Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Spots on the Oregon Coast

Paul and I decided to travel up the Oregon Coast to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We hadn’t made that trip in a few years and we were excited. The route taken was highway 12, working our way to Petaluma, birthplace of Snoopy. There is an Italian restaurant in Petluma, Giacomo’s, which Paul loves, so we decided to have dinner there. But first, since it was a little early we decided to cruise downtown Petaluma, where we made a fab discovery: The Seed Bank! We just had to go in, and we found an old bank building stocked with heirloom seeds. Paul is going to plant a winter garden this fall and he bought lettuce as well as root vegetable seeds. I found an Italian pepper I’d never heard of; in fact I tried planting 6 seeds when we got home. I couldn’t resist! I highly recommend going in The Seed Bank if you are in the area and are interested in Non-GMO, better tasting produce. They also have a website: www.rareseeds.com.

On to Giacomo’s: Paul had been swearing that their chicken saltimbocca (pounded breast with cheese and prosciutto) was incredible so we decided to split a dinner. (We split dinners frequently; it saves calories as well as money. The trick is reaching an agreement.) So, the upshot was, the whole dinner was delish, the salad, the bread, the saltimbocca. I can’t speak to the rest of the menu, but in general I have to recommend it. Giacomo’s is right on the road entering Petaluma, just google it!

Giacomos 4

The next day we jetted on up to Eureka, with a few side trips. There are many small towns up the 101 corridor, and it’s kind of a shame that so many have been bypassed, though 101 frequently stops being a freeway and worms through towns like Willits and Crescent City. There is a historic downtown area in Eureka that is full of shops and cafes and it just so happened that the monthly art walk was happening that Saturday night! The shops were open and bands were playing everywhere; our favorite was Funk Pilot, playing an R&B mix, and funking very well at that. There are lots of good looking restaurants in Eureka; we went back to the Sea Grill, one of those old establishments that serve good food and plenty of it, so we split our clam dinner. They were very generous and gave us extra clams. Despite sharing we were pretty full when we left. Someday we must try the Ethiopian restaurant on the main drag. I promise.

Sea Grill Eureka

On the way into Eureka we stopped in Ferndale, an historic town loaded with Victorian buildings. One of my favorite stops was the Blacksmith Shop. They had forged knives made from recycled, high-carbon Swedish saw steel (I suspect from the sawmills of Humboldt County). I was salivating over those knives, but there were so big I wasn’t sure they fit in my knife block. I have since learned that high-carbon steel rusts unless you immediately clean and dry your knife. Whoops, better not!

The first town across the Oregon border on 101 is Brookings. We absolutely have to stay at the Best Western Motel in the harbor. Brookings is up on the cliffs, the harbor is down below. The motel is on the beach and every room looks out over the beach. Absolute heaven.

We were told about a new restaurant in town, Superfly Distillery. The biz started out as a boutique vodka distillery (distilled three times) and a small restaurant followed. I must confess I had two cocktails, both made with fresh fruit; a watermelon as well as a kiwi martini. Both were delicious, and the vodka was very clean tasting. I didn’t feel a thing the next day. Yippee! The food offerings are small plates, nothing over $10. We shared a dish of mussels in broth. I wish they had grilled the bread and I told them so, but the mussels were very good. The wedge salad was amazing with lots of blue cheese and bacon. Please go there if you miraculously end up in Brookings.

Wedge Salad at Superfly

On up the coast is Bandon. They used to make cheese there but that’s all gone now. We did have a nice little lunch at the Port O’ Call in the historic downtown area, but the surprise was Coastal Mist. This place had really gorgeous chocolate truffles and drinking chocolate. We tried a couple of delicious truffles, comparable to the ones you would find at Recchiutti Confections in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. In other words, pretty bitchen! They also sold big hunks of Callebaut, a high end Belgian chocolate, but I passed.

I was really looking forward to having a bite at The Blue Hen in Florence. They had great fried chicken, wonderful omelets for breakfast. Everything about that place was blue, with chickens. I was disappointed to learn that it was closed!!! Years ago!!! So we motored into historic Florence and had a great lunch at ICM, right by the water. At this point I am still trying to do minimal damage to myself and had a bowl of delicious clams for lunch. Really great food, Paul had really good clam chowder – yes I tasted it! There were, count’em, two kitchen stores, had to hit both. I needed a new garlic slicer and found a really nice one. Mission accomplished.

After spending the night in Coos Bay, with unremarkable food, we motored on to Tillamook. Actually, I must mention that an Italian place was highly recommended, which I wanted to try, but there was also a German place, the Blue Heron, and I compromised with Paul, who wanted schnitzel or some such thing. At the risk of slandering a whole cuisine, German cooking is so bland I really don’t care to eat it again. Paul did allow that this was subpar cooking, but I am not mollified. If you have resources for tasty German cooking I trust you will let me know.

