Friday, April 1, 2011
For someone as self-centered as I am, celebrating my birthday for an entire month is an absolute must. Of course, the key to making this happen is constantly ensuring that those around you are having just as good a time as you are. It’s also ok to become defensive and judgmental if they aren’t having said good times, casting them down on to the birthday black list for the rest of their sorry, empty, and lonely lives.
Watch and learn from a true pro as I chronicle the events of my last few weeks, in an effort to help you properly celebrate when it's your special month:
The first meal of the day is the best time to tell the whole world, or at least your two dining companions in an otherwise empty restaurant, that you’re going to be drinking all day and nobody better stop you because it’s your birthday.
Most people inexplicably seek out crowds of people they know, coupled with long waits and often screaming children, for brunch. I’ve simply never understood this, as I am without fail, tired, hungover, and, if you can actually believe it, hungry. The grueling purgatory of waiting to be seated quickly descends into hell for me, where I often think that somehow it will help my cause to complain that I’m so hungry that I’m considering gnawing my fucking arm off. Though ineffective in expediting the seating process, this strategy does generally cause most parents to attempt to herd their children in the opposite direction of where I’m causing my little scene.
To keep this kind of brutality to a minimum, and because the food is outstanding, I much prefer go to Saigon vietnamese restaurant on Forest Avenue for brunch. What’s not to love? First, you’ve got the holy trinity of recovery – cold beer, ice water, and Vietnamese style coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Also, before you can even look at a menu, a hot cup of hearty vegetable soup with strands of egg is delivered to your table, just in case you may be in “gnaw my arm off” mode as described above.
This year my birthday brunch dining companions are Dietz and Melinda. Dietz is in rough shape, not only from consuming copious amounts of crazy liquor drinks the night before, but also because he and a couple friends decided to put the kitchen at Boda to the test.
In addition to ordering a hundred dollars worth of food at last call, Dietz also made the fateful decision to order the chicken wings and Pad Thai "extra spicy." When the server asked how many "stars" they considered "extra-spicy" the reply was a resounding “All of them. No seriously, if there's a star back there in the kitchen, we want it on those wings. We want all the stars." It turns out they take these requests seriously, as they should, and a few minutes later Dietz and his friends were staring at mounds of angry red chili paste which presumably housed their wings and noodles somewhere deep inside. Fueled by booze and bravado, they were then stupid enough to actually attempt to consume them.
So needless to say, Dietz is also in dire need of the holy trinity here. We order a couple rounds of chicken wings, easy on the stars. I personally think the wings at Saigon are some of the best in town, perfectly crispy and slathered in sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Though there are three options for dumplings on the menu, I always order the crispy fried (c3) with fried ginger and scallion, because they are the perfect balance between a dumpling and a doughnut.
For an entree I roll with the special pork rib chop with egg omelet, or as I refer to it , “Vietnamese steak and eggs.” The pork chop is cooked perfectly, and has a nice snap to compliment the sweet and salty marinade alongside the runny egg. Pour a little fish sauce up on your rice and you’ll find on yourself on easy street, as if you’d just purchased a pound of pure.
The beer and coffee keep me afloat despite being painfully full, but I exercise caution so as to not keep drinking all afternoon. Normally, I would have kick-fucked said caution straight to the wind, but I had a long night ahead of me in order to:
Spend a Leisurely Day in New York City
Melinda and I decide to drive down to New York late night because I have no interest in losing a Saturday evening shift at Miyake, one of the few consistently profitable days to work this time of year. During work, I am presented by Gemma and Beth with one of the greatest gifts, or assortment of gifts, ever. Thank god, because my subscription to Smooth Girl had recently run out due to late-payment, and this is the Rookie Edition, bitch! While checking out them rooks there's nothing I enjoy more than rubbing the muscle milk into my glistening muscles. Handcuffs are perfect for restraining loved ones while putting their head in a bag and forcing them to huff Axe Body Spray. On top of all that, there's even a nice kitten card to say “I’m sorry.”
When the last customer gets the hint that maybe I’ve got a long drive ahead of me, we are finally able to load up the family truckster and depart. For the ride down I have prepared a mind-blowing musical mix, ranging from the Sisters of Mercy to Satyricon to Gary Glitter. So good in fact, it causes us to completely forget about the time change.
