A food-filled trip to the Pacific Northwest
In the beginning of July, Daniel finished his MBA at NYU. To celebrate, we spent the past week in Seattle and various parts of Oregon (Portland, Eugene, Steamboat, Crater Lake and Yachats to be exact) -- visiting college friends, being outdoorsy, and of course discovering as much good food as possible. We were even blessed with unbelievable weather, a refreshing relief from the stickiness we'd fled from. The thought of moving out west did come up a few times, but the confirmation from many locals that the sun only shines about three months out of the year will most likely keep us put.
It'll take forever for me to recount the entire trip, so I'll highlight some of our most memorable food-related moments. If you haven't been to any of these areas before, you should seriously consider planning a trip sometime soon! We can't wait to go back.
Matt's in the Market
Daniel and I shared our first lunch with Shannon and Justin at Matt's in the Market, a wonderful little spot perched directly across from Pike's Place Market. Though we arrived about 15 minutes late for our reservation, a table was still waiting for us, not to mention what was undoubtedly the best in whole teeny house. Eager for a hearty introduction to Matt's seasonal cuisine, Shannon and I decided to split a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with slaw, Carolina sauce and mayonnaise and this mustard-coated halibut with a summery bean salad, my personal favorite. From our cozy window table topped with a bouquet of sunflowers, we had an unforgettable view of the bustling market, bright blue Puget Sound and if memory serves me correctly, even some snow-capped mountains. Our trip couldn't have been off to a better start.
After a visit to the Experience Music Project, the Space Needle and a quick ride on a log flume, Shannon, Justin, Daniel and I headed back downtown to Union, a restaurant I'd read about on Orangette. When we arrived for our 8pm reservation, the restaurant was surprisingly empty which allowed our server to translate the mysterious menu for us. Curious about many of the exotic dishes listed, Daniel and I split a an heirloom tomato salad with arugula and goat's milk cheese with a sweet balsamic musk, grilled branzino with fava beans and mizuna (a delicate salad green from Japan), seared ahi sprinkled with sea salt on top of a refreshing bed of asparagus and fennel, and the star of the evening, boar cheeks with ricotta gnocchi. The cheeks were tender and pungent, their heavy flavor softened by the lightly browned gnocchi which delivered a sweet, delicate finish. To cap off our meal, we shared three desserts, a strawberry sherbet with cocoa nibs, a bay leaf creme brulee (that tasted much more like rosemary), and a chocolate terrine with malt ice cream. All three were delicious, but it was the sherbet, studded with those little crunches of chocolate, that won me over.
Beautiful weather and a late afternoon canoe trip got us off to a late start on our drive from Seattle to Portland, so plans to eat at Tabla, a restaurant I'd read about in Bon Appetit , were sadly cancelled. I called the inn where we'd be staying that night to find out if any restaurants would be open by the time we arrived. Our innekeeper first suggested Applebee's, and then he remembered Colosso, a tapas place that stayed open till about 2am. Considering his first suggestion, I wasn't expecting much. When we arrived at the sexy, dark spot where Portland couples and large groups were lingering over glasses of sangria and small plates, I became a bit more hopeful. While lamb skewers with lemon mint yogurt sauce, an heirloom beet salad with walnut crusted goat cheese and arugula, and shrimp sauteed in oil, garlic and chili flakes proved to be some of the best tapas I've ever eaten (in both the US and Spain), it was the pan con tomate, the Spanish take on bruschetta that had Daniel and I professing our love for Colosso well into the next day. Served on the most delicious slabs of soft bakery fresh bread (which didn't cut up my gums the way crunchy bruschetta sometimes does) then topped off with thin slivers of roasted tomatoes and a hefty sprinkling of garlic, we ended our meal with an extra order of them before calling it a night.
Le Bistro Montage
Unfortunately, I wasn't courageous enough to try an oyster shooter with Daniel and our friends Ben and Karin at this popular Portland spot famous for its supersized southern specialities and highstrung service. Since so many patrons must have a hard time polishing off the restaurant's overflowing bowls of gumbo, jambalaya and other comfort food favorites, Le Bistro wraps up leftovers in wacky aluminum foil sculptures -- Karin's son Benny had his remaining mac and cheese turned into a sword.
Ruby Jewel Treats
I'd read about these homemade ice cream sandwiches in Edible Portland during the Dave Does shoot in June, but wasn't able to pick any up during that particular visit. After a wonderful day hiking and visiting Portland's exquisite Japanese garden, Daniel suggested we stop for ice cream. I immediately thought of the Ruby Jewel Treats, so we headed over to New Seasons, Portland's equivalent to Whole Foods and picked up two each of the honey lavender with lemon cookie and the fresh mint with dark chocolate cookie. Made with all-natural, all-northwest ingredients including locally grown mint, honey, lavender and local hormone-free milk, they were rich, refreshing and not overly sweet. As the Ruby Jewel Treats creator explains on her website: "I figure when it's time to indulge, why not go for the best?" I couldn't agree more, and her ice cream sandwiches are without a doubt the best I've ever tasted. Now if she'd only start selling them on the east coast!
