Friday, June 27, 2008

Bombay Cricket Club

In anticipation of a party Loni and I were attending later in the evening, it was decided to buffer our stomachs with some food.

After carefully considering the merits of the various anthrax wagons and "Careful, hot plate" Mexican food dining establishments, we decided on a different route for our spicy fix. Neither of us have eaten at an Indian restaurant for a while because all of the ones we previously enjoyed were getting...stale. Lucky for us, I had a new one to visit: Bombay Cricket Club. This place is next door to one of my favorites: Vincente's Pizza. Across the street is another fantastic food place, Riyadh's. I spied with my little eye another place I'll be visiting soon next to Riyadh's called Sel Gris. For that last one, better bring a fat wallet...

The website for the B.C.C. suggests reservations, so I made them. However, when we arrived, we had 4 people fighting to seat us in a nearly empty establishment. Maybe 5:30 is too early for the dinner people on a Friday night? We ate outside because it was a hot day and we are masochists. Actually, more so we could watch the parade of weirdos down Hawthorn and drink in the lovely cigarette smoke drifting over from Vincente's outside tables.

Our waitress was attentive, knowledgeable, funny, and clever. We took her suggestion and had a couple of "Mango Rita's" to start. We ought to have asked, because these are monstrously alcoholic, with a huge pour of Montezuma tequila topped with mango puree. Hint: this is not a top shelf alcohol. Apparently you can get 1800 instead, for a buck or two more. I recommend that you exercise this option if you value your brain cells. Regardless, we drank them, probably for the last time.

We chose some vegetable samosas to start, which were EXCELLENT. The pastry was perfectly crisp on the outside, hot on the inside, no excess oil or grease at all. The vegetables and the spice blend used in the filling worked very well together, and provided intriguing flavor. This has my vote for best samosa in Portland that I've eaten so far. The mango chutney served with this was also excellent. Our waitress brought us some "extra spicy" chutney along the lines of the usual green kind. Supposedly had habañero peppers in with the mint. It was kind of hot, but not really.

On the heat aspect, this is a delicate matter. We elected medium heat on our entrées, having previously overdone it dining elsewhere. This proved to be an error on our part. The heat was not present to any degree in either of our entrees. The green chutney brought a little fire to the palate, but overall not nearly enough.

Another caution regarding the breads. Their nan is HUGE. Like 16"x12". We ordered the garlic nan with our dinner, and it was very well prepared with just a hint of char along the edges. The garlic was on top of the nan, so it got a little bit burnt, but it was still delicious.

We selected two entrées, the Prawns Coconut Curry and the Vegetable Biryani.
The prawns were tender and delicious, but prawns are really hard to screw up. You get six relatively large prawns for $19, which isn't really a very good deal. Whatever. The sauce was rich, creamy, and not spicy at all. Medium, really? What, does mild come with a negative spicy level? I somehow sprayed the sauce all over my shirt while eating a prawn. I think I subconsciously wanted to save some for later.

The vegetable biryani had more spice, and more flavor. The vegetables were relatively large slices and chunks. They didn't cook the life out of the veggies, either, which I really appreciate. They also left in all of the cardamom pods and spice leaves, which makes it a bit of a minefield when eating. Yum! The spice level on this would be closer to a 3 out of 10 for an average diner, which puts it just above zero for my re-calibrated scale. The yogurt sauce was unremarkable.

The tab was $55 for two people, not including tip. Somewhat on the spendy side, but I've got another meal's worth of biryani in my fridge. Knowing what I do now, I'd knock off $15 by skipping the booze. Stick to water, it's better for you. Also, go ahead and order hot if you like spicy food.

Overall I am very pleased with this dining experience, and very much want to try it again. I'm looking forward to sampling the lamb shanks and the stuffed nan selections next time.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hamilton Mountain Loop Hike

On Friday, Loni and I had plans for doing the Munra Point scramble. This fell through due to very low energy on our part. We have hiked the Hamilton Mountain loop before and we started up the trail, but ended up stopping at the Cave of the Winds. After clambering around atop the punchbowl, we came back down and began the rest of the food orgy that continued through Saturday. Woah, that's some food.

Sunday, despite my gluttony, I woke up feeling like hiking. Sara was willing to try a longer hike than our last adventure (Dog Mountain) so I suggested we do the whole Hamilton Mountain loop.

