Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Girls Do Oregon

I haven't had much time or will to update the blog for the past few months. Play time has been on hold: we're in a brand new house with zero landscaping and all my spare time is devoted to planning and planting the yard, which is coming along nicely. Last week was a welcome break to our yardwork routine: my daughters Lillie and Ellie came to visit us in Oregon, their first visit to Oregon and to the West Coast.

Unfortunately, their flight into PDX arrived at 10am, meaning we had to battle Portland rush hour traffic to get to the airport. We live about 38 miles as the crow flies from the airport and the drive took just over two hours. What a non-drive!

What do you do with first timers to Portland, especially young ladies who eat like they're starving all the time?

Day 1

Naturally, they wanted to go to Voodoo Doughnuts, so we drove back into downtown to the Voodoo Doughnuts just off 3rd and Burnside. At 11am, there wasn't much of a line. I'm not a doughnut fan at all, but the girls have always been and both of them got some concoction covered in Oreos, sugar on sugar. I didn't hear any complaints and the doughnuts disappeared pronto. My take is that Voodoo is more hype than substance, but they seemed happy.

Lillie Does Voodoo Doughnuts
While the girls were stuffing doughnuts in their faces, we walked up 3rd to Washington to the food cart pod there where I knew I wanted to eat at Stretch the Noodle, well known among food cart cognoscenti for their hand-stretched noodles. We walked right up and placed our order from the five-item menu, three dishes for the four of us, and we still had plenty of leftovers even after making pigs of ourselves at the shelf-table alongside the cart.

Stretching the Dough for Noodles
Although at 11:30am we could just walk right up and place our order at the window, there were several people on the sidewalk ahead of us who had already ordered. I would guess that it took about ten minutes for our order to be up. That gave Lillie plenty of time to tell us all about the medical school in Philadelphia to which she has been accepted and where she will start in July.

Chow Mian
We ordered our two noodle dishes spicy and spicy they were, almost too spicy for Ellie. You can see the healthy amount of chile oil on top of the noodle soup below. An equal amount is mixed in with the chow mian above. Chow mian means stir-fried noodles and as you can see in the photo above, ours was a fantastic mix of fresh vegetables and noodles, a far cry from the so-called chow mien that you see in Americanized Chinese restaurants.

La Mian
Noodles in soup is one of my favorite meals ever and this bowl did not disappoint me. The noodles are on the bottom with a deep beef broth and chunks of chuck ladled over. On top are cilantro, green onions, a healthy amount of chile oil, peanuts, and a pickled radish or mustard of some sort. La mian is the term for hand-pulled noodles but could also mean spicy noodles, and in this case, the noodles were righteously spicy. Isn't it wonderful to ask for something to be spicy and actually get it?

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
The pork and shrimp dumpling were about as good as any I have had, doused in black vinegar, chile oil, and green onions. The food at Stretch the Noodle is stupid cheap and stupid delicious. Definitely a must-do when in Portland.

Lompoc Brewing
Leaving downtown Portland, we headed east across the Willamette River on the I-405 over to Lompoc Brewing in a pretty hip neighborhood over on N. Williams Avenue. And much to our good fortune, beers are $3 on Wednesdays, usually $5.50. Of all the gazillions of breweries in Portland, we chose Lompoc because they make one of Ann's favorite porters, Lomporter. I had a seasonal IPA called Straight Outta Lompton. Lillie had a red ale and Ellie, not much of a beer fan, ended up with a cider.

We made the trip back from Portland via 26 and 217 through the heart of Nike country to 99W and back to McMinnville, where we spent the afternoon on the porch. After I woke from a nap (I had been feeling poorly all day), the girls were way into our stash of Pinot Gris. There was much mirth and laughter on the porch as I rejoined them. Silly girls!

Dinner was a pot of pinto beans that I had put in the crock pot before we left for the airport in the morning and bed time was early, especially with the girls being on east coast time.

Day 2

Wednesday, given the less pretty weather forecast than Thursday, we opted for going to the coast and doing the Three Capes Scenic Loop, from Cape Meares in the north near Tillamook, passing Cape Lookout in the middle, to Cape Kiwanda in the south just at Pacific City.

We started the day with eggs at the house and then dropped in to the winery so that the girls could see the bottling line in action, it being day three of a marathon 4-day bottling stretch. For our road trip, we all got coffee at The Common Cup in Amity, before heading back over to highway 18 to the coast. The drive afforded the girls the chance to see what an agricultural area the Willamette Valley is: blueberry fields, hayfields, walnut orchards, filbert orchards, chestnut groves, and mile after mile of grass seed fields, this being the grass seed capital of the country.

The Three Co-Conspirators
We drove out to Grand Ronde where we encountered a bit of rain as we headed up into the Coastal Range and the Siuslaw National Forest where the girls really got a look at old growth forest for the first time. We picked up 101 at Hebo and headed north to Tillamook, turning due west on 1st St. and drove out to the Cape Meares Lighthouse.

