Whoops! Let a few weeks slip by there without a post. Here’s what we intended to do, in short form. Big post coming later tonight or perhaps tomorrow, plus a Thanksgiving post next week you won’t want to miss – a cooking spectacle on the order of Hamdog, but with MORE cooking time and a lot LESS fat.

Bruce was right about Oaks Bottom
Andrew, Kari, Bruce, Eryn, Becca, Nicole, Jen, Sarah and I made a trip to Oaks Bottom a couple of weeks ago with the aim of giving Bruce’s exceptionally glowing review a more balanced spin. (Un)fortunately, we had to concur, as the food, brews and drinks met and exceeded expectations.

Oaks Bottom has taken the brewpub mold and really advanced it, with unusual and highly original takes on some classics. Case in point, the Meadmosa, made with orange juice and mead from Redstone Meadery. Served cold, there was enough OJ to make it a respectable mimosa, but the mead was totally discernible as a flavor unto itself, and the two combined to make a great drink.

Oaks Bottom Meadmosa

Equally original, but less universally-palatable was their “Hoptini,” a vodka martini made with hop-infused vodka. When I sampled it, the vodka had been infusing for nearly a month, and I was warned that the bitter hop flavors were coming forward more after that duration. As a hophead, bitterness doesn’t bother me, but others were not as into the drink. I’m not sure I’d order another one, but as a tribute to this versatile vine, it worked somehow. Try one for yourself – they had 2 varieties when I was there (Willamette- and Fuggles-infused).

Oaks Bottom Hoptini - Vodka infused with Willamette Hops

Bruce touted Totchos in his post, and I can only say he was 110% right about their being entirely delicious. Take your best version of Nachos, complete with cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, black olives and salsa on a bed of tortilla chips. Now substitue delicious tater tots. Not the greasy, soggy frozen kind found elsewhere in town, but the ones made with real potatoes, crispy and golden brown. Definitely a repeatable experience.

Oaks Bottom's Best Creation - Totchos

Finally, in apparent pandering to my own personal tastes, they had a Virginia-style smoked pulled pork sandwich on, served with deliciously crispy fries and a honey mustard dipping sauce. I am a fan of BBQ, a connosieur, even. And I can honestly say this pulled pork sandwich is in my top 10 ever, without qualification. The honey mustard was a little too mustardy in my opinion, but the sandwich didn’t need it, so flavorful was the meat. I typically add coleslaw to my pork sandwiches, but again – it was unneccessary. Absolutely recommended.

Oaks Bottom Pulled Pork Sandwich Virginia Style with Honey Mustard

As for the beer? Wreck the Halls was on tap, Total Domination from Ninkasi (not that great) plus the full complement of New Old Lompoc beers (sadly missing was D Note, which I haven’t been able to taste yet). Wreck the Halls is a perennial favorite of mine, and I think this year’s version is among the best. By now, it’s on tap all over town, but when we went to Oaks, it was the first time I’d seen it locally.

Beerfest: The Movie
Several of us finally made it to Beerfest, the newest film from the Broken Lizard crew (the geniuses who brought us Super Troopers and Club Dread) last Sunday, at McMenamins’ Mission theater. I was hoping to be able to tell you to go see it this weekend, dear reader, but I am afraid this gem has moved on. This movie must be seen, and it must be seen with beer handy. Plenty of beer. Buckets and buckets of beer. It starts a little slow, but that’s just your sobriety talking. After your first beer or three, everything gets much funnier. I will not spoil it (boobs) for you with (beer) details, because you WILL see this (drinking games) movie. Not because I told you it was the greatest thing since (quarters) bottled beer, but because this is a movie about (boobs) beer, and those just don’t come around very (lager) often. I will however, take this opportunity to publicly shame Andrew for drinking Pinot Noir during a movie about beer.

Beerfest: The Beerfest
Mark your calendars for Dec 1, 2 and 3 for this year’s Holiday Ale Fest in Pioneer Square. I’ve been every year for the last four years, and it is a treat not to be missed. Tell the wife you’re going Xmas shopping downtown and stop at Rite-Aid for some mouthwash (to cover you tracks, of course). Looks like most of the standbys will be there, plus four new beers from New Old Lompoc … I first tried mead at this event a few years ago, and the good folks from Redstone will be tasting a new Vanilla mead, plus a Cinnamon mead. You heard it here first: Cinnamon is the new Nutmeg.