“Yeah, umm...you know how it’s 2:23 right now? Yeah, well...it’s actually 3:23. How about something more upbeat? Alannah Myles performing Black Velvet? Of course I’ve got it!”
Since neither of us has eaten much since brunch, the executive decision is made to stop at what I refer to as the “harbinger of bad things to come” travel plaza in Massachusetts. I forget exactly what’s it’s called, but I do know that most people you encounter here seem like bad luck to even lay eyes on. As it’s extremely late, Fresh City, Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo’s are closed, leaving us with two options: McDonald’s and the Gift Shop. We decide that Big Macs sound pretty fucking good, and get in line right behind what appears to be some kind of sports team made up of Kobolds, Gnolls, Orcs, Umber Beasts, and several other creatures all defined in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II. Their leader, who we’ll call the Goblin Shaman, is having a hard time rallying everyone to order. After six minutes the line hasn’t moved, and I begin to feel like the shaman has cast a "charm person" spell on the friendly McDonald's staff. We decide to relinquish our position, and make a beeline to the gift shop for Twinkies, Snyders of Hanovers Pretzel Dips, Cool Ranch Doritos, and bottles of Fiji water that taste like someone had opened them four years ago.
Back in the truckster, we push on to our final destination, theEventi Hotel, where I have booked the same suite as my last visit to New York. I had informed them that I would be arriving extremely late, most likely around 3:30 A.M. Clearly, they thought I was kidding, and when I saunter in, exhausted, at 4:45, I am informed that they have given away our suite, but the manager assures me that he will make it right. In addition to getting us set up in a smaller room until our suite is available at noon the next day, he offers to take it a step further:
“Do you like Champagne? Strawberries? I’m gonna hook you up!”
“Not a big deal, don’t worry about it,” I reply.
“No, no, I’m gonna hook you up!”
After helping us unload the car, and seeing the numerous bottles I have brought with, he changes his tone,
“Oh, I see you’ve got it covered.”
“Yeah, I just want to go to my room now and have a drink. I’m tired, and I want a drink and then I want to sleep. That’s it. I’m easy.”
He obliges and within fifteen minutes we are relaxing in our smaller but perfectly adequate room. I pop open the bottle of Jacques Selosse N/V Brut Champagne "Initial" that I’ve been drooling over the thought of all weekend long. Honestly, this shit is amazing, toasty and full bodied like Krug but not nearly as overwrought. To quote Andrew Jeffords in his book The New France:
“It is hard to think of a single individual in Champagne today whose work is more influential than that of Anselme Selosse. If the future of Champagne truly is going to be one in which terroir plays more of a role then the region as a whole will have to pay more attention to Selosse and less to its accountants and brand managers.”
You’d be wise to heed my advice when I tell you that anytime you come across a bottle of this stuff, buy it. It generally retails for around $150 a bottle, but is more than worth it, especially considering how often people piss away similar amounts on generic bullshit like Dom Perignon.
At first sip, I am instantly rejuvenated. the entire drive fades away and I begin toying with the notion of opening the bottle of Nigl Gruner Veltliner. Melinda reminds me that staying up until eight in the morning will only serve to ruin the entire following day, which I concur to be a sound theory. This also allows me to actually relax and take my time enjoying the Selosse, rather than making a race out of it to get to the Gruner, and drink as much as I possibly can before passing out from sheer exhaustion.
I fall asleep to the drone of the weather report, only to awaken at ten in the morning, a mere four hours later. It appears that my subconscious didn’t stop thinking about that bottle of Gruner Veltliner, so I decide to say fuck it and crack it open. While savoring the lemony freshness of the Nigl, I realize that I’m definitely up for the day, so I help myself to another lovin’ glass full and proceed to linger under the gentle monsoon of a hot shower for about forty five minutes.
When monsoon season comes to an end, I see that Melinda is now fully awake, and being a very good sport about getting the day started on very little sleep. While making brunch plans at Ippudo, we get the call from the front desk informing us that our other suite is ready, and that someone is en route to deal with our baggage, consisting mostly bottles of wine and the appropriate stems to pour them into.
