Take the Fall Wine Trail in the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is stunning at any time of year, and it hold some surprises for wine lovers this autumn. The fall Gorge Wine Adventure suggested by the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers highlights some newer, stunning tasting rooms and some of the oldest vines in the Hood River area.

Viento Wines - Rich Cushman
Viento Wines – Rich Cushman

You only have to take a slight detour off of I-84 to visit the Viento Wines tasting room just west of Hood River.  Winemaker Rich Cushman is a local and they’ve been making wine since 1986. Their new tasting room is situated with its back to the freeway and windows looking over old vines and a wooded glade. You can sit outside at a picnic table or sip inside, surrounded by art. I realized I had long been a fan of their Riesling.  Now tasting their Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Barbera and Bordeaux  I saw that the winemaker and I had similar preferences for enjoyable vino. They are open daily 12-5pm April through November  and on weekends December through March,  Sat & Sun 12-5pm.

Viento Wines
Viento Wines

It was enlightening that Viento packages its wines to serve at local Gorge restaurants and events. I looked forward to seeing it on menus.

The wine trail suggests you enjoy some mountain biking or hiking each day, and the Post Canyon Trailhead is nearby. But we had places to go and wines to drink. Our next stop was one that intrigued me because of their billboards I’ve spotted in Grand Ronde enticing people to keep on driving rather than permanently detouring in Dundee or Carlton. Cathedral Ridge Winery has as German-accented tasting room and a huge outdoors area built for picnicking.

Cathedral Ridge Winery
Cathedral Ridge Winery
Jan McCartan - Cathedral Ridge Winery
Jan McCartan – Cathedral Ridge Winery

They focus on big reds, but basically they love to seek out wine varieties like they were Pokemon, determined to collect them all and make them into wine. If you thought Oregon wine was all Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, you will swiftly discover there is much more. You can go hog wild here trying different varieties.  The Cathedral Ridge Winery is open daily from 11 am until 5 pm through April then till 6 pm until November.

Cathedral Ridge Winery
Cathedral Ridge Winery

We continued up Country Club Road to the actual Hood River Golf Course and Phelps Creek Vineyards nestled next to the greens. They are open daily from 11 am – 5 pm, all the better to raise a glass after a round of golf. Their winemaker, Alexandrine Roy visits from Burgundy to create their wines, especially a lovely Pinot Noir.

Phelps Creek Vineyards
Phelps Creek Vineyards

Back the short trip to the waterfront of Hood River, we had dinner at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar. The menu features creative wood-fired pizza or create your own from more familiar ingredients. I was pleased that their idea of pizza was more like my own – a pie covered with a variety of delicious ingredients. I am not a fan of ultra-authentic Neapolitan pies with three dabs of stuff and just a whole lot of slightly-burned thin crust. We had their signature Country Girl Cherry with cherries, house made chorizo sausage, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella and marinara. The portions and price is good. We also had the fried Brussels sprouts with brown sugar and maple marmalade and a salad. Naturally, it was accompanied by a local wine, with Viento available as well as others. But if you prefer some of the Gorge’s great brewers, you could have Full Sail and others.  Solstice is open daily from 11 am – 9 pm, so you can stop in for lunch or dinner or post-hike snacking and sipping.

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I walked the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon at the end of October and so I’d seen our lodging for the night, the lovely Hampton Inn Hood River. It’s right on the waterfront so I may well stay there next year. Downtown Hood River is an easy walk as well. The bed was gorgeous and the views were as well, of the Nichols Boat Basin. Naturally, they have coffee in the lobby and a continental breakfast included.

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All the better to fuel a hike in the morning before further exploration. For this day, we headed up Highway 35 on the east side of Mt. Hood, through the Hood River Valley. Our destination was the Tamanawas Falls Trail. Unfortunately, nature had conspired to close access to the falls with a rockslide until spring. Nonetheless, it was magical to be reacquainted with this trail that follows Cold Spring Creek. You need $5 cash to pay for the Recreation Pass to park at the trailhead.

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We stopped at a fruit stand on our way to Wy’East Vineyards. Through November they are open Saturday and Sunday 12 -5 pm. It was lovely to chat with the staff and taste the locally-sourced grapes. They have a large variety of seating on their deck as well as inside. I loved their Riesling and bought a couple of bottles. Once again, I was impressed by the quality of wine being produced in the Gorge.

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WyEast Vineyard View
WyEast Vineyards View

Our final winery was Mt. Hood Winery, which is open 11 am – 5 pm daily through November, when it closes until March. It’s located on a Century farm operated by the Bickford family, next to the Mt. Hood fruit canning operation. The lovely tasting room has soaring ceilings and seating on the wrap-around veranda so you can meditate on the wonder of nearby Mt. Hood. They were named 2016 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest and their 2014 Estate Pinot Noir won Best Oregon Wine at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition.

