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Northwest Portland

Portland’s Most Progressive Beer Program is in a Men’s Store? Maybe it Is.

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If a new craft beer catches fire at one bar, the odds that it’ll catch fire at another are pretty good.

Which is great for good new beers, but after a while, those good new beers become so ubiquitous that they often end up tying up the taps that gave them a first shot in the first place.

So it’s sorta weird to say that what just may be this city’s most progressive draft beer program isn’t happening in some well-loved public house, but rather in the fitting room of a men’s consignment shop at the north end of NW 23rd Avenue’s holistic district.

Lance Miller and Max and Ian Andreae’s Threads Count is a good place to get a nice, gently used (and sometimes brand new and never worn) shirts or a pair of boots, but it's the intangibles that keep you coming back. The fellas are friendly, they’ll remember you by name even if you haven’t seen them in months, they can pretty accurately gauge your inseam or your shoe size by giving you a quick once-over, and, of course, they’ll pour you a beer for you to sip while you shop. A good one.

For some time now, their fitting room Kegerator’s kept cold a rotating roster of not-so-easy to find craft draft suds—from Burnside Brewing’s Sweet Heat and Oakshire’s Espresso Stout to Buckman Botannical’s nano-brewed Pumpkin Kölsch and a long list of Lompoc-, 10 Barrel- and HUB-brewed beers.

And there’s nothing like a beer in one’s hand to make shopping—especially for the churls who loathe shopping—i.e.: men—go down easier.

As for the duds, you never know what’s gonna turn up, but all kinds of things flow in as fast as they fly out—from Hermès overcoats and vintage Elvis ties to slick, stylish Italian leather boots.

But the real reason you need to hit this place up is the suit you’re about to help Miller and the Andraes design.

Lance, Ian and Max will walk you through what’s in style and what’ll stay in style while helping you choose the fabric, buttons, lining and piping for the one-of-a-kind sumisura suit that they’re gonna measure especially for you. 

Now it takes a couple of weeks for their people to stitch it together—as many as six of ‘em—and it’ll cost you some scratch (anywhere from about $750–$1250), but it’s an investment in your future.

And it’s something you owe to yourself.

And it’ll always come with a cold mug of quality beer.

Threads Count, 1536 NW 23rd Ave., 503.224.0506

Soul in the Bowl

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In the pantheon of home cooks, there's none more superior than grandma. Just make sure your mom’s not around to hear you say it.

But that rule doesn’t scale at Ben Bui's Fish Sauce, where Bui's mother, Lauren Huynh, runs the line (and in effect, the kitchen's show), turning out plate after plate of the same dishes she used to prepare for Ben at home when he was just a little boy.

“It’s mommy food,” Bui says. And there’s lots of it to try, but the one thing that’ll keep you coming back is Huynh’s phở.

While there’s lots to love about phở—Fish Sauce’s comes in beef, chicken and veggie flavors—the soul in the bowl belongs to the broth. And Huynh’s homemade broth is the kind of comforting thing that can right all your wrongs.

Each week, she fills three industrial sized pots with water and beef shanks, seasons those with star anise, coriander, fennel and clove, and and then simmers those pots for a full day until she’s got enough broth to last the week.*

If you’re dining in, you’ll enjoy the space. It’s spare and full of clean modern lines, and for a room with a 20-person family-style table and an open kitchen, it’s surprisingly intimate, too.

Plus, the best part of are those first few slurps is the savory smell of the steam that mists off your soup's surface.

There’s nothing that quite beats a homemade soup, and this one might even trump your own grandma’s.

But don’t worry. Ain't no one telling.

Fish Sauce, 407 NW 17th Ave., 503.227.8000

* Sorry, vegetarians and vegans: there have been heroic efforts made to pull off a tasty veggie stock, but Bui decided that none of their experimental broths could match a good old-fashioned beef stock.

Ataula’s Sangria May Be Portland’s Most Signature Drink

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Just a few months in, Jose Chesa and Cristina Báez’s Ataula is impressively well-oiled. But to compare it to a machine would be to ignore the very personal touches that make the whole thing here work.

The staff’s professional and knowledgable, but casual, too—instead of being buttoned-up and vested, they wear matching T-shirts—and because Chesa’s line is so efficient, it frees him up to leave the kitchen to stop by your table to check on things.

In sum, Ataula’s family feels like a family, and when you come in, you feel like a very distant cousin they’ve never met but are nonetheless eager to feed.

Of course, you’re coming for the food—the dishes here are based on traditional Spanish recipes Chesa picked up from his father and grandmother made with modern cooking techniques he honed whilst working in kitchens across Barcelona.

But then again, Catalonians come to drink, then stay for the food.

It’s not necessarily how Portlanders do it (we are working on it), but there is one Ataulan drink that’s worth the trip all by itself.

Ataula’s wine and brandy-based Sangria follows a recipe Chesa’s borrowed from his father, but he trumps it by vacuum-sealing and giving a slow, low cook to its medley of its dozen ingredients.