The Premier Jacuzzi Suite is where I stayed on my last NYC excursion, and that experience definitely bore repeating, so I chose to book the motherfucker again. It consists of three rooms on the 17th floor with the kind of views that can tame even the most brutal hangover. As we are getting situated, our valet, Robert, tells us that this is the very room that he proposed to his girlfriend in a few months back. At first I presume that this went well, but don’t get a chance to ponder for long before my mind is assaulted with images of this guy fucking his girlfriend in the bed I was about to sleep in. Thankfully, he is Eastern European, which allows me to fantasize that his girlfriend is a strikingly gorgeous, blonde, Ukranian nymphet who loves rough, Gulag-style sex, putting me more at ease with the situation.
After we get situated we depart for Ippudo to eat ramen. It it doesn’t bother me in the slightest to revisit restaurants and bars from previous trips, as I don’t always have the patience to be disappointed by new things. Also, I wanted to show Melinda what a real noodle house was like, to give her an idea of what we all had in mind when we opened Pai Men Miyake in September of last year.
Upon arrival, I expect to encounter a wait, and we are told it will be about a half hour. We settle into the standing bar and order a round of Kirin draughts. I generally like Kirin, and it tastes even better on tap. I solicitously eye the whiskey selection, including Suntory Yamazaki, the famous Japanese single malt, but decide that maybe it’s a touch too early to delve down that path. We are surprised when, only a few sips into our beers, our names are called to be seated.
Upon entry into the dining room, one sees what Pai Men Miyake will never be, based on location alone. The energy is contagious, with everyone, servers included, yelling out phrases in Japanese – even the non-Japanese employees. You get caught up in the whole experience, as it actually makes eating ramen fun. Personally, I think the noodles are great at Pai Men, though Ippudo does have a leg up by making their own in house. There just isn’t anyone in Portland to create, let alone maintain, this kind of scene.
We start our meal with fried Ahishito peppers, served with yuzu salt to dip in. Some are spicier than others, and they are a perfect way to awaken the palate for the deliciousness that awaits, Hirata buns. These are the original Japanese Big Macs, with pillowy wrappers enveloping meltingly tender pork, tangy pickles and rich, spicy mayonnaise. Fuck yes. It’s at moments like these that I feel genuinely sorry for vegetarians, and I picture them, in a frantic act of futility, trying to order them without meat, but to no avail. You know what? You chose this path, now deal with it.
For ramen I select the Shiromaru Hakata Classic, with a dense, cloudy, porky broth. Though I enjoy this style, it immediately gets my blood pressure soaring from all of the fat and salt, so I take it slow and focus on drinking lots of beer. Melinda opts for the Akamaru Modern, which I had on my last visit, featuring a more manageable and slightly lighter broth. The eggs and pork are damn near perfect, accompanied by noodles with just the right amount of toothiness. At this point I see parade of servers coming through the dining room with what looks like the glimmer of birthday candles, and I immediately become suspect of Melinda’s recent “trip to the bathroom.” Luckily, they bypass us and move on to some other unsuspecting shithead, who actually appears to be the kind of person who would be extremely disappointed if her friends didn’t do something like this for her.
After leaving Ippudo, I insist on revisiting what, in my drunken recollection, I deemed to be the "greatest wine bar in the entire world," Terroir. Not at my insistence, however, my drunken recollection also gets us lost on our way there. When we finally arrive at Terroir, we realize it's several hours before they'll actually be open and we'll have to kill some time. Melinda then proceeds to get us even more lost trying to find our way back to the hotel. My journal entry at this point read as such:
Walking + Feet Hurt + Not Going in the Right Direction = Grumpy
I finally decide I’ve had enough and hail a cab, which corrects the entire situation and gets us back to our hotel eleven minutes later. While laying into another bottle of Nigl Gruner Veltliner, we watch a movie and "recharge" for the evening that lies ahead. At this juncture, I find out the hard way that before defending Charlie Sheen’s honor to a woman, one should probably be more familiar with some of his exploits beyond just his captivating performance in the film, Men at Work.
