A Trip to Oregon and Back featuring Blackberry Peach Ginger Pie and Homemade Pizza

by Irvin on October 4, 2010 · 13 comments

“You’re not talking smack are you? You’re really going to bake for us when you come up to visit?” This is my friend Sue, politely inquiring on whether or not I was being honest with my intentions when I visited her in Portland Oregon. I assured her that I was. In fact, AJ and I ended up making dinner for her, her husband, and a few of their friends. Two pizzas and a peach blackberry pie for dessert to be exact, our specialty “pie and pie” dinner.

Being a teacher, AJ had the summer off, and I had a surplus of vacation time from my job as I hadn’t taken a vacation in the past two and half years until we went to Hawaii earlier in the summer. So a couple of months ago we decided to pack up our car and roadtrip up to Oregon to visit one of my favorite friends in the whole world, Sue (along with her husband Tony and their three awesome dogs).

Of course, as is often the case with some of my friends, I hadn’t spent any quality time with Sue in about ten years or so. Sure I went up to Portland three years ago for her wedding, but it was her wedding! She was busy looking fabulous and getting married. I barely saw her, and since it was just a weekend trip, we barely saw Portland or any of Oregon really.

So with a loaded up Subaru, we drove up Highway 5 to Oregon on Sunday. We had originally wanted to go over to Bend, Oregon and visit our friend Megan, but her job sent her over to Shanghai on a last minute business trip. HOW she could have picked Shanghai over a fabulous visit from us is beyond me.

So instead AJ and I decided to spend a few days near Ashland. It was a nice in between stop between Portland and SF and had the distinct honor of having a world-renowned Shakespeare festival.

Though I’ll be completely honest, I had never heard of the Shakespeare festival before. *shrug*

We drove up, and decided to stay at the Green Springs Inn, which was about 15 miles outside of Ashland. It was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but the food was decent, the room was inexpensive roomy and clean, and they did NOT have a TV (which I found quite refreshing). I was informed that I had to eat blackberry pie when I was in Oregon, and so I ordered a slice. It had a great filling, but the crust was bit limp. Perhaps my standards were too high.

The following day we woke up early (well early for me) and drove over to Crater Lake National Park. If you’ve never been, it’s pretty amazing (by the way, Crater Lake apparently has a twitter account. I love it when a large body of water tweets! Go follow it!). The lake itself is a collapsed volcano with no water running into or out of it. The water in the lake is about 720 years of snow and rain accumulation, creating a unnatural spectacular blue.

Sadly we didn’t have time to hike around the lake, nor did we have time to visit the “island” in the middle of the lake called Wizard Island. As we had to drive back to Ashland to go to Shakespeare play.

When we started to plan our trip to Oregon, most of the tickets to the Shakespeare festival were sold out, but we were able to score decent seats for Merchant of Venice, a Shakespeare play that AJ had never seen or read before (being an English major, I had read it a few times and seen it performed at the SF Free Shakespeare in the Park once, though it had been ages ago).

The show, I have to admit, was actually the best performance of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen. Granted the only other Shakespeare productions I’ve seen have been high school, college, or regional theater productions. This was a definite step up. WAY up. I was a bit thrown off by the recognition of certain actors in the play (including Taylor Doose from Gilmore Girls) but I was quickly able to adjust my mindset, and enjoy the show for what it was.

The next day it was off to Portland, where we met up with Sue and her husband Tony and his brother. I had tweeted about my trip to Portland and asked where I should eat and one of the most tweeted about places was Pok Pok. So we ran over there for dinner.

Slightly greasy, but super tasty Southeast Asian inspired cuisine kept on coming to our table. Prawns, wings, ribs, duck, boar, Chinese broccoli and I can’t even remember what else. We ate ourselves into a stupor and rolled ourselves home.

The next day was spent at Powell’s Bookstore where I spent way WAY too much money on their remainder cookbooks. Thankfully we drove up in a car, but I believe I bought somewhere between 25 to 30 books. We had just rearranged our bookshelves too, so this was going to take some creative storage when we got back to SF.

