Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Afternoon in Portland: Lunch at Christopher's Gourmet Grill

My neighbor, Hob, gave me the low-down on an uptown joint that gets high marks for frying up fin flippers. Me and Books headed over there for lunch after dropping Dolly-girl at the moving pictures for a Hollywood number she'd been waiting to see. We set the brake at NE Shaver and MLK and moseyed into Christopher's Gourmet Grill. It's not much from the outside, but I'm used to that around Stumptown, and besides, Hob's lived here a long time and he's never given me a wrong turn yet.

The whaddaya-want's on the wall over the pass-it-thru to Missy. There were all sorts of eats on the wall, but we'd come for the creatures of the deep and we were stuck on our mission. I'm curious though so I spent some time looking over the fare, including the Man-up Cheeseburger and the BBQ ribs. Sides of greens, mac and wax, and gumbo pods were said to be at the ready, along with the fries that came with everything. We coulda had a dinner, but opted for the basket since it the noon whistle was sounding and Dolly-girl was planning something big for Santa eve. We ordered up the cod and Irish nails.

The joint is clean as my plate after dinner and was all done in blue including some blue light shades on ceiling fans and on lamps over the tables. Nice touch--makes you think of a blue-plate and a neighborhood spot, which it is. It was about a quarter full when me and books took a seat--good view out the front in case trouble was going to come join us. He didn't. They got some signs there to remind Mr. T that Christopher's is a place a whole family likes.

The hash slinger, and I'm guessing it's Christopher, was in the back. Turns out, he was trawling our cod through the corn patch and adding some spices along the way.

While we waited patiently, orders came out of the kitchen and Missy dropped them off at the hungry tables in order. Then, after a few minutes, she checked back to make sure everything was OK. It musta been 'cause there was a lot of chewing and not much talking. People called and then came in and out for orders with wheels.

Missy brought our orders and we both gave her the up and down and knew Hob had steered us right. The fin flippers were long fillets, with just a thin cornmeal coating and fried crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. One bite and I was pulling the bobber to the bottom for more. Tartar sauce and mustard on the side and I was having rapture of the deep! Books nodded. Fish and fries was what he was mining and pining for and he hit paydirt.

It didn't take long to do the disappearing act with that flipper. With a feedbag that full, we had to pass on sweet potato pie that looked like someone knew his way around the yam patch!

If fish fried up just right is singing to you, I haven't had better anywhere than Christopher's Gourmet Grill. Lots of what they call high-brow joints in Stumptown could learn more than a thing or two from Christopher. Plus, a Jackson and a Christmas Eve tip got us out the door with an invitation to come back that won't be laying on the counter long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All from Stumptown!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Back by popular demand is our own Yule Log a la WPIX

Me and Dolly-girl want to wish all of our friends, from Stumptown to Hawkesbury; from the Rose City to the Windy City; from the Left Coast, which is the right one, to the Right Coast, which isn't; to Tinseltown, Ithaca Schmithica, the Valley With a Heart, the Heart of the Valley, Our Nation's Capital, and Salt City; to The Best Location in the Nation, Ravenrock Ranch, Ft. Lauderdale Island, Washington, the Redwood Forest and the Gulf Stream Waters;

A Very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Afternoon Down The Valley: Poutine at Block 15 in Corvallis

Me and Books hopped in the roadster early this A.M. and headed Down The Valley to talk with some people that needed talking with down there. Dolly-girl held down the fort in Stumptown, which consisted of enjoying the luxury provided by a bath in our tub that's hooked up to a brand-new water heater that me and Books put in yesterday. Amazing what a tub full of hot water and a handful of salts will do for a girl.

Anyway, I was on my way to meet Beluga Slim, a Bluesman pal-o-mine. We like to get together from time-to-time and take in a couple of cold ones that got what it takes to hop off the bar and into your mitt. We met up at Block 15, a new joint compared to most in Corvallis, Oregon, and a notch above them all in my book. They brew their own there and they've got some dandies including their standards, Alpha IPA and Aboriginale. In as much as it's the holiday season, they are pouring the 12 Hops of Christmas. Beluga Slim had given me a call on the blower to let me know this one was worth the trip. Turns out it was and more.