When next we sally forth from the hotel, our first stop is to see my brodel Sean at Craft, where he's got the bar on lock. He recently wowed the pants off of, and had his way with, former NY Times food critic Frank Bruni - by feeding him cocktails with no alchohol. He starts us off with glasses of Perrier Jouet Brut, followed by a 2001 Villa Tondonia Rioja Blanca. We snack on ankimo with spoonbill caviar, alongside a torchon of foie gras with pineapple salsa.
I decide that it is, in fact, that time, and order an El Jimidor tequila on the rocks. Melinda puts her fate in Sean’s hands, and he doesn’t disappoint, bringing it on with a refreshing tequila concoction driven by an exotic citrus fruit called Kamala.
We depart Craft for the "official" birthday dinner destination. On recommendation from Chad at Miyake, we have chosen Degustation. It’s quite cozy, with what I would estimate is an eighteen seat bar spanning the length of the dining room. The kitchen is entirely open and laid out in front of you, occupying a majority of the interior space. A single server expertly darts around the chefs, while a small support staff works it’s way around the perimeter of the bar. They feature a small, Spanish influenced menu with two tasting menu options: five or ten course.
Given the unlikelihood of this being our last meal of the night, the five course seems the best option. I order a bottle of Dominio do Bibei, Ribeira Sacra "Lalama". I love wines made from the Mencia grape, and this offering is no exception, redolent of black pepper and rose petals. Though I knew it wouldn’t necessarily pair up with every course, I did know I would be happy drinking it throughout the entire meal.
The first course is a crudo of Kampachi, with jalapenos and clementines. There’s a very pleasant heat offset by the refreshing acidity of the citrus that all balances well together with the clean flavor of the fish.
Next up is a salad of greens, beets, and edible flowers, with house-made ricotta and a slow poached quail egg. This may be one of the best salads I have ever had, with all of the elements gloriously coated in runny egg yolk and playing off of each other brilliantly.
Not that I think it makes me fucking special or anything, but I do love sweetbreads. So upon noticing them on the menu, I decide to be irritating and inquire about the possibility of them showing up as part of my tasting menu. They graciously accommodate me, and present the third course as a split: sweetbreads with a cucumber and grape dill yogurt for myself, and Spanish Mackerel resting in an apple consommé with black radishes and apple-chervil puree for Melinda. It is truly the mark of a well executed menu when each course builds on the last, and makes you dripping wet with anticipation to find out what’s coming next. Degustation has this concept down to a science. It’s also impossible not to take notice of how fluid and seamless the service is, meeting every need before you even know you have it, without being the least bit intrusive.
The rabbit course consists of the loin, crispy rillette, and tortellini that I think were filled with the braised legs. The rillete is particularly insane, crunchy and meltingly tender at the same time. Yellow foot, black trumpet, and maitake mushrooms complete the circle of life on the plate.
I’d been eyeballing the squid stuffed with oxtail since noticing the filthy little bitch on the menu earlier, and, after watching it go out of the kitchen for the second time to less deserving patrons, decide that I must make it mine. This proves to be a wise decision, as this lil' cocksucker is just as good as it fucking sounds, proudly perched atop a sinister looking hill of squid ink risotto.
“Green eggs and ham” is the final savory course, consisting of soft scrambled eggs, serrano ham, gruyere cheese and spinach yogurt. It is difficult to resist savagely destroying the delicate little egg-shell presentation in order to retrieve the last scraps of creamy, eggy delightfulness.
When dessert arrives, Melinda’s graham cracker with toasted marshmallowt is quickly pushed to the side in favor of my caramelized brioche. I had watched the cooks douse it with sugar while laying the torch to it, and if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if creme brulee and brioche had a child – this is it, and it currently resides on my top ten desserts of all time list.
It’s now time to make our way back to Terroir to manhandle some serious Riesling. I know I won’t shut up about this place, but it really is the perfect bar, in my less than humble opinion. The extensive, white-heavy wine list is presented in a beaten up school binder, similar to the ones I used to scrawl my name all over, with a large pentagram in the “O." After what probably felt like four hours to Melinda, I finally home in on the 2007 Schafer-Frohlich Riesling Spatlese Nahe Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg. Schafer Frohlich is a producer known for truly explosive wines, and this proves to be no exception, with sharp acidity dripping with apricots and limes, and each sip building in intensity over the last. Honestly, If you don’t like wines like this, there’s something wrong with you. You might think that taste is a subjective matter, but in this case you’re wrong, and there’s something seriously off about who you are as a person.
