Restaurants & Bars 2

PNW Trip Report

Andrew | Jul 14, 2004 09:26 PM

Just got back from a fabulous 3 week driving trip through Oregon, Washington and a little into Canada. Here are some details of our food experience.

First the best! Sammy's Cowboy Bistro just outside Ashland, Oregon (famous for the Shakespeare Festival). A completely unassuming place and an eccentric experience. The quiet, thoughtful owner waddles around seating people, recommending wine, pouring water, checking on things. There are only 6 tables. The wait staff, all young women, are very informal and friendly. We were first served complementary tasty barbecued chicken wings. Then we started with the parmesean flan (that my wife has vowed to duplicate somehow) and a salad with pungent local blue cheese and cherries. A perfectly balanced variety of flavor. Both outstanding! I had the paella complete with an entire quail and fresh spot prawns (among other things). The best I've ever heard with a rich, deep flavor. My wife had the lamb and would barely share it it was so good. I finished with a chocolate cake with fresh cherries and flavorful organic decaf. But of course it wasn't over as there was another complementary dessert. He had recommended a Collioure red from France and it was perfect and a great new find for us. This is just the kind of place I love; great food in a relaxed environment without the attitude. The best meal of our trip and on our last night too : )

But back to the beginning. Other places of note.

Orcas Island, San Juan Islands. Ate dinner at Olga's with it's LA-styled (as some have called it) atmosphere with good results. Had a clay-pot catfish and fried oysters. Both excellent, but be aware that all dishes are huge. I don't recall what else we had. Also ate at the Ship Bay Inn which was just OK. There is also a Mexican food place in East Sound that was quite good too with New Mexico style food and atmosphere. Great margaritas. otherwise, camped out and cooked ourselves. For an island the food was pretty good.

Went to Vancouver Island and ate one night at the Sooke Harbor House. Excellent meal with that complex combination of flavors that comes together splendidly. I had the kid goat and it was memorable with a lamb-like rich flavor. The carrot ginger soup was top notch. My wife had the halibut that though small in size was fresh and flavorful. The location is beautiful too. My only quibble here is that our waiter was hokey and played up the formal atmosphere while making bad jokes. Lose the pretentiousness and you have a great experience. Then ate at a pub called Canoe in Victoria. Right on the water and a great place to lose a few relaxing hours drinking fresh beer and eating casual but excellent food. Their house-smoked oysters are huge, flavorful and held only in their own brine. The shrimp pizza was filling and worth having again. Their Cobb salad was the best I've had with chunks of cold iceburg lettuce with a chunky but light blue cheese dressing and real bacon slices.

Seattle: Campagne, another excellent meal I'd love to repeat anytime. We shared a number of appetizers including some simple sauteed mushrooms, scallops, and ???. Gone in a flash. We met some family for dinner here and my uncle rated the halibut the best he'd ever had. The rest of us had the lamb and m,m,m,... The service was friendly and relaxed. Another place I recommend is Szmania's in the Magnolia area, but it's more of a local place. Went there for lunch one day. Also recommend the clam chowder at the Olympia farmer's market. The real deal!

Cannon Beach and the Oregon coast: Pretty average here but good chowder at Doogers and fresh crab at Ecola. However, Blue Sky Cafe in Manzanita was excellent. Good, reasonably priced wine list. The steaks were excellent. Most of this time we were with family with young kids so could not venture too far foodwise.

Then the Joe Palmer House in Dayton, OR in the Willamette Valley. Food was good, but not great though my steak was cooked perfectly (but sauce was solidifying). They use mushrooms in almost every dish. Service was too formal. Expensive wine list and 18% service charge. I'd recommend Tina's in Dundee instead.

Did I say Sammy's Cowboy Bistro. A meal to remember and drive 7 hours for!

Other notes: The Oregon wines were fun to try and learn about. They do pinot noir really well. I recommend Adelshiem, also for interesting whites (tastings are more in depth than usual, call first). The Canadian wines were good too with some interesting dessert wines. And of course lots of beer. Good beer! Why can't we have good brewpubs here in the Bay area?

Foods: Bought fresh berries and cherries everywhere! Lots of salmon in many variations. Smoked this and that (those oysters at Canoe!).

I'm sure I missed something. Guess I'll have to go back ; ) The PNW is a truly special place. But you already knew that.

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