In honor of our second wedding anniversary Chris and I took an early trip out to Portland and Bend. We also invited most of my family – including my brother John, sister-in-law Ginger and my mom and dad. Missing was my little sister Kara and her boyfriend Eric Lee. The first night Chris and I arrived we got our rental car and headed to the house we rented in the Alberta Arts District. I have only high praise for this rental. It was only a couple of block away from Alberta and we were walking distance to restaurants, bakeries, markets and coffee shops. Chris and I fell in love with the house and the neighborhood. That first night we walked to a cute French restaurant on Alberta called La Petite Provence. The restaurant definitely had a very authentic bistro vibe inside including very bright lights. So while it was quaint, it was not exactly a romantic setting. Which was ok considering it was me, Chris and my parents. After much mulling over the menu we all ordered. I got the goat cheese salad with salmon. Chris ordered the Salmon special , which was a poached salmon filet with sautéed vegetables, rice and a basil pesto. My parents split the couscous salad and the chicken cordon bleu.
My salad was ok, but a little bland. The pears and goat cheeses were a lovely touch though. Chris’s special was nice and light, but also a little bland. The two winners were my parents dishes – the couscous salad and the chicken cordon bleu were both fantastic. Both had a lot of flavor and richness.
Overall, I did enjoy the food and the experience. But there were a few cons to this place.
- The service was not very good, but I have heard that service in Portland is iffy.
- Chris did not receive his meal until we were all done eating.
- The salmon was not super fresh.
And while they obviously forgot Chris’s meal, they did reward us with a free pastry sampler, which adequately made up for the forgotten meal!
The next day, everyone had arrived. John and Ginger’s plane had gotten in from LA the night before very late. We all got up and had a yummy breakfast at the house. And then we headed to the Willamette Valley to do some wine tasting. As most of you know I am pregnant, so it was mainly wine sipping for me. We went to a number of wineries including Erath (avoid), Torii Mor (pretty good), DePonte Cellars (also pretty nice) and Penner Ash (good wine, GREAT winery, beautiful scenery). I was a little disappointed in the Willamette Valley wines. They mostly produce whites and pinot noirs that are not very complex and a little flat. I am told it’s because of the rain and lack of intense sun, which makes a lot of sense. It was still a beautiful day and the scenery at these wineries was unbelievable. Even more beautiful than Santa Barbara wineries.
In the midst of this wine tasting everyone needed some food. So we stopped at Farm to Fork, an adorable restaurant in Dundee, Oregon located in the Inn at Red Hills. The place was filled with preserves and specialty vinegars and the food was not too shabby either.
Everyone’s meal was outstanding. My top round of beef sandwich was tasty and the combination of the earthy beef and au jus mixed with the gorgonzola dulce, arugula and pickled onions was a delight. Ginger’s duck confit salad was a clear winner. Not only was there duck confit on it, it was also topped with wine preserved figs and roasted grapes as well as hazelnuts! My parents split the croque monsieur, I was not able to eat this since there was an uncooked egg on it, but how can you mess that up? And according to my parents, they did not. John and Chris both ordered the chicken salad sandwich. I would have to say that was the most boring item, but it was still very fresh and tasty. It was served open-faced with celery root-apple remoulade, grapes and hazelnuts.
After driving back into Portland we all freshened up and headed to dinner at Cabezon. John and Ginger had a few friends in town from Corvallis and an old family friend also met up with us there. So our big group took up a large table in this small and intimate seafood restaurant located near both Portland’s Hollywood and Rose City Park neighborhoods. I had done a lot of research on restaurants in Portland. And in the end we mostly cooked, but I insisted that we go to this place. I had read some stellar reviews and the menu looked great as well as the prices. One thing I really try to do when recommending restaurants is find places that I think are steals. And this place fit that to a T. This was the best service and food we had dining out while in Portland. And I highly recommend it. Now on to the food!
The menu at Cabezon changes daily and they are really into local, fresh and seasonal items. While this is pretty awesome, it meant the dishes I loved on their website were not on their actual menu. This ended up being fine as one of their specials was pappardelle with a braised local lamb sauce. It was excellent! If you go in and this is a special definitely get it! If you don’t like celery I would not order it though. For my starter I ordered a delicious frisee and arugula salad. The truffled goat cheese absolutely made this salad and I believe this might be a more permanent item on the menu. I loved it! I did not get to try all the dishes as there are lots of things off-limits to pregnant ladies – caesar salads, pates, shellfish and the list goes on. But the sturgeon dish was lovely and light. I was also surprised at how flaky and white it was. Sturgeons can live a long time and grow to be huge, so I was expecting something a bit more steak-like. Chris’s pork tenderloin was awesome and it was served with a pickled cabbage side that was out of this world!
Dessert at Cabezon was also a home run. Chris and I ordered the almond cake and it was so moist and flavorful! And the mascarpone was a perfect accompaniment to the berries. My dad ordered the crisp and it was also delicious. The homemade vanilla ice cream was perfection!
As we left the restaurant the chef came out to say hi and check on how our meal was. I always love it when a chef comes out and asks you about your meal. I think it was a nice touch to an already nice meal.
The night before we all left to go out separate ways, we decided to cook a meal at the house (another awesome bonus to renting). In preparation for the meal a few of us went to the King Portland Farmer’s Market, which was just a 10-minute walk from the rental. I am just so used to the farmer’s markets in Texas where there is about five things in season and all vendors are selling the same things. Not here in Oregon. There were fava beans, artichokes, fennel, peppers, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and much more! Visiting the farmer’s market was one of my favorite foodie experiences in Portland. If you go find a farmer’s market near you and pay a visit.
After the farmer’s market we went to a local chain grocery store called New Seasons and got some yummy salmon, lamb and sausage.
The final dining event ended up being my favorite of the trip. Maybe it was that we had all of our family and some friends over and it felt like we lived there or if the food was just so fresh it stood out. I do not know, but it was a wonderful experience. To start off John and Ginger’s friends Kevin and Anat come up from Corvallis again and brought with them a bevy of yummy cheeses and homemade wines and champagne as well as some delicious Pinot from the vineyard where Kevin worked. For the main course John and Ginger made an unbelievable fava bean salad with grilled fennel, artichokes and feta cheese. There was also a regular salad with heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches as well as fresh corn and the grilled salmon, lamb and sausage. The salmon was the best salmon I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly! For dessert we made sundaes with crushed chocolate, ice cream and fudge sauce.
The perfect meal made the parting even sadder!
But it wasn’t anything a yummy breakfast couldn’t partially fix. After the family had all parted Chris and I made our way to Helser’s on Alberta for breakfast. We both ordered the same thing – biscuits and mushroom gravy. And it was yummy. It was a fairly overcast chilly day – the first we had while in Portland, so this nice hearty breakfast hit the spot. This was the only meal we had here, but the rest of the menu looked awesome. So when we come back I would love to try some other dishes.
Alas, we were out of time and headed to the Part II of out Oregon adventure – Bend! Stay tuned for our eating adventures in the outdoorsy town of Bend.