Wednesday, August 31, 2011

West Coast Road Trip - Day 2: Cannon Beach to Portland

The drive to Cannon Beach from Astoria was only supposed to take all of 34 minutes. Just one half an hour of gorgeous Oregon coast line in the warm pink glow of a west coast sunset, but that didn't so much happen. We got back in the car, back on the road and ran smack into some pretty horrendous traffic stemming from the 30th annual Hood to Coast relay. A quick check of our phones told us with the fireworks scheduled to start in one hour. We weren't going anywhere fast, so we made a stop for dinner at the Lil' Bayou Restaurant in Seaside Oregon. The moment the fireworks started to thunder and rain sparkling red and gold ash over the beach, we hopped back in the car and took advantage of the empty roadways.

Seven minutes later, we arrived at the Land's End Motel in Cannon Beach. It was breezy and cool out, so we started a fire in our fireplace and settled in for a great night's sleep.

Up with the sun again, we went for a run on the beach, showered and packed, checked out of our hotel, and headed off to a delicious breakfast at the Lazy Susan Cafe.

Since it was a little chilly, I started the morning off with a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blackberry scone.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, I continued to feed my face with some super tasty granola, yogurt, and fruit with brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Alex went for the ham and cheese omelet that came with a side of fresh fruit.

He also ordered a side of the most amazing thick cut, pepper spiced bacon that I have ever tried in my life.

After breakfast, we stopped by the Wine Shack and picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon on the recommendation of our friend Erica. Apparently it's the best Pinot Noir that there is. Then we headed off to the beach for a few photos of Haystack Rock.

Cannon Beach is an absolutely beautiful beach with grassy dunes, white sands, and of course, the geological monstrosity, Haystack Rock. The coastline is wide and the fog and the cool sea mist give the beach a hauntingly mysterious quality.

We did a little exploring and dipped our toes in the water, but the icy temperatures kept us ashore.

I’d like to come back to Cannon Beach at some point and stay for a week. I’m usually not a huge fan of the beach, but I loved the chilly temperatures and the chance to wrap up in sweats and dig my toes in the sand for warmth. Cannon Beach is my new favorite beach in The States.

Next we headed back into town to check out the local shopping and eating scene. There were lots of cute little stores and cafes. There was a place to take cooking classes and a place to buy homemade rootbeer.

We decided to check out Fultano’s Pizza for a little lunch.

Alex grabbed a slice of pepperoni, and I went with the classic plain cheese. The pizza was okay, but a little heavy and buttery for our liking. The best part was probably the travel size grated parmesan cheese that I picked up on our way out. What a neat invention.

We were sad to leave Cannon Beach, but it was time to press on to Portland.

When we arrived, we got off the highway fully prepared to be thrown into a vibrant little city of ecologically obsessed, well educated, health crazed, hippies. We were pretty badly mistaken. Portland is not all that similar to the way it is portrayed in TV or movies, nor did we find it to be the picturesque little enclave everyone raves about. At first, we were a little miffed, but decided to try harder. We ditched the car and headed off to the world famous VooDoo Doughnut Shop for a sweet treat. As soon as the corner, the two hour line smacked us right in the face. No time for that. So we decided to move on to Powell’s Books a place the bartender at Two Bells had told us about, while I furiously texted my friend and Portland aficionado, Joel, for some suggestions.

Powell’s Books was definitely right up our alley. Over a city block wide, this bookstore is a-dream-come-true for anyone that likes to read. With practically every title known to man in stock, it was hard to know where to start first. We grabbed a map at the door and decided what we needed was a book about visiting Portland. However, I couldn’t help but stop in the pork aisle of the cookbook section.

While we waited for a text back from Joel, we picked up a few ideas from the travel section and headed back out in the city. We started with the Portland Saturday Market, since I like street fairs. It was okay, there were some neat art vendors. However, there were also a lot of junk vendors selling jewelry clearly imported from other countries rather than handmade which was a bummer.

Trying to stem the tide of disappointment, we thought it would be a good point in our day to visit one of Portland’s famous drinking establishments as recommended in a text from Joel. On the way we saw this sign. I thought it was appropriate.

We grabbed a seat in the bar section at Henry’s Tavern on 12th Street and ordered a few beers. Mine was a delicious Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat from Eureka, California. 

The menu looked super delicious so we grabbed dinner. Alex had a side salad and pepperoni pizza. I had a giant cob salad with Henry’s homemade honey basil vinaigrette. Both meals were fantastic. My only complaint might be slightly too much bacon. But really, can you have too much bacon?

After dinner we headed off to our hotel. If you ever go to Portland, you must stay at the McMennamin’s Kennedy School Hotel. My boss recommended it to me, and I’m recommending it to you. It is awesome.

This one time elementary school was reconverted into a hotel, brewery, restaurant, and movie theatre. It is truly a sight to see and a destination within itself. Our room was adorable and only a little bit creepy.

It even came with its own mason jar, pint glass, coaster set. Guests can have their jar filled at any of the five onsite bars for only $5.50 and enjoy a McMennamin beer right in their room.

After dropping our stuff, it was time to explore. Right near our room was the movie theatre. We peeked in to see a showing of Bridemaids just beginning as patrons waited in line for pizza and beer.

We grabbed our first drink at the teeny tiny Honors Bar. We had the nicest bartender who served us Ruby and Hammerhead Ales and told us about the history of the school. 

The thing I found craziest, is that guests and patrons can move freely throughout the hotel with their drinks. No need to stay put or commit to one bar.

Next we headed to the Boiler Room Bar in the basement

We cozyied up in a booth and grabbed a few more drinks. I tried the Copper Moon, and Alex tried the Terminator Stout. Both were delicious.

