Let’s start this post with a bit of a disclaimer (or two). We took a little trip around Oregon recently which was sponsored by Travel Oregon. They didn’t ask me to write this post but I am doing so because I’m far too excited not to share some of these highlights with you. Disclaimer two: This post is epically long and yet doesn’t begin to cover everything we experienced during that week. You’ll notice in posts to come that Oregon has inspired many new tastes, new ingredients and new recipes. This is only the beginning, albeit a very long beginning – good luck getting through it all. And as always, thanks for being here.
We did it. Five of us in one van making our way across two states – a road trip. Gabe and I have always talked about taking our family on a road trip. We have glamorized life on the road. Visions of roads shaded by towering trees snaking along rivers and canyons. We’d make stops to allow the kids to stretch their legs, take a quick family photo, eat at an unknown place that would forever make it’s mark in our memory for its unexpected charm and delicious food. And then reality would remind us that even one hour in the car with three little ones can leave everyone in tears. We would quickly make some excuse for why it wouldn’t work, the logistics would bog us down and we’d forever be caught in this – “yeah, that’d be nice but it’s never going to happen.”
And then we got a very generous offer to tour Oregon for a week with Travel Oregon. The logistics were worked out, the plan was made and we adjusted our schedules to actually do it. There were still moments of fear – “How would the kids do in the car for that long? Would we enjoy any of it?”
I am thrilled to report that we did it, we loved it and we survived.
The trip had us tasting wine, touring breweries and roaming through orchards. Each place provided a spot for the kids to expend built up energy and I took great joy seeing my kids chasing one another through orchards and picnicking next to trellised rows of plump grapes.
I think my father-in-law says it best – vacations with kids are not for relaxing, they are for building memories. Having those expectations have helped me to really enjoy our family trips and not to be too selfish with my time.
There were plenty of times when I was frustrated with their lack of appreciation and patience. Quite often they were more content to return to the van so they could play their games than listen to someone explain the process of apple to hard cider. And they failed to see the splendor of the enormous, nearly 100 year old beams that supported the lodge we were staying in – kids these day, geesh. But I was often shaken out of my foul moods by their joy in the simple things – a hotel bed to jump on, a pet fish to care for, a ball partnered with a patch of grass and a cool glass of root beer.
What thrills me the most is that we did it and now my mind is reeling with the possibilities of where to go next.
I’m sharing some of my favorite views of the trip. We’ve been to Oregon countless times but on this particular trip, Oregon stole my heart. Let’s just say when we came home there may have been a few Portland real estate searches (don’t panic Mom, I’m only partially serious).
We arrived in Pendelton on Sunday then woke up bright and early for a quick drive to Milton-Freewater. I sat contentedly staring out the window as the subtle rolling hills practically glowed of gold in the sun. It’s a far cry from the green and trees that I’ve grown accustomed to on my drives.
We were given an extensive tour at the Blue Mountain Cider Company seeing the entire process of apple to hard cider. The kids were thrilled by the apples that accompanied the tour although Ivy was most taken by the cat she found at the orchard.
In such a small town I was surprised (and thrilled) to find Petit Noirs. A small, family run shop specializing in handmade chocolates. Each flavor thrilled and many touted the bounty that surrounds the area – Pendelton Whiskey Praline?! Yes.
Be sure to try the Parisian – my favorite with the perfect bit of rose and orange blossom blended with dark chocolate. And don’t go home without a few nougats in your pocket. I’ll report back later on the Cherry Chocolate Merlot Marmelade but for now I will continue to hoard it and take great joy just knowing it sits in my cupboard.
I could have stayed in this space for hours, lingering among the chocolates, nougat, chocolate marmelades and talking with Lan as her passion for the craft was intoxicating.
Hood River was our next stop and the one that had us asking ourselves, “Could we live here?” What’s not to love about a town directly on a river, a crystal clear view of Mt. Hood and countless breweries?
Our favorite stop in Hood River was at the Pfriem Family Brewers. They opened their doors for us warmly and we stayed for hours. We watched Josh (owner and head brewer) craft a fresh batch before we sat with he and his family over a bountiful meal that included plates piled high with various pickles, mussels, frites, and towering onion rings with aioli.
