Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Oregon Outdoors

Easter weekend and this weekend were filled with rejuvenating fun activities, and good outdoorsy-eats! With our mom and stepdad visiting for Easter, we toured the McMinnville/Willamette Valley and enjoyed Oregon's beautiful landscape. And this weekend we toured Portland and basked in the sun at our local park.
On Good Friday, we drove east of Salem, Oregon to Silver Falls State Park. A huge park, filled with lush plant life and tall ancient trees, steep hilly terrain and windy trails, peaceful rivers and flowing waterfalls, this state park was paradise in Oregon. It seemed like we were in a northern rainforest. We hiked over 3.5 miles (1.5 hours!) up and down canyons around the river - even underneath the waterfall! The rock lining the waterfall included 3 periods of lava rock. Definitely a place to get lost in; a time to re-energize, exercise, reflect, and bask in God's beauty.

Then, Saturday we strolled around McMinnville's downtown in quaint shops, and enjoyed a lunch out at the local Thai restaurant. A popular place, this Thai restaurant was impressive (despite being located right near a tatoo Everything was fresh and full of spices/flavors. What was nice about this restaurant is that they offered tofu and listed some vegetarian dishes. We even asked them if they "hide" fish sauce in their food, and they do not use fish sauce in anything.
Our mom enjoyed a spicy vegetable soup and fresh tofu spring rolls. We shared fresh tofu spring rolls as well, which contained cilantro and mint leaves, and a pineapple red curry dish. The red curry dish was delicious - filled with FRESH pineapple chunks, FRESH steamed green beans (not frozen), and other vegetables, and covered in a spicy yet creamy smooth curry-coconut sauce. The rice was exceptionally sticky :) We love trying ethnic authentic foods that we can't otherwise make easily at home.
After such a filling lunch, we took a road trip around the valley to two organic wineries. Our grandfather makes wine as a hobby, so our family is pretty big into wine (although we don't really drink, and haven't experienced a winery before). Our parents did some wine tasting, and we sampled them in tiny sips - at first it is hard to get used to the taste, especially white wines. It was interesting to learn about the different flavors (hints of raspberry or mango, etc...) and the different grapes. We will start experimenting with red wine in cooking!

Overall, we loved having our parents visit, and being able to cook/bake vegan for them. Easter meal was a zesty orange veggie pasta salad, fresh canteloupe slices, raw pepita and sunflower seed pate, crackers, and crudites, with raisin spice cinnamon roll muffins for breakfast!

This weekend we planned a day trip to Portland - the drive is always scenic, with rolling hills and blossoming Cherry trees, tulips, dogwoods, ferns, and daffodils. Our trip included a visit to a local bookstore, eating out at an authentic Lebanese restaurant, strolling down the "vegan mini mall" and enjoying dessert at the vegan bakery, and stocking up on grains/flours at Bob's Red Mill store.

First (after finding parking in hectic downtown), we perused for an hour or so in the BEST bookstore in the world - Powell's City of Books. It is a huge, yet quaint bookstore, with many compartmentalized rooms, almost like a maze where you turn at every corner and enter a new world full of books. What was also great about this bookstore was that they intermingled used and new books, and so the prices are cheaper. We love used books, not only because it's re-using, but also because they hold a history and are more enticing with slightly worn pages ready to be open to a new reader! We purchased a bread machine cookbook, with many whole grain recipes, and Vive le Vegan cookbook. We also bought North and South novel by Elizabeth Gaskell (after seeing the great movie by BBC productions).

The other items in the photo besides the books are from our stroll down vegan mini-mall. The mall is basically just a strip of 3 vegan stores - Food Fight Vegan grocery store, Herbivore clothing store, and Sweet Pea Bakery. It is nice that Portland is so vegan friendly and popular! We found two cute vegan wallets - handy and fashionable, with many compartments to store all the cards, cash, and other info. (The shirt is just a cute shirt from Target)

Lunch was at a delicious, family-owned, SMALL yet POPULAR Lebanese Restaurant, Nicholas. We love trying new ethnic foods, and the food here was so tasty!

They had a great stone oven, authentic - shipped all the way from Lebanon, where they make large pita breads and flatbread pizzas. We were stuffed after lunch - the platters were huge. We ate crispy (yet soft and not greasy) falafels, creamy hummus, cooling tabouli salad, a side of garbonzos, comforting lentil and rice dish ("Mjadra"), vegan stuffed grapeleaves, and "Manakish (zahtar)" a flatbread pizza coated with sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac, and olive oil. Everything was so flavorful and interesting, and they indicate which dishes are vegan; will have to go again! We were debating between Nicholas Lebanese or Vita Cafe, and so next time we will try Vita Cafe.

Dessert at
Sweet Pea Bakery included two huge chocolate graham cookies sandwiched with a creamy filling and coated with THICK chocolate, as well as an oatmeal breakfast cake. Next time we plan to try Piece of Cake for other vegan delicacies! (Sorry no food pics)

Today was another outdoors day in the warm sun (around 76 degrees!), with the windows open wide, and the sunglasses on! :) We went to the local park and watched kids play, dogs chase frisbies, and athletes throw baseballs on the field. We brought lunch to have a nice picnic, relaxed, and read books in the sun, then we drove to a nearby nature park and went walking along the trails. On our way home we toured around neighborhoods and day-dreamed about our own home someday!

What a refreshing, adventurous past two weekends....we love Oregon and all it has to offer, and are excited about summer at the farmer's markets again! What are your favorite outdoor activities, and what is a favorite outing you all take for fun? What is your favorite ethnic restaurant?

Soaking up the sun and spring,


Mihl said...

What a gorgeous landscape!

Paulina said...

I love trying new ethnic foods too! It sounds like you all had such a great weekend - I'm glad! Portland must be such a great place to visit, especially for a vegan. I hope I am lucky enough to go there one day :)