[Traveling Tales] A Double Date of Drinks at Block15 and 4 Spirits


In what’s become a tradition of sorts, several times a year I venture off to Corvallis to visit my family, reconnect with nature and reset my personal frequency.  While the school year brings a hearty amount of hustle and bustle to the mostly agricultural community, the Summertime brings sleepy months of stunning sunsets mixed with fantastic weather; and the food and drink? Thanks to the Oregon maker spirit and an influx of former California natives, they live up to the state motto ‘Alis volat propriis‘, and they’re getting better all the time.

This romp around Central Oregon was absolutely different than anything else; first and foremost, after three years of planning – Danny and I were finally getting married, and secondly – it was fueled with the energy of the Total Solar Eclipse.   Though there were some fantastic moments over the entire week, one of my personal highlights was actually after the weight of the big day had been lifted and we were just left with some key players, including my now husband, my dad, our officiant + best friend and my cousin.  For one glorious afternoon, we enjoyed a double date of delicious drinks and rumpus games at Corvallis’ own Block15 Brewery and 4 Spirits Distillery.  Though I’d been through the former haunt of 4 Spirits, I hadn’t had a chance to visit since their migration. 

Now conveniently located side by side, 4 Spirits and Block15 pack a hearty one two punch of some of the finest beer and rustic whiskey Oregon has to offer.  When visiting, our friend reminded us of the old adage ‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear’, so off to 4 Spirits we went!

Boasting a bevvy of Rums, Whiskeys and a signature Vodka, at it’s heart – 4 Spirits is a philanthropic venture, giving back to both homegrown programs from Oregon and initiatives in Wyoming, Montana and Washington. To taste a flight of four hearty half ounce shots, it’s only $5 – and if a member of you group happens to purchase a bottle, then the rounds are on the house. For the whiskey drinkers, there’s the Bourbon Whiskey with delicious undercurrents of vanilla and caramel, the American Whiskey, and Single Malt; for the rum-ophiles, there’s a silver rum, a light rum, a dark rum, and my personal favorite (and take that to heart, because I’m not a rum drinker) – their habanero spiced rum; and last, and least, their vodka – which was great, but that’s not why one goes to 4 Spirits.  To add to their cornucopia of liquor, the new spot also offers a kitchen with munch worthy snacks like Stuffed Tots and fries, full sized fare ranging from burgers and sandwiches to pizza, plus a lawn version of Yahtzee, appropriately called Yard-zee.

After loosening ourselves up with liquor, we were off to the second stop on our double date – Block15.  Literally a hop, skip and a jump across the parking lot sat Block15’s Brewery and Taproom, not to be confused with their restaurant located in the heart (aka. within the four blocks) of Downtown Corvallis.  For about $5-8 depending on your tastes, you can get a flight of five tasty beverages.  My favorites was Hopnotize, Wandlepad and the Lil’ Dab, a cannabis infused drink – cheers to you, Oregon.  Hypnosis was on the heavier side, so if you’re of the type that likes to chew their beer – this is your best bet. Though their food menu isn’t nearly as deep at the Taproom as it is at their Restaurant, the kitchen still produces some bomb eats including a DIY charcuterie board, hearty sandwiches and a hands down the best bier pretzel I’ve ever tasted.

For anyone who happens across Oregon’s Central region or finds themselves in Corvallis, between these two locations you simply can’t go wrong.  So hop on the good foot, and do the drinks thing.

For more on 4 Spirits and Block15, visit Corvallis – their socials:

4 SpiritsWebsite | Facebook 

Block 15: Website | Facebook | Instagram

[Local Love] LA’s Best Pho

According to my family, my desire for strange food was indirectly proportional to my understanding of what I was eating.   There are tales they’re all too fond of telling: me running around saying ‘Hi!’ to everyone in the restaurant, converting my chopsticks into drum sticks and becoming a rock chick and last but not least, there’s me being enthralled by strange and squishy foods. Squid used to be one of my favorite foods and as of 2014, unless it’s Calamari I really would prefer it to get away from my mouth; sushi too, though – over time I’ve managed to shed those bad thoughts and feast my heart out fish.  One thing that definitely hasn’t changed though, is my love for all types of Asian cuisine – traditional Japanese sushi (none of those weird rolls, please and thanks), Dim Sum and Thai curries are some of my absolute favorite dishes and the Bay Area was the perfect melting pot for each of the above dishes.  Unfortunately for my pallet and appetite, one dish that I didn’t get into until I moved to Los Angeles was Pho.

