It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since I was in Portland (in Oregon…it’s been even longer since I’ve been to Maine).
Last weekend was the International Food Blogger’s Conference, held in Portland this time, and I am disappointed I wasn’t able to go. I had a good reason — it was the weekend after our wedding (!), and we’re both still catching up — but it doesn’t change that I sure feel like I missed out. Not just on the conference (which has a special spot in my heart, since IFBC was my first food blogging conference), but because I miss Portland and I really, really want to go back.
My visit last year was part of the “Full On Oregon” tour, a press trip with all elements hosted and arranged by Travel Oregon and Maxwell PR. The trip was phenomenally designed and executed, down to every last detail.
Although I posted about my behind-the-scenes tour of Bob’s Red Mill, I was remiss in not writing more about the trip. It was such a full weekend that writing about it has been a bit intimidating, to be honest, and now, as I fondly go back through my photos, I’m still having a tough time summing up the experience. But in the wake of IFBC — and with Feast Portland, the Food & Wine Festival, coming up next month — it is high time I share at least a glimpse of my #amazing weekend in Portland.
1. Bob’s Red Mill Factory Tour
I call Bob’s Red Mill (and Cassidy, their social media manager) my “Patron Saint of Blogging” since they’ve been so supportive of Eating Rules since the beginning. So when I had the chance to get in a few hours early to see Cassidy and visit the Bob’s Factory, of course I jumped. Here’s the full tour.
2. Dinner at St. Jack
On the first evening we split up to hit a few different restaurants. My group headed to St. Jack, part of Portland’s “French Revival” scene, where the food and company were both splendid.
What stood out most for me that evening, though, was how they delivered the wine. They brought it to our table in carafes, filled from the casks they get directly from the winery. They have a direct relationship with their favorite winery, and buy the wine in small kegs. No bottle waste! Besides the obvious environmental benefit, it saves a considerable amount of money, so they’re able to keep the prices down — and provide wines from smaller wineries who can’t afford the expense of large bottling equipment. Apparently this practice is fairly common in Portland, and I hope more restaurants in other towns will start doing this soon, too.
3. Paddles & Pints
This is where our trip went up to eleven. After breakfast the next day, a few of us more adventurous types left from the Hotel de Luxe. Not knowing where exactly we were headed — but trusting fully in our leaders — we arrived at a small, regional airport. Our chariot awaited.
Yep, they chartered a private airplane for us — really — to get us down to Southern Oregon to go white-water rafting on the Rogue River. (They originally wanted to bring the award-winning rafting company up to Portland, but when they realized that the river was a very necessary part of the adventure, they had no choice but to bring us to the river!)
We then went for a tour of Wildlife Images, an animal rehabilitation and education center. They’re doing some terrific work, and I’m grateful we had a chance to stop by and check it out.
Next up was the Rogue River itself. The water levels weren’t too high, so we were able to relax and enjoy a few rapids, but above all, soak in the gorgeous scenery and wildlife. Also, we learned that good beer in cans (compliments of Caldera Brewing in Ashland, Oregon) is a really great choice on the river.
After lunch on the beach, Chris, our pilot, decided to leave his paperwork in the hangar and come along with us. He rolled up his pants, and joined us for the rest of the way down the river. He rode on the back of my kayak down the rapids. Awesome.
4. Steven Smith Teamaker
The next morning, we split up again and my group headed over to Steven Smith Teamaker. They create small, handcrafted batches of flavorful, who-needs-coffee-anyway teas. My favorite was No. 86, the Long Jing Dragonwell. If you make it to Portland (and if you like tea), a visit to their tasting room should definitely be on your list.
5. Lunch at Kitchen Cru
Everyone reconvened at Kitchen Cru, a shared use community kitchen and culinary incubator (what a great idea!) and enjoyed a family style lunch. Three of Portland’s preeminent chefs came together for a sumptuous meal. Chris Israel (Grüner and Kask), Jenn Louis (Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern), and Scott Dolich (Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick) just kept the spectacular dishes coming.
