What’s the Word?In Washington County, Oregon

Fall Traditions in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: October 24th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

traditions collageWhat’s your favorite tradition? Whether it’s a big annual fair or as simple as a yearly cookie-making party, everyone has traditions within their families and hometowns that they can count on year after year. While taking a trip might feel like a departure from tradition, a visit to the Tualatin Valley is a great time to fold yourself into the traditions of our own friendly community. As the seasons change, our traditions stay as steadfast as ever. So, come join us for some upcoming traditions where locals love seeing new faces.

Ween yourself off of Halloween’s sugar high with the 80th Annual Verboort Sausage Festival (November 1 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 4285 NW Visitation Road, Forest Grove; $8-$16). The community of Verboort is filled with families that have been in the area for as long as 150 years; so they’ve had time to really hone their recipe for the homemade sausage, sauerkraut and applesauce that they began sharing at the yearly dinner in 1934. This tradition is a popular one as the Verboort Sausage Festival accommodates 8,000 diners in a single day. Doing the math, that accounts for about 15 tons of sausage!

You know how some families decorate their home for the holidays the day after Thanksgiving? Well, Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood doesn’t buy that logic. They happily jump the gun with the Annual Evening of Lights (November 6 from 4 to 9 p.m.; Al’s Garden Center; free). Stroll through designer-decorated Christmas trees while listening to live music. The best part? Enter the warm greenhouses to pick out your favorite, freshly-grown poinsettia.

Turkey may rein king as the tradition for Thanksgiving, but the weekend that follows it can be owned by Oregon wine. Whether visiting family in the greater Portland area or hosting out-of-towners, have a blast during the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend (November 28-30; various locations; varying tasting fees). Meet winemakers, enjoy barrel samples and get a sneak peek at upcoming releases. If that’s not a good tradition then we don’t know what is. Though, the wine-averse (gasp!) can instead partake in yet another tradition with Holiday Wreath Making (November 28-30 at 11:30 a.m. daily; Tillamook Forest Center; $12).

Cheers to traditions, both new and old!

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Apple Cider Beef Stew & Pumpkin-Pear Cornbread

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Enjoy a hearty beef stew with local apple cider and pumpkin cornbread made with Oregon pears.

Enjoy a hearty beef stew with local apple cider and pumpkin cornbread made with Oregon pears.

We’re all about balance. We balance out weekend getaways—jetting from outdoor adventures to wine tasting to shopping excursions—with cozy weekday respites at home. Using ingredients from the Tualatin Valley, we balance a savory stew with sweet pumpkin cornbread. Our slow cooker recipe includes Bull Run Cider, which mellows the sweetness and gives depth as the stew, well, stews. We’re also sharing a semi-homemade secret: mixing local ingredients like pears into store-bought cornbread is an easy way to infuse Oregon flavors into dinner any night of the week.

Apple Cider Beef Stew

Ingredients:

2 lbs of stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sized onions, chopped coarsely
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
about 10 small red potatoes, quartered
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning (such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Bull Run Cider’s Creekside Cranberry Perry
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and ground pepper to taste
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (we used a gluten-free blend and it worked splendidly)

Directions:
Lightly brown meat in olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add tomatoes to the slow cooker, then the browned meat.
Add onions, celery, carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker.
In a small bowl, mix 1 ½ cups chicken broth, a ½ cup of cider and seasonings.
Add liquid to slow cooker, and mix.
Add the bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.
One hour before serving, add frozen peas, salt and pepper.
In a small bowl whisk together the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of broth, then add to the slow cooker.
Leave slow cooker on low setting for another 20 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin-Pear Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 package cornbread mix (and oil, butter and milk that the directions call for; however, omit eggs)
½ can pumpkin puree (if you’re a real showoff, make your own after visiting one of our pumpkin patches)
1 Bosc Pears from Jim Dandy Farm Market, diced

Directions:
Make cornbread according to package’s instructions.
Fold in pumpkin puree.
Stir in diced pear.
Bake according to instructions; bake time may need an additional 5 minutes due to extra moisture.

Enjoy the flavors of fall and the Tualatin Valley!

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway: Wheel Turn 8

Posted on: October 20th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
A late fall ride on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail shows off the changing colors of the season.