When I moved into my last house in LA, my roommate wanted to take me out for food one obnoxiously frigid evening; I was in the mood for a hearty soup that took away my head cold an she told me she had just the fix.  As we fidgeted our way into her car, I asked where we were going – and with an ear-to-ear grin, she replied ‘Pho! It’s the best!’  Now, first of all – as a basic rule – if I can’t pronounce it, I probably don’t want it.  Over the last decade, I’ve mastered ordering Sushi in broken Japanese and it’s become a sort of silly point of pride.  So, when I questioned back ‘Pho?!’ (pronounced ‘/fə/‘), I’m pretty sure I butchered it beyond belief.  As I’ve become accustomed to putting it in my stomach, I’ve also gotten a little better at saying it.  Plus, the plethora of places that use Pho as a play on words doesn’t exactly hurt either; between places like 9021-Pho and Absolutely Pho-bulous, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it own.

There’s something to be said for warm, hearty comfort food – and Pho falls smack dab at the top of that category.  Made from thin, Vermicelli rice noodles and a rich broth full of sorted herbs, beansprouts and thinly sliced meat – Pho has skyrocketed from an unknown quantity to my go-to meal.   One of the great – and not so great – things about LA is that there’s a lot of everything; meaning (a) that every craving you have can be satiated and (b) that more likely than not you’ll be absolutely overwhelmed by the variety of choices like I was.  Thankfully, with the help of Yelp and a few friends who share similar meal cravings, I’ve crafted a list of my favorite Pho joints in town and I can’t wait to share!

Via Cafe in Chinatown, Tues-Sun 11-10pm

Located in the heart of Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles, Via Cafe boasts ample seating, quick service and a stellar beer menu with traditional Vietnamese cuisine.  As an app, I suggest the Summer Rolls are scrumptious and come with a delicious peanut sauce; for your main, you can’t go wrong with the Rare Steak Combo but if you’re in the mood for something mouthwatering, the Minced Rare Filet Mignon with Thin Rice Noodles is the way to go.  If by some strange stroke of luck you have room for dessert, dive in – you’ll thank me later!

Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant in Silver Lake, Mon-Sun 12-4, 5:30-11

Having a Pho craving on a Sunday night at 10pm used to be an issue – until I met Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant.  Situated in Silver Lake, Blossom is open until 11pm seven days a week and have more bottles of wine than you can bat an eye at.  My first takeaway was that the venue was deceptively large – from the second we walked in, we were whisked away into an intimate downstairs area, completely hidden from the outside.  We were both seated and served promptly, and within minutes I had some of the best Beef rolls I’ve had the pleasure of eating sitting in front of me.  Per usual, I went with the Rare Steak Pho and attempted to finish it all (much to the dismay of my stomach).  Sadly, there are only dessert wines and no real dessert but you can’t win’em all, right?  With the rich flavors of the Pho, I doubt there was any way I could’ve fit more into my stomach but lord knows with that track record I would have tried.

PHONOMENAL in West Hollywood, Mon to Sun 12-10pm

Looking for Pho near Downtown where Chinatown and Thai town sit is one the easier side of things in LA, but what about further West?  Don’t worry – Phonomenal’s got you covered.  I came in thinking it was actually a different restaurant with an equally silly play on words (Absolutely Phobulous), but couldn’t have been happier at what I found.  Phonomenal has an adorable, tranquil and dimly lit outdoors area – perfect for date nights; and to boot, if you don’t want to eat in, they have an incredibly quick turnaround for takeout orders.  I recommend their Summer rolls and (you guessed it) the Rare Steak combination bowl.  For kicks, I suggest a Buddha beer – they’re so tasty!

Gigo’s in Chinatown, Mon to Sun 9 to 7pm

Family owned and run, Gigo’s has a long standing history in Downtown of churning out some of the tastiest (and most affordable!) Pho.  Located just around the corner from Via Cafe, the Pho at Gigo’s is flavorful and almost doesn’t need the accompanying Siracha or Hoisin sauce. Gigo’s Cafe is a cash only venture and doesn’t serve beer, but with the assorted bars in the area – the drinks aren’t too necessary.   The venue itself seats approximately 30 people and depending on the time of day you got your hunger pains, the line could very well be out the door.