Pike Road – Carlton, Oregon

Let me start of by saying I am totally biased. Oregon has the best wine tasting in the country. It probably mostly has to do with the fact that I can drive 10 minutes in any direction and hit a winery. And a lot to do with the fact that for now at least, it is not a horribly expensive outing.

Last summer for a town event I visited a new tasting room in one of my favorite small towns. The winery/tasting room being Pike Road, the town being Carlton. Carlton is known locally for producing the best pork that is distributed farm to table style to most restaurants in the area. But it also happens to be one of my favorite places to spent an evening.

Pike Road is a somewhat new addition to the town located in an old bank building, the vault which is still in use stores the wine bottles. The manager was pouring for us the night we were there. An extraordinarily kind and knowledgeable man who gave us the history of the winery, the sustainable practices they continue to maintain, the types of grapes and fermenting used to create their unique wines. I don’t think I have ever walked away from a tasting with more information and the wines we outstanding.

 

 

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Cuvée – Carlton, Oregon 

There are a lot of really great restaurants in the Yamhill/Willamette/Tualatin Valley area thanks in part to our robust wine industry. Up until recently I had focused most of my time dining at restaurants in the Portland area, there are so many great places there you could go out every night and never run out. Having recently moved out of the area has given me the excuse to branch out a bit and boy was I ever happy to have given that chance after enjoying an unforgettable meal at Cuvee in Carlton, Oregon.

The restaurant resides on the main street of Carlton, about half through through the one stop sign town in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. It offers dinner on a prix-fixe menu, letting you decide soup/salad, a main entrée and a dessert or a starter. I had been wanting to go for a while. So when I happen to be in town for an event with a friend we jumped at the chance to eat dinner there.

Everything looked too amazing to choose. So we chose to share, I chose the asparagus leek soup (hot) it was amazing. We shared pomme frites, even more amazing. Then we split the salmon and lamb stew, saying the entrees were a religious experience would be an understatement. The sauce on the salmon was quite literally the best thing I have ever eaten. And the lamb stew was so tender and full of flavor I think both of us nearly passed out from sheer ecstasy.

By the time our entrée rolled around we were already full but we pushed ahead anyway because it was too good not to, and then we pushed ahead again for the dessert we chose to share which was a crème caramel. I have never tasted anything so rich and so light at the same time. It was gone in an instant and we have both been dreaming about going back ever since.

Aside from the exquisite food, the waiter was incredibly kind and friendly. The dining room was bright and quiet. I could not recommend a better French Restaurant in Oregon and think even a drive from Portland is worth it.

Water Front – Lisbon, Portugal

The very first day we spent in Lisbon we walked the waterfront and watched the sun go down. It was bustling with locals and tourists a like. Families walking around between work and dinner. It seemed like the entire city was out enjoying the fresh air brought up the Tangas river from the Atlantic Ocean.

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Throughout the rest of our stay we found ourselves coming back night after night, and not quite on purpose. We walked it when we went up to Belem, we had dinner there, my mom found a boat serving drinks, and a wine cart the rattles around the waterfront serving up wine to passerby’s. My husband found a hotdog vendor claiming to sell American Hot Dogs, it looked more German to me but he seemed to enjoy it.

 

Maybe we were drawn to it because we all are used to being by water, living in costal towns or on fishing boats most of our lives. But looking around and seeing everyone else made me think maybe it is just primal, the freedom of being on water, the openness and possibility.

Lisbon is without a doubt one of the most magical places I have ever been. I would go back there in a heart beat, I would agree to live there without a second thought. It is the most home I have ever felt in another country.

One of these days we will go back, but for now this post brings us to the close of my journey to Portugal, which happens to be almost a year from when first got there.

Silverton, Oregon

 

Oregon like most rural states is littered with small charming towns. Not terribly well know, to either tourists or locals in nearby cities. I grew up in small towns though, so even while I lived the majority of the last 15 years in Portland I would often seek small towns for weekend retreats.