Me and Books slid into town about 1 and met Beluga at the Block. Corvallis was a mass of people--we had to park 3 blocks away and that's pretty rare. We moseyed over; Beluga Slim had a booth.

Missy had a cold one in front of Beluga and it didn't take long for her to do the same for us. She brought the whadda-ya-wants along with the pints of hops. I opened it up and took a gander. My eyes went to the right and, what? Poutine. C'est vrai, mes amis! Books went for a Peppertree beer sausage sandwich, and Beluga heard a burger calling him home.

I brought up that I was a little worried about ordering poutine in Corvallis, Oregon, a place not noted for gourmet food. She countered with where she came from--Halifax, up the line there, as my friend Newshawk would say--nobody really thought of poutine as gourmet. I had to give her a nod about that one. I also mentioned that the phonetic guide in the whaddaya-want--(poo-TAIN) didn't get it from where the Newshawk sets his brake. She said she thought someone there heard some Cajun call it that but that she didn't think I should give it no nevermind.

It didn't take Missy much longer to bring that poutine out than it took me to drain that pint. She left the feedbags and went back for more first-aid for parched travelers.

The feedbag she put down in front of me had the real thing in it. They started off with a pile of their murphies--they put a light coating of beer batter on them which makes them fry up crispy and I'll tell you, they stood up to the gravy--AT-TEN-TION!

The gravy was a good brown one that tasted like it was likely destined for meat loaf, but took a side trip North of the Border. It was the real thing--never seen the inside of a can, I'm guessing--with just the right dose of salt; it made those suds heros. The curds were piled on and melted stringy and gooey, just right. It was a big plate and I thought I'd be taking a box home to Dolly-girl, but...

It was the clean plate club for me.

So, Block 15 gets a solid 4 curds from me after a 1/2 curd deduction for coming on china instead of paper. It's the best I've had south of the border and I think it would hold its own up the line too.

For all you want to know about poutine, check out Ronna's Poutine Chronicles!

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Evening in Portland: Dinner at Lovely Hula Hands

I woke up early on Sunday with a start. The cats were cozied in with Dolly-girl--nobody wanted to get out of bed 'cause of the fact that for Stumptown, it was freezing. Literally. Thirty-two degrees. Maybe a little colder. OK, so that's above zero, but this is Stumptown and we didn't sign up for Siberia, you know. We can't see it from our house and we sure as hell don't want to feel it.

Anyway, I hopped out of bed and started the joe perking on the Tappan because it was Dolly-girl's compleanno. She looks as young as the day I laid my blue boys on her greenies.

Back a coupla weeks ago, me and Dolly-girl were perambulating up on Alberta and she laid eyes on a piece of art made out of maps and nails and wood and it looked like a heart--even I recognized that. Well, I made note and then snuck back and picked it up for her. Turns out some realtor chiquita name of Kim Hamblin makes that art. I'm thinking art and real estate are probably about the same these days in terms of earning potential. Wait, I bought some art...

Well, Dolly-girl's greenies did a dance when she unwrapped the heart and it got me the sorta look through the wave that I like. We decided to take the birthday dinner out, so I got Kitty on the blower and we picked Lovely Hula Hands, a joint Dolly-girl had been to with her friend Blueberry, but me and Kitty had never darkened the door. When Dolly-girl was telling me about the place she was doing the hula thing with her mitts. She gave it the up-and-down and it turns out she was right on.

We set the brake and the three of us walked in. Didn't look to me like trouble was out on this Sunday night, so we took a table upstairs, me with my back to the room. I won't make that mistake again. I missed too much good sight-seeing, like people gnawing on meat..

There was stuff hanging on the walls and some old lights and other things that Dolly-girl calls "period" or "art." It just looks to me like they grabbed some grandma's leftovers and put them around the room

Missy brought the whaddya-drinking but we didn't pay it no nevermind. No beer on tap so the three of us were drinking skid-row. Me and Kitty went for the rosso while Dolly-girl was chasing down the bianco. Me and Kitty should've split a bottle, but we didn't think of it. They had the new one from France and it was tapping on my shoulder.