We reached the parking lot/trailhead across from Beacon Rock at about 9:30. It would have been a later start but Sara doesn't eat breakfast. The weather was schizophrenic and oscillated between chilly, drizzly, damp, humid, hot, sunny, windy and various combinations of same conditions.

We saw quite a few people on the trail for the first half of the loop, including a bus load of guys from the "Harvard Glee Club". I noticed quite a few "social trails" A.K.A. switchback shortcuts. I think that cutting switchbacks calls for an immediate revocation of your hiking privileges by me shoulder-checking you off a cliff. It's simply rude, and destroys the trail. This is one of the many reasons I'm going to start carrying a machete while hiking.

The last time Loni and I hiked this trail, I thought it was brutal and exhausting. This time, I wasn't pressed at all, although it's still a great workout. I guess sometimes it's a good thing not to have a giant breakfast in your gut while climbing a mountain. I stayed within my breath and well hydrated. I still have not purchased my replacement hiking pole, but it really didn't matter this trip. Maybe I'm just in better shape than I was? Who knows.

The wildflowers were awesome for so late in the season, and both Sara and I took tons of pictures. I'll have to set up a link to a photo site to share some of them.

I also took some pictures of one of my next hikes, Munra Point! These little rock "nipples" are apparently the goal of the climb. You can see Bonneville down below, and another future hike in Table Mountain to the north. I can't identify all of the ridges on the Oregon side, although I'm doing what I can to climb them all.

The trail down the back half of the loop was quiet and pretty, with only a few people and we actually found a few mushrooms. There were NONE on the way up. Since we got back to Hardy Creek with plenty of energy left, we decided to see all of the sights. We climbed up onto the rocks surrounding the punchbowl and took more pictures.

Still not tired, we forked to the right on the way back, and headed up to Little Beacon Rock. The spire itself isn't very interesting, but there is an awesome little short scramble to the right that gives great views and some crazy drop-offs. I've got pictures from above and below to demonstrate how sheer this is. We watched a plane circle Beacon Rock from our perch on top of the hill. Once I'd had my fill of vertigo, we headed back down and took the loop back through the campground.

Overall, including all of the various detours, this hike comes in a little shy of 9 miles, and I felt great after. My right hip flexor muscle is sore, but my knees and feet feel fine.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


This has been a weekend of wild excess in the field of food, and I need to spit this out before I forget my experiences. My friend Loni and I ate through a swath of Portland restaurants the past few days, and had some pretty good times doing it.

Breakfast before our hike Friday was the Francis Xavier's out off 181st and 84. I've had breakfast there before and it was...fairly good. This wasn't any better, neither was it any worse. They did an almost-spicy bloody Mary that we had to wait way too long for, and a salmon benedict that was decent. The last time I ate there, they broke the hollendaise sauce. I'm glad I gave them another chance. Now, all they need to do is figure out how to serve good food in a REASONABLE amount of time. I don't have two hours to kill over breakfast when there are mountains to be climbed!

As an aside, I just want to know why Gresham can't step up with good breakfast? It'd be so much more convenient to hike the gorge if I could get some really tasty food in me first!

After the stroll (can't call it a hike, 'cuz it wasn't!) came Edgefield. Oh, wait, that was just a ton of beer and a superb BBQ Brisket sandwich. It hardly even counts. Never mind. I just warn everybody that the Ruby Ale is delicious, but kicks you in the head the next day.

Later Friday evening we headed over to N. Mississippi to dine at the ¿Por Qué No? but it was PACKED! Same with Amnesia Brewing.  We REALLY wanted to eat outside, so  we finally ended up at a random place: Mississippi Station. I had a Portobella sandwich with pesto which was tasty, if slightly heavy on the pesto. I elected to get a cup of the cream of broccoli soup with my entree. The soup was almost well executed - smooth and delicious and oversalted.
The sweet potato fries were good as well. The provided bottle of Heinz 57 really brought out their best characteristics. Aren't sweet potato fries supposed to come with a dip that is essentially frosting? Maybe that's just wishful thinking. All told, this place was about as generic as you can get. Rather trendy, overpriced, somewhat pretentious. I get the feeling they would LOVE to make a franchise out of it. Pray this never happens, because it'll be another Ram, or Rock Bottom, or *shudder* Applebee's. Their fatal flaw is a heavy hand with the salt.
I give it only 2.5 out of 5 stars total if you are into food. It may have other redeeming qualities, but I'm not coming back to explore them.

