Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner and a Guide to Nodoguro

When I was at dinner at Nodoguro yesterday, a guest sitting to my right asked me if this was my first time or if I was a regular. And I sorta realized I *am* a regular- I’ve been to seven Nodoguro dinners, including this one. Thanks to all the great press Nodoguro has gotten, there are lot of new people discovering and experiencing Nodoguro.

As a regular patron of the Nodoguro culinary arts, I thought besides my usual photo recap of my latest Nodoguro dinner, I would provide an overview of what to expect your first time. So here’s my Guide to Nodoguro, as well as a recap of the Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme.

The March tickets just went on sale for the new Spring theme so HURRY and snap one up!

Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015 Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse

What kind of food is Nodoguro?

There are two main kinds of experiences with Nodoguro. You may see tickets for a “Hard Core Omakase” dinner sometimes. Those are sushi/sashimi dinners where you put your fate in them to take you on a chef’s choice journey based on whatever was just flown in from the famed fish markets of Japan. The second are “9 course Tasting Menu“. This 9 course tasting menu changes based on the theme, which generally changes every month. To give you an idea, here is a listing of the themes I experienced before this post’s Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme of February 2015

My Previous Nodoguro Coverage:

As far as I know, I only missed the theme of October 2014 (Tribute to Water) and December (Glitter). Because I’m a stalker I can refer you to Misadventures with Miso for the better than I would have written anyway recaps of Water with Nodoguro and Time to Get Your Sparkle On Nodoguro Style posts.

Anyway, the 9 courses are served in what I, who am not Japanese and not very well versed in the complexities and intricacies of Japanese culture, would describe as a combination of  Modern Kaiseki and Kappo Ryouri style. The Modern Kaiseki description I picked because the dinner is very formal in presentation and sophisticated simplicity to respect the local and seasonal ingredients.

In presentation, each individual dish tries to showcase taste, texture, appearance, and color. Both the food and the dishware count as important elements of the visuals. Nodoguro carefully considers what plates and bowls they will use as well as carefully arrangement of every element in plating the ingredients. You might even notice in even placing the dish in front of you, they may even turn it just right to face you. All the dishes will be small, but trust me, they do add up so you will be satiated.

Nodoguro June 2014 Firefly Theme Dinner, Chawanmushi topped with Dashi soaked Ikura and Wasabi Nodoguro July 2014 Cucumber soup with fermented ume, and Nasturtium Nodoguro June 2014 Firefly Theme Dinner, Canned Albacore with Roasted Pepper

In terms of hearing it’s simple food, don’t be fooled. There is always a printed menu at your seat, and often there will only just be a handful of words to describe what the dish is – say one dinner there was a dish described as Dungeness Crab and Fennel Sunomono. In this dish, there was this tubular vegetable thing that had some sort of weird melt in your mouth taste and texture in it? Oh says Ryan offhandedly, just Uni wrapped in Kelp. No big deal. There are so many times that you ask about one element – why does this Dashi broth in this Black Cod with Dashi dish feel so soft, what is that other flavor? Oh, I vaporized sake in it, explains Ryan. There is all sorts of hidden complexity in the simplicity.

Nodoguro PDX September 2014, theme dinner Totoro. Fourth Course: Dungeness Crab and Fennel Sunomono and Uni wrapped in kelp Nodoguro PDX September 2014, theme dinner Totoro. Fourth Course: Dungeness Crab and Fennel Sunomono and Uni wrapped in kelp

The Kappo Ryouri description I picked because you will be sitting right across from the chefs at a kitchen counter. If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant before and seen the sushi counter – it’s very similar to that, but without any glass case needed to keep seafood cold for sushi. Kaiseki also has a specific set of rules of the progression of food, while kappo ryori has more freedom on what each course may have in terms of ingredients and cooking style.

At a high level, based on my dinner experiences so far, there will always be generally within the first few courses some sort of raw and/or sashimi dish. There is always a sunomono dish, a “salad” which as Ryan wryly explained, is “stuff in vinegar”. There is always a cooked fish dish – it may be smoked, or broiled. After that is some sort of meatier dish, which may be just generous protein or a protein on top of rice bowl dish. There is always a sweet rolled omelette dish (tamago) as the 8th course, followed by dessert as the 9th course, and that is usually finished with hot Japanese tea and manju snack.

Nodoguro's McDonalds theme for November 2014, a play on fast food: Wartime Sashimi (soy cured ocean trout and wasabi) Smoked Mackerel Sunomono with egg vinegar, cucumber and seaweed, my fave sunomono they have made so far at Nodoguro August themed pop-up- Haruki Murakami 8/12/2014 Nodoguro June 2014 Firefly Theme Dinner, Cherry smoked black cod with miso jam and soba Nodoguro PDX September 2014, theme dinner Totoro. Seventh Course: Chiashu with Turnip, Miso, and Walnut, a dish that is a nod to Spirited Away also by Hayao Miyazaki Nodoguro June 2014 Firefly Theme Dinner, Sweet Dashi omelette Nodoguro PDX September 2014, theme dinner Totoro. Tea Service: Moon Manju with Peppermint Tea

Where is Nodoguro?

Ryan Roadhouse, Rising Star Chef 2014 of Portland Monthly

Nodoguro’s origins are as a nomadic pop-up restaurant, since it had no permanent home. My journey with them started at Yakuza, and then they moved to Evoe, where Nodoguro would visit for a few days every month. They would  literally be bringing in the prepped ingredients and food in boxes that day and at the mercy of what Evoe’s kitchen state was, with the Evoe menu on the chalkboard taking up most of the largest wall a reminder that we were only visiting.

When Evoe shuttered in August, the space then permanently became Nodoguro at 3731 SE Hawthorne Boulevard. This is an attached space directly to Pastaworks, a gourmet grocery store. As of my last visit there was no Nodoguro sign anywhere outside to identify the space. So look for the Pastaworks sign, and when you enter Pastaworks, on the left side as you step in, you will see the Japanese style sliding doors that demarcate the grocery store from Nodoguro’s dining space.

