Kristin Fintel on September 30th, 2010
So here’s my confession:  I’m not very good with bird identification.  I am getting better – I even used our guidebook to help me learn that one of our regular summer visitors at the B&B is the Red-Necked Grosbeak.  That was an exciting moment for me.

But whether I know my birds or not, I do know where to go see them.  The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is just 10 miles north of Newberg along the Tualatin River, one of the many tributaries of the Willamette River.  The land was set aside in 1992 and the folks there have been working hard ever since to turn it back into the floodplain it once was.  That means there are unique seasons of bird populations year-round.  When it’s cold and damp in the winter, the Refuge averages 20,000 waterfowl a day!  Some days it’s so crowded you can’t see much water for the birds.  This counts as many as six species of Canada Geese (see, I didn’t know there were that many different kinds!) and five species of duck.  

Working for food on the underside of a branch, the Downy Woodpecker barely noticed us.

As the weather warms up, we see a lot of migrating songbirds set up house in the Refuge.  Last time Curt and I went out in mid winter, we saw a pair of Bald Eagles, a Downy Woodpecker and a Red-winged Blackbird (and many other birds I couldn’t identify). 

I’m working on learning more about the birds in the valley and regular visits to some of the 1850 acres of the Refuge is a part of my plan.  It has a beautiful new Wildlife Center open Tuesday through Sunday, 10-4.  From dawn to dusk, the one-mile long nature trail with interpretive signs is open year round and an additional 3 miles of trails are open from May through September.  There is a well developed forest area, a river area, some marshlands and some young saplings that should be fun to watch as they mature. 

The main visitor entrance to the Tualatin River NWR is located at 19255 SW Pacific Highway (Hwy 99) just north of Sherwood, OR.  Admission is free.

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Kristin Fintel on September 27th, 2010
 My mom has always been a good gardener.  Unfortunately, we moved around a bit, and half the time we actually live in military housing where her gardening was confined to inside plants.  After I left for college, however, they retired a spacious property in the northwest and when I visited them I was introduced to a new (to me) and exciting flower, the dahlia.  When I settled in Oregon, my mom and I both found a treasure down in the valley, Swan Islan Dahlias.

For those of you who are scratching your head trying figure out what is so special about dahlias, allow me inform.  The first thing I like about them is that they flourish  when every other flower is gasping its last breath.  This year, my

The dahlia Sunny is a cheery 9″ addition to our breakfast table.

dahlias started blooming in early August.  They will keep blooming through the first hard frost (that would be like #2).  They come is amazing variety, with new ones introduced every year.  Curt likes the pom-pom style, which look, well, like small pom-poms.  I like the more dramatic, dinner plate styles which can be 12″ in diameter (yes, one flower, 12″ across).  They come in a ridiculous number of colors, streaked or fluffy or spikey or twirly or… I once grew a collarette style flower with bright yellow petals surrounded by dark orange petals, called Pooh.  And when you dig them up every few years, you are rewarded with multiple offspring tubers (or, you reward your family and friends with them).  I think that makes five wonderful things.  The only downsides to dahlias are that some of them are quite tall as plants and need staking, and you are supposed to dig them up in the early winter… but as I’m a rather lazy gardener, I am happy to leave them be and have most of them live through most of our winters.

The folks at Swan Island Dahlias (outside of Canby, not on an island) farm 40 acres of dahilas, making them the largest dahlia growers in the United States. 

Measuring only 4" across, Hullin's Carnival is considered a miniature sized dahlia with wine-colored streaks in the petals.

They put out the most stunning flower catalog without filler plants like ground cover and foliage information, just individual photos of each flower.  While their business is mostly in selling the tubers by mail order across the country, in August and September they open their fields up to the public.  Visitors can wander among the 350 different varieties, planning for their own garden, or just soaking in the vast array of color andtexture.  The fields are open from 8am to 6pm, with festival events happening the last weekend of August andLabor Day weekend.  They are located at 995 NW 22nd Ave, Canby, OR 97013, Canby, OR 97013 and you can contact them at (503) 266-7711 or 800-410-6540.

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Kristin Fintel on September 17th, 2010

The Holy Grail for a Pinot Noir lover is to find a fine bottle of the ruby red at a price point that allows one to break open a bottle for dinner even when it’s not a special occasion.  Oh sure.  It’s not hard to find a great bottle of Pinot in Oregon for $70.  But how about sub-$30?  My quest brought me to August Cellars

Located on the eastern edge of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, August Cellars is easy to get to as you are coming in or out of Portland.    August Cellars makes a variety of interesting wines under their own label including a large variety of whites and even non-Pinot Noir reds.  But what makes the tasting room special at August Cellars is that they often pour wines from the five other wineries who also make their wine at August Cellars facilities.  Currently Et Fille, Artisinal Wine Cellars, Crowley Wines, Laura Volkman Winery, and Toluca Lane share the August Cellar facilities. 

