Hood River Happy
If you want a great getaway in the Pacific Northwest look no further
There’s a lot to see, taste, and do in Hood River. And in the fall? The crowds are gone and the colors (and flavors) are fabulous. The Professor and I had a nice stay there last week and plan to go back someday.
Last time I told paid subscribers about Votum, the unique dining experience we enjoyed (well, I did) on our brief stopover during our Thanksgiving trip to Portland. While that was fabulous, there’s more to Hood River than one good restaurant. It’s a great place for a couples getaway (or a girlfriends trip, if you’d prefer).
After a leisurely start from the Columbia River Gorge Hotel and Spa, we ate breakfast at Egg River Cafe. Parking is hard (don’t even try to park in one of the four spaces out front - there’s a lot across the street) but food is, like they say, fresh and bountiful. Regrettably, we didn’t wander downtown through the charming shops with the twinkly white lights. Time was limited so we drove around.
We somehow wandered up on the Fruit Loop above Hood River to the south of the Gorge where there are lots of orchards, vineyards, and food processing plants. To really appreciate the area we’ll go back another time during summer or harvest. There are small farmstead stands along the way though few were open the day we were there. We didn’t drive up to Mt. Hood - the road was icy and we didn’t want to come back down in the cab of a tow truck (or an ambulance).
On the way back north toward the Gorge we stopped at Draper Girls Farm in Parkdale for hot apple cider (wouldn’t you think they’d have that ready on a gray day?). So, we settled for hard cider and left with a growler of a delicious dark crimson berry cider for Thanksgiving, four huge, beautiful Bartlett Pears, and several varieties of sweet and tart eating apples. The Farm is run by Theresa Draper, her daughters, and, I’m sure, a host of worker bees. We didn’t see any of the goats that said to be are around during tourist season - they were probably inside out of the cold.
The farmstead is pleasing to the eye - set into orchards and surrounded by the things that make for an authentic working farm: ladders, fruit bins, muddy roads, and out back, Port-a-Potties (four of them). Inside the store it was warm and they had plenty of out of season fruits and vegetables, jars and jars of jams, jellies, chocolates, t-shirts and hats, and anything else that a tourist seeking an authentic farmstead experience might want to see. Except the goats. Draper Girls Farm isn’t a Disney-type organization. It appears to be a legit agri-tourism outfit. Despite the cold Port-a-Potties and the mud it was well worth a stop.
Since we’d eaten late and it was mid-afternoon, we went wine-tasting at two of the area wineries that have been Oregon Wineries of the Year (in different years). The first was Mt. Hood Winery where fittingly, we could see from Mt. Adams in the north to Mt. Hood in the south. It was too cold to sit outside and they have a nice area with leather chairs and a big fireplace so we sat there while we shared a flight of whites and reds. We liked their wines but found that there’s just something that makes us want to pay more for wine in a winery than at Albertsons. It wasn’t an inexpensive stop.
We came away with two bottles of Gewurztraminer, a 2019 Syrah, a Cabernet Franc (vintage unknown), and something else that we drank last week that I’ve already forgotten. We somewhat restrained ourselves but enjoyed the wine, the beautiful tasting room, and the gas fireplace. Though we used to work for wineries in Washington neither of us are particularly savvy about the industry or wine tasting practices anymore. We just know if we like a bottle or don’t. We liked these.
Next, we searched out Cathedral Ridge, the winery about which highway billboards (on I-84 and elsewhere) proclaim, 20+ bold red wines! The tasting room was much less grand but it also claimed to be a past Oregon Winery of the Year. The moment we walked into the low ceilinged tasting room a pleasant woman brought us a free taste of Necessity White, a pleasant white (obviously). We liked it so much we took a bottle home (wasn’t that the point?). We shared a flight of six wines again and settled on a bottle of The Last Best Wife, a nice red blend with a great name, another Syrah, and a Zinfandel.
Between the two wineries we spent over $400 for 9 bottles of wine, which averaged out to about $45 a bottle. If that tells you anything, what we bought was better than average. Average for us anyway. Back home, we try never to spend more than $15 a bottle so we’ll save these for special occasions or only drink them when we’re out of the cheap stuff and don’t want to drive into town for more.
And speaking of town, it was getting late and we wanted to go back to the Gorge. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary downriver at Carson Hot Springs and though we didn’t get there this trip, we wanted to be on the River. We went to the Riverside Restaurant which curiously enough is co-located with a Best Western Hotel.
Right on the River, we had a glorious view of the last rays of the sun hitting the bridge, the River, and the fall foliage. Dinner was great too: fish and chips for the Professor, and a pretty good pasta dish for me (again, don’t remember!).
So this story is as close as we’ll get to a classic travel-style story. Where we went, what we saw, what we ate and drank, and how we felt… All in all, if you want to know we were happy with the time we spent in Hood River and would go back any time. Except I’d have a hard time getting the Professor back to Votum. Maybe I’ll save that for my next girlfriends trip.
PS I forgot to tell you about Pine Street Bakery and the pies we grabbed for Thanksgiving in Portland. We ordered two a few days ahead of time: Apple and Bourbon Pecan. When we got there to pick it up the morning we left there was a line of twenty or so people waiting to order. But luckily for us, in the back by the coffee bar, they’d set up a place to distribute pre-ordered pies, rolls, and more.
If you get nothing else to eat in Hood River, buy a pie at Pine Street Bakery. The pies looked homemade (always a plus in my book), the crust was the flakiest I’ve ever eaten, the Apple was like no other we’ve eaten (tart and cinnamony) and the Bourbon Pecan? Bourbon in every bite. There weren’t too many pecans, just enough. And oh, the filling that bound it all together. Heavenly.
Oh yeah, put this place on your list and do it soon! Here are a few photos from Pine Street Bakery’s Facebook page. Definitely. Must. Stop. There.
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