Welcoming 6 New Portland Breweries, Map Updated.

Local Beer

Local Beer

So I last updated my Map of Portland Breweries in 2012.  It has been in desperate need of an update.  In the last couple of years there have been some major additions and changes in the Portland craft beer seen.  Amnesia left town to go the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, in its place is Stormbreaker Brewing. In the same neighborhood we also welcome two additional breweries, Ex Novo (a nonprofit brewery) and Ecliptic. Ecliptic was perhaps one of the most heralded brewery openings in some time.  No surprise since the owner is Oregon brewing legend John Harris.

Down in Southeast Portland 13 Virtues moved into the brewing space at Philadelphia’s  We also welcome Baerlic Brewing and Montavilla Brew Works.

I have lost count of how many individual breweries this makes for Portland.  Needless to say it is a lot.  There are a lof of great breweries in Portland and many are adding great food too.  So use the map and start exploring.  Cheers.

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Portland Day Hike: Latourell Falls Columbia River Gorge

Latourell Falls Lower Falls Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge, 30 minutes east of Portland, is filled with lots of great hiking. You could easily spend a couple of days hiking all the different trails.  I love the Columbia River Gorge and having it in Portland’s backyard is one of the many reasons to love this city.  A really great hike, and the closest of the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls to Portland, is Latourell Falls.  Latourell Falls is a easy to moderate hike just past Vista House on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

To get to Latourell Falls, head east on I-84 out of Portland.  Take exit 22 (Corbet) and drive up to the Historic Columbia River Highway and turn left.  If you have the time the Portland Women’s Forum and Vista House are on the way and worth stopping at.  If you are crunched for time, keep driving.  Latourell Falls is on the right side of the highway past the Vista House.  The parking lot is marked Latourell Falls.  If you are going to hike the falls I suggest heading out early because the parking lot can fill up fast.  If you get to Latourell Falls by 9:30 you should be able to find plenty of parking.  If you get there too late you will need to park on the shoulder of the highway.

The hike to view both Lower Latourell Falls and Upper Latourell Falls is a little over 2 miles. The hike is easy/moderate in difficulty. The beginning to the hike is a bit steep but after that it levels off.  if you are not interested in the hike but just want to view the falls you can get a pretty good view from a trail just below the parking lot.

Latourell Falls Lower Falls Trail Columbia River Gorge

However, I think the hike is well worth it.  It is good exercise and Upper Latourell Falls is a pretty waterfall that is not overly crowded thanks to the uphill hike to get there.

Latourell Falls Upper Falls Columbia River Gorge

Another reason why I think the Upper Latourell Falls hike is worth it is for the view.  After you walk past the falls there is a split in the trail.  One goes up (the way back) and one goes down.  The downhill trail will take you to a lookout with a great view of the Columbia River Gorge below.

View from Latourell Upper Falls Trail Columbia River Gorge

 

If you are looking for a day hike from Portland and don’t have all day to spend in the Columbia River Gorge, then Latourell Falls may be the hike for you.

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How to Find Cheap Airfare to Portland

With airline consolidation, and what few airlines are left flying routes less often, planes are full and airfare is sky high.  It is getting harder and harder to find good deals but they are out there and can still be found.  You just have to know where to look.  Today, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite tips.

Email Alerts and Twitter

1. Twitter

I love Twitter, it is a great source of information.  There are a couple of twitter accounts that tweet out deals on airfare and they are worth following.  Here is who you should follow.

Me (of course):  I will tweet Portland / PDX specific airfare deals.

The Flight Deal:  The flight deal is a blog that tweets airfare deals.  This is a great account to follow for anyone interested in travel and looking for great deals on airfare.

Airfarewatchdog:  Same idea as the Flight Deal.  Airfarewatchdog will tweet out great airfare deals.

2. Email Alerts

One of my favorite airfare notification services services is www.airfarewatchdog.com‘s email notifications.  You can sign up with airfarewatchdog to email you about any airfare deals to a specific city, from a specific city, or between city pairs.

Kayak can also be set up to email you when the price drops on specific routes that you are interested in.

Another website that I like is Yapta.  Yapta can be set up to follow a specific airline route and email you when the airfare drops.  Yapta can also be handy after you purchase airfare.  You may or may not know that some airlines have a guarantee policy and will refund you money if the airfare drops.  Yapta, is a great tool to keep track of this and get some money back after you have purchased airfare.

Searching for Airfare

My favorite search engine is ITA.  ITA is the software that many online travel agencies use to generate their search results.  Online travel agencies will sometimes filter their results so I like to use ITA directly and cut out the middle man.  The downside is you cannot book directly with ITA, you will need to go to the airline website to book.  It is a very powerful search engine that allows you to do a lot (which is another post entirely).

