Susie and Dan at Tryon Creek State Park and Lewis & Clark College

Posted in Engagement, Wedding on July 23, 2012 by Gina

Still playing catch up with my blogging – this one is from last April – another engagement shoot in preparation for a May wedding. We met first at Tryon Creek State Park – just down the road from my alma mater, and a place I knew to be cool and shady on a warm day such as we had been enjoying that weekend.

Susie and Dan are so fun to work with for many reasons – for one, they are very comfortable in front of a camera, and comfortable with each other and expressing their affection, humor and obvious joy and love for each other.

We started out with some simple posed photos, these things always have a rhythm or a warm up phase, before anyone knows what direction things may go or what may emerge out of the shoot. 

We began down one of the many shady trails that meander through the park. We’d seen a bridge on the map and wanted to get some shots of that.

However, sometimes the best shots aren’t planned – we came across a log, and they decided to clown around a bit…

In fact, their fun-loving personalities really made the time spent shooting enjoyable – they’d been taking dancing lessons, and were eager to show off their mad skills when we moved our shoot to Lewis & Clark College campus.

But despite the horsing around, it was easy to see how deeply in love these two were – they have an energy together that’s great to be around and I had such a good time trying to capture the little moments between them that spoke of their sweet connection.

After reviewing these photos, I looked forward to being there at their wedding to capture more of their obvious happiness in life and each other.

The rest of their photos from this shoot and subsequent wedding can be found at: http://ginabixby.smugmug.com/

Rachel and Jason at Lewisville Park

Posted in Engagement, Wedding with tags , on July 17, 2012 by Gina

I met with Rachel and Jason last February to take a few photos in preparation for their upcoming wedding in May. I think having a photoshoot prior to the wedding day helps everyone be more comfortable.

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We met at Lewisville Park in Battle Ground, Washington and just took a few shots around the park – we were lucky to get some dry weather, and despite the cooler temperatures, ended up having a great time!

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It was nice to see their obvious care for each other and excitement at their upcoming wedding plans.

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It was a pleasant prelude to the subtle charm that would be their big day – I felt honored to be a included as a small part of their plans.

Uptown Billiards Club – Five Shades of Fantastic

Posted in Food with tags , on July 15, 2012 by Gina

You have to love a place that describes dinner as a “Five-Course Tasting Affair” … lets just start with that, shall we. Affair is an apt name for the experience, as in my mind an affair is something one is lured and seduced into (ideally) and requires a curiosity for the unknown, an abandonment of the usual and a sense of adventure. Yes, we’re still talking food, but you get my drift.

When Pam and I decided to have another one of our “girls night out” dinner events we diverted from our past practice of working out first, and then dinner and just cut to the chase. Apparently we’ve graduated to dropping all pretense and now just get to the best part, the yummy dinner and dessert we always treat ourselves to afterwards. It was her turn to pick, and while she had been to the Uptown Billiards Club in the past, I had never been.

This was back in January, so the miserable weather may have contributed to a reluctance to get out and do anything other than hunker down someplace warm and be babied as kind people brought us food. Yes, I realize I’m very tardy in posting this blog – I’ve been on a writing hiatus, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating, and shooting photos. I’ve just been neglecting my pet blog – so sue me.

This particular January, the theme at Billiards was “Meyer Lemons”. Each course is served in order, punctuated with a different wine. I realized right away I might be in over my head – I rarely drink and have no clue about wine, but that’s what’s so wonderful about this particular affair – you surrender yourself entirely to the chef and don’t have to worry about it or understand a single thing, nothing to do but experience the array of new tastes.

The cost is a mere $35 ($25 if you forego the wine) and we felt that to be an excellent bargain. They offer a full drink menu which I mention only because I’m in love with the names of the drinks. Someday I will have to write a blog entirely about the creativity of alcoholic beverage names, but another day.