After Powell’s we headed over to meet up with Tony and his brother Tim, to eat at some of the street carts of Portland. I was told by Food Expert Extraordinaire™ Matt Armandariz that Portland had an amazing food cart scene and to just go to any food cart, I wouldn’t be disappointed.  He was so right. We had a hard time choosing between the amazing carts, but I ended up with some awesome sopapillas (a Mexican fried pastry stuffed with savory filling). AJ wanted something a little less rich, as we had been eating fairly heavy greasy food for most of the trip so he picked a vegan rice bowl with seasoned tofu which actually ended up being much tastier than either of us expected.

Jumping in the car and battling traffic Tony, Tim, AJ and I rushed over to Multnomah Falls and while Tony and Tim hung out at the bottom at the cafe, AJ and I did the hike up to the top, which was a pretty awesome view (and a little bit more of a hike than we thought it would be. Those switchback are kinda killer to someone who is as out of shape as I am). Portland and Oregon in general is just so beautiful. The idea that you can drive 45 minutes outside the city and experience a gorgeous waterfall is so cool!

That night we ate at 3 Doors Down Café, a cozy Italian restaurant and a favorite of Sue and Tony’s. The seared scallopes were fantastic, sweet and slightly carmelized, served with sautéed peaches and a honey basic cream sauce. The linguini with shellfish tasty with just enough garlic and white wine, and the tortiglione with vodka sauce and house made Italian sausage hearty and satisfying.

We ran out the next day and got some Stumptown Coffee (for those ignorant of coffee, Stumptown is the grandfather of amazing locally roasted coffee. The founders of Ritual and Four Barrel coffee here in SF both were trained in roasting by Stumptown – that said, AJ makes his coffee so strong at home, that when I had their coffee I thought to myself “Hmmm. Great flavor, but a bit weak.”) and then headed to the NE Alberta Street area, where there were super cute shops and fantastic eats. AJ’s stomach was still kinda feeling unsettled from all the rich food we were having so we decided to pick something light for lunch, which ended up being completely satisfying crepes from a cute little place called Suzette. We talked to the owner, Jehnee Rains who apparently lived in SF and cut her chef teeth at Chez Panisse and Quince before landing in Portland. The crepes and desserts were top rate (as was to be expected from someone with that pedigree) and the place adorable.

Walking down Alberta street further we went into Random Order Café where I tried some of their mixed plum and ginger streusel pie. It was good. Damn good pie. I’d recommend it to anyone. And I’m someone with some pie street cred.

We sat down to a local and she had told us that this here coffee/pie shop used to be a super sketchy dive bar. She once snuck in here with a underage ID, and saw a local band doing some performance arty show, where the members asked the audience to shout out words and they would key in the words into old electric typewriters. The sound of the typewriters clicking and clacking away created the music for the show. She couldn’t remember the name of that local band, but she said they later ended reinvented themselves as a proper instrument playing band…name Sleater Kinney.

Side note. My friend Sue actually knows and works with Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney. In fact, Sue’s awesome dog Lucy is going to be featured in a project of Carrie’s called ThunderAnt. Yay! ThunderAnt update. It’s called Portlandia now!

After Alberta Street, we zipped over to the Portland Art Museum and viewed the photography exhibit along with the abstract expressionist work that NY art critic Clement Greenberg had donated to them. We ran over to Whole Foods to pick up stuff for dinner, and then headed back to Sue’s place to bake and bake and bake.

Side note. Tony use to work in produce way back when Sue met him. To this day, he cannot enter a grocery store’s produce section without rearranging the produce into a perfect pyramid. We witnessed this at Whole Foods. It was pretty awesome.

We started the evening off with some nice wine and cheese and bread. Nothing like a little baked creamy cheese to cut the hunger, as it took AJ and me a little bit of time to bake the pie and pie.

Ah, Pie and pie. It’s one of AJ and my specialities. We’ve done it numerous times at home, and at friend’s houses, but nowhere, NOWHERE have we done it in such an great well stocked kitchen like Sue’s.

Once I started asking Sue for equipment, she had pretty much EVERYTHING we needed. From pizza stones, to pie dishes, to pie weights to food processors, to muscovado sugar (I don’t even have muscovado sugar in my house!), to microplane zesters, Sue and Tony’s kitchen was the PERFECT place for us to bake. She even had a pie crust silicon shield. AND the most gorgeous awesome ceramic pie dish to bake the pie in. CRAZY! I love her and I love her kitchen!