Moving on, breakfast today was a new place over near the excellent Yahala on Stark, called the The Country Cat. It was FANTASTIC! I'd say they are making a bid to beat out Genie's Cafe for best breakfast in Portland.
Except, Genie's whups their ASS on drinks. Their bloody Mary was weak, weak, WEAK! Not even a hint of fire.
On the other hand, their food was phe-fucking-nomminal! (You see what I did there?) It was the salmon benedict again for me, and a HUGE step up from yesterday. They had a buttery biscuit for the base, perfectly cooked salmon for the meat, slightly wilted red chard to accent. I felt the eggs were slightly overcooked, because I like the yolks runny in a poached egg and these were starting to set, but that's a tiny issue. The hollandaise sauce was unique in my eating experience. It was made with a lemon curd base, and it rounded out the whole dish magnificently. The dishes have potatoes on the side with a heap of seasonings. They are well-roasted, and come with a home-made ketchup that really suits the herbs they are roasted in. I'll be coming back as long as they keep making dishes like this. They really need to kick up their bloody mix, though. Prices here are somewhat steep, maybe a smidge above Genies. $4.00 for bacon? Even really good bacon? Better stick to the entrees.

Dinner tonight was Salvador Molly's over off Sunset Blvd. They used to have a clone off Belmont, but it died. I had a mojito to start and it was good. My dish was the chili rellano plate, and I was very happy with my selection. The chili's were not your usual weak-ass run-o'-the mill chili - they actually had a little heat. A very nice change from the usual "Careful, hot plate!" cheese smothered, orange rice, refried bean serving Mexican restaurant that spreads like dandelions in this city. The coleslaw, if that's what you call it, didn't have a vinegar or mayonnaise base, rather a pineapple juice dressing. Brilliant, I thought. Our second round of drinks was the "Fire Rita" and it was indeed VERY spicy. Spicier than both of the bloody Mary's mentioned above put together, and then some. As a special treat, I ordered two "Great Ball of Fire", one each for Loni and myself. Heh, that was highly entertaining. She quartered hers, and popped one piece into her mouth without any sauce. She started chewing nonchalantly, got about two chews in and her eyes got really wide. I started laughing, and so did she. That meant she had to keep chewing because she couldn't swallow. Wow, those things are just a BITCH to try and eat. I ate my whole one with some sauce, and spent about 15 uncomfortable minutes trying to get off the pain train. She wouldn't touch another bit of hers, but gave me props for choking it down. I also learned that a fiery cocktail, it doesn't help a bit when you are trying to cool down a 4 alarm blaze in your mouth. Actually, it makes it worse a little bit. Overall, this is probably the best value in food entertainment in Portland.

It's very exciting for me to actually be able to FEEL my arteries hardening, and my cardiovascular system trying to pump globs of cholesterol through my body. Thankfully all the alcohol has diluted the sludge in my blood down to the approximate thickness of gravy, so I can put off my stroke for another day. I'll go for another stroll tomorrow to work off some of this overindulgence. Here's to good company, and good eats!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Milo's City Cafe

Tonight I went to dinner again with the foodies from work. The original plan was for two groups at two restaurants, but we all ended up at one location: Milo's City Cafe.

The decor is fairly airy, with both front doors wide open on a very nice evening. Otherwise, the interior is unremarkable, little bit o' stainless along the kitchen area. Our waitress seemed nice. She was earnest, and kept her composure rather well despite being rather harried. She knew how to get the attention of a noisy group. She couldn't get anything I ordered right, but everyone else did fine...

My food was decent. I started with the Milo's Stout, which is brewed by the Raccoon Lodge Brewpub over on the west side. I've eaten there too, and been pleased with their product. My beer and I got along great! I had another with dinner, and it also made friends with my meal. The waitress brought bread and butter, which we all found delicious.