A late fall ride on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail shows off the changing colors of the season.

It seems fitting that just after the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway celebrated its first birthday that we’d come to the end of our wheel turn series. As much as we’ve loved talking about the bikeway over the last few months, we know that you’ll love actually riding it even more.

The last leg of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is a much-beloved one: the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Novice cyclists and those riding with families often choose to simply do the Banks-Vernonia State Trail as its 21-miles of paved paths are ideal for smooth rides that don’t sacrifice a beautiful view. As for the more advanced cyclists who have just completed the 29 miles that preceded it, the Banks-Vernonia State Trails is a soothing finale to your accomplished ride.

Beyond the paved paths, what makes the Banks-Vernonia State Trail so gosh-darn wonderful? For starters, there are the 13 wooden trestles serving as beautiful bridges that connect you not only to your next part of the trail, but also to the trail’s past. Where hikers, cyclists and even horseback riders now enjoy the old wooden bridges, imagine the trestles’ first life as a bustling railway for the lumber industry that made Portland known as “Stumptown.” Thankfully, the nature surrounding the path is far from stumpy. Instead, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail is alive with dense forest, clear streams and the whistling of migratory birds. The scene is truly serene—it’s hard to believe you’re just 26 miles west of Portland, experiencing such natural splendor!

If you would like refresh your mind on the bikeway as a whole, then you can cycle backwards and read the previous Wheel Turn blog posts:

Now that you’ve read about the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, turn-by-turn, it’s time to experience its path on your own two wheels. Request a free bike map! Not only is it easy to use, but it’s waterproof, too, for a ride day that comes with a slight drizzle!

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Oregon Wine Harvest Re-Cap

Posted on: October 17th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

The year 2014 has been an exciting one for Oregon wine. You don’t even have to ask our winemakers—because we already did for you while on the North Willamette Vintners Harvest Trail! We’ve broken down the 2014 Oregon wine harvest by peeking into three different wineries and their takes on three different phases of winemaking: vineyard, crush pad and the winery.

A spectacular vineyard view and vines bursting with fruit at Árdíri’ Winery and Vineyards

A spectacular vineyard view and vines bursting with fruit at Árdíri’ Winery and Vineyards

Vineyard
Árdíri Winery and Vineyards, like many area vineyards, yielded so much amazing fruit this year that they ended up leaving bunches of it on the vine for birds—and visiting wine tasters—to pick off and enjoy. Come pick a few for yourself, especially as Árdíri Winery and Vineyards is just 30 minutes outside of Portland and has an amazing view.

Árdíri’s winemaker, John Compagno, comes from a science background, which helps explain Árdíri’s double-helix logo. To go along with the genetic nerdery, the Árdíri’ team told us that Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes are nearly identical. The only genetic difference in the gene that determines the grape’s skin color!

The crush pad de-stems and crushes juice from just-picked grapes at Kramer Vineyards.

The crush pad de-stems and crushes juice from just-picked grapes at Kramer Vineyards.

Crush Pad
Just a few steps away from the peaceful deck that’s surrounded by heavy hanging grapevines and maple trees is the happy hubbub of Kramer Vineyards’ crush pad. Here, a clearly tight-knit group of staff and interns huddle around tons of freshly picked grapes, which they share with hovering honey bees that are eager for a taste.

The Kramer family (with two generations of winemakers!) jokingly admitted that their new, American-made crush pad equipment was easy with its English directions (opposed to translating the more common, European equipment).

Elk Cove's winemakers check on the progress of their grapes by taste-testing juice in the fermentation tank.

Elk Cove’s winemakers check on the progress of their grapes by taste-testing juice in the fermentation tank.

Winery
Every step of the winemaking process is magical, but the work in the winery is where winemakers really get to play as professional taste-testers and full-blown scientists. The winery and its huge, temperature-controlled fermentation tanks act as a lab on steroids. Elk Cove’s Associate Winemaker Heather Perkins doesn’t just taste-test from the barrel, but begins as early as taste-testing from the fermentation tanks so that she stays in-tune with the wine and how it’s changing from start to finish.

Harvest is finishing up, but our vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms always have lots to share. Plan your trip now!

