Friday, February 8, 2013

Oregon is Great for Cheese and Tacos

Monday morning and our last day in Oregon started late and after getting some exercise and fresh air we were surprisingly ready to eat again.  The Jory menu at The Allison Inn had Crab Benedict with a Grainy Mustard Hollandaise and so we were on.  The crab the night before had been one of our favourite dishes and was equally good in the benedict.  Big chunks of crab in the cake, perfectly formed poached eggs with bright orange yolks and the mustard hollandaise was a new discovery we'll probably try at home.

The wines and cheeses from dinner Sunday night had been chosen by Ron Acierto Maitre des Fromages, who has an impressive knowledge and is locally inspired.  Ron had arranged for us to visit Briar Rose Creamery so it was our first destination of the day.

Sarah Marcus is making great goat cheeses there, her Freya won 1st Place at the American Dairy Goat Cheese Competition 2012.  It's a delicious semi-soft aged cheese.  A wheel made it home with us so, we'll be eating it regularly at The Travel Group's Friday Wine and Cheese for a few weeks.   Oregon has plenty of great cheeses being made and we look forward to finding more of them next visit.

Freya by Briar Rose

We'd planned to have an early dinner on the way to the airport at Screen Door but I'd messed up and they weren't open till 5 on Monday's.  A disappointment but it meant we got to try Por Que Nos for tacos.  We love tacos and these were GOOOOOOD.  The products are locally driven and top quality; line caught cod in the Pescado, wild shrimp from sustainable fisheries in the Camarones.  We had a Pescado, a Calamari and a Camarones taco each.  For $11, it was an excellent value meal.  There are 2 locations on the eastside of Portland.  Big thumbs up!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One of the Best Dinners Ever at The Allison Inn Oregon

My birthday got even better when we checked into The Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg.  The hotel is beautiful and the rooms large and comfortable with fireplace and deck.  The chef was preparing us a special 8 course tasting menu with wine pairings. We can rarely do a tasting menu because of our pescatarian taste but they were willing to accommodate any dietary restrictions.  Hungry and eager we headed down to the dining room. 

A beautiful corner table was waiting for us and we were handed a glass of Louis Roederer champagne as soon as we sat down.  An amuse bouche of manila clam chowder matched up beautifully.  
Ron Acierto was choosing our wines and Jeff Nichla was presenting and explaining our food. Turns out we were in excellent hands.  A Winter Citrus Salad followed, with spinach, chevre from Briar Rose Creamery, candied walnuts and Meyer lemon vinaigrette.  Ron chose an Archery Summit, Pinot Noir Rose.  
Next up was a Grilled Sardine with Mussels in a tomato broth paired with a Dobbes Family Estate, Grenache Blanc.  This was my favourite match for the evening, probably because I'm not a sardine fan so I was taken by surprise with how delicious it was.  
David's favourite dish was next; Gnocchi with crab, pernod and crème fraiche, served with Alloro Vineyards Chardonnay.  Amazing!  
Ron set up the wines for the next 2 courses by laying out 4 glasses to go with 4 vintages of Pinot Noir; Aramanta Cellars, Ribbon Ridge 2007, Macindoe Vineyards, Eola-Amity 2008, Torri Morr, Dundee Hills 2009 and Walter Scott, La Combe Verte 2010.  He told us a bit about each vintage and then we were served a Petrale Sole with cauliflower puree, apples, marcona almonds and mustard emulsion.  I never would have thought of mustard with sole and Pinot Noir but it worked very well indeed.  The final savoury course to go with the Pinots was a Steelhead salmon with hens of the woods mushrooms, sunchoke puree and port-cranberry reduction.  
We had a break to finish the Pinots before once again Ron lined up 3 glasses for the Owen Roe, Late Harvest Semillon, Trisaetum, Riesling and Francis Tannahill, Roussanne-Marsanne-Viognier blend to match the Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Rasberry Sorbet-Citrus Tuille and Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart.  I could only manage the tiniest taste of each but they were delicious.  My only comment was that a trio of desserts is wrong without chocolate.  
A cheese course finished the evening with a selection of Oregon cheeses paired with a Royal Tokaji from Hungary, a Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Port and Clear Creek Distillery, Eau de Vie de Pomme. 
We'd eaten 8 courses paired with 14 wines and learned a lot about Oregon wine and food.  It was a fantastic meal and my only complaint about the chocolate was rectified with a small plate served at the very end.  
If you are considering an Oregon wine trip treat yourself to a night and meal at The Allison Inn and Spa.  You won’t be sorry.
Big Thank You to Ron and Jeff for such a special evening.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Willamette Valley Oregon is all about Pinot Noir and so am I