Two appetizers - Corn & zucchini fritters with Cajun rémoulade was meh, fritters were okay but the spicy sauce straight squashed 'em. I spread some more of the rémoulade on my bread as I rather liked it. Second appetizer - Saganaki! - Greek cheese on fire. I was really looking forward to this, as it basically combines my two favorite things in life. Cheese & fire, together at last! I didn't really get anything out of it than toasty mozzarella. Not that it was bad, mind... It did make for a nice show, though they left off the shout of "Opa!".

I ordered a cup of their Hungarian mushroom soup - very nice presentation with the sour cream cut into artwork on the top. They didn't spare the dill or the mushrooms, and I really enjoyed it. Compared to the dish by the same name at the Truffle Hunter, this was a masterpiece!

Entrée for me was the vegetarian selection, essentially a fancy stack of portobella mushrooms with sautéed roma tomatoes and almost-caramelized onions between. There was a small pile of zucchini and asparagus on one side, and another one of the corn and zucchini fritters on the other side. It came with a lukewarm Santa Fe chili beurre blanc in a ramekin to dress the vegetables. I chose mushroom couscous as the filler for the rest of the plate. It was all slightly over salted, but at least they used good salt. The vegetables weren't overcooked, and while the beurre blanc didn't thrill, it didn't kill either. Overall the dish was tasty, but not outstanding. I heard wonderful things about the salmon...

Overall, it would probably have been a better meal for a twosome rather than an octet. However, sometimes the entertainment and discussion among a larger group is worth the extra hassle. I feel that was the case with this outing. Our dinner tonight was supposed to be less than $20 per person and our tab without tip was about $190. A fun and delicious evening well spent in all respects.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rock of Ages Loop Hike

Toby under the arch
I did a hike with Loni today, the Rock of Ages Loop Hike Columbia River Gorge. The views in this hike were fantastic! We were SO excited about hiking this loop and getting all these awesome pictures on a beautiful day. We got the views, but the hike itself was pure hard bullshit.

Loni under the arch. Huge drop, right behind her.Total elevation gained is 3200 vertical feet in a little over 2.6 miles. One of the steepest gradients in the gorge that I've encountered by a large margin. Gigantic drops, scary exposures. The people who built this and hike this, I suspect, think switchbacks are for pussies. Wusses. Pansies. I am so broken right now, I can't even begin to express.

Loni sitting on the ridge of Devil's BackboneMy first mistake: Starting this hike hungover. WAAAAAY hungover. The waitress asks how I want my eggs? Runny. Like my brain feels. It doesn't matter how (or if) you cook them, because I'm too hungover to eat them. So, Loni and I both started out with a mostly empty stomach. I had downed a couple bloody Marys and felt almost human enough to hike. Once on the trail I regretted this decision almost immediately.

Toby sitting on the ridge of Devil's BackboneI developed further regrets while walking along the edge of a 500 foot vertical drop with horrible nausea. My brain felt completely disconnected from my body, I was woozy and shaky, and I didn't even begin to recover from the hangover until I was at the summit. The entire trip to the summit was mostly a scramble.

Hand over foot, non-technical climbing, with the added challenge of slippery mud, cold winds, and hangover. I took a hard fall coming down a side trail on the ridge and I'll have some AWESOME bruises on my hip to show for it. It's in a slightly personal region, forgive me if I don't post pictures.

Right after we started up the side trail for Rock of Ages, I saw a slightly shredded cedar off to one side. Something with very large claws now has very large SHARP claws. Nice. Other cool things we saw this trip were some tree sap that was caught by a spiderweb and some brilliant yellow slime mold that Loni spotted.

We dealt with some other bullshit on the trail: Loni went hypoglycemic about halfway through while staggering through an unmarked snowfield looking for a trail. Easy enough to deal with, just give her some food, right? No, she doesn't want to eat, because she's upset/tired/scared/depressed. It was a catch 22, totally. She eats an apple, and WHAM - back to her old self. I made her eat a protein bar too. The huge dumb on my part was that I had a quart of Gatorade in my pack that would have been perfect for just this kind of issue. I may have been slightly hypoglycemic at that point as well, so I forgive myself the oversight.