The winery and tasting room at August Cellars is nice, and what I really liked is that I didn’t feel like I was paying a premium for an expensive tasting room or for a winery whose reputation allows them to tack on an extra $20 premium to the price of a bottle.  For me, I am well content spending $30 for a bottle from a small up and coming winery that dotes over every bottle made.  The winery is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm and the $5 tasting fee is very reasonable.

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Kristin Fintel on September 13th, 2010

All the rumors are true: I do need to avoid gluten.  Now, if this sentence means nothing to you, here’s a little food science.  Gluten is the protein found in wheat flour (and rye and barley and a few other grains) that gets gooey when mixed with a liquid.  It’s what makes all the ingredients in muffins stick together and it’s what gives bread the elasticity to be kneaded and then be chewy.  And it’s what makes a certain group of people ill.  

I have translated that personal success of gluten-free baking into serving my guests at the B&B.  I’m happy to say that it is not necessary for my gluten-free guests to avoid muffins at breakfast because they have a bowl of muffins made with gluten-free ingredients.  

Today, September 13, is National Celiac Awareness Day and I happened to have a guest last night who has Celiac Disease (when the gluten proteins cause damage to the small intestine).  In honor of Celiac Awareness Day, I give you the recipe for the muffins I served to her this morning, my Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  The flour mixes I use are from Bette Hagman‘s Gluten-Free Gourmet series, but you could probably use your own GF flour mix.  If you are making this for a friend (and your GF friend will love you for life!), there are GF All-Purpose Flours available at many grocery stores these days.  The xanthan gum is a bit pricey, but it will last you a long time.  The recipe is also easy to convert to dairy free and/or egg free by using a milk substitute and/or Egg Replacer.  I’ve made this recipe free of all three ingredients and it was tasty.  And that’s not just because I have trouble remembering what a wheat flour muffin tastes like – Curt likes them, too. 

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

  • 1-3/4 cups Featherlight Rice Flour Mix 
  • 1/4 cups Four Flour Bean Mix
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray or use muffin papers.
  2. Whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, poppy seeds, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and zest in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together with the oil, milk and lemon juice, then combine with the dry ingredients until mixed well.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Let the muffins rest for 5 minutes before serving warm.

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Kristin Fintel on September 12th, 2010
It was five years ago when Curt and I found our house.  Well, “house” is a pretty lenient word for what was here.  We called it the “half-house” because the guy we bought it from had to abandon construction due to finances.  When started to work with our architect to redesign the interior to be our B&B, I was certain of one thing: we would do what we could to make the room on the main floor accessible to folks with mobility issues.  This week, after many guests have chosen the Oregon Coast Room specifically for that reason,

With wide doors into the room, bathroom and private deck, it's easy for our guests to get around the Oregon Coast Room.

I was given a high compliment.  Our guest, a stroke survivor, and her husband annointed our place as the best accessible B&B they had visited.  

We designed the features of the Oregon Coast Room with advice from my second cousin, who has lived most of her life in a wheelchair.  We have 36″ doors into the room, into the bathroom and onto the private deck.  There’s a remote control for the overhead light in case you get into bed, look up and then realize the light is on.  Of course, all the windows are nice a low so everyone can enjoy the view.
In the bathroom, a wheelchair can fit under the sink, while a barrier-free shower allows for safe showering for the elderly or for a wheelchair guest to transfer into our removable shower chair.  Lots of

The barrier-free shower with lots of grab bars and easy to reach controls makes this a great choice for our guests with mobility issues.

grab bars and the choice of using the shower head on the wall or in the hand are great for guests who want them, and out of the way for guests who don’t.  That grab bar by the toilet is on a hinge, so you could even install one into your own home for your own guests.

 In full disclosure, we were not able to meet all the standards of the ADA specifications and the TV room is downstairs, but from the smiles and hugs I get from our guests who are finally able to have an accessible B&B stay, I think we did ok.

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Kristin Fintel on September 1st, 2010

Although Curt and I have been to La Rambla countless times, I must admit that I have never had one of their Platos Principals or their renowned Paella.  Without shame, I admit that we never get past the tapas.

