I've been home for a week now and I can still taste the flavours from my holidays through the Pacific Northwest lingering on my lips!
My sweetie and I had been planning this trip for months. We made our plans specific enough to make sure we included anything that sounded like we couldn’t live without but loose enough to be able to incorporate any spontaneous new finds we stumbled upon. The result was the most enjoyable (and certainly the most delicious) vacation ever!
Straight off the plane, we jumped in our rented Subaru (because that’s what you drive when you’re in Oregon) to the Willamette Valley (pronounced will-AM-it) just south of Portland - where my favourite Pinot Noirs from North America are born.
The valley overwhelmed our senses with its Tuscan-esque scenery, flavours and smells of local fare and its welcoming agricultural feel. Set regally atop this beautiful valley is Hawks View Cellars where we had a private tasting thanks to our superstar concierge at the Black Walnut Inn.
Hawks View was like a present under the Christmas tree…literally! The vineyard is located at the end of a long country road protected by a fortress of acres and acres of Christmas tree farms! The Hawks View Pinot Noirs ranged from their uniquely delicious and well-balanced White Pinot Noir to their elegant Oregon Pinot Noir which pays homage to their rich terroir.
For a girl with a Burgundy ($$$$) palate restricted by a “Box Wine” ($) budget, I was thrilled to have found this winery. The quality of the wines far exceeded the price tag - for sure one of the best deals in the valley. I've already made plans to include these wines in my Wine and Chocolate Parties next year!
Willamette was wonderous, but Portland is where I became a food princess. Portland buzzes with fresh, inventive flavours on every corner. I was in my element. Dinner with friends at Coppia, local ice cream at Salt & Straw, milk shakes at Blue Plate, and my favourite event: Feast Portland!
Feast Portland is the city's premier food festival and partnered for the first time with Bon Appetit magazine this year. This three day festival offers casual bites, formal dinners, workshops and tastings that feature Portland's unique food scene with guest chefs from across the United States.
We were only in Portland for the first day of the festival so I made sure to choose our one event wisely. So of course I chose the Bon Appetit "Hot 10 Dinner". This six course, five hour long dinner featured six chefs from Bon Appetit's list of Best New Restaurants. The food was both creative and familiar - like a Disneyland on my palate! At the top of my list of my Hot Ten faves were: Grilled Octopus and Burnt Lemon Puree, Squid Ink Spaghetti with Hama Hama Clams, Corn Agnolotti and the Smoked Celery Root Mascarpone, Chammomile Tea Ice, Brown Butter-Walnut Crumble for dessert.
Interesting though, my favourite meal in Portland was actually a breakfast I had downtown at Cheryl’s on 12th. Such a simple dish: Portugese fried rice. The flavours were reminiscent of my mom’s fried rice I ate all too often growing up. No matter how fancy a dish is, it’s always the flavours that take you back in time to simpler days as a kid that resonate with us most.
Before going home, we took a two-day chocolate tour around Seattle. This city, well known for its coffee roasters, now boasts a growing chocolate scene. In fact I read that Seattle now has more chocolatiers than coffee roasters!
First, we toured the Theo Chocolate bean to bar factory. It was so nice to be a guest in a chocolate class for a change! We also toured several famous chocolate shops like Fran's Chocolates and Chocolopolis. The chocolate delight that stood out the most was the ganache filled fig dipped in dark from Fran's Chocolates in downtown Seattle. Such a simple idea: scoop out a fig, fill it with ganache then dip in chocolate for good measure! The rich flavours reminded me of Christmas...too bad I already ate mine!
The liquor laws in Seattle are more liberal than the laws here in Alberta allowing chocolate retail shops to sell wine and beer...I'm so jealous! Most of the stores sold wine and beer to pair with their chocolates and some even had bars in the chocolate shops where you could sit and sip on drinking chocolate, wine or beer!
In between stuffing ourselves with wine and chocolate, we still had time to squeeze in a three-day jazz festival on the idyllic Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle. Some of the best musicians on the planet congregated here and their music made my heart tingle : ) I even was able to get my picture taken with Stochelo Rosenberg who performed the music I danced to for the Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off earlier this year!
We had such a perfect time, that we've already booked again for next year : ) Can't wait!