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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Business trips are better when your business is meat!

Beef Tartare, Rain Shadow Meats Squared (Pioneer Sq)

Beef Tartare, Rain Shadow Meats Squared (Pioneer Sq)

I posted a teaser last week about my business trip to Seattle in which I promised more pictures would be coming. I have finally gotten my act together so here’s how I spent my 5 days “working” in the Emerald City! (As a side note — working in the meat industry really has its perks — we ate constantly.)

On the drive to Seattle from Portland, we stopped in Olympia to get dinner at the Water Street Cafe. The food was pretty fabulous and the pasta special was super good. I’m going to ignore the sprinkling of dried parsley on the rim.

Stinging Nettle Raviolis with Fiddlehead Ferns

The next day, my friend and co-worker Breezy and I embarked on day-long trip around Seattle doing sales calls.

We started in Ballard:

Watching our lunch cook

Watching our lunch cook at Stoneburner

Roasted cauliflower with agro dolce sauce, and an incredible pizza with sausage, olives and mozzarella.

Roasted cauliflower with agro dolce and an incredible pizza with sausage, olives and mozzarella. Oh yeah, and a bottle of rosé.

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Eating well in the Emerald City

Party favor: Pumpkin & Bourbon Chocolate Bar

Party favor: Pumpkin & Bourbon Chocolate Bar, Canlis Restaurant

My husband and I had big plans for Nov. 18th. We had heard about a pretty amazing dinner involving some big names in the culinary world. René Redzepi (of Noma fame) was headed to the Pacific Northwest to do a dinner with local talents Matt Dillon and Blaine Wetzel.

Sadly we called an hour after the ticket sales opened to find the dinner had long since sold out. And, to add insult to injury, the wait list was twice as long as the number of reserved seats. *Sigh*

To make ourselves feel better we decided to go up to Seattle anyways. I cashed in my last vacation day and we spent 36 blissful hours in the big city to the north.

Our first stop was in West Seattle to meet up with one of my friends and his girlfriend. We hit up Ma’ono Fried Chicken and Whisky and indulged in their brunch claim-to-fame: endless mimosas for $12. Since I wasn’t the one driving, let me tell you — I got my money’s worth! Also the fried chicken was amazing. Seriously.

Fried chicken, biscuits and endless mimosas at Ma'ono

Fried chicken, biscuits and sausage gravy at Ma’ono

The next day we set out for one of the newest darlings of the Seattle food scene: The Whale Wins, run by Chef Renee Erickson. The vibe of the restaurant was an interesting juxtaposition — minimal but somehow still homey and warm with a touch of feminine charm. If I lived in the city, it would probably be one of my favorite spots to go. The service was great and the food was fantastic.

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Win 2 tickets to the most decadent food event ever — Nicky USA’s Wild About Game!

FYI: The tickets are transferable — I will give you two free codes to use on the website so if you don’t live in the area but know someone who does, win them on their behalf…or plan a trip to Oregon — it’s beautiful here!
Devil Kreik -- Double Mountain. This is how you start the day off right at WAG!

Devil Kreik — Double Mountain. This is how you start the day off right at WAG!

I may be biased, but I feel confident in saying if you like food and live in or near Oregon, Nicky USA’s Wild About Game is the event to be at. WAG started 13 years ago as a chef appreciation party and still attracts many people who work in the culinary industry. So even though you can taste everything from local provisions (honey, oil, cheese) to game meats (elk, venison, water buffalo), it isn’t the bone-crushing cluster that many open-to-the-public food events are. I’m looking at you, Cochon 555.

I promise, you won’t have to fight through a crowd to eat foie s’mores or stand in a huge line for a 1 oz pour of beer. Instead you can just chill out with a glass of wine and a plate full of cheese, Iberico chorizo, wild boar sausage and quail tacos and enjoy the day.

This is why when I was asked if I’d like to give away two tickets to the event this fall, I jumped at the chance. It’s the meatiest, booziest and most fun food celebration I’ve ever gone to and I relish the opportunity to share the love with new people!

It’s also the reason I now work for the company who hosts it — seriously! My first WAG was 6 years ago and it’s where I met my boss and several of my current co-workers. I was won over by the absolute indulgence of the day — for me that moment was spying a smoking hot grill covered foie gras (both goose and duck) which was then set out for everyone to nibble on stuff into their mouths. It was insane! And after I ate my weight in foie gras, I sampled local wines, beer, and tons of tasty treats (pheasant, bacon, Kobe beef, quail, buffalo, etc). I get the meat sweats just remembering how much I ate.

A massive pot of foie gras up for grabs!

WAG 2011: I have fond memories of this massive pot of foie gras!

And since that year, the event has only gotten bigger and better. Last year there were people handing out samples of Iberico pork, Oregon elk, Olympic Provisions Salami, Salt & Straw ice cream made with foie gras and so much beer I thought I had died and gone to heaven. There was also a cooking competition and chef demos going on throughout the afternoon. See my post with more pics from last year here!

Elk-and-Beet Tartare with Pickled Quail Eggs -- from Chef Nathan Lockwood of Seattle's Altura

Part of the winning dish from last year’s competition: Elk-and-Beet Tartare with Pickled Quail Eggs and Watercress

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