Housed in an historic building on trendy 3rd Street in McMinnville, La Rambla artfully merges Northwest ingredients with Spanish cuisine.  Owner Kathy Stoler took the run down building through its renovation in 2002 and has done an artful job in the results.  And I mean that literally… from the hand blown lights that hang down over your table to the original artwork lining the walls to the peacock on the bar.  She has also directed the menu since its opening.

We enjoy going to La Rambla with a group so that we can order more tapas.  The idea of tapas-small plates- is from Spain; I heard once that it was so you could rest your plate on top of your wine glass so you could eat while milling around the bar.  Don’t worry, La Rambla serves its tapas on a table, but as we order them family style, there is a conversationality about the food that is hard to get when you each have one entree to eat.  We usually have each person order one hot and one cold tapa, which means we end up with some vegetables and some meat dishes.  The bacon wrapped dates, the endive salad, the battered green beans (Curt eats this… a vegetable!) are some of my favorites.  The tenderloin skewers and jumbo prawns are some of Curt’s favorites.  I did order the Dungeness crab and goat cheese stuffed peppers once, but the goat cheese (which I do love) overpowered the crab (which I do love) and now I stick with the crab and shrimp cakes.

You can make your own meal out of La Rambla’s tapas (or go ahead and order a Platos Principal) any day of the week.  They are open from 11:30-2 for lunch and start dinner service at 5, except Saturday and Sunday when they serve all day long.  They are located at 238 NE Third Street in McMinnville and you can make your reservations by calling 503.435.2126.

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   When you are traveling, there’s always a list of the “to-dos”.  My mom and dad took my brother and me to Florida when we were teens.  

We got our dinner and wine from SubTerra's Burger Tent

We have pictures at the “southernmost point of the continental US” and we were woken up way too early to go snorkeling.  When guests come to the Willamette Valley, they want to do that winery and this restaurant and that museum.  I offer, though, that becoming a local for a few days gives you a better glimpse into another’s culture and gives your visit to that winery or this restaurant a deeper experience.  And you can even do it with some wine and dinner when you become a local Newberger by hanging out at Tunes on Tuesdays during the summer months.        

On the lawn behind the Chehalem Cultural Center, a stage is set for local bands to strut their stuff for a couple of hours.  On the grass, row after scattered row of blankets and lawn chairs are filled with folks enjoying the evening.
 

 

Far Cry brings their rock and roll to Newberg

 On the streets adjacent to the Cultural Center, vendors ready to help meet their needs.  There’s the burgers and wine need filled by Underground Cafe’s stand, and the cupcake need filled by Sweetest Thing Cupcakes.  And the honey and flats of strawberries need (you know, for breakfast at the B&B Wednesday morning) by local farmers.    

  Curt and I enjoyed the rock and roll tunes of Far Cry with an intermission of modern dancers from the Chehalem Dance Academy.  And we sang Happy Birthday to the Shave Ice lady… ’cause that’s what a community does.  Now wrapping up its fourth year, Tunes on Tuesday is definitely the place to be.      

  

 

   

   

   

 

 

 

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Kristin Fintel on August 24th, 2010

Many of my guests are looking for that quaint, boutique winery that is fabulous, but that nobody knows about.  I try to point out that if nobody knows about it there might be a reason.  People find out about the good wineries, no matter how hard they are hidden.  Anam Cara Cellars is like that… hard to find, but known.  Even following directions and signs, you still might question the trek you are on.  But at the end of the long winding gravel driveway, you know you’ve reached your destination.  The acres of Pinot Noir that line the driveway give way to the house of Nick and Shelia Nicholas, which also happens to be the tasting room of of their wine, Anam Cara Cellars.

Anam Cara is Celtic for “friend of my soul” (and yes, Shelia does have a great Scottish accent).  The Nicholas’ journey to make wine started many years ago as they worked in various capacities in the food industry.  Since 2001, the have dug into the Chehalem Mountains, both literally and figuratively, planting 27 acres of grapes on their land.  What was once dilapidated orchards is now brimming with fruit again. 

Although they are generally open by appointment only, Nick and Shelia open their vineyard to visitors on the weekends of Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.  Curt and I visited them on a showery September day last year to their open house.  They had quickly moved the celebration inside to deal with the unusual summer weather.  Shelia poured whites in the living room (and attempted to keep Digger the Dog away from the cheese) while Nick poured reds in the dining room.  With 25 of the acres planted in Pinot Noir, most of our time was spent with Nick.  He had us taste the Estate bottling, a Reserve and then single vineyard bottles of Mark and Heather Blocks (appropriately named after their children).  Even in this one plot of land, the varying elevations, directional facings, different clones and winemaking processes make each taste unique.  I, of course, gravitated to the Gewurztraminer, which was used for ice wine… dessert!  Yum!