After sharing our S.F.R.S.N.S.F. with the bartenders, they pour us a glass of Hermann Wiemer (a.k.a. Hermann the German) late harvest Riesling. This is one of the better producers from theFinger Lakes region of New York, where the terroir is actually quite similar to that found in Germany.
When the 90’s music starts playing, starting with Weezer then progressing to Smashing Pumpkins and Spacehog, I get overwhelmingly excited. I start making song requests, and though they are happily obliged at first, I soon realize that I should be considerate of the other fifty patrons and the fact that they may not want to hear exactly what I want to hear, at exactly that moment.
Though I could truly be happy sitting at this bar forever, we have friends meeting us back at the hotel for more fierce drinking. Arriving back at our suite, we see that the hotel has sent up a complimentary bottle of Penfolds "Rawson’s Retreat" Merlot, as a nice gesture to compensate for the mix-up the night before. Though I mercilessly make fun of it for being the supermarket ca-ca that it is, I secretly know It will end up in my belly once the other wine runs out. Sean, finished with his shift at Craft, and my friend Lola stop by to help us slaughter a bottle of 2003 Domino de Tares Mencia Bierzo "Exaltos," followed by a 2006 Sartori Rino Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. These are both outstanding, and make the transition that much harsher when the remaining options dwindle down to Stella Artois and bullshit Aussie Merlot.
Lacking foresight, I decide to stick to wine and go with the Penfolds. Each sip forces me to strongly regret this decision, as it is not unlike cherry flavored Nyquil that has been poured through a potted plant and into my unhappy mouth. Strangely, nothing makes me hungrier than shitty booze, so around 2:15 we deem late night Korean fare to be a “must have” if we’re not going to “die.”
Lola, being sober enough to know what is going on, wisely disbands to meet up with a friend, leaving me only with photographic evidence of what happens next. We end up at Kunjip, where Sean and I take the plunge and split a bottle of sweet potato Soju, which as it so happens was the “product of the day” from my first New York post. For grub, we begin with what appears to be some kind of simmering egg dish, followed by dumplings, seafood pancakes, and beef bulgogi – prepared tableside.
The food turns out to be outstanding, and I manage to take notes after all. In review I see that I had written one line about the entire dining experience, “Melinda too drunk for chopsticks.”
Sean mercifully escorts our inebriated asses back to the hotel, where another comp bottle, this time cheap but manageable Champagne, is waiting for us. Using sound judgement, we pass out rather than drink it, knowing full well the pain and suffering that will come around the time of our 9 A.M. wake up call.
We check out of the hotel in a tornado of hangover, and I decide to take the first stint behind the wheel. There’s something about driving in the city that’s easier to deal with when you can barely feel your own body. The escape goes smoothly, until I find myself stuck in traffic behind a hot dog cart, allowing me to revel in the local custom of laying on my horn for a solid ten seconds, causing the vendor's panties to get supremely bunched.
On the way back, we once again make a pit stop at Harbinger Rest Area, where I proceed to combine the best of McDonald’s and D’Angelo’s into what even I consider to be an “upsetting amount of food.” This, of course, makes short work of any kind of second wind I may have been experiencing, and Melinda is required to take over driving for the duration of the long trip home.
I knew I had to rest up, because it was only to be a matter of days before...
Almost unexpectedly ending up right back in New York
After a scant three days of silent lucidity, I am fully caught up on reality and ready to thrust myself back into bender-dome the following Friday night. I start out by attending a beer event at Novare Res featuring Twelve Percent importers, whose portfolio I represent for SoPo. Arriving a bottle of wine deep, I do my best in the dwindling hour remaining before last call to do as much damage as possible to myself. Unsatisfied with my performance, I return home and drink wine for another two hours before succumbing to a fitful, dreamless slumber.