Google Flights, is another fun tool.  If you are flexible I like using their map function.  The map will show you airfare between city pairs on a map.  Pretty cool if you are flexible and just want to fly somewhere with a great deal.

PDX Airfare Deals

Tricks

Throwaway ticketing can be a nifty way to save money on airfare and worth checking out, if it is within your comfort level.  Read this article to learn about throwaway ticketing.

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What Are The Best Hotels In Portland?

Wondering what hotel to stay at in Portland?  The best hotel depends on your needs.  Are you on a business trip and need to be downtown? Do you prefer luxury properties? Do you need to be by the airport? Or are you looking for good family options?  Portland does not have huge hotel inventory but there is enough variety to meet most needs.  Plus in this list, I may cheat a little bit and add in a B&B or two.

Best Budget Hotels

When it comes to budget options you are going to trade price for something, be it convenience, a private bathroom, or no amenities.  When I think budget I think clean bed. Give me that, I’m happy.  For budget lodgings, I’m a big fan of avoiding hotels and if I have to do a hotel I’m usually going to Priceline it.

Priceline your hotel

Everett Street Guesthouse

Portland International Guesthouse

Crystal Hotel

Best Family Hotels

When I think family friendly hotel I usually think free breakfast, a pool, some sort of extra entertainment space.  Bonus points if the room has a kitchen and place for mom and dad to hide if kids are still young enough to be napping (like mine).

Residence Inn Pearl

Embassy Suites Downtown

Staybridge Suites Portland Airport

Embassy Suites Portland Airport

Residence Inn Portland Airport

Best Luxury Hotels

Portland only has one 5 star hotel and it is one of the best hotels in Portland.  So if you define luxury as a 5 star hotel then The Nines is it.  However, here are some other 4 star options as well.

The Nines

Hotel  Monaco

Riverplace

The Heathman

Best Non-Downtown Hotels

Most of Portland’s better hotels are downtown.  Which is unfortunate, I think the best of Portland is outside of downtown.  Staying in a residential neighborhood is a great way to get a feel for living in Portland.

Inn at Northrup Station

Kennedy School

Caravan – Tiny House Hotel

The Portland Mayor’s Mansion

Silver Cloud Inn

Best Downtown Hotels

Aside from the luxury hotels mentioned above these are going to be the hotels that are within most peoples price ranges and are good options for business travelers.  The hotels downtown are by no means cheap, most will run around $200+ per night.

Hotel Modera

The Paramount

Courtyard Downtown

Hotel DeLuxe

Best Airport Hotels

If you are looking for good budget options there are some very good hotels out by the airport.  If you are staying at a hotel by PDX I recommend renting a car.  It will make life easier and the MAX at night to PDX is a bit sketchy.  I especially like the hotels by Cascade Station which are within walking distance to stores and restaurants.

Hyatt Place

aloft

Residence Inn Cascade Station

Staybridge Suites Portland Airport

What are your favorite Portland hotels?

 

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A Mostly Pictures Trip Report: Part II Brussels and Paris

Part I: Bruges

After spending two days in Bruges it was time to head to Brussels for a day.  We arrived in Brussels around lunch time, dropped our bags off at the hotel, had a quick bite (while walking to Grand Place), and started exploring the city.

The first stop on any tour of Brussels, must begin at the Grand Place.  One of Europe’s iconic public squares.

Grand Place

Grand Place City Hall

After hanging out in the Grand Place, people watching and having a beer, it was on to the Manneken Pis.

Manneken Pis

This little guy is tucked away by some shops and restaurants a few blocks from the Grand Place.  He was dressed up as a Red Devil because the Belgium national team was playing in the World Cup.

Brussels is split between upper town and lower town.  The upper town is about 200 feet higher in elevation and as you can imagine that’s where the aristocrats settled in back in the day.  Upper Town is home to the Royal Palace, Palace of Justice, Place Royale, and a handful of museums.

The Royal Palace used to be home to the king and queen, but is now mostly an office building for the royal family.

Royal Palace

The Place Royale is a square near the Royal Palace.  The dude on the hose in the middle of the square is Godfrey de Bouillon, who led the first crusade.

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The statue of Godfrey is facing this view.  A park and the spire of City Hall off in the distance.

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We continued walking around upper town and stumbled into a farmer’s market, with a guy selling something that I have always wanted to try.  Jamon.

Jamon

By way of a little background.  Spain is on my to do list.  Aside from spending time in the Madrid airport I have not been to Spain.  I also love to eat pork. Jamon is cured pig’s leg from Spain.  It looked amazing and after getting a taste from the vendor I had to buy a few slices.

