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.

The Block House Café – Dayton, Oregon

I have an affinity to hamburgers. I didn’t eat red meat for about 20 years and when I went back to eating it I did so with gusto. I LOVE HAMBURGERS. I can’t say that I am terribly picky either, I like fancy gourmet burgers, I like burgers with crazy toping, and I like flat greasy diner burgers from little hole in the wall places.

The Block House Café in Dayton, Oregon has a nice mix of all these traits and come out clean with a burger to suit all type of burger consumers (in my opinion anyway). But most importantly they offer a mini burger that is more suited to my stomach size.

As an added bonus the restaurant resides in the building of the former First Baptist Church of Dayton Oregon. It was built by a family who opened one of the first brick companies in the area and is one of the oldest standing brick buildings in the valley. It has been beautifully restored into a small dining facility with high ceilings, bright windows and a relaxed atmosphere. The wait staff was incredibly nice, and the menu aside from the hamburgers list boasts a large selection of sandwiches and a brunch menu to die for. They also have cinnamon roll pancakes, which are truly incredible. They are located on 301 Main Street in Dayton, open only for breakfast and lunch closing at three everyday.

After we ate we walked around the town, which is mostly just three shop lined streets that flank the main square park. It is a very small town. But it does have a surprising list of places to eat, none of which I have been to yet. One of which, Archie’s is a 1950s themed ice cream shop decorated  to resemble the Archie comics I am so very fond of. Had I not been stuffed and it been a slightly warmer day I would have pounced on the chance to go in. Next time. There is always next time.

 

 

Evergreen Aviation Museam – McMinville, Oregon

The Evergreen Aviation Museum is the second aviation museum my husband and I have been to. The first being the Palm Spring Flight Museum which I have not yet managed to write up even though it was two years ago that we visited. I will get there, eventually.

The Evergreen Aviation Museum is in McMinville Oregon. It is famous for currently housing the Hughes H-4 Hercules also know as Howard Hughes’ The Spruce Goose. The wooden plane built in 1947 famously only took one flight, which was mostly a 70foot hover above the Cabrillo Beach channel in California. After a not so successful test flight the plane was housed at Aero Club of Southern California next to the Queen Mary as a tourist attraction (both of which I visited as a kid) until 1993 when the plans for Port Disney were abandoned at which time the plane was bought and moved to Oregon.

The Spruce Goose which is quite impressive, however is not the only impressive thing about the museum. The museum as a whole is two large hangars and a theater which screens a variety of flight themed movies. One hanger includes the Spruce Goose as well as other planes starting with models from the very first attempts at human flight up through modern day military and private jets. My personal favorite was this gorgeous antique prop plane. I had visions of boarding with perfectly coiffed victory rolls and a ridiculously expensive mink jacket.

I think my husbands favorite was the Lockheed SR-71Blackbird”  which I have to admit was pretty impressive. The Blackbird is incredibly advanced and modern looking especially considering it was  a stealth spy plane that was flown in the 1960s.

The Blackbird was housed in the second hanger across the parking lot along with the the space flight displays. Which included model replicas of the moon lander, Russian space crafts and model sections of the ISS.

They also had this Russian re-entry pod on display which still has the scorch marks from when it entered back into the earth atmosphere. The space display was my favorite overall, it had displays that covered the beginnings of man’s dreams to travel off planet, information about the Russian and American space race as well as the extensive collection of artifacts, information and models.

For anyone who is interested in vintage planes, modern, military or space travel I would highly suggest the trip down to McMinnville, it is a great way to spend the day especially in Oregon in the winter. It gives you a great way to get out of the house and walk around without getting soaked to the bone.

Addition Information:

  • It is located in McMinnville Oregon, a short drive south of Portland.
  • 500 Northeast Captain Michael King Smith Way McMinnville, OR 97128
  • Tickets are 19-27 dollars depending on the age of the visitor, which is well worth it as you can make a whole day of the visit.
  • They also have an extensive array of special events, so make sure to check the calendar and plan accordingly.

Jackson Bottom Wetlands – Hillsboro, Oregon

One of my favorite local walking areas is the Fernhill Wetlands but since brining the pups home we don’t go there as much. It and the Jackson Bottom Wetlands are nature and bird preserves so dogs are prohibited.

However from time to time, we find our selves without the dog for a short period of time and wanting to get outside the Jackson Bottom Wetlands proves to be the perfect place for a walk.

The area is quite large and there are a good number of trails. Some of them were still flooded when we last went so not all the areas were open, but I think it took us about an hour to walk them all (again all that were actually open that day). It was spring, everything was in bloom and it was one of the first warm days of the year. The trails are very well maintained, well marked and despite the time of year very quiet. We only ran into a couple bird watchers.

Unlike the Fernhill Wetlands there is a very comprehensive interpretive center that holds community events and classes. They have in the past even had sunrise yoga classes outdoors on the observation decks, I would love to make it down for these. Fingers crossed I can get my act together soon!

 

To Visit:

  • Address: 2600 SW Hillsboro Hwy. Hillsboro, OR 97123
  • Open Hours: 10-4
  • Cost: Free but with a suggested donation of 2$ per person.

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:

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.