Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Back to the Christmas Tree Forest: Buxton OR

Once again I attended an annual U-cut Christmas tree party in Buxton, Oregon. It was another cool and misty day. Perfect tree-cutting weather!

Here's a post from a couple years ago about the magical hidden Christmas tree forest.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1856 Bottle Shop & Bar: Portland OR

Now that we’ve officially entered into the Dark Wet Tunnel (i.e. short days and lots of rain), I think back to sunnier days, particularly places where you can sit yourself down and soak up some sun.

The "lizard wall" at 1856

I’ve scoped out a few of these sites around town – usually they face south or west – and are often connected to food and drink. One of my favorites is what I have fondly dubbed the "lizard wall” at 1856 – a comfortable, relaxed and well-stocked neighborhood bottle shop and bar located in northeast Portland.  

OK, so why a lizard wall? Because it’s perfect to rest against and warm yourself – just like a reptile would do. This red (concrete?) wall faces west, and gets quite toasty in the afternoon, which makes it an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of cider. 

And note the handy window: if you decide to run a tab, the drink tender can slide out the next round without you having to forfeit your spot.

The wall even feels great on a chilly afternoon – as long as the sun has had a chance to warm it up.

When we get our next sun break, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Hobbit Walk in the 'Hood: Portland OR

By now, the vibrant red, yellow and gold leaves of October have pretty much blown off the trees and are bunched up against the curb (or floating around in puddles). The transition into the austere part of the year is in full swing.

However, if you keep your peepers peeled there’s still lots of unexpected beauty – not exactly in plain sight – but just outside the frame as they say. It’s often hidden under piles of wet leaves, broken branches and hearty shrubs.

And the great thing about Portland is, that despite the new construction explosion, you can still tap into the “hobbit vibe” that's pervasive throughout the Pacific Northwest. The unexpected woodsy, mossy, moody moments that surround us…hidden between skinny houses that sprouted overnight, or condo complexes that were once empty lots.

You just have to look a little harder.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

(Almost) Guilt-Free Comfort Food: Chickpeadx, Portland OR

Falafel Salad at ChickPeaDX

When I think of comfort food, it usually conjures up images of gooey mac and cheese topped with toasted breadcrumbs, fettucine alfredo generously sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan, or pretty much any other main course where butter and/or cheese plays a starring role.

However, on the lighter end of the emotionally satisfying food spectrum, I am happy to report there’s a comfort food salad to be found at ChickPeaDX, located at The Zipper, the new-ish hipster food court on NE Sandy at 27th.

ChickPeaDX at The Zipper 

This salad has successfully taken the ubiquitous and-not-always-great falafel to new heights by presenting it in a fresh, crunchy and colorful bowl of vegetables plus fried eggplant, topped with your choice of slightly exotic and tasty sauces.

Let’s talk about the falafel: they are hot and crunchy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, pleasingly seasoned – and bear no resemblance to the tired, boring and flat-tasting falafel I’ve experienced at lesser establishments.

As for the salad, it is a festival of color and texture that perfectly compliments the falafel balls, and the carrot “ribbons” have made me view my vegetable peeler with new found respect.

So if you are seeking comfort food with less guilt than, say, mashed potatoes, meat lasagna or fried chicken, head on over to ChickPeaDX. They’ll hook you up.


Monday, October 2, 2017

A Country Drive:
Northern Willamette Valley, OR

Northern Willamette Valley

On the last day of September, I went for a Sunday drive on a Saturday afternoon in the Northern Willamette Valley. The occasion was to ring in October, which was kind of a relief after a summer dominated by forest fires and smoky air.

My first stop was the small town of Dayton, Oregon, where I lunched at the Block House Café, located in a renovated 1886 First Baptist Church. The warm brick entrance is inviting, and inside it's spacious with high ceilings. Thankfully, it's not over-decorated, so you can get a feel for the original building. The food’s not bad, either.

Block House Cafe, Dayton Oregon

I polished off my lunch, then headed across the street to Courthouse Square Park to check out one of the town’s main attractions – Fort Yamhill – an actual military fort dating back to 1856, relocated to Dayton by a prominent citizen in the name of historic preservation. History buffs (and anyone who played “fort” as kid) would greatly appreciate this rustic and sturdy structure that’s steeped in Oregon history.