Focus on Autumn with Fall Harvest

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

To focus on autumn means to focus on Oregon’s bounty. Focus on the gentle breeze whistling between the Tualatin Valley’s apple trees. Focus on the bright flavor of a just-picked pear. Focus on the gleeful expression of a child finding that perfect pumpkin in the patch. Focus on the sun setting in the hazelnut orchard. And don’t just focus on these precious moments—take a picture of it for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest!

 

A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

The Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest is our way of celebrating all the ways people experience autumn in the Tualatin Valley. In addition to capturing beautiful moments, photographers are also encouraged to enter their photos for a chance at the prize package that is worth $2,500! With a first, second and third place prize (as well as an honorable mention), you could win premium and professional photography gear like a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera and amazing editing software.

So, hang your camera strap around your neck and be ready to snap the magical moments you catch at our farms and markets, as well as on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. In case you want a creative sparkplug, we’ve included a few photography ideas below:

From Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, pumpkins are a big deal in the Tualatin Valley. Our pumpkin patches are a photographer’s dream with punchy-orange gourds resting below the mountain-scape views and barrels of hay.

The ever-photogenic poinsettias will be waiting to be photographed at the Evening of Lights (November 6 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood; free). Here, stroll through designer-decorated holiday trees and freshly grown poinsettias as one way to usher in the upcoming holidays.

Photo contest procrastinators can rally at the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend (November 28-November 30; varying times, locations and tasting fees). Tour some of Oregon’s best wineries for stellar wines, as well as beautiful photo-ops. Just don’t forget to submit your photos by November 30.

 

A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

Find even more Tualatin Valley photography examples and inspiration!

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Halloween Happenings

Posted on: October 13th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Just outside of Portland, come watch a fleet of giant pumpkins be rowed along a lake!

Just outside of Portland, come watch a fleet of giant pumpkins be rowed along a lake!

You don’t have to be a ghoul to play like one in the Tualatin Valley. Roll in like the hauntingly beautiful fall fog on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route and haunt the pumpkin patches along your way. With a climate that stirs up the Halloween spirit, it’s no surprise that Oregon’s Washington County is a cauldron of Halloween festivities. See below for a few spooky standouts.

13th Door Haunted House of Oregon
October 16-November 2 | 7 p.m. start | 3855 SW Murray Boulevard | $15
Nothing good ever comes from a visit to the boiler room, but we dare you to open the door to it anyways. Feel alive as you’re chased by the undead!

Dial “M” for Murder
October 16-November 2 | Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. | Venetian Theatre & Bistro | $20-$30
What’s the Halloween season without a little Hitchcock? The beloved movie is translated into an eerie play about blackmail, infidelity and murder.

West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
October 18 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Tualatin Lake of the Commons | free
Here’s an event of which Charles M. Shultz would be proud. A gaggle of ridiculously costumed folks jump into giant—truly giant!—pumpkins that they then row along the perimeter of a lake. The result one of the most original Halloween outings in the United States

Zombie Fest at Tree to Tree Adventure Park
October 18-19 | reservations required | Tree to Tree Adventure Park | $60
Oh no! The adventure park’s guides were bitten by zombies! The only way to escape their newly zombie-fied grasp is to complete the aerial obstacle course. Survivors are rewarded with s’mores and cider.

Halloweenathon
October 25 | 9 a.m. start | Reserve Vineyards and Golf Clubs | $37-$45
If you base your race choices on name, then the Halloweenathon is a sure bet with 5k, 10k and 15k options named “Run for your Bones,” the “Zombie Shuffle” and the “Monster Moon Run.”

Spooky Ales
October 29 | 6 p.m. | McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse | happy hour pricing
Brewers are like witches, brewing up magic! Sample a new, small-batch beer, handcrafted by McMenamins brewers.  

Halloween at the Grand Lodge
October 31 | 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. | McMenamins Grand Lodge | free
Scour the property for paranormal activity on the most haunted night of the year. Or just take the kids trick-or-treating throughout the Main Lodge before the Halloween dance party begins.

Find even more Halloween Events on our Events Calendar.