By sous viding the brandy with apples, pears and a variety of spices—Chesa’s cagey about naming them all, and why shouldn’t he be?—every batch is carefully controlled.

But just because it’s consistent doesn’t mean that this Sangria’s not playful—it is: the notes of one ingredient pop out like stray electrons before they’re quickly swallowed up by the flavors of another.

And each glass is finished with freshly pressed citrus, giving that glass a bright fresh pop. And if you’re dine with your sweetheart, it comes in litre bottles, too.

Lots of spots have signature drinks, but this one very well—and maybe very well soon—could become one of Portland’s most signature.

Ataula, 1818 NW 23rd Place, 503.894.8904

Putting a New Spin on a Very Old Wheel

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Once a year, every summer, Gretchen’s, the casual restaurant in Idaho’s Sun Valley Lodge, dusts off a pair of recipes: Liver & Onions and Egg Salad Sandwiches. When you see those specials, you know one thing for certain: the Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree’s in full swing. I’d know. I used to live there.

When you saw those items, you knew it was the time of year when people (by which I mean old people—and not to be chauvinist, but we are talking about Idaho—old white people) ascend the mountains in their motorhomes to soak up some Dixieland.

Now I like jazz, and I like Dixieland. And I like egg salad—I make it at home. And while I do like old  people (love 'em actually), I’m not necessarily ready to be one. Not just yet, anyway.

So when I see an egg salad sandwich on some menu, I think, “Aw, that’s so cute!” before invariably choosing something saltier, spicier and, because my choppers can still chomp, crunchier.

That said, when I first saw the egg salad sandwich on The Fireside’s menu, I paused before deciding, slowly, almost suspiciously, “Sure. Okay.”

To Fireside’s credit, the menu does list it as a Bacon Sandwich, and, in this town, bacon has sway. Lots. And it doesn’t hurt that The Fireside’s team butchers its own pig each week turning it into sausages, rillettes and, yup, bacon.

Along with the egg salad, the bacon’s sandwiched in rye—toasted on the inside, not on the out—with roasted chicory.

But it’s the egg salad that truly gives this sando its charm, its personality.

That’s because the kitchen takes something that’s ordinarily vanilla, and sort of electrifies it. So how do you do that?

By pickling those eggs with bay leaves, mustard seeds and chili flakes for five full days before chopping them into a mustardy, mayonnaisey salad that’s only finished off when it’s spiked with a dash of brine in the way that you’d dirty a martini.

Now be warned: it’s messy, but it’s definitely worth getting jazzed about, no matter how old you are or aren’t.

The only sad part? You can only order one during lunch, which runs from 11:30am–3pm (and till 5pm on weekends), so get one when you can.

The Fireside, 801 NW 23rd Ave., 503.477.9505

Icing on the Cake

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So there’s a rule that I think no writer should ever violate, and that’s comparing something that someone does to alchemy.

That said, I know that I’ve made this same unpardonable sin myself—more times that I’d like to admit, probably. And I’m almost certain that, when I did, I very likely sat back, laced my fingers behind my very self-satisfied head, and sat still, smiling and secure in the knowledge that I was, no doubt, the inventor of this very clever metaphor. A connector of dots. Like some kinda wizard.

So with that apologia in mind—and forgive me here for putting on it such a fine hyperbolic point—if Colin Stafford's hollandaise ain't gold, not much is. Not even gold, if you ask me.

In 2011, when Stafford first signed on as an Olympic Provisions’s sous (he’s now OP’s Executive Chef at their NW spot), he was promptly charged with comprising a brunch menu. His hollandaise wasn’t really born right then—he’d been preparing it for years to make Benes for his wife—but it did mark the first time that we Portlanders got our very own good first taste.

Now, the trick to Stafford’s sauce isn't necessarily about the ingredients—it is—but it’s also about the process. In other words, a primary part of the recipe involves abstracts like timing and patience, and knowing when to do what.

And what Stafford ends up with (as do we) is a hollandaise so light and fluffy, that it almost looks and feels like a well-made cake icing.

To get there, he skips what many consider to be hollandaise's golden rule: clarifying its butter.

Instead, he slowly emulsifies whole butter with egg yolks, lemon juice and a super-concentrated reduction made from a white wine-Champagne vinegar blend that he seasons with thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, parsley stems, garlic and raw shallots.

From there, he builds each Bene atop a peerless pair of English muffins (authored by OP’s former pastry chef Amelia Lane) with that same hollandaise and OP’s Sweetheart Ham—griddled so that its fat caramelizes just so

Pair all that with OP's signature Lazer Potatoes—“the potatoes of tomorrow, today” (which deserve a small biography of their own)—and you have what very well could be Portland’s most perfect Benedict, and probably its best.

Olympic Provisions, 1632 NW Thurman St., 503.894.8136, 107 SW Washington St., 503.954.3663