Glad you found a couple of things that work for you. I just happened upon the Expresso program mentioned by Grantwhy http://www.lupopensuite.com/db/expresso.htm the other day. It seems to do what you wanted in that double clicking will open a file in program X, while holding down alt and double clicking will open the file in Program Y. If you wanted to you can actually have 3 associations as it is a 2 click process to pause the program and go back to your default. In your situation you would just let the program ignore double clicks unless alt is pressed. It can also add a program to the send to menu but that's probably not much better than the open with menu you had to deal with before.
Another program called Coffee is basically identical and I actually think I like it better. http://www.lupopensuite.com/db/coffee.htm I don't see any complications with using either of these programs with both regular and portable programs.
If you are still liking your IE tab solution, I used to use a browser called ChromePlus now called CoolNovo that you could train to automatically open specific sites in an IE tab. Maybe your Firefox extension can do that, too. Avant Browser Ultimate might still be Firefox based and might do this as well but it would be great if there was an option in the Firefox extension to automatically recognize that this is a url you want to open in IE.
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