Missy showed up with the skid-row and Bull Run all around. She parked and said, "What-le-it-be?"

I told her to bring around an order of oil in the flesh--you know, the green-and-blacks. Dolly-girl said, "Cow feed--stack it high and bring us three plates. We'll split it up." Kitty nodded--she was game.

Missy was back in about four shakes. I'm thinking the up and down is keeping her gams skinny and her face long. Plus, come to find out, the joint is closing up while they "re-invent" themselves, whatever that means, in a new hash house next door. Anyway, the feed was as described and we packed it down.

We did a twice over on the whadda-ya-want and settled on what-we're-having. Dolly-girl went back to the old country and had some Chef Boyardees with Hansel and Gretel croutons in a bowl. Kitty called for clucker. Dress it with flour and fat and sprinkle some leaves on it. The clucker was so exciting I couldn't even hold the camera still...

Me, a burger was playing the National Anthem and I stood at attention. When it rolled around, it was like the Fourth of July with all the ooos and ahhs floating around my burger and fried up murphies. But, that clucker was top notch. It had a sauce that would make your ticker stand still like molasses on a frosty morning. The Chefs were the real thing--Dolly-girl had no regrets about flipping the calendar over another year if this was the reward.

Well, we made fast work of those feed bags and then Dolly-girl put down her finger. "Don't you guys be telling anyone this is the day I first saw the light back there in that coal mining town!" "Not us Dolly-girl," purred Kitty. But, I'd already put in the word with Missy. We looked at the shouldn't-have-it-but-we-will and I knew whatever came out would be on fire.

Missy made good on the request and the a chunk of Gretel and Hansel showed up, swimming in caramel and topped with a whipped up baby. No doubt about it, it was worth blowing at a candle.

Missy brought the check. I looked it over and didn't complain. Yeah, it was more than you'd expect to pay at a burger joint, but then I was the only Hamilton--Perry and Della had Jacksons. The feedbags were real tasty, the skid-row top-notch, and shouldn't-have-had-it--well, we shouldn't have had it but we were glad-we-did.

Four sawbucks a piece got us down the stairs and out the door with a "Glad you could make it," from Missy. Too bad the place is closing. But I'm guessing the new joint, "Lovely 50-50" will be just as good and worth every 8 bits you drop in there. We'll be there.

We headed out the door, the three of us. I patted my heater and fired a Lucky. Kitty and I sang the birthday song, and Dolly-girl hooked her arm through mine, turned the collar on her Persian Lamb up to the wind, and hummed Poker Face..." Another Sunday night in Stumptown.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

National Novel Writing Month: 7 Steps to Perfection

57,538 words. The first reviews are in:

7 Steps to Perfection

"A tale of intrigue, inconsistently told!" J. D. Salinger (Don't believe it? Ask him for public comment...)

"An unbelievable story--let me say that again--unbelievable!" Vice-President Joe Biden

"A refreshing alternative to my book, and maybe truer! You betcha it's on my bedside table, right next to my *wink* Ruger .44!" Rogue Maverick, Sarah Palin

"If we'd had to read this aloud on "Radio Rock" we'd have scuttled that ship in the time it takes the Queen to kill a pint of gin! If the ship had had to listen, she'd have scuttled herself!" Rhys Ifans, Gavin in Pirate Radio.

"A ship can't sink that fast." Her Majesty, The Queen, Elizabeth II

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Latenight Stumptown: 50,000 words later...Let's Roll, Dude!

I finished my NaNoWriMo tonight and it seems like I might need a vacation from writing. Meanwhile, there's the Xmas letter to do. But Dolly-girl and I went bowling tonight with neighbors to celebrate Kevin's 51st Birthday. At first, it seemed like we might all need help bowling our ages. In my first game, I didn't!

But I finished strong with a 163 in the 4th game! A spare in the 1st with strikes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, with a spare in the 5th. If only I could have put together a good 6th through 10th frame. Oh, well, who cares. We weren't Bowling for Dollars!