AJ’s pizzas were awesome. Portabella mushrooms, Italian sausage, carmelized onions, fresh basil, they all added up to something amazing. Which is usually the case when AJ makes his pizza. And he didn’t disappoint. We, of course, were able to bake the pie and pizzas together as Sue had a convection oven. Oh to have a convection oven…

The peach and black berry pie turned out pretty good too, even though I was a little skeptical that I hadn’t baked it long enough for the filling to set (I think I was scarred from my experience with the apricot pie I made for the Frances dinner). But not only did it turn out great, but extremely picky foodie friends of theirs, who proclaimed their dislike of pie and pie crust actually ended up getting second helpings and eating the crust, proclaiming it he best crust they have ever had.

Oh yeah! Foodie gives me some props!

(Full disclosure. I hate the word foodie. But since they described themselves at foodies, I’m going to go with it.)

Side note. On top of the amazing kitchen, Sue had the most adorable plates to serve everything on. Apparently they were her grandmothers. You can see the plate above which she served the pie on.

We all collapsed into a food coma after hanging out and drinking wine and the next day, Tony woke up early and ran out to the farmer’s market. He picked up a bunch of fresh produce as well as these awesome waffles from The Waffle Window. OMG. The waffles were so drool worthy. Pearl sugar waffles, with crunch and sweetness. I wanted to eat these waffles for breakfast lunch AND dinner. We orderd a bunch of waffles, some savory (the three B’s – bacon, brie and basil) as well as the sweet (the Blueberry Lime sensation) but in the end it was the plain pearl sugar waffles that we kept on going back to. We took some for the road as well big Tony and Sue goodbye.

We decided, as we headed out of town to pick up some Voodoo Donuts. Crazy Voodoo Donuts. Everyone on tweeter was all a twit about them. So we figured we couldn’t leave the city without at least running over there and getting some.

And crazy they were. I do like my donuts, but even I thought they were a little intense for me. Sure it was novel and fun to eat a donut encrusted with Captain Crunch or M&Ms (actually the M&Ms one was kinda gross), but in the end I think my favorite one was a plain old blueberry cake donut. Oh well. At least I had the experience of Voodoo Donuts.

Driving back down Oregon, we considered going over to the Oregon coast, but in the interest of time, just took the 5 back. We detoured over and stopped at Silverton and the National Waterfall park and did a short 2 mile hike around the falls, which were spectacular. Though it’s true that Iguazu Waterfalls have spoiled AJ and I in terms of waterfalls, I’m pretty much a sucker for any waterfall. I wish we had more time to hike the park to see all of them, but the ones we did see and the ones we did hike to were pretty awesome.

An overnight stay at Medford and onto Ashland where we got coffee at Noble Coffee. They did Japanese style siphon coffee and it was just as nuanced and beautiful in the mouth as they claimed it would be.

And onward home. We arrived back in San Francisco a little sick of being in the car, but completely glad to have visited Oregon and our friend Sue and Tony. Hopefully we’ll get back up there again soon or they’ll come down here and visit us even sooner. And hopefully ten years won’t pass in between. In the meanwhile, we’ll always have pie.

For more photos from our Oregon trip, feel free to visit my Flickr Album.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Merri October 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

>Oh I had a friend who went to that shakespeare festival. So all it is, is watching plays? I would think that everyone would dress up like that time period..i had envisioned it kind of like those mideval fairs. Im the opposite..i would never want to stay in a hotel that has no tv..unless it has free internet and I could watch tv on my laptop.. That crater is beautiful!! So BLUE! Oh you went to powells bookstore? I used to work for a publisher before this job, and I would sell books to them. Wow look at that waterfall, how pretty! Oh and that one! Ive never been to oregon, it looks beautiful.

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make my day October 5, 2010 at 2:32 am

>I went to college in portland many many moons ago AND travelled around the state in the bus with my basketball teammates! memories!…and great food. that's what you have! I'm going to try to bake your pie. first time ever. cheers kari

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make my day October 5, 2010 at 2:34 am

whoo hoo I can comment now! BTW at the risk of sounding like my kids…'eat the love' is 'cool as'!

