This August, Local Pickins took a road trip through Oregon to experience the diverse flavors of the Pacific Northwest. As a leader in the local food movement, Oregon boasts more than 125 farmers’ markets, which connect consumers with farmers and orchardists in Willamette Valley, Hood River Valley, and the Columbia River Basin. Here are some of our favorite finds in Portland and Bend:
Our first stop was Portland, the city that sparked a street food revolution in America with its legalization of food carts, and home to one of the most highly rated farmers’ market in the country.
The Good Food Here cart pod in Southeast Portland offers an international cuisine of street food. Head to Viking Soul Food for Scandinavian food served out of a silver trailer and the city’s best source for handmade lefse, a thin potato flatbread. I chose the savory lefse wrap stuffed with mushroom and hazelnut patties, blue cheese, beets and parsley sauce. It’s easy to see why this truck is ranked one of the top 20 food trucks in the country! For dessert, stroll across the lot to Namu for malasadas, fresh hot Portuguese donuts popular in Hawaii. Then stroll some more: Portland is beautiful, and you’ll want to work up enough of an appetite to sample some more of the city’s delights.
While you’re still in the Southeast Portland neighborhood, be sure to check out the Cheese Bar for a large selection of international and domestic cheeses. Cheesemonger Steve Jones helped me navigate the cheese counter and sample several local favorites, such as Portland Creamery‘s award-winning Oregon Chèvre.
Being a locavore is easy at Kruger’s Farm Stand and the adjacent fish shack Flying Fish Company. At Kruger’s, load up on fresh produce, all grown on their farm on Sauvie Island, before heading next door for some of the freshest seafood in Portland. Don’t miss the renowned Penn Cove mussels from Whidbey Island in Washington – we’ve never had better.
Before crossing the Willamette River, treat yourself to artisanal baked goods at Saint Cupcake Deluxe – the best selling toasted coconut cream cupcake was delicious. For gluten sensitivities, stop by New Cascadia Traditional and stock up on handcrafted breads, cookies, and pastries, all made in a gluten-free facility.
No trip to Portland is complete without a visit to one of their renowned farmers’ markets. Wednesday’s downtown Shemanski Park Farmers’ Market offers local produce and street food from over 40 vendors. If you’re looking for local mushrooms, the foragers from Springwater Farm have you covered, including these baskets of chanterelle and maitake. For handcrafted sweets, stop by the Two Tarts Bakery booth and try the almond cocoa macaron filled with vanilla bean buttercream. In town for a while? Learn to make them yourself at their Parisian macaron baking class!
Next stop: Bend, the largest city in central Oregon, whose elevation of 3,623 feet and high desert climate make it a destination for outdoorsy types.
A few hours into your drive from Portland to Bend, take a break at McKenzie River Farm Stand for organic veggies, fruit, nuts, and honey. The chocolate-covered blueberries make a perfect road trip snack! Next time, we’ll try the wood-fired pizza at their Organic Redneck Kitchen and Beer Garden.
Eating local is easy in Bend, particularly on NW Galveston Street, where you’ll find three stores within walking distance of each other that are worth visiting. Check out Paradise Produce, a farm stand serving fruits, veggies, herbs and berries from their nearby organic farm. Then head down the street to Primal Cuts Meat Market to shop for locally and sustainably raised meat. This is your source for specialty meat such as bison, ostrich, duck, pheasant, rabbit, and elk. Just next door is Ida’s Cupcake Café, voted the best dessert in Central Oregon. You can’t go wrong here; you can even have a gourmet cupcake custom frosted for you while you wait!
On our drive north to Seattle, we found we had a new appreciation for the bounty of Oregon and the ease with which city residents eat fresh, organic meat, cheese, and produce. With their daily farmers’ markets, farm stands, and butcheries, Portland and Bend are passionate about supporting their local farmers. It’s not enough to eat organic here, you must eat organic and local. As Mt. Hood appeared in my rearview, I promised myself to come back soon to visit the Columbia River Gorge. With pie making season around the corner, the Hood River Fruit Loop might be the perfect excuse.