Now that I've covered many of the wineries in Willamette Valley, it's time to talk food. You need to keep your strength up while doing all of this tasting, and I did find many of the wines from the area were much more enjoyable with food vs. sampling in the tasting rooms without a cracker. It was actually quite odd that very few of the wineries offered any palate cleanser between big Pinots. White Rose did give us club soda in a little shot glass to drink before tasting as a palate cleanser, which I greatly appreciated.
Recipe in Newberg is set in an old sprawling Victorian house with a charming outdoor patio and romantic white lights. It's the kind of place where the waiter is recommending other wineries to visit the next day and the people nearby chime in their opinions as well.
There are great post-wine drinking dishes like a warm onion tart with layers of gruyere in between nutmeg-parmesan cream, and escargot profiteroles. I can't say I've ever had an escargot sandwich like this before, but hopefully it won't be the last.
Entrees have more heart warming dishes like homemade gnocchi with walnut pistou, summer squash and grilled ricotta salata. My duck breast was flavorful and perfectly cooked on a yogurt spaetzle with baby bok choy. Recipe got us reset after a day of wine tasting, and prepped us for more.
Jory and The Allison Inn & Spa
The Allison is the premier hotel in Willamette Valley - read very upscale and more expensive than the $70 motels that line the streets of Newberg and Dundee. I can vouch by the Travelodge in Newberg as being perfectly acceptable, especially when you prefer to spend your money on food and wine, but The Allison is credited for helping to elevate the area and draw more people and business groups to Willamette.
The Allison has a nice bar and restaurant, the Jory, but if you want to watch the action, sit at the bar stools that look directly in to the restaurant kitchen.
It was impressive to watch the chefs turn out the amount of food they did with such precision and unflappability.
There's lots of seasonal ingredients on the menu and an impressive wine list. Tomatoes are sliced thin and grilled, and a beet puree offers an amuse bouche I could have used earlier in the day.
My tuna tataki was delicate with a great sear on the edges. It sat on well spiced soba noodles with an Asian flair. I will admit I was drinking vodka with dinner at this point to prime my palate for the following day of wine drinking.
The Joel Palmer House
When I heard that The Joel Palmer House in Dayton had an all mushroom tasting menu, I knew I had to go. The restaurant is actually on the Oregon and National Historic Register. The namesake Joel Palmer was one of Oregon's original pioneers, heading west in 1845 and co-founding Dayton a few years later. He went on to build his home here in 1857.
You can choose a vegetarian mushroom tasting menu or go full in with the all animal product menu as I did. The mushrooms were present on each dish, but not overpowering. An interesting trio of tartare kicked things off with 3 scoops of different vegetables from carrot to beet to mushroom.
Combos continued with a carrot and cauliflower soup side by side with a no cream mushroom soup. Both velvety and rich. While there was no cream, they didn't forget the butter! The richness continued with a decadent 3 mushroom tart with truffle. I loved the intense, in your face flavor of the woodsy mushroom collection.
Another duo arrived, but this one in one cup, giving us a nice gazpacho two tone palate cleanser.
The proteins included sturgeon with roasted brussels sprouts in a wild mushroom duxelle and a tender filet with porcinis and a rich demi-glace.
Couplings continued until the end with an "Into The Woods" dessert sampler with vanilla panna cotta, bread pudding, and grand marnier frozen souffle.
If we had one more evening or if they were open on Monday's, we would have gone to Thistle, and do note that many restaurants are closed on Monday. Thistle is a well-regarded farm to table restaurant in McMinnville, worth a visit from what I hear.
The Horse Radish
In addition to some solid dinners, we also had some great lunches in the quaint towns of Dundee and Carlton. When you're visiting Carlton Winemaker Studios and Ken Wright, stop in to The Horse Radish to refuel. They have BLTs and Italian sandwiches served on ciabatta or even gluten free bread. I was a fan of the gluten free roast beef half sandwich, half salad.
Republic of Jam
The Republic of Jam, a few doors down from The Horse Radish, is worth a visit as well. They feature the other fruits of the area with artisanal jellies and mustards, as well as relishes and fruit ketchups.
Red Hills Market
If you're visiting Ponzi or Arygle in Dundee, then Red Hills Market is a good stop for lunch and sundries. Walls are lined with spices, salt, and every beautifully packaged condiment you can think of. People work on computers next to louder wine tasting groups. You'll find what you need from soups, salads, sandwiches to pizzas, beer and coffee.
Willamette Valley is an enjoyable place to wine taste with beautiful scenery (especially if it's not raining), quality restaurants and very friendly people. Now is a good time to visit!