A funny thing happened on my way to Oregon wine country. I ran into beervana.
I spent the last week in and around Portland on vacation with every intention of making a pilgrimage to the famed Willamette Valley, home to some of the country’s greatest pinot noir wines.
Tasting, Full Sail Brewery
Beer, however, got in the way.
The Portland area is home to a mix of more than 40 commercial breweries, craft brewers and brewpubs. It’s a heavenly spot for the hops and barley crowd.
Rest Stop, Redding
We got a foretaste of what was to come when we stopped in Redding for lunch. My wife, Anne, found the Moonrise Bistro on Google.
Redding isn’t normally a stop on the fine dining trail, but you wouldn’t know it from a visit to the Moonstone Bistro. This gem of a restaurant, tucked into a shopping mall, featured a locally sourced and mostly organic menu of tasty food.
Fish Tacos, Moonstone Bistro
We enjoyed a deconstructed fish taco (pan-seared basa with cabbage and red onion slaw, chipotle painted tortillas, fresh cilantro and a dash of lime) and a bowl of heavenly pumpkin soup spiked with lemon, pepper and toasted pumpkins seeds with a wedge of fried Manchego cheese in the middle.
We spent our first night in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and one of our favorite brewpubs — Standing Stone Brewery. We enjoyed two meals there, with the homemade chicken soup featuring homemade rosemary noodles and a dish of perfectly cooked sweet potato fries as two of our favorite items.
The beers are fresh — they are made on the open second floor above the pub — and the atmosphere is super friendly. Plus, it’s only a block from the theater where we saw a magnificent production of August, Osage County (a comic tragedy that won the Pulitzer Prize) plus a compelling version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with a woman (Vilma Silva) playing the lead role.
Next stop, Portland
We rented a home in Portland’s Irvington District, one of the many dozens of distinct neighborhoods that provide a sort of village feel to the area.
Best Breakfast, La Petite Provence
The poached eggs served with a red wine reduction sauce over sautéed bacon, mushrooms and carmelized onions and crowned with a fresh-baked croissant was beyond great. It may have been the best breakfast I’ve ever tasted.
One reason for this trip was to see the collection of Japanese block prints on display at the Portland Museum of Art (fantastic) and to see a production of Oklahoma at the Portland Center Stage that featured an all Africa- American cast.
Oregon Beer Trail
We sampled beers from several of the big producers, starting with the Roseburg outpost of the McMenamins chain of dozens of brewpubs and restaurants that seem to populate just about every area we visited.
Their take on a pulled pork sandwich was heavenly, and that’s high praise coming from me, a diehard Memphis barbecue aficionado. The freshly hopped IPA didn’t hurt the tastebuds, either.
Brewing Vessels, Widmer Brothers Brewery
We also enjoyed a nightcap in Portland at the McMeniman’s White Eagle, one of the city’s oldest bars in the industrial district on the north side of town.
With live music nightly, this place attracted a crowd of swaying dancers and drinkers that was fun to watch. If you have a little too much fun — or drink — there’s a hotel upstairs for overnight guests.
We had a light dinner one night at the Widmer Brothers Brewery restaurant just down the street from the White Eagle.
The Widmer brewery sits directly across the street from the Gasthaus Pub where you can enjoy a pint (or two) and a meal in the shadow of the giant copper brewing vessels where the beer is created.
Food Truck Delight
EuroTrash Owner/Chef Charles Thomas
A visit to one of the biggest gathering of food trucks near downtown was our first foray into the city’s celebrated mobile dining scene.
The trucks ringed a city block, encircling a parking lot between SW 9th and SW 11th avenues. There was a cornucopia of selections with an international array of food offerings from Europe, Asia, Mexico and points beyond.
I opted for the most decadent choice available — freshly seared foie gras atop a mound of fried potato chips doused with spicy aioli from EuroTrash.
Who knew something this good could come out of a mobile kitchen that was little bigger than a good-sized closet! And, at $13, it was a bargain compared to anything similar served at a restaurant with walls and tables.
We also stopped by another food truck pod at SE 43rd and Belmont near the trendy Hawthorne District, where I thoroughly enjoyed an over-sized scoop of Hawaiian barbecued pork atop a mound of steamed rice.
The Gorgeous Gorge
There’s so much to do and see and drink and eat in Portland that you might not have time to leave the city at all, but we made time for a sidetrip to the Columbia Gorge, a glacier-created natural wonder about an hour east of town.
The Columbia River runs through the glacier-cut track framed by waterfalls and majestic cliffs. In the distance sits majestic Mt. Hood, which is capped by snow year-round
We squeezed in a visit to the Full Sail Brewery in Hood River, which sits overlooking a tributary that is home to world-class kite-boarding.
The beer is fresh and well-made. I tried a sampler that included just about everything they brew here and it was hard to pick a favorite, although the India Pale Ale, with a generous dose of hops, did stand out just a bit from the pack.
A week gave us only enough time to barely scratch the surface of what was available to do and see in the Portland area. Next time, I’ll focus on wine.