Oregon Regional Cuisine
Oregon has a wealth of some pretty fabulous regional foods. The Mediterranean-like climate with moderate year-round temperatures and the health-conscious population of many Oregon communities combine for yummy results. Here are some of my favorite Oregon foods along with restaurant suggestions and a bit on James Beard, the most famous cook to come out of Oregon.
Berries, Berries, Berries!
When I first moved to Oregon, I could barely believe how large the berries were–and the variety was incredible.
Marionberries have a deep, rich flavor similar to a blackberry. They actually look like enormous blackberries with a touch more purple in them and they are not as seedy. They are so big, beautiful and juicy. To pick your own is easy as they are on high bushes and easily reached. Marionberries are ripe at the height of the summer and I remember getting really hot and drained from the sun while gathering them, but, it is worth it.
Oregon strawberries are absolutely the sweetest and best I have ever had. Now, the tests have proven it, as this site tells you. Unfortunately, the best varieties do not ship well, so you have to go there to taste them. It is popular to pick your own strawberries and you’ll have lots of company out in the fields while filling up your buckets.
There are so many reasons to visit Oregon, but try to go when the strawberry season is on.
All about Oregon blueberries: varieties, farm locations, health benefits and it includes some great recipes. Oregon has the highest yield per acre for blueberries of all the states.
Blueberries are another popular pick-your-own fruit in Oregon and you will be able to find many farms with these super easy to pick, big, fat, colorful berries. I love the way the bushes look when they are covered with berries in many stages of ripeness: pink, lavender, blue, purple. It’s so pretty against the light green leaves.
Freeze them on a cookie sheet to keep them separated like marbles, then bag them that way. Pull some out on a hot day and make blueberry daiquiris with them. Your teeth will be full of little blueberry seeds, but it is so good. If your whole group drinks them then you won’t have to be the only one with blue teeth!
In my opinion, this Northwest crab is the best. You will find it in Northern California, too. It is sweet and fun to eat. I love it. You can buy it fresh from a commercial steamer or you can catch your own of some of the docks or from a boat in the bays. Learn about the best spots, times and techniques, rent some crab pots and pull in the crabs. It takes thick gloves and strong arms.
Steam them right away for your dinner. Spread newspapers out on the table and have at it either plain or with melted butter.
Yaquina Bay Oysters
This is Oregon’s oldest oyster farm (1907). Fresh Oregon oysters are so good grilled or broiled right in the closed-shell with a little lemon juice added at the table, but this site also offers recipes and will soon offer online shopping. They feature fresh items: oysters in the shell, oyster meat and oyster cocktails as well as smoked oysters, steamer clams, and more.
While they are also grown elsewhere, Oregon Hazelnuts, or Filberts as they are also called, are thought to be the best.
Oregon Gourmet Hazelnuts offers hazelnut products such as nut brittles, spreads, nut butter, and chocolates including some recipes. Order the Euphoria Truffles or find them in Eugene where they are made. They are sinfully good, really. Springfield Filbert Festival is held every August in Springfield, Oregon, right next to Eugene in the middle of the Willamette Valley.
Every year there is a filbert cooking competition and the various food booths offer filbert-themed items in addition to the traditional fare. Expect music, fireworks, food, and fun.
Specialized Dairy Products
The mild winters and cool summers of Oregon are ideal for dairy cows and goats. Here are a few of the well-known Oregon dairy products.
The Springfield Creamery, makers of Nancy’s Cultured Dairy and Soy Products makes such good yogurt–so fresh and full of cultures. The nonfat tastes are amazingly good. The fruit is packaged separately and is not too sweet. The site also includes recipes along with product and distributor locations. I have finally been able to find some at a store in New Hampshire, so they are shipping quite a distance now. Yeah!
Tillamook Cheese is a farmer-owned cooperative in Tillamook, Oregon which produces a premier line of dairy products including award-winning cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, and sour cream. At the Visitor’s Center, you can watch the cheese being made and sample the results. Tillamook Cheese is also widely available across the US. Their web site is full of info and includes recipes and a kid’s section.