Cape Meares Looking South

Posing in Front of Oceanside

The Very Calm Surf at Oceanside

Sitka Spruce Forest Meets the Pacific

Cliffs at Cape Meares

Looking Down to the Lighthouse

Distinctive Red and White Fresnel Lens
While the girls were looking about, I got a chance to look at some of the local vegetation.

Gaultheria shallon in Full Bloom

Hairy Manzanita, Arctostaphylos columbiana
Everywhere we looked, Cow Parsnip was in full bloom. Experts are divided about whether it is poisonous to humans. I am not going to be a guinea pig. I like the tableau of Equisetum (horse tail), Sitka spruce, Cow Parsnip, and Manroot in the photo below.

Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum
I had to double take walking along some of the cliffside paths as I saw what appeared to be cucumber or gourd vines clambering over the other foliage. I didn't quite recognize the foliage and I certainly didn't recognize the bloom, but the family heritage was unmistakable. It didn't take long with my wildflower guide to name these vines as Coastal Manroot, sometimes called Bitter Cucumber. They apparently have massive tuberous roots that resemble people and their appendages. Who knew?

Coastal Manroot, Marah oreganus

Roses Blooming in Profusion
Once we crossed the Coastal Range and entered west-side forest, every clearing and roadside was painted in long streaks of fuchsia Digitalis purpurea. The massive stands of them put those in my own garden to shame.

Digitalis purpurea
After viewing the lighthouse at Cape Meares, we backtracked through Oceanside and Netarts to Cape Lookout. We had thought to walk out to the point of the cape, but at 2.5 miles round trip, it didn't fit our time budget. I was also feeling very poorly. It's on our list to hike some day.

Cape Lookout Behind Us

Lone Fisherman

Three Arches Rocks and Cape Meares
in the Distance
Continuing our trek further south to Cape Kiwanda, the third of the three capes on our loop tour, we crossed through the dunes at Sand Lake, arriving quickly at Pacific City in dire need of both food and gas. Our plan had been to eat lunch at the flagship Pelican Brewing location in Pacific City. The brewpub is pretty much the first thing you come to on the beach in Pacific City, where we found about 8 school buses full of high schoolers from McMinnville High School on a last days of school field trip. Fortunately, they were packing up to leave when we arrived.

IPA? Why yes please!

Annie's Burger, Onion Rings, and Stout

Post Lunch Behind Pelican Brewing
Lillie was all excited to get her feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, so after lunch we headed out back of the brewery and walked down to Cape Kiwanda.

Haystack Rock in Pacific City


Exploring at Low Tide

Annie Like a Kid Again

Cape Kiwanda

Cape Kiwanda Skyline

The Girls Had to Climb the Massive Dune

Up Top

Coming Back Down the Steep Dune Face
After finishing up playing on the beach and on the dunes, we headed back to the car to gas up and head back to McMinnville.

Day 3

Thursday was the girls' final day with us before heading back to Virginia. We wanted to show them a bit of McMinnville and hopefully take them up into the Dundee Hills where they could see Mount Hood. They had great views of it when they flew in on Tuesday and while we were in Portland, we were also able to show them Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.

Our day started leisurely with breakfast at Community Plate, a local lunch and breakfast icon in downtown McMinnville. After breakfast, we wandered around downtown McMinnville and ultimately arrived at the Farmers Market, where we scored a few things, some strawberries and some sugar snaps.

Latte at Community Plate
Although the weather was less overcast on Thursday than on Wednesday, there wasn't much hope of seeing Mt. Hood as we headed up into the Dundee Hills. As we arrived at Red Ridge Farm and Durant Vineyards, it was clear that we would not see the big volcano some 70 miles due east of us at all, not even a glimpse. It's a shame; on a clear day, the snowcapped peak glows.

Chardonnay at Red Ridge Farm
Back at home, Lillie was begging me to make a risotto for dinner and I obliged with this very simple saffron and sugar snap version.

Saffron and Sugar Snap Risotto

Day 4

Friday was a slow morning as the girls got ready to go to the airport. We didn't need to leave until 10:30, so we missed the bulk of traffic and made it to PDX in good time. After our sad goodbyes, we were in need of solace, so we chose to visit Ecliptic Brewing in north Portland right near Lompoc. We chose it because they make Capella Porter, also one of Ann's favorites.

Juicy IPA

Beet and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese
We watched Ronaldo score his third goal of the World Cup match to draw Portugal with Spain 3-all while we sampled Ecliptic beers and ate what would prove to be very good food for a brew pub, reminiscent of the great food we had at Snake River Brewing in Jackson Hole, WY. As a result, Ann has tasked me with replicating and bettering the beet and goat cheese grilled cheese that she ate.

So ends the saga of the girls making a joint trip to the west coast to see us. It may be a very long time until that happens again, now that med school is upon us.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauce. I'm still pretty frustrated with my home kitchen and the quality of ingredients available to the general public. I guess the curse of the restaurant trade is still strong.

