This is how I started my first full day of our scheduled Oregon trip. At the end of our group’s morning joyride – which was beautiful in and of itself – we ended up here. Staring at the beauty that is Mt. Hood. All of us wavering between wanting to take as many photos as possible…and just standing there soaking it all in. Enjoying the silence except for a few folks in canoes and some dotting the shore with their coolers & fishing lines. The reflection of the mountain in the ripples of Trillium Lake – it’s an iconic image and one I’m not ever going to forget.
We were there to spend the morning with Dr. John Kallas, who is a wild foods and foraging expert. When this guy showed up at our hotel, we were all honestly a little intimidated. Looking more than a bit Crocodile Hunter with a giant shovel attached to his backpack, we were questioning whether our footwear was sensible enough or if a crocheted cap was appropriate foraging head wear. There was nothing to fret about – John was super knowledgeable and made the most of the time we had for our nature walk around the lake. While it’s not the best time of year for foraging edibles – that’s springtime in Oregon – there were a few nibbles along the trail to try. I can now spot some berries and wild ginger if you’re traipsing through the woods with me. I can also tell you what NOT to eat – hemlock. I think I’ll stick to the red berries and the ginger root.
To tie the day’s experiences together, the chef from Timberline Lodge (our second destination of the day…and it’s where the filmed they the outside shots of The Shining) joined us on our foraging walk. Earlier in the week, he and some of his culinary team has combed the forests around the lake and used their bounty in each of the dishes at lunch. Since it’s not a meal in Oregon without local wine – something we learned on this trip early on – Robert Morus of Phelps Creek Vineyards was on hand to pair his wines with each dish of our 5 course lunch. The food was really spectacular – the foraged ingredients were such nice touches on the dishes and made the flavors really unique.
The afternoon found us at Clear Creek Distillery, which is the (now 26 year-old) baby of Steve McCarthy and his family. The distillery came about as a way to best use the incredible fruit that grew in the McCarthy family orchard. It’s an unassuming little place – right off the road with bins of pears and apples for sale. Step a bit deeper onto the property and rows of beautiful fruit begin to reveal themselves…and then you do a double take. The paper and twine wrapped bottles that encase pears scattered throughout the orchard. At Clear Creek, they’re making eau de vie in the style that Steve had tried in Europe, along with pear brandy and other spirits.
We tasted the range of products that Clear Creek is making. Sips of grappa (they make a Douglas fir grappa that is insane) and pear brandy underneath the property’s trees. We wandered around and took photos. Saw how the pears make their way into those bottles. Enjoyed the warm sunshine with the occasional pet for Dot, the resident pup. I’ve made it to an orchard very few times in my life. Each time I do, I always feel like I’m getting a peek at something really special. This was certainly no exception.
Once I got back home, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the dishes Chef Jason Stoller Smith served during our lunch at Timberline Lodge. It was a small plate – just a few bites of locally smoked trout, watermelon, fennel, some shavings of apple and a few berries foraged from our walk. The combination of textures and the fresh crunchiness paired with the smokey trout was such a winner to me. Once back, I re-created it at home…minus the cranberry-like berries picked near Trillium Lake. If watermelon is still in season where you are, make this straight away. If they’ve already gone for the summer, feel free to substitute any other melon like Crenshaw or honeydew in its place.
Smoked Trout with Watermelon, Fennel and Apple – serves 4 to 6 as a light starter or salad course
– On a serving platter, spread out watermelon slices to create a base for the salad. Plate the fennel and apple slices across the watermelon. Scatter the smoked trout on top. Drizzle the lemon and olive oil across the entire salad. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper and garnish with sprigs of fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
Please note for all these posts: my expenses were paid but I was not compensated & did not guarantee a blog post of review in exchange for my trip. I’m writing about Portland because, well, I loved it.