There will be some that probably would debate whether Nodoguro still qualifies as a pop-up since it no longer moves around and has control over their kitchen and dining space. At the same time though, the same philosophy of a pop-up still is a driving force, since

  1. Nodoguro is constantly doing something new, creative, and experimental because the change in themes every month allows for a lot of freedom and flexibility
  2. The menus at Nodoguro are always prix fixe because of the limited nature of the kitchen and number of guests, it is always a very crafted controlled menu progression designed by Nodoguro
  3. The small space also limits Nodoguro to one seating per day, with a limited number of seats, and you have to purchase your “dinner ticket” ahead of time.

Who is Nodoguro?

Nodoguro PDX in action, with Chef Ryan, Sous Chef Mark, and Hostess/Designer Elena

If you haven’t heard, Ryan Roadhouse is nominated as one of the James Beard Best Chef Northwest for 2015.

Ryan was also highlighted as a Rising Star Chef 2014 and Nodoguro listed one of Portland’s Best Restaurants by Portland Monthly, Ryan and Nodoguro also made the Eater PDX Top 3 List for 2014 Chef of the Year and 2014 Restaurant of the Year.

There has been coverage of some of his themes by pretty much all the local media ranging from their first highlight by the Oregonian when opening as a pop-up to being part of the Restaurant of the Year roundup when the Oregonian dubbed the winner “All Portland Pop-up Restaurants”. There are also swoons by the Portland Mercury on the Haruki Murakami menu or recently the Examiner on the Twin Peaks menu I also am writing about in this post.

Nodoguro PDX demonstrates teamwork in plating with Sous Chef Mark Wooten and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Roadhouse

Besides Chef de Cuisine Ryan, he has 3 main partners in his crafting of the Nodoguro experience. There is Mark Wooten of Phantom Rabbit Farms who is providing so many of their ingredients. Apparently they just sat down with some coffee with a Japanese seed catalog and oh, decided what to grow all year. You will see Mark and his beautiful natural locks also working as Ryan’s sous chef.

Nodoguro PDX demonstrates teamwork in plating with Sous Chef Mark Wooten and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Roadhouse Nodoguro PDX in action, with Chef Ryan, Sous Chef Mark, and Hostess/Designer Elena

The second and best looking of the Nodoguro trio is Elena Roadhouse. Besides being his wife, Elena also is the hostess who greets you and often explains the dishes and beverage pairings if you choose to purchase beverages AND is the designer extraordinaire who updates the atmosphere of Nodoguro every month based on the current theme. No detail is left unturned, be it the sign at the entrance to the tablescape to your menu or the art on the walls or hanging from the ceiling.

Finally, Paul Willenberg consults as the Beverage Director, with beverage expertise that includes beer, wine, sake, cocktails, probably everything liquid. Every menu has new pairings that he creates, and there always are surprises that challenge what you think of what a sherry

How do I experience Nodoguro?

There are limited seats and dates of the dinners. Every Nodoguro guest must always go online to buy your ticket beforehand. Follow on Twitter Nodoguro or Ryan Roadhouse to keep up for when new tickets or events for more Nodoguro Upcoming Offerings announcements as they come.

If you are dining with friends, buy your tickets together or communicate to Nodoguro to let them know because there are only a dozen seats. If they know ahead of time how many are in your party, they can make sure that there are seats together for you. You should let them know any constraints you might have (I often dine with a friend who can’t eat salmon and she is always accommodated for, and another time there was someone who could not eat pork) so they can prepare an alternative if needed.

After purchasing your reservation online from the Nodoguro website, usually a couple days before your dinner Ryan will email you what the specifics of the menu for your dinner evening will be, and let you know what time to arrive.

Dinner from start to finish is about 2 hours or so. When you arrive, after picking your seat, you will also have the chance to peruse the beverage menu and then choose to order drinks a la carte or do a pairing.

Be aware that since you are sitting at a chef’s counter, you will likely be sitting right next to each other and mostly talk to your dining friends immediately to the right or left so set yourself up accordingly. After tea service, generally one of the Nodoguro people will have a tablet running Square so you can pay for your drinks/gratuity using a credit card, or of course cash.

Twin Peaks Dinner Recap in Photos

Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme in 2015, decor by Elena Roadhouse Sake and Wine Pairings for Nodoguro Twin Peaks dinner, courtesy of Paul Willenberg Sake and Wine Pairings for Nodoguro Twin Peaks dinner, courtesy of Paul Willenberg

Started off with a Welcome drink of a Long Stemmed Cherry Cocktail with shoyu and sake

Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner, Welcome drink of a Long stemmed cherry cocktail with shoyu and sake Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner, Welcome drink of a Long stemmed cherry cocktail with shoyu and sake

Cod in the Dashi Percolator, with flash fried black cod, dashi with vaporized sake, mustard greens, crispy parsnip

Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Cod in the Dashi Percolator with flash fried black cod, dashi with vaporized sake, mustard greens, green garlic, crispy parsnip

Sesame Pressed Trout Sashimi, it was cured with sesame and Ryan lovingly brushed sesame and sprinkled the Phantom Rabbit tiny green garlic on top
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Sesame pressed Trout Sashimi

One damn good cup of coffee, in the form of Coffee Cup Custard (chawanmushu) with Black Trumpet Gel and freeze dried Corn

Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, One damn good cup of coffee, in the form of Coffee Cup Custard (chawanmushu) with Black Trumpet Gel and freeze dried Corn Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, One damn good cup of coffee, in the form of Coffee Cup Custard (chawanmushu) with Black Trumpet Gel and freeze dried Corn Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, One damn good cup of coffee, in the form of Coffee Cup Custard (chawanmushu) with Black Trumpet Gel and freeze dried Corn

It lived up to what it needed to be.

