Gallery: The Best Things We Ate and Drank in Oregon

  • Smokey Blue Cheese from Rogue Creamery

    Made in southern Oregon's Rogue Valley, this veiny blue is cold-smoked over Oregon-grown hazelnut shells, which adds a rich, nut-roasty flavor. The sweet smokiness nicely complements the caramel notes. "This is Oregon in a cheese," said Steve of the Cheese Bar in Portland.

    Taster Tray at Ninkasi (Eugene)

    We've been big fans of Ninkasi for awhile, so it was fun to visit the brewery and taste some of their less common beers. We especially liked the bright and creamy Nuptiale Cream Ale, which reminded us a bit of cornbread with orange marmalade. Their Ice Nine Pale Ale made for a pretty perfect warm-weather refreshment.

    272 Van Buren Street, Eugene OR 97402; 541-344-2739

    Hand Pie at Lauretta Jean's (Portland)

    This caramelized onion and blue cheese hand pie stole our hearts: super-flaky crust, sweet onions countered with tangy, savory Hook's blue made for an ideal late-morning snack. There's also a ham and cheese version available.

    600 SW Pine St, Portland, OR 97205

    Buttermilk Bar at Coco Donuts (Portland)

    Our favorite classic doughnut at Coco Donuts in downtown Portland was the buttermilk bar, which had a nice creamy, tangy flavor and rich interior.

    709 SW 17th Ave Portland, OR 97205; 503-360-1456

    Sea Beans from PSU Farmers' Market (Portland)

    Salty, crunchy sea beans!

    South Park Blocks between SW Hall and SW Montgomery;

    Blowtorched Creme Brulee Beignets at Donut-o-Rama (Portland)

    This doughnut comes with a pyrotechnics show! Once the beignet comes out of the fryer, it's sprinkled with sugar and blow-torched until it develops that crisp burnt-sugar top. The final product is hot, so hot that beignet-blowtorcher Greg Slauson suggests waiting until you've walked about two blocks of cool-off time before attempting to bite in.

    SW 3rd and Ash, Portland, OR 97204; check Facebook for details:

    Bohemian Buns from Waves of Grain Bakery (Cannon Beach)

    Waves of Grain has to be one of the best bakeries on the Oregon Coast, and this Bohemian Bun was our favorite thing at the bakery. Fluffy brioche buns are studded with whole pecans and a top layer of caramelized granola. Oats, dried cranberries, raisins, and pumpkin seeds become a crunchy, sweet shell atop this bun.

    3116 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97145; (503) 436-9600

    Clam Chowder from Ecola Seafoods (Cannon Beach)

    Instead of using chunks of potatoes, Ecola Seafoods in Cannon Beach shreds them to help thicken the soup. The texture ends up rich but not heavy, hearty but not overwhelming. It tastes deeply clammy. There's a sprinkle of paprika on top, and the chowder is well-seasoned throughout. It's pretty much everything we'd want in a clam chowder.

    208 North Spruce Street, Cannon Beach, OR 97110; 503-436-9130;

    Green Curry 'Taco' Bun from Mame (Eugene)

    There's no sign outside Mame so it's easy to miss. Look for the Glass Menagerie, a rainbow-painted glass pipe store—it's right nextdoor. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the ponytailed chef Taro Kobayashi joking in the kitchen. He prepares wonderful sushi but wanted to have a cheaper menu option for his artist friends ("chefs and martial artists"), like this taco. It's somewhere between a taco and a steam bun, made with his from-scratch green curry paste, green chiles, and chorizo.

    541 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402; 541-654-4378

    Chef Taro Kobayashi at Mame (Eugene)

    Part of why you should go to Mame is meeting this guy.

    Salmon Tacos from Fishbox (Portland)

    Since April, Fishbox owner-chef Dustin has been grilling wild-caught salmon and steelhead that he buys directly from the Native American fishers along the Columbia River. For $9 you get three fish tacos (ahi tuna and mahi mahi are also options), which is a great deal given the generous size of such high-quality and nicely grilled fish. It sits on a bed of crunchy cabbage slaw tossed in a chili-lime vinaigrette with red onions and cilantro, drizzled with a squiggle of Sriracha sour cream. There's a nice amount of heat, crunch, and tender fish all piled on the thick, toasted tortillas.