So, on to Tillamook, a small farm town, with again, unremarkable restaurants, but the attraction is the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which is way cool. We took the self guided tour – absolutely fascinated by the worker bees packaging the cheese down below. I kept filming clips of the machines whirling around. We tasted cheese – why can’t we get Habanero Jack here? It’s heavenly. I had a bite of Paul’s chocolate ice cream - addictive. Why didn’t I know there was Tillamook ice cream?

After a great morning at the cheese factory and a visit to the Blue Heron Cheese place we decided to make our way to Portland. Did I mention that western Oregon is unrelentingly beautiful? It’s so green it’s like being in the land of Oz. So we blissfully drove on to Portland, stopping in Beaverton for lunch. Beaverton appears to be bustling and is probably a nice city to live in. We had delicious soup and sandwiches at Fresh Thyme. That is one popular place and we really enjoyed ourselves. I particularly enjoyed the sight of the tall white guy with braided dreads down to his calves. I wish I had thought to snap a picture.

We fooled around in Portland a bit and when I used my GPS to get us back to Interstate 5 and therefore our hotel, it meandered us through the historic Mississippi district, which reminded me of a combo of midtown Sacramento and a clean, non druggy Berkeley. We swore we would come back the next day for further exploration the next day, which we did.

But first, tapas at Toro Bravo for our anniversary dinner! Our foodie neighbor suggested it and since we love small plates we went for it. They don’t take reservations for small parties so it’s a good thing we got there by 6. We got to sit at the bar in front of the kitchen and watch the cooks work their magic. We had fried anchovies with aioli (a first for me) – delicious! Don’t forget to dip those little fishies in the flavorfulness that is aioli. We also had grilled asparagus with fried jamon and other delights, sauteed spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins and grilled flat bread with black truffle cheese and arugula. They treated us to salt cod fritters with aioli. It was all wonderful; oh did I mentioned the delicious cocktails – don’t remember what was in them except they had Tangueray gin in them and I felt perfectly fine the next day. (Notice a pattern here? I don’t drink cheap alcohol because I don’t like feeling like hell the next day. Plus I don’t drink often so when I do I want the good stuff. I don’t normally drink gin, but I’ve been told Bombay Sapphire is amazing so I will have to try it one day.) I got to watch my churros being freshly fried and man were they good, dipped in chocolate sauce. What a wonderful dinner. If you go to Portland – do not pass go, do not collect any moola, go directly to Toro Bravo. When we left at about 7:30 there was a crowd outside waiting to get seated, and sipping cocktails. So go early, unless you want to stand outside and sip cocktails, possibly in the rain.

Toro Bravo asparagus

The next morning we headed back to the Mississippi District, looking for a great breakfast. I had found Muddy’s online so we headed there. I found out Muddy was the owner’s dog, and that he went along on a trip to see the Pope back in 1983, so I figure Muddy is no longer with this. However, is spirit is in evidence – just look at the entrance. Muddy’s is in an old Victorian house and definitely has a homey feel. I had a flavorful bagel and lox and was in heaven with all the capers and onions and the toastiness of the bagel. Yum. Paul went traditional and was happy too. Go to Muddy’s.

Muddy's Cafe Portland 3

We walked up and down Mississippi and found Pistils, a nursery with its own chicken run. I was lured in by the sound of clucking and cackling. Evidently at certain times they have the run of the place, after plants are placed out of reach of their busy beaks and claws. Our favorite spot was The Meadow, a small shop that sells finishing salts and and at least 30 kinds of bitters. I had heard of Angostura bitters and knew they were used in some cocktails, but I didn’t know they were used for cooking too. So we bought the Angostura bitters, which smell citrusy and spicy, and some lemon infused finishing salt and called it good.

The Meadow Bitters

One more place to try for breakfast is Zells, where we stopped before leaving Portland. It was popular and good and in an old part of town, just google it. Thanks goodness for google! We did have to start heading south and didn’t have time to meander as before so we had decided to head down Interstate 5 to Ashland, with visits to towns along the way. Ashland is the last town before the California border, and is home to the Shakespeare Festival. It’s a pretty town, high in the hills by the freeway, and has a really pretty downtown. Be sure to walk through Lithia Park, and if you dare, taste the Lithia water. It is full of dissolved minerals like sulphur and it tastes god-awful. I didn’t drink it this time, all those times tasting it as a kid was plenty! Parking is challenging, but it’s worth the effort to go. There are fun shops and lots of restaurants to try. Thai Pepper was good and I would eat there again.

We had to jet on down I5 to get home after two nights in Ashland. I really didn’t want to go home, but that’s how you feel after a great trip. Let me know if you go!

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy reading your blog Kathy. it is funny and has the right amount of details and backstory...it makes me want to follow your itinerary and eat my way to Oregon!!