La Rambla – McMinville, Oregon

For our anniversary this last year we decided not to do anything big. Instead we spent a weekend in a small town just south of where we live that happens to house one of my all time favorite restaurants in the world.

I discovered La Rambla a number of years ago, right around the time my parents and I were discussing spending Christmas in Barcelona. I had started researching things to do and places to eat in Barcelona and as Google has a tendency to do, it pointed me to a restaurant near me (in Oregon) that was named after one of the attractions we were looking at in Spain. So I had to try it. The rest is history.

La Rambla is a small tapas restaurant  in McMinnville Oregon. Frequented by locals and wine enthusiasts alike the restaurant has never been anything but packed regardless of day or time I have visited. The small intimate restaurant offers a wine list that is 7 pages long and a small but comprehensive list of snacks, entrees and desserts. And of course cheese.

As luck would have it (or perhaps my one track mind when it comes to a decent cheese plate) I forgot to take any pictures of our latest visit. Except the one of the cheese menu. Which I took so that I could remember the name of the goat cheese that knocked my socks off (Cana de Cabra in case you were wondering).

For our meal we shared a bottle of wine,  a few cheeses, a small flat bread ending the meal with churros and chocolate. We were happily stuffed and also slightly disappointed we didn’t get to try more from their outstanding seasonal menu. I guess that just means we will have to go back. I think I would be pretty okay with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Fernhill Wetlands

There are an inordinate number of places to go walking and hiking in the Pacific North West. It is sort of what we are known for. The problem with this is two fold. First because we are known of our stunning views and gorgeous well-kept our door trails, everyone knows about it, and thus everyone is on them. Second because you can wind up in decision paralysis trying to decide exactly WHICH trail you want to take on while you are out visiting. And truth be told you really cannot go wrong.

If however, you are looking for something very specific it can be harder to locate that trail that is juuuuuuust right.If you happen to be looking for something that is easy, flat and you enjoy bird watching or nature photography this is your trail.

The wetlands are actually a water natural treatment facility first (but don’t worry it doesn’t smell funny) which has been expanded out and carefully landscaped to provide shelter for migratory birds.

I have spent a good amount of time there over this past spring and now into fall. I avoided it over the summer because I don’t like being hot and the entire trail is exposed. I truly love walking around this space, the one mile loop trail provides beautiful views of a very natural Oregon and the birds that live here.


I end up making several loops around the sanctuary a week. Because it is open, well traveled but not overly populated and close to my house it makes for a perfect and safe spot for someone walking alone.

To plan your visit start with the website here. If you want to continue your exploration of the area I suggest trying to Adiri Winery or McMenamins Grande Lodge.

Questions:

Are there any natural walking areas in your home town that you just LOVE?

 

 

Carruthers, Astoria Oregon

There is a small town on the Oregon Coast that I know quite well, they call it Astoria Oregon. Astoria, long famous for being the home of one of the most dangerous river bars in the world, childhood 80s movies and copious amounts of rain, also happens to be one of my childhood home towns.

 

If I am being quite frank, when I was a kid it was kind of (read really) a dump. A sad little town at the mouth of the Columbia River, with a crumbling downtown and a small tourist season in the summer. Somewhere between the 1990’s and the mid 2010’s the town managed to turn itself around and now has a booming year round tourist season and with it some really phenomenal restaurants. None of which existed when I lived there, naturally. One of the newest editions is Carruthers.

Carruthers is located kitty corner to the old Astoria Liberty Theater, which was renovated in recent years and is now used as a performing arts theater which has headlined shows with hometown staples like movies by Chris Lang and musical performances by Blind Pilot. The restaurant was built out inside the old Owl Drug Store (which was a filming location of Kindergarten Cop) and was originally a clothing store.

 

 

The interior has been decorated impeccably, we were sitting next to this fire place (see above) which I could not stop staring at, not least of which because it was about 40 feet tall.

 

Both the bar menu and the dinner menu was amazing, I could have ordered everything but stuck to the butternut squash gnocchi and could have eaten nothing else for the rest of my life and been happy. It was amazing.

The vibe of the restaurant is a bit more upscale than Astoria has been traditionally used to but happily people dined in all assortments of style. It seemed everyone regardless of Sunday best or just jumped off the boat clothing were right at home. I couldn’t stop staring at the lovely surroundings, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the incredible food. I was only occasionally distracted by the mirror pictured below, as I plotted how to steal it without getting caught. I failed to come up with a way to smuggle a 12 foot tall gold mirror out in my purse so I just took a picture.

Address an Additional Information: 12th and Commercial Astoria,  Oregon 97103

 

 

Oregon Zoo Concerts 

Confession time: I don’t really love summer. It is my least favorite season. And truth be told, I don’t really love concerts either. As such a person could probably presume that a concert in the summer might be very low on my list of things to do. But I am a complicated person, as we all are, and the Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series are one of the few events each summer I look forward to.

The Oregon Zoo has been hosting a summer concert series for 37 years now. I have only had the pleasure of attending the last four.

**Patiently watching the sun go away so it would cool down**

 

There are many reasons why I love these concerts, but I think one of the top reasons is simply the atmosphere. It is a family friendly venue. As such, much like Disneyland, everyone seems to be on their best behavior. People are relaxed, kind, gracious. No one is throwing things, or yelling or bumping into you.

