Disclosure: Travel Oregon covered my expenses for this trip. I have not, however, received any compensation for writing about it.
Day two of Full On Oregon dawned bright, sunny and warm, cuz you know that's how it totally is every day in Portland. Isn't it? Anyway, the first portion of the day for me and my cohorts was to head up to glorious Mt. Hood, to meet John Kallas of Wild Food Adventures, who would take us around the shores of Trillium Lake seeking wild edibles.
Hot, sunny September is actually not the optimal time to go foraging. The best time is, actually, um, NOW, after the winter and spring rains have passed and the sun breaks through. But there were still enough things out there worth checking out, like smooth yellow violet, whose edible heart-shaped leaves have veins that branch out; its poisonous analogs' veins reconvene toward the point or are yellow. Fireweed's asparagus-like shoots and its flowers are edible, with a peppery flavor reminiscent of arugula with a little more astringency. Delicate thimbleberries have a rich, winey flavor.
Some wild plants have non-edible uses, like the vanilla plant. Just crush a leaf and keep it in your pocket for several minutes. The aroma from the leaf is an effective insect repellent.
And there was more, including the third (baneberry) and first (water hemlock) most poisonous plants in the US. Delish!
From there, we headed to the Timberline Lodge, a grand WPA-era hotel most famous as being the source of the exterior shots of the hotel in The Shining. Only, on a glorious day like this one, it was decidedly uncreepy.
So we grabbed some Oregon wine (you'll notice a trend here), this time a very refreshing Phelps Creek Rosé of Pinot Noir, and took a tour of the magnificent hotel.
Truly, everything about the place was too much to capture. I'm not talking figuratively; I simply couldn't get enough through the lens to really convey the grandeur, so I focused on the details. Like the fireplaces with beautiful ironwork and fire screens made from truck tire chains.
And the impressive wine cellar, with one of the biggest collection of pinot noirs (including, natch, plenty from Oregon) around.
Then, we settled in for lunch, wherein chef Jason Stoller Smith featured many of the foods we had stalked that very morning, like a foraged salad of smooth yellow violet, Indian paintbrush, wild ginger and columbine; and a tenderloin of Oregon Roosevelt elk with thimbleberries and fireweed shoots — after a palate cleanser of hemlock tea sorbet. That is, not the deadly water hemlock. And of course, each course was accompanied by delicious Oregon wines. Hic.
But we weren't done drinking yet, oh heavens no. That's crazy talk.
And stick them in booze.
You see, like many orchards, growing fruit just wasn't paying the bills like it used to. So Steve McCarthy created a distillery to make the most out of the bounty of fruit they had at their fingertips. Clear Creek Distillery was born.
Clear Creek leverages traditional distilling methods to make a variety of brandies, eaux de vie, grappas, liqueurs and even a single-malt whiskey. But what they're most famed for are the apple and pear liqueurs with the fruit right in the bottle.
How, you may ask, do they manage to inject an entire fruit into a narrow bottle like that? They don't. They grow it in there.
After the fruits begin to form, they sheath the bottles over the branches, rigging them up with elaborate webs of jute twine to keep them from weighing down and snapping the twigs.
This requires constant rejiggering, as the bough sag under the weight of ever-maturing fruit. They also have to occasionally cover bottles in sunnier spots in paper bags to avoid outright cooking the fruit. Eventually, the fruit matures, and is captured right in the jar. Fill with brandy, and voilà.
Of course, we had to taste. Everything.
And it was good.
Some of us might have napped in the bus back to town. I can neither confirm nor deny that.
That evening, the entire group gathered for the first time all in one place for a massive burger and brew fest on a rooftop deck. The grills were being worked by chef Gregory Denton of Metrovino and chef Chris Carriker of the Gilt Club.
And of course there was plenty of Oregon wine no wait this time it was beer! Craft beers from Eastern Oregon were featured this time. Hoppy, intense beers all.
It was a pleasant way to end the day, chatting with friends old and new — some meeting for the first time — on a balmy rooftop deck in downtown. Because that's totally how it is every day in Portland.