The Seattle-based Stuck at the Airport team took a short road trip to Oregon last week to join a special dinner hosted by Humble Spirit.
The new(ish) farm-to-table restaurant in historic downtown McMinnville celebrates the wonderful wines and seasonal bounty of the Willamette Valley.
On our winter tasting menu: Hazelnuts and Pork Belly, Whole Trout, Winter Braised Vegetables, as well as meatballs, burgers, and other dishes made with beef, chicken, and pork attentively raised and harvested on Tabula Rasa Farms in nearby Carlton, OR.
Farm products even make it into the restaurant’s version of Oreo cookies. Evidently, the recipe for the now-classic snack called for sweetened pork lard, an ingredient later replaced with hydrogenated cottonseed oil. The Humble Spirit chef has his own oreo cookie-like dessert (complete with milk for dipping) that puts sweetened pork lard from Tabula Rasa Farm hogs back into the mix.
Hotels That Embrace History With Wit and Charm. And Books
It’s a small town, but there’s plenty to do, see, and learn about in McMinnville and surrounding Yamhill County. There are oodles of wine-tasting rooms, plenty of charming restaurants, and a thriving art scene. And if you time it right, you can land in town during the annual UFO Fest, honoring a 1950 UFO sighting documented with some pretty believable photographs.
It’s impossible to take it all in during a quick visit. So we were delighted that our home for the night, the 36-room Atticus Hotel in historic downtown McMinnville, is filled with locally-made products, specially-commissioned artwork, lots of handmade furnishings, and Oregon-made products (including Pendleton bathrobes) at every turn.
We loved that each of the hotel’s 36 rooms has an antique door knocker, that guests are offered a complimentary glass of bubbly before they even check in, and that the front desk will make you an espresso drink any time of the day or night.
But what we truly loved about the Atticus Hotel is the history lesson front and center in the lobby.
In the early 1900s, McMinnville was known as Walnut City and walnuts galore were grown and shipped from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. A Columbus Day storm in 1963 took out almost all of the region’s walnut trees and now the region is known for its hazelnuts.
In 1908 McMinnville’s Walnut Club built a promotional archway of walnuts and in 1909 that charming display made its way to the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition, the first World’s Fair held in Seattle. That archway has been recreated in the lobby of the Atticus, complete with constantly refilled bowls of walnuts and hazelnuts. (Each room has a bowl of nuts and a nutcracker as well.)
2 Choices to Stay in Portland, Oregon
The pandemic may have kept people from visiting Portland, OR, but it didn’t do much to slow down the construction of new hotels already underway. So if you head to the Rose City now, you’ll have an even wider choice of lodging options.
We stopped briefly in Portland on our way to and from McMinnville and did return visits to two of our favorite hotels.
The Sentinel, which calls itself Portland’s ‘most storied’ hotel is made from two historic downtown buildings. The hotel’s east wing is the former Seward Hotel, built a few years after the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. (That hotel later became The Governer Hotel).
The Sentinel’s west wing was once the very grand Elks Lodge.
We love the murals, the ornate lobby ceiling, the fitness center in the former ‘vault room’ complete with a punching bag in the safe, and the faux library and cozy touches in the “Room at the End of the Hall.”
The Heathman Hotel
Located smack dab in the middle of Portland’s cultural district, the Heathman Hotel, which opened in 1927, has been an iconic go-to spot for musicians, artists, celebrities, and other performers.
One of the key features of the hotel is the restored former Tea Court Lounge. It is surrounded by the hotel’s two-story library. Go ahead, take a book off a shelf. The collection is filled with close to 3000 signed editions of books by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Poet Laureates, a former U.S. President, and hundreds of other noted authors who have been guests of the hotel.
With the hotel’s permission, we made sure there is now a copy of our new guidebook, “111 Places in Seattle That You Must Not Miss,” on the shelves.
It looked like Stephen King’s book needed some company.