Drink Menu

We started off with something called “Ahi Tartare With Ginger and Meyer Lemon – rainbow beet carpaccio and crispy wonton” Oh dear. Now, I know enough to understand that Tartare probably means uncooked. But heck, who doesn’t like wontons, right? Crispy is code for fried, that’s safe and familiar territory. All I know about the wine was that it was Italian – and we all know anything Italian is wonderful, do we not?

Ahi Tartare with Ginger & Meyer Lemon

The next course, was a very familiar treat – Crispy Fried Cod – lemon buttermilk dressing served with preserved lemon, fennel and pickled onion with a French White Bordeaux. One thing I like about these small portions is there are several of them, so you can get just the perfect amount of a little taste of heaven, sip your wine (I think I had three different types lined up at one point as I’m a slow sipper) to clear your palate in between courses and not feel stuffed or overfull, just happily teased and a little buzzed.

Crispy Fried Cod

Next was the Arugula and Crispy Duck Confit Salad – with lemon and pomegranate vinaigrette, spiced pistachios and pomegranate seeds – with a wine from Spain this time – yay, world tour! Honestly, this is just the perfect thing for someone like me, because I would never order duck as my main dish in a restaurant, but to be able to try something so exotic and not commit to having that be your entire dinner is great. Plus I love salad and vinaigrettes, as well as pomegranate, having something new and different paired with other familiar things is a great way to experiment with new foods. I probably would order duck in the future now.

Arugula and Crispy Duck Confit Salad

The final course, however was my favorite and the one that I wished most for more of (as in “Please, Sir, may I”!) – Braised Beef Cheeks. I admit, by the time I was there, having had all these wines (another Spanish one this time) I was silly and worried about what exactly a beef cheek might be? Was this a delicate way of saying “rump”? Or literally cheeks? I’m not certain I really need to know the anatomical details of what part of an animal I’m eating, but that’s just me. However, by the time I had experienced this melt-in-your-mouth treat, I was beyond caring what it was called and would have gladly swapped dessert for another helping of those cheeks (and that’s saying something). It was served with meyer lemon and roasted celery root puree.

Braised Beef Cheeks

Finally, we arrived to the dessert portion of our lemon tour. House-Made Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, with meyer lemon marmalade and macadamia nut tuille – again with another Italian number – a dessert wine this time. To be honest, I’m not really an ice cream kind of girl. I love cakes and cookies the most, so I could have swapped this out or would have made another choice if there had been one. The dessert was very rich, the dark chocolate paired with the marmalade – I’m also not crazy about chocolate and fruit together, but realize I’m probably in a minority here. The tartness of the lemon marmalade (almost a bitter taste to me against the chocolate) definitely drew out something in the ice cream. I loved the cookies the best.

House- Made Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun and new experience, it’s a great way to try several dishes, to feel pampered and as if you are getting a taste of “cuisine” rather than just “dinner”. The Chef came out and walked around and visited with the diners, there’s a bar and billiards of course, great atmosphere and I hear they have great happy hour deals before six.

I did see that if you are bringing children (and why would you? I’m not sure I’d describe this as kid friendly food – it’s not kid unfriendly per se, but I imagine some of the charm would be lost on a child) you need to give them notice as the only entrance into the restaurant is through the bar.

Uptown Billiards Club on Urbanspoon

Cowboy Little’s Big Wild West Show

Posted in Event with tags , , , on April 13, 2012 by Gina

I think almost everyone at some point in time, at least of my generation, was fascinated with cowboys. I remember wearing my little cowboy hat and playing cowboys with my cap gun – the kind that had the red tape with little black spots… when the hammer hit it, it made a  pop and you got a little smoke puff. I remember the smell, the excitement blended with a little bit of fear at the noise, and, a little disturbingly, the way the metal at the end of the gun tasted after you shot it. I think I even had a little stick pony at one point.

So, the other day, imagine my thrill upon discovering that there was a cowboy show in town – I had no idea what to expect, other than music and hopefully a pleasant diversion for my own little cowboy and I to enjoy. We bought our tickets and headed out – they apparently only perform the first friday of the month at the Funhouse Lounge, so we were fortunate to have heard of it on the day it was playing.

