Portland Food Photographer- Tastings & Tours

Portland Food PhotographerI was invited to two wonderful tasting events in Oregon.  I feel so lucky to live in Portland where there are endless opportunities to make my taste buds dance.  The great state of Oregon puts out some of the finest food products and restaurant options.  (It’s okay to be jealous of this fine state!)

I went on a tour and had a wonderful olive oil tasting at the Oregon Olive Mill and two days later I went on my first Portland Caffeine Crawl.  Both events were fabulous and if you get a chance to visit the Oregon Olive Mill or attend one of the Caffeine Crawls next year, I don’t think either will disappoint.

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Red Ridge Farms in Dayton, Oregon is home to the Oregon Olive Mill, Durant Vineyard and a gourmet retail shop and nursery.  It is a “destination for the senses.”  My focus will be on the Oregon Olive Mill, but quickly I would like to say that the grounds and view are stunning (especially in the fall!!), the gourmet shop is a perfect if you need gifts for food lovers and Durant’s Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are now two of my favorite wines, simply delicious.

Paul Durant is a certified master miller where he oversees the operations on the 17-acre olive grove and a state-of-the-art Italian mill. Paul lead us on a tour, showing us the olive groves and explaining step by step how those little green fruits become extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO).

Libby Clow, Olive Oil Program Ambassador, lead the EVOO tasting.  We started with a basic EVOO that you would find at a grocery store and compared that to the four EVOO’s that Oregon Olive Mill produces.  Libby taught us how to taste EVOO, which was a new experience for me.  First smell the EVOO, then warm it up in your hands, inhale again and see if you notice a difference.  After you pick up on the EVOO’s nose, you sip the oil just like you would when wine tasting.  (Yes, you drink the oil.)  The oils are in dark blue glasses so that you cannot see the color of the olive oil.  They do that on purpose so that the color does not hinder your palette.

We tasted four different EVOO flavors, Arbequina, Koroneiki, Tuscan, and Frantoio.  Arbequina has always been my favorite EVOO and Oregon Olive Mill’s version did not disappoint.  All of their EVOOs are flavorful and have fruity, bitter and peppery components.  If you would like to try their EVOO’s and vinegars, visit the Red Ridge Farm for free samples or schedule a tasting.

Libby also created a few dishes using the extra virgin olive oil.  Such simple recipes were turned into mouth-watering bites simply from the use of high-quality EVOO.  Among my favorites were farro with EVOO and sea salt, roasted-red-pepper dip and butternut squash with collard greens.  EVOO can be used for dessert too, we tried a chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream and it was delicious.  (Are you a fan of Salt n Straw? Their Arbequina Ice Cream is my favorite flavor, it’s to die for. Salt n Straw uses Oregon Olive Mills Arbequina EVOO.)

The tasting was a lot of fun and I learned a great deal about EVOO.  The bad news, once you have fresh, high-quality EVOO you’ll never want to use store bought olive oil again.  The good news, Oregon Olive Mill is located in Willamette Valley and you can stock up on their flavorful oils or you can purchase bottles online.  Don’t forget to try Durant’s wine, you will forever love their Pinots.

(Their annual Olio Nuovo Festival is coming up, November 20th-22nd from 10 AM to 4 PM.  It’s free and fun for the whole family!)

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From sipping olive oil to sipping coffee, let me move right into the Caffeine Crawl.  Basically, here in Portland, we know how to drink! Oregon makes fantastic beer, perfect Pinots, and crazy-good coffee.  Portland is home to the famous Stumptown Coffee and Smith Teamakers… so yes, we know how to brew up some wonderful hot beverages.

This is the second year for Portland’s Caffeine Crawl, in conjunction with Coffee Fest and hosted by The Lab.

My Caffeine Crawl started at Either/Or Coffee.  I tried my first Coffee Flip, a citrus mocktail with homemade chai, orange, and raw egg. It was frothy, comforting and super tasty.  (My favorite from the tour!)  The second location was at Water Ave. Coffee. They had us taste three different brews that had different processing methods.  The coffee beans were from the same crop, but the processing method was either washed, honey or natural.

Next we headed over to Coava Coffee where we tried the pour-over brewing method.  Coava designed their own metal filter for this process, it’s called the Kone by Coava, and it’s made in America.  We tried two coffees at Coava; Kimama, a delicate and fruity brew from Kenya and a rich coffee from El Salvador called La Esperanza.

Upper Left Roasters is new to Portland.  They have only  been open for a few months, but the modern, sleek coffee shop is turning heads. They have a beautiful space and an open roasting area where you can see Christopher Alspach, lead roaster, hard at work. Upper Left Roasters also wants to concentrate on food pairings for the caffeine-seeking guests.  We tried one of the pairing options, roasted brioche with honey whip cream and apples.  Mmmm, pair that with a hot cup of Kebele from Ethiopia and you’re in coffee heaven.

If you are a coffee lover, I highly suggest checking out the Caffeine Crawl next year.  In the meantime, go out and design your own coffee crawl through Portland and put these four cafes on your list!

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