Nel Centro? A Classic Portland Restaurant

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The heart of Portland?s culinary scene beats so loud, it?s practically palpable. It seems as if every local publication, both print and web, is pulsing with articles about the city?s newest restaurant, newest chef, old chefs opening new restaurants, old restaurants with new chefs, and old restaurants that eventually succumb to the fickleness of their once-upon-a-time patrons.

And yet, spattered all across the foodie town, lie time-honored restaurants, often passed over in search of the next ?it? place. When we speak about Portland classics, the places that still hum steadily along well after the surge?of new hot spots, there?are a handful of?places that create the cadence of the city; we pay homage to our standards.

Located in the center of the downtown Portland?s Cultural District, on the ground floor of the ultra chic Hotel Modera is one of those classics. You?ll find the classy yett casual Nel Centro (pronounced chen-tro) nestled between the Keller Theater and Schnitzer Auditorium. Favored by customers from the financial and performing arts districts, and those in search of a sunny and comfortable patio, Nel Centro has been locally owned and operated since 2009.

Owner Dave Machado (also owner of Altabira in the Hotel Eastlund) brought in Chef John Eisenhart (formerly of Pazzo) in early 2015 to freshen up the menu, focusing on Northern Italian and Southern French Riviera fare. With all housemade pasta, and dishes that are simple yet showcase seasonal flavors, you?ll find them as tasty as they are visually appealing, without being overly fussy.

Dishes like Duck Leg Confit with Kumquat Gastrique will make you swoon. A few bites of the Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Shoulder and Smoked Pecorino and your eyes might start rolling back into your head. And the Lamb Shank with Couscous, Asparagus and Parmigiano Reggiano falls right off the bone and directly?into your mouth. Where it should be.

The cocktail program, created by Bar Manager Nathanial Stout, is inspired by the Cultural Arts program with drinks designed specifically for whatever happens to be playing at the time. Sip a sultry cocktail for Carmen, or enjoy something light and uplifting for The Magic Flute. The Ol? Man River is a showboat of an Old Fashioned, with local Burnside Bourbon, Calisaya (crafted in Salem) and bitters.

Wine Director, David Holstrom (aka ?Guy du Vin?) curates a thoughtful and expansive wine list from Italy, France, and the Pacific Northwest. There are eight rotating beers/cider on tap (all local micro brews) and a succinct bottle list that will capture maintain your attention.

With a generous Happy Hour, extensive breakfast, lunch, dinner menus, you’re sure to fall in love with Nel Centro all over again.




Here’s what other local voices are saying about Nel Centro:

The Examiner
Spicy Bee

This Memorial Day Weekend, Have Your #BellsUpMoment

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dave-and-saraI?ve had the distinct pleasure of?following Bells Up Winery since they first moved to Oregon’s?Willamette Valley, before their first commercial vintage, before they even planted their vines creating roots that stretch deep into the fertile Chehalem Mountain soil.

I?ve been following Bells Up since before they had their first labels, while their first wines lay in barrel at ADEA, developing personality and characteristics unique to winemaker Dave Specter?s style.

I?ve had the pleasure of watching owners Dave and Sara Specter begin to create their legacy, one that’s built on struggle, sacrifice, and passion. I talked to them very early on about how they left their lives behind in Cincinnati, to follow their dream of farming Oregon’s?pastoral countryside and have seen them create an estate with far reaching views, growing Pinot noir and experimenting with wine grapes rarely found in Oregon like Seyval Blanc, while purchasing fruit from Walla Walla to craft?a decadent Syrah.

Dave and Sara joke that their micro-boutique winery in Newberg is the ?Un-Domaine?, but the reality is, they are making unpretentious wines in the classic Oregon style. ?Oregon the way it used to be?, they say.

Dave has a history of experimentation, applying his classical musical background to his winemaking (understood in the Bells Up label, which is the term for when a French horn is turned with the bell pointing upward, projecting the sound with maximum intensity). The winery has become Dave?s Bells Up moment. Dave believes you make wine the way you create a symphony. In his words, ?Writing music for one instrument isn?t as interesting as writing music for a whole orchestra.?

Think of each bottle as an orchestra, where each flavor component plays along side the others. The fruit is the percussion, providing the backbone, the heartbeat of the wine. The floral notes are the woodwinds, offering resonance and vibration, like a soft hum of violets. The tannins are the strings section, humming along with consistency and providing an interesting rhythm to the wine. The spice notes are like the brass, playing long and strong, sending loud sounds in all directions, differentiating the harmony with the range of notes. Like a wine, every instrument, every flavor, plays its part coming together to create a score that can as easily uplift your weary spirit as it can move you to tears. Yeah, Dave makes wine like that.