    SE 43rd and Belmont

    Fried Albacore from Bowpicker (Astoria)

    What's interesting here is they fry albacore tuna, which you might assume would be too fishy-tasting for fish and chips, but it's actually rather delicate. Fried in a beer batter ("it has to be cheap beer") it gets a golden-brown crackly fried shell. Bowpicker also gets points for setting up in an old fishing boat parked on a lawn.

    1634 Duane Street, Astoria OR 97103; (503) 791-2942;

    Fizzy Lifting Drink from Sugar Cube (Portland)

    Fresh ginger, plum drinking vinegar, salted plum "rocks" (that Sugar Cube's owner Kirsten Jenson buys at an Asian market), and ginger ale. It's exactly the tart, acidic, bubbly drink you need to cut the rich sandwiches from Lardo. (Sugar Cube is a dessert trailer that parks in the lot facing Lardo.)

    1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214; (503) 890-2825;

    Fried Chicken Sandwich from Lardo (Portland)

    Just look at that fried chicken. The boneless, skinless thigh meat is first buttermilk-brined overnight then rubbed in smoked paprika and garlic powder, then breaded and fried. Served cold, leftovers-style, the mighty hunk of chicken meat is still plenty juicy and tastes even better with Valentina hot sauce and creamy crumbles of Oregon blue cheese, Nueske's bacon, and mandoline-sliced-thin garlic dill pickles. It's one of those sandwiches where you're not entirely sure how to eat it, but then you just open wide and go for it.

    1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214; (503) 890-2825;

    Plum Crostata from Sugar Cube (Portland)

    This flaky, all-butter pastry was so good, it almost made Drinks editor Maggie cry (tears of joy).

    1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214; (503) 890-2825;

    Triple Threat Cookies from Sugar Cube (Portland)

    One last sweet from Sugar Cube! Triple chocolate chunk cookies baked with espresso and pecans smashing together a layer of silky, deeply chocolate ganache. You don't know where the chocolate cookie ends and the ganache begins, it's so decadently chocolaty with a coffee zing and pecan nuggets.

    1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214; (503) 890-2825;

    Fish and Chips from the Frying Scotsman (Portland)

    "Beer is not for frying, it's for drinking!" said the Frying Scotsman himself, James King, in his charming Glaswegian brogue. He drops some vinegar into his fish-fry batter instead of wasting perfectly drinkable beer. His other secret ingredient: turmeric, which gives the fried coating that deep golden hue, as well as a subtle curry flavor. Choose from halibut, red snapper, haddock, mahi-mahi, or the Scottish classic, cod. Served piping-hot from the bubbly fry basket, our cod came out moist, flaky, and achieved that fried-togetherness where it doesn't fall apart when you chomp off a bite. The chips are nice, too: double-fried wedges with soft potato-y middles.

    SW 9th Ave & SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205; (503) 706-3841;

    Oregon Brandy at Clear Creek Distillery

    We've long been fans of this Portland distillery, but somehow had never tasted their brandy before. It's made with wine from chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier, and muscat, all distilled separately, then blended and aged 4 to 7 years in old cognac barrels. It's super-smooth and totally delicious. (We also got a sip of their McCarthy Whiskey, which sold out, they say, in 20 minutes on the market. Leathery, creamy, and bacony, it's gorgeous stuff, and worth looking out for next year.)

    Jacobsen Salt

    Some of the best salt we've tasted. Coarse flakes with a refreshingly salty flavor from the cold waters of Oregon's coast. Ben Jacobsen says his company is the first to harvest salt in Oregon since Lewis and Clark.

    Schnitzelwich from Tabor (Portland)

    People don't usually rave about Czech food. It's a lot of meat and fried cheese (not that we're opposed to either of those two things). But you have to czech out (hehe, had to) the "Schnitzelwiches" from Tabor, a red hut run by a Czech couple. Crisp pork with a juicy center with ajvar (red pepper spread), sour creamy horseradish, and caramelized onions in a soft ciabatta.

