Full on Oregon: A story around talented people and beautiful food

Portland Farmer Market

Portland Farmer Market

Portland’s Farmer’s Market

On the third and last day of our stay in Portland, we are promised a visit to the Saturday farmer’s market. I am glowing with excitement. I’ve heard a great deal about the markets of the West Coast, and after seeing Seattle’s and San Francisco’s, I’m impatient to see a new one for myself that morning.

When I wake up, the sunlight cracking past my bedroom blinds assures that the day will be gorgeous. I can’t believe how lucky we are with the weather. It’s Oregon, people!

Holly who works for Travel Oregon is meeting us in the breakfast room. Her smile is warm, and the tone of her voice full of energy. I like her right away.

A few taxis line up in front of our hotel, and we joyfully hop inside, like children going on a field trip.

I know it’ll be special,
I keep thinking while holding my heavy camera on my lap.

I’m thankful for our early start since, when we arrive at the market, the displays are full. They are gorgeous with fruit and vegetables and local produce–beyond everything I have imagined in my mind.

Vegetables and fruit, cakes and flowers are creatively arranged. They look like a rainbow of cheerful colors that make me wish I could bathe amongst them. It’s bound to put anyone in a good mood, I cannot help thinking. I am surprised to find so much abundance and diversity, in fact.

September for us is what August is for many,” Holly says with an inviting smile. She and I chit chat in French, which relaxes my body even more, and then she tells me about how much she loved to move to Portland a few years back.

I would have too,” I respond. “Just for the market!

As we continue to explore the market, a young father holding a little boy stops me and asks: “What is going on?” He is staring at our group that looks like a bunch of paparazzi hovering near a famous movie star. “Who are you?” he then adds. His question amuses me. “Just a bunch of food writers!

I am overwhelmed by the abundance of local produce, each one prettier than the other, and I feel compelled to buy everything. Except for the fact that I know I can’t since neither the tomatoes, apples, artichokes nor the flowers I spot on the way will hold during my journey back.

For the market alone, I later email to P., I would move to Portland in a heart beat. Portland has the best quality driven farmer’s market I’ve seen in the US so far.

Portland’s Farmer’s Market

Near a flower stall, Erin from Sassafras Southern Kitchen is waiting for our group. She’s come to finish her shopping for the preserving and canning class that she will teach to our group later that morning. We have a hard time leaving the market but eventually hop on the tram that takes us to another part of town where we are welcomed inside KitchenCru, a shared use community kitchen and culinary incubator.

You will be doing a tomato relish,” Erin adds. Which right away pumps renewed energy inside me.

The kitchen is spacious and extremely well-equipped. While some of us are busy chopping onions and spices, others chop scrumptious-looking Heirloom tomatoes picked at the market. They are red and yellow and orange and look like juicy beads that I refrain from not popping inside my mouth. Erin and Jennifer talk about cooking temperatures and show us each step involved in the canning process, and after a few hours, we are able to sample their signature tomato dish. A perfect balance of flavors that celebrates summer.

I hope I will still find beautiful looking tomatoes like these to make the relish at home,” I whisper to Helene who is sitting next to me. We are speaking French and it feels good again to relax my mind into it.

Sassafras Southern Kitchen Portland

Sassafras Southern Kitchen Portland

Sassafras Southern Kitchen Portland

Sassafras Southern Kitchen, Portland

When the rest of our group returns from sampling teas and chocolates, another amazing lunch is served. Local chefs and winemakers have come to bring to us dishes with pairing wines that use the best local seasonal produce. A salad with freekeh and cherries adorned with edible flowers brings ooh and aah to our dining table. We eat octopus and grilled trout with summer squash. We sample chocolates and eat vanilla-flavored ice cream with salted caramel.

Gruner Portland

Cousins Kim and Tyler Malek run Salt & Straw, a “farm to cone” ice cream company that celebrates a family effort. Their success business story is inspiring.

They’ve come to talk about their methodology and have us try our hand at it too. When Tyler stands in front of our group and explains the method he uses to refine a flavor, his words showcase his passion for what he does.

No eggs?” I ask intrigued after eating a spoon of salted caramel and vanilla ice cream. It feels light in the mouth.

No, no eggs.

We only use cream,” he goes on.

During our session, we sample different flavors, among them strawberry ice cream with coriander, lemon sorbet with basil and melon ice cream with coppa. Each ice cream leaves a unique impression. Each has an original story to tell.

Salt Straw Ice Cream Portland

Salt Straw Ice Cream Portland

Salt & Straw, Portland

By five, I am exhausted. We are done with the activities of the day. But not the weekend.

After a short stop by our hotel to rest, another bus is waiting for us outside. But this time, we are heading to Willamette Valley wine country for the final reception dinner to seal our weekend visit in Portland.

The drive outside the city follows winding roads that reveals rolling hills with orchards, vineyards and gorgeous trees that I want to photograph. I wish that our bus driver stops but I know that it’s just not possible.

I’ll have to come back I note to myself with my eyes staring outside the window.

Inside the bus, the atmosphere is loud and joyful, which contrasts with the peacefulness we find an hour later, when we finally arrive at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.

It’s a beautiful evening. In an exceptional setting.

Despite bellies full from the samplings of the day, I am hungry. And dinner is scrumptious.

Penner Ash Wine Cellars

Penner Ash Wine Cellars

Penner Ash Wine Cellars

It’s going to be hard to be back home and cook,” I tell Danielle who sits at my table. The expression I read on her pretty face tells me she feels the same way.

