The Oregon Coast in winter is full of drama and I feel like I’ve had a front row seat these past few months. Though not by design I’ve been fortunate to spend three wonderful weekends in Gearhart, a quiet little town on the northern Oregon coast. Twice for weekends with my girlfriends and a third to help my friend Ted celebrate his birthday. We saw and felt rain, sun, intense winds, high surf, low tides, plenty of wine, and incredible food. Each Sunday, as I drove back to Portland, my soul felt rested and full. That is the gift of the Oregon Coast.
Here’s my recipe for a perfect weekend in Gearhart:
Arrive at the coast in the mid to late afternoon, checking the tide tables so your first walk on the beach can coincide with the timing of low tide as the day’s light is fading.
Drink cocktails by the fire, cook an amazing dinner with friends, and then talk and laugh until your head hits the pillow.
Wake-up early for a sunrise walk on the beach. You might be able to catch razor clam diggers hard at work during low tide. Gearhart possess some of the best razor clam digging on the coast, whose season runs from October to July.
Pick up the morning paper and read it while you’re drinking the best coffee and pastries in town at the Pacific Way Bakery and Cafe.
Fill the afternoon with bike rides, naps, reading, and more walks on the beach… depending on the ever changing winter coast weather. We would wait until the sun began peaking out or the winds died down before quickly taking advantage and heading out. However, if the weather refuses to cooperate, heading into nearby Seaside to buy salt water taffy or taste a pronto pup (the best version of a corn dog) is always a good alternative.
Include one of Oregon’s delicacies – fresh Dungeness crab – in your dinner plans for your last night. So if you make your way to Seaside then be sure to pick up fresh-caught crab at Bell Buoy. The timing for dinner is critical since it shouldn’t conflict with an evening walk on the beach at low tide, especially if there’s a chance to see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean at the same time. That shouldn’t be missed!
If you’re a beach comber like me then your weekend won’t be complete until you find the one perfect sand dollar to remind you of your weekend. Gearhart is the best place I’ve found to come away with the ultimate beach souvenir.
When you’re at a conference the opportunities to see a city usually occur three times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fortunately a recent speaking engagement took me to the City of New Orleans, a city that comes alive at just those moments.
I typically do a moderate amount of research before a trip to scope out a few places to eat and things to do, but had no time to spare during the lead up. I also love to discover things on the ground so the research serves as a back-up or a place to start.
Without that safety net I was going to one, see if I could skate by on my foggy recollection of New Orleans, and two, see what serendipity brought my way. My previous knowledge bore little influence since I only ate at one place that I enjoyed five years ago. Serendipity, instinct and my iphone really served as the winning trifecta. With that combination I enjoyed both the traditional and the nouveau and my two absolute favorites included one of each.
For the traditional I was once again mesmerized by the nearly 150 year-old Cafe du Monde (their sesquicentennial is next year). The menu couldn’t be more simple, and the food couldn’t be any better. I made my way there two mornings in a row and indulged in the classic – an order of beignets and cafe au lait. Simply delectable. My only critique is that the large cafe au lait is only served in a to-go cup. I wanted a large coffee, but also wanted to have the full cafe experience which to me has to include a real cup and saucer. I went for the ambience, and sneaked in a latte later.
I don’t think I can speak highly enough of Coquette, a little bistro and wine bar located in the garden district, where I enjoyed one of the best lunches ever. The only recent rival to their food and flavors is Gruner in Portland, Oregon. They have a three course prix fixe for $20 with two to three choices for each course. We were also fortunate to be there on Wine Wednesdays when all the wines by the glass are $5 each. We didn’t have reservations, but I recommend calling ahead if you can.
I had the oysters, shrimp and grits and blood orange panna cotta with a glass of white wine. My mom, who accompanied me to New Orleans, had the gumbo, gnocchi, and blood orange panna cotta. The beignets looked amazing, but we had already sampled the deep fried sugary sweetness earlier in the day. I’m not a food writer so can’t really describe all the flavors, but what I can say is that each dish was incredibly nuanced and rich. The chefs obviously have perfected the french sauce, merged it with contemporary flavors while using traditional New Orleans fare. Both the oysters, and shrimp and grits exemplified that perfectly. But it was the creamy citrus flavored panna cotta with the candied fennel and mint that punctuated the entire experience. Bravo!