Turnip Waldorf Salad and Miso with fresh apple
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Turnip Waldorf Salad and Miso with fresh apple Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Turnip Waldorf Salad and Miso with fresh apple

Smoked Cheese Pig with fresh mozzarella cheese in dashi
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Smoked Cheese Pig with fresh mozzarella cheese in dashi Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Smoked Cheese Pig with fresh mozzarella cheese in dashi

Seared Duck with Huckleberry and Real Potatoes
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Seared Duck with Huckleberry and Real Potatoes

Uni Porridge with Coffee, a dish of Japanese rice in dashi and uni butter sort of like risotto but done to resemble gruel, topped with ground espresso. OMG SWOON.
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Uni Porridge with Coffee, a dish of Japanese rice in dashi and uni butter sort of like risotto but done to resemble gruel, topped with ground espresso

Omelet
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Omelet

Toasted soba ice cream wtih roasted soy bean powder and black sugar syrup and light as air cinnamon sugar donut, served with Roasted Tea
Nodoguro Twin Peaks Dinner theme, Toasted soba ice cream wtih roasted soy bean powder and black sugar syrup and light as air cinnamon sugar donut

I have to give a special bow also to the amazing pairings by Paul Willenberg for this meal, which I thought was the best pairing he’s ever done. I had the sake pairing and every single one was spot on, complimenting and revealing additional flavors to enhance the food.

The Hatsumago Junmai Kimoto with the Smoked Cheese Pig… those are flavors that were just once in a lifetime that I could experience, because I don’t think anyone would ever put all those things together ever again. On Paul’s Instagram I learned this was a Pairing he adored as well:

“I love sake with cheese! Here the sweaty aromas and deep mouthfeel of Kimoto style sake high in amino acids pairs with “Smoked Cheese Pig” off our Twin Peaks Menu. Chef @ryanroadhouse takes a fresh mozzarella and bathes it in dashi vinegar and shaved, cured ham. It’s finished with Hatcho miso, which like Kimoto method, is a traditional and time consuming process–it takes over 2 years!”

Sake and Wine Pairings for Nodoguro Twin Peaks dinner, courtesy of Paul Willenberg

The wine pairing (which I sampled a few sips of from my dining companion) was full of unexpected surprises, and I thought the fact that wines/grapes were unusual and not what you would initially think was a great nod to the theme of Twin Peaks. The La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry was not one I would like by itself, but with the Cod in the Dashi Percolator it emphasized the Dashi flavors wonderfully and who would normally think to start off with sherry?

He also reminded me of a grape he had introduced me to last year at the Totoro dinner, a Blaufränkisch which at this dinner he paired a Blaufränkisch wine (this one with Wachter Wiesler 2010 Pfarrweingarten Blaufränkisch) with the seared duck and it was heavenly. Actually both pairings with the duck – the wine and the sake- were so good I kept taking sips from both while my dining friend was in the restroom as I just couldn’t decide what worked better.

I was constantly the last person to finish my dish and would look around to see everyone’s place was cleared and I was taking way too long with my mini-bites trying to make it last as long as possible.

Overall, this was my favorite dinners from Nodoguro ever because although all the dishes are tasty, this was one progression just seemed like all were hitting it (though my favorite Nodoguro dishes of all time still remains the Chiashu with Turnip, Miso, and Walnut with the 2012 Johan Vineyards Blaufränkisch and his dessert of Sterling Tiramisu). I can’t wait to see what Nodoguro does next!

The March tickets just went on sale for the new Spring theme so HURRY and snap one up!

Signature

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Food Pairings

For a Ladies Night get together with the theme of Bubbles (the beverage – such as champagne or sparkling wine) a couple weeks ago, I came up with a few ideas of what to pair the champagne or sparkling wine with. Here are three ideas, with 2 recipes!

Fried Chicken

I know, it’s shocking that this pairing doesn’t involve cheese!

For a small get together, you might consider fried chicken with the champagne! I had heard it was a hot thing, thanks to a restaurant called Birds & Bubbles in New York that was doing elevated southern comfort food. This high low combination is also endorsed by Lisa Dupar at her Redmond restaurant Pomegranate, Fried Chicken and Champagne is what she named her cookbook a few years ago.

Fried chicken tenders with Iron Horse Vineyards Commander's Palace Brut
The bubbly combination of carbonation and acidity is a great way to balance the rich heaviness of fried food, and it’s just fun. I went with chicken tenders so that we could be classy and not deal with chicken bones.

Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres

Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls about 1 inch in order to make these cheesy puffs bite size to eat between sips of champagne or sparkling wine!
Then, I went with tried and true pairing with champagne and sparkling wine. A classic with bubbles is gougeres, light cheese puff bread appetizers. For mine, instead of gougeres I decided to use a combination of cheddar and rosemary. But, you could use any cheese, and you could use no herbs at all, or use another herb combination to your tastes.

The best part of the gougeres is that you can prepare it ahead of time and freeze it, and then on party day just pop them straight from the freezer into the oven and serve them warm, which is the best way to eat gougeres. I love party food that I can prep days ahead! And, they seem so fancy!

This recipe makes enough for about 48 of these appetizer sized, which is about an inch each to pop in between sips of champagne or sparkling wine, but you can also make them larger, say slider sized, and make mini sandwiches with them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary (or other herb, or none at all)
  • 1 cup grated Cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere, a combination of Goat with Blue… your choice)

Directions:

