The Rainflower – Amity, Oregon

Despite the Portland Metro region Oregon is a fairly rural state. Lots of small towns, lots of old buildings, many of which have been abandoned. It does seem like though as Portland has become more a more popular destination the tourism and money that comes with it has started to trickle out into the smaller communities.

It is not uncommon these days to drive through a one stop light town that looks all but abandoned, which actually houses at least one or two gems worth stopping for. Amity Oregon is one of these towns. Founded between 1848 and 1849 by by two Oregon Trail survivors the town today is home to about 1600 people. There is a school, a store, a gas station, and a whole lot of houses that look like they have seen better days. The downtown houses an antique shop, a pretty decent coffee shop and then right in the middle of the main street is a little shop called The Rainflower.

Almost other worldly in how out of place a boutique flower and chocolate shop are in this tiny little town, especially one so perfectly styled. A blend of 1940s architecture and modern day simplicity it is worth the stop if ever find yourself in the area.

It quite honestly feels like something that all the big city gift shops are trying to pull off, the high ceilings, antique fixtures, minimalist paint, sumptuous details sprinkled around.  But you get the feeling that unlike other shops this wasn’t intentional, but an organic result of the surroundings. It is perfection. As are the chocolates, of which I ate far too many. For hours and other details check out their facebook page, and visit soon it’s worth it I promise.

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Gem Creole Saloon – McMinville, Oregon

I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans in 2017, but before that happened I had been craving good creole food (let’s be honest I am ALWAYS craving creole food). It’s not common in the pacific northwest. There are plenty of restaurants that claim to have it, but most fall fairly short in my opinion. If you find yourself in a similar situation in Portland proper Miss Delta on Mississippi Ave or her predecessor and slightly dive-ier cousin The Delta Cafe  on Woodstock are my go-to places. I promise eventually I will get around to writing up reviews. Which means I have to visit and eat at both again. I am not in the least bit sorry about this.

But this is not about those restaurants, this is about a new restaurant. New to me and new to the valley area, Gem. I discovered it on accident, a very happy accident indeed. One day wandering around McMinville Oregon wishing I could find some decent cheesy grits. And then right there in front of me was a lovely little restaurant with cheesy grits on the menu.

The interior is very purple and gold. VERY. Which makes sense as those are two of the three official colors of Mardi Gras.  It was quiet (blissfully), the service was prompt (even better) and the food was hot and delicious.  We were given a nice table by the window to watch all the happy people wander around in the sun (a rarity for that time of year here).

We ordered many (most) of the appetizers, giddy to get to try some long craved goodies. They did not disappoint. The grits were the best I have had outside of the south. Just thinking about it is making me want to go back. I wonder how they would feel if I ordered ALL the grits to go? Fried Okra, Hush Puppies and Fries were of course also incredible.

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Gem is situated next to  La Rambla (my favorite Spanish restaurant in the states) at 236 NE Third Street in McMinville Oregon.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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