Slice of Jamon

Being the cheapskate that I am, I was hesitant but I had to get it.  Six slices put me back 18 euro ($25).   We got some cheese to go with it and it made a nice picnic lunch.  I don’t even know how to describe the taste, it was almost buttery in flavor.  It was fantastic. Spain just went higher on my to do list.

After dinner that night, mussels of course, we went to King Baudoin Stadium to watch Belgium play South Korea in the World Cup.  The crowd was lively and fun to watch.

World Cup Viewing Brussels

The next day we were off to Paris for 4 days.  I can’t believe how much sight seeing we jammed into 4 days.  A piece of advice for anyone visiting Paris.  Get the museum pass.  It covers almost every major sight and lets you skip the ticket buying lines.  Very handy for places like the Louvre and Versailles.

One our first day we hit up Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle Church, Paris Archaeological Crypt, and the Louvre.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Side View

I love this side view.  Notre Dame’s architecture is stunning.  A nearby church with less stunning exterior architecture is Sainte Chapelle, but inside is a chapel filled with stain glass.

Stain Glass Sainte Chapelle

After touring Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and other sites on Ile de la Cite it was off to the Louvre.  I heard that the museum is less crowded in the evenings so we went to the museum around 5:00.  There was not much of a line to get it but it was still crowded.  I can’t imagine what the place is like during peak hours.

Louvre

Venus de Milo Greek Original

I really like Greek and Roman art.  This is a greek original Venus de Milo, it’s only 2000 years old.

Michelangelo Dying Slave

Michelangelo’s Dying Slave

Michelangelo Rebellious Slave

Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave

We of course, also saw the Mona Lisa.  Let me say this about the Mona Lisa.  While it is a great piece of art, the crowds are ridiculous.  I think most are there just to say they’ve seen it, take a picture and move on.  I spent a good amount of time just sitting back and watching the crowd.

Mona Lisa Crowd

Our second day was spent out at Versailles.  Versailles was built by King Louis XIV who fancied himself as a new age Roman Emperor.

Versailles King Louis IV Versailles Hall of Mirrors Versailles Crowd Versailles Garden

Words cannot really describe how grandiose the palace and its grounds are.  Seeing Versailles first hand certainly puts the French Revolution in perspective.

The next day we visited the Arc de Triomphe, Orsay Museum, and the Rodin Museum.

View Arc de Triomphe

View from Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Musee D'Orsay

The Orsay museum is a converted train station, that I think is a really great museum.  It shows the transition from classical art of the late 18th century to realism and impressionism.  Sorry I don’t have pictures of the art, picture taking was not allowed.

Next stop was the Rodin Museum, perhaps the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo.

Rodin Thinker Rodin

Once we were finished touring the museums we had dinner and then walked back to our hotel.  Walking made us a little hungry so we stopped at a crepe stand for a sugar and butter crepe.

Crepe Stand

It was delicious.

On our last full day we climbed the Eiffel Tower, toured Napoleon’s Tomb, and souvenir shopped.

Eiffel Tower Eiffel Tower View

Napoleon's Tomb

At 7 days and 8 nights, this was a very short trip.  I would have preferred doing this over 10 or 12 days, but you make due with what you got.  We crammed in a lot of sightseeing, ate some wonderful food, and had a great time doing it.  I look forward to returning.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.  Next week I will actually write something about Portland.

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Oregon Brewers Festival Starts Wednesday

Here in Portland, we love our craft beer.  With 40+ individual breweries and counting Portland is definitely a beer destination.  Throughout the year there are a variety of beer festivals.  The grandaddy of them all is the Oregon Brewers Festival, which starts on Wednesday.  The festival has come a long way since it started in 1988 when there were just 22 breweries represented.  This year there will be 85 different breweries from across the world sharing their beer with us.

If you have never been to this event, I highly encourage you given it a try.  While it can get a little busy, weekday afternoons are usually mellow enough.  The largest crowds will be Friday night and on Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the brewers festival is free.  However, if you want to taste the beer you need to buy a tasting mug and wooden tokens.  The mug is $7 and tasting tokens are $1.   A taste will cost you one token and a full mug will cost you four.  The exception is the speciality tent which only serves tastes for two tokens.  There are food vendors, music, and best of all children are welcome.  It is a great event and a Portland must.

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A Mostly Pictures Trip Report: Part 1 Bruges

Note:  I was going to do this all in one post, but I have too many pictures to share and the page loaded up slow.  So here is part 1, Bruges.  Part 2 will be Brussels and Paris. 