Getting a tour of Nicholas Vineyard and tastings of Anam Cara Cellars can be done by contacting Nick and Shelia at (503) 537-9150 or off their website.  They are located just north of Newberg; they’ll give you great directions when you make your appointment.

 

*UPDATE: Shelia has opened a tasting room in Newberg so now you can taste Anam Cara Cellar wines daily (Friday-Sunday in January and February) without an appointment.  Visit them at 306 N. Main Street from noon-5.

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Kristin Fintel on July 30th, 2010
 

You know how you can live in an area for a long time and never get out do your own town?  I actually have done a lot of northwest Oregon, but there are some things still on the “to-see” list.  This summer I finally got out to check off two more of Portland’s landmarks.  Just four blocks away from each other, they are from different worlds… or at least different parts of our world. 

A door in a corner of the garden reveals a hidden room.

The first stop was the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a masterpiece of Chinese Gardens all in one city block of Portland’s very small Chinatown.   The garden was designed and built over a 10 month period in 1999 to resemble a scholar’s garden from Portland’s sister city, Suzhou.  In true Portland fashion, the home of this relaxing and beautiful area was once a parking lot.  Enclosed by walls, it’s impossible to imagine the intricate design and beauty you find once you step into the garden.  Paths wind around the garden, giving the visitor views of small, intimate garden settings.  51 “leak” windows are carefully set to allow a unique scene of landscape rocks, plants, intricate rock paths and buildings to “leak” into your view.  There is a tea room and numerous pavilions and halls in which to sit down and soak in the garden. 

A bridge crosses Lake Zither.

From most parts of the garden, you have a view of 8,000 square-foot Lake Zither, but every time I looked at it, a new vignette captured my imagination.  I was thoroughly enchanted by each piece of this exquisite garden which seems so small from the outside, yet so large inside. 

For all the peacefulness of the Chinese Gardens, my next stop was like a scary, sugar-induced alarm clock.  Walking south along 3rd street, I found Voodoo Doughnut (Where the Magic is in the Hole), with a small crowd gathered outside the tiny ordering counter.  This beacon of gluten and sugar has garnered lots of the national attention of late.  I like a good doughnut, and I was willing to sacrifice a little gluten intolerance for the sake of curiosity.  Scribbled on the chalkboard is a list of local-inspired doughnut flavors.  I was a little overwhelmed and so walked over to the spinning display case and pointed twice.  

Tastiness from Vodoo Doughnuts, Memphis Mafia and Captain my Captain

I got the Bacon Maple Bar and the Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Fritter (also known as the Memphis Mafia).  Curt ordered the Captain my Captain and the Loop (references to the cereals topping them).  And the verdict: nice doughnuts.  Lots of sugar.  Lots and lots of sugar.  

 The Lan Su Chinese Garden is located at 239 Northwest Everett Street in Portland and is open daily from 10 to 5.  Voodoo Doughnut is at 22 Southwest 3rd Avenue and is open all day except from 3-6am.

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Kristin Fintel on July 27th, 2010

I know it’s hard to imagine, but sometimes I get tired of cooking.  So for us, Panaderia y Taqueria Gonzalez is good easy food.  For our guests, it can serve as a break from the fancier, wine oriented restaurants in the area.

Gonzalez, located right on 99w and College is a wonderful Mexican restaurant and bakery.  You pick up your Mexican pastries from the case on the left, you Mexican Coke (made with pure cane sugar) or Jarritos soft drink and order at the counter.  The menu is posted on the wall, just pick your vehicle (enchiladas, taco, burrito…) and then pick your meat (grilled beef, chicken, spiced pork, beef tongue…).  Take your chips and salsa to your table and hang out until the tastiness comes to your table.

You should know, there are many choices for Mexican restaurants in Newberg.  There’s the one with bright colors on the walls and menu.  There’s the one with the giant margaritas (Curt can go on and on about the giant margarita).  There’s the one with the patio seating.  There are others, but Gonzalez is simple and good (ok, they also have a patio out back).  Here they use family recipes and it shows in all their dishes, especially in the beans and rice.  Yes, I judge a Mexican restaurant by the beans and rice; at Gonzalez, the beans and rice rock with great flavor.  I’m pretty sure someone’s grandma is back in the kitchen working hard so I don’t have to.

Gonzalez is open daily until 8pm each night 615 East 1st Street  in Newberg; you can also order take out at (503) 538-0306.

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