  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat or aluminum foil. This recipe makes enough for two baking sheets worth, and I like to do them 1 sheet at a time so that I can bake the second one as we are down to the last warm ones from the first baking sheet! If you are not making them right away though, you can do two baking sheets at the same time since you are freezing the gougeres dough anyway, if both baking sheets fit in your freezer.
  2. First, we will make the pate a choux dough, which is the starter for any puffy pastries, and is just milk, butter, flour, salt. So let’s start! Heat the milk and the 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to keep the bottom from burning. When the butter and milk is simmering, remove from the pot from heat. Now all at once, add the 1 cup flour, teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper all at once. Stir well to combine the mixture – I used my handy silicone spatula, one of my favorite kitchen tools. Return the pan to medium heat and stir hard for 1 to 2 minutes to add as much air bubble as you can, stir until the mixture thickens and becomes stiff.
    Making cheddar rosemary gougeres - here is the milk and butter and flour and salt to make the pate a choux dough
  3. Transfer the mixture to stand mixer with the paddle attachment. I mixed the dough at low speed for a few minutes, watching the steam rise from the bowl, in order to cool it and get more bubbles into the mix. Once I didn’t see any more steam, I knew it was time for the eggs. In a separate small bowl, break the 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork. Now add the egg 1/4 at a time, with the mixer beating the egg and mixture at medium speed each time until the egg you just poured in is fully incorporated into the dough.
  4. So now that we have the pate a choux dough, it’s now on us to add our creative extras for flavor. For this recipe, add the cheese and rosemary to the dough mixture and stir it all together until the ingredients are well distributed.
    Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, before forming it into the balls
  5. Some people now transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and pipe the gougeres circles, but I still don’t have a tip (I suppose I could always use a big ziploc with a corner cut though), so I used use two teaspoons that I wetted with water in order to make small little balls from the dough. I made mine very small, about 1 inch in diameter, appetizer size. If you want to make little sliders, make them 4 inches. Make sure you leave at least enough to fit another ball in between each of your dough balls because when they bake, they will spread out and get stuck to each other. In my photo below, I was about to freeze them, otherwise I would have spaced them much farther apart.
    Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls and now ready to freeze. If I was baking them I would have spaced these much farther apart Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls and now ready to freeze. If I was baking them I would have spaced these much farther apart
  6. At this point, I just froze the balls to the baking sheets, and once frozen just put them in freezer bags. Or skip to
  7. To bake them, preheat the oven to 425 F. I put two baking sheets on top of each other in order to insulate the bottoms from the heat of the oven so it wouldn’t brown as much. You don’t need to defrost the dough – I just lined them all up and into the oven they went! Bake the tray for 12 minutes, and then lower the heat to 375 F. Now bake for another 10 to 12 minutes more – make sure you check on them so they don’t brown at the bottom! You want it golden all over.
    Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls about 1 inch in order to make these cheesy puffs bite size to eat between sips of champagne or sparkling wine!

Before serving, let them cool for a few minutes, and then serve warm!
Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls about 1 inch in order to make these cheesy puffs bite size to eat between sips of champagne or sparkling wine! Cheddar Rosemary Gougeres dough, after forming it into the balls about 1 inch in order to make these cheesy puffs bite size to eat between sips of champagne or sparkling wine!

Apple Slices with Brie and Walnut and Honey or Agave Nectar

Red and Green Apple Slices with a bit of Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Brie, Walnut and Agave Nectar
I happened to use Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Creme de Brie, but you can use any brie you want, it doesn’t need to be flavored. The plus of using Aloutte Creme de Brie is that I didn’t have to deal with any rind, and could go right into spreading the cheese.
Red and Green Apple Slices with a bit of Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Brie, Walnut and Agave Nectar
I personally also chose to use Agave Nectar instead of honey. I used red and green apple slices, it’s your choice on what kind of apple exactly you want to use. And, no one will judge you if you happen to buy those pre-sliced apples either.

Ingredients:

  • 7 Red and Green Apples, sliced. Or just use one color, or more colors, your choice.
  • 5 ounces of Brie – spreadable brie is easiest, but you can also use any brie as long as you do not use the rind
  • 1/4 pound of walnuts
  • Honey or Agave Nectar

Directions:

It’s ridiculously easy- slice the apples, smear a bit of brie, top with the walnut and agave nectar or honey.

Red and Green Apple Slices with a bit of Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Brie, Walnut and Agave Nectar

To serve – I alternated the colors of red and green apple for fun.
Red and Green Apple Slices with a bit of Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Brie, Walnut and Agave Nectar Red and Green Apple Slices with a bit of Aloutte Smoked Bourbon Brie, Walnut and Agave Nectar

Which of these pairings with champagne or sparkling wine intrigues you?

And here’s the damage from a dozen ladies that night…

A photo posted by Pechluck Laskey (@pechluck) on

Signature

The Wynn: Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, Conservatory, Jeff Koons, and Le Reve

The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas is considered to be one of the most luxurious on the Strip, with its number of five stars from various rankings and the fact that they even have a Ferrari and Maserati dealership inside. Unlike the other previous casinos that Steve Wynn built, The Wynn takes action on his previous regret that he created crowd-drawing attractions that were outside (Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio)- he wanted to make people come into the casino. So that’s how he planned The Wynn.

Supposedly the main attraction to the Wynn the Lake of Dreams, which is a big waterfall feature inside over a small manmade lake. In the evenings, starting at dusk and for every 30 minutes, there are shows that play using the waterfall wall and the lake with projections and props, with the shows varying (similar to how the Bellagio fountain shows vary). In between those times, the waterfall and lake are an art piece, with a statue of a man partially submerged staring at the flowing water/us (I’m not sure) being pensive/stalkery (I’m not sure) while farther on the right a woman stands about to enter the lake, pensive/stalkery (I’m not sure).
Lake of Dreams at the Wynn

The biggest different though is that to really get a good view, you pretty much have to be a guest of the restaurants that take up most of the side facing the Lake of Dreams, or be having cocktails at the bottom half of the lounges Parasol Up / Parasol Down. Parasol Down includes the lounge area inside where you can view Lake of Dreams through the floor to ceiling windows and the outdoor terrace outside. Parasol Up is the lounge upstairs, which really only gives you a view of people walking in The Wynn and little bit of the parasols. True to the name, there are giant parasols that hang on the ceiling and move up and down.