Beerfest: The Sooner Beerfest
The 2nd Annual Oregon Cask Beer Festival runs this weekend (today!) at the Rose and Raindrop. They’re closing the doors at the end of the year, so this might be a good farewell to this legendary Portland establishment (and they make a mighty fine Fish and Chips, too).

La Caja China – Spanish for Superbowl food

A Delicious Coffin for Pork

Chris introduced me to La Caja China last night, and I don’t think I could be more excited about something. I thought I knew all the ways you could cook pork, coming as I do from the Pork State. I was wrong. Very, very, deliciously wrong.

I think if the Minotards (our team name) win the Holocene Mini-Golf Tourney with the Labyrinth, we’re going to be the proud new owners of this bad boy, setting Superbowl history in the process. And pork will never be the same again.

Be sure to check out the desktop wallpaper/pig-cooking instructions page, as well as the video showing “La Caja” in action with Bobby Flay.

How cool is it that the product’s name is translated “The Chinese Box?”

2006 Iowa State Fair

Sarah enjoying Strawberry Ice Cream from the Iowa Dairymens Association

When I was a kid, the Iowa State Fair was a BIG deal. When Sarah and I went home this August, we arrived just in time to partake in this annual Iowa tradition, and it was bigger than ever, and not just because we went on the last weekend. We started things off in the produce building, which houses things like the biggest watermelon, the biggest tomato, the biggest potato, etc. Big is what matters, and it is on display everywhere at the fair. Including the portions at the Iowa Dairymen’s Association Ice Cream booth, where Sarah sampled a “small” strawberry ice cream for three dollars.

The Dairymen are most renowned for another attraction, however – the world-famous Butter Cow, sculpted since 1959 by Iowan Norma “Duffy” Lyon. Each year, Duffy re-creates the fair icon, re-using the butter from year to year. The line is several hundred people long, as seeing the cow each year is a rite of passage no parent could afford to skip. Children everywhere are thankful they stopped sculpting the macabre but tasty “Lard Pig” in the 1950s. This is not a joke.

The World-Famous Butter Cow

Solid-Butter Superman

In recent years, she has created additional sculptures to keep interest up, sculpting such illustrious subjects as Da Vinci’s Last Supper, Elvis, John Wayne, and this year, a life-sized Superman, more powerful than a massive coronary.

Our dairy appetites satiated, we made our way to one of my personal favorite food vendors, the Iowa Pork Producers Council. You may remember them as the creators of that well-known and convenient delicacy, the Pork Chop on a Stick. Finally, the smoky deliciousness of pork with all the convenience of a popsickle.

Pork Chop on a Stick

Having eaten a recognizable bit of pork flesh, my sense of adventure was heightened, and I ventured onward in search of that mysterious icon of fair fare, the Corn Dog. With origins shrouded in myth and coating breadlike, this culinary delight did not disappoint. The moist, cornbread-like crust concealed a juicy hot dog within, and I reached a higher plain of consciousness. Or perhaps it was just a higher blood pressure.

Standard Fair Fare- the Corn Dog

The main course finished, it was time for dessert, and there is no dessert more Iowa than the Dutch Letter, a pastry that hails from Pella, Iowa, home of the annual tulip festival, as well as a large Dutch population. Apparently, Pella’s particular dialect of Dutch needs only one letter (S), as the traditional Dutch Letter takes the form of only the 19th letter of the English alphabet. At the Iowa State Fair, a Stick is added, spawning the new and improved “Dutch Letter on a Stick.” Stupendous.

Dutch Letter on a Stick

Better get something healthy to wash all that crap down. Whew! A little fruit juice, refreshingly cut with a cup and a half of sugar.

Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade

My arteries choking with fat, I had to pass up this delectable, Deep-Fried Macaroni on … you guessed it … a stick. Sensing a pattern here? This stand also offered deep-fried Oreo cookies and Twinkies. As for the signage, only Comic Sans would work here, a bit of neccessary whimsy to disguise the plaque-producing evil lurking beneath the festive green and purple bunting.