I have managed to make it to just about every one of them within a two hour radius of Portland and now that I live in one of them I spend even more time wandering around country roads discovering new areas to spend my time.

A few months ago, when Oregon was still in the grips of an ice age, or what most people would call an average winter (I complained a lot this year about our third snow to my coworkers in Minneapolis and got no sympathy), out of desperation for change a friend took me on a surprise adventure in Silverton.

Silverton is situated just north of Salem along Silver Creek, which is fed from the 10 waterfalls in the Silver Falls State Park the largest in Oregon. The town like any has had it’s controversies and triumphs the later more famously known is the story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog who after being separated from his owner in Indiana found his way back home to Oregon six months later.

Now a days the town is fairly quiet though with the uptick in Portland residents the small surrounding towns are enjoying some extra tourism. The town which had been fairly quiet when I was younger is now filled with antique stores, cafe’s and jewelry shops.

We spent the better part of the day between the antique stores and the book store. I always love seeing small independent book stores and try my best to help support them. This one in particular was a used book store as well and I managed to find a few items to add to my collection of out of print books.

After checking out the book store we headed down to the waterfront walk, and were pleasantly surprised by the local food coop, a small nursery in an old gas station and a jewelry store that had an impressive collection. I bought myself a pair of earnings, but what I really wanted was everything in the store.

We ended our day at a local café next to the river, sharing a table full of crepes and coffee. It was lovely. Good company, and a pleasant outing to distract from the fact that our spring is about two months behind this year and we are all dying of vitamin D deficiency.

Things that shouldn’t be missed:

Ruddick/Wood Tavern – Newberg, Oregon

One of the harder things about leaving the city is that suddenly there aren’t a lot of local places to pop into for a drink or a snack. At least that seems that case in the Portland area. Though given how little I drink leaving the bar scene wasn’t a sacrifice by any means.

Though from time to time a girl needs a local place to sit down with her girlfriend for a good old fashioned gab fest and have a glass of champagne and a plate of fries. Enter the Ruddick/Wood Tavern in Newberg Oregon.

It has all the relaxed PNW charm without any of the traffic or parking challenges of it’s city counterparty. The interior was left mostly salvaged and the walls are adorned with topographical maps of the local hills.

It’s not a large place but it does offer a fair amount of seating options, and while it has always been pretty busy when we go in we have always found a seat. We try to make it on Wednesdays for their “Whiskey Wednesday” specials. The selection is extensive and I have not yet had to order the same drink twice, except for their sparkling rose. But that was on purpose because it is so delicious it is hard not to repeat the glass, bottle <insert serving of choice> over and over again.

Every time we go in we make a pact to order something different off the food menu, I think it has really only worked about half the time. They have an excellent rotating cheese plate that we keep ordering and have never been disappointed. I think we may order it because the menu says “cheese and accoutrements” which halfway through a bottle of champagne becomes too much for us to handle and we probably wind up ordering it because we find it so funny.

The other must order is the fries plate, which comes in a variety of options. We have ordered them all and I don’t think I can say which is my favorite. They are all good and worth a try.

You can find the Ruddick/Wood Tavern at 720 E. First St, Newberg, OR 97132. It is around the corner from the main restaurant Ruddick/Wood which serves lunch and dinner from 11:30am to 9pm.

 

Baixa – Lisbon, Portugal

Another one of my favorites in Lisbon was the Baixa neighborhood. This is the area of town that was flattened during the giant earthquake in 1755. When it was rebuilt it was rebuilt in the “modern” style (modern for the time) and with straight roads. It is one of the only areas of Lisbon with straight roads. It reminded me a lot of the main shopping district in Vienna, though Vienna’s pedestrian only shopping street seems to be endless, where as Lisbon’s is just the right size.