The view from by the escalators on the top floor:
These umbrella lights move up and down in the atrium which houses the Parasol Down bar and lounge (Parasol Up is on the same level before you go down the curved escalator) at The Wynn, Las Vegas "These

The view looking up from Parasol Down:
These umbrella lights move up and down in the atrium which houses the Parasol Down bar and lounge (Parasol Up is on the same level before you go down the curved escalator) at The Wynn, Las Vegas These umbrella lights move up and down in the atrium which houses the Parasol Down bar and lounge (Parasol Up is on the same level before you go down the curved escalator) at The Wynn, Las Vegas

F was working late, and thanks to Tix4Tonight I was able to get discounted seats to the show Le Reve (The Dream) for the early show. After walking here (remember my walking the South Strip and the Middle of the Strip posts?) I really needed a break off my feet, and cocktails sounded perfect. It was probably only 5 PM and far from dusk, so this lounge area was quiet and peaceful, and I was able to sit at a couch on the side where there was a much needed outlet to recharge my phone from all these pictures I’ve been taking and sharing on the blog!
Relaxing in the Parasol Down bar and lounge (Parasol Up is on the same level before you go down the curved escalator) inside The Wynn. This is where after dusk you can also sit and see the various Lake of Dreams shows every 30 min) Relaxing in the Parasol Down bar and lounge (Parasol Up is on the same level before you go down the curved escalator) inside The Wynn. This is where after dusk you can also sit and see the various Lake of Dreams shows every 30 min

I thought I might have just one drink, but I was very intrigued by the drinks menu here. For instance, a page of Wynn Signature Sips included

  • The Carousel, made with rum, watermelon liqueur, fresh lemon juice, fresh watermelon juice, and lemongrass syrup
  • The Pear-A-Sol, with Absolut Pear Vodka, Belle Paire Pear Liqueur, pear puree, and fresh sweet and sour
  • Lime In the Coconut, with Bacardi Pineapple Fusion Rum, Kalani Coconut Liqueur, fresh lime juice, ginger syrup, fresh basil leaves, topped with Red Bull Silver

Wynn Signature Sips available at Parasol Down inside The Wynn Example drinks at Parasol Down in The Wynn, Seasonal Sips and Signature Shots

So of course I had to do a little taste testing for you. I started out with the Parasol’s Signature cocktail, the previously mentioned The Pear-A-Sol, with Absolut Pear Vodka, Belle Paire Pear Liqueur, pear puree, and fresh sweet and sour. I was pleased to see that it came with these cute complimentary snacks. Vegas is one of those cities that I don’t even think twice of traveling, exploring, and eating and drinking on my own because there are always interesting people to meet and talk to, including even being insistent that she take a photo of me and send it to F to let him see I was having fun without him.
Enjoying a Wynn Signature Sip of The Pear-a-sol, Parasol's signature cocktail at Parasol Down. The cocktail includes Absolut Pears Vodka, Belle Paire Pear Liqeur, pear puree, and fresh sweet and sour along with complimentary snacks Enjoying a Wynn Signature Sip of The Pear-a-sol, Parasol's signature cocktail at Parasol Down. The cocktail includes Absolut Pears Vodka, Belle Paire Pear Liqeur, pear puree, and fresh sweet and sour along with complimentary snacks

They also have several Seasonal Sips and Signature Shots on the drink menu. I tried one of them, the Red Velvet Cake shot with Zing Red Velvet Vodka, and Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur. In the back you can see a Cucumber Fizz non-alcoholic drink, so you don’t have to feel pressured to drink alcohol- the non alcoholic drink was very refreshing and flavorful. I also tried the Signature Cocktail of Sinatra Smash with Gentlemen Jack Tennessee Whiskey, Briottet Ccreme de Cassis, freshly muddled blackberries, fresh sweet and sour, and vanilla infused simple syrup
A Signature Shot at Parasol Down in the Wynn, this one is the Red Velvet Cake shot with Zing Red Velvet Vodka, and Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur with a Cucumber Fizz nonalcoholic drink Example signature drink at Parasol Down in The Wynn. This is the Sinatra Smash with Gentlemen Jack Tennessee Whiskey, Briottet Ccreme de Cassis, freshly muddled blackberries, fresh sweet and sour, and vanilla infused simple syrup

The only place I can think of where you can watch the show at the Lake of Dreams for free is by standing between the inside lounge area and terrace of Parasol Down, by standing in between the escalators leading up and down to Parasol Down, or by a small terrace just by the check-in/out desks of The Wynn. Here you can see the difference in view – from standing in between the escalators leading up and down to Parasol Down where yes they somehow pulled out a whole frog to sing- and the view from the terrace just by the check in lobby of The Wynn when the Lake of Dreams told the story of two balls (a blue and pink one) that fall in love and roll around all over the misted over lake.
The singing frog at the Lake of Dreams in The Wynn, view from the top of the escalators above Parasol Down The singing frog at the Lake of Dreams in The Wynn, view from the top of the escalators above Parasol Down The singing frog at the Lake of Dreams in The Wynn, view from the top of the escalators above Parasol Down View of the Lake of Dreams from the balcony outside the check in lobby of The Wynn... this is a show with lit balls that roll in the water that is misty View of the Lake of Dreams from the balcony outside the check in lobby of The Wynn... this is a show with lit balls that roll in the water that is misty View of the Lake of Dreams from the balcony outside the check in lobby of The Wynn... this is a show with lit balls that roll in the water that is misty View of the Lake of Dreams from the balcony outside the check in lobby of The Wynn... this is a show with lit balls that roll in the water that is misty

You can sort of see the glass doors leading to that terrace by the reception desks behind these flowers
You can sort of see the glass doors leading to that terrace overlooking Lake of Dreams at the Wynn, Las Vegas, by the reception desks behind these flowers

Honestly though, it wasn’t the Lake of Dreams that blew me away with The Wynn. It was the Conservatory Area here that reminded me a bit of what Bellagio offers, but without all the crowds of people that I felt at the Bellagio. The gardens here are exquisite. And, FREE to see.
Carousel made all of flowers inside The Wynn, November 2014 Carousel made all of flowers inside The Wynn, November 2014 Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn make up this flowered hot air balloonGorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn make up this flowered hot air balloon Gorgeous flowers inside the Conservatory Area, cultivated botanical gardens in the atrium of The Wynn make up this flowered hot air balloon

You can also find two artworks by Jeff Koons. The first is Popeye, made with high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating inside the Wynn Esplanade, and the sculpture Tulips which is a bouquet of twisted balloon flowers. As you’re looking at it, know that these pieces weigh several tons, and Steve Wynn paid $28 million for Popeye and Tulips is $33.6 million dollars. It blows my mind how much insane art is just lying around for everyone to look at for free in Las Vegas. FREE!
Popeye art piece by Jeff Koons, made with high chromium stainless steel with transparant color coating inside the Wynn Esplanade Popeye art piece by Jeff Koons, made with high chromium stainless steel with transparant color coating inside the Wynn Esplanade More Jeff Koons art inside the Wynn, this time right by the Wynn Theater, it's the $33.6 million dollar sculpture Tulips which is a bouquet of twisted balloon flowers More Jeff Koons art inside the Wynn, this time right by the Wynn Theater, it's the $33.6 million dollar sculpture Tulips which is a bouquet of twisted balloon flowers

Oh, and I saw Le Reve, The Dream. I was surprised that they allowed non-flash photography during the show, but they even wanted to promote a hashtag to share the photos, so I obliged once in a while, most of the time my eyes were just flitting all over the place trying to see everything on the stage.

