Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oregon Bounty: Fauna, Fruits and Forage

"Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner in which it is bestowed." - Samuel Johnson

The second weekend in September, Travel Oregon hosted food bloggers from around the country for their celebration of the bounty of Oregon called "Full On Oregon." As their "Ask Oregon" Ambassador for the Columbia River Gorge, I was invited to join a few of these guests on the "Fauna, Fruits and Forage" excursion. The day included stops at Trillium Lake to forage for wild edibles, lunch at Timberline Lodge prepared with fresh from the forest ingredients and paired with Hood River wines, and topped off with a visit to McCurdy Farms in Hood River where they grow pears in bottles.

For part one of our adventure, John Kallas, PhD, author of Wild Edible Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate led us on a hike along the shores of Trillium Lake and taught us about many of the foods the forest has to offer, some of which were quite tasty.

John Kallas with Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake in the background.

Here we learned and tasted a variety of wild plans., including some of which I knew like Thimbleberry...

Thimbleberry in the hand

...others I had seen, but had no clue what they were, let alone that they were edible. I tried smooth yellow violet leaves ( which tasted a bit like arugula) and wild ginger.

There were some other plants I was quite familiar with but until this day, I had no idea you could eat them, like Indian Paintbrush and Fireweed.

Following our successful forest forage, we continued on to historic Timberline Lodge. Executive Chef Jason Stoller Smith prepared us a lunch of what he termed "Alpine Cuisine" featuring some of the wild edibles we had just tasted along the trail. Each of the five courses was paired with a different wind provided and presented by Robert Morus of Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River.

Mount Hood reflected in a glass of Phelps Creek Fleur de Roy Rose of Pinot Noir.
My favorite dishes were the heirloom tomato and smooth yellow violet leaf salad with wild ginger vinaigrette..

...and souveed elk tenderloin with turbo whipped potatoes, thimbleberries and volcanic salt.

No meal would be complete without dessert. Chef Jason served us the most perfect one of fresh local peaches, vanilla olive oil powder and toasted pine nuts with wild pineapple weed ice cream.

I wish this flavor of ice cream was available in the store!

As a mother of two  young girls, it is not often I get to enjoy such "grown-up" meals and therefore don't consider myself much of a "foodie". That being said, between the magnificent atmosphere of Timberline Lodge, the beautifully presented dishes, and tasty wine, this was an extraordinary meal I will not soon forget. Thank you Chef!

Chef Jason Stoller Smith, Mount Hood in the background.

The drive was the perfect opportunity for my food to settle before I arrived at McCurdy Farms in Hood River to tour the orchards. Here the folks from Clear Creek Distillery explained the process for turning this...

.... into this!

Eau de Vie de Poire (Pear Brandy in a Bottle)
After a stroll through the orchards, we were treated to some of their spirits, including tastes of pear brandy and a particularly good cranberry liqueur.

Pear brandy poured

It was a beautiful late summer day, spent in the shadow of my favorite mountain, where I sampled a food bounty that only Oregon can offer. Can you get any closer to heaven??

Mount Hood through the windows at Timberline Lodge

Disclaimer: Travel Oregon provided  all the goods and services for the Fauna, Fruits and forage excursion free of charge to me. This blog post, however, was written only so I could brag about such an exceptional experience.


  1. Cari, this is all absolutely amazing! What a great opportunity you got to go and what fabulous pictures you took! Thanks for sharing this experience with us! I'm adding some things to my PNW bucket list... Like some wine-tasting, maybe...

  2. Wow! Sounds and looks like an awesome day was had!

  3. So jealous! What an amazing day.
    That photo of the wine glass with the reflection is absolutely stunning and I can imagine any of the others being magazine-worthy as well.
    I'm such a cranberry geek - the cranberry liqueur made with local cranberries would have been a definite highlight as well.