On the Road: Bend, Oregon

Bend Oregon

When you live in the PNW the opportunities for bad-ass vacations in your backyard are endless. Leavenworth, San Juan Islands, Astoria, Vashon Island, Tofino, Crater Lake, Olympic Peninsula; the list really is endless. This month we decided a trip to Bend with a good group of friends was in order. A friend's weekend needs a few key things to be successful: good food, good bars, good activities, and good people. Luckily, Bend can give you all of this in one adorable Oregon mountain town. If you don't have cool friends, well.. Bend could probably help you with that one if you like hippies or skiing...if not, then you're on your own. 

So, now let's get into how to do Bend right. You're going to need to pack your drinking pants and possibly your snow gear (in winter) or hiking gear (in summer) if you want to work off the many calories you are about to consume. 

Where to Stay

McMenamins - Old St. Francis School

McMenamins are an all-time favorite of Rain or Shine Guides. These incredibly unique and transformed hotels are always a treat to spend the night in. No rooms are the same and they have incredible detail and flare that you can't find anywhere else. McMenamins are often referred to as the adult resorts of the PNW. Old St. Francis School in Bend is no different. They offer a beautiful soaking pool, movie theater, several bars on site with live music on most nights, and of course enough art on the walls to keep you busy perusing for days. 

Airbnb

We are huge fans of Airbnb - especially when traveling with a group. There are great Airbnb's all over Bend. We would recommend staying in Bend's Westside neighborhood or Downtown because Bend is a great town to walk and bike! In the summer scout out homes that come with bikes and in the winter definitely prioritize a hot tub with your rental. 

Camp

If you aren't coming to Bend for the food and beer (primary reason for us), then you are probably coming for the outdoors. This is a spectacular part of Oregon, with Mt. Bachelor looming in the distance and so much to see and do in the area surrounding town. If you like to camp we would recommend Bend-Sunriver RV Campground. It's clean, has good prices, and additional things on site to keep everyone entertained. 

Where to Eat 

Spork

Spork Bowl Bend

Alright, so Spork is the number one place to eat in Bend on Yelp, which means it isn't revolutionary of us to recommend this spot, but holy S$^@%-balls, it's just so damn good that you can't even understand how life existed before you ate here. This quaint Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant is full of so much amazing flavor and spice you will wonder how Asia and Mexico didn't figure out their cuisines went together sooner. It's one of those places that once you take your first bite you think, "I don't need to eat anything else the rest of my life. If I had nothing but this pork all day every day, I would be completely happy." The vibe in the restaurant is modern meets boho (yes, you should absolutely sit in the egg shaped booths carved out into the walls). 

Our favorite: Shredded Pork Rice Bowl

The Brown Owl

The Brown Owl chili

The Brown Owl was recommended to us by our kombucha-tender at Humm (This what you call the person who serves you kombucha instead of beer, right? No? Oh, just go with it). What's great is this food truck/bar is located right by Atlas, Crux, and Immersion, so you can drink a bunch of beer and cider, get good and hungry for some comfort food, and then go demolish everything on the menu at Brown Owl...which is absolutely what we did. The homemade corndogs were the main attraction, having had only the state fair variety we obviously had to see what this was all about. But beyond that, everything we tried just tasted better then the last. Mac n cheese loaded with onions and peppers? Fire. Fire roasted tomato and beef chili with a side of deep-fried cornbread? Bomb. Beer pretzel made by someone who studied pretzel-making in Germany? Do we even need to say it? Ok we will - it was damn delicious people. 

The bar you can take your food porn into is also super cool. Beautiful log walls with decor that brings the outdoors in, canoes hanging above the bar, taxidermy animals (wearing sombreros), and long wood tables fill the space for you too relax in after a long, hard day of day-drinking.

