After the boozy debauchery of our visit to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival, day two in Portland would be a more sedate (and delicious) affair. My previous visits to Seaside and to take a Goonies tour of Astoria had already introduced me to Oregon’s stunning coast, but I wanted to show that off to the Nomadic American.
To that end, our obliging hosts, Cody and Dez, were quick to suggest a day trip out to visit Tillamook and sample some delicious food. Once we’d eaten our fill, we’d then kick on to the coast to dip our toes into the already-too-cold water.
The Hole in the Wall With Delicious Food
One of the many things I love about traveling with local guides is that you get to eat the best food without paying a fortune. A feature of Nomadic American and I’s trek around the United States had been that we’d over-indulged in fast food. Part of that had to do with me wanting to try every chain I’d seen on TV as a kid, but I think a small part of it was also just not knowing where else to eat.
Those big neon signs are hard to miss, and it’s not often that Ma & Pa Hamburger have the budget to do the same. Hell, maybe they just don’t want to draw that crowd of road weary travelers.
Regardless of the logic behind it, I was delighted when our ninety minute drive came to an end outside of a ramshackle hut proclaiming to be Joe’s Crab Shack. A younger, more naive CWB might have set his standards low looking at the state of the place – but if Asia has taught me nothing else, it’s that the best food can often be found in the least glamorous of locations.
And the Asia theory proved resoundingly correct here. We feasted on fresh seafood, orgasmic crab melts, and fries cooked to perfection. The sleepy town of Tillamook was already winning my approval.
The Cheese Factory
I’m not going to lie. I have zero interest in the process by which cheese is made. Factories are only slightly behind museums and temples in my travel pecking order.
But good company makes almost anything a potentially enjoyable experience, and I certainly didn’t find myself bored as we shuffled through the factory and ogled the workers crafting delicious cheese. Truth be told, the Tillamook Cheese Factory is actually pretty engaging as far as factories for not very exciting things go.
A few interactive displays, an inexplicably entertaining replica delivery truck, and the opportunity to sample a few of Tillamook’s more famous cheeses certainly didn’t go astray.
The real eye catcher, though, was the opportunity to try some mouthgasm inducing Tillamook ice cream flavours before we moved on.
I would not have thought a company most famous for its cheese would also produce damn fine ice cream.
The Wine Tasting
As if a seafood lunch, some free cheese, and a heaping helping of ice cream was going to be enough to satiate we ravenous Americans (and this Aussie with an American stomach). Next stop? A wine tasting and gourmet food venue: the Blue Heron Cheese Company.
There’s something terribly fancy about participating in a wine tasting. I always feel like I’m an undercover spy as I sip wine and pretend to understand terminology like ‘nose’ and ‘bouquet’ and ‘undertone’.
I’m a man of simple tastes: my first encounters of wine were in the cask variety as I’d chug ‘goon’ I’d bought at $10 for four litres. To me, Fruity Lexia will forever be the King or Queen of Wines.
Regardless, I daintily sipped and nodded appreciatively as the woman behind the counter/bar waffled on about the flavours she claimed existed in the wine. All I could taste was wine. I’m a Philistine, I know.
In between taste tests, we also navigated the numerous displays and free sample stations – dipping tiny pieces of bread into flavoured oils, trying chili pastes on crackers, and even picking up a couple of snacks and a bottle of mead on the way out.
I’m sad to say (as a dyed in the wool nerd) that I didn’t get to try the mead. Shame on me, right?
The Petting Zoo
The final stop on our day in Tillamook would be the petting zoo adjoined to the Blue Heron Cheese Company place. Having largely grown up in rural NSW, I can’t say I was particularly excited to see sheep, pigs, and the like up close – but Heather got a kick out of it, and I tittered childishly at a donkey’s penis, so it wasn’t a complete waste of my time.
Free-spending high roller that I am, I even splashed out on a paper bag full of pellets and such to feed to the animals. Watching Heather’s face as an emu frantically pecked at her hand was pretty priceless.
Hitting the Coast
Our hunger having finally abated, we piled back into the car for a round of merry gun control debate before hitting the windswept Oregon coast. While the idea of a beach you can’t swim at seems somewhat alien to me (unless it’s box jellyfish season, shark season, or blue ring octopus season) – there’s something so gorgeous about the clear, cold water and the crisp sky overhead.
Being brave souls, we even ventured out (up to our knees!) in the icy water. Photos were taken and girlish squeals were squealed, and then it was time to take our sandy feet back to the car for the trek back to Portland.
Because our day hadn’t been indulgent enough, we decided to finish off our food-heavy day with a visit to Portland’s very groovy
for some good micro-brew beer and some even better food. The Raccoon Lodge has featured on both of my visits to Portland, and would totally be a regular watering hole for me if I were ever lucky enough to call the Pacific North West gem my home.
It might not have seemed like a particularly exciting day to read about, but the choice to visit Tillamook and spend a little time on the Oregon coast is one I’m glad we made. I had a fantastic day.
Have you ever had the pleasure of exploring the Oregon coast or some of Oregon’s cities and towns not named Portland? What are your favourite spots?