    SW 5th Street Stark Street, Portland, OR;

    Fishy Chips from EuroTrash (Portland)

    Since we're big anchovies fans, we had to order the "Fishy Chips" from this food cart. The salty little fishies are breaded and fried in a bubbling oil bath, with their feathery tails still poking out of the deep brown breading. Be sure to squeeze that lemon wedge all over them, and dunk away in the creamy aioli.

    (2 locations): SE 43rd and Belmont; SW Washington St and SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR; (253) 861-6733;

    Ice Cream from Red Wagon (Eugene)

    If you're in Eugene, try to find the Red Wagon. Once we finally did, it was at the Falling Sky brewpub on the dessert menu. The sweet corn with honey butter scoop was remarkably corn-flavored, just like sweet fresh corn drizzled with honey and cream. We also tried the salted caramel, which was full of dark caramel flavor and a hint of smoke from a generous sprinkle of crunchy smoked salt.

    Available at Falling Sky Brewing House and other pop-up locations around Eugene, OR. Check their website for their schedule:

    Fried Salmon and Chips from Bell Buoy (Seaside)

    Fried salmon and chips, eh? "Hey, it's fish so why not," said the guy from the kitchen at Bell Buoy. You'd think this might ruin a beautiful piece of salmon but frying it actually locks in all of its natural oils (and salmon is particularly oily). What you end up with is a ridiculously moist, flaky piece of fish underneath that golden fried exterior.

    800 South Roosevelt Drive, Seaside OR 97138; 503-738-6348;

    Every Flavor of Tillamook Ice Cream

    We ordered the "Ice Cream Adventure" which includes 31+ flavors. Don't make us choose just one.

    4175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR 97141; (503) 815-1300;

    Jalapeño Popper from the Grilled Cheese Grill (Portland)

    The Grilled Cheese Grill menu = bread + cheese + other stuff, like pickles, avocado, potato chips, artichoke hearts, fried eggs, and apples (not all at the same time; though you could). GCG has three locations now: one cart and two buses (a converted school bus and a double-decker). It's a happy place for grilled cheese lovers, if a little pricey for what you could make at home. But would you actually make this "Jalapeño Popper" yourself? It's basically a jalapeno popper inside a grilled cheese with melty Tillamook cheese and tortilla chip bits mixed in for crunch.

    (3 locations): 113 Southeast 28th Ave; SW 10th and Alder; 1027 Northeast Alberta, Portland, OR;

    Falafel from Wolf and Bear's (Portland)

    Jeremy ("Bear") and his co-owner Tanna ("Wolf") make the falafel at this food cart with sprouted chickpeas (so it's gluten-free), parsley, onion, and lemon. The fritters are fried in the cart and wrapped in a warm pita with caramelized onions, roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, and tahini. All of the hummus and labneh is made from scratch, and the zhug (the spicy green chili sauce) is awesome. Sit at the picnic table outside the cart and they'll serve you a bowl of pickles and olives, imported from the Middle East.

    3925 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227;

    Drinking Chocolates from Cacao (Portland)

    Thick, rich, and heady, this drinking chocolate comes in three flavors: dark chocolate, cinnamon dark chocolate, and spicy dark chocolate. It's available as a flight if you need to try the trio (which you should). Each little sip coats all of your insides as it goes down.

    414 SW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97205; 503-241-0656;

    Coffee Bourbon Ice Cream from Salt And Straw (Portland)

    Some of Salt and Straw's flavors are too wacky for their own good but we loved this Coffee and Bourbon. It's made with Stumptown's single-origin Gajah Aceh coffee and enough Burnside Bourbon from a nearby Portland distillery to make you feel a little warm inside from the cold scoop. This stuff is 17% butterfat; it ain't messing around.

    (2 locations): 2035 NE Alberta St; 503 208-3867; 838 NW 23rd Ave; 971-271-8168;

    Steamed Oysters (Rockaway Beach)

    We enjoyed these gorgeous oysters from Netarts Bay in northern Oregon. At Kelly's Marina, they're steamed and plump in their deep shells.