There is not a bad seat at all in the house. If you are closer, you can admire the details of the costuming and the rippling physiques of the performers. If you are farther away, you have an overall view of the scene without having to dart your eyes around.
There is not a bad seat in the house at the Wynn Theater, home of Le Reve, The Dream There is not a bad seat in the house at the Wynn Theater, home of Le Reve, The Dream

The stage includes not only the pool and any standing areas that come up and down or sail in (yep), but even all the airspace to the top of the theater! With every scene, your view is ever-changing with not only set and lights, but people wandering in and out, either performing as part of the act or like us, observing (though more artfully posed than me). There were many times I was really torn where I wanted to keep my eyes, and the show seemed to end all too soon. I wanted many parts of every scene to last a little longer so I can really admire the details of it before it moved out of one beautifully posed moment to another.
A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater!

I really enjoyed the show. Besides all the food in Las Vegas, and all the free art to see up and down the strip outside on the streets or inside the buildings, I really love the offering of shows here in Vegas and can’t imagine visiting without seeing at least 1 or 2! Most theater productions are only temporary, but here in Vegas they can build the stage to fit the resident show, and so the production values are just unlike anywhere else.

I highly recommend seeing a show while you are here! There’s every kind of show – I prefer shows like Le Reve or Cirque du Soleil (my favorite is O, though I almost bought tickets to Zarkana paired with the idea of pairing it with dinner at bar Masa or Julian Serrano Tapas- maybe next time! You can see friend Marlynn from Urban Bliss Life’s pictures and review of Zarkana here). The reason I love these shows is because they combine intense visuals and athleticism and grace with music and have no strong narrative. But there is also comedy, musical performances varying from musicals to concerts to tribute shows, magic, adult (I really like Jubilee, the costumes by Bob Mackie and seeing Barbie clothes in real life before me are worth it), headliners (you might even run into them in the casinos, like lucky Hailey of Discourse of a Divine Diva did with Nick Carter! She’s doing a recap of her week in Vegas and I think she packed in more than I did everyday!)… Vegas, so much to do, so much to see!

Here’s a glimpse of the visual splendor of Le Reve, The Dream in Las Vegas at the Wynn Theater.
A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater! A scene from the show Le Reve, The Dream, playing at the Wynn Theater. It's a show that takes place on continuously changing stages, the water, and all the airspace to the top of the theater!

Have you been to the Wynn, what did you think if you have? Have you gone to any Las Vegas shows, which ones?

My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing!
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
  • Italics – coming soon, not yet posted
Signature

The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB, Las Vegas

After my little free Art Walk Tour through Gallery Row and The Shops at the Crystals and Aria, I was feeling a little snacky and thirsty. It was Saturday and sunny, and they serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays until 3 PM so I stopped at Todd English P.U.B. Restaurant (P.U.B. standing for Public Urban Bar). On a Sunday, the regular brunch time this place is likely crazy, but on a Saturday I was seated immediately.

Pretty much I am a huge fan of a good bloody mary, and that was exactly what they were advertising so… sold!
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas

For the bloody mary menu, you can build your own starting from a choice of vodka or infusion (example infusions include “chipotle” with chipotle, bell, ancho and jalapeno peppers and sugar or “bacon” with applewood bacon and maple syrup), many fixings varying from Old Bay Seasoning and juices (Todd’s blend or V8 or even beef broth or cucumber water) to 9 different hot sauces, 3 kinds of splashes (lime, lemon, or olive brine) and 18 garnishes varying from various pickled items to salami to even shrimp or lobster!
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom

If that’s too much freedom and choice for you, they also provide 3 bloody mary pre-created combinations or 4 bubbly blends if you want a take on a mimosa. The two shown below are two of those combos from the Todd’s Farm Fresh Bloody Marys section. The Todd English Meat N Potato Mary includes TE knob Creek single barrel bourbon, beef broth, Todd’s Sinful Blend, Worcestershire, steak sauce, toped with waffle fries, bacon, salami, scallions and black olives
At Todd English PUB located between Crystals and Aria, the Meat N Potato Mary includes TE knob Creek single barrel bourbon, beef broth, Todd's Sinful Blend, Worcestershire, steak sauce, toped with waffle fries, bacon, salami, scallions and black olives

And, if that wasn’t enough, here is the proof that the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas and are currently the winner for best garnished bloody mary. This one is the All About Mary with choice of vodka, Todd’s Sinful Blend, stacked with a slider, crispy chicken wing, chilled shrimp, corn dog pup, stuffed olives, celery, carrot and pickled asparagus.
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas. This one is the All About Mary with choice of vodka, Todd's Sinful Blend, stacked with a slider, crispy chicken wing, chilled shrimp, corn dog pup, stuffed olives, cleery, carrot and pickled asparagus

If you want further snacks to soak up the alcohol, I was smitten with the crispy beer battered pickles served with bbq sauce, ranch, sauce, and blue cheese fondue.
Fried pickles from the Todd English Pub

Other options to eat include duck buns, corn dog puppies, junk chips (with bbq beef ragu and blue cheese and more), prime rib beef chili… and that’s just the appetizer and snack section. There’s almost a dozen burger and sandwiches, another dozen PUB favorites from classic bangers and mash or fish and chips to shepherd’s pie and ribeye…

There’s 9 different carved meats from the rotisserie available by the half or full pound, and several RAw Bar selections. Don’t forget brunch options like a English Bagel Taco or Lobster Benedict.