The Funhouse Lounge is a cozy little establishment in SE Portland – it has a full bar but allows minors – at least for this show – and most of the few kids there were dressed up as cowboys. I’m going to be doing the same myself when I go next time, get into the spirit of it! Anything for an excuse to wear cowboy boots and a hat… I think I’ll leave the chaps and spurs at home, though.

There are drinks and sodas and snacks available to purchase and take back to tables and booths – I advise you to get there early, as the stage is not raised and the tables actually filled up fairly quickly – there wasn’t an available seat in the house by the time the show started.

The show itself is a unique and delightful combination of singing, storytelling and improv theater. The show’s appropriate for kids, but doesn’t talk down annoyingly to that level in the way that some family friendly entertainment can sometimes do – just because I have kids and don’t want them exposed to inappropriate content doesn’t mean I had a lobotomy! There are some skits involving guns but nothing that would frighten children. There was a special guest featured – the National Yodeling Champion Larry Wilder who demonstrated his singing and guitar playing skills several time throughout the night.

The show flowed perfectly – the actors are comfortable with what they do and are easy with the audience, involving them in the skits and songs – asking questions and incorporating the answers into the show.

I love improv, and am always impressed with the quick thinking on the feet of the actors and the seamless way they turn the unexpected into comedy when it’s done well. One has to be able to be a part of a team, to pick up on the cues from your fellow actors and keep in mind that you also have an audience to entertain. These guys not only know how to do all that, but they all can do so while singing and dancing! Or in some cases, do so while cracking a whip!

If you want to have a pleasant, inexpensive and fun night out with the kids, experience a bit of americana culture and reminisce about a sweet version of cowboy nostalgia, you really should check out one of their shows. You can view their website at http://www.cowboylittle.com/

Clementine

Posted in Food on April 29, 2011 by Gina

It’s been awhile ago, but I’ve been so busy on the weekends now that baseball and running season are in full swing, it’s begun to cut into my quality food questing time! However, one fine February morning the little boy and I went out to get some breakfast and take some photos at Clementine Bistro & Bar.

We were there a bit early in the day, so there were only a few other diners when we arrived. Turns out that was a good thing in this case, because they were short staffed that morning and the waiter who was doing 20 things at once seemed a bit frazzled. But he was always pleasant and kept checking on us throughout the meal, despite how obviously busy he was, so while we lingered a bit longer than normal over our meal, the service was great under the challenging circumstances.

There are three rooms in the restaurant – a front room, a bar and a room at the end of a short hallway that is “child friendly” – tables with toys, even some cake put out. As a parent who not so long ago had small children, I appreciate the effort to accommodate and segregate the youngsters. We always used to seek out restaurants that had play areas, but with some atmosphere better than Chuck E Cheese and something to eat more sophisticated than plastic pizza. You cannot underestimate the opportunity to have some coffee, adult food and unbroken adult conversation until you don’t have have it!

So, now that I have a half-grown boy in tow, we opted to sit in the grown up room, right off the bar. In all fairness, I did offer him the seating in the play area, but he gave me a withering look that told me he’s much too sophisticated for dinosaurs, and we quickly moved on.

I wanted to order something different and somewhat healthy, since Luke was once again getting his favorite biscuits and gravy (this after all is billed as a southern style bistro) so I ordered a veggie scramble. I don’t know if it’s southern or not, but it was tasty, the vegetables were cooked perfectly, still somewhat firm, rather than soggy.  Had we tried this at home, they’d have been raw, so I recommend it if, like me, you have to make a conscious effort to eat veggies – they’re tough to cook properly without ruining!  I secretly would rather have sampled some of the other menu items I saw, the french toast, pancakes, chicken fried steak or even the grits. But I was good, however when we return we will be trying some of the more traditional fare.

As for the biscuits and gravy, Luke claimed the biscuits were superior to others he’s tried, while the gravy was not (however as I have to remind you everything from now on is compared to Pine State Biscuit for him, he’s been ruined for all other food).