Our favorite: Homemade Corndog

Drake

Drake is where you go to get your nice dinner in Downtown Bend. This spot is trendy, but not pretentious, with a stacked menu that will please just about anyone in your party, from the vegetarian to the steak eater who can't avoid the filet mignon on any menu. First, head to the bar for a drink. Their bartenders are fun to watch as they expertly craft creative drinks. Things are set on fire and transformed into unique drinks you can only find at the Drake Bar. Once you're finished at the bar, head to a table and start on the small plates - don't miss out on the roasted cauliflower! From there the entrees are waiting for you. Beware - they are big. Prepare yourself for half of a chicken when you order the fried chicken or a bone-in pork chop as big as your face. We respect anyone with the self-control to not eat it all and lick the plate - it's so good it's worth feeling a little miserable after. 

Our favorite: Mac n Cheese (be bad and add the bacon)

The Dough Nut

The Dough Nut Bend

Prepare for sugar overload because it's impossible not to over order when you visit The Dough Nut. They have everything from your staple Maple Bars and Apple Fritters all the way to Mayan Chocolate Cream Cheese and Banana-Rum Buttermilk Bars. Also not to be missed are their breakfast sandwiches. They sandwich your fixings (we recommend going for something with pesto on it) in between two doughnuts, they aren't sweet, just fried dough, but holy crap it's freaking amazing. 

Where to Drink

Crux Fermentation Project

This is kind of the place to visit when you come to Bend. The brewery is a little off the beaten path but patrons are rewarded with over 20 unique beers on tap and an amazing tasting room. They plan their happy hour specials around the sunset, hippies (and lovers of beauty) rejoice! Come enjoy a pint and watch the sun sink below the mountains. 

Our favorite: Crux Farmhouse

Atlas Cider Co. 

Atlas Cider Co.

Atlas is a great break from beers. Come to their tasting room to have some refreshing, crisp/tart/unique ciders. It's a perfect spot to go with a group - they have just about everything you need for a fun afternoon: pool, arcade games, tons of cider to work your way through, dogs running around eating popcorn that was accidentally dropped on the floor (the popcorns free (wee!) but drop in some dollars to support local charities), and don't miss their apple cider donuts, made with their apple cider - YUM. 

Our favorite: Blackberry cider

Deschutes Brewery

This is one of the big ones in town (10 Barrel is another big name you can visit). If you are in Bend to experience small-time craft brewing, then you can skip Deschutes, but we think they have good beer and their Public House in Downtown Bend also has a full menu of yummy food, which is needed when you're drinking all day, every day. There are several beers on their menu that you can only get at this location - so we would recommend sticking with those (they are clearly labeled) and get the elk burger or fried chicken sandwich if you have room in your stomach - they are both delish! 

Our favorite: Fresh squeezed IPA

Immersion Brewing 

Immersion Brewing makes the list because they 1. have good beer, 2. have good food, and 3. (this one sets them apart) they offer Brew-It-Yourself classes! You can book a two hour session with their team and brew your own beer, wait three weeks and come back to bottle it up and take it home to impress all your friends and family! 

Our favorite: Little Fawn Saison

Humm Kombucha

Humm Kombucha

We are PNW ladies, which means we obviously love Kombucha (we wrote about a local Seattle kombucha maker here), and we don't really ever miss an opportunity to drink this fizzy drink of the gut gods. We even each brew our own at home - kombucha addictions are hard on the wallet if you don't make your own. No shocker here, Humm's on tap was like 10 million times better than anything we've ever made. In their Bend tasting room they have their staple flavors that are available in a lot of grocery stores up and down the west coast. The way to go is to get a taster and fill it with the "Mix It Up" - these are their original flavors mixed into unique flavors. 

Our favorites: Sunburst and Berry Blast

What to Do

Explore Downtown

Downtown Bend is really stinking cute. It's full of coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, and shopping for everyone! We could walk the streets and along the river for an entire afternoon easily. Some really fun spots to highlight would be Looney Bean Cafe and The Commons. These are both great spots to hang out and sip some coffee or grab a light bite by the river with a view. They both have events too, so check out their calendars for when you're in town. 