If the bloody marys don’t tempt you, there are almost 50 beers, beer flights, beer cocktails, more than a half dozen bourbon cocktails, there’s sangria, mead, cider, buckets of canned beer, and more. Happy hour everyday from 3-6 PM and 10-? PM offer $1 wings, $2 oysters, $3 sliders, 1/2 price pints.

Did I mention dessert includes a S’mores Board for two or more? And there’s 3 kind of Adult Shakes?

Todd English PUB is located in Las Vegas by Aria, and also in Birmingham, if that is more convenient.

Have you ever been to a Todd English establishment? What do you think of these over the top bloody marys? What would be your dream garnishes for a bloody mary?

Todd English P.U.B. on Urbanspoon

My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • A Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
  • Italics – coming soon, not yet posted
Signature

Portland Dining Month 2015

Starting Sunday March 1 2015 Portland will be kicking off Portland Dining Month 2015. During this month, more than 100 participating restaurants all over Portland will be offering a special menu of 3 courses for $29 in order to entice you to visit and see what that restaurant is all about.

Almost all the restaurants will also have their regular menu available, so your dining party doesn’t all have to eat the Dining Month menu, though several of the Dining Month menus offer multiple choices for each of the courses as well so you can all dine at that price.

Portland Dining Month 2015

In terms of the Portland Dining Month menu items, make sure you do ask for it because sometimes the restaurant lists it on a separate menu from the regular menu. Other times, it is part of the regular menu because it’s an item usually on their list but in many cases is priced special only for that month, thus lets you have one of the signature dishes of that restaurant for cheaper than normal.

On the other hand, some restaurants create new items especially for Portland Dining Month and so the special is only for this month!

Furthermore, about 1/3 of those restaurants will additionally have curated a beer pairing or incorporated beer into their dish in some way to highlight a local brewer.

If you are an OpenTable user where you can make reservations for your dining party with just a few clicks of a button, about 60+ of the restaurants on the Portland Dining Month list are also available on OpenTable to make your online reservations.

I wanted to highlight my personal picks for some restaurants that are participating in Portland Dining Month and what their dining month menu offers. There are many, many, many wonderful picks on the list, I’m just pointing out a few based on value or what the menu choice item is to my taste.

Aviary

Aviary had me at their first course option… Their food is consistently good and surprising with their twists on Asian inspiration mixed with unusual flavor combinations. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Dungeness crab chawanmushi with bone marrow, sea urchin, Asian pear, snap peas and truffle vinaigrette -OR- Warm vegetable salad with romanesco, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, lime-pickle vinaigrette and black garlic
  • Second course (choose one): Miso-braised beef short rib with taro root, Asian pear, yuzu kosho slaw -OR- Pan-seared salmon with cauliflower, saffron, green apple, trout roe and American caviar
  • Third course (choose one): Chocolate tart with banana ice cream and cocoa nibs -OR- Baked meringue with huckleberries and Meyer lemon sorbet

Laurelhurst Market

Usually that second course item alone at Laurelhurst Market is $26 on their regular menu.

  • First course: Roasted cauliflower arancini with radicchio caponata, roasted red pepper aioli and arugula
  • Second course: Ten-hour braised beef shoulder with potato pancake, warm oyster mushroom salad and beef jus
  • Third course: Honey panna cotta with candied fennel and fennel seed brittle

Nedd Ludd

Nedd Ludd not only is a fantastic restaurant in terms of food and charming atmosphere, but with participating in Portland Dining Month are offering you a huge value because their dinner plate mains are already usually already in the 20 dollar range, so you are getting a bonus that you’ll be getting 3 courses! And, you even get a choice with your first or second courses, and the option is vegetarian friendly so I can take my vegetarian F.

  • First course (choose one): Escarole salad with lemon, egg, olives and crouton -OR- Charred broccoli raab with sumac, za’atar, pomegranate and yogurt
  • Second course (choose one): Chicken breast with leek and mushroom ragout, preserved lemon and green olive -OR- Vegetable gratin with walnut-parsley sauce and spring greens
  • Third course: Bourbon-buttermilk panna cotta with cocoa nib crumb

Park Kitchen

Based on last year when I went to a Portland Dining Month dinner at Park Kitchen, I would recommend Park Kitchen as an option for you. Besides just casually dining near the table of Gabe Rucker, the dinner was one of my favorite of all the Portland Dining Month dinners I went to last year. Make sure you get those chickpea fries! And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Chickpea fries with squash ketchup -OR- Salad of escarole, radishes, red onion and buttermilk dressing
    Park Kitchen's Chickpea fries with pumpkin ketchup
  • Second course (choose one): Ayer’s Creek corn grits, mushroom gravy and Hoppin’ John -OR- Payne Family Farms pork roast with collards, red-eye gravy and cornbread dressing. Last year they offered the grits as a vegetarian option as well, but I went with the pork, which last year was this Milk braised pork with Your Kitchen Gardens leeks, curds and whey so I think this year’s Pork Roast will be just as good.
    Park Kitchen Milk braised pork with Your Kitchen Gardens leeks, curds and whey
  • Third course: Double-chocolate tart with salted caramel and hazelnuts

Lincoln

While Dumpling Week was going on, I had an amazing dumpling dinner (in which the dumpling was Malloreddus tossed in sea urchin butter with mint and preserved lemon) at Lincoln Restaurant. That it was phenomenal shouldn’t be a surprise, especially given that chef Jenn Louis has just released her book Pasta by Hand: A Collection of Italy’s Regional Hand-Shaped Pasta. Based on the fantastic experience I had at that small dinner, I would highly recommend Lincoln for Portland Dining Month, especially since she is showcasing another pasta, and this pasta by itself is usually $18 on their menu. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course: Baked hen eggs with cream, Castelvetrano olives and herbed breadcrumbs
  • Second course: Spaccatelli pasta with smoked tallow, speck and sherry
  • Third course: Brutti ma buoni cookies