The winery, rarely open to the public, is currently open by appointment only and at the big holiday weekends. This year, Bells Up Winery is celebrating the first anniversary of their renovated pole barn turned tasting room. They?ll be open two consecutive weekends from noon-4pm each day. Visit them?and taste the weekend before the Memorial Day, May 21-22, as well as for the big holiday weekend of May 28, 29, and 30.

On Saturday, May 21st only, Portland?s wood fire and wine aficionados Ember and Vine will be working pitmaster magic to create legendary food pairings to enjoy alongside the Bells Up wines. I do not use these words legendary or magic lightly. Taste and you will understand.

Nestled at the foot of the Chehalem Mountains, you?ll find Bells Up located at 27785 NE Bell Road at the intersection of Zimri Drive. Tastings are $15/person, which will be deducted from orders of $75 and up. Other nearby Bell Road boutique wineries to explore include Rain Dance Vineyards, Priv? Vineyard and Hazelfern Cellars.

Stay tuned?for a Bells Up encore with a complete review of the Bells Up wines.

Corks and Forks Wine Tasting Fundraiser in Portland June 9th

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18678710719_109ee9fa9e_zClassic Wines Auction presents their third annual urban wine tasting fundraiser, featuring food from popular local restaurants, sips from Portland-area wineries, and a live DJ ? all in the name of a great cause. The money raised supports Classic Wines Auction?s six charity partners: Metropolitan Family Service (MFS), New Avenues for Youth, Friends of the Children-Portland, YWCA Clark County, Randall Children?s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and Special?Olympics Oregon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016?
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Castaway Portland???????????????????
1900 NW 18th Ave., Portland

Boedecker Cellars, Clay Pigeon Winery, Crowley Wines, de Lancellotti Family Vineyards, Division Winemaking Company, Fullerton Wines, K & M Alchemy Vineyard, North Valley Vineyards, Roco Winery, Seven Bridges?Winery, The Estates Wine Room, and Woven Wineworks.

Altabira City Tavern, Bang Bang, Bollywood Theater, Crown Paella, Cyril?s at Clay Pigeon Winery, La Moule, Lardo, Pazzo Ristorante, Pine State Biscuits, Ruby Jewel, Simpatica Dining Hall, Southeast Wine Collective, St.?Cupcake, and Tilt.

Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased online or by calling (503) 972-0194. A special package includes two tickets and a two-pack of wines featured at the event for only $135. For more information about Corks?+ Forks or Classic Wines Auction, visit Corks + Forks is a 21+ event. Or let me give you 2 tickets – enter to win here!

About Classic Wines Auction:
Consistently recognized as one of the top ten charity wine auctions in the country by Wine Spectator magazine since 2001, the Classic Wines Auction has raised almost $40 million for Portland-area charities since its inception in 1982. Based in Portland, OR., First Growth Children and Family Charities is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing the Classic Wines Auction and related food and wine events to raise funds for local charities benefiting children and families, including: Metropolitan Family Service (MFS), New Avenues for Youth, Friends of the Children-Portland, YWCA Clark County, Randall Children?s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and Special Olympics Oregon. For more information about the Classic Wines Auction and each of its annual fundraising events, visit

Have a Cheesy Mother’s Day Weekend In Bandon

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Head to the coast this weekend and soak up the sun while enjoying the beauty of Bandon, good cheese and a fun party.

Face Rock Creamery is celebrating their third anniversary, and releasing their three-year aged cheddar at a huge 2-day party on May 7th and 8th at the Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, Oregon.

The event is free and family-friendly and goes from 9am – 9am on both May 7 and May 8. There will be something for everyone: music, $2 hot dogs and $3 hamburgers, $2 beers, wine tastings, massages, and fried cheese curds.

Pesto? Oregon Style (Arugula and Hazelnut, Natch)

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pestoCome the summer basil, and you’re sure to find pesto as a staple in my fridge. And bags of it in the freezer which I store for later use (because prolonging the bounty of the summer is half the fun of bringing in the summer bounty).

And while traditional Italian pesto is nothing short of delicious, I love this vegan variation using Oregon hazelnuts and an unlikely for the?base. Because not all pesto needs to be based on herbs. Arugula and Hazelnut Pesto offers a certain spiciness that I adore. Add the earthy flavors of the toasted nuts and you’ve got yourself a topping that’s perfect?atop salmon, grilled chicken, smoked turkey, in sandwiches, over any kind of pasta, pizza, salad dressing, or just as a spread for some good ol’ crusty bread. It’s so wonderfully versatile, like Frank’s Red Hot, you’ll put that sh*t on everything.

