Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cape Lookout

When the girls were visiting in June, we drove the three capes on the coast near us, starting with Cape Meares in the north, stopping at Cape Lookout in the middle, and then down to Cape Kiwanda to the south, just above Pacific City. On our mini-tour, we turned into the parking area for the Cape Lookout trailhead with an idea that we might go see the cape, but the hike was 2.4 miles each way and we were running out of time. So, Ann and I put that hike on our to-do list for the summer.

This summer has been dedicated to landscaping our yard. We bought a brand new house on a bare lot in November of last year. Once the rains let up in the spring, it was game on in turning the stark naked lot into gardens. With the planting of the bulbs last week, gardening season is pretty nearly at an end. Moreover, rainy season should kick off any time now.

Gardening at its fall hiatus, we decided to take advantage of a sunny, clear fall day to head to the coast and hike the 4.8-mile out-and-back trail to Cape Lookout. As you can see in the "sunny" photo below, the gorgeous sunny day lasted until about two miles from the coast when we drove straight into clouds and fog. Such is the nature of the coast.

It has been so long since we hiked that it was kind of weird scrambling around to find simple things such as water bottles and a day pack. After leisurely coffee, we loaded lunch and water into my pack and jumped in the truck for the coast. As the crow flies, we are just under 39 miles from the Cape Lookout Trailhead parking lot. Two and a half hours after leaving the house, we arrived at the coast.

We have had to resign ourselves to the fact that you cannot get anywhere fast in Oregon. This is partially an infrastructure issue (lack of good roads) but more a terrain issue. We have some pretty gnarly mountains, the Coastal Range, between us and the coast. We decided to take a route that we hadn't before, heading west up and over the mountains from Carlton, just north of us. We knew the route would be slower than taking highway 18 towards Lincoln City, but being new to the area, we are still looking around.

We didn't count on 2 and a half hours slow, though. The roads are good for no more than about 35 miles per hour sustained speed and the twists and turns stretch the route to about 70 miles, rather than the 39 that the crow flies. The scenery was gorgeous up past the two reservoirs that slake the city of McMinnville's thirst. Down the western slope of the mountains, naturally, the road was closed for construction. We ended up backtracking several miles to get around the road closure, losing at least a half an hour, probably more.

At Cape Lookout, Pacific Ocean Way Below
The Cape Lookout trailhead is just north of Sandlake, named for the active dune system that stretches inland from the shore. Seeing that much sand in the middle of the Oregon shore is a bit disconcerting, sand not really being a big feature of our rocky shores. Cape Lookout is a long, narrow, rocky promontory that descends from about 900' at the trailhead parking lot down to about 450' two and a half miles out in the Pacific Ocean.

It's a pretty easy stroll for the first half a mile or so of trail, staying high up on the southern side of the cape, going past a plaque commemorating the loss of a WWII B-17 that was flying too low in the fog and smashed into the side of the hill. There's a decent section of old grown forest here, primarily Sitka spruce and hemlock. By east coast standards, it's really surreal being hundreds of feet above the ocean.

Plaque Commemorating Crash of a WWII B-17

Annie vs Hemlock
We were both taken by a very handsome fern all over the ground under the trees, the Deer Fern. It's not a fern we have noticed before, it's range in the US being limited to the Pacific Northwest.

Deer Ferns (Blechnum spicant)
Back on the east coast, we have about three species of Oxalis that we would see more or less commonly, but nothing as big and as green as these Oxalis oregana, the so-called Redwood Sorrel, that were growing in patches everywhere.

Our Own Native "Shamrock," Oxalis oregana

Hemlock Roots Were Tricky
Once through the old growth forest and having meandered to the north side of the cape and back again, the trail climbs a bit and emerges on the tops of the southern cliffs. I had seen warnings about how exposed the trail is, but I have been on a lot worse.

Cliff-top Trail is Exposed in Places

Those Cliffs are Tall and Steep

Small Cove from Way on High

Looking Back at the Beach

Hard to Tell This is About 400 Feet Above the Ocean

Annie Taking in Wells Cove

Neat Rock Formation
Wildflowers were scarce as is normal for this time of year, but we did notice the open cliff faces and tops covered in a small shrub festooned with white tufts, which after much digging through the internet and my books, appears to be Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis. Not sure why it was so hard to find, but it is conspicuously absent from my main reference.

Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis, Hanging on a Cliff

Detail of Baccharis pilularis
I was really happy to see a late fall friend that I recognize from our jaunts on the East Coast, a denizen of neglected places everywhere, Pearly Everlasting. It's a handsome and underappreciated plant.

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Salal Still in Bloom! Gaultheria shallon
I was quite surprised to see Salal still in bloom in mid-October. I always think of them as blooming in spring, but here was a big patch standing in full sun with southern exposure just blooming away at the end of the season. Right next to and intermingled with the Salal was a plant that I recognize from my yard, the Evergreen Huckleberry. This is one of the tiny bare-root natives that I planted in the early spring for the tiny evergreen foliage and its exuberant copper-colored spring foliage.

Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum
We finally arrived at the very western point, a couple of miles out in the ocean, about 450 feet above the water and a great spot we hear to watch Grey Whales on migration in the spring. We're going to have to do that as Annie has never seen a whale before. I have been lucky enough to see a Grey Whale with baby in tow heading north just under the Point Reyes lighthouse down in California.

While there were no whales to been seen or anything else moving except for some minuscule shore birds below us, at least there were a pair of ravens playing about and croaking at us and each other.

We had Aerobatic Company/Beggars at the Point
Just before we headed back, I spied this hardy rose facing due west at the top of the cliff where it must surely take the full brunt of all the winter storms that the Pacific has to dish out. We tend to think of roses as these genteel flowers of home gardens, but they are truly tough as nails residents of some pretty hardscrabble places.

Roses Are Hardy Plants, 400 Feet Atop a Sheer Cliff Face
From the point, we reversed course and headed back up the hill to the car. Given that we haven't done any hiking in a long time, our old legs held out pretty well, but we were reminded that if we are going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail here in a few years, we've got a good bit of conditioning to do.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lack of Blog Posts

The lack of blog posts this year can be summed up quite simply: new house, no landscaping. Here's what's been occupying all our free time this year.

December 2017

October 2018

October 2017, The Day We Signed the Offer

May 2018, Rock Walls Going In

May 2018, Porch Swing Hung

September 1, 2018

April 2018

October 2018, Fence Stained and Sun Sail Installed

Mid August 2018, Living Wall Scaffolding on Garage

Mid September 2018, End of the Sunflowers

Side Yard Partitions are Installed

Annie's American Flag, Planters, Bird Bath, and Feeders

Why Bask in the Middle of the Poppies?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Summer Vegetable Dinner

Since retiring from the restaurant, I have cooked a handful of real meals, meals into which I put any effort at all. After coming home from the winery, I am mainly about getting something on the table rather than being creative. I need a reason to cook now, it seems. And that reason would be our good friends Pat and Mary Jo just two houses down.

We invited them over for dinner and since they are vegetarians, I cooked vegetarian. Because my diet is mainly vegetarian, this is a non-issue and truth be told, I've never needed meat to make my life complete. Well, there is pork belly. If I have any weakness at all, it would be for pork belly.

This meal was guided by the time of the year and what was in season, the very same ethos that drove the menus at OBW. For a first course, seeing some beautiful Kuta squash in the market made me think back to a dish I did for a vegetarian summer squash-themed dinner more than a decade ago. I made a classic vichyssoise substituting squash for potatoes and calling it rather tongue-in-cheek squashyssoise.

Only one problem. I have real problems with lactose and a bowl of the original chilled soup would certainly be painful. No worries: coconut milk to the rescue for that same unctuousness that heavy cream provides. The soup involved sweating squash and leek with a bouquet of Thai basil from the garden (because is not the combination of coconut milk and Thai basil one of the most glorious flavor combinations ever?) and then into the blender.

After the soup chilled overnight, I pulled it out of the fridge 90 minutes before I wanted to serve it to let it warm to the point where the fat in the coconut milk would be liquid, cooler than room temperature. Only one problem: the soup was so desperately flat that I thought of pitching it out rather than serving it.

I don't know if I am out of practice or if my chef mind failed me, but it actually took me what seemed like several minutes to figure out how to rescue the soup. A sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of agave syrup took the soup to a new plane: one of the three best soups I have ever made and I have made thousands. The garnish is a simple relish of raw corn, raw tomato, Thai basil, salt, and agave nectar.

Lacto-Friendly Squashyssoise
Squash cakes. A year ago, I would have screamed "f*cking squash cakes!" at the thought of making another after a decade and a half of having them on summer menus and the incessant requests from customers as soon as spring arrived, "When are you going to put squash cakes back on the menu?" Squash cakes sound pretty bland, boring, and healthy, but these are none of those things and once someone tries them, she is pretty well hooked for life.

A quick fresh salad of black-eyed peas and vegetables dressed in red wine vinegar and olive oil sits under the cake and a quick pickle of cucumber brings a little more acid to the party to complement the incredibly rich squash.

Squash Cake, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Quick Pickled Cukes
And for dessert, I had to do a sorbet. Why? My wife made me schlep my huge commercial sorbet machine 3500 miles across this country and it had been sitting in the garage, unpacked and unloved. I made a simple syrup of Pinot Noir with a hint of cinnamon and blended it with watermelon to yield a fun summer sorbet.

Watermelon-Pinot Noir Sorbet
Pat and Mary Jo, thanks for all you do for us. We'll do it again. When I get the itch to cook again.

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.

Cape Lookout

When the girls were visiting in June , we drove the three capes on the coast near us, starting with Cape Meares in the north, stopping at Ca...