Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ramble On: Beaker & Flask and James John Cafe

Just a warning: this post contains a lot of information and jumps around faster than a Hi-C saturated kindergartner playing hopscotch. Skip to the bottom if all you want is the synopsis..

It's getting hot in here, so take off all your fur.

Portland's bar scene is as hot right now as my vintage "pre-air-conditioning"-era Northwest apartment on a sweltering summer night. Every time we're out and about it seems that yet another hip new watering hole has thrown open its silver butterfly door, and is casting a siren song of meticulously-crafted house cocktails and highly-evolved 'bar food' to our more than willing ears. Glowing reviews and accolades for Portland's finest mixologists from national, regional and local press continue to accumulate like empty shot glasses 'round the Ouzo bottle at our family's Big Fat Greek Thanksgiving. It's a fine time to be a bit of a lush in Stumptown. I said a bit of a lush. We don't want Mom to worry.

Michelle and I have been doing our best to keep up with the flow of spirits, frantically making the rounds and falling in love with a new bar every night, er, weekend this summer...first it was Kir, then Bar Avignon, then Alu (stay tuned for our posting on this little gem, with its magic front door and patio cat named Get Lost)...anyway, you get the picture.

But what we're really frothing at the mouth for is Beaker & Flask, which will open soon at 720 SE Sandy, just a short wobble from the likes of Simpatica Dining Hall, Doug Fir, Le Pigeon, & Biwa. Owner Kevin Ludwig has some pretty impressive credentials-he used to be at Park Kitchen and is currently bar manager at our beloved Clyde Common, and he helped found the Oregon Bartending Guild.

{Let us digress for a moment: the OBG has put together a veritable Prom Court of PDX Food 'n Drink royalty for their super-cool Bar-Chef cocktail class tomorrow at Carlyle restaurant, pairing a few of the city's bestest chefs with the city's bestest bartenders in a quest to demonstrate how kitchen techniques can be shaken 'n stirred and poured in a cocktail glass. Each dream duo--think Vitaly Paley (Paley's Place) & Daniel Shoemaker (Teardrop Lounge), Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon) & Kevin Ludwig (duh, have you even been READING this post?!), Scott Dolich (Park Kitchen) & Neil Kopplin (Carlyle), Jenn Louis (Lincoln) & Lance Mayhew (50 Plates), Jake Martin (Carlyle) & Jamie McBain (Park Kitchen)--has to present "a single cocktail based on collaborative design." The class, which is open to the public, will be held from 4-7 pm tomorrow, Sunday, 9/14, at Carlyle on NW Thurman, and costs $50. For more info go to}

Anyway, we are super excited about Beaker & Flask, and not just because we LOVE the name. Come on, we're not that shallow. Okay, we admit we can be pretty shallow, but seriously, Beaker & Flask has got some significant substance behind it.

According to his easy-to-read blog ( Kevin is bringing in Lance Mayhew of 50 Plates to bartend, along with Tim Davey as "Spirit Sommelier"...hmmm...nice title. We first met Tim when he was behind the bar at Castagna, but he is now at Clyde Common, where he poured us what seemed like endless glasses of rose-ay this past Monday night. Tim, or Timmy as he graciously let us squeal at him all night, is our absolute favorite red-headed bartender ever and the man who poured the infamous shot heard 'round TableTalkPortland...the night we held our supper club event Table For Twelve at Castagna for the Asparagus Dinner, Special Correspondent April and I got a little bored waiting in the dining room for the first course and thought it might be a marvelous idea to slip into the Cafe and get a Lemon Drop to help pass the time. Timmy took soooo long making it ;) that Michelle realized we were up to no good and rampaged in, nearly ripping my little ear off as she dragged us both back into dinner and berated me for being a disgustingly negligent hostess (next time I will be sure to invite EVERYONE to the bar for a shot, Sis!). So thanks much for that Timmy. We still love you, though.

It was just one little shot.

Eeek! Michelle was so mad!

Kevin has also hired his friend Ben Bettinger as Beaker & Flask's chef. We were curious about this Ben Bettinger fellow, who used to be sous chef at Paley's and is currently the chef at coffeehouse-cum-dining destination James John Cafe in St. John's (8527 N. Lombard, 503. 285.4930), so we made reservations for one of James John Cafe's Sunday Dinners. Usually held (obviously) on Sunday, next week's is going to be on Saturday evening because Ben is presiding over a Rum Dinner hosted by Timmy at Clyde Common Sunday night, if you must know. Dinners are four courses and $30, what a deal!

Kevin & Ben: Gastronomically gifted, and easy on the eyes too! 
(photo lifted from the Portland Tribune, hope that's ok!)

Kevin also has a few interesting cocktail recipes on his blog, offering a glimpse of what is sure to be a stellar drink list at Beaker & Flask. We're feeling parched just thinking about it. The Joe McCarthy's Ghost is a mix of Calvados, Creme de Violette, and Lucid absinthe, and there's a recipe for The English Picnic, an amazing-sounding watermelon & tonic drink--watermelon vodka, watermelon puree, and tonic syrup. The posting comes complete with a recipe for homemade tonic water, which we're fascinated by. Homespun tonic water, which we were humbly introduced to at Teardrop Lounge, is INFINITELY better than Schweppes.

Okay, well I've managed to somewhat write off my teensy little hangover, so I guess I'll go make a ham sandwich now. If you've managed to make it to the end of this posting (Ramble On, so goes my favorite Led Zeppelin song), I just wanted to say thank for reading TableTalkPortland. And Michelle eats big green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts! (Just checking your attention span, Sis!)

A Quick Summary, for the ADHD among us:
1. Beaker & Flask is opening soon. This is very exciting. Visit for more info.
2. If you like cocktails and chefs and mixing the two, go to the Oregon Bartenders Guild's Bar-Chef class at Carlyle tomorrow.
3. Come try soon-to-be chef at Beaker & Flask Ben Bettinger's Sunday Dinner at the James John Cafe next weekend. We'll be there.


1 comment:

  1. Have you eaten at Carlyle yet? Amazing food!