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The wines and the views were both stunning and this is a must-visit stop to make. We then got a special tour of the winemaking operation nearby and enjoyed barrel tastings of whites and reds. They are a center of winemaking for several wineries.

Barrel Tasting
Barrel Tasting

The tradition of farming and winemaking runs deep in the Gorge. This trip convinced me that the Gorge is a worthy wine destination, as much as my beloved Yamhill county destinations.

Pine Street Market Now Offers Daily Brunch

Portland’s indoor foodie refuge, Pine Street Market is now open daily for brunch. Doors open at 8 am for coffee service, followed by brunch starting at 9 am,  and the market closes daily at 10 pm.  Pine Street Market is located at 126 SW 2nd Ave., in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Each of the vendors will have their own brunchy offerings from 9 am – 11 am before swinging into their regular lunch and dinner menus. Of course, you can start at Brass Bar for coffee, tea or espresso done with care, or pickup a pastry from Trifecta Annex. But now, there’s more.

Shakshuka and Pita with Shalom Mary
Shakshuka and Pita with Shalom Mary from Shalom Y’All

For those who want to skip the lines at John Gorham’s Tasty n Sons or Tasty n Alder, you can enjoy the shakshuka and delightful fresh pita or the Jerusalem bagel sandwich  at Shalom Y’all. Or, go Spanish at his Pollo Bravo with breakfast offerings of sopa de ajo, Catalan sausage bocadillo, or potatoes bravas. For adult early morning drinks you can have a Shalom Mary or La Tomatina Bloody Mary.

Sopa de Ajo from Pollo Bravo
Sopa de Ajo from Pollo Bravo

The ramen house Marukin offers ochazuka, a Japanese dish made by pouring green tea dashi over cooked rice, with savory toppings. You can enjoy more soulful Asian at Kim Jong Smokehouse with Korean pork and daikon soup.

Marukin Ochazuke
Marukin Ochazuke
Kim Jong Smokehouse Korean Pork and Daikon Soup
Kim Jong Smokehouse Korean Pork and Daikon Soup

For a healthy but delicious starter, check out Kure Juice for their Acai bowls, smoothies, and organic juices. I tried the acai bowl that included peanut butter and was delighted with what is basically a very thick frozen smoothie on the bottom of the bowl featuring healthy juices and fruits, topped with fruit, granola and other ingredients. It’s something I will definitely have again.

Kure Acai Bowl and Smoothies
Kure Acai Bowl and Smoothies

OP Wurst offers up some fun breakfast dogs, suitable for kids or adults. The Monte Cristo on a stick or the pigs in a blanket would be easier eating for the kiddos. Their French toast dog was a sweet and savory choice on a French toast bun with apple butter. You can also get fried or scrambled eggs, pancakes, or link sausage on the side.

OP Wurst Breakfast Dog and French Toast Dog
OP Wurst Breakfast Dog and French Toast Dog

Besides gorgeous pastries, Trifecta Annex serves individual breakfast pizza that has potato, pancetta, fontina, eggs, peppers and sausage. It was like a flat quiche lorraine on their excellent crust and would make a quick breakfast. But you may not want to skip their signature toast on rustic bread with Trifecta butter.

Trifecta Annex Breakfast Pizza
Trifecta Annex Breakfast Pizza
Trifecta Annex Pastries
Trifecta Annex Pastries

The brunch offerings should serve hungry Portlanders before most food carts open. I loved it because I am often in downtown early on the weekends and would like a breakfast without the formality of waiting in line for brunch.

Bee Thinking Opens Mead Market Tasting Room

Portland’s first mead-only tasting room and bottle shop, Mead Market opens October 1, 2016 at 1744 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, Oregon. It’s brought to you by Matt Reed and Jill McKenna of Bee Thinking, Portland’s leading independent beekeeping company.

Mead Market
Mead Market

Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage brewed from honey. It has a surging popularity with production doubling between 2012 and 2014. There are about 400 meaderies in the US now, compared with under 75 just five years ago. One undoubtedly popular aspect of mead is that many varieties are gluten and grain free, although some varieties such a braggot include grains.

You can taste and buy mead at Mead Market. A tasting counter will feature a variety of meads of different styles, many of them from the local area. You can taste the meads on tap and fill growlers to take home.

Over 100 different mead labels will be available by the bottle in the shop to take home. Local meaderies include Fringe Meadery, Stung Fermented, Ethereal Meads, Nectar Creek and Hierophant.

Mead Market
Mead Market

If you’d like to join the mead movement, you can buy a mead-making kit and join in classes to learn how to ferment mead and how to taste and pair mead with cheese.