Linguini with White Clam Sauce
Linguini with white clam sauce is pretty much a classic dish and I don't stray far from my idea of what it should be. For me, it's a simple pasta in a loose beurre blanc. Start the pasta water to boil and then steam 24 steamer clams in a cup to a cup and a half or so of high acid white wine, in this case, Coelho Pinot Gris from my winery. These little guys steam open, covered, in 4-5 minutes.

Steamer Clams Steamed
Remove the clams from the steaming liquid and let cool until you can just handle them. Pour the clam juice into a glass measure so that you can see the grit as it settles to the bottom. Pick the clams, reserve them warm, and pour any liquid into the glass measure.

Rinse the clam pan well to remove any grit, then fire it with a bit of olive oil on high flame. Add 1/2 cup of pancetta in small dice and let it cook until almost crisp. Add to the pan one large shallot, minced, four cloves of garlic, minced, one and a half teaspoons each of fresh thyme and fresh sage, finely chopped, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook until the shallots go translucent but not so long that the garlic burns.

Carefully pour the reserved clam juice into the pan, making sure that any accumulated grit stays behind. Cook on high flame until the sauce comes down by two thirds.

Sauce Coming Down
Finish cooking the pasta and transfer to a bowl. Remove the sauce from the flame and stir in the reserved clams, 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, and four tablespoons of cold butter, stirring rapidly to emulsify. Pour over the pasta and mix. Serves two to four people.

Waiting to Finish the Sauce

Friday, March 30, 2018

Durant Cellars

Yesterday turned out to be the sort of beautiful Oregon spring day that needs to be taken advantage of, because you never know when the rain shows up again. We could have stayed at the house and done yard work, but the yard work will be there. Because it was a spectacular day, Ann wanted to go up into the Dundee Hills and gaze out at Mt. Hood while drinking some Chardonnay.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in the tasting room at Durant Vineyards. I hadn't been there before and I hadn't tasted their wine under their label. They sell fruit to a lot of people and I have had a lot wine made from their grapes.

Mt. Hood Over Annie's Shoulder

Ewes and Tiny Lambs in the Vineyard
At one point, a four-wheeler came up beside the vineyard and one of the baby lambs started to run for it baaing all the while, like it was expecting a particularly good lamb treat from the driver. Then mom started bellowing at the baby, which after several particularly pointed bleats from mom, decided to return to her side. I know she was using that lamb's first and middle names as she was calling it. Kids!

Lots of Tiny Lambs Frolicking

Delicious 2015 "Lark" Chardonnay
I was surprised to see their vines budding up in the hills. Down on the valley floor in Amity, ours were still super tight when I left work on Tuesday.

Venerable Moss-Covered Vine with Buds

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Miller Woods

We've been holed up this winter trying to get ourselves back outdoors, but it has been a struggle with life just seeming to get in the way. We still don't have the dog situation figured out to let us hike further afield, so we're having to make do locally, hence our return trip to Miller Woods which is 10 minutes or so from the house.

We made the 4.5-mile loop on a day that was overcast, about 42 degrees, with a nippy wind in the exposed areas. It hasn't been all that wet this winter, so for the most part, the paths were passable with minimal mud.

Distinctive Form of Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana

Serenaded by a California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica

Willows Blooming by Creek

Much Hiking Through Planted Trees
There are no leaves on most plants now, giving us much better sight lines that when we were last here in October. Despite the lack of leaves, spring is starting to spring with a few flowers here and there, a lot of buds, and an overall greening. I'm on a steep learning curve about western flora and fauna now. Everything looks similar, but at the same time, very different. We're no longer in Virginia.

Slender Toothwort, Cardamine nuttallii

Methuselah's Beard, Usnea longissima

Striking Indian Plum Blooms, Oemleria cerasiformis
Deer. There must be deer everywhere here if the vast quantities of tracks are to be believed. Annie, who always walks ahead of me, scared two small does back in my direction. I barely had time to get the camera around on them as they came pogoing by, like some big jack rabbits. I am guessing that these are blacktail deer, an offshoot of mule deer, not so much from the not-so-diagnostic black tails without the bounding white flag of the whitetail, but more so from the way that they tried to escape us, bouncing and shifting course with each bounce just like a scared mulie.

Blacktail Deer Starting to Bound

Blacktail Deer in Full Bound

Pretty Good Deer Habitat, Tracks Everywhere

Didn't Know Hills Had Official Summits

Lovely Oregon Grape Foliage, Mahonia aquifolium

Drifts of Naturalized Daffodils


The Little Pond Near the Parking Area
Here's a case in point in the whole feeling like an alien on the west coast thing. It's very early spring and in boggy ground, I expect to find skunk cabbage. What I don't expect is bright yellow blooms. On the east coast, the local skunk cabbage has a mottled cranberry pitcher plant-like bloom.

Skunk Cabbage in Bloom, Lysochiton americanus

The Girls Do Oregon

I haven't had much time or will to update the blog for the past few months. Play time has been on hold: we're in a brand new house w...