Friday, February 17, 2012

Explore - McMinnville!

To help the slower off-season pass by and to become more familiar with the array of things to do in and about the Willamette, we have taken to becoming 'guests' on Wednesdays.  One of the best parts of this idea, is we act like guests...we sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast (except we have to make it!) and then decide what to do based on the weather and our mood.

Our first adventure took us to McMinnville.  We had not yet visited Panther Creek winery, so that was the first stop.  They have a nice tasting room off of downtown in a beautiful old warehouse type structure.  We tasted through some lovely wines and stocked up on a few bottles.  From there, we walked into town and visited Fino in Fondo - a new salumeria with 4 kinds of housemade salami and an array of italian culinary compliments.  Open Thursday - Sunday 10-7, guests can enjoy a tasting of the salamis as well as small bites.  Le Puy features their salami in our Taste of Willamette packages.

McMinnville has a wide array of shops and food offerings.  On Saturdays, the farmer's market is a year round destination for locals and visitors alike.  If you are looking for more wine tasting, McMinnville has a dozen or so tasting rooms within walking distance.  If beer is more your style, try Golden Valley Brewery or make an appointment at Heater Allen.

For food, there is Spanish style tapas at La Rambla, casual rooftop dining at McMenamins, French style cuisine at Bistor Maison or city chic at Thistle.  Mac's most popular lunch destination is the Crescent CafĂ©.  But, we wanted to try something new, so our destination was Community Plate.  We had heard about its mantra of fresh and local and wanted to try it out.  The atmosphere is swanky industrial casual.  Don't expect to get anything other than local NW here including the beverages.  I was impressed with that level of detail!  We had a thick chili soup and I had one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever!  A great atmosphere and nice price, it is now one of our favorites.  Scott Cunningham has taken a great concept and made it real!

Community Plate
We then enjoyed a walk down 3rd to the large city park to exercise off that cheese sandwich.  A lovely 20's library sits at the entry to the park and the multi-level green space has a creek running through it and some nice spots to sit in the sun.  The neighborhood north of the park is filled with beautiful craftsman homes and we wandered around these streets for a bit admiring the architecture and gardens.
McMinnville City Park

Our final destination was the McMinnville Antique Mall.  It is also a short walk from the main drag.  If you are not a professional 'antiquer' - which we are not, then try playing this game.  Decide, before you go in, on something really specific - best if it is a small item.  Then it becomes like a scavenger hunt!  We were looking for the individual table setting salt&pepper crystal shakers.  We looked through what felt like miles of shelving and ended up with 4 sets for the inn!  We also stocked up on some more DVD's for the inn's library at great prices.

On the way back to the inn, we stopped at the Lafayette School - another antique wonderland.  With 3 full floors of 'stuff', it is an antique fan's dream.  We did find 3 more salt & pepper shakers here after looking at every single shelf in the place!  So, tired but happy, we headed back to the inn for that glass of Pinot!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Oregon Coast Get-a-ways!

It is 2012 and the quiet season in the valley.  The end of January is a great time to get out to the valley and experience wine but also to visit the coast.  We lucked into a gorgeous weekend forecast and could not resist heading west!

We began our day just before 11am by heading to the southern Willamette Valley for a tasting at Johan Vineyards and Van Duzer.  Both wineries have beautiful views and a variety of wines to please any palate.  We stocked up on a case and moved on toward the shore.  Lunch brought us to Dallas.  A small, rustic town, we were worried the only place to eat might be a tavern.  But, we happened on Ugo's Pizza and found friendly service, great prices and good pizza - but don't order mushrooms for topping - they are canned.  Canned in Oregon - sacrilidge!  Other than that, the crust and pepperoni were great!

We took 223 south to 20 and out to the coast.  A winding road but with some lovely views of forested hills and valleys.  We reached Newport, just before sunset around 4:30.  It was an incredible sunset too!  We stayed at the Tyee Lodge B&B.  The rooms are small but feature wonderful beach and ocean views as well as a gas fireplace in each.  The inn is under new ownership and the couple Dee and Doug are very enthusiastic about their new venture.  The warmth and cheer rubs off on their guests and the atmosphere is cozy.  We had eaten lunch so late, that we just nestled up in our room with a few snacks and a bottle of Johan and played games.  Very relaxing!

The next day, the weather was still perfect, so around 10:30, after breakfast, we set off on a day long hiking adventure.  From the inn, there is a fairly steep trail down to the beach.  The river that runs from Agate Beach State Park winds north along the beach cutting access to the ocean off except for a brief but icy cold (6-12" deep) crossing!  Once our feet were thoroughly numbed, we continued down the beach to the State Park.  From there, we went inland.  At the east side of the parking lot, there is a city trail head through a wetland area.  It is a nice 1/4 mile hike on well maintained trails and boardwalks.  When we got to the end of the trail, we were in a neighborhood.  Not sure which way to go from here, we followed what looked like it would be a main road back toward town called NE Big Creek Road which starts at Frank Wade Park.  The road had been washed out in several spots but was a perfect walking trail.  Mostly gravel but in good shape it turned out to be a beautiful way to wind back toward 101.  We crossed 101 at 15th and headed along Spring Street into the Nye Neighborhood. A beautiful turn-of-the century neighborhood, there are a myriad of shops and restaurants as well as great access to the beach.  From here we headed up over the hill toward the Yaquina River and Bay Blvd - destination Rogue Ale House.  We took Alder across 101 into the Deco neighborhood and followed down Fall Street to Bay.  This is an awesome, lively and very active seaport with fisheries, shops and restaurants galore.  (If we go back, saffron salmon and the noodle cafe are on our list for location alone!).  It was about noon, so we stopped at the Rogue Ale Pub for lunch and beer.  Not fancy and very authentic in feel, there is a tap list to suit every beer palate!  The food was good, hearty pub style and not terribly pricey.

After lunch, we headed toward the beautiful bridge and Yaquina State Park. From here, we climbed down the beach and began our trek back to the inn - about 4 miles. But, along the way you enjoy people, boats, birds, rock formations, little creeks and just the beautiful sandy beach and Pacific!  We arrived back at the inn around 4pm, legs tired - but with a glass of chardonnay and a seat in the adirondacks, we were in heaven!  We figure we hiked a total of about 10 miles but the diversity of beach, wetland, neighborhood and town made the day interesting and fun.  After a rest, some more games and a refresh, we headed out to Nana's Irish Pub in Nye Beach neighborhood.  There was live music and close quarters and Guiness - exactly the ingredients for a perfect Irish pub!

Newport was a great adventure and we'll definitely be back!

Where to stay:  Tyee Lodge

Where to eat:  Ugo's Pizza, Dallas - not bad!
Rogue Ale House - authentic!, Nana's Irish Pub

Where to go: the beach (duh!), City wetland trail (starts at Agate Beach), Nye Beach, Bay Blvd