 

**Intro band doing their thing**

 

How does it work you ask? First you can check out the upcoming concerts on the Oregon Zoo website. The concerts usually aren’t announced until late spring each year so if you aren’t seeing anything just keep checking.

You can park at the zoo but the roads up to are actually quite difficult to come and go on. Narrow, single lane exit nightmare. Plus if it is a nice day, as a concert goer you will be fighting zoo patrons for parking. My suggestion is to find a park and ride for the MAX (public transportation) and ride to the Washington Park Zoo stop. Easy.

**Fitz and the Tantrums**

Your concert ticket includes a zoo ticket. You are allowed to bring in an empty non glass water bottle,  low beach chairs are allowed, or you can just sit on blankets in the grass. Make sure to bring cash or card for food and drinks.

**Laser light show action**

 

You are allowed to enter the zoo early, set up your spot “in line” once you are inside the zoo and then wander around the zoo or sit and chat while you wait. Once the doors open, you are shuffled into the concert area, where you can set up your space for the night and then continue to wander around. There is always several food carts available for food as well as drink carts for beer and wine.

 

**Linen is best when the weather is dumb**

 

This last years show that I attended was by far the best, not only because the food cart choices were fantastic but the band I went to see played a phenomenal show. It was hot, like 102 hot. So I spent the evening sitting in the grass in my linen dress, drinking all the water and eating ice cream. The air eventually cooled and all in all it is a wonderful night.

Questions:

Have you ever been to a concert at the Oregon Zoo? If not what is your favorite local outdoor concert venue?

 

 

Ardiri Winery – Cornelius Oregon

There are so many wineries in the Portland/Willamette Valley area it can be overwhelming. Since moving out of the city I am now within 5 miles of about 25. I plan to make visits to all of them at some point, but you know what they say about best laid plans…..

I visited Adiri for the first time on the hottest day of the year after spending all morning at an antique sidewalk fair. I was hot, I was tired, I was likely sun stroked. And I wasn’t exactly looking forward to drinking wine but my company wanted to go, so we forged on.

 

I love Adiri. When we pulled up we were above the valley, overlooking the hills, there was a slight breeze and a shaded covered porch with comfortable deck furniture. The tasting room was small and crowded but my mom just dashed in and grabbed a bottle of rose while the rest of us settled into the shade with cups of complimentary lemon cucumber water.

The wine was chilled to perfection, the staff was so kind, the experience was perfect. While we were sitting and sipping I noticed a bunch of small parties at the other tables, all with different types of snacks celebrating baby showers, weddings, and anniversaries. It was lovely.

 

A few months later  I took one of my best friends to the winery.  Armed with a picnic and ready to revisit that amazing rose we headed out into the hills. The day was a bit chilly and gloomy but the covered porch area has warmers and fires going. Even in October it was crowded. They were out of the rose, sold out a month earlier but I was promised they would have more ready by February. We tried to gold which was one of the best whites I have ever had and enjoyed a perfect day looking over the hills and chatting with good company.

I will be going back sometime this month for the rose, and probably another bottle of the Chehalem Gold.

Questions:

Are there any local wineries in your area that you love to visit?

 

Prineville and Painted Hills

I may have already mentioned this, but my husband and I are horribly lazy campers. We have both gotten to the age where we love being outdoors, and we also love sleeping in beds and having a flush toilet.

So when our good friends invited us to Prineville Oregon to go camping and hike the painted hills we groaned a bit. And then they told us there were camping cabins at the Prineville State Park. There may have been a cartoon shaped hole in the office door as we dashed to the computer to book our trip.

**Second Painted Hills site as you drive into the park**

We drove down after work, so we were both pretty tired and very thankful when we rolled into campground to a well lit cabin. The heat was running, the cabin was clean and there was a full sized bed, with a bathroom and a shower. Now mind you it is a foam mattress covered in industrial rubber, but it was a bed and we were so thrilled we didn’t have to try to set up a tent in the dark.
The next morning we woke up to one of the most glorious views I have ever experienced.

**Drinking coffee while looking at this doesn’t suck**

We made coffee for the others, left our door slightly ajar and hiked along the ridge of the reservoir until the others we ready to go.  We drove out to the Painted Hills State Park just before noon, knowing it would be a little over an hour. We really didn’t know what to expect, other than we all thought it would be an actual hike. Turns out it is more like a couple view points that you walk up to. We did all the “hikes” in the park in a couple hours, sat and chatted for a bit and then drove back for dinner.

**First Painted Hills site as you drive into the park and the most photographed**

Since we were there for Halloween we had made sure one of us had rented the deluxe cabin with a dvd player and tv. I brought a bunch of horror movies, and we all sat around the rest of the evening watching movies, eating and chatting. It was actually one of the better Halloweens I have had.
The next day we again hiked part of the ridge, and then down into the basin of the reservoir. We all had breakfast together and then drove back home.

**I was honestly very sad to leave this little cabin**

We had planned on hiking Smith Rock on the way back since the Painted Hills hikes while beautiful weren’t very strenuous but we hit an accident on the way out of Prineville and killed a bunch of our time. Instead we just drove back, enjoying the high desert views, and the full view of the cascade range before making our way back into the Willamette Valley.

Questions:

Have you ever been down to Prineville or Painted Hills State Parks? Are there other things in the area that you would suggest seeing?