Little Bird

Little Bird is giving you a deal as well for Portland Dining Month, since their entrees are usually in the $20s and the appetizers in the $15s so you are making out for a mere $29. That choice of chicken fried trout is enough for two people. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Soup du jour -OR- Salad of frisée, citrus, pistachios, olives and sheep’s cheese vinaigrette -OR- Goat cheese gnocchi, celeriac, mushrooms and Le Chevrot
  • Second course (choose one):Chicken-fried trout, pickled carrots, fine herbs, radish, Dijon and gribiche -OR- Cider-braised pork shoulder with cabbage, carrot and apple slaw, toasted walnuts and bacon vinaigrette
    Little Bird Bistro's Chicken-Fried Trout, gribiche, fines herbes, radishes, pickled carrots
  • Third course: Chocolate mousse cake with pistachio, Meyer lemon and nougat -OR- Ice cream -OR- Sorbet

Fogo de Chao

Another example of a huge value, the dinners at Fogo de Chao are usually $49 for the salad bar, sides, and meats. The Portland Dining Month menu gives you a more limited selection of the meats, but it’s 8 of them and most importantly includes what I think is their best meat cut, the Picanha. The Portland Dining Month menu excludes the Costela (beef ribs), Beef Ancho (ribeye), Filet Mignons and Lamb Chops. The price you are paying with Portland Dining Month is usually the cost of the salad bar alone during dinner! And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Fresh seasonal salads, rare and exotic vegetables, imported cheeses and cured meats
    Fogo de Chão grand opening in Portland- some examples of what is at the salad bar Fogo de Chão grand opening in Portland- some examples of what is at the salad bar
  • Second course (choose one): Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo), caramelized bananas, garlic mashed potatoes and crispy polenta
    Fogo de Chão grand opening -  that chewy Brazilian take on gougeres of pão de queijo Fogo de Chão grand opening - sides for the table of caramelized bananas Fogo de Chão grand opening - sides for the table of polenta
  • Third course: Fire-roasted meats carved and served tableside, including Picanha, Alcatra, Fraldinha, Cordeiro, Linguica, Costela de Porco, Lombo and Frango. Check out what these meat cuts really are here, and I covered the restaurant opening so have some photos and descriptions also here at “Grand Opening: Fogo de Chão Portland Churrascaria
    Fogo de Chão grand opening - Picanha (2 versions)-  prime cut of top sirloin, either traditional light seasoning or garlic version Fogo de Chão grand opening - Linguica - cured pork sausage

Paley’s Place

An excuse to visit classy Paley’s Place for an intimate, romantic dinner!

  • First course: Salad of kale and roasted acorn squash with chèvre and balsamic vinegar
  • Second course: Red wine-braised elk, soft polenta and orange gremolata
  • Third course: Warm gingerbread with roasted rhubarb and crème fraîche
  • Rogue Ales beer pairings for an additional $15 or house wine pairings for an additional $20

Acadia

Take a mini-vacation to New Orleans by visiting Acadia and enjoying Creole cuisine.

  • First course: Deviled egg with blue crab meat
  • Second course: Louisiana barbeque shrimp with lemon, black pepper, white wine and butter. I’ve had this dish before and you will want to spoon the sauce onto your bread
    Acadia Restaurant Portland, Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp with lemon, black pepper, white wine and butter. I went back to the bowl and spooned the sauce right onto my bread.
  • Third course: Bronzed wild-caught Louisiana sheepshead with buttermilk cornbread purée, green tomato relish and brown butter. If you haven’t head sheepshead before, it has a texture that is almost creamy but not fatty, and some describe it as “crab-like” which is interesting because the fish’s diet is comprised heavily of shellfish and bivalves. When I had it came with different sides but was still bronzed
    Acadia Restaurant Portland, Bronzed, Wild-Caught Louisiana Sheepshead with Spinach Madeline pie and blue crab meuniére.

Accanto

I love the Northwest freshness at Accanto, which I had blogged about previously for a Portland Dining Month visit in a previous year and also when I went for an amazing brunch (they take reservations for brunch! No waiting in line!). And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • Antipasto:House marinated olives and fried almonds with rosemary
    Accanto, Portland, restaurant: first course of marinated olives and spiced almonds
  • First course (choose one): Soup of the day -OR- Escarole salad, goat’s-milk feta and oven-dried olives with burnt orange vinaigrette
    Accanto: second course of a chilled potato leek soup
  • Second course: Rigatoncini, water buffalo ragù, broccoli raab and ricotta salata
  • Third course: Tiramisu

Besaw’s


Above photo taken by my brother and his Canon EOS 60D camera

Everyone thinks of Besaw’s for brunch, but they still utilize the bounty of their garden and local fresh Northwest ingredients at dinner as well. For their Portland Dining Month 2015 menu, they are offering an entree that also celebrates local Oregon brewer Deschutes Brewery.

  • First course: Grilled prawns with cornbread croutons, arugula and chili aioli
  • Second course: Fontina- and chard-stuffed pork roulade with soft polenta and Deschutes Cinder Cone Red jalapeño chutney (YUM)
  • Third course: Rhubarb crisp with vanilla whipped cream

Meriwether’s

exterior of Meriwether's restaurant in Portland

Meriwether’s suffers from a similar fate as Besaw in that people think of them too often for brunch and not for all the other goodness they get from their own Skyline Farm. As a plus, I love pointing out Meriwethers has their own parking lot, so is great not only to meet with others (including out of towners) but also if you have a family. Their menu offering includes an amazing entree (note that it utilizes local Reverend Nat’s hard cider) and dessert. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course: Salad of arugula with shaved fennel, olive oil-fried almonds, feta and preserved huckleberry vinaigrette
  • Second course: Braised pork cheeks glazed with Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot hard cider, Roy’s Calais flint corn polenta and braised early spring greens
  • Third course: Butterscotch pot de crème

Which of the Portland Dining Month 2015 restaurants is calling to you? Check out the list at Portland Monthly or the Eater PDX PDM List for their picks, as well as picks from fellow blogger friend Erin at Bakery Bingo and from Annie of Serious Crust. Blogger friend Meredith at Martha Chartreuse also had put together a great way to break down as you’re reading the list, how to make your own picks!

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