It was quite the blast! It was even more fun after they turned the black lights and mirror balls on...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Noontime in Portland: The 2009 Christmas Tree Arrives

I happened to be walking by Pioneer Courthouse Square today when they were unloading the 2009 Christmas Tree. I don't know where it came from, but it arrived today and was put in place in the square. Several buses and a MAX train arrived at about the same time as the tree. The crane operator was very skilled--the tree was slung about halfway and one-third of the way up the length. As it was lifted, the operator manipulated the cables though a blck and tackle so that the tree was lifted and moved form horizontal to vertical. Nice job!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Interlude in Stumptown

The blog is on a break while Jack participates in NaNoWriMo. I'm at 36% of the goal as of November 6, 2009.

50% as of November 10, 2009. I think this evening will be a good writing night--it's dark and stormy...

I'm on chapter 6 of 9 or 10.

I'll keep you posted...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Saturday Morning in Portland: Memories of a Train Wreck

As long as I can remember, which is not much before this particular Kodak shot of yours truly was shot, we had an American Flyer sorta starter train set. It had an engine of the day--one that was a model of what ran on coal and steam, not like today's Zephyrs. Some of our friends had big train sets with scenery, tunnels, switches, bells, and whistles. Not us, we had our American Flyer, an oval of track, and a piece of plywood in a storage area under the eaves of our house.

Back when I set my brake on a different roadster and lived out in the countryside, before I turned in a microscope for a gumshoe's private ticket, I had the train packed in a box, under the eaves in a garage. It had quit running a long time before--in fact, I think it went in the box during a big move back when Ike was still running the show and no one looked at you the least bit funny if you fired a Lucky and an expecting chiquita took a drink. But anyway, the train was in a box in the garage.

Well, one thing led to another and wouldn't you know it, I made the acquaintance of Lili, then Mittsy--it was before they were an item--and eventually, when it was time to move on and live closer to where trouble hung around, I sold my house to Lili. She found the train and set it up on display on a beam in the open ceiling of the sitting room. Years past, Lili packed up and moved to Jersey and got into the drug business. Then she put all her whatevers in storage and moved to Sherman-town to hook up with Mittsy.

Well now, this last year, Mittsy and Lili got the Horace Greely itch and moved to The Valley where Mittsy's writing code for the government--you know, fighting the war on whatever. Lili's now dong time with the state in Capital City and so they bought a place to set their brake which is how it is that Dolly-girl was lifting this and that and helping out. I walked downstairs when I heard her come in the door and lo' and behold, there was the train, looking like it'd run from New York, to Jersey, to The Valley, and finally, into Union Station in Stumptown where it's going into retirement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Trip to the Coast: Lunch at the Columbian Cafe in Astoria and Cafe' 47 in Vernonia, Oregon

Dolly-girl rolled over, stretched, and yawned. A cat jumped off the bed and headed for the door. Old Mister was peeking through the window. A Saturday morning in the fall. "Jack, remember, we got a reservation over at the Coast for tonight. I figured with all the here-and-there you've been up to, another night out of Stumptown wouldn't make no never mind. I remembered. I moved my heater and looked at the clock. "Time to get rolling, Dolly-girl." I like the Coast.

The trip over took us through Astoria, a little 'burg with a big history. Indians, British explorers, trappers, Lewis and Clark. Well, it's a regular history lesson and not a bad place to set your brake provided you don't mind rain about 364 and a half days a year. But we just stopped to tie on the noon-time feedbag at a place me and Dolly-girl have darkened before--a joint called the Columbian Cafe. You can't beat the food and you don't have to worry about a crowd--the place doesn't hold but about 27 even if the stools at the counter are filled. They weren't. Missy was on us like flatware on a napkin. It didn't take us long to do the once over on the whaddaya-want. Dolly-girl settled on a crepe and a baby and I went for just about the strangest, but finest wax on a raft I've ever had. It was a far cry from a Jack Benny I'll tell you. I had them grill a rose and pin it on along with a side of Adam. The cowfeed was their idea. The pint was mine. A couple Jacksons left us full and Missy smiling. Bring cash.

