Monday, June 17, 2013

Pacific NW Pt. 2: Modern-day Lewis & Clark!

On the fourth day of our trip, we left Portlandia behind us and started making our way towards the Oregon coast. You know what's the weirdest thing about driving in Portland? You can't pump your own gas. It's true. I thought it was weird when I first visited and I still think it's weird. It's so old-timey, man!

Instead of taking the most direct route to the coast, I decided that our route would take us southwest of Portland to check out some wineries on the way to the coast.

Our first stop was Chehalem Wines in Newberg. We didn't go to the actual winery since it wasn't close, but the tasting room was lovely. I could literally hear Micah groaning as we walked into the tasting room. Man up! lol.

I liked a couple of the reds and ended up buying their SEXT wine (a delicious Riesling) -- which I ended up gifting to my aunt and uncle in Vancouver.

After chatting with the wine lady, I asked her if there's a vineyard that has good wine and pretty views and she sent us straight to Alexana.

Alexana is a fairly new winery that's accessible via a gravel road. You wouldn't know it's back there, but when you get there, the views are spectacular. The tasting room is clean, modern and beautiful -- even the bathrooms were great! I mean, that's important when you're drinking!

The wines here were much more expensive than the Chehalem wines. I don't think I could say that they were that much better than the other ones we tried. They were good, but $50/bottle? I'll pass. Oh, and the tasting was expensive - I don't remember the exact price, but I think it was 4 tasters for $15?

But the view is worth the drive up here. The deck overlooks the vineyards and if you have time, it would be a great place to bring a little picnic and drink some slightly-pricey wine.

Since it was already late in the day, we decided to wrap up our wine tour and make our way through the Tillamook State Forest to find the pot of gold... and by gold I mean delicious golden CHEESE.
P.S. the Tillamook State Forest is an amazing drive. Highway 6 through the park twists and turns and you have to pay attention, but it's so lush and green and there are creeks every which way.

We got to the Tillamook Cheese Factory one hour before they closed. Whew! We didn't even take the self-guided tour, we headed straight for the good stuff!

We both thought the cheese curds was the best!

Micah seriously considered buying crackers to go with all the free cheese.

You know what else is good there? The ice cream. It's so smooth and velvety, worth every calorie. A lot of people mentioned that the lines would be bad here but when we were there, no one was in line for anything! More cheese for us, suckas.

After bingeing on cheese, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Seaside, where we would spend the night.

We stayed in the most quaint motel ever! They even upgraded us to the "SWEET" since the couple cancelled at the last minute.

Beach on one side...

And mountains on the other. Very cute city!

Seafood dinner at a place near the town square.

Coolest thing I saw in Seaside? People hunting for clams in the morning! Apparently you wait for little bubbles to pop up and you plunge a large tube in to take it out. Very cool.

After spending a night in Seaside, we finished the Oregon coast by stopping off in Astoria to see the Goonies house! Every 80s kid knows this movie! Micah was beyond thrilled.

In Astoria we stopped off at Fort George Brewing and another Rogue Public House. Ft. George was my favorite brewery we came across in Oregon besides Cascade. Very consistent but interesting beers! We took several cans home.

Five hours later, we crossed the border into Canada. Next up, Vancouver, B.C.!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pacific NW Vacation - Pt. 1: Portland is Austin's Sister City

Portland is like Austin, but with a lot more hippies AND homeless people. I think that's a fair assessment, right? I remember when I visited Portland in 2005 for my cousin's wedding and when we went Downtown, I was shocked by the homeless population. I mean, they take up residences on the street like nobody's business! But I digress... this post isn't about the homeless population, it's about our most recent trip to the Pacific Northwest! A much happier topic.

We kicked off our 10 day vacation in Portland! Why did we choose Portland? Because Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the U.S. with the 69 breweries! Spoiler alert: we did not visit all 69 breweries.

{one of the many breweries we visited}

Instead of staying at a hotel, I booked this vacation rental. It's located in a great area (Alphabet District) and was a good size, but the basement lodging did have a weird musty smell. The three days we had in Portland, it pretty much rained off-and-on every single day.

We got in late on a Saturday, but we rallied and went into the Pearl District to check out Deschutes Brewing. The food was good and we were really happy with the beer! We don't usually buy the beer back home, the beers they have on-site is infinitely better than the selection you see in TX stores.

After Deschutes, we met up with one of my co-workers who was also vacationing in Portland! What a small world! We ended up at Rogue, which is always a good choice. 

 On our first full day, we decided to check out Multnomah Falls since the next few days had a higher chance of rain. If you have time, take the historic route to the Falls. It's beautiful.

We didn't get to see THE Multnomah Falls because it started pouring when we pulled into the parking spot - but we saw the other ones, I mean, it can't look that much better, right?

I"m glad I brought a pair of tennis shoes! It was muddy out there... hence the reason why I tied up my maxi dress. Probably not the best "hiking" outfit, but whatevs.

First of many photos near a waterfall!

Look at this lil slug!

For the rest of the Portland leg, we checked out various breweries and ate... a lot.

Beer and food at Bridgeport. The mussels and mac n cheese were divine.

Our favorite beer at the Cascade Barrel House and flight of their sours.

So sour, it makes my big lips picker. lol.

I'm pretty sure I was tipsy by the time we got to Gigantic brewing. Orale!

List of breweries we visited in Portland area:
  • Deschutes Brewing: good food, great sample tray prices, great selection!
  • Rogue Brewing: you know their beers, consistent and interesting
  • Amnesia Brewing: this place is basically in area that is like East Austin. Hipster central. We didn't love anything on their menu, unfortunately.
  • Bridgeport Brewing: awesome food and good beer selection. We tried the seasonal, Stumptown Tart, which was good, but not worth the price!
  • Cascade Barrel House: Our favorite place, hands down. They specialize in sours, which we love. The best one we had was the "Bourbonic Plague." They describe it as blend of strong dark porters was aged in oak, wine and Bourbon barrels, then blended with a dark porter that had been brewed with vanilla beans and cinnamon. We had two glasses. That delicious. We tried to buy a bottle but they didn't have any on-site.
  • Belmont Station (not a brewery, but bottle store with bar)
  • Gigantic Brewing: Nothing really memorable here.
  • Hair of the Dog: Those are some strong beers!
We also came across a couple of beer fanatics who also happen to be train conductors. One was actually a bottle store owner in Idaho, but two of them were train conductors.

How many train conductors have a mohawk like this guy? I love it.

They apparently buy beers and then sell them for double the price online. These guys have no problem dropping $50-$100 on a bottle of beer. Crazy. We like beer, but that much money?! Me thinks not.

I wish we were able to get to more of the restaurants that were near the vacation rental, but we only got to a few:
  • Kornblatt's and Besaw's for breakfast (both very good options!)

  • We did get to check out Salt and Straw for some ice cream. This joint always had a line! It must be those fresh waffle cones!

I didn't just drink beer though! I did sneak in some coffee here and there. This was at Ristretto Roasters! It's in a cool industrial area, one side of the building is the coffee shop the other is a furniture shop that is so freakin' cute! And YES, I still read the paper... real paper! I usually pick up coffee as travel gifts - who wouldn't back of a local roaster? I know that's what I like as gifts (hinthint).

Overall, Portland was a blast. I wish we could've done more outdoorsy things but that'll just have to wait until next time!

After three beer-filled days in Portland, Pt. 2 will pick up on our trek to the Oregon coast!