The food and the beers both have Belgium on the mind as Josh is heavily influenced by the country but with his vast experience in brewing, Josh manages to put his own stamp on each of his beers. The beers are rich in flavor with some hinting at cardamom and deep floral hop flavors that stays true to the Northwest.
Our time at Pfriem showed me the importance of this trip and the great joy and responsibility of telling the stories of those we met along the way. Gabe and I were both blown away by their passion and were inspired by seeing this family taking a leap and making their dreams a reality. They’ve invested thousands of hours into the beer, the food, the space while raising two young children – a task I know is difficult in and of itself. It takes an incredible amount of passion for the craft to do such a thing and I find nothing more inspiring than watching others take so much pride in their work. They have much to be proud of as their beers are among the best I’ve tasted.
All of the people we met on this trip are striving to put their product out into the world – to share a taste, their joy, their lives. With many of our stops I was surprised to find the operations much smaller than I had envisioned. These are few people doing great work with local ingredients crafted expertly. I felt so honored to have met everyone I did and as I said before, it is a joy to be able to tell you all about them.
The Pfriem family touts this message; “Proudly Crafted, Humbly Offered”. Since reading that on the back of my glass while enjoying the Belgian Strong Blonde, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. This is how I want to live – striving to create something with great passion and pride and to be able to humbly share it without seeking the glory for myself but allowing the work to reflect something greater.
I can think of no better way of describing Josh and his family. He spoke with great experience, passion and care about the beer, the food and their newly opened space but he didn’t try to sell us on the beer, he simply served it to us. The beer sold itself.
We left Hood River to head into the mountains. Along the way we made several stops along the Fruit Loop alternating our pit stops between wineries and orchards.
Our first stop was at McCurdy Orchards where they painstakingly grow pears and apples in bottles to be bathed in Pear eau-de-vie and Apple Brandy. Each bottle is carefully slipped onto a young fruit and suspended with twine from branches above and below the bottle. The trees are littered with hanging bottles gleaming in the sun.
By the late afternoon we found ourselves near the top of Mt. Hood and checked into Timberline Lodge – a historic lodge, crafted by artisans in 1938 under the WPA (Works Progress Administration) established by Franklin Roosevelt. Gabe and I marveled at the massive beams supporting this towering lodge and hunted for the many intricate carvings found throughout. Walking around the lodge you can’t help but think about who all has stayed there in ist vibrant history and recall frightening scenes from The Shining as it was here that much of the exterior of that eery movie was filmed (eery is an understatement – I still have nightmares. REDRUM. Let’s move 0n).
The kids were so excited to follow one of the many paths right outside of the lodge. They spotted snow and didn’t want to stop until their little fingers dipped into the icy mash. I led them to snow and was rewarded with an onslaught of snowballs thrown my back. No respect I tell you.
We left the lodge in the morning seeking a bit of an adventure with Greg, our guide. You see, I have this sort of dream that our family would forage together. That we’d spend our weekends camping along the river, wondering through the woods and cooking a feast over a fire with our findings. The thing is that in order to become this sort of family we must do it. We don’t do it. But we tested the waters on this trip as we were led on a bit of a wander through the woods. We saw salmon flipping through the river having just returned from the ocean. We spotted and snacked on Huckleberries and learned Oregon’s state flower produces a deeply purple berry, called an Oregon grape. We snacked on those too along the trail. My vision of our foraging clan just may come to fruition as the kids loved the hike, albeit brief.
From there we made our way to Portland where we were warmly welcomed at Hotel Monaco. The kids were greeted with some new stuffed animal friends and a goldfish to care for while we were there.
I spent the next few days enjoying all the festivities around Feast Portland and drank far too much coffee – Portland, you know good coffee. Also, did I ever tell you about the time I made bitters with Mark Bitterman? More on that soon.
And now you see why we’ve been checking out Oregon real estate.
Thanks so much to Travel Oregon for the great trip and for everyone we met along the way – your stories, your products and your passion has forever made our lives richer. Thank you.