Blue Heron Cheese & Wine Company
Blue Heron French Cheese Company, also in Tillamook, makes a wonderful collection of Brie cheeses. You can find them in Oregon stores, but if you are traveling they are not far from the Tillamook Visitor’s Center.
Alsea Acres Goat Cheese
Artisan cheesemaker Nancy Chandler at “Alsea Acre Alpines” makes a variety of goat cheeses and goat milk soaps. You can visit her at the farm, see her at the markets or, now you can order online, too.
Prince Puckler’s Ice Cream, Eugene
Oh, memory. I used to live just a few blocks away from Prince Puckler’s, a locally owned, high-fat content ice cream parlor. The flavors are intense and they even have a contest every year to see who can come up with the newest, most unique, and tasty flavor. A hot fudge sundae with the locally made Euphoria hot fudge (the same company that makes the truffles) is heaven.
Where to Eat Regional Foods
Steamboat Inn on The North Umpqua River, Oregon
The cookbook “Thyme & the River Too” has its origins at the Steamboat Inn, located 38 scenic miles east of Roseburg, Oregon on Highway 138. It is a popular spot for those who fish, but a wonderfully scenic spot for anyone, including rafters. Check out their restaurant. I stopped there while rafting with a group of friends. Wonderful experience altogether.
Wildwood Restaurant & Bar, Portland, Oregon
Wildwood is a Portland restaurant in the popular Pearl District and known for its regional ingredients and great food. According to Cory Schreiber, Wildwood Restaurant owner/chef, Wildwood has “…a market-driven menu featuring fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms and purveyors…” Cory has also put together a popular cookbook which is listed in the link above.
When I dined there recently, I was blown away by the flavors. They just popped. Everything was fabulous: creative, absolutely fresh and so flavorful that it was like a burst of the very essence of everything I put in my mouth.
The decor is not romantic or over the top, but serves as a neutral backdrop for the star of the evening: the food.
Caprial and John’s Kitchen, Portland
“Caprial’s Bistro” in Southeast Portland focuses on regional foods. It may sound familiar to you as Caprial and John also offer cooking classes and have a popular cooking show on PBS.
Lucy’s Table, Portland
Lucy’s Table in Portland is a place to enjoy Northwest cuisine with a European influence created by Chef Mike Conklin. The menu is always changing to take advantage of each season’s offerings. Like Wildwood, Lucy’s Table is also located in the 21st Street area of town.
Bold-Sky Cafe & Studios
This very popular restaurant serves Northwest seasonal foods, has interior design services, an art gallery, shop and more. In their words: “Bold-Sky is about becoming the artist of one’s own life. It is about enjoying excellent food & drinks, interesting workshops & concerts, & developing a renewed sense of community.” Very Northwest: always innovative.
And, Finally: Chocolate!
How can I ignore chocolate? Everyone loves chocolate. Here you will find some of the best Oregon chocolate-makers.
Euphoria Chocolate Company
The BEST chocolate truffles you will ever devour, in my humble opinion. This is what Euphoria Chocolate Company is known for, along with it’s Ultra Chocolate Sauce and the fresh-dipped ice cream bars in the summer. If you are in Eugene, be sure to stop by one of the locations. Just one truffle will set you up for the whole day and the chocolate-dipped ice cream bars are the best ever.
Fenton and Lee Chocolatiers
Fenton & Lee chocolates are beautifully made and delicious, too. The thing that always struck me so much is how imaginative the decoration and presentation is. Now, you can order on-line. If you can visit in person you will be able to see them being made and, oh, the chocolate-scented air is so great.
See’s chocolates are from California. Now, I know this is Oregon-focused, but I discovered See’s chocolates while living in Eugene. You can visit the store there and get a free sample every time. I love them. They are a very good, fresh chocolates. My favorite is the chocolate-covered toffee rolled in nuts.