Sunday, April 19, 2009

Summer in the City

Summer around here means sitting under the tree in our back yard, sipping a cocktail and watching the sun as it dips behind the neighbors' houses. If we're lucky there's some cheese left over from a weekend dinner with friends that most definitely needs to be eaten, or some chips with a bit of salsa that was lingering in the back of the fridge.

And there's no better place to get ideas for those cocktails than "borrowing" (such a kinder, gentler word than "stealing") them from the happy hour menus at our local watering holes. I was invited to a press preview of what will be cooling down patrons of the bar at the Pearl's 50 Plates, and the summer looks to be well-chilled if the items we sampled are any indication.

The grapefruit cooler (top left) that was served up by Lance Mayhew, head mixologist, was a refreshingly bitter combination of vodka, grapefruit juice, tonic and Aperol, a rhubarb-based Italian aperitif that I'll be adding to our liquor cabinet very soon. Next up was a spiced lemon drop (top center), a well-balanced version of this popular happy hour workhorse, the "spice" coming from the Chinese five-spice powder that Mayhew had mixed with the extra-fine sugar coating the rim.

The most interesting of the bunch was a blueberry cooler (top right) made with Jim Beam, blueberry juice and an unusual brown sugar simple syrup, with a complex mix of balancing agents like cinnamon, vanilla, cognac and lemon juice. This one might be a little too complicated to work on at home, but if you feel motivated definitely let me know. Or invite me over!

The rest of the tasting focused on a series of "floats" the restaurant's been working on. The one I tasted featured coffee, kahlua and coffee ice cream, and Mayhew promised there were others in the works as well. He also said they've doubled their food offerings at happy hour, with ribs, a variety of sliders (called "sammies") and crostini added to the existing menu.

To keep traffic in the restaurant moving, they'll also be doubling their hours, adding a late happy hour from 9 till midnight weekdays and 10 till closing on weekends.

Details: 50 Plates, 333 NW 13th Ave. 503-228-5050.

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