Just as we were finishing up, the later morning/early lunch crowd began to show up, and fortunately so did some additional employees to help out our original waiter. I’d like to try them again, maybe for lunch or dinner, definitely sample some of the desserts and maybe a southern cocktail drink.

Clementine Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Retro Burgers

Posted in Food on February 18, 2011 by Gina

I grew up in a small town, and one feature that seems to be consistent among them is the existence of some kind of burger joint.  I’m not talking about the little Arctic Circle or A&W’s that you can still find up and down the coast or out in the eastern part of the state … but the little independent places that somehow just make the food taste better because of the (perhaps pretend) nostalgia that you can soak up while you linger over your meal. It’s like traveling back into time, leaving the modern trend of ‘little plates’ and shiny minimalism behind.

I never met a guy at a malt shop as a teeny bopper, never actually lived the drive-in teen-age hangout lifestyle. But growing up I was saturated in the 1950’s nostalgia wave – starting with the re-runs of the Mickey Mouse Club and Annette Funicello, the Happy Days tv series, all the old re-runs of Leave it to Beaver with these strange families with stay-at-home moms AND sometimes live in maids.

So when I moved to Camas, WA several years ago, I was just enchanted by the local burger joint, Top Burger Drive In. Mind you, it’s not a drive-UP … but a bona-fide, new-fangled almost drive IN.  I could just imagine it on a warm summer night, well, a summer night anyway, maybe not warm – cars with kids in the parking lot, roller skated waitresses bringing out burgers and fries and cokes.

 

Now, you don’t drive up, place your order and drive out again 45 seconds later with your grub. You leave your car there in the window and wait for them to cook your food. Sometimes, if the line is four deep, they  might have you pull into the parking lot for a spell. My boys and I always get the seasoned fries … heavenly.

Inside, there are photos of the building when it was new. You can get hand-scooped ice cream from a tub in the cooler, or you can get the soft stuff from the machine. I think they even have chocolate dip for the soft cones. There are flavored candy sticks – the straight candy cane style, with different flavors that you can suck on until they make a sharp point at the end.

There are booths, black and white checkered floors … and even if it is new, even if it wasn’t there when your grandparent’s were teens, is sure FEELS like it was.

In the summer the kids sit outside on the picnic tables, eating their ice-cream cones and being cool. The old high school used to be down the street, before they build the new one and then a new elementary school and now the town seems quieter, the kids are mostly bussed out to the new developments to the west, to their new schools. I imagine the business has slowed, now that the area boasts a Five Guy’s, a Sonic, and a Wendy’s within three miles.

Personally, I like to be in a place that doesn’t feel like the attempt to look old school is forced. They don’t have to try  – they ARE old school. I like the food – it takes awhile, you have to sit down and visit while you wait for your ‘fast’ food. There aren’t any video games or bells and whistles to distract, no kids on skates rolling out to the cars.

But their onion rings are to die for. Top Burger Drive in on Urbanspoon

Another place I only recently found is in another neighborhood entirely, in a most unlikely place. Skyline Burgers sits out in the middle of nowhere, up on top of Skyline Boulevard in Portland’s west hills, with not much else around it at all. You don’t see very many houses as you drive around, they’re mostly set back in among the trees amid long driveways the hill dwellers seem to like. Pammy showed me this place, we met there for lunch one day last spring, and now I look for reasons to drive over that way to stop by. I had the same feeling, that this was a place that had once been kind of hopping, but that now was competing with… well, there’s not much else up there but I imagine they mostly just get the locals because there is no other reason to drive up that hill, except to get over it to see what you can see maybe. Although it always is busy and full of diners when I’ve been there.

They make milkshakes out of pie. That right there should convince you to make the drive up Skyline and go check them out. But they also make really good sandwiches and burgers.

You can tell they’re invested in the community – even though it’s hardly a small town, rather a neighborhood. Kid’s drawings cover the walls. Every time I’ve been there it’s been packed. It’s the kind of place you come home to, I guess.

