Vaccinated and mindful of the evolving advice on traveling to places beyond our kitchen, we load up the car and drive from Seattle to Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail, including Corvallis, Albany, Philomath, and other towns.
A leisurely, self-guided meander to farm-to-table restaurants, locally-focused wineries, breweries, and distilleries, and to farmers markets, museums, and other charming spots seems just the ticket for our first easing-out-of-the-pandemic road trip.
So, we say yes to an invite, restock the dop kits, air out a duffel bag, pack way too much for a 3-day trip (our packing skills are so rusty!), and hit the road.
A few of takeaways before we share photos and some details about places that welcomed us so warmly:
- It did not happen in an instant, but we are delighted at how easy it is to morph from scared, stay-at-home-people to the curious, tell-us-more, lets-do-it travelers from ‘before.’
- The CDC’s new, relaxed guidelines on masking and social distancing came out just as we got in the car. We heard lots of grumbling and “we’re not sure yet what we’ll do” comments from restaurants and attractions. But each place was trying to be mindful of the safety of their staff and guests.
- The people out there hosting, making, cooking, serving, offering entertainment, and doing all that it takes to reopen the world to travel are working so very hard and so many businesses are not out of the woods yet. I’m rooting for them all.
(Our trip was hosted, but all comments and opinions, are our own)
Eating, drinking, tasting, touring
We did focus on tasting and touring food-focused places. But we did squeeze in visits to a few museums, including the new Corvallis Museum and, on our way down, the Abbey Museum at the Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, OR, which is home to one of our favorite items; the World’s Largest Hairball.
We could stretch it a bit and say this is food-related: the hairball was discovered inside a pig at a Portland meatpacking plant many years ago. The meat inspector on duty that day declared the hairball the largest he’d ever seen. It may have lost some heft over the year, but today it weighs in at over 2 pounds.
Our beer, wine, and spirits tasting tour took us to Block 15 Brewery and Tap Room (Corvallis), Sky High Brewing (Corvallis) – be sure to try the Blueberry Rosehips Berliner Weisse – Cardwell Hill Cellars (Philomath), Compton Family Wines (Philomath), and 4 Spirits Distillery (Corvallis).
Each place has a great story and wonderful products and the staff at each site shared heartwarming stories of how supportive their communities have been during the pandemic and how these venues are welcoming tourists now.
We were wowed by the cocktails, the wine, the dishes, and the dedication of the staff at Castor (Corvallis), which offers locally sourced and locally inspired dishes. Our chef’s choice meal included pea & farro salad, shrimp & grits, and a rhubarb bar – among other dishes.
We were charmed, well-fed, and educated by the staff at Eats and Treats Cafe (Philomath), a gluten-free eatery (but don’t tell anyone) known for its BBQ, hearty breakfasts, and desserts.
And we were honored that Sybaris Bistro in Albany created a special menu for our small crew. This unique and very welcoming Northwest Bistro also leans heavily into local sourcing and we dined on with nettle soup, cracker-crusted halibut cheeks, asparagus ice cream with the freshest new strawberries, and warm rhubarb brown betty.
Our Mid-Willamette Food Trail tour included stops at two farms.
Lilliputopia is a tiny-but-mighty 4 acre farm in Monroe, OR that uses dry farming to grow fruits and vegetables without irrigation, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. There’s also a petite-but-packed farm store on site.
Leaping Lamb Farm & Farm Stay, in Alsea, OR, is on land originally homesteaded in 1862 and is now a family farm that welcomes visitors for tours and stays. Owner Scottie Jones answered all our questions (even the stupid, city-people ones) and let us hold these 5-day old lambs!
This is just a sampling of the agricultural treasures to visit and the tasty places to stop at on Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail. If you go, you can download a brochure here or get in touch with the helpful folks at Visit Corvallis and the Albany Visitors Association for help in planning your trip.