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Birthdays don't get any better

Exceptional dinner, helicopter wine tasting make birthday extremely special

STAFF PHOTOS:  BARB RANDALL - This elegant dessert made of goats milk custard with streusel, wild blackberry and cajeta, is a signature dish of Muselet Restaurant & Wine Bar.

If every birthday was like mine was last week, I’d have one every month. You might be willing to tack on the years faster, too, if you could fill them with the adventures I did.

My birthday was last Thursday and in regular Randall fashion we started the celebration early. My husband Mark and I were invited to dine at Muselet Restaurant & Wine Bar, located in Portland’s South Waterfront area. The restaurant is known for its innovative cuisine and exceptional wine program. We decided Wednesday would be the perfect night to eat at Muselet. I love the name — a muselet is the wire cage that covers the cork of a champagne bottle. Removing the muselet allows you to pop the cork and enjoy all the deliciousness of the bottle’s contents. It’s a nice visual of what is in store for you when you dine at Muselet.

Owner Ron Acierto has a long and impression resume. Acierto has managed several fine dining Asian restaurants in Indianapolis, served as hospitality manager at Cherry Hill Winery in Oregon’s Eola Hills and was front of the house manager at Bluehour and Lucier in Portland and Jory Restaurant in The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg.

He was also the opening general manager and concept developer of Departure at The Nines Hotel in Portland. He has a passion for the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, dedication to creating exemplary dining experiences and constantly on a quest for the perfect pairing of wine and food, and that is what led him to opening Muselet in May 2015.

The executive chef is Greg Zanotti, who served as sous chef at Castagna before opening Muselet. His dishes are inventive, delicious and amazing.

We were greeted warmly upon our arrival, led to a table where we could see the kitchen in action and settled in to enjoy the most delightful evening of live theater we’ve had in decades — truly. Zanotti’s creations are small plates intended to be shared. The menu is organized from lightest to heavier fare and just reading it doesn’t give you the full description of the inspiration and innovation behind the dish. Our server was as excited to share details of the dishes as we were to eat them. She took our selections to Acierto, who carefully selected wines to go with each dish.

Zanotti has the wildest imagination and superb skill — every dish was perfect. We enjoyed a steelhead appetizer with a roasted orange sauce, roasted turnips with buerre monte, pickled shallot, trout roe and sake lees, sunchokes with a 26-ingredient mole poblano sauce, and a beef culotte with a heavenly mushroom duxelle and more.

And every wine Acierto selected was delightful and a perfect pairing to the dish. Acierto has created an unrivaled list of Old and New World wines, champagnes from mom and pop growers, and offers more than 50 wines by the glass — all of which is a testament to the great relationships he has built with wine producers over the years.

You might not usually have room for dessert when dining out, but you simply can’t ignore the beautiful concoctions served at Muselet. Be sure to have the goat’s milk custard with streusel, wild blackberries and cajeta. Remember blowing bubbles through a straw into your milk glass? Well, that is the visual of this lovely dessert. It’s a bowl of blackberry flavored bubbles atop delicious custard and streusel. You’ve got to try it.

I can’t do Muselet justice in just 500 words. It was the best food experience Mark and I have had in years. Muselet is located at 3730 S.W. Bond Ave. in Portland. Visit www.museletpdx.com or call 503-265-8133.

So that was Wednesday.

Tour DeVine by Heli pilot Tyler Sturdevant goes over safety procedures before tourist board the helicopter.

On Thursday, my birthday, Mark made me a yummy breakfast of cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs. And then I was off to my next adventure: wine tasting by helicopter, with Tour DeVine by Heli.

Precision Helicopter is offering helicopter wine tours of six different American Viticultural Areas. Matt Alvitre, head of tours and flight operations, invited members of the media and the wine industry to take a test ride of the tour.

We met at Red Hills Market in Dundee for mid-morning pastries, fruit and mimosas. Red Hills Market also packed picnic lunches for us to enjoy, packed in handcrafted wooden wine crates, which would be used to carry wine purchases after lunch. The lunch included a selection of artisan cheeses, flatbread crackers, cured meats, European-style sandwiches and more.

We had a safety briefing and then passengers were instructed to board. I was in the second tour group along with Jessica Luke, wine club and direct to consumer sales manager for Ponzi Wines; Anna Hatcher, chief concierge at The Allison Inn & Spa; and Mike NcNally, owner of Fairsing Vineyards. Our first stop was Trisaetum Winery, Vineyards and Gallery. An art gallery? Yes, winemaker James Frey is an artist as well and shows his art in the tasting room. We were greeted by James’ wife Andrea and welcomed in to their Cave for a private tasting of their rieslings and pinot noirs, led by Tasting Room Manager Jasmine Hollyfield. For the next 1 1/2 hours, we sampled, explored and discussed Trisaetum’s wines, talked about soils and how wines are alive in the bottle — how they miraculously keep evolving through the years.

We were rustled out of our relaxation by the sound of our approaching heli, so we hurried to buy a couple of bottles and climb aboard for our next stop.

It takes very little time — maybe 10 minutes “as the crow flies” to get from one winery to another. But those 10 minutes are so thrilling. The view is spectacular; our pilot said we had “a seven-mountain view” that day, as we could clearly see St. Helens, Hood and other peaks in the Cascades and Oregon Coast Range.

We ate our picnic lunch in sunshine on the deck at Colene Clemens Vineyard and Winery. Tasting room manager Ari Grey shared the story of the winery, the wines and history, while we enjoyed the 360-degree panoramic view.

Barb Randalls tour group enjoyed lunch on the terrace at Colene Clemens Winery. Here Jessica Luke of Ponzi Wines and Mike McNally of Fairsing Vineyards enjoy the sunshine.

Joe and Vicki Stark, founders of Colene Clemens Vineyard and Winery, make chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot noir rose.

As an added bonus, since Mike McNally was in our group, we got to learn about Fairsing Vineyard, where he grows chardonnay and pinot noir for other wineries and his own wines. McNally said he got into the wine industry because of his wife, Mary Ann. While he was involved in the corporate world, she was taking classes at the local community college on grape growing and wine making.

McNally said Fairsing means “bountiful” in ancient Gaelic, and the term reflects the plentiful resources of the large, diverse site. Their newly completed tasting room honors their Celtic heritage while incorporating sustainability and style. The overall the design is reminiscent of ancient structures found in the Irish countryside. You are welcome to walk their labyrinth when visiting the tasting room. Visit fairsingvineyard.com or call 503-560-8266.

Alas, the tour did have to come to an end. Our excursion was a full-day event and a truly a unique, memorable experience. Visit tourdevinebyheli.com to learn more.

The fun didn’t stop there. I ended the day with a fabulous birthday dinner with family, prepared by sister-in-law Tracy Randall. Life doesn’t get much better.

If you celebrated your birthday as I did, wouldn’t you look forward to the next one?

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.