Double the recipe if you like, and put the?leftovers into sandwich bags to?freeze for whenever the pesto mood strikes.

Pesto? Oregon Style (Arugula and Hazelnut, Natch)
Print Recipe
    Pesto? Oregon Style (Arugula and Hazelnut, Natch)
    Print Recipe
      1. Over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until fragrant. Remove from the heat and cool.
      2. Add the arugula and spinach (if using) to a food processor. Pulse for 5 seconds.
      3. Add the garlic, hazelnuts, salt, and pepper.
      4. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Process until smooth.
      5. Taste to adjust seasoning and consistency. If it's too thick, add more oil.
      Share this Recipe

      Clear Creek Distillery Cocktail Recipes from Portland’s Top Mixologists

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      Destined for the Sun

      From Becca June, Bar Manager, Altabira City Tavern ??

      1 1/2 oz. of Cocchi Americano
      1/2 oz. of Clear Creek Apple Brandy
      1/2 oz. of Creme Yvette
      1 dropper of Bittered Sling Moondog (Loup-Garou) bitters

      Stir and serve on the rocks with a lemon twist ??

      Forest Old Fashioned ?
      From Matt Mount, Merit Badge

      2 oz. Temperance Trader Bourbon (or your favorite straight Bourbon)
      1/4 oz. Clear Creek Douglas Fir Brandy
      1/4 oz. cane sugar syrup (1:1 ratio of water to granulated sugar)
      4 dashes of The Bitter Housewife Aromatic Bitters

      ?Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker and then add ice. Stir, strain over fresh ice and serve in a double old-fashioned glass and garnish with a pinch of Jacobsen salt and orange peel. ??

      Pear Collins
      From Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Clyde Common

      1 1/2 oz. Clear Creek Pear Brandy
      3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
      1/2 oz. simple syrup (2:1 ratio of sugar to water)
      2 oz. soda water

      Combine Clear Creek Pear Brandy, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Shake ingredients until chilled, and top with sparkling water. Strain over fresh ice into a chilled Collins glass. Garnish with a lemon peel. ??

      Pear Brandy Sidecar ?
      From Kevin Ludwig, Park Kitchen

      1 ? oz. Clear Creek Pear Brandy
      1 oz. Cointreau
      1 Tablespoon sugar ?simple syrup

      Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Wet the rim of a martini glass with lemon. Dip glass into plate of sugar. Put 1 ? oz Clear Creek pear brandy, 1 oz Cointreau, the juice of one orange, the juice of one lime, and simple syrup in the shaker. Shake until frothy, strain and pour into martini glass.

      For more information about Clear Creek Distillery and their 30th anniversary, click here.

      Clear Creek Distillery and 30 Years of Spirit

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      Anniversaries have a tendency to make us feel nostalgic. 30 years ago, as?the Challenger space shuttle exploded?while the whole world looked on, and Maverick, Goose and Viper were reminding us that we’d all lost that lovin’ feeling,?Clear Creek Distillery was anticipating the rise of the craft spirit movement and began making world class fruit brandies that are now used in innovative cocktail and culinary programs all over the country.

      Clear Creek Distillery, which is the second oldest craft distillery in the country, is best known?for making unique spirits such as eau de vie, brandy and grappa. The distinctive essence of fruit comes through as a result of their careful fermentation and distillation of perfectly ripe fruit. They rely on the bounty of some of the best?Pacific Northwest orchards to produce?spirits made?in traditional European pot stills using?age-old techniques learned in Alsace and Switzerland.

      In honor of Clear Creek Distillery’s?anniversary, the labels have received a little facelift; think of it as an infusion of spirit. According to General Manager Brad Whiting, “Our new packaging and branding reflects our heritage, and it also brings a modern aesthetic to our overall brand by unifying our product lines under one cohesive design.”

      Clear Creek Distillery is open daily for tastings (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) and is located at 2389 NW Wilson Street, Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit

      To celebrate the 30th anniversary, some Portland-based Clear Creek partners have planned special cocktail-inspired events around Portland, including:

      Monday, May 2nd, 8?-11pm
      Clear Creek Popup at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
      Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, 1015 NW Everett St, Portland

      Saturday, May 7th at 6pm
      Park Kitchen and Clear Creek Distillery Anniversary Dinner
      422 NW 8th Avenue, Portland
      Join Chef David Sapp for a five-course dinner with drink pairings by Bar Manager Curtis Day. Dinner is $100, including gratuity and pairings. For reservations, please call 503-223-7275 or email

      For cocktail recipe ideas from some of Portland’s best mixologists, click here.