Deep-Fried Macaroni

About this point, Gabe and Brandy joined us, and Gabe dove right in with some deep-fried cheese curds (not pictured). Only in Iowa would Ragu pizza sauce be a condiment. And only at the State Fair would a pump top be added to the Catholic-family-sized container.

Condiments at the Iowa State Fair

Bellies full, it was time for another State Fair tradition: ogling the animals (and their Wrangler-wearing owners). Most dramatic is the Big Bull, which, as you might suspect, is the biggest bull in Iowa as of August 10th, 2006.

The Big Bull

Stats for the 2006 Iowa State Fair Big Bull

After that, it was on to the Big Boar, aka “The Big Pig,” this year topping the scales at a whopping 1800 lbs. That’s a lot of bacon.

The Big Boar

While the Big Pig’s size is incredible, no less incredible were the testicles on the second-biggest boar. I am not exagerrating when I say that EACH of the testicles was as large as my head. Sorry Angus, he’s got the biggest balls of them all.

The Second-Biggest Boar

The Biggest Redneck

The Biggest Redneck- Rear View

We’d had our fill of big pigs, gargantuan grapes, terrible tomatoes and arrested arteries. It was time to go. But … we had not seen … the BIGGEST REDNECK, who stomped by as we made our way towards the exit.

This manlike beast topped the scales at an estimated 350 lbs., and came prepared to do battle with the fair’s unaware concessionaires.

Note the bellyless shirt, designed to give way to ever-expanding gut. Marvel at the advanced cooling system which allows energy-depleting heat to escape quickly. He has been bred for this day, and his owner is not going to let the “Biggest Redneck” award go to just anyone. As you can see, the breeder has branded his prize entry with tens of identifying tattoos to claim his prize. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Iowa State Fair is all about.

Quick Review – Oaks Bottom Public House

Oaks Bottom Public House is exactly the kind of pub I would open if I had tons of money. Tucked away in Westmoreland/Sellwood, Oaks Bottom is located at 1621 SE Bybee Blvd.

There isn’t a single thing I would recommend changing. First, they feature a constant supply of New Old Lompoc brews including some of my favorites like Proletariat Red, Centennial and LSD, but going above and beyond the assortment you can find at The Hedge House, 5th Quadrant and the New Old Lompoc, Oaks Bottom also features a good supply of rotating guests taps. I’ve enjoyed Caldera Dry Hop Red and Hair of the Dog’s Blue Dot there and some others that escape me right now. While the guests taps rotate in and out faster than the occasionally printed tap menu, the chalk board in the corner by the bar lets you know what’s fresh and available.

In addition to the great beer, the food is equally amazing. Oaks Bottom is easily my favorite place in Portland to get a burger. The meat is tasty and juicy and the bun and condiments are always fresh. The basic burger rocks, but the Hot Damn burger with jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and hot sauce is a close second. In addition to the great burgers they have an excellent assortment sandwiches including a Ruben, an Italian Beef and a pork Tenderloin that are all delicious. Even better, they feature daily specials which most day includes a beef brisket or pulled pork sandwich, both of which are smokey delicious and come with excellent sauces on the side. Here’s the best part, just about everything comes with the option of fries or tots…. I have no idea what the fries taste like because I’m pretty sure if you order fries when tots are available, you’re a communist.

Speaking of tots, Oaks Bottom has probably the single greatest snack food/appetizer ever invented…. TOTCHOS! That right, all the tasty toppings of nachos on a bed of crisp, golden brown tater tots. And if that’s not enough, for an extra buck they’ll cover it in chili. Simply, simply amazing.

Looking forward to the cooler weather when I can start checking out the stouts and porters on the menu as well as the daily soup specials, Friday is clam chowder and it smells great. Also, I’ve been planning on stopping in for a Sunday brunch, they have a $2 bloody marys and $4 super special mary that sound great, and I hate bloody marys. I also hear that at some point they’ll be opening up a deck or patio behind the property.

What can I say, Oaks Bottom… perfectly done.