Labor Day weekend was the final week we’d have a full crew. We took advantage of it by taking 5 days off.
I created an itinerary touring as much of our state (Oregon) as we could see. We started by driving through the Dalles, Hood River, the Columbia Gorge and eventually landing in Portland, where we planned to stay the night.
We had heard awesome things about a pizza place in Portland, so we made a bee line directly to it. We stood in line before they opened and were seated first. After such a long drive, we were hungry and excited to try this hyped pizzeria.
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It was salty. SOOoooo salty. As in, what the heck were they thinking salty. One pizza, two pints of beer, and $43 later, we asked for foil. Whitey gets embarrassed about leaving food behind, as if it’s an insult, so we took the pizza remnants with us only to throw it out ourselves. What a bummer.
Bummed about dinner, we ditched our plan of staying in Portland and decided to get to the coast instead. We got to Seaside and drove around looking for a hotel room. It was Labor Day weekend, and so everything was booked.
We finally found a great room (the last available) which overlooked a river right near the boardwalk, and we beat feet to the beach to watch the sunset.
It was stunning. The tide was pulling out, and the view was spectacular.
After the sun left the horizon, we walked back to the boardwalk determined to find a good basket of fish n’ chips.
We stopped into a gift shop, and while purchasing our items we asked the gal behind the counter where to find the best fish n’ chips. She pointed us in the direction of a restaurant only a couple of blocks away.
We went there and found a table in the back. Our favorite seats are those that can see a kitchen or a back service area, and this table was exactly that. Our observations, however, made us question if we really wanted to eat there.
The kitchen was dirty and unorganized. Old notes hung with dirty tape over the food warmer, and Sysco boxes were teetering off of wire racks next to food items.
We asked our bartender / server if they had good fresh fish n’ chips. He hesitated just long enough that Whitey then said, “Are they just the frozen Sysco brand or do you make them in house?”
He was honest and said that yeah, they just pull the frozen breaded fish out of a box and throw them in a deep fryer. We ordered a beer to share, and when he came over to check on us, we asked him if he could recommend a place with fresh fish.
He did, we over tipped him, and quickly walked briskly down the street towards our new destination. By now, the bad pizza that we had eaten earlier was spurring us to look forward to a good meal.
We ordered a salad and a plate of halibut fish n’ chips to share.
The dinner arrived, and we dove in…
to raw fish.
Whitey has a pretty sensitive stomach and his face winced up. I pulled the fillet open and sure enough, raw. Sushi style raw.
I smiled and waved at our server and asked her to just throw them back in the fryer again; that we were really, really sorry to send the plate back but that it wasn’t edible.
She returned ten minutes later, but by then, Whitey had over-thought the raw fish and mentally wasn’t hungry any longer. We thanked her, over tipped her (after all, it’s not her fault the food was gnarly), and wandered back to our hotel.
We took full advantage of the 24-hour pool (which was empty!) and soaked away all of the long drive and bad food.
The next morning, we woke early to that gorgeous, crystallized morning fog that the Oregon coast is famous for. It was beautiful, and the smell of the ocean was relaxing in its own right. We ate a very light breakfast provided by the hotel, and then hit the road.
We stopped in Cannon Beach and spent a good hour walking the sandy coastline towards Haystack Rock. We saw more dogs than I’ve ever seen on a beach, all very well-behaved. It was a beautiful view.
(side note: How funny are Whitey’s feet? Those are tan lines from wearing his golf shoes every day, and he’s living up to his name.)
After our walk, we decided to wander around the historic downtown and window shop. Nothing was open yet, which is exactly what Whitey likes when we go shopping. 🙂
We walked up an appetite, and decided to grab a slice of pizza (of course) for lunch. Um. Yeah. At least the iced tea was good.
The weather began to clear up, and the drive down the coast was magnificent. We had yet to even play any music on our drive, spending most of the time talking and laughing, pointing out different view points or chatting about work.
We decided to make our way to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. We love their cheese, and serve it at our place as well. One more great way to make our accountant happy when we declare this as a working vacation, right?
The place was PACKED! It was as if Disneyland had opened a cheese factory and was handing out free samples. Which, in essence, is what they do.
Their facility is spotless, and the self-guided tour is very educational. We stopped in the grocery area and picked up a few small bricks of cheese that we don’t normally find in our local stores. They were much, much less expensive than buying them elsewhere.
We finally found ourselves in Newport, and checked in to our room for the night. We had rented lodging above the local brewery, and it was much more room than we needed. We could have moved in; it was fully stocked as a functioning apartment with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, and a great balcony overlooking Bay Street.
Two bombers of beer were left for us in the fridge, courtesy of the management.
We immediately head out on foot to walk in the sunshine. Ahhhh, sunshine in Newport. What a rare treat in September!
Of course, we were only in Newport to visit our seafood supplier (cough cough)…
We’d been craving seafood, having long given up the idea of finding a good pizza anywhere. We turned to our new nifty phones with all of their crazy apps, and found a highly-ranked restaurant nearby.
We asked our (incredibly nice) server to choose two of the most popular appetizers for us, and that we’d split an entree that she recommends.
We both were excited to finally have some fresh off the dock fish… and dove in…
to raw, fishy fish.
