After visiting Clear Creek Distillery, it was definitely time for an early dinner. We picked out Beaker & Flask from my Frommer's Portland guidebook, as it sounded like the food was good and the cocktail program was as well; after all, the name of the restaurant was certainly an encouraging sign. After a small bit of difficulty in finding the place (the guidebook has the address wrong, listing the side of the building around the corner from the restaurant entrance), we rolled up just before five. The hostess was kind enough to let us in before they'd technically opened (I'd say it's certainly in line with the ethos of hospitality to let one's prospective customers use the bathroom) and seated us right away. We were the first people in the joint, but it got busier pretty quickly. They even had stacks of interesting cocktail books scattered among the tables!
The menu looked great and creative -- for both food and cocktails -- and we were glad to see a happy-hour cocktail list of four drinks that were $5 from 5p-6p and $7 afterwards (the rest of the cocktails were $8; I could get used to Portland cocktail prices after New York's). Even the selection of non-alcoholic drinks was pleasantly eclectic, with Blenheim Ginger Ale, Orange Crush, San Pellegrino, Sparky's Root Beer, and more. One offering that caught my eye was Faygo Rock & Rye, which apparently doesn't taste like actual rock and rye made with rock candy, rye whiskey, and fruit (it supposedly tastes more like a cherry cream soda, and has the advantage of being 100% more juggalo-approved than the rye-whiskey version.)
So, for our first course of drinks I had to go for the happy-hour Between The Posts, consisting of Campari, fresh grapefruit juice, the Faygo Rock & Rye, and Peychaud's bitters. (My girlfriend had an excellent Dublin Dr. Pepper, poured from its glass bottle.) I was wondering if the drink would be too sweet (if my fuzzy memories of the stuff are correct, Faygo's sweet enough to dissolve a bulldozer), but it was wonderful and a great aperitif -- the citrus notes from the Campari and grapefruit (what a great combination), the bitter playing nicely with the sweet. I haven't mixed much with commercial sodas, apart from the odd Cuba Libre, and I really should start experimenting with this.
Our meal was great, too -- we split the butter lettuce salad with a buttermilk-and-tarragon vinaigrette, and I had a pan-seared trout with spring veggies, smoked mussels, and sauce Gribiche. My entree was good, but my girlfriend's was great: a fork-tender grilled pork tenderloin with English pea arancini, pea greens, and pistou. With our entrees, I chose a Stuck in Lodi (rye, Gewurztraminer syrup, Cynar and Peychaud's bitters) for my second cocktail. I was curious about all the various flavors in this one, and there were a lot of moving parts -- possibly too many. The drink was definitely rich and complex, but I kept wanting to take smaller and smaller sips because it was a bit of a sensory assault.
I overheard some folks at the bar drop a familiar name, and sure enough, David Shenaut was working behind the stick. I sent over my good wishes, and he dropped by to say hello and welcome us. (Thanks to Lindsey from Live the Lush Life and Brown, Bitter & Stirred for introducing us a few days earlier on Twitter -- but I didn't realize I'd be bumping into him here. Always fun to unexpectedly meet up with new friends.)
Dessert was a very nice panna cotta with warm fluffy beignets and a fresh huckleberry sauce, tamped down nicely down by a very, very good Ransom Gewurztraminer grappa, which was fruity and smooooooth and all-around wonderful. (As much as I liked Clear Creek's Gewurz grappa, I liked this one even more.) We left the restaurant pleasantly sated, and then the big conundrum presented itself: off to Powell's Books for more browsing, or search out a couple of the other cocktailian boites that had been recommended to me? (Guess you'll just have to tune in to the next installment to find out.)