How could we feel differently? During three days, we’ve been so welcomed.

But in a way, I should have guessed since even before arriving, I am already convinced that I will love Portland and Oregon.

I am not disappointed.

During three days, I’ve met amazingly talented and fun people. They are food or travel writers, artisans and organizers. They come from all across the country and Oregon. Between all of us, we may only have one thing in common: food.

But it works its magic. During three days, it brings us together. Then it leaves us with a story to tell. And memories to preciously keep.

Thank you Travel Oregon for making such an amazing culinary experience possible.

I will surely come back to indulge in the Oregonian culture more.

40 comments

  1. I fell in love with Portland almost exactly one year ago. We were on vacation celebrating our anniversary. It is a beautiful place and your photos remind me of why I love it so much. Alas, family and friends keep us in MN. Thanks for the beautiful post!

  2. Aaaah, I love this! Helene is my house guest for the weekend, so I can’t wait to hear all about this incredible trip!

  3. Wow…these photos are breathtaking. I love Oregon. These pictures capture it’s beauty to a tee.

  4. Thank you Bea, reading this makes me feel so much better. My husband is going to be working in Portland from November through March and I was going to follow him very much against my will…. but now I think this might not be a hardship after all.

  5. I love your beautiful pictures!
    I’ve been very happy to see your new posts every time.
    I have been Oregon for few weeks before, so I miss there!

  6. Les marchés sont toujours un régal pour les yeux et l’appétit … merci de nous avoir un peu emmenés avec toi en voyage :-))

  7. Well, Travel Oregon’s plan is working on me for one! All these blogs I’ve been reading have got me checking airfares to Portland–lovely, lovely photographs.

  8. gorgeous bea, i love oregon. my brother used to live there about fifteen years ago and even then i thought- how wonderful and progressive, talented and creative the poeple are. gosh what a market!

  9. I’ve been wanting to go to Portland for years now! Your photos are beautiful, I can’t wait to experience that market for myself!

  10. oh goodness Bea . . . unexpected lump in my throat reliving the experience . . . it was an absolutely perfect trip; yes, i would move to Portland in a heartbeat if given the opportunity!

  11. The last time I was in Oregon I visited a family run goat cheese dairy and ranch where they made a number of different goat cheeses. I was struck by how friendly the goats were – grass fed & free range – and how much the people there cared about the quality of the cheeses they were making. We spent several hours sampling, talking and comparing the Oregon food culture to the one in France. Different, yet with a similar love of quality and artisinal expression. Even the countryside looks similar. I look forward to returning to Oregon and sampling more treats…
    As always, your photographs are beautiful!

  12. As a Portland resident, it warms my heart to read such reverent words for our city. As we enter our long and sometimes dreary cloudy rain season, I am especially appreciative of reminders of how welcoming and wonderful Portland (and Oregon) is for those who love and appreciate food. Your photographs are gorgeous!

  13. so many wonderful pictures! My husband and I visited Portland a few years ago and fell in love. We went to that same farmer’s market. So amazing. You have to try Park Kitchen :)

  14. I love your photography. Everything is so vivid! I hope to visit Portland soon and check out that farmer’s market!

  15. Ahhah, the ‘C’est Si Bon’ sign reminds me of my time in Montpellier. I was taking French language classes with a group of international students, and there were three girls there from Venezuela. We had audio labs where we listened to songs and had to decipher their words and meaning. One of the songs was ‘C’est Si Bon,’ but all three of the Venezuelan girls were convinced the lyrics were ‘Sexy bon,’ and it was some sort of sensual metaphor. Silly girls:)

    A random memory to be invoked from a delightful post filled with beautiful market shots – I love all those flowers!

  16. aw i live in the south willamette valley, and it’s so nice to see someone come and appreciate this land and culture! don’t tell TOO many people though – if they all knew, we’d be overrun! :)

  17. Oh my! How did I miss this series of posts earlier?! I heard about the food writer’s trip earlier this summer and so happy to come back to read results. I’m glad you loved your Portland visit. Going to the PSU Farmer’s Market has become one of my favorite times of each week since moving here 2 years ago. It helps me miss the San Francisco markets just a little less. We are spoiled on the West Coast. Now the stands are starting to highlight Fall produce. Two Tarts is a wonderful bakery, Penner-Ash winery is gorgeous and makes my favorite Pinot. The purple peppers pictured? Tried these local ones last week and they are so sweet and lovely.
    Again, what a wonderful post and photos.

  18. What a splendid weekend of food, fare, inspiration and good company…Thank you for sharing!!

  19. hello béa!
    ca you tell me what is “freekeh”?
    I’m french (from Moselle) , and I do’nt find this word in my dictionary (Robert and collins, and Word ref on Internet)
    thank you for everything ! ‘stories, recipes, pictures
    And what about the cookbook?

  20. What a wonderful and full article! I’m so glad you were able to experience Oregon – our food is just one of the precious beauties it has to offer. :)

  21. Hola, me encantan las fotos de tu web, son maravillosas.
    Saludos desde Buenos Aires.
    Flor

  22. Oh I’m so pleased you enjoyed your visit to my city, and that you got to spend some time in the surrounding wilderness as well. I am also glad there was plenty of sunlight for you — it’s rare this time of year.

  23. The markets in Portland are outstanding – I am so glad you were able to see them in September! It is by far the best month in Oregon.

  24. Pingback: Full on Oregon: A story around talented people and beautiful food | Outlooks & Insights

  25. Pingback: Tomato Snob | Bye Bye, Bitters

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