During the last week of June, my wife and I dropped the kids of at grandma and grandpa’s and flew to Europe for a week.  We flew into Brussels and out of Paris.  Our flight got off to an interesting start with our 90 minute delay out of O’Hare.  The result meant that we missed our connection in Madrid to get to Brussels so we ended up getting into Bruges around 7:00 PM instead of around 2:00 as originally intended.  Oh, and us taking the local train to Bruges instead of the IC didn’t help either.

However, once in Bruges we mostly had it to ourselves.  Bruges gets a lot of day trippers so staying overnight there is terrific.  Once 6:00 or 7:00 pm rolls around the streets are mostly empty.

BRUGES

Before exploring the town, we of course had to get hydrated with some locally brewed beer.  Bruges Zot.

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We then walked around town, and mostly had the town to ourselves.

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We spent a few hours walking around then ate a late dinner.  After dinner the square was dark and the bell tower was lit up, it was even prettier in person.

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The next morning the market turned into a farmers market with fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, etc…

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I have a rule for most towns I visit in Europe, climb the tower.  Bruges was no exception and here is the view.

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We continued walking around town and visited some of the highlights, including a Madonna and Child by De Vinci in St. Catherine’s Church (the one on the left above), the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and a tour of the local brewery.

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Bruges packs in a lot of great sightseeing for such a small town because back it it’s heyday it was the same size as London.  It had the wealth to purchase masterpieces like the above.

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During the second crusade a local crusader allegedly brought back a vial of Christ’s blood which is housed in the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The picture above is the alter where the blood is stored.  We continued on our walk after the Basilica.

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We finished our walk at De Halve Maan brewery and had a pre-tour beer.  During our tour of the town we also had to enjoy a local delicacy.

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About the fries, they were spectacular.  While I am pretty sure you can find fries at home that are cooked just as well (perfect I should add), I’m not convinced you can find mayo like that at home.  Locals eat these with mayo and and I can see why.  The mayo is so rich and creamy it is downright decadent.  My one regret in Bruges was not eating more of these and possibly not staying an entire week.

After exploring the Bruges in the morning, we rented bikes in the afternoon to explore the outer edges and we took a 20 minute ride out the canal to Damme.  It had a pretty cool ruined church.

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After the bike ride we returned to Bruges for dinner.  Our original plan had been to stay in Brussels for 3 days and just day trip to Bruges.  A friend suggested we spend two nights in Bruges.  In hindsight, I was thankful for the advice.  Bruges is a virtual ghost town in the evening.  After all the day trippers leave Bruges is so peaceful. The entire city center is a Unesco World Heritage Sight and when you visit it is obvious why.  It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.  It is an amazing place to visit.

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Why The Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris Sucks

I just completed a short trip to Belgium and France and wanted to share some of my thoughts.  This trip was a new experience for my wife and I.  I have been collecting miles and points for about 4 years now.  We have redeemed those points for many domestic trips, but this was our first international trip with points.  We flew business class, stayed in fancy hotels, and did it all for $600 in taxes and fees.  On our flight home, I was continually thinking about something Rick Steves said in an interview a few years back when he was asked about the difference between a tourist and a traveler.

I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, my family was excited to go to Mazatlán. You get a little strap around your wrist and can have as many margaritas as you want. They only let you see good-looking local people, who give you a massage. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t consider it travel. I consider it hedonism. And I have no problem with hedonism. But don’t call it travel. Travel should bring us together.

For the most part of our trip, especially at the Park Hyatt Vendome, I felt like I was on a cruise ship, minus the boat.  Instead of a wrist bracelet, I had my hotel elite status.  I had twice daily housekeeping service, heated stone tiles in the bathroom, a rain shower, and I was surrounded by good looking people with money.  What was there not to like?

What was not to like was that the Park Hyatt was missing something that I value, highly, when traveling abroad.  People.  The hotel is not in a residential area.  It is in a mostly commercial area surrounded by high-end stores like Cartier, Tiffany’s, Mont Blanc, and more.  This is what window shopping looks like by the Park Hyatt.

Cartier Paris

I do not travel to pretend I am a part of the 1%.  I travel to experience new cultures, to learn about myself, and others.  The Park Hyatt, is no different than a cruise ship occasionally dropping you off at port so you can see the sights and say you’ve been there.

When I travel I prefer to stay in neighborhoods where people live.  The restaurant food is better, people are friendlier, and you can experience a new place in a more intimate way. As opposed to just dropping in and retreating to the confines of your luxury suite at the Park Hyatt.

