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Portland Bar Review: Hamlet

We visited Hamlet, a small but unique spot in the Pearl District of NW Portland during their opening week. Apparently a project to complement the success of Oven and Shaker located just around the corner, Hamlet is another great place to eat from the imaginations of chef Cathy Whims, Ryan Magarian and Kurt Huffman. If Oven and Shaker is any indication, this place could do very well.

Two things stand out about Hamlet: ham and sherry.

Featuring several different service options that include amazing, hand-sliced jamón ibérico as well as domestic, acorn-fed varieties, you basically start with your cured meat selection and add accompaniments. We ordered the best ham they serve along with a baguette & butter. Ham service like this is not something we have seen anywhere else, so this alone is worth checking out. The cocktails are also delicious. There is a focus on sherry drinks which is

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Drink of the Week: Breakfast Collins

I have always been a fan of incorporating fresh seasonal ingredients into cocktails whenever possible. Living in Minnesota, there's nothing I can do about finding locally grown citrus, but I can use basil, mint, berries and plenty of other local produce—and not just for the garnish. Ideas can come from the farmers market or straight from my own garden. However, an often overlooked ingredient that offers a convenient alternative any time of the year is jelly or jam. Fruit preserves represent an opportunity to inject flavor and variety that you might not always consider. A perfect example of this appeared not long ago on the Small Screen Network with Jamie Boudreau using jam for a simple twist on a classic he called the Breakfast Collins.

The idea behind this is simple: you swap out the sweetener in a cocktail (in this case, we replace simple syrup in a

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The Frank Collins

Nothing quite captures the excitement of spring like the opening of baseball season. Few things are more American. It's right up there with a couple of other cultural favorites such as ballpark hot dogs and beer. Yet, how often do we get a chance to celebrate all of these things at once? With spring fever in the air and the boys of summer returning for another season, we picked this special day to share a recipe that features ingredients we all know and love. Of course, the cocktail we are referring to is the Frank Collins.

We've covered the classic Collins recipe before, and although it follows the same basic framework, the Frank Collins takes it in a new direction. Rather than placing the focus on the balance of sweet and sour, we add a big dose of Americana with a little curveball

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Destination Portland: Clyde Common

Kimberly and I have a new favorite location for great food and even better cocktails, but it requires a little planning to get there from St. Paul. That's because this destination is all the way over the Rocky Mountains in Portland, Oregon. The object of our affection is Clyde Common, a Downtown/Pearl District hot spot that is helping to define the cocktail revolution.

Before I jump right into the cocktails, it's important to mention that first and foremost, Clyde Common is a restaurant. The decor has a basic, modern look that reminds me of a warehouse. The stenciled labels on the wall identify the "KITCHEN" or the "BAR" with a somewhat industrial look that is softened by wooden tables and candles glowing from every corner.

We were seated in front of the open kitchen at a huge table that seats perhaps 20 guests. This "common" seating arrangement was interesting,

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The Happy Gnome: Avoiding the crowds at Firkin Fest

Craft Beer at The Happy Gnome

I suppose it's not really a fair review of the Third Annual Firkin Fest held in tents outside The Happy Gnome in St. Paul, because I didn't actually attend. However, I did get pretty close. I had hoped to experience the festival this year after just missing it last year, but by some strange cosmic coincidence I was already planning to meet some friends at The Happy Gnome to simply enjoy some good beer on a Saturday afternoon.

The Happy Gnome has one of the most diverse selections of craft beer anywhere in the Twin Cities. If you are a fan of odd, seasonal microbrews or strong, fruity Belgian ales, this is the place for you. Most drafts are served in their own special glassware and are pulled fresh from one of 70 taps. The fun does not end there,

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Cheeky Monkey Deli—great food, good beer

While it’s not the same beer-drinking experience as The Happy Gnome across the street where there are dozens of tap beer choices (including several Belgian ales at any given time), the Cheeky Monkey Deli has a good selection of bottles as well as several on draft. The nice thing for me was that they keep their taps clear of Standard American Lagers (that means no Bud, Miller, etc. on tap, folks)! I seriously appreciate a restaurant that has a small but decent beer selection in a time when there is just no excuse for places that have a dozen versions of only one style. I can’t even begin to guess how many times have I asked a server to recite their list of draft beers only to hear, “Bud, Bud Lite, Mich, Mich Lite, Miller

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