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Food and Farm: Navigating the culinary landscape of Oregon

Evan Gregoire shows us duck eggs being stored in the spring house on Boondockers Farm
Elizabeth R. Rose

When you visit the Pacific Northwest, you no doubt will want to experience some of the local cuisine. Places like Portland Oregon have become a mecca for foodies. With over 600 food carts (some of them run by professionally trained chefs) and restaurants touting locally sourced food from farms using sustainable farming practices, Portland is one great place to learn about and savor good food.

Of course you can look up the restaurants with creative chefs committed to buying local but there is so much more. Wouldn't you like to know where that food is sourced? How about taking a drive in the country to visit farms, go wine tasting at small boutique wineries or even a stay overnight at a local farm.

Combining a food source experience with fine dining using local foods, is the ultimate foodie experience.

Here are some ways you can experience a Food and Farm getaway in the Portland area:

Wine Tasting
All good food should be paired with something to drink that enhances the food's flavor. In Oregon there are 17 approved wine growing regions and more than 540 wineries producing 72 varieties of grapes. One of my favorite areas is the Dundee Hills Region. It is a scenic area with rolling hills and is not all that far from Portland.

They offer special events such as the "Best of the Dundee Hills" taking place the last weekend in April. During this fun event, the members of the Dundee Hills AVA open their doors (and maybe their libraries) and host a most delicious wine and food tasting event. You can purchase tickets online.

Each participating member will be pouring their favorite wine, paired perfectly with a dish of their choosing.

Culinary Classes
Whether it is an intimate learn-from-the-chef event hosted by Portland Food Adventures or a full blown hands on culinary class at Portland's Culinary Workshop, you'll find Portland a great place to learn about food and cooking. There are cooking schools for the professional chef as well as classes for the home chef or novice.

Dining with the Chefs
Programs such as Portland Food Adventures put the diner in touch with the chef as specially organized multi-course meals and wine pairings are artfully presented. Programs like these monthly dinners require a pre-purchased ticket. Once you are there you will learn from the well-known chefs, sometimes watch a course or two being prepared and experience a meal available to you that night only. This type of dining is a must for foodies.

In addition, Portland is known for "pop-up" dining, if you can find them. A chef will take over a restaurant or other venue for an evening of specialty dining. Many of these events are listed by Supper Clubs. This, also, is by ticket only. Be sure and watch the announcements closely as these small events fill up quickly.

Farm to Table Dining Events
With warmer weather comes the opportunity to dine al fresco at a winery or right on a farm. Field and Vine events hosts a popular series of dinners in the field with noted chefs overseeing the preparation of locally sourced foods. The host farmer will give a tour of the locale, and join with the winemaker to describe more about the ingredients of the meal and producing the food and wine. Participants can drive themselves to the venue or take an event shuttle.

Farmer's Markets
Farmer's markets are plentiful in the neighborhoods of Oregon's and Southwest Washington's cities. The same farmers who sell to the top chefs of the area bring fresh food to these markets. A guide to finding farmers markets is put out by Oregon Live.

I recently had lunch and toured the farm at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath. They provide produce to many Portland restaurants and bring the bounty direct to you through their involvement in farmers markets.

A fun thing to do is to shop the farmers market in the morning and then make a brunch from your finds when you return home.

Guided Farm Tours
If you have developed an appreciation for the excellent cuisine coming from the kitchens of important Portland chefs, you might want to know where many of them get their ingredients. It's the next step in becoming an aware foodie. Once you learn to appreciate good local cuisine, your food experiences will be enhanced by actually visiting the farmers who grow the foods your favorite chefs are using.

Get Dirty Farm Tours provides tours to farms and rural places in Oregon providing healthy foods using sustainable growing practices. You can meet with a farmer, see the growing process and then sit down for an organic picnic lunch. Their offerings range from produce farms to wineries.

With a teaching chef and agriculture researcher leading the way, you're sure to learn more about food.

Farm Driving Tours
You can plan out your own driving tour but why do all that work? The Oregon Farm Loop Tours provide you with a guide to farms and attractions as well as give you information on dates and times that you can visit.

Visit farms, wineries and country events right in Portland's backyard. The Oregon Farm Loops offer the traveler a self-guided tour route that leads them to more than 50 visitor-friendly farm stops in the Portland metro area.

On the Molalla Country Farm Loop I had the pleasure of visiting Boondockers Farm in Beaver Creek. This is a unique farm owned by a young couple who specialize in heritage poultry and heirloom vegetables. This welcoming couple have great plans for their farm. They welcome visitors by appointment and are working to open a Farm Stay program.

Not only are the farm animals a draw, the protectors of flocks of Ancona and Saxony ducks will surprise you. In each pasture where the ducks graze and lay their eggs, you'll find a majestic white Great Pyrenees dog protecting them.

Evan and Rachel can show you creative sustainable farming practices, explain how a farm that produces meat can provide a humane environment and give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the animals. The day I was there I watched a huge sow suckle her litter of piglets while turkeys spread their impressive tail feathers and strutted cautiously nearby.

Food and Farm Experiences
I am convinced that those who value locally sourced, organically grown foods in the restaurants of Portland's top chefs, NEED to get out in the countryside and see where that food comes from. It enhances the foodie experience and may even inspire you to start your own garden or build a chicken coop for some urban chickens. You'll certainly get some great ideas as you travel Oregon's back roads and come home with a respect for the knowledge, work, and passion, that goes into your locally sourced ingredient meals.


Enjoying the Portland Area
Northwest Sustainable Foods

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