Exploring Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory (Part II)
Day two of my Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory trip in Lake Oswego started with a convenient 2-minute walk from my hotel to Lake View Village and its restaurants (you can read about my first day here in Part I). St. Honoré Boulangerie was a perfect breakfast choice - a charming French bakery anchored by an open-air kitchen and custom clay firebrick oven turning out pastries and fresh-baked bread. You’ll see glass cases filled with treats such as eclairs, chausson aux pommes (apple turnovers), and opéra (sponge cake layered with chocolate and espresso butter cream), along with a menu of salads, quiche, soups and sandwiches. I found a sunny window table in this cozy spot to linger over hot apple cider sweetened with caramel and a flaky chocolate croissant. Tip: The first Wednesday of every month is $1 Croissant Day.
The walk back to Lakeshore Inn also detours to one of Lake Oswego’s prettiest paths, the Headlee Walkway, which meanders along northern Lakewood Bay. I spent some time on a beautiful October morning strolling this pedestrian way, which is also home to Mike Suri’s Sprout sculpture, part of the Arts Council of Lake Oswego’s Gallery Without Walls walking tour.
Back at my hotel, I hopped into my car to explore some of the nearby communities in Mt. Hood Territory. My first destination was Fir Point Farms in Aurora. One of the stops on the Canby Farm Loop, this 35-acre family-owned farm is open year-round and especially popular on the weekends with picnic areas, hay rides, a corn maze, petting zoo, and children’s activities. October is harvest season with guests visiting the 6-acre pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins and celebrate the harvest festival with pumpkin painting, a kids zone, and other family-friendly events.
Though I visited on a weekday and missed the weekend’s festivities, the country market and Country Grains dining room was a lovely lunch break. The market is stocked with farm-fresh produce, honey, apple cider, jams, jellies, gifts and more. It was hard to resist all the desserts made fresh every day including donuts, cookies, cakes, and pies (on my visit, raspberry-rhubarb, cherry, peach and apple), but I finally decided on a decadent gooey cinnamon roll for dessert.
Next, I was off to Canby, located about a half an hour from Portland, to visit TMK Creamery for a scheduled tour of this family-owned farm. Greeted by engaging co-owner Tessa Koch, I learned that TMK Farm began with her husband Todd and a Holstein heifer he bought as part of a 4-H project in his youth (TMK are his initials). “The dairy farm has been here for over 20 years,” said Tessa, who grew up on a cattle ranch and hay farm in southern Oregon. “My husband started it when he was 12, and built the dairy when he was still in college.” He was joined by his siblings Marc and Shauna, and the dairy farm is now a successful family business with approximately 20 cows.
The Kochs’ most recent expansion is TMK Creamery, a cheese-making plant, observation and tasting room, and retail space. This addition opened in 2017 to introduce consumers to a more immersive experience and to spotlight the creamery’s new farmstead cheeses made by Shauna Koch. Shauna comes in three times a week when the cows are milked to make the cheese, which is available on the website for local pick-up, and area markets and restaurants.
Because their operation is small, they have the unique advantage of being able to offer signature single-cow cheese made by what they call their “cow-lebrities,” because, as Tessa explains with a smile, “the cows are the heroes of this story. Three different cows make their own cheese, and the rest of the cheese is a group effort. We want people to see that not only do they each have their own taste, but it’s a way to promote the animal and what they create for us.” You’ll find gouda, aged and smoked cheddar, queso fresco, and a variety of cheese curds such as the popular garlic-dill. I went home with smoked garlic cheddar (see here) and, after polishing it off, I regret that I didn’t buy one of everything!
As I was led on a tour to see the cows and the production facility, Tessa explained the purpose of the new building is a focus on education. “We wanted to open it up to the public, for people to see a real American farm and where their food comes from. We tour almost daily, all ages - we had the Oregon Culinary Institute students earlier this year and tomorrow we have a pre-school class.” said Tessa. As I meet Miss TMK, Holly, Annie, and Amber, and Marc Koch, who manages the daily milking and farming operations, I learn that all the cows are named, with some of the farm’s herd the descendants of the first cow purchased by Todd as a youngster. “Since our farm is on a smaller scale, we can open it up to the public like this. We want to show people that we control the whole process all the way through. We make the feed and manage the quality, maintain the health of the cows, milk them, and produce everything right here, which results in a better quality of product.”
