Exploring the Mid Willamette Valley
written by Jen Stevenson
As you fly south for the winter (weekend), detour east of Salem for a slice of caramel apple pie at the Willamette Valley Pie Company, or meander on to charming small-town Silverton for cinnamon roll pancakes and crispy fried chicken with brown butter syrup and Sriracha honey atop a golden buttermilk waffle at Gather. After a lovely late-fall hike in Silver Falls State Park, tuck into a piping-hot smoked pork shoulder and pineapple-topped Pine & Swine pizza at The Old Oak Oven food cart. Then cross the street to Silver Falls Brewery for a pint of Catamount Trail Ale. A few miles north, in Bavarian-esque Mount Angel, Oktoberfest may be over, but you can still wash down authentic handmade German-style bratwurst, bockwurst and knockwurst with an authentic German beer at Mt. Angel Sausage Company.
EAT + DRINK
In the pleasant rural river town of Albany, tour the uniquely charming Historic Carousel and Museum before chowing down on Calapooia Brewing Company’s spicy Class V burgers and bowls of stick-to-your-ribs beef chili, made with the brewery’s award-winning Chili Beer. Sip an afternoon pick-me-up in bright, beautiful new Margin Coffee, and cozy up with cabbage rolls and chicken paprika over homemade spaetzle at Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant, followed by a twelve-layer wedge of milk-chocolate- cream-stuffed Dobos Torta. If seeking date-night digs, book at brick-walled Sybaris Bistro, where stir-fried green beans with smoked ramp soubise and cornbread crumble precede grilled jerked duck legs and glossy rounds of chocolate hazelnut cake.
In Philomath, start the day with hearty duck confit omelets and dried cherry cinnamon french toast at The Dizzy Hen, then hop over to brothers- owned Nectar Creek, converting mead newbies to lifelong fans with its session meads made with raw, unfiltered Oregon honey, seasonal fruits, coffee and fresh ginger. If you’re in town in early November, book a table at beautiful Gathering Together Farm’s cozy covered porch cafe before it goes on its winter break, and indulge in bowls of velvety spiced quince and kabocha soup, handmade acorn ravioli and wood-fired pizzas topped with butternut squash and kale straight from the fields.
Drink well in nearby Corvallis, where Block 15 beckons with craft beer, “hand-spanked” green chile cheeseburgers with cilantro-jalapeño mayonnaise and Beavers games on the television, while 2 Towns Ciderhouse boasts more than two dozen taps pouring its celebrated fresh-pressed Pacific Northwest hard apple ciders. Catch one of the last Saturday farmers markets of fall, browse the bounty of dozens of local farms, and pick up smoked pork sandwiches at Burnheimer Meat Company, which also sells charcuterie and pork cuts made from locally raised heritage breed pigs. For a rainy afternoon pick-me-up, sip lattes and taste fresh maple sea salt and marionberry rosemary doughnuts at Benny’s Donuts. After tapas and tempranillo at Latin American and Caribbean-inflected Del Alma restaurant, sip a honey almond gelato affogato nightcap at nearby Francesco’s Gelato.
From late November through December, stay at Silverton’s Oregon Garden Resort and enjoy the 80-acre Oregon Garden’s annual Christmas in the Garden extravaganza, complete with ice skating rink, traditional German Christmas market and beer garden, live caroling and no fewer than one million Christmas lights. For country quiet and a hearty breakfast in Corvallis, book at family-owned Corbin B&B, set on 6 serene, forested acres teeming with deer and wild turkeys, or continue down the road to Eugene’s merry, marvelous Inn at the 5th. Check in, and risk never leaving the hotel—a fully stocked specialty market and bottle shop, six-restaurant food hall, date-night-worthy Marché restaurant, and Will Leather Goods’ flagship store (tucked into a converted boxcar) are mere steps from your room, not to mention room service and a Pendleton blanket loaner program should you never even leave your whirlpool-spa-endowed suite.