Also, almost the entire trail up to the summit was rather well marked and clear. This is despite the sign on the tree at the beginning that states "Trail Not Maintained". Once we hit the summit and switched onto Horsetail Creek Trail, THEN the quality of the hiking began to suck. Downed trees. Snow patches. Brush. Scary unmarked snow field crossings. We persevered, got lost for a while in the snow field, crossed several creeks, and finally got to the next trail. Some fucker RAN past us! I wanted to chase him down and break his fucking legs, but I couldn't muster the willpower.

Once we hit the next major trail intersection, life became more pleasant, long switchbacks through dry and open pine forest. In the middle of one of the sections of trail we found a dead baby eagle! Yellow feet, little puff of down, wicked looking beak. There was a beetle nomming on the eye. I didn't think to take pictures, which I'm now regretting. Again, probably not enough fuel in my brain.

It was too good to be true, as we quickly ran into even MORE bullshit! Several of the small creeks decided they were best served by flowing down the trail we were hiking. Mud pits, slippery rocks, swampy soil. Even better were the fucking spiky plants. Thorns and spikes coming out of the leaves, even! Plus stupid little dog roses, salmon berries, and a couple of other plants that I've never minded before that now irritate the shit out of me. All of these decided to clog the trail and tear my skin off. I slipped in one of the mud pits and slammed into the ground, folding my trekking pole in half. I can only fault myself for trusting an inexpensive trekking pole. Here is a link to the LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik that I'll probably have to buy for future scrambles.

We were supposed to ford Ondeonta Creek, but it would have sucked us in and killed us if we had tried, so we ended up crossing on a giant fallen tree. Scary, about 20' above the water and rocks on a slippery log for 50 feet. No good. No good at ALL! I was past taking pictures at this point, alas.

The rest of the way down was not exciting, except we were dumb and went back via the Horsetail Falls trail instead of just going down Ondeonta. We didn't have to walk along the highway, but it seemed like it added an extra mile to our trip.

This hike is now dead to me. I am proud that I conquered it, and the views were among the best I've seen. However, it was pure hard bullshit for the first 7 miles and I don't want to do it again. The last four were pure boring downhill bullshit, with the added irritation of other human beings. Total time out: 6 hours, 45 minutes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


This evening, I got to enjoy a very nice dinner with some strangers from work at a restaurant I've never been to before - saucebox.

My overall summary: amazing cocktails of various flavors, good to superb pan-asian dishes, somewhat pricey, excellent service.

My first cocktail had a giant wedge of cucumber in it, and was gone in a couple of sips. I know it was absolutely delicious although I don't remember it very distinctly, but what can I say? It was a hard day at work!

The second cocktail I had was the Samauri Mary, basically a Bloody Mary with slightly different spices. It was spicy enough to make me actually sip it, and lasted through dinner - complementing the food very well, actually.

Tasted a third cocktail: Love You Long Time. Oh, what a lip-smacking treat! I'll get this one again for sure.

The meal, pulling straight from their online menu -
saucebox chilled organic soft tofu with ginger, soy sauce, scallions and bonito flakes 7

I think if you name a dish after your restaurant (or vice versa) it oughtta blow my mind. This was tasty, no doubt... but what isn't when you add those ingredients?

rare grilled hawaiian ahi stir-fry of asparagus, snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts, yuzu-sesame vinaigrette, lotus chips 26

So nice, so nice. I could have eaten myself sick with this dish several times over, given sufficient funds to buy more. Very rare sesame seed covered tuna, thinly sliced, with minimal dressing. Contrasted nicely by perfectly cooked interesting vegetables and a little bit of sauce to dredge the fish in. Oh, I think I need a moment alone.

Also tasted their grilled squid skewers - nice. Always fond of tentacles, and these were so fresh I'm surprised they weren't writhing in my mouth. The actual skewered squid flesh was merely okay until the sauce was added (some kind of mint dressing), and then disappeared under the sauce flavor.

Another taste was the green curry - rich, coconut milk broth. Not terribly spicy in any direction, but with some good flavors.

One final sample was the Grilled Pork Satay. Very nice, especially with the seasoned pineapple bits. Their noodles were interesting, and I'd totally consider eating this dish again.

Very attentive service throughout. This was somewhat expensive ($57) for a very nice dinner, and all around an excellent place to eat. I feel that I would REALLY like to go hit their cocktail menu for happy hour again and again and again...mainly because I think it is much less expensive than eating off the regular dinner menu.