Sunday morning, January 27th, it's my birthday and I planned the day the way I like it.  We started with a bit of a glitch when we went to The Imperial by Vitaly Paley for crab benedict, my favourite breakfast and one I'd heard was outstanding.  Menu change.  No crab.  Cold and unfriendly atmosphere.  We were out of there tout-suit and walked down the street to Mother's Bistro & Bar, a busy spot that we'd visited years ago.  David ordered a Cinnamon Roll and we are both glad it's a 6 hour drive to Portland, it was the best ever.  Mexi Scramble for David and Salmon Hash for me.  Both good dishes well prepared and presented.  Mother's staff makes the place; they were all having a good time and it's infectious.

Salmon Hash and Eggs

A quick stop at Stumptown for a coffee to go and we were off to the Willamette.  It's about a 40 minute drive to our first stop at the Chehalem Wines tasting room in Newberg.  They have several Reislings, a Gamay and several Pinot Noirs.  We didn't buy. $15 to taste.

barrel cave

Our furthest point was Domaine Drouhin.  A French winery in Oregon, they were celebrating the Feast of St Vincent  so we got to try some of their Burgundies.  All their wines are excellent and we came away with a bottle of the Laurene.  Hoping to be able to cellar for awhile. $10 to taste.

Durant Vineyards wasn't on our list but we noticed they offered olive oil tasting and stopped.  The olive oil tasting was in a great little gift shop.  They had 5 oils to taste as well as 4 vinegars.  Well worth a visit. The wine tasting room was across the parking lot.  Fabulous Pinot, our pick was the 2010 from Heron Vineyard.  Only 101 cases produced there is now 1 bottle in my cellar.   $10 to taste, refunded with purchase.

Argyle Winery in Dundee was a great stop.  They're Extended Tirage Brut received 96 points from Wine Spectator and it was delicious.  The Nuthouse Pinot Noir is in my cellar.  $10 to taste.

2009 Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot noir
2010 Adelsheim Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir

Final stop was the fabulous Adelsheim tasting room.  Each wine was more complex and elegant than the last.  The Winderlea was amazing and I was treated to a second pour.  We left with an Elizabeth and a Ribbon Spring Pinot Noir.  $15 tasting fee is waived with purchase.

All of the wineries poured generously so sharing is a good option.  Some waive the tasting fee with purchase and should be considered when your buying.  

Portland Oregon is all about the Brew

Saturday morning dawned like a rainy Vancouver day. We were planning a brew day, starting with coffee and moving quickly into beer.  Our first mission was to find the closest Stumptown Coffee.  They brew seriously good coffee and we could have spent the morning sipping coffee and reading newspapers if the Bijou Cafe next door hadn't started to fill up.  Bijou makes an addictive Oyster Hash; cornmeal crusted fresh oysters with caramelized onions and potatoes. I had a hard timing sharing.   David had Roasted Cauliflower and Black Kale with sheep feta, olives and eggs and gave it a thumbs up.  Both in the 100 block of SW 3rd, good locations to combine with the Portland Saturday Market.

Portland has an excellent collection of public art and we spent the morning on an art crawl until we stumbled on the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company on SE Water Street.  I'd recommend sitting at the bar and trying a flight of beer, or try some of the 3 oz tastes.  They hand make sausages most days so lunch might be a good choice.  We learned a lot about barrel aged and vintage beer and a got a tip to try our next stop, the Upright Brewery in the basement of 240 N Broadway.  Buy a flight or two and sit between the giant steel tanks to enjoy the French and Belgian inspired brews. They have limited hours so check the website.  I was the abstaining driver and truly just tasting so David had to finish everything and by this point he was heading for tipsy.

Pok Pok was our destination for dinner and since they don't take reservations we'd skipped lunch and arrived just after 4.  It was filling up fast.  They offer a limited happy hour menu until 5.  I'd recommend arriving by 4:30 and have a cocktail or 2 from the great drinks selection.  They have over 25 Bourbons and many Whiskeys from around the world.  David tried a Whiskey flight and we were able to hang around until the full menu was available.  We tried the Papaya Pok Pok with salted black crab, Cha Ca Catfish and a Noodle soup special of the day.  All of them were bright and fresh but complex.  Great Thai food.  I wish I ate chicken because every table seemed to be eating the Chicken Wings with Fish Sauce.