Part of the reason I chose to travel in this way was because I wanted to experience something new. I have never flown international business class, I have never stayed at a $1200 a night hotel, and to a large degree I was influenced by mile and point bloggers who present this as the way to travel.

What I learned about this way of travel is that the bloggers are wrong.  For me, at least, it is not the way to travel.  In fact, I hardly consider it travel at all.  The bloggers (who are the face of this hobby) have lost perspective (or maybe they never had it).  Instead of the flight and hotel being the vehicle by which you experience a new destination and culture.  The destination has become the vehicle by which you experience a hotel and flight.   Like passengers on a cruise ship, it is hedonism, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Just do not call it travel. “Travel should bring us together.”

Let me give you an example of how travel should bring us together.  My favorite lodging in Italy was a place called Manuel’s Guesthouse in Cinque Terre.  Manuel had about five rooms to rent in his house.  He had a wonderful terrace that doubled as his outdoor kitchen.  In the evenings you could chat with him, his nephew, and fellow travelers from all over the world, while taking in this view.

Manuels Guesthouse View

By limiting yourself to lodgings where your hotel elite status gets you a suite upgrade you are missing out on what travel should be about.  Connecting with people.  Next time, I will confine my hedonism to the flight and skip the fancy hotel.  This trip reaffirmed my love of small B&Bs and pensions, located in residential neighborhoods.  I may not have a nightly turn down service and bottles of Evian every morning but I will happily trade that for a more intimate connection with the people and place I am visiting.

Forgive me for this little rant, in my next post I will actually talk about the places I visited and have pictures.

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Odds and Ends, I’m off to Europe, SoCal to Canada Road Trip, WWeek Summer Guide

On Monday my wife and I depart to Belgium for our quick but still going to be great vacation to Belgium and France.  We used frequent flyer miles and hotel points to book this trip.  If you are interested in how we did it and seeing how much money we saved check out this old post.

For those of you who like road trips and are interested in an I-5 road trip Julie over at Girl on the Move compiled a good list of to do’s for people trekking up to BC on I-5.

Willamette Week released their 2014 summer guide this week.  I’m a big fan of the local guides that Willamette Week publishes throughout the year so make sure to check it out before your trip this summer.

Lastly, with our departure on Monday the blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks. When I return I will post some pictures and my thoughts on our trip.  I’ve used frequent flyer miles in the past to fly domestically, but never internationally, let alone in First/Business Class.  We are your classic budget travelers so staying at a place like the Park Hyatt Vendome will be a new experience for us, definitely out of our norm.  I am a firm believer in trying new things, so we will see how it goes.

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Bamboo Sushi: My New Favorite Sushi Restaurant

I love sushi, but I do have one problem with it.  I eat a ton of it!  As a result when searching for sushi restaurants I usually look for places that offer good value.  I’ve often told people that I am not a sushi connoisseur.  That while I know the difference between bad sushi and good sushi, I cannot tell the difference between good sushi and even better sushi.  Well, apparently, I just had to go the right place.  Bamboo Sushi is freaking good and better than my go to sushi place, Sansai.

The menu at Bamboo is pretty diverse with many things I have never tried before. Naturally that meant I needed to try some of them, such as the quail egg shooters.

Bamboo Sushi Qual Eggs

They quail eggs were actually pretty tasty (although you good easily swallow them without tasting them) I chewed mine a little to taste it and they were good.  It was mostly yolk but had good flavor and because the size was small the texture of a raw egg is not too bothersome.

For dinner we ordered salmon sashimi, arctic surf clam nigiri, tuna nigiri, philly rolls, soft shell crab rolls, and cocktails.

Bamboo Sushi

Unfortunately, missing in the picture above is the surf clam nigiri.  I was so excited to try it, I ate it, then realized I meant to take a picture, oops.  The sushi was outstanding.  The tuna nigiri was our favorite.  We liked it so much we ordered a second serving. The tuna was melt in your mouth delicate and there was a very light seasoning that made the fish perfect.

Bamboo Sushi Rolls

The rolls were also very delicious.  I particularly enjoyed the soft shell crab roll.  The soft shell crab roll had the perfect combination of flavor and that soft shell crunch.  The philly roll was also very good.  I would have preferred a tad more salmon in it, nonetheless it was still good.

I really can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed Bamboo Sushi. Bamboo Sushi is now at the top of my list of favorite Sushi restaurants.  I highly recommend Bamboo Sushi.

The other great thing about Bamboo Sushi on NW 23rd is that Bamboo is right next to Salt and Straw.  Salt and Straw deserves a post on its own right, so I will just leave you with this.

Salt & Straw Ice Cream

Bamboo Sushi on Urbanspoon

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