The burger was large at 10 oz. I took a bite. It was perfectly cooked, but wasn’t what I expected. Unlike the jalapeno mac, there wasn’t enough cheese on the burger and it was bland. I was disappointed. I hoped the fries would be better. I took a few and chomped on them. They were even more underwhelming and were the most soggy fries I’d had in recent memory. I tried one of my wife’s onion rings. It was crispy, but underseasoned. My wife agreed and thought the Caesar was very run-of-the-mill.

In an effort to perk up my burger, I threw some of the ketchup on it, but that didn’t make much difference and didn’t leave much for the fries. Instead, I ate the fries with the aioli which was really good, but unfortunately, that didn’t do anything to make the tater strips more crunchy. Even the fries that looked crispy weren’t. The drinks came out in the middle of my food consumption and the Manhattan was excellent. That did help some with my overall outlook but didn’t make up for everything. We finished our food and though I was full, I was not satisfied.

I feel torn by the food I got at Timber. On one hand, I got amazing drinks and one of the very best apps I’ve ever eaten. On the other hand, the $18 burger did not compare to other burgers above the $10-12 range in Portland. Whoever cooked it did so perfectly, but there just wasn’t much to it and it came through in the lack of flavor. Fortunately, I have a solution which I believe would solve this issue. Timber should offer a choice of sauce like they do with the rotisserie chicken. That would power-up the flavor and really add something to talk about. The fries were really limp and never should have come out as they did. Those need to be cooked much more and the onion rings need a lot more seasoning.

My verdict on Timber is to go there for happy hour. The mac and cheese is half price and there are some cheap drinks – all of which I loved. For the price, I can’t say I was pleased with the main courses. Our meal came to over $100 with tax and tip, so it wasn’t cheap and we didn’t get any steak which would have upped the price significantly.  Nonetheless, the restaurant has an allure under the right circumstances, but it’s not for an entire meal.

Stay hungry.

Feel fre 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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Ruski’s Restaurant and Pub – A Dive to Make You Feel Alive

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Ruski’s Restaurant and Pub on Danforth street in Portland is a place I’ve heard about from a select group of people who insist it is “the best.”  Included in that group is my wife who, while always super-concerned that a new place won’t meet her expectations, is totally in love with dives. After talking about going for a while, we finally made our way there. I was pretty excited to see the joint as I’d had years of build-up for losing my Ruski’s virginity.

Immediately upon entering with some counterparts, I felt a special electricity in the air. I got the sense that Ruski’s was a dive in the vein of my favorite college joints – something I definitely haven’t seen enough of lately. The place wasn’t beautiful, the bartender didn’t over-smile, and the customers didn’t have any interest in ordering filet mignon with caviar and hollandaise. No, this was a beer and whiskey, beard and bikini, fried egg and drunk darts sort of place – a place where you go to get buzzed, chow down, and not give a flying shit. I was particularly ready to partake in this experience devoid of that proverbial flying shit.

We took a table that was clearing as we walked in and went to the bar to order our first drinks. We sat down and were soon brought menus and our libations. I ordered a Knob Creek Manhattan. Others stuck with beer and wine. We looked at the choices which were extensive with many more items than the typical dive. Categories of food included starters, soups and salads, burgers, Mexican, pizza, calzones, sandwiches, and dogs – a great selection and enough to give decision problems and  moderate to severe heartburn.

I was leaning toward a burger, dog, or nachos. When my buddy asked if I would share nachos if he got some, I gladly accepted and knocked that off my list. I made my final decision and chose the half pound West End Burger – well done – sauteed peppers, onions, mushrooms, mozzarella – served with chips and pickle. Mrs. Portlandeater ordered the Tuna Salad Sandwich on wheat with fries. An order of Ruski’s Super Nachos topped with veggies and smothered cheese – chili on the side, Potato Skins, and a Veggie Quesadilla – served with rice, salsa, and sour cream – rounded out the orders.

The Manhattan was carving a path to my liver while we waited for food.  We drank and drank in the awesomeness that was Ruski’s. There was greatness emanating from every corner of the room in the form of an uncaring, no-holds-barred vibe with a certain “I do know exactly what” lying underneath it. Everyone there was there to be free – to live life to the fullest and experience an ethereal freedom seldom sought outside the wild of Alaska or the jungles of Costa Rica. But this was Ruski’s and they were better. They had booze.

After finishing our mental vacation and listening to some Wolfmother, we got back to the topic at hand – when would we get our food? It came out relatively quickly though and we readied our forks, knives, and spoons to stick, cut, and…um…spoon the food into our Ruski holes. I recited a quick mantra – “By the power vested in me by the states of semi-consciousness and hunger, I now pronounce you my food to be loved, devoured, and cherished as long as you shall exist outside of my body.” The crowd cheered and I began to consumate my meal.

I started with a burger bite. It was slightly greasy, medium cheesy, and well done, as requested – a solid burger, but nothing extra special. It fit the bill for what you might expect at a dive.
Then, at the prodding of a good friend, I was told to consume some nachos. I grabbed a chip, keeping in mind the rule that if it sticks together, it only counts as one. Unfortunately, it only was one, but I made sure to get one with plenty of cheese and veggies, then I dipped it in the chili. The nacho, like a rocket from outer space, made it’s way to my mouth. I chewed the crisp, cheese, chili combination and carefully concocted a concise concept of it’s character. Awesome!

The nachos were indeed super on their own, but the chili, of which we received a full crock, was amazing. It was thick and meaty, outrageously flavorful, and had the spicy kick of a tiny mule. The chili was absolutely one of the best I’ve ever had. I continued to eat my food, alternating between bites of burger and nibbles of nachos, throwing in swigs of whiskey for good measure. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food and I ate until both the burger and nachos vanished into fat belly.

I though I was done eating when suddenly my wife subtlety pushed half of a tuna sandwich my way. I obliged and ate that like it weren’t no thang. It was quite good and when I was done, another of our counterparts pushed her tater skin my way. I promptly filled it with chili and devoured it like a cannibal would have human skin. That thing was pretty damn good too. I’m not sure if it was the tater skin, chili, or both, but it was well worth eating. After eating everyone else’s food and mine and washing it down with a Manhattan, it was time to call it quits. I think dessert may have been too much.

We were ready to head out and asked for the check. The food plus five beers and my drink came to about 80 bucks before tip. The nachos, at $10.95, were the most expensive item we had and one of the most expensive on the entire menu. Ruski’s prices are very reasonable, their pours are strong, and their atmosphere is definitively dive. This place is fun for any time of day, week, or year and since they are open both early AND late, you can test that for yourself. I envision this as a go-to hangout in the event my wife isn’t around for a weekend, though I couldn’t see myself spending more than eight or ten hours at a time there. That would be overboard.

Stay hungry.

Feel fre 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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