The different varieties of mead yield very different pairings.  Some meads are not at all sweet, while others are. Some are brewed in an ale style, while others such as cyser include apple juice.

Mead Market - Mead Making Kit
Mead Market – Mead Making Kit
Mead Market - Bee Thinking Class Area
Mead Market – Bee Thinking Class Area

For budding beekeepers, you can also browse the equipment and hives available from Bee Thinking. The staff members are passionate and knowledgeable about bees.

Bee Thinking Hives
Bee Thinking Hives
Bee Thinking Beekeeping Equipment
Bee Thinking Beekeeping Equipment

Honey products, including cosmetics, candles, soaps and more are available. You can also buy bulk honey.

Bee Thinking Products
Bee Thinking Products

Mead Market will be open Sunday-Wednesday 10AM-6PM and Thursday-Saturday 10AM-8PM.  It is well worth dropping by to browse.

Urdaneta Serves Basque/Spanish Tapas on Alberta

Javier Canteras brings his Basque regional Spanish cuisine to Portland at Urdaneta, 3033 NE Alberta. The cozy space was previously home to Natural Selection and opened in July, 2016. Here, you can enjoy tapas that feature the rustic comforts of the Basque region as well as the sophistication of Madrid tapas bars.

Long Walk Home
Long Walk Home

Drinks play a large role in tapas culture, and I tried The Long Walk Home- Bourbon, Basque Sidra, Amaro, citrus. As a walker, I found it both refreshing and intricate, quite satisfying to savor. They have a variety of Spanish wines by the glass, cider, sherry, and cocktails.

You can select tapas by size, with the Pintxos del Bar being the smallest and best enjoyed by one person.  We started with the Molleja – crispy sweetbread with dad’s marinated peppers and espelette crema, and the Ajo Verde – cucumber almond gazpache with pickled grape and sunflower seeds. Like the rest of the dishes, these were big flavors and very satisfying.

Molleja - crispy sweetbread and pickled peppers pintxo
Molleja – crispy sweetbread and pickled peppers pintxo

For larger tapas primeros, we ordered up the traditional Pan con Tomate and the croquetas de chorizo. The tomato bread had a great garlic punch and the croquetas were rich with dry cured chorizo, bechamel and sherry aioli.

Pan con Tomate
Pan con Tomate

The Tapas Segundos are larger and even more intricate. We gave top marks to the Filete de Culotte – culotte steak with romesco, leek marmalade and valdeon foam. The Pulpo a la Plancha – grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, fennel and grapefruit was also excellent.  The Cordero – lamb shoulder skewered on sinnamon sticks with kalimotxo glaze, pickled cherry and citrus espuma was a little too dry, but took a lovely photo. The low light at our table resulted in poorer photos of the other delicious dishes.

Urdaneta - Cordero lamb shoulder skewered on cinnamon
Urdaneta – Cordero lamb shoulder skewered on cinnamon

We shared two desserts. The Arroz con Leche bruleed lavender rice pudding and the Helados Y Sorbetes ice creams. The were lovely.

Desserts
Desserts

You can view the work going on in the open kitchen. We made a reservation for their opening time. The place filled up by 6:30.  They are open every day at 5 pm. Add Urdaneta to the exciting Spanish cuisine scene of Portland.

Chesa Serves Paella from the Heart in NE Portland

Portland paella lovers can enjoy Chef José Chesa’s second restaurant, named Chesa for his father, on NE Broadway.  Chesa blends Catalonian tradition with modern techniques for tapas and paella from a Josper charcoal oven. Along with business partners Cristina Baéz and Emily Metivier, it’s a great place to enjoy Spanish tapas and paella with a modern twist.

Chesa dining room
Chesa dining room

The restaurant is larger than Chesa’s Ataula in NW Portland. The dining room has bench seating along the west wall, all the better to line up tables that can be combined or separated to allow for a variety of sizes of groups to dine together. The east side of the restaurant is a stand-up tapas bar, with bar stools and a bar program from bartender Tony Gurdian featuring sherry and vermut cocktails and sangrias, and a wine list from Metivier and Chesa Senior.

Josper Grill at Chesa
Josper Grill at Chesa

The open kitchen allows you to see the paella and tapas action if you decide to sit on the southern end of the large space. The noise level was boisterous but didn’t drown out conversation or force you to yell to your dining companions.

Jose Chesa Senior at the tapas bar at Chesa
Jose Chesa Senior at the tapas bar at Chesa

Chesa’s tapas are works of culinary art, each with a story and legacy of a childhood spent creating and appreciating authentic Catalonian food and the freshest, purest ingredients.  Try Almejas Chesa – dad’s Sunday clams, and savory Nuestra Croqueta with porcini mushrooms and a sage and porcini dipping aioli.