Ask a Local: Urban Decanter’s Rebecca Kramer

Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove's Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove’s Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Rebecca Kramer, owner of the Forest Grove wine bar Urban Decanter. Having grown up and then started her own business in Oregon’s Washington County, she has the ultimate tips.
 
What makes Urban Decanter so special?
The cozy wine bar offers guests a comfortable atmosphere with a great selection of northwest wines, craft beer and cocktails. We also have homemade soups, panini and small plates. We have created what our guests refer to as a “Cheers” like place to gather.
 
What do you love most about interacting with visitors?
I love connecting with visitors and finding out their stories. So many of my regular guests are like family that it creates a great community around us.
 
From where do you get your cooking inspiration?
Two places: When I go out to eat and Pinterest. I am on Pinterest A LOT to keep my imagination in the kitchen fresh and creative.
 
What’s one can’t-miss attraction for visitors to the area?
You have to go see Forest Grove’s newest tap room, Waltz Brewing…Tell them I sent you!
 
Describe a perfect day in Oregon’s Washington County.
We are the gateway to wine country, so wine tasting is a MUST! I would also be sure to stop and eat at one of the local restaurants such as 1910 Main before finishing up the evening with a bottle of sparkling wine around a fire pit!
 
What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
The Wilson River. I love that river. It is so relaxing to just drive into the forest and explore.
 
Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Pac Thai doesn’t have one stand out dish, but five: spicy crispy chicken basil, pad thai, pumpkin curry, crab fried rice and tom yum soup!
 
What should visitors to take home as a souvenir?
This is easy! Wine!

Describe the Tualatin Valley in five words or less.
Outdoors, libations, family, farms and picturesque!

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca's soul-satisfying cuisine.

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca’s soul-satisfying cuisine.

 
Other tips from locals:
Curiosities Vintage Mall’s Travis Diskin
Maggie Buns’ Maggie Pike
Clean Water Service’s Sheri Wantland
SakéOne’s Steve Vuylsteke
Bag&Baggage’s Scott Palmer
Vine Gogh’s Jenny Schildan
Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Barbara Gross
Abbey Creek Vineyard’s Bertony Faustin

An Apple Itinerary

Posted on: October 8th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Oregon Heritage Applefest is known for its tasty caramel apples.

The Oregon Heritage Applefest is known for its tasty caramel apples.

Hold up, pumpkins. You and your pumpkin patches don’t get to have all the fun this fall. In the Tualatin Valley, apples shine in all of their glory, too. To prove it, we’ve created an itinerary for an apple-tastic day.

Breakfast
A healthy breakfast need not apply today! Instead, grab donuts from Sesame Donuts (multiple locations; open seven days a week, 24 hours). The popular spot excels at apple donuts, crumbles and fritters.

Morning Apple picking
With low-hanging branches, Fuji apples are ready for the picking at Bell’s Orchard (24350 SW Farmington Rd., Beaverton; Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

With 10 varieties on hand, Oregon Heritage Farm (22801 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro) shows its devotion to all things apple with an annual Applefest (October 11; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free), complete with an apple sling shot and apple rope maze.

Yet another great apple farm is Smith Berry Barn (24500 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro; open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The farm’s 21st Annual Heirloom Apple Festival (October 11; noon to 4 p.m.; free) includes chicken apple sausages topped with caramelized sweet onion. Plus, the farm store always has a great assortment of apple goods.

Lunch
Just across the street, grab lunch at South Store Cafe (24485 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Hillsboro; Tuesday-Friday from 8:30 to 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Of its many specialties, don’t miss the chicken salad’s crunch of apples, almonds and currants.

Cider visit
In lieu of happy hour, tour Bull Run Cider (7940 NW Kansas City Road, Forest Grove). Using only fruit that is grown within 100 miles of the cidery, Bull Run Cider loves Oregon apples. Tours are offered by appointment—schedule yours!

Dinner
Devoted to northwest ingredients, Bethany’s Table (15325 NW Central Dr., Portland; daily dinner service) serves local apples paired with beehive cheese and Marcona almonds.

