We recently had the opportunity to travel to Oregon and wanted to share some of what we found! Plus, we have included some ideas on how to enjoy REAL food while traveling.
Living in the Midwest, I perceived Oregon as a cold, dreary place up north. And, in my mind, Oregon and luscious wine country did not go together. Holy cow, was I mistaken!
Here are just a few of the reasons we absolutely LOVE Oregon:
The Willamette Valley in Oregon has some amazing wineries, with outstanding views and great-tasting wines. There are over 300 wineries in this area that specialize in Pinot Noir, but also produce other great varieties. At many wineries, you can meet and talk with the actual winemakers to learn how they grow the grapes and produce the wines! With so many wineries, it can be overwhelming, but is easy to narrow it down...a few of our favorites include Bethel Heights, Brooks, and Seven of Hearts (and a new find on this trip - Omero).
Oregon's mild temperatures and rainfall (30-40 inches per year) make it a great environment to grow grapes as well as other fruits and vegetables. Farmers in Oregon also produce some amazing cheeses, nuts (especially hazelnuts and walnuts) and hops (for all the local craft breweries). Several people told us the Summers in Portland and the surrounding areas are their favorite time of year -- with average highs in the low 80's and less rain, so July through September are ideal times to visit.
East of Portland is the Columbia River Gorge, which has some breathtaking views and many waterfalls (including Multnomah Falls, which is worth a visit). Also, the Hood River Fruit Loop is a must-see, with local farms growing varieties of fruits (including peaches and apples the size of cantaloupes), plus other interesting sites such as alpaca and lavender farms.
The Oregon coastline is incredible -- the views are spectacular and, in December and March, you can take advantage of whale watching during the migration seasons!
The REAL food scene, especially in Portland, is out of this world!
Oregonians are big supporters of local farmers, chefs and business owners. They also pride themselves on unique food offerings. This means unbelievable REAL food options including a mind-blowing farmers market, amazing food trucks (our local fave, The Flying Stove, would fit right in) and some great restaurants. On this trip, we discovered cornmeal crusted pizza!
no sales tax!
and you can't pump your own gas!
So, when the attendant comes running at you when you take your gas cap off, don't freak out...just sit back and enjoy it!
Probably not surprising, a focus of our trip was great REAL food (with appropriate wine and beer pairings, of course). We use trips as a chance to experience local foods and to meet some incredible people.
Here are some things we enjoy most and have learned along the way:
Search out local farmers markets! You can "Google" them or go to http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/. This is a great way to meet locals, get some amazing (and sometimes unexpected) foods, and pick up some healthy snacks for the rest of your trip. In Oregon, we stocked up at the market and snacked on fresh, local strawberries, hazelnuts, cheese, pears and apples during our entire trip.
Find local REAL food restaurants. We have had a lot of success doing some advance research on TripAdvisor and Yelp. We also find that talking to the locals is a great way to find some hidden gems. For example, asking local farmers what restaurants they sell to can provide some great leads.
Stay at B&Bs (bed and breakfasts)! We have come to love staying at B&Bs. This required us to get out of our comfort zone when it came to staying in someone's home and enjoying breakfast with strangers, but we now love it! We have met some amazing people (both owners and guests) and it doesn't get much better than a home-cooked breakfast and freshly-brewed coffee in the mornings! You can also get great ideas on what to do and see (and, of course, where to eat) during your trip. B&Bs are fantastic when traveling without kids, but many will accommodate kids as well. We find that a great B&B typically doesn't cost any more than the chain hotels, especially considering breakfast is included.
As always, get out of the box! Traveling is a great opportunity to try new things and find new discoveries you didn't know you liked! If someone says there is an unbelievable Thai restaurant just down the street, go for it! We got out of our box during our Oregon visit...we never drank Rosé wines because we perceived they were way too sweet (you know, that white zen perception). But we discovered some amazing Rosé wines (not sweet at all) that we can't wait to enjoy with a great meal on a hot Summer evening!
So, if you decide to take a trip to Oregon, we would love to share more details. Also, if you have some great REAL food experiences during your travels, please share so other Eat REAL America members can take advantage!