Our spots were hit, but Missy tuned us into a place to get a cold one to settle the feed and put us on our way. We walked into the Fort George Brewery, settled into a couple of stools, and ordered what we'd come for. The brew was a tasty one and they'd put the barley, hops, malt, water, and yeast together right in the joint. Missy served it up in a jar which is not my idea of a beer glass, but you do know you're getting what you paid for compared to those "it's not a pint but it looks like one" glasses they use over in Stumptown.

We finished up, wiped the foam off our kissers, hopped in the roadster, and headed for the part of the Coast we'd come to see. It's hard to beat our part of the Pacific--the beaches are beautiful and empty. Of course, if it's dipping a toe you're after, you'd better be dressed like Mike Nelson 'cause the water's colder than a bad girl's heart. We spent the night in what I'd call a motor hotel, but Dolly-girl told me was a "quaint inn at the Coast" in a town called Gearhart. Not long after we checked in, a storm started blowing in so me and Dolly-girl did the Sunday morning on a Saturday afternoon--she was turning the pages of a new tell-me-a-story and I did a Rex Parker. We had a cocktail in our suite, then turned up our collars against the wind and rain and walked down the street to the local spot for a passable, but unremarkable (and unphotographed) end-of-the-eating day. Dolly-girl had them cuocere una pizza while I had fins and nails. Just OK and come to think of it, I don't even recall the name of the place. You can't miss it, and you won't when you leave.

The morning cracked like a free-range egg in a hot skillet--perfect. We took a walk on the beach, perambulated around the town, then packed up to take the back roads home. We meandered here and there in the Coast Range, through Jewel and Mist and Pittsburg and wound up in Vernonia, just in time to set the brake and see what Cafe' 47 was serving up for the noon whistle.

Cafe' (yep, that's the Vernonia version of an accent aigu) 47 is on the main street which is called Bridge Street, I suspect because it goes over a bridge even though it's the main street. Where I grew up Bridge Street went over a bridge, but it crossed Front Street, which was the main street even though Main Street was in a part of town where it never was and won't likely ever be the main street. Well, it doesn't really make any difference because it's damned near impossible to drive through Vernonia without passing Cafe' 47 regardless of the name of the street. There was one piece of continuity: Bridge Street, that's the main street, is Oregon Route 47. I think that's how Cafe' 47 got its name.

First thing that strikes you when you walk into Cafe' 47 is that someone, and maybe more than just one, really likes license plates. The things are all over the place and you have to believe there are some rare ones there. And if you don't believe it, they have a laminated sheet of paper on the table that tells you they're rare. I'll believe them. There're lots of other decorations, too. After being away and isolated at the Coast, me and Dolly-girl caught up on the news while we waited for Missy to stop by with the whaddayas which turned out to be just the whadda-want because they weren't hitting any sort of beverage spot--follow?

Missy brought the local Bull Run and gave us the low-down on what the place was known for. She told us a few things they didn't have. "Sunday." I guess that was an explanation. Maybe they were busy, maybe it was the end of the week. "Sunday."

I went for it and ordered the potage Murphy along with a Jack Benny on wheat. Dolly-girl went for Jack on wheat as well but slaw in the alley was singing her tune. Missy was back in a minute. "Sunday. Outta wheat. White, sourdough." "Make mine white," came out of my yapper. Before Dolly-girl could answer Missy said, "Yours is sourdough, honey. We only got enough white for one. Sunday." Her explanation.

We split and each ended up with a white and sourdough. The Jack's were what you'd expect and more. Lots of wax, and the raft was on the grill just long enough to give it the crunch and a little taste of the Adam and Eve the hash slinger must have been cooking in the morning. The soup was as good as it gets and I've had plenty where the gettin' was good. It would stand up to all comers. It's worth the trip to the place on the main street, Bridge Street, in Vernonia, Oregon.

Dolly-girl was treating and three Abes covered the damage with a thank-you-very-much for Missy. We headed out, happy as clams, hooked arms and walked down to where the roadster was curbed. Sunday.