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Mr. Jackhonky October 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

@Merri. It was NOT like a RenFaire. But there were Shakespeare people roaming around. The entire city of Ashland is built around the Shakespeare festival, so you'll see "thematic" stuff all over the place. Ye Olde Tyme is used A LOT in signage there. LOL.

It was actually REALLY refreshing to be forced to unplug. Even our iPhones didn't work that well. So AJ and I could really spend some time together without distractions. AND the crater was amazing. The photos don't do it justice, it's an otherworldly blue.

If you have a chance, you should get up there. The waterfalls ARE pretty amazing spectacular and you can hike up to them/under them. Powell's is huge. Much to AJ's chagrin, I probably spent WAY too much time there. Though he was pretty enthralled with the photo books….

@Make my day. Yay! You can comment! Thanks for being persistent about that. Oregon is gorgeous. Tell me how you like the pie when you make it!

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Stephanie October 6, 2010 at 3:15 am

What a fun trip! I was born and raised in Portland, and miss it a lot! I spent almost every weekend at Powell's as a teenager :) I'm glad you got to visit so many of my favorite places. Oregon is such a beautiful place! There's definitely a lot to do and so much great food!!
I really need to try AJ's pizza! Anything with portabella mushrooms is win to me! Great post!

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petoke October 6, 2010 at 3:54 am

Those waffles look amazing! And Sue's abode is beautiful.

I enjoyed this foodie tour of Portland – when I was there, I didn't try too many restaurants, so it's nice to hear about them here (I did discover Pearl Bakery's olive ciabatta though, and had a slice of blackberry pie from Zupans. YUM).

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petoke October 6, 2010 at 3:56 am

btw, I love that beatnik photo of you with the hat. was that before or after your spoken word performance?

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Mr. Jackhonky October 6, 2010 at 7:14 pm

@Stephanie. Thanks! Oh man, AJ's pizza is awesome. But full of gluten and cheese. If we ever meet up, we'll make it for you GF and use soy cheese. Well at least on one of them.

Oregon is GORGEOUS. I can't wait to go back. And yes, tons of great food. So. Good. I can't wait to go back…

@Petoke. The waffles tasted even better than they looked, if that was possible. Apparently the Waffle Window is just down the street from where Sue and Tony live. Had I known you were heading up there, I would have totally told you where to go for food. But you decided to do a stealth Pacific NorthWest Trip without telling me. So it's your own fault.

Also the beatnik photo with me and the hat was take during my spoken word performance. I was taking a dramatic pause between lines when the photo was taken.

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annalea October 7, 2010 at 5:35 am

Out of everything in the post, I almost died when I saw that kitchen. *sigh* All the food looks phenomenal. I have a trip to Oregon on the books for early 2011 and I can't wait!

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FabFrugalFood October 12, 2010 at 4:13 am

So nice to meet you at Dolores Park with the BlogHer Food crowd.

Your food is amazing. I'm am daydreaming about your apple pie and that amazing fig tart right now.

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Tara Barker October 14, 2010 at 4:14 am

OMG! That kitchen! I SO want a convection oven! {sigh}

This post has completely given me wanderlust. I want to go road tripping and stay in TV-free inns and hike to waterfalls and look at a crazy-blue crater lake and watch Shakespeare and eat myself into a stupor and catch up with old friends and shop at Powells . . . seriously, it all sounds wonderful. Good thing I'm headed to Vermont in a couple of days – I can get my tourist fix there!

You forgot to mention one thing: what TITLES did you buy at Powells?

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Mr. Jackhonky December 2, 2010 at 8:07 am

@annalea. The kitchen was AMAZING! I'm so lucky to have friends out there that have wonderful kitchens. It's such a joy to cook and bake in them! Have fun in Oregon in 2011. It's an amazing state!

@FabFrugalFood. Thank you! That picnic was wonderful wasn't it? So glad to meet you!

@Tara. I KNOW! I want a convection oven too! *sigh* And I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to list all the titles at Powell's but it would be too many to list. Needless to say though, I have been slowly trying to figure my way through them. I should really start a "cookbook library" page on this site shouldn't I?

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Dana January 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

So enjoyed your blog about visiting your friend Sue and her husband and especially enjoyed hearing all about your stops/eats, etc., while here in Portland. I’ve lived my adult life here and realize how lucky I am to call Portland home. I appreciate you sharing.

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