Upper McCord Creek Falls Hike | 10am
Waterfalls are pretty much in all directions up and down the gorge. The water was too cold to pass through the Oneonta Gorge so we opted for the Upper McCord Trail, only 2 miles roundtrip, a pretty easy hike with stellar views. Hidden away in the Upper McCord Creek Falls is the massive Elowah Falls, a spot where we had to stop for a photo op. Bring a raincoat, anywhere you go in this oversized bright green bowl of volcanic rock, you’re bound to get wet!
Wine and Mountains | 12pm
After our hike, we grabbed some snacks and headed out to Mt Hood Winery to do a tasting while enjoying the view at the base of Mt Hood. Pinot Gris and the Malbec here definitely rival their wine-making neighbors to the south, no question.
Brews and Lunch | 2pm
Breweries seem as common as waterfalls out here and Pfriem Family Brewery, right down the road from the more popular Full Sail Brewery, tucked into the Columbia River landscape, is the perfect resting spot for kite surfers, families, or like us, morning hikers ready to begin the afternoon. Sit outside under the shade and watch the sails bob in and out of view. We started with the chicken liver mousse and devil eggs (mine are better) and onto the pork shoulder banh mi and washed it all down with a Belgium strong blonde. The problem I have with the sandwich is that most of the fat, containing the majority of the flavor and moisture in pork, is removed. And as it was the case here, leaving it a bit bland. It was still crunchy and flavorful but it wasn't what it could be, that's all. I wish chefs would leave more of the fat inside.
Walk off your lunch across the street at Waterfront Park and take a dip in the Columbia, rock climb up the wall with your kids, or just enjoy the breeze and watch the kite and wind surfers zip back and forth in the channel. This is making me want to jump on a board and try my hand. As the beer and sun take it's toll, walk across the street to Stoked Coffee Roasters and charge up on an americano for some sweet medium bodied goodness.
Family Meal | 6pm
Hazelnut and Herb Crusted Branzino with Potato Apple Latkes
A few Passovers ago my boy, Lee, invited me over to his Park Slope apartment to cook a proper Passover Meal, a new fun challenge for me. Traditionally, latkes are eaten during Hanukkah but not here. I didn't want to offend bubby too much but I promised they'd be good. And since then, latkes have been in my arsenal because they’re easy, pretty foolproof, and tasty as hell. I'm not Hebrew but I love their food. This latke recipe adds grated apple and a dip of maple syrup cream; it’s great for a crowd and especially great accompanying fish. Branzino is usually stuffed with things like herbs and citrus and grilled, as the cavity is hard to split raw but again, I'm doing things differently. Ask your fishmonger to split them down the middle through the spine. Otherwise, you'll need a sharp knife to split them yourself. Whole trout or a fillet of arctic char will do as well.
Apple Potato Latkes with Maple Cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T maple syrup
3 golden delicious apples, peeled
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 fat yellow onion, peeled
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
Olive oil, for frying
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cinnamon, and syrup. Cover and chill until ready.
2. Coarsely grate the apples, potato, and onion. Have a clean mixing bowl handy. Make sure your hands are washed clean, grab a handful of the mixture and wring it out over the sink until all the moisture is gone. For the crispiest latkes, you will want the least amount of moisture possible. Working quickly, add the flour, baking powder, eggs, salt, pepper and stir.
3. In a skillet over med-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Working in batches, 4 at a time, and once the oil is hot and shimmering, with a soupspoon, drop a large golf ball of batter onto the pan. Smooth it out to a flat disk and cook until brown and crispy. Flip about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to a paper bowl lined rack. Don't cover them otherwise they'll lose their crispiness.
Hazelnut and Herb Crusted Branzino with Shallot Cream
4 whole branzino, split down the middle - making 8 fillets
2 cups roasted hazelnuts, skins removed
2 handfuls chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley)
1 tsp each of sea salt
1 tsp of black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
4 T butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1 shallot, minced
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash and pat dry the fish and lightly season with salt and pepper. Set aside on a sheet tray.
2. Mix together your sour cream and shallot (for the adventurous add a dollop horseradish or brown mustard as well). Cover and keep cool until you’re ready to serve.
3. In a food processor add the hazelnuts, herbs, cayenne, more salt and pepper and pulse gently to a rough grainy texture and move to a plate. Be careful not to overwork.
4. Working in batches on 2 trays, brush the fish with butter and sprinkle a generous amount of the nut mixture, pressing down and lifting up the fish to remove any excess. Space them apart on the sheet trays and place trays in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the flesh bulges out. The thicker the fish the longer it cooks but fish generally cooks quickly, so set your timer.
5. Grab 4 plates and stack 2 latkes on each and top with maple cream. Next to it, lay a fillet with a dollop of shallot cream on top and a good squeeze of lemon over the fish. Bon Appetite.
*The meal goes excellent with a mixed salad, apple sauce, and a good berry tart for dessert! Thanks Jess. I didn't taste Allen’s mom's recipe but your marionberry cobbler was off the chart!
By late sundown while Shannon mashed berries and mint and poured it over Pennsylvania Dutch style gin and I plated the fish over the latkes there were smiles and red faces all around. Dishes were cleared and playing cards were scattered and I wondered again, if this was a place that Alicia and I could settle at some point. I still don't have the answer but perhaps more importantly, should you have a weekend off, get to Hood River and see what this playground is all about.