The central street is a pedestrian only street choc-a-bloc full of restaurants, cafes and shops. The side streets off the main pedestrian only space are also pedestrian only, though as you get further out more and more streets have car traffic as well. At one end you have the Terreiro Do Paço a public square on the waterfront that is ringed by cafes and restaurants. And at the other end a rather busy square that houses hotels, public transit stops and the Rossio Train Station.

The mix of architecture in the area is overwhelming, sings from the 1920’s standing on buildings built in the 1700s and everything in between. The main square which I think may be called Rossio Square though I couldn’t find any definitive information, has a large fountain in the center and is surrounded by a stunning array of services from old shoe shops, tabaco shops, modern hotels, pawn shops, fancy restaurants, bars,  jewelers, and even a McDonalds.

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The apartments at the top of each building in the square reminded of apartment’s in Paris though I suppose that shouldn’t have been surprising given they probably belong to the same architectural time.

We spent a lot of time in the Baixa, it was close to where we were staying and given the time of year and that it is a fairly bustling tourist hub a lot of the services were open where other areas may not have been. There were loads of shops for me to spend my evenings wandering around in, as a non night-scene person it was really nice to have a reason to be out without all the drama of bars and clubs. There was also this ridiculously cute pug having a ride about town.

There was also several pastry shops that we visited on more than one occasion. They were crowded and frenetic and made amazing coffee. They were always stuffed full of locals and severed everything from pizza to Portuguese pastries like our favorite, Chocolate Salami.

Chocolate Salami in fact has nothing to do with meat but is a chocolate fudgy dessert that is rolled up with cookies and nuts and then sliced to serve.  We ate a lot of it, and I mean A LOT OF IT. I think I probably had some everyday. Lisbon is known for the Pastel De Nata which are very good but I Chocolate Salami really blew me away.

Part of the draw for me to the Baixa was the use of it in the filming of the Spanish Language TV show El Tiempo Entre Costuras or The Time In Between. Which is adapted from the book of the same name. Most of the show is filmed on location in Moracco and Madrid but the later part of the story heavily highlights Portugal and Lisbon and Estoril were used in filming.

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One such filming location, though technically in the Chiado district it is only a block or so down from the Baixia, is the glove shop Luvaria Ulisses which has been operational since 1925. As a lover of all things Art Deco I knew I had to go there and buy a pair of handmade gloves. The shop is so tiny there is only room for the shop attendant and one or two customers. What you see below is literally the whole shop, when you walk in there is nothing more but the small door to the closet like stockroom. But it was charming and wonderful and we all of course walked out with gloves.

 

 

Helvetia Culture Fest

In August one of my good friends asked if I wanted to go to Helvetia Culture Fest. I hadn’t seen her in a while and the Helvetia Tavern makes one of my all time favorite hamburgers. So with visions of spending the day with a good friend and fatty fried food dancing in my head I said yes.

**Looking south into the Tualitan Valley**

Later I decided it might be a good idea to read up on the actual event to see what my hamburger fever made me agree to. Well turns out it is an event in the small farming community of Helvetia Oregon, intended to celebrate the original Native American inhabitant the Tualatins and the “Swiss-German settlers who came to the area in the 1870s”.

**Too pretty to not take more than one picture of the valley**

On a personal note my family homesteaded the North Plains and Helvetia areas, one such family Swiss immigrants from Grindelwald Switzerland.

**Cedar barn that held the indoor portion of the festivities**

The festival itself was small, located on an alpaca farm overlooking the Tualatin Valley. The events for the day included several readings by the local poet laureate, a performance by the Painted Sky Dancers, local culture expert Ginny Maples, a pie walk, silent auction, German food and drinks as well as several local vendors.

**Painted Sky Dancers**

It was a small festival, but really very nice, the food was great and everyone was happy and kind. It wouldn’t be on the top of my to-do list again but I did thoroughly enjoy myself.

Questions:

Do you enjoy cultural festivals. What is one of the most memorable you have attended?