They also have great shopping, including killer Birkenstock and Patagonia stores. Lark is a great outdoorsy store with functional and natural decor and clothing. Jubeelee is a fun women's clothing store to grab trendy clothing and jewelry, and if you want to take home some cool Bend swag we recommend The Bend Store

Note: We purposefully left off The Old Mill District from our list. It's full of chain restaurants and stores and although it is in a beautiful part of town, it isn't our favorite place to explore.

Hike 

The area surrounding Bend is beautiful, so if you have some time, get outside and explore. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint (you can drive or hike to the viewpoint) and Shelvin Park are close to town and are both great options for easy hiking and beautiful views. About 20 miles outside of Bend, there is also a great waterfall hike, Tumalo Falls. Smith Rock State Park is also nearby and offers some of Oregon's most stunning scenery and beautiful hiking trails! 

Deschutes River Bend

If you want an easy stroll then we recommend opting for the Deschutes River Trail, this 12 mile trail runs right through the town of Bend and offers a paved or gravel trail, depending on where you are, along the river.

Ski 

Mt. Bachelor sits about 30 miles outside Bend and offers some of the best skiing in Oregon! Don't ski? Well no worries, there are a ton of other activities on the mountain to enjoy including tubing, free snowshoeing tours, and..wait for it... sled dog rides. WHAT?! We haven't done this yet, but you better believe it's on the bucket list. (Remember that movie Balto? Such a heroic tale.)

Catch a concert/live performance

Les Swab Amphitheater sits on the river and gets a lot of the big name performers in Bend. Check out their lineup to see if you can snag tickets for a show. 

The Volcanic Theatre Pub is another great venue in Bend for live music. They also have a theatre if you're more interested in plays! 

Many bars around town have live music throughout the week, including Northside Bar and Grill and McMenamin's Father Luke's Room. 

That wraps up the top spots in Bend to check out when you visit. If you have any must-see, must-drink, or must-eat locations let us know so we can visit them on our next trip to Bend!

When the Perfect Gift is an Experience: The Herbfarm

The Herbfarm Exterior: Courtesy of Willows Lodge

The Herbfarm Exterior: Courtesy of Willows Lodge

My husband and I have largely forgone gift-giving when it comes to physical things. Occasionally I still receive a beautiful bottle of wine, but I view wine as a moment captured in a bottle — an experience. What trumps the experience of a lovely wine, consumed at its pinnacle moment? Wine paired with food. So when I opened the mail this week to receive The Herbfarm’s 2018 Restaurant Schedule, I was reminded of just such a pairing that I had the honor of experiencing last Christmas season.

Located in the heart of Western Washington’s Woodinville Wine Country, The Herbfarm is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top destination restaurants. The restaurant's mantra: “No dish can be better than its ingredients, and the best ingredients are usually local” informs its ever-changing menus. By supporting local farmers, cheesemakers, wineries, and so on, they preserve local foods, traditions, and moments in every meal.

Much has been written about The Herbfarm as a restaurant (see Forbes, Frommer’s, and The New York Times for starters) so I’ll leave the reviews to the dining experts. As a somm, what intrigued and delighted me most was the pairing of local food and drink for each course.

What Grows Together Goes Together

Menu and wine card. Photo by Amy Dickson

Menu and wine card. Photo by Amy Dickson

The Herbfarm’s menus, often not finalized until hours before each singular evening seating, are shaped to showcase and capture the essence of the season. The local food and wine come together in such a way as to elevate the sense of terroir: nine courses and five wines, all hand-selected to complement each other.  For example, my meal contained a course of Poulet Bleu, a blue-footed chicken with black trumpet mushrooms and an air-dried persimmon sweet and sour sauce. Paired with a 2013 A.D. Beckham Amphora Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, and I was in heaven.