Burgers are great – I prefer the whole lettuce to the shredded (per the Top Burger), but that’s just my taste. They also serve salads, chili, soups … just a nice cozy diner … out in the middle of nothing.

Skyline on Urbanspoon

Pine State Biscuits

Posted in Food on February 16, 2011 by Gina

I will begin by disclosing that I’m not ordinarily a huge biscuit person. Oh, I like them buttered with honey and I’ll eat them with fried chicken and gravy – but I wouldn’t ordinarily go out of my way to frequent a biscuit bar. Which is essentially what Pine State Biscuits is – a cross between a restaurant and a food cart, really.  However gauging by the line extending outside the door and along the sidewalk, a pretty popular joint.

We went there because my little guy loves biscuits and gravy, anything involving a biscuit, really and I’m a typical mom – pretty much a slave to keeping my babies happy when it comes to food. There’s something primal about mothers and the satisfaction we get from feeding our offspring. It doesn’t matter that one of my babies is now over six feet tall, it’s the same as the day he came home from the hospital, at least where food is concerned.

Hence the reason I found myself standing outside in line in the morning waiting for a biscuit.

Sign at Pine State Biscuit

It’s actually a cute little neighborhood – in fact the building next door was someone’s house.  We saw people coming out with paper cartons full of breakfast biscuit, and sitting down on some of the tables outside the door. That put me on a bit of high alert, because it wasn’t a sunny day and there were people eating outside.

Menu at Pine State Biscuit

Once we were inside and approaching the counter, my anxiety increased. I’m not a big fan of having to make my choice in a hurry. I like to sit down, see what other people have ordered, peruse the menu a bit. I’m also not too keen on ordering off a blackboard for the same reason – I’m never certain I’ve really had a chance to look at everything available before I choose. You approach the counter at a random pace, dependent upon the number of individuals in the groups ahead of you, whether they’re paying cash or credit etc. It’s a little chaotic to me – particularly with kids in tow.  Add to that not knowing whether to order the food to go or not, given we were still uncertain at the time we ordered whether we’d get a table or not.

Coffee Bar at Pine State Biscuit

In this case, though, there was the added pressure of not only making a selection quickly, but also keeping your eye out for a place to sit. There were only about four or five tables inside, and a long bar along the end of the room for those who were waiting or choosing to eat there. We were lucky enough to secure a table and I went with a safe order of something I knew I could eat standing up in the event we were unable to find a table before our order was ready. The little guy was fortunately already set on his selection – had been before we even arrived – biscuits and gravy.  He was not disappointed.

Biscuits and Gravy at Pine State Biscuits

It’s been a few months since we were there, and he’s still talking about their biscuits and gravy – it’s the standard by which he compares all others. So that’s saying something.

I played it safe and just ordered an egg sandwich.

Sausage, Egg and Cheese at Pine State

This was the most awkward I’ve felt since I began doing food blogs, because we were in such close quarters to the other diners, there was no way to furtively take photos, no chance to get out of my seat and change angles without stepping on someone else. Not to mention the unavoidable non-consensual photograph taking that I’m beginning to embrace…  I did my best to get some reasonably representative shots of the place – but I honestly felt a certain amount of pressure to get down to eating out food as there was a line extended out the door, and I knew other patrons were probably hoping to get a seat. Seemed a bit decadent to linger, you know? However I did see someone else with a camera, it’s getting to the point this happens quite frequently in restaurants, so I’m becoming less self conscious.

I was not as enthralled with my food choice as Luke with his, however had I been more adventurous I might have fared better. It was tasty, however the cheese wasn’t melted, and it seemed somewhat dry. I’d recommend going with something that has more sauce added to it, or involved in the dish. We’d go back sometime, now that we know what to expect. I’d plan to sit outside to eat, or get it to go.

Overall, I’d recommend it for a quick breakfast, on a good weather day. We recommend the biscuits and gravy, but I’d go for something a bit less standard in a sandwich if I were doing it over, and definitely try the pie next time!

Pine State Biscuits counter

Pine State Biscuits on Urbanspoon