And it’s not all about milk and cheese on this dairy farm. The Kochs are also creating a line of spirits. “We’re thinking of marketing our ‘cow-cohol’ with “have you had your dairy today?” Tessa said with a laugh. She went on to explain that not only is this a creative process, but a sustainable farming practice. “After we’re done making the cheese, we collect the whey, ferment it, and then distill it. Our first batch was made in September so this is only the second batch - three times distilled with no filtering.” As I taste, I comment on its distinctive artisanal character which is smooth with floral notes and a rounded sweetness that is creamy on the palate. “We want to do a single-cow vodka too and pair it with the single-cow cheese. We want to do things with our farm that haven’t been done before and show people our authentic quality.”
TMK Creamery offers public tours every Saturday with private tours throughout the week and special events such as cheese and wine tastings, workshops, and visiting food trucks.
My taste of TMK vodka was the perfect prelude to my pre-dinner cocktail plans. I was in for a special treat as Paul Terry, one of my favorite Sedona cocktail talents, had relocated to Oregon and invited me to visit him at his new venue. After freshening up back at my hotel in Lake Oswego, a 10-minute Uber ride brought me to the Boundary Social Club, a members-only wine vault and private club in Portland’s SW Corbett neighborhood.
“Portland's best kept secret,” “fantastic gathering spot,” “comfortable and elegant” are some of the raves I had read about this private retreat, and I had to agree. Hidden in a deli parking lot is a door marked with a simple B that leads you to this wine and cocktail oasis. It was also perfect timing. Previously bar service was available Wednesday through Saturday, but on my visit it was the first day of opening on Tuesdays (my last day in Oregon) and Paul was also debuting his new cocktail menu. Members have access to the club and a 70,000-bottle wine vault 24/7, beverage service Tuesday through Saturday evenings, the opportunity to purchase wine at 10% above cost and access to rare wine libraries, special events, and meeting spaces such as a conference room and brand-new patio. Of course, there’s an impressive wine list including a rotating Wineemotion selection.
I was on a mission to try Paul’s newest cocktails, however, and wow - what an array! His cocktail-making prowess includes house syrups, complex flavors, and finessed finishes, all resulting in fantastic and superlative libations. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite of those I tried, but two at the top of my list were his Midnight Daiquiri with white and blackstrap rums, Fernet Branca, sarsaparilla, black tea, and fresh lime juice, and Old Man Pecan with brown-butter washed bourbon, cocoa bitters and a salted pecan demerara syrup made by boiling demerara sugar with salt and roasted pecans and double straining. Thank you Paul for the wonderful visit!
It was now dinner time at the end of my fun-filled day in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory, so back at my hotel I made the easy walk to my favorite downtown spot - Lake View Village - to try a new restaurant on my last night. I had spied Five Spice Seafood & Wine Bar while at breakfast (it’s located above St. Honore Boulangerie), and pulled up a chair at the bar in this upscale seafood restaurant.
My delicious seafood feast of shrimp cocktail and pan-roasted sturgeon with black rice risotto, verjus emulsion, wild mushrooms and tobiko was made even better with bartender Jennifer’s menu recommendations and suggested wine pairings. You’ll want to look for her if you visit - she made a great night even better.
My time spent in The Territory was coming to a close, sadly, but I started off my day right the next morning by returning to St. Honoré Boulangerie for breakfast, this time Quiche Lorraine with bacon, caramelized onions and Emmental cheese.
Packed up, I had one more stop before I headed to the airport - a tour of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods in Milwaukie, Oregon. If you’re an avid home cook like me, or just a fan of quality whole grains, you’re familiar with this label graced with the smiling countenance of founder Bob Moore.
On our tour, we were told he was inspired to launch a stone-ground flour mill company in the 1960s after reading"John Goffe's Mill.”
Through videos and our tour guide, and a conversation with Bob Moore himself, we learned about the growth over the years, including rebuilding after a devastating arsonist’s fire, the milling process, sourcing grain from all over the world, and more about this philanthropic founder who has since transferred the ownership of the company to his employees. You’ll want to include this fascinating tour in your plans if you’re in the Portland area. And the highlight? Getting to meet founder Bob, who often makes the time to chat with visitors on the tour.
I partnered with Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory tourism, and you can find more information on the region's activities, dining, lodging, and annual events at Mt. Hood Territory.