In Perfect Harmony: Drink and Food

Chef Chris Weber explaining the night’s meal: Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Chef Chris Weber explaining the night’s meal: Courtesy of Trip Advisor

On that note, the nine-course meal takes several hours and is perfectly matched to whatever you feel like quaffing:

Wine: Your five courses will come with pre-selected wines that will delight and dazzle. During my seating I enjoyed an Argyle Brut from Oregon (with mussels), Avennia’s Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima (wild winter sturgeon), Efeste’s Chardonnay (celery root with truffle), that lovely Pinot Noir (blue-footed chicken), and Kevin White’s Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah blend (grilled Wagyu coulotte). Don’t want to stick to the script? Ask for the 150+ page wine list and I am sure you’ll find exactly the right vintage for your evening. Arrive early to your reservation and explore the onsite cellar where you can ask Sommelier Bruce Achtermann about the 26,000 bottles and more than 4,500 selections. A wine lover’s dream come true!

Herbfarm Wine Cellar: Courtesy of The Daring Gourmet

Herbfarm Wine Cellar: Courtesy of The Daring Gourmet

Beer: Say beer is more your thing? No problem! Note your preference in your reservation and the staff will carefully curate your experience with local lagers and ales. Prefer imports? Flip to the end of the exhaustive wine list and you’ll find a lovely selection of European ales to please your palate.

Dessert: The Herbfarm has the dessert wine market cornered. From late-harvest Alsatian wines to rare Tokaji from Hungary, you have many options. Most delightful is The Herbfarm’s collection of Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. Using an anaerobic system that allows extraction without removing the cork, I opted for a single ounce of the 100-point 2011 vintage. A whole bottle would have set me back $1650 — instead I tried one of the world’s most perfect (and rare) wines for $65. I’ll never forget the taste of that sweet nectar. There’s nothing like it.

Non-Alcoholic: Non-drinkers (and there was one in my party) are treated to a meal paired with custom shrubs, juices, and local mixes using fresh herbs and ingredients also found in the dishes. Dinner is followed by a selection of local coffees, teas, and herbal infusions.

Reservations Required

The Herbfarm’s co-owner Carrie Van Dyck, right, and chef Chris Weber (to Van Dyck’s right) plate one of the evening’s nine courses. Courtesy of Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

The Herbfarm’s co-owner Carrie Van Dyck, right, and chef Chris Weber (to Van Dyck’s right) plate one of the evening’s nine courses. Courtesy of Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

The Herbfarm’s 2018 Dining Schedule is out now and reservations aren’t recommended, they’re required, often months or even years in advance. If you’re looking for a gift for the foodie in your life, the oenophile of your heart, or the person who is intent on collecting memories instead of “stuff,” try The Herbfarm. I’m already looking at next fall’s, A Mycologist’s Dream theme, to enjoy the best in foraged local mushrooms. I know there’s a Pinot Noir waiting in the wings to join in.

Salud!

Amy L. Dickson is a communications professional, freelance writer, and contributor to Rain or Shine Guides. She is a Level 1 sommelier and can be found Sundays at Portalis Wines in Ballard. Follow her at @amyldickson75

Pike Place Market at Night

The flower stalls, the buskers, the flying fish. Pike Place Market by day is vibrant and alive. It's also the second most visited place in Seattle next to the Space Needle, so how do you visit Pike Place Market and escape the crowds? Well, one way is to go after 6:00 PM. The day-stalls will be all packed up and empty, so you won't be able to sample produce or buy fresh baked goods, but you can still have an amazing time, because The Market has a seriously legit night scene. You haven't fully experienced Pike Place without seeing it after the lights go down. 

The Pink Door 

The actual Pink Door (which is really more salmon in color, right?)

The actual Pink Door (which is really more salmon in color, right?)

