Posted on September 13, 2014
Oregon – Food!
One of my favorite parts of traveling is experiencing wonderful meals in new destinations. In Oregon, and especially in a culinary destination such as Portland, there was no shortage of recommendations or amazing restaurants, and we did not have one bad meal the entire time we were in the State. Keep reading for some of the places that we fully enjoyed.
We arrived late on a Sunday, so we stumbled to dinner at a place around the corner from our (really great!) Guest House. We were so weary from travel and SO hungry, I don’t even remember the name of the place we ate that night. All I know is that they had beer and food. Not helpful, I know. PS: Alaska Airlines is THE BEST domestic airline, and I only ever want to fly Alaska from now on. Too bad they don’t really service the East Coast … that’s kind of a problem.
Monday morning we awoke rested and refreshed, and the air was cool and crisp – a welcome change from the hot Charleston summer. The friendly staff at the Hostel and guest house recommended Fuller’s in the Pearl District, so we walked there and enjoyed a simple, delicious and filling breakfast while sitting outside and enjoying the fresh air. I had the corned beef hash and G ordered the blueberry pancakes with big, fat local blueberries, bacon and eggs, and we both had coffee. Grand total: $18.
After perusing Powell’s for a while (a must for any trip to Portland) and grabbing more coffee at Stumptown, we took our time wandering down to one of the Food Cart Pods near O’Bryant Square and enjoyed Banh Mi’s for lunch (pork belly for G and crsipy saigon chicken for me). After lunch we walked to the International Rose Test Gardens and the Portland Japanese Gardens. The Rose gardens are stunning and impressive, and definitely worth seeing.
For dinner on Monday, we had reservations at Park Kitchen, a restaurant also situated in the Pearl District which I had really been looking forward to visiting. A few years ago, I sat beside the Chef while eating dinner at the bar at FIG, my favorite restaurant in Charleston. We struck up a conversation and as it turned out, he and another chef had traveled to Charleston just to experience the outstanding food scene and meals our city offers. I always remembered the name of his restaurant in case I ever made it to Portland. Well, I did, and I certainly did not regret eating at Park Kitchen. We had excellent service paired with fantastic food in a cozy atmosphere. Their focus is on local ingredients sourced from the rich bounty they are provided with in Oregon and the surrounding Pacific Northwest. A plate that stood out was the short-rib stuffed calamari. We opted for a nice Tawny Port instead of dessert, and on the walk home, stopped at Deschutes brewery for a(nother) night cap. Ahhhh, vacation.
The next morning we had one of the best brunches ever. Multiple people told us we’d be nuts if we didn’t go to Mother’s Bistro, and now I understand why. It is a truly special place, with outstanding service and attention to detail, and food that just melts your heart. “It’s all about the love.” I ordered the Wild Salmon Hash and G had the Biscuits and Gravy, and we both split a Stumptown French Press. Sadly, that was our last meal in Portland but it was a fine one on which to end our stay. We will definitely be back!
On our way over to the Oregon Coast, we realized we’d be driving right through the Willamette Valley, the renowned Wine region, so we randomly picked a winery and went in to have a taste of the world-famous Oregon Pinot Noir. The guys at Yamhill Valley Vineyards could not have been more welcoming. We opted for the full tasting (not a hard choice), which included a Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir Reserve. It was all quite good, but the reserve was outstanding, so we bought a couple of bottles to take with us to surprise our friends in Newport and Yamhill waived the $10 tasting fee with the purchase. I’d love to be able to spend a few days or longer just exploring all that the Willamette Valley has to offer, preferably by bike. Hmmm…sounds like a good excuse for a girl’s trip!
Seafood is king out here, obviously, and I am so glad it is. We had the extra good fortune of staying for two nights with great friends who are not only both Fisheries Scientists, but also just as obsessed with their next excellent meal as I am, so we got the inside scoop on what fish was the freshest, where it came from, and all the best restaurants to go to. It was like winning the lottery!
After G got his toes wet for the first time in the Pacific (!), we stopped at J’s Fish and Chips in Lincoln City (by recommendation, of course). A salty, coarsely spoken woman took our order and after a few moments, heaping piles of freshly caught and fried Halibut and french fries were set down steaming in front of us. I wanted to try the clam chowder but there’s only so much room in my stomach. Next time.
After arriving in Newport, we enjoyed catching up with our friends and their sweet little girls for a while and then headed out for dinner. We stopped at the legendary Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depoe Bay for drinks before our dinner reservation. Apparently the food is great at Gracie’s too; another spot to add to the list for when we return. Dinner was at Tidal Raves, and it was a real treat. The place is perched atop a cliff overlooking the crashing Pacific, and there are huge windows inside to enjoy the view. The freshest seafood imaginable was waiting for us and it was all spectacular. We had oysters, Rockfish, Wild Salmon, and clams. Oh, and wine. Always wine. It was the perfect place to celebrate reuniting with long lost friends, and it happened to be their Fifth wedding anniversary as well!
If you spend any amount of time driving along coastal Oregon, you’ll notice that every few miles or so, there are little drive-thru coffee huts, and some of them are right next to the ocean. I happen to think that this is the best thing ever, and we took full advantage of this feature during our visit. Coffee is like life blood most mornings, so what a treat to be able to enjoy it while also gazing out at the sea. On our drive the next day down the coast towards the Oregon Dunes, we stopped in the gorgeous little seaside hamlet of Yachats at a place called the Village Bean. Americano’s in hand, we parked the car, got out and took a little walk to the seashore where there were benches and rocks to sit and have your coffee. It’s the little things, folks. Soak them up and appreciate every moment!
After a brief and foggy visit to the dunes, we were starving and swung back through Florence for lunch at a a little place off the highway our friends recommended called Rosa’s. Super authentic and extra delicious Mexican food. I had Pozole, and G had enchiladas verdes. We were too full to finish, and again, what a bargain. With two Pacificos, chips and salsa, lunch was around $25. After more exploring along the magnificent coastline, we trucked back to Newport in anticipation of the Chef’s Special, Crab Imperial. Cooked at the home of our friends with fish he caught himself, it was outstanding. We opened one of the bottles of the Yamhill Pinot Reserve to accompany and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
It’s been just over a month since we returned from this trip, and I am still struck by the beauty of this place. We were very lucky and had great weather the whole time, it didn’t rain a drop. We can’t wait to come back to this exceptional corner of the world and do some hiking, camping, more eating and exploring in this incredible State.