A month ago, I was invited to join other food bloggers and journalists to experience all kinds of fun, crazy, exciting and exclusive events organized by Travel Oregon. The point was to highlight the best of what Oregonians have to offer their visitors. It was quite an event to say the least. The whole 3 days were filled with excellent food, wine, nature activities, and cooking sessions with Oregon's culinary geniuses. This is how my personal experience went:
DAY 1: Checking into Hotel deLuxe / Dinner at the Little Bird Bistro
Travel Oregon flew me into Portland and put me in this gorgeous Hotel deLuxe in downtown Portland. This hotel is known for its tribute to classic Hollywood glamor and romance. You'll see the walls are decorated with numerous photos of Hollywood stars from the 1920's to 1950's.
As soon as I checked into my room, I found a lovely goodie bag and cards from the event organizers and hotel. Very nice touch. Nothing feels so luxurious and pampering than finding a bag of yummy gifts waiting for you at your hotel room!
After I examined the samples from the artisans, I had a little free time to wander around outside the hotel. As I was walking around, I realized that even though Portland now has some of the coolest food, people, stores and media companies, it still has the same playful, vintage, rustic feeling. I got a lot of this from their architecture. There are still quite a few old signs and brick buildings, charming old things like that left in Portland. I can't help comparing Portland to Seattle, but Seattle seems to have lost such character in comparison.
The first event together with everyone was a dinner. Travel Oregon gave everyone a few restaurants to pick from before arriving and I chose Little Bird Bistro. The name itself is irresistible, don't you think? It was exactly what I was hoping to experience - an authentic, sophisticated and laid-back french affair with fresh ingredients at a small intimate restaurant. I met and joined some of the food bloggers who chose the restaurants - Nicole, Linda, Debra , Susan and Ariana. Everything we ate and you see in the photos was cooked with fresh, local ingredients. I usually can only handle about 3 courses of food max, but this time we had 5 courses accompanied with wine and cocktails. I stuffed myself as much as I could! I loved the pigeon they served me, but the little bird was not so little at the end of my meal. Then I also realized that I would probably be eating like this the next 2 days. Tough life.
DAY 2: Paddling / Burger+Beer Dinner
I ended up getting assigned and convinced to go on the paddling trip at Rogue River, with Andrew, Janelle, Susan, Nicole, Linda and Kevin. I can swim and have even taken a rowing class before, but I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of being pushed around the waves and hitting rocks in a rubber boat. We took a little private jet from Portland to the Rogue River. (The pilot even let us take turns sitting next to him in the cockpit!) The trip down the river turned out to be a walk-in-heaven. It was really calm and relaxing. A great activity if you are visiting Southern Oregon. I'm so sorry that I don't really have any photos from the paddling trip! I left my camera in the van. But I did get some shots with my phone which are shown at the bottom of the post.
We flew back to Portland at the end of the day and had a little time to get ready before dinner. It was an amazing burger dinner prepared by at the Wieden+Kennedy rooftop. I was so full already that I didn't even know if I could eat anymore until I got there and saw and smelled the burgers. It turned out that I had room for not one but two burgers! I love my meat. Both the lamb and elk burgers were extremely lean and delicious. You can't say burgers aren't healthy when you eat ones like these. I'm not a big beer drinker, unlike my husband, whom I would've loved to have there with me for both the beer and burgers. You know Oregon and their beers. Here is a list of beer masters who were at the dinner - Prodigal Son Brewery, Mutiny Brewing Company, Beer Valley Brewing Company, Barley Brown's Brew Pub, Terminal Gravity Brewing and Mt. Emily Ale House.
DAY 3: Chocolate Making Session / Lunch at Kitchen Cru / Charcuterie Session / Grand Finale Dinner with Chef Vitaly Paley.
I was really excited about Day 3. It was filled with you can't ask for better culinary activities featuring chocolate, meats, wine and an Iron Chef winner. The morning started with the chocolate making session with David Briggs of Xocolati de David and Erica and Bruce Reininger of Eastern Oregon's Arrowhead Chocolates. It was such an rare and amazing experience to learn about the chocolate, different ingredients and chocolatiers's vision and passion towards their products. I liked that David said he doesn't even like sweets and his approach to making his chocolates is a savory one. I say why not. I love this approach. David's salted caramel chocolate bar is definitely one of the best chocolates I've ever had.
Our journey continued to the lunch prepared by several amazing chefs from different restaurants at Kitchen Cru. Everyone was gushing about the salad with frikeh, feta, cucumber and cherries by Chef Scott from Park Kitchen and the Bent Brick. (Email me if you want the recipe... because I have it!)
After lunch, my second session of the day was charcuterie. Nobody loves and knows his meat more than Eric Finley of Chop Butchery & Charcuterie. He is such an enthusiastic butcher. Eric and his business partner Paula with demonstrated how to make this unforgettable pâté.
Day 3 was a busy day. After a full day of intriguing culinary sessions by these masters, it was time to have a final dinner. This dinner was prepared at the beautiful Penner-Ash Wine Celler by Chef Vitaley Paley known to have won his Iron Chef match on FoodNetwork. This evening was nice since everyone who was invited or involved was there.
As you can imagine, there were so much going on during this trip. This post doesn't really do justice to all that I did and ate! You can probably read more from posts by the other bloggers who were there (like the ones I mentioned earlier). Before this experience, I had an impression how much community-minded, passionate, artistic, authentic and playful Oregonians were, and now these attributes are even more highlighted in my mind. If you want to visit a place with excellent food, nature, people and attitude, Oregon is now officially on the top of my favorite destination list. AND... if you want to experience something crazy fund and similar to the Full on Oregon weekend I did, you can visit this link.
(The photos below were taken by my cell phone.)