Fort Yamhill, Dayton, Oregon

After admiring the fort, I jumped back into my trusty 1998 Subaru Forester and cruised a few Yamhill County back roads. The rain clouds were parting, the sun was starting to shine, and what started out as a drizzly day was shaping up to be a lovely fall afternoon.

And...I have a big, mean, jet black, jacked-up truck with “big wheels” that was bearing down on me to thank for the photo at the very top and below, since he pretty much forced me off the road to let him pass. But as luck would have it, my unplanned stop was in a beautiful spot with great light, pastoral fields, plus a well-worn barn. What could be more picturesque?

Northern Willamette Valley

On the way home, it was still so pretty out, I felt compelled to make one last stop to savor the day, so I hit Elk Cove Vineyards. Tasting good wine in a scenic spot just seemed like the right thing to do. It was – Elk Cove Vineyards is quite beautiful, and I left with two bottles in hand and happily headed back to Portland.

Elk Cove Vineyards

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Guilder: Portland OR

View from Guilder's second floor

The weather turned this week and fall officially arrived. And of course, on that first cool and overcast day I immediately started to crave something warm and comforting to eat. That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment and remembered Guilder, a relative newcomer to the coffee shops, bakeries and cafes that dot NE Fremont Street in Portland, Oregon.

I’d been to Guilder once before and enjoyed the Scandinavian ambience – a comfortable mix of industrial chic, high ceilings and lots of natural light.

Sweet porridge

I also greatly enjoyed Guilder’s sweet porridge, another reason I returned. According to Mike Nelson, one of Guilder's owners, this Northern European take on oatmeal was inspired by a traditional Danish recipe. It consists of steel-cut and rolled oats, farro, cranberries, cardamom-spiced almonds, plus your choice of milk – another nice touch! The whole thing is topped off with a generous dollop of housemade berry jam. It has a lovely sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor and is actually quite filling. (One bowl left me sated for a solid three hours.)

Guilder part owner Mike Nelson

I’m pretty stoked Guilder is just up the road from me. The café’s light and airy feeling, the friendly staff plus the tasty porridge is just what I’ll need to fully embrace the colder and darker days ahead.

2393 NE Fremont St.

Portland, OR 97212

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hammock Heaven: Tygh Valley OR

I’m lucky enough to know some fine people who live in Tygh Valley, Oregon.  Their home sits on a hill with views of the rugged surroundings dotted with maples and sagebrush. It’s constructed from straw bales – which is pretty cool in itself.

When visiting during the warmer months, I always gravitate to the hammock. It hangs between two sturdy trees, and during the afternoon, just the right amount of dappled sunlight filters through. At night you can swing in it and stargaze. It’s also wide – so you can really stretch out. If you tip it just right, you can reach your beer resting on the ground below.

And in these waning days of summer, it’s import to remember the season’s simple pleasures – like a warm breeze, a frosty beer, and a perfectly placed hammock.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Walk on the Wildflower Side: Memaloose OR

A friend suggested we take a walk amongst the wildflowers at Memaloose State Park in Mosier, Oregon, just east of Hood River. So on that sunny day – after a particularly long, harsh and wet winter – we headed into the Columbia River Gorge.

A very helpful and current blog post by hiker and travel writer Paul Gerald (complete with photos and video) helped steer us to the right spot, and pointed out several things worth noting – including where to start and parking suggestions. (Always helpful if you’re hiking someplace for the first time.)

After a healthy frolic amongst the balsamroot and green rolling hills, we returned to the car, crossed the Columbia River via the Hood River Bridge, and topped off our hike with a visit to two excellent Washington State wineries: COR Cellars and Syncline Wine Cellars.

By our second glass of wine in the sun, winter was starting to feel more like a distant memory than a daily reality.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Different Kind of Mocha: Portland OR

Yeah, yeah…I know what you're thinking. Another aerial photo of a cute coffee drink. But you know what? This one is different. This is a Soviet Mocha from Jim and Patty’s, the beloved coffee and pastry shop located in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. What makes it Soviet is that underneath all that whipped cream is a mocha infused with a dollop of sour cream. Delicious!

So just give yourself permission to forego that anemic skinny latte made with 1% (blecch!) and go for it.

Sometimes happiness is elusive, but sometimes it’s as easy as getting a really amazing specialty coffee drink.

Portland, Oregon