Post-Trip
Whip up scrumptious apple recipes, including our sweet potato and apple pizza, as well as our surprisingly delicious apple and Gouda oatmeal cookies.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Birding Photography Ideas

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

A little birdie told us that he wants to be photographed for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest! The photo contest invites photography from all facets of nature—including the Tualatin River, vineyards and farms—that capture the essence of the Tualatin Valley’s autumn splendor. In the fall, our bird watching is top-notch as dozens of species pass through our wetlands, forests and rivers during their migration journeys. While the birds of the Tualatin Valley go chirp! chirp!, we want you to go click! click!

Start envisioning your day of bird watching and camera clicking by checking out the video below:

Just 10 miles from Portland, you can enter a bird (and bird watcher’s) paradise at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. With nearly 200 species of birds, the wildlife watching is diverse, surprising and undoubtedly beautiful. For photographers who like to plan ahead download the refuge’s “Watchable Wildlife” guide (PDF).

Yet another bevy of birding opportunities await at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve The birding here is so good that the preserve even offers a downloadable “Bird Species Checklist” (PDF). Snap some crisp pictures of a Golden-crowned Sparrow or Great Egret in all its glory to share in the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest.

 

A Great Blue Heron catching lunch at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

A Great Blue Heron catching lunch at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. photo: Michael Liskay

While the grace of migratory birds and the art of photography are reason enough to visit the Tualatin Valley this fall, we hope the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest sweetens the deal even more. When you enter the photo contest, you are giving yourself a chance to win a prize package worth $2,500! With a first, second and third place prize (as well as an honorable mention), you could win premium and professional photography gear like a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera and amazing editing software.

To get a glimpse at what pictures are being entered into the contest thus far, take a peek at the contest’s Flickr page. We hope you feel inspired to then take your own photographer’s getaway to the Tualatin Valley and submit your best pictures to the contest!

Find even more Tualatin Valley photography examples and inspiration.

Pumpkin Patches in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: October 3rd, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Get organic pumpkins and gourds like these from Our Table Farm.

Get organic pumpkins and gourds like these from Our Table Farm.

How hard do you fall for the pumpkin craze each year? We’re going to be honest—we fall hard. It’s hard not to with so many adorable pumpkin patches, pumpkin-themed art, and even a pumpkin boat race. The Tualatin Valley is happily dotted with pumpkins throughout October. So, come get in the autumnal spirit with us and have a picturesque fall weekend.  

Below, we’ve outlined some pumpkin patch highlights. For a full report, access our pumpkin patch page.

Pumpkin Farms & Patches

A Maze In Grace Gardens
Pirates for pumpkins is the vibe here as a classic corn maze (with the Facebook “like” symbol as its aerial view) is mixed with kitschy “pirate ship” rides.

Hours Through October 31: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to dusk

Baggenstos Farm Store
Don’t pick your pumpkin. Instead, roll it with pumpkin bowling! Bowling alley food is subbed for the more culinary sausages and brats from Mt. Angel’s Oktoberfest.

Hours through October 31: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lake View Farms
The enchanted pumpkin patch feels like it’s straight out of a fairytale. Watch out! A dragon may pop out of the lake during your boat ride

Hours through October 31: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lee Farms
Let the kids blow off steam with a slew of activities: pony rides, giant bounce houses and kid-friendly mazes.

Fall Festival hours through October 31: Monday-Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Our Table
Do you like to keep things organic? Find a fully organic pumpkin patch with a wide selection of decorative and edible pumpkins.

Hours through October 31: Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plumper Pumpkin Patch
Pair your pumpkin-picking festivities with u-cut flowers and u-pick gourds. Try your hand at the pumpkin flinging machine, too!

Hours through October 31: Open daily, 9 am-5:30 pm.

Roloff Farms
Home of the Roloff family from the hit show, “Little People, Big World,” the farm goes all out in October. Come frolic in the pumpkin fun house and giant hay pyramid.

Hours through October 26: Friday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Halloween Groupons

Create your own Blown Glass Pumpkin at Live Laugh Love Glass. Enjoy 50% off  its popular class, which ends with your own mini-pumpkin masterpiece!

Corn Maze and Harvest Festival at Gramma’s Farm Store. This package includes a haunted corn maze, adventure, hayride, pumpkin of your choice and a turn with the farm’s infamous, giant sling shot.

For the oh-so pumpkin obsessed, use our Be A Pumpkin Head study guide to hear our picks for tasty pumpkin treats.