Going Coastal for Sanity’s Sake: A Weekend in Astoria, OR

Waterfront Sunset, Astoria, OR

A beautiful evening at the Oregon coast.

I live for the ocean.

Having grown up on a small Alaskan island, the scent of seawater was one ubiquitous thing about my childhood. And after I moved away from Kodiak, I made sure to always live near water, since I was no longer surrounded by it.

I went to college in Arcata, CA where there were several beaches (both rocky and sandy) just minutes away. Then I moved north to Portland where the Willamette River is just a five-minute walk from my office in the industrial southeast. If I’m having a stressful day (which is every day lately), I take what I like to call a “rage walk” to the riverfront to have some alone time by the water.

But sometimes the Willamette is just not enough and I feel the pull to the Oregon coast to breath in some salty ocean air. Happily, my husband feels the same and it’s easy to convince him that a trip to the beach is a necessity.

Often when the mood strikes, we head to Depoe Bay and then on to Newport, but another favorite spot for us is Astoria. For a sleepy town, Astoria certainly has its allures – state parks, historical markers from the Lewis & Clark expedition, rivers plus the ocean, and several breweries (yay!).

And out of all the coastal towns in this state, it reminds me the most of home — a small, windy, rainy, foggy place where the docks are full of fishing boats and the people tend to be a bit bedraggled.

On my most recent trip there a few weeks ago with my dad, stepmother and their ridiculously spoiled dog Pépe, the sun was actually shining. And while the wind was whipping with some ferocity, it was still a wonderfully dry weekend, perfect for exploring.

Since sometimes I don’t “explore” any further than the local breweries, this time I made an effort to see some new things. Here’s some of the sights, bites and suds we enjoyed during our stay:

The Goonies House - yes, the original

The original “Goon Docks” from the movie The Goonies. I was obsessed with the film as a kid so it’s always fun to make this pilgrimage. And every time I go, plenty of others – both  young and old – are on the same mission. Fun fact: this year is the movie’s 30th anniversary!

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Back in the {blogging} saddle…

Seared foie gras with cherries

Seared foie gras with cherries, Loulay Kitchen & Bar, Seattle, WA

In case you were concerned, like my mother was, about why this blog has been so quiet lately, I have a lame but entirely honest excuse — life got crazy.

At first, in mid-February, I became so bogged down in planning my birthday party (yes, I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s my favorite holiday and I take it seriously) that I had no time for cooking projects, let alone photographing and writing about them. I was too immersed in making this year’s birthday extravaganza as awesome as possible. (Not to brag, but I totally succeeded.)

My theme, The Drunker Games, was a play on the Hunger Games and involved 14 adults, a city park, oranges in nylons and other strange and unusual field day games. There was one true winner, lots of beer and plenty of laughs.

Then came my actual birthday, which I celebrated by taking a trip to the Oregon coast with my husband. Immediately following that was a long weekend in Seattle with a co-worker, which involved a lot of eating under the guise of work/sales calls (18 restaurants capped by an all-you-can-eat crab dinner).

And then it was March….I don’t even remember March. I had to look through my pictures to try to figure out what I did.

Apparently it was a whirlwind of weekend hikes and wine trips inspired by the incredible sunny weather. I didn’t do much cooking but I did do a lot of living.

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Gluttony in Portland: The Best Bites of FEAST 2014

Awesome after party ice cube

Awesome after party ice cube

A few posts ago I talked about Feast, a huge culinary celebration held here in Portland. Every year it brings big names in the food industry (the likes of Chris Cosentino, Paul Qui, Edward Lee, Brad Farmerie) to our town for four days of non-stop chaos. There are seminars, special dinners and tastings being held all over the city, followed by after-parties and after hours after-parties.

Since the company I work for is a sponsor, we get in to a lot of the events for free. Which meant food, food and more tasty, fabulous food, all washed down with local brews, wine and liquor. Let the good times roll!

First up, Friday Night: Night Market. I love the Night Market. The setting is gorgeous and the food is crazy good.

Night Market 2014, Zidell Yards, FEAST

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Wild About Game: A weekend of meat, booze and high jinks

It's so serious we have knives engraved!

It’s so serious we have knives engraved!

We have a saying about WAG: What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain. So I can’t show you any of the truly ridiculous pictures from last Sunday but I can show you lots of fancy food porn and I know that’s really what you’re here for.

First though, we must start at the beginning:

Welcome to the Mountain!

The view from Timberline Lodge is incredible in the summer. I hate snow, ice and the cold so I can’t speak to what it looks like in the winter, but seriously, in the summer, it’s breathtaking — even when you’re up way too early after not enough sleep!

View from Timberline Lodge

View from Timberline Lodge

Meet the Meat:

Next up is the food. At Wild About Game, the focus is on game meats. So there is everything from elk and quail to Oregon-raised water buffalo and rabbit available for sampling. We also include lots of bonus meats: locally made charcuterie, Kobe beef, hazelnut-fed pork and non-meats: cheeses, pickled quail eggs, Oregon sea salt.  And it’s all there for the eating…even the ice cream made with cherries and bone marrow!

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My apologies for being absent, I was busy eating foie gras…

Foie gras

A chunk off of a 3-pound foie gras terrine…Just a little WAG party snack.

To many people the word wag is a verb, often referring to the movement of a dog’s tail. For me (and my co-workers), WAG means Wild About Game, a huge meat-fest that our company hosts every fall on Mt. Hood in Oregon.

We invite a bunch of chefs from the Pacific Northwest, head to the mountain and basically eat and drink for an entire weekend. Though the event itself is hard to organize, it is amazingly fun and a great opportunity to actually hang out with many of our customers in a non-work environment, something that’s pretty hard to come by in the food industry!

WAG has become so infamous in the PNW that it’s one of the events that everyone in the culinary field wants to attend. It could be due to the high-end snacking (foie gras, Iberico ham, freshly shucked oysters) or to the booze (free beer, gin, whiskey and wine). And that’s just the day event — the afterparty is where people really let loose.

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Crossing Bridges for Beers

Walking Man Brewing, Stevenson, WA

A full line-up of hoppy, malty goodness from the Walking Man Brewery.

A few weeks ago it was my husband’s birthday. We didn’t have anything exciting planned so I proposed a beer tour, working our way east from Portland toward the Columbia River Gorge. (So, yes, if you’re keeping score, I chose my favorite activity for my husband’s birthday and then made him drive so I could imbibe the lion’s share of beer. I know, I know, I am a terrible wife. But he still loves me, so it’s all good!)

Anyways…Usually when we drive to the gorge, we drive on the Oregon side of the river out of convenience sake. To try something different, I suggested this time we take Highway 14, on the Washington side, instead. It was a surprisingly good choice.

Even though we were headed in the same direction, being on the other side of the river made for a completely different view. In fact there was a moment when I almost felt disloyal to Oregon, thinking, “Wow, the Washington side is a much prettier drive!” But then my husband reminded me the reason for that is because we were looking at Oregon from across the river. I felt much better (though a little slow!) after he said that.

At any rate, the scenery was so gorgeous that we pulled over near Cape Horn so I could take some pictures.

The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

Columbia River Gorge. The left-hand coast is Washington, across the river is Oregon.

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