Fisherman's Dinners at the Steamboat Inn
Situated along Oregon's emerald-hued Umqua River, Steamboat Inn was a charming spot where Daniel and I attended two fisherman's dinners (though sadly, no fish was served on either evening). Open to guests only, each dinner started promptly at 7pm with hors d'oeuvres and glasses of Willamette Valley wine in the inn's library. After some mingling, everyone was led into the casual dining room and seated at long wooden tables before being served a delicious multi-course, family-style meal. We originally planned on just partaking in one of the dinners, but after our stuffing ourselves with refreshing gazpacho, homemade chili parmesan bread, flavorful beef tenderloin with roasted cauliflower, beet and potatoes, and a chocolate cookie with coffee ice cream and fudge-caramel sauce at our first one, we immediately reserved spots for the following night as well. On that evening, we were served homemade rye bread, potato and carrot soup with a touch of cream, duck breast with wild rice, purple cabbage and green beans, and a tangy blackberry sorbet, chocolate mousse and creme fraiche terrine with sesame butter cookies. On both evenings, we swapped stories with fellow travelers while filling up on seconds, and sometimes even thirds of the home cooked food before walking the few steps back to our cozy riverside room.
During our first fisherman's dinner at Steamboat, a couple told us that we had to visit Beckie's Pie on our way home from Crater Lake. I, always up for a midday dessert, held onto that bit of information, but it was my wonderful husband who led our trusty rental car to Beckie's at the end of the day while I snoozed away in the passenger's seat. Though fairly full from a late lunch, we still managed to throw back a slice each: very berry for him, and huckleberry for me, both served with a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream. Neither blew me away (the crust was fairly bland and I suspected that the filling was not homemade), but I did love how the promise of pie attracted everyone from the gun-carrying fly fisherman Daniel had asked for directions just five minutes earlier to the German tourists we'd seen at Crater Lake earlier that day.
Breakfasts at the Seaquest Inn
Daniel and I both developed a little crush on Yachats (population 685), where we spent the last two days of our trip. Located smack in the middle of Oregon's rugged coast, it was a lush and stunning part of the state, with only one disadvantage: an ocean that's too cold to swim in. And though we weren't quite sure how to pronounce its name, we soon learned that the pronunciation sounded very similar to "YA HOTS!", a bit of information that made this small coastal town that much more loveable. The B&B that we stayed in also deepened our love for Yachats, thanks to its unbelievable views, our quirky innkeeper, and more importantly her skills in the kitchen. On both mornings, breakfast started promptly at 9am (and I mean promptly -- Daniel almost had his hand cut off when he tried to fill up a cup with granola before the appointed hour). The moment we arrived in the inn's Great Room which offered stunning views of the ocean, Fran would start rambling off details about the the lavish spread that awaited us: homemade granola served with yogurt, brown sugar, and honey; freshly baked cakes studded with fresh fruit and dusted with confectioner's sugar; eggy popovers stuffed with baked oranges, bananas and an edible flower; eggs served in ramekins alongside homemade sage sausage patties; an impressive amount of loose teas and of course, coffee and fresh orange juice. The best part is that Fran always left something sweet for us to nibble on at night, and during one long game of Scrabble, I devoured more slices of almond tart than I care to admit.
Dinners at The Drift Inn
Back when Daniel and I were planning our trip, I spent an afternoon exploring Chowhound to find out where we'd be able to find some good grub in Yachats. All posts pointed in the direction of The Drift Inn, a historic pub and cafe that a man we met during a Fisherman's Dinner at Steamboat confirmed was his town's best bet. I'm not much of a pub person myself, but The Drift Inn challenged to change that. With its comfy wooden booths, friendly service, live music, and incredibly fresh and delicious seafood, this was pub pefection. On our first night, we shared an order of steamer clams swimming in a garlicky white wine broth with chunks of tomato and basil, local salmon smothered with a huckleberry and hazelnut sauce, and a seafood stew full of salmon, halibut, steamers and shrimp in a spicy coconut broth. The stew was definitely my favorite, its flavors very similar to moqueca, a delicious Brazilian dish. I loved it so much that I ordered it again on our second visit to The Drift Inn, but this time, I turned down Daniel's suggestion to share two entrees and kept most of it all to myself.
Matt's in the Market
94 Pike Street, Suite 32
1400 First Avenue
1932 NE Broadway
Le Bistro Montage
301 SE Morrison Street
Ruby Jewel Treats
Purchased at New Seasons
42705 North Umpqua Highway
56484 Highway 62
95354 Highway 101 S.
The Drift Inn
124 Highway 101 N.