Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Portland, Oregon has thus far been very, very good to me. S & I went up for a few days to visit her aunt (who, incidentally, makes the absolute best pecan pie I think I've ever had....and I've eaten a lot of pecan pie). Sigh, the whole trip was an absolute gastrointestinal feast.

Our first full day, Tuesday, we decided to hit a few wine tasting rooms. The three of us loaded into her aunt's van and off we went in search of good wine and good food. I must say that doing anything with S is great fun. However, she is a burgeoning oenophile and is considerably more knowledgeable about wine than I am. I knew it would be a great day and I would not make any tasting missteps as long as I swirled when she swirled, sniffed when she sniffed, and closed my eyes every once in a while to look like I was focussing myself on what was in my mouth. Our first stop was the Ponzi tasing room where a flight of three samples was $5. The selections: 2004 pinot blanc, 2004 chardonnay, and their 2004 tavola pinot noir. I'm not a big fan of chardonnay, the pinot noir had a big nose that the taste didn't follow through on, but the pinot blanc was by far my favorite of the excursion.

Our second stop, Torii Mor, took us up a winding gravel road. We drove by a few newly planted orchards, marvelled at the beauty of the rolling hills, and were delighted when we arrived at the Japanese & Scandanavian-inspired tasting room. For $5 our flight comprised a 2004 pinot gris, 2004 chardonnay, 2004 Oregon pinot noir, 2003 Deux Verres reserve pinot noir, 2003 Hawk's View pinot noir, and the 2003 Temperance Hill vinyard pinot noir. Although I do not generally like chardonnay, I was most taken by Torii Mor's. It tasted of hay and didn't have the buttery finish I so detest. S was most impressed with the Deux Verres reserve pinot noir and even went so far as to sample it twice (shocking, I know).

Torii Mor tasting room.

Our third stop took us to the Lange Estate Winery, a bit further up the road from Torii Mor. Here we were poured four very nice selections: 2004 pinot gris reserve, 2004 chardonnay reserve, 2004 Three Hills Cuvee pinot noir, and the 2004 Yamhill Vinyards pinot noir. I definately preferred the 2004 Yamhill pinot noir, which was a "feminine" wine. By the time we were finished here, S and I were ready to put some food in our belly. At the recommendation of our pourer, we went back to the Ponzi tasting room to eat at the attached restaurant.

The Dundee Bistro had a wine menu the size of a small bible. I opted for a New Zealand wine because the pinot blanc I liked so much in the tasting room wasn't available in the restaurant. For lunch I decided on the halibut fish and chips. The cole slaw that came with the fish was quite nice. It wasn't too mayonnaisey and it was seasoned with celery seed. However, the halibut was uninspiring. It was like anything I might get at a fast food fish place like Skippers. Nevertheless, the booth we were sitting in was comfortable and the company was excellent.

With bellies full, we drove into a state park S's aunt was familiar with and took a much-needed afternoon stroll. After having a bit of a leg stretch, we went back to the house and collapsed in the living room for the rest of the night.

Because Monday was a day geared towards S and her tastes, Tuesday was a day for K. First off, S & I took a bit of a walk along a path that is near her aunt's house. We walked, we went back, and we ate homemade pecan pie for breakfast. Early in the afternoon, S's aunt dropped us off in a bit of a chi-chi shopping district where we made a beeline for Lush. After getting that out of our system, I decided I wanted sushi for lunch and we went to a restaurant where we had eaten during a previous visit: Mio Sushi. Generally, Japanese restaurants in the US are not like Japanese restaurants in Japan. The sushi is cut differently, the rice is different, things are just different. Mio Sushi, though, is so far the best Japanese I've had in the US. The menu is pretty limited, but there's curry, unagidon (eel over rice), bulgogi (Korean-style beef), and other odds and ends. I went for the sashimi lunch special (3 pieces each of yellowtail, salmon, and tuna) and S ordered a la carte. The one Americanized item she ordered was the Oregon roll: real crab and asparagus made into a long roll and covered with salmon and avocado. It was very good.

After eating we did a bit more shopping and browsing we hopped a bus over to the Hawthorn district where we were going to meet a friend-of-a-friend for dinner. We found our destination very easily, but were were still two-and-a-half hours out from our meeting time. The sky darkened and started dropping rain so we ducked into a pub we saw on the corner. I'm not sure how we got so lucky, but we had found our way into the Barley Mill Pub, a Grateful Dead-themed McMenamins pub. Neither one of us have any love for the Grateful Dead, but McMenamins makes spot-on brews and the pool table was available.

Grateful Dead decor

The time passed quickly and before we knew it, the rain had stopped and it was time for us to head over to Ken's Restaurant for the BBQ. Before we arrived in Portland, we knew that we'd be having dinner at this restaurant (BBQ is served only on Tuesdays). I like BBQ and had been really looking forward to it. The menu was very promising. I ordered the planked salmon (salmon cooked on an alder wood plank) and the chicken with a side of beans and a side of cornbread. S ordered the salmon and pork ribs, and our eating companion asked for the sausage and brisket. My fish was cold, the chicken was tepid, the cornbread okay...but the beans were fantastic. I love baked beans and these ones were definitely very good. But the rest of the meal was a huge disappointment. S wasn't thrilled with her meal, either. Maybe the good people of Portland don't know what real BBQ is like. It's too bad we couldn't have remained at McMenamins.

Again, we went back to her aunt's house stuffed and happy (happy because we had a great time on the was back on the train dishing about the entire evening).

Of course, we each ate another piece of pie for breakfast this morning before we flew back to Reno. Nothing starts the day off right quite like a fat slab of pecan pie does. Tomorrow Ken and I take off for Mammoth Lakes for a bit of skiing and then to Death Valley for some hiking before I go back to Japan.

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