Then we headed back out for the Cypress Bar. We had to try all of them of course. After, we checked out the rest of the school: the gymnasium, the library, and the Detention Bar. We somehow missed the soaking pool, but not the spooky murals all over the walls.

When we got back to our room, I decided to try to find out if the hotel was haunted. There were no reports online, however, there was a creepy hand print on our mirror, which may or may not have been there before we headed out for the night. Duh duh dun.

Monday, August 29, 2011

West Coast Road Trip - Day 1: Seattle to Cannon Beach

Every August, Alex and I try to do a little traveling. Last year it was Greece for our honeymoon. This year, we decided to take a road trip down the west coast from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California. It’s a trip we’ve been dreaming about for awhile. So, we set out on an adventure across the great United States.

After a long, but relatively smooth flight from Ronald Reagan International to Sea-Tac Airport, we had finely arrived. We headed to the car rental place where we were greeted by a few of the nicest, late-night Hertz workers you could ever imagine. We got fantastic customer service and a pretty sweet discount and upgrade. We were pretty excited, but nothing could compare to our jaw dropping realization that we’d be driving down the coast in a giant Chevy Impala. It’s got chrome, wood inside, and began blaring rap music the moment we turned on the engine. We drove a quick 40 minutes into the city and stopped for our first night at the Homewood Suites by Hilton of Seattle.

Thanks to a little bit of jet lag, we woke up bright and early and decided to go for a run to the Space Needle. After we showered and ate some complimentary hotel continental breakfast, we headed out to Pike Place market.

 On our way, we stopped at a neat little sculpture garden and took a few pictures.

When we arrived at Pike Place, it was a zoo of coffee drinkers, flying fish thrill seekers, and handmade craft vendors.

We spent a few hours poking in and out of shops and boutiques, and decided it was time for a snack.

 We stopped at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory where we bought some salted caramels and chocolate covered cherry cordials.

Totally delish, and oh so salty.

Next we headed back through the market and into Bell Town.

We had a little time to kill before our lunch stop opened, so we decided to do a little neighborhood exploring. 

One of the things Alex and I like to do when traveling is climb really tall, really steep hills. I’m not particularly in love with heights or anything; there just isn’t any better way to really see a city. So up we went, into the hills of Seattle where we got some great views of the Space Needle. We were careful to watch out for upside down trucks, as well. There seemed to be an epidemic in the neighborhood.

On our way down, we checked out the Space Needle up close one more time, and then headed to lunch at Two Bells Bar and Grill.

If you happened to come to our wedding, you might have sat at the Two Bars Bell and Grill table. It’s one of our top 10 favorite bars in the country. Not only do they have fantastic local beers on tap, wonderfully nice and informative staff, but they also have the best burgers in the United States. We’ve had some pretty good burgers in our lives, but these ones are tops. Smothered with local Tillamook Cheddar and presented on a buttery, toasty, French baguette, it doesn’t get any better.

After lunch, and a lot of recommendations for stops in Portland, Crater Lake, and Big Sur, we headed off to Washington’s State Capitol, Tacoma to check out their world famous art museum. 

The Tacoma Art Museum was really neat, heavily focused on Dale Chihuly a glass blower from Tacoma, who I have always found to be pretty cool.

I really thought this tea cup was kind of neat too.

Before getting back on the road, we took in the view from the top of the museum, and sent a few pictures off to our friend Chris, who happens to be from Tacoma and grew up just down the street from Dale Chihuly. It’s a small world.

Back on the road, we headed to Astoria, Oregon.

If you grew up in the ‘90s, you might have been slightly obsessed with a little Ataris album called “So Long, Astoria.” If you grew up in the ‘80s, you probably know Astoria is where The Goonies was filmed. If you are Alex and I, you know you couldn’t drive through Astoria without making a stop or two.

First stop, the Goondocks. We parked, and headed up to the house on foot, being mindful of the owners request and appreciating their kindness for allowing trespassers at all.

We took a few photos of the house.

Then took a few photos of the bridge.

And then got back on our way. Next stop: Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

North Carolina: A Pig Pickin' Good Time

As most of you know, I am a huge fan of BBQ. I love it. From North Carolina's vinegar based sauces to Texas' dry rubs, I could eat pulled, smoked, barbecued meat by the pound. 

A couple of weekends ago, Alex and I spent a few nights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina visiting his college friends at the beach. Despite the lack of enthusiasm for leaving the sand, I knew I couldn't make the trip without trying some world famous North Carolina pulled pork.

Our quick internet search of Outer Banks BBQ joints led us to Pigman's Bar B Que in Kill Devil Hills just a short drive from Kitty Hawk. 

The menu looked delicious, so I decided to start with a Yuengling while I mulled my decision over. Pulled pork or smoked chicken? Beef BBQ or St. Louis Ribs? What is a girl to do?

Since the restaurant is called Pigman's, I decided to go with the pulled pork sandwich. I also ordered a side of baked beans, coleslaw, and Alex and I shared some cornbread.

Let me just say, this was one juicy, delicious, pulled pork sandwich. The texture was out of this world, the sauce vinegary with just the right amount of spice, and the bun soft and spongy to catch all the incredible flavor.

The sides were equally good, the beans were sweet, the corn bread soft and not too crumbly, and coleslaw was cool and creamy, although it probably could have had a bit more flavor.

All and all, this market style North Carolina BBQ joint was pretty fantastic in my book. Getting to eat sweet BBQ with Andy, Kim, and Dave wasn't half bad either.

What's your favorite kind of BBQ? Have you been to Pigman's Bar B Que in Kill Devil Hills?