I was particularly blown away by the Frikeh, Feta, Cucumber, and Cherry Salad — which was such a delightful blend of flavors that I couldn’t get enough. Chef Dolich was kind enough to share the recipe, and give permission to share it with you — scroll down to the bottom of this post to find it.
6. A Lesson in Cocktail Crafting
Somehow — and I’m not complaining, mind you — I was grouped with the drinking crowd on several occasions. This time, we made our way to the uber-hip Rum Club, where we had the place to ourselves for an afternoon mixology workshop. Brandon Wise, bartender at Beaker and Flask; Jade Brown Godfrey, Bartender at Greg’s Grill; and Ryan Csanky, Executive Director of the Oregon Distillers Guild showed us a few tricks of the trade.
Ryan also shared a taste of his homemade Grappa, distilled from, if I remember correctly, his homemade Pinot Noir. I am so not kidding.
My big liquor discovery of the weekend was Aquavit. Not just any Aquavit, though — Krogstad Aquavit, which is proudly made in Oregon by House Spirits Distillery. With strong notes of Caraway and Star Anise, it has quickly become a favorite in the Wilder household. (We’ve since tried others, but they were just generically “herby” and not all that exciting. It’s the caraway in the Krogstad that really makes it.)
7. Willamette Valley Wines
The Will-am-ette (the emphasis is firmly on the “am”) Valley is breathtaking. And Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, hosts of our final dinner, boasts infinite vistas and terrific wines. Being a native Californian, I’ve tended to look locally for my wines, but the Oregon wines certainly hold their own — and then some!
We finished our tour with the “Grand Feast,” from Chef Vitaly Paley and his team from Paley’s Place. It lived up to the name (and extra thanks to the team for accommodating my pescetarian proclivities! As delicious as the Rabbit Ravioli looked, I loved my Mushroom Risotto and Salmon).
8. Powell’s Books
This wasn’t an official destination on our trip, but I was told — wisely — that no visit to Portland was complete without a visit to Powell’s Books. In this Amazonian age, walking through a real-life bookstore feels like a rare treat. There’s an incomparable magic in doing so that cannot be found online, for sure. I’m not ashamed to admit that, while walking around Powell’s, I was actually so joyous that I started to tear up a bit. So if you’re in Portland, go to Powell’s, okay?
9. The People
As wonderful as the food, drink, and experiences were, what made this trip so memorable was, quite simply, the people. Not just my fellow food bloggers (a “very well curated” list of folks), but also the chefs, bartenders, adventurers, guides, and so very many Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandites?) who welcomed us with open arms, excited to share with us the bounty of Oregon.
I’m especially grateful to the Travel Oregon and Maxwell PR crew for putting this trip together and inviting me to take part. To Vicky, Stacy, Linea, Kevin, Emily, and the rest of the team: Thank you. It’s because of you that I’m Full on Oregon.
This recipe is from Scott Dolich, the chef/owner of Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick in Portland, and is shared with his permission.
For the Frikeh
- 1 Onion diced
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 cup Frikeh
- 1.5 cups Water or Vegetable Stock
For the Salsa Verde
- 1 cup Finely Chopped Parsley
- 1/4 cup Chopped Capers
- 1/4 cup Finely Chopped Shallots
- 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. Chile Flake
- 1 Tbs. Finely Chopped Lemon Zest
- 2 cups Olive Oil
For the Salad
- 1 cup Diced Feta Cheese
- 3/4 cup Chopped Toasted Hazelnuts
- 1 cup Halved Pitted Cherries Bing
- 1 cup Diced Cucumber
- 1 cup Cooked Frikeh see below
- 1 cup Parsley Leaves without stems
- 2 cups Radicchio cleaned and cut into 1"x1" pieces
- 1/2 cup Salsa Verde see below
- 2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
Cook the Frikeh
Caramelize the onion in olive oil. Add frikeh and vegetable stock, and simmer for 25 minutes or until tender. Cool completely.
Make the Salsa Verde
Combine all ingredients for the salsa and stir together.
Mix the Salad
Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, and coat thoroughly with salsa verde and lemon. Plate and serve.