    29200 Highway 101 North, Rockaway Beach OR 97136 (map); 503-368-5745;

    Toasted Coconut Soft Serve from Ruby Jewel (Portland)

    We sampled just about every flavor from the daily-changing menu, but one of our favorites was the toasted coconut soft serve flavor. So thick and custardy.

    3713 N Mississippi; 503-505-9314; 428 SW 12th Ave; 971-271-8895;

    Smoked Salmon Collar from Bell Buoy (Seaside)

    Nextdoor to the Bell Buoy's restaurant there's a little seafood market where you can find all manner of fish, fresh or smoked. This salmon collar is a must-try, especially since you don't see the collar cut that often. It's the oiliest part of the fish, right behind the gills, which means it's extra high in those omega-3s. Peel back the fatty skin to find dark, smoky meat that's so intensely oily, our fingers were still glistening even after five napkins. One of the best morsels is hiding under the fin.

    800 South Roosevelt Drive, Seaside OR 97138; 503-738-6348;

    Pendleton Pie from Honeypot (Portland)

    The "Pendleton" pie is basically a boozy chocolate pecan pie made with Pendleton whiskey and baked into a chocolate shortbread crust. It's as decadent as it sounds, and you should absolutely say yes when the lady in the pie cart asks, "do you want fresh whip cream on the side?"

    SE 43rd and Belmont, Portland, OR

    Dungeness Crab Melt from Bell Buoy (Seaside)

    Toasted white bread covered in a warm layer of melted Tillamook cheddar, green onions, a bit of mayo mixed in, and the sweet Dungeness crab meat piled on top. It's like an open-faced grilled cheese with a mountain of fresh local crab, and it's exactly what you want to be eating in Seaside (a great name for a seaside town, right?).

    800 South Roosevelt Drive, Seaside OR 97138; 503-738-6348;

    Bananas Foster Sorbet from What's the Scoop (Portland)

    The Bananas Foster sorbet is made with roasted bananas, brown sugar, dark rum, and lime juice. What's the Scoop makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen, a speed-freezing method that's very cool to watch. See behind-the-scenes photos here!

    3540 North Williams Avenue, Portland, OR 97227; (971) 266-1787;

    Fresh Hop Beers at Fort George Brewery (Astoria)

    Our timing was just right for a taste of the hop harvest: Fort George had four fresh-hop beers on tap! The Vortex fresh hop was vivid and fragrant, made with whole cone fresh hops from Yakima. (They use 5x the regular amount of hops when using fresh cones.) The fresh hopped Hopstoria pilsner was piney and popcorny. The Co-hoperative fresh hop amber used hops from local homebrewers and hopsgrowers, and ended up rich and nicely balanced. Most intense of the bunch was the fresh hop version of Sunrise Oatmeal pale, which was dry and zingy, full of fresh Citras and Cascades.

    CocaNu's Holy Wood Chocolate Bar from Cacao (Portland)

    Sebastian Cisneros makes poetry out of chocolate. Take this Palo Santo Bar, which he makes by infusing chocolate with a block of the holy wood, used for ceremonial purposes in some parts of the world. "Woman in villages in Ecuador smell like the wood," said the Cacao shop owner Aubrey. (Every chocolate lover needs to visit Cacao in Portland, where we found an incredible selection of chocolates including this one.)

    414 SW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97205; 503-241-0656;

    Tartar Sauce from Fort George Brewery (Astoria)

    Since this is a brewery, they (of course) use their own beer in the fish fry batter. The problem: it's too good of a beer to waste! We found the fried coating too heavy and dense, though we couldn't stop dunking the fish into this amazing tartar sauce. Is tartar sauce usually more than serviceable? No, which is why Fort George deserved a mention here. This homemade version was briny and sweet-tasting, with a nice hit of pickle juice. We were tempted to bring home jars of it.

    Fort George Brewery: 1483 Duane Street, Astoria OR 97103; 503-325-7468;