Knowing I have plans for Sunday, I decide to take it easy on Saturday. However, at work that evening, the owners of the wine company that I work for roll into Miyake, with several great bottles and two prominent winemakers in tow. Naturally, I sample their wares, and make tentative plans to meet up with them later that evening. They leave almost a full bottle of Champagne behind, which I promptly pour into a pint glass and chug, in an effort to be “caught up” when I finish my shift a couple of hours later.
By the time I head out to find them, there are only three left in the party, including an individual known as "the madman of Washington State wine.” I get a text saying that said gentleman would like to visit a bar exhibiting more “local color.” I tell them to meet me at Pizza Villa, and when I arrive twenty minutes later it appears this trio may not be long for the world.
I decide to lift my spirits with an enormous shot of Jameson, but when It hits my lips there is painful evidence that the bottle may have been little too close to a heat source. It goes down real rough, as unexpectedly hot whiskey usually does, but I resist the urge to gag and barf all over the table. Instead, I hold it together and order another, this time on the fucking rocks.
We continue to put away drinks for another thirty minutes before madman decides he's bored, and asks me where to go next. As it's almost eleven thirty, I explain that there isn’t much else going on and that things close down around one. Horrified by this news, he asks to use my phone, since his is dead, and informs all of us that we will be chartering a private jet to New York “right now” and rattles off our itinerary for the next six or seven hours.
I have a rule: If someone offers to put you on a private jet, without forcing you to swallow condoms full of heroin, you get on that fucking jet. I promptly enforce this rule on the other members of our party, reminding them that we technically don’t need to be back until 11:30 Monday morning. They half-begrudgingly, half-excitedly, agree, and the waiting game is on, to see if madman can really pull it off.
As it turns out, there aren’t actually planes waiting on the runway, all fueled up with pilots in cockpit, ready to be summoned at one's beck and call. The soonest we can get off the ground is going to be in three hours time, which is personally fine by me. This displeases madman, however, and I suggest that maybe we limo it down and fly back. He hands my phone back in a pouty maneuver, and it looks like my hopes of an impromptu return to Manhattan are being dashed on the rocks. I subsequently receive a few voicemails from the charter services, looking for the green light to fire the jets up, but three hours is simply too long for madman to wait.
I finally say "Fuck it," and while the other two depart in a taxi, madman and I head to Matthew's to drink beer and Jagermeister until last call. After walking him to his hotel, I proceed to be up drinking, once again, until four in the morning. The next day, I can honestly say I am grateful to still be in Portland and not in some hurt locker in New York. This allows me to spend the whole day cooking and drinking with Dietz and my friend Josh. Throughout the course of the day, the three of us go ape-shit on no less than ten bottles of wine, landing me right back where I was the previous Monday, in the throes of a agonizing hangover. I have a few short days before the following Sunday to take it easy and let my body recuperate, before plunging into the final depths of the birthday abyss as I...
Load Eighteen of my Rowdy Friends on to a Limo Party Bus and Go To Tulsi For Dinner
Sometimes you’ve just got to say "Fuck it" and rent a party-limo-bus.
Over a 158 Pickett Street Cafe breakfast sandwich, Melinda and I hatch the idea that a field trip toTulsi in Kittery must be part of the month-long birthday festivities. It is, after all, my favorite restaurant in the state, but the major drawback to organizing a large group outing to there is the lack of proximity to the greater Portland area.
This problem is easily solved by contacting Maine Limousine Service and renting the twenty passenger P.L.B. Stocked with ice and glassware, not to mention all the karaoke you can handle before your head implodes, it’s a safe, decadent, and delightfully cheeezy way to transport a large group of drunk assholes wherever you please.
A month in advance, I call Tulsi and make a reservation for 20 people, which will pretty much take up their entire dining room. The plan for the day of is to meet at the Franklin Arterial park and ride at 5:30 P.M., allowing the opportunity for heavy pre-gaming activity. Jess and Kelly rope me into an impromptu photo shoot at Kelly’s father’s studio, and suddenly I am transported back to any one of my fourteen prom nights, fourteen years ago. This time, however, I won't be ingesting five tabs of acid and buying booze for all of my classmates.
