Last weekend Buick loaned me a car for the weekend* to drive down to Portland and attend the Northwest Food and Wine Festival. Scott was busy being a rock star with Explone so I took my friend Maggi, I couldn’t have had a better partner in crime for the weekend!
We ate so, so very well. Buick put us up at the Benson Hotel which has a beautiful lobby and a very comfortable bar in the lobby that invited a little lingering. We checked in and headed to Fenouil for a hosted Tweetup. Fenouil is fantastic and and full of energy, and the upstairs has a nice view down overhead the kitchen. The front of the restaurant has a patio just off of a small city park and I wished it was warm enough to sit outside, it must be amazing in the summer.
That night we had a late dinner at El Gaucho, which is connected to the lobby of the Benson by a secret door. We ate steaks and one delicious Caesar salad. We got to watch some very dramatic presentations of kebobs brought out on flaming swords, very entertaining and probably will be a destination for us in the depth of this upcoming winter when we are desperately needing some distraction from the cold and the gray.
The next day at lunch I had the pleasure to meet Brett, the man behind Food Carts Portland, and Valerie who keeps The Wine Dog Review and gave us some tips on what wines to make sure we sampled at the festival.
We had a few hours to explore in the afternoon and made our way to the Waffle Window. Yum, and the indoor seating was most welcome on the chilly afternoon. We happened to stumble across the Yarn Garden and couldn’t help but go in for a little look around.
The festival itself was a lot of fun, there was an overwhelming amount of things to sample and nibble. The standouts for me were the estate pinot noirs from Johan Vineyards. I also took note of the Phinny Hill Vineyard Carmenere from Tertulia Cellars that has an interesting story. Apparently it was thought mostly lost when it was rediscovered being grown in Chile and sold as Merlot, you can read more here at Wikipedia.
Amazingly we managed to find ourselves hungry later that night and walked a few blocks to Chez Joly, whose food we had sampled earlier at the festival, and had a lovely meal. Our waiter mentioned that they had a sparkling wine made from raspberries that night so we both ordered a glass. It was so lovely that we both ended up buying a bottle on our way out (and the waiter was sweet enough to comp us both a second glass, which made our walk home a bit tipsy!). The foil and the label are pink and it’s almost too cute to stand. I’m not normally a sweet drink type of girl but this was lovely, and has an alluring fresh raspberry flavor.
On Sunday we visited Pine State Biscuits. I ordered the grits sampler and was shocked to find it came with a piece of fried chicken, a very happy shocked. The food was amazing and very welcome on a cold dreary morning, but the process of ordering and waiting was quite a challenge on a Sunday as the very few tables are up for grabs. I’m glad we opted to get our food to go, even though all the patrons were perfectly nice I couldn’t have coped with vying for a table.
You’d think we would never be hungry again but on the drive back we needed an excuse to use the On Star service that was in the car, and which we’d been encouraged to take advantage of. The only thing I could think of was where the nearest Burgerville might be. (I couldn’t handle the idea of eating a burger, but a milkshake for lunch sounded quite nice). We were given the miles and exit number of the next one and milkshakes were acquired and enjoyed.
And how was the car? People, it was nice. I was driving a 2010 Buick LaCrosse and it was quite the experience. The drive to and from Portland is a familiar trip to me and often feels unending but this time I we were arriving well before I expected. I even found excuses to keep driving around after I dropped Maggi off at the end of the weekend.
* Being offered a car to try out for a weekend? Totally not something that happens to me. My thanks to Buick for giving me the opportunity.