Don’t get me wrong, I love nigiri sushi. I even love cooked tuna that’s seared extremely rare, and I get worked up about raw octopus (as long as it’s fresh). It’s the fishy fish that is unacceptable. This fish, I don’t know how to describe it. You know when you eat or drink something amazing, and you exhale through your nose and can still linger and appreciate its flavor? Like a good, thick wine, or a ceviche with the perfect blend of citrus and garlic…
this was none of that.
Whitey chewed twice and then looked at me with a deer-in-the-headlight look that only a wife understands. Where do I spit this out at, he thought. I handed him my bar napkin and it disappeared into his pocket without either of us saying a word.
“Check please!” and we were outta there.
We were striking out on meals, and eating out is most of the fun of being on vacation. Whitey mentioned that for what we were spending on food, we should have just gone to the grocery store and cooked for ourselves in that full kitchen we had for the night. Fresh seafood counters were on every block, and we had yet to eat even a bite of good food.
Bah. I was determined to have a good meal somewhere. Anywhere.
Around 9:30 at night, we decided to venture downstairs into the pub to finish watching the Boise State football game. The bar was steady, and they advertised that dinner was available until midnight.
Whitey ordered a beer, I had a Framboise (on tap!!!) and we looked at the extensive menu. With so many options, I finally asked our server to bring us something.
“Just bring us whatever is the best thing on the menu. Something that people get excited about and return for.”
She asked, “Seafood or Meat?”
I, of course, answered seafood, and eagerly anticipated one of the many dishes listed in the 4 page menu that tempted me: Mahi Mahi, Scallops, Halibut, Fresh Steamer Clams, or Fish n’ Chips.
Drum roll please…. we received….
Deep fried calamari. Deep fried clam strips. Deep fried frozen fish pieces. Deep fried fries. And sauce.
And all of that for only $18.50!
Seriously. Why would she do this to me? Whitey suggested that she either just wanted a higher check average, so she picked the most expensive thing on the menu… or that the kitchen had already cleaned the line and the fryer was the only thing still hot.
With two hours left of dinner service, I’m guessing it was the first option.
We watched the end of the game, then walked upstairs to read and fall asleep.
We rose the next morning to that crazy coastal fog again, and were ravenous. Considering all of the bad food we’d had the previous day, it was to be expected.
Whitey suggested going for a walk to find breakfast, so we head out on foot with our hoodies on.
Sure enough, we found a small coffee shack about a mile away with a large banner out front advertising breakfast, as if it were an afterthought.
Whatever. We’re hungry. We’ll just get a danish and coffee and call it good, right?
Au contraire. What we ended up having was extraordinary.
Whitey ordered the crab cakes Florentine, and the perfectly poached eggs on top were covered in a dijon hollandaise. The crab cakes were seasoned perfectly. The homemade cornbread was divine as well.
My omelet was stuffed with Swiss cheese and a mixture of fresh baby spinach with oyster and shiitake mushrooms, covered with what appeared to be a Madeira wine sauce. It was perfectly cooked, and the crispy potatoes with caramelized onions were a great side.
Our first good meal. Scratch that…
Our first great meal. We profusely thanked our server, and Whitey made certain to give props to the lone Hispanic guy in the kitchen who was cooking each meal to order. He beamed with pride when we told him that it was the best meal we’d had on our vacation so far.
When buying a bag of saltwater taffy for the crew, we mentioned how good our breakfast was to the store’s proprietors. They agreed vehemently and mentioned that we should try the wild mushroom omelet. When I said that’s what I ordered, they laughed and said that they eat there at least once a week for that dish.
We left Newport and took the long way down into Central Oregon, scraping our idea of staying in an uber-cheap motel, and instead checking in to a place with a pool.
We went for a swim right away, soaking off the drive and racing each other underwater from end to end. Our entire vacation, we never had to share a pool with anyone. What a treat. I really, really enjoy swimming and so we took full advantage of the pool during any free time that we had.
Whitey spent the next day golfing with friends, and my mom and I shopped ’til we dropped. I visited her store for a while, and we went to lunch with my aunt, cousin and his family. After a full day, I went back to the hotel for a quick swim, and then we met up for our Fantasy Football draft party.
These guys… what a motley crue. It took a good 3 years before they’d let a girl (me) into their league, but I’ve placed in the top every year since. Everyone in this particular league are bartenders, restaurant managers or owners. So yes, they’re all as crazy as you would expect.
This year’s draft was awesome. Tons of fun, great laughs, a few tears and quite a few cab rides home. We left before the final round (leaving our picks written down) so that we could hit the pool one last time before it closed. Floating in the water for 45-minutes helped us to fall into a deep sleep a little after midnight.
The next day, we did a quick shopping trip for the restaurant and pointed the truck East. Driving through some of the most beautiful countryside in the nation, we drove in silence for a long time just appreciating the magnificent mountains, blue skies, rural towns and open ranges between them.
We got home and couldn’t wait to bury our heads into the dogs, then get a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen until the next day —
because besides burning the restaurant down, the next worst possible thing happened just a couple of hours before we got home — and it was hours and hours and hours before we were able to sleep soundly.