Friends, Wine and Berries

In June, Bryan and I spent a week in Oregon.  My good friend Brie and her fiance Brian moved out there almost 6 years ago and I have been trying to get out for a visit since the moment they left Boston.  My adventure into the culinary world coincided with their departure and left me with little time and very little cash to fund a trip.  After a long and lovely conversation with Brie via phone last winter I was overcome by how much I missed them and how fun it would be for us to visit and explore!

We arrived on Saturday, greeted by Brie at the airport we headed out for some dinner.  She took us to a cluster of food trucks and we had our choice of burritos, crepes, pizza,  or fries.  We opted to share pulled pork fries (because they sounded so freaking good) and I got a crepe with figs, arugula and goat cheese.  What was fun about these food “trucks” was that they weren’t really food trucks at all, more like stationary trailers that were set up around the perimeter of the lot and had awnings and picnic tables in between that customers could share.  We liked this set up, it was kind of cozy and comfortable.  Here in Boston, we have a tough time finding the food trucks, which have up to 3 different locations they could be at depending on the day, and there isn’t always a place to sit close by.

On Sunday, Bryan and I headed down to McMinnville which is located in the Willamette Valley Wine Region.  We had a lovely 3 days, wine tasting, relaxing and eating.  We stayed at  The Hotel Oregon and it is a great deal, it is very comfortable (although the room is sparse, no TV or real amenities) and has a pretty nice roof top bar.  We spent a few afternoons reading and sipping beer in the sun.  It has some odd alien inspired artwork that can be a little creepy, we found out the reason after we got home. Our favorite winery was Kramer, located in Gaston, OR.  It was most reminiscent of Sonoma.  They had some really lovely wines and a few more varieties than the commonly found Pinot Noir.  We tasted a Merlot and a Barbara that were both tasty.  We had lunch at Red Hills Market in Dundee, a market/cafe that has a big wood fired oven that they toast all their sandwiches in.  The smoked ham, spicy honey butter with Gruyère was delicious and disappeared very quickly!

After a few days of wine tasting we headed back to Portland to visit with Brie and Bryan and explore the city.  We hiked around Forest Park and visited the rose garden. We enjoyed an absolutely delicious dinner at Pok Pok, everything was so incredibly flavorful and it was a really fun spot to enjoy with friends.  We also were able to make it to Beast for an amazing six course dinner with wine pairings.  I first heard about Beast when Barry, the chef at Hungry Mother was one of Food and Wine best new chefs in 2009 along with Naomi Pomeroy, the chef at Beast.  Naomi has since catapulted into celebrity chef stardom, competing on Top Chef, etc.   The dining space at Beast is made up of an open kitchen with a big island so you can watch the plating of the meal.  There are two communal tables and we were able to sit and chat with some of the other diners as we ate.  The charcuterie plate was the highlight of the meal for me.  It included nine little bites of yumminess, ranging from rabbit rillettes and duck terrine.

Portland was a really easy city to explore.  We got to walk around a few neighborhoods, explore Powell’s Bookstore, visit the Farmers Market and spend time making lovely dinners with Brie and Brian.  We also took a trip up to Sauvie Island to pick berries, blue berries, raspberries and blackberries.  We picked like five flats and I could have stayed all day picking and dreaming up all the delicious things I wanted to make with them.  I was able to make a berry shortcake, and take some home on the plane.  I enjoyed them in my morning yogurt when I got back!!

We are off to Brie and Brian’s wedding this weekend in VT.  It was so wonderful to spend time with them a few weeks back, talk about the plans for the wedding and get excited with them.  More later on their wedding cake 🙂

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