The Pike Door is not only one of our all-time favorite restaurants, it also has amazing nighttime entertainment that comes in all shapes and sizes throughout the week. Every night this sweet Italian restaurant in Post Alley hosts talented acts to entertain and awe their guests. Our favorite are the aerialists on Sunday and Monday nights - they literally swing over your head as you enjoy your pasta - it's insane and awesome. They are also well known for their Saturday night burlesque and cabaret shows - which is the only night the acts come at an additional cost. Tuesday - Friday nights are for live music and make for a crazy romantic vibe. Check out their entertainment page to plan your next fun night out (reservations encourages)!

Unexpected Productions

Unexpected Productions

Unexpected Productions is the oldest improv theater in Seattle and is located in the historic Market Theater in Post Alley. These guys are responsible for making people laugh in Seattle for 20+ years, and they also inadvertently started The Gum Wall - Seattle's most colorful and disgusting tourist attraction. We did an entire post on these guys because we love them so much (read more here). We love that no two shows here are alike, it makes the show you see feel that much more special and the artists are all so talented they will have your cheeks hurting by the end from laughing so hard. Check out their calendar to plan your night out. 

Can Can

Can Can

Nobody does Cabaret better than the performers at Can Can. This incredible intimate theater is tucked under The Market and allows you to feel transported while you watch the show. They create very high-quality, high-class (subjective...haha) shows that switch every few months or so. You can expect singing, dancing, acrobats, and all sorts of amazing feats of athleticism. You always know you are in for a new, creative treat when they roll out a new show and we would encourage everyone to add this place into their regular line up for the year, right up there with the big hitter plays at the Paramount and concerts at Key Arena. Check out their show schedule to get inspired and add some zing to your routine!

Insider tip: if you are celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday, you can pay extra to have your person pulled up on stage and humiliated (in the best kind of way, of course). 

Bars, Bars, and more Bars

The curated wine selection at JarrBar

The curated wine selection at JarrBar

Beyond shows there are a ton of great bars to check out at Pike Place Market to have a fun night out. Kells is an Irish Pub with some crazy events throughout the year - St. Patricks Day is obviously the blow-out. Jarr Bar has a cool, relaxed vibe and cocktails that will make you want to kiss the bartender. Raditator Whiskey is a great spot to warm up with some whiskey flights. We love going to White Horse Trading Company, a very dark and cozy British pub where you can get Pimm's Cup. And The Tasting Room is phenomenal if you want to sample some of Washington's finest wines. There are about a million more, depending on what time you arrive and what you like to drink! Feel free to email us for recommendations! 

7 Seattle Specialty Shops for Foodies

One of the things we love most about Seattle is the seemingly endless options for grocery shopping. It always feels like no matter how obscure of an ingredient you need for a recipe, you can always track it down somewhere in the city. And, there have been countless times we have traveled to a foreign country and brought home a food product as a souvenir only to find that same product at a local shop! So, after much research and food sampling, here are our recs for the best specialty food shops for those of you who like to experience something other than Safeway.

Viet Wah

Viet Wah

Everyone knows that Uwajimaya is the premiere Asian grocery store, but just down the street is an overlooked, but equally awesome store called Viet Wah. It's smaller than its neighbor, but still has a vast selection of Asian import products for a fraction of Uwajimaya's cost. We especially love their produce selection, which has all sorts of interesting fruits and vegetables such as Bitter Melon from India, Lotus Root, Patola, and Taro Root. We don't know how to cook with any of those things, but we like that we have the option should the need arise! The store also has a nice wellness section with a variety of whole ginseng root and household items like teapots, candles, gift cards, and Buddha statues.

Scandinavian Specialties

Scandinavian Specialties

Scandinavia, that region of the world that includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden, has a strong presence here in the Northwest, and Scandinavian Specialties caters to all of your northern European needs. They have a nice selection of meat including lamb, Swedish meatballs (you don't have to drive to Ikea for these!), sausages, and smoked fish. They also have tins of fish, condiments, jams, and the greatest cracker in the world, Lefsa. They also have a small deli where you can grab a sandwich to go (we recommend the open faced lox and hard boiled egg sammie!). It's also so much more than just a grocery store! They have a huge selection of gifts perfect for your Nordic Uncle that you can never figure out what to buy during the holidays. They sell everything from clothing, to dishes, to books on Vikings. Holiday shopping handled.