We shotgun a bottle of N/V Veuve Clicquot Pontsardin Brut Champagne Yellow Label in record time, without any annoying stemware getting in the way. I’m still very sore from getting my ribs tattooed the day before, so this eases the pain and primes me for my metamorphosis into “Karaoke Hero.” I’ve stocked the bus with a case of N/V Ferrari Brut Trento, sparkling wine made in Italy according to the methode champenoise, and upon arrival start doling out bottles. Before we depart for Kittery, I am presented with several amazing gifts, among them Katie and Josh’s offering of N/V Colt 45 Double Malt, beef jerky, potato sticks, and a Hustler magazine with bonus DVDs.
Once this rolling shit-show is on the road, I assume the role of "Leather Rebel" and careen my way through Judas Priest’s You’ve Got Another Thing Coming to get the karaoke party off of the ground. Joel opts for the stark contrast of TLC’s “Unpretty” to provide a heartfelt and feel-good vibe along with a serious message for everyone. About eight bottles of Ferrari later, we arrive at Tulsi.
As I’ve mentioned several times before, Tulsi never fails to impress, serving up the best Indian fare I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We prepare to drink an entire case of 2009 Domaine St. Eugenie Corbieres Rose, and the kitchen sends out several waves of appetizers to get us started. There are plates of assorted kabobs, a hybrid vegetarian, tapenade-style dish served on French bread, and my personal favorite – shrimp Balchow, a fiery hot Goan dish served with naan on the side. Eric, our server, stays right on top of things and keeps the wine flowing freely, unhindered by the chaos.
With the exception of one couple dining in the corner, who turned out to be very cool and as fanatical about Tulsi as myself, we have the dining room entirely to ourselves, allowing us to be as loud and obnoxious as we prefer. Though we cover the gamut of the menu for our entree choices, I make certain that the Zaffrani Jhinga (tiger shrimp sauteed with garlic and simmered in a saffron cream curry sauce served with mint rice) and the Lamb Nilgree (lamb cubes cooked in a spicy North Indian mint sauce served with lemon rice) come my way. The sweet Peshawari naan, filled with nuts, coconut and dried fruit, is the perfect compliment to all of these foods from India, slathered in Raita, a cucumber yogurt condiment that makes damn near everything that it touches taste better.
Amidst the oceans of rose, I see many a Mango Lassi, an Indian-style smoothie, make its way to the table. Though I don’t stray from the wine on this occasion, I can tell you from past experience that they are outrageously fucking decadent. Despite the fact that I’m painfully full, and personally finishing up my fourth bottle of wine, I can’t stop grazing around the table. After all, It may be a whole MONTH before I make it back!
We leave completely engorged, but decide to get one last drink at neighboring Anneke Jans before getting back on the P.L.B. Ben, the bar manager, has been warned of our imminent arrival and is well prepared. Dietz, Drew, Brad and I opt for absinthe, served with the aid of their medieval-looking absinthe contraption. Though expertly prepared and very tasty, I can feel it taking me right over the edge and into a downward spiral. Other bar patrons seem very confused about the band of ruffians that have commandeered their personal space, and are equally confused when we are out the door ten minutes later.
Back on the bus, the debauchery continues. I perform Highway Star by Deep Purple, yet another epic, eight minute track hand-selected to allow me to remain the center of attention. Drew follows with a rousing rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler. This offically kills the karaoke, and as we polish off the case of Ferrari, the music transitions into Q97.9 – leading off with Dynamite by Taoi Cruz. What followed was the most epic dance party on a bus that I’ve ever personally had the pleasure to be a part of, and looking back, it’s quite astonishing that the large and top-heavy vehicle didn’t tumble the fuck over.
Upon touching back down in Portland, we debus at Flask Lounge, where I am officially done in by a large shot of Jameson. After being asked to sign one of the patron’s boxer briefs, and obliging, I receive my cue to call it a night and sneak into a taxi. When I get home I contemplate keeping the party going by opening another bottle of wine, but wisely reconsider and collapse into bed, fading off into the darkness.
To the surprise/dismay of many, I have surpassed thirty-two years of age, which I consider to be a milestone. Now here I am enjoying, to quote Axl Rose from the epic power ballad, Estranged,
“All the changing seasons of my life, maybe I’ll get it right – next time.”
photo's of Limo Party Bus by Katie Schier, Jess Joseph, and Kevin Fahrman