Chesa clams
Chesa clams
Chesa Croquettes
Chesa Croquettes

The paellas are the heart and soul of the menu, with six featured on the preview menu. The size was perfect to fill one person, especially after a few tapas. Costs for the paellas were in the $22-29 range. It is hard to choose between paellas featuring local Carlton farms pork shoulder, sherry marinated rabbit, seafood, braised oxtail, or vegetarian options. The flavors are deep and intricate, to be savored with each bite.

Mallorca paella with Carlton Farms pork shoulder
Mallorca paella with Carlton Farms pork shoulder
Montana i mar paella
Montana i mar paella with braised oxtail, bomba rice, prawns, sofrito, scallions

For iberico ham buffs, you can get slices from the carving station next to the open kitchen, inspired by Chesa’s grandmother’s kitchen.

Chesa jamon
Chesa jamon

Chesa offers dinner service Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Address 2218 NE Broadway St.,Portland Ore. 97232.

It is next door to their 180 xurros bistro, where you can enjoy the Spanish pastry, dipping sauces, drinking chocolate and coffee for breakfast and lunch hours.

ACME Farms + Kitchen Locavore Boxes

ACME Farms + Kitchen is a new source for Portland home cooks to get local, seasonal ingredients they can use to create home-cooked meals. If you need meal preparation inspiration beyond a trip to the farmer’s market or a CSA, it is a good choice.

The company has been serving the Seattle and Bellingham areas and began the Portland service area in February. Unlike national meal kit companies such as Blue Apron or Plated, what arrives in an ACME Farms + Kitchen box is sourced from the surrounding area. Fresh local and seasonal vegetables, meat, seafood, artisan cheese, fresh pasta, baked goods and other ingredients come small farms and producers from just down the road. They arrive via a local driver at your doorstep within the service area.

The boxes come in two sizes and a couple of choices. You can buy a one-time purchase or sign up for a subscription to receive a box every 7, 14, or 28 days, which can be canceled or modified at any time.

  • The large locavore box has ingredients and recipes for five meals. You have a choice of regular, dairy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, and double protein.
  • The small locavore box has ingredients and recipes for three or more meals. You have a choice of Surf (with one selection of fish or shellfish), Turf (with one selection of meat), small gluten free with one protein of either meat or fish, vegetarian, or vegetarian gluten free.
  • The paleo box is more expensive as it contains a roast, fish or shellfish, and three cuts of meat in addition to seasonal produce.

When you get the box, the recipe sheet notes what other pantry items will be needed to make the recipes. These are things such as milk, broth, spices, oil and butter.

Each meal will feed a family of three to four people, so a small box provides enough leftovers for most of the meals for a week for a couple. A small box every-other-week would be suitable for a single person. Often there is a soup recipe or an entree that could be portioned and frozen for later lunches, etc.

An Example of a Small Locavore Turf Box

The box arrives with the meat usually frozen and on a cold pack. It is a delight to unbox it and see the vegetables and artisanal products included.

A small locavore turf box back in February contained the makings for these meals:

  • Winter squash carbonara with sage: fettuccine pasta from Pasta del Sol, butternut squash, shallot, garlic, sage. You could add on local bacon to the order or provide your own from your pantry. You provided parmesan cheese, broth, and oil as well. The preparation required a skillet, pasta cooking pot, and blender. The resulting pasta would easily feed four people, and was colorful enough to be served to guests.
  • Shepherd’s Pie: Deck Family Farms ground beef, yukon potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and organic kale. You provide dried thyme, olive oil, butter, cornstarch, milk. You needed a pot to boil the potatoes, skillet, pie plate to bake in oven. The dish was hearty and very satisfying.
  • Quiche Lorraine with Green Salad: Pie dough from Sweetheart Bake Shop, pasture-raised eggs from Deck Family Farms, Ancient Heritage Willow cheese, onion, leek, lettuce. You provide olive oil, milk, sour cream, bacon (which could be added on), and salad dressing. You needed a skillet and pie pan to prepare it.

The technical cooking skill level for these dishes is beginner to intermediate. You need a kitchen well-stocked with pans, skillets, knives, and often a food processor or blender is needed. The instructions give tips on getting a head start for recipes that will need the beans soaked, etc.

By serving time, a home cook will feel they have made a great from-scratch meal they can be proud of from local and seasonal ingredients. For those who have family members with off-beat food allergies, you are able to modify the recipes to suit and season them as you prefer, or use the ingredients in your own recipes.

The meals generally seem to include a dinner or two and a breakfast or brunch item. The ACME Farms + Kitchen service can be a great way to be inspired in creating home-cooked meals from local, seasonal ingredients.