DeLaurenti Food & Wine

DeLaurenti

DeLaurenti is a staple in Pike Place Market. It has been on the corner of First and Pike since 1946, and it is hands down our favorite place to browse and waste time. You could fill an hour easily looking at all the Italian specialty products. The shop is filled with Italian imports including high-end olive oils and vinegar, pure chocolate bars, pasta, and little tins of olives, fish, and beans. Their deli is a great place to grab cured meats and the best cheeses as well as a small selection of deli sides (we can't get enough of their stuffed peppers and dolmas). Hungry for lunch? They also have sandwiches, salads, and treats (plus a espresso machine for coffee) in the front of the store with a bit of seating. The best kept secret, though, is at their upstairs wine cellar where they hold a large selection of wine for purchase. There are a few tables there, and if you buy a bottle, they'll open it for you, give you some wine glasses, and let you drink it while hanging out. It's a great spot for resting while shopping the busy market, and not many people know about it so the tables are rarely taken. 

El Mercado Latino

El Mercado Latino

The hot sauce selection is reason enough to go to El Mercado Latino located in Pike Place Market, but you'll also be pleasantly surprised by the wide selection of Goya beans, produce that includes jicama, and bags and bags of dried peppers. The spice selection is ON POINT and includes your standard chili powder and cumin to your much more obscure Agar Agar powder and Boldo leaves. They even have Beer Extract Powder. We've never heard of this before finding it here, but we are going to start cooking with it immediately. In addition to the groceries, they have a restaurant where you can get typical Latin food like burritos and tortas. 

Paris-Madrid Grocery

The Spanish Table and Paris Grocery have joined forces to bring you the new Paris-Madrid Grocery, which means it's now one stop shopping for both your French pate AND your Spanish jamon iberico. We truly love this store and hit it up often for no other reason than their truffled gouda.

Sidenote: a big perk of buying gouda for your next dinner party is that you can pull out the "This cheese is hella gouda" pun, you're welcome.

They sell all of the supplies you need to make a killer paella (including the pan!) if Spanish night is on your mind or French charcuterie and cheese if a Parisian picnic is more your jam. They have a large selection of wines from both regions as well as pottery, cooking gear, and cookbooks. 

Big John's PFI

Big John's PFI

Big John's is like a hybrid of DeLaurenti (see above) and Costco...Italian imports meet a big warehouse with bulk items. It's pretty much the best of both worlds. Located near the stadiums, Big John's as been around since 1971 bringing you all your favorite Italian products and many more you didn't know you needed. Here you can find bulk olive oil, a wide range of flavored vinegars, a large cheese counter, cured meats, and pasta. Oh, the pasta! Lots and lots of pasta in every shape and size. For example, we didn't know we needed Farfalline (teeny tiny butterfly shaped pasta) until we saw it at Big John's. They also have wheel shaped pasta. We aren't exactly sure why, but pasta always tastes better when it's wheel-shaped. You can also find pantry staples, bulk spices, chocolate, and Italian wines. Sign us up.

Goodies Mediterranean Market

This Mediterranean market is not going to win any beauty awards. In fact, you probably would drive right past it on Lake City Way, but if you do stop, you'll be rewarded with amazing Middle Eastern products from Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine, and Iran. They carry nuts, dried fruit and beans, sadif spices, tahini, and a wide selection of oils. There is also a good amount of pickled things, and who doesn't love pickled things?!?! The best part is there is a small restaurant in the shop, which serves shawarma doner kebabs, sandwiches, and flatbreads - get the one seasoned with zaatar!

We want to know - what is your favorite speciality shop in Seattle? Leave us a comment so we can check it out!