Published: October 4th 2010September 30th 2010
David and I
David was the one who introduced me to this kind of picture. Where you hold the camera in one hand extended away from you.
Days 16 to 18 of my travel (no longer strictly a road trip)
After my quick whirlwind visit with Michelle, Pam and Heidi, I was delivered to the San Jose airport on a Southwest Airlines flight (courtesy of my cousin Michelle's generosity and significant bank of frequent flyer miles) destined for Portland, Oregon near my uncle/cousin David's restaurant in neighboring Washougal, Washington (about 30 minutes East on the highway from Portland headed towards Vancouver). I think technically we are cousins, but because of age, experience, distance, etc. I never know whether to use the word cousin or uncle. (The same goes for my cousins Tania and Michelle). A big thanks goes to Michelle for getting me to see David because I don't know how I would have done it without flying.....those tickets were not cheap!!
David picked me up on one of his few days off since he started his restaurant called Hearth in Washougal, WA, a small town down river on the Columbia River from Portland. Vancouver lies not too far east along this stunningly beautiful river. David has just opened a very unique urban styled restaurant in
what looks like a small plaza in the middle of
this very small town. One particularly unique aspect is that everything is cooked in a wood-fired oven. If you get a chance to try the pizza or even the meat (like the Hangar steak I had) you would know how well this holds in flavors. It is particularly fun to watch the two chefs work (Dice-K who is Japanese) and Edwin (the head chef) while you eat. Along with more traditional tables and seating around the restaurant, there is a round bar that encircles the wood-fired oven cooking area so you can observe some of the work that goes into your upcoming meal. The artwork (including David's own blown glass) placed strategically around the restaurant provides a visual emporia while you are sipping your beer.
After I arrived, David and I took some time to hang out at his restaurant but also a little time to stroll along the river. It is a beautiful spot aside from the archaic paper mill still smoking away in the small neighboring town. Fisherman patrol the waters which you can see from the pleasant dock and walkway that go along the river. On my second day, David lent me his truck to drive
along the river towards the small town of Richardson in the direction of Vancouver. It is a stunningly beautiful drive through the mountains that hug along the river. Next to Stevenson, there is a "bridge of the Gods" you can cross for $2 that provides a nice view as well. One of friends commented that this area is known as "Columbia Gorge". It is certainly "Gorgeous"!! I made the drive, took some pictures along the way and even scouted on a honey supply (unsuccessfully) for David's restaurant. David gets some of his draft beer (Walking Man brand) from the small but famous brewery in Stevenson. Walking through the town is pleasant.
Going back to the first day, David took me on what I have labeled a "food research" excursion around Portland. This is not a surprise, as David was the first person to introduce me to sushi and dim sum some twenty years ago when I visited him at this then home in San Francisco. He has always been one of the most ambitious, creative and adventurous people in my life and it is so fortunate that we have been able to connect a number of times over the
David's Lamb Curry Pizza
This has flavors I have not tasted before. I don't know if it reallly is his 'signature dish' but it is damn good!
years. Eating at a number of trendy, quirky and just plain good restaurants in Portland on my first day reminded me of all this. David also took it upon himself to make sure I understood my place in this world and to pass on his wisdom. This developed as we first visited a cheese shop (where David knows the owner) and consumed outstanding homemade cheeses with local craft beer. David seems to have built a strong knowledge base about the local food culture and business by befriending and working with other local entrepreneurs like the guy who ran the cheese shop. (I cannot remember names). After consuming the godly cheese, we went to a Latin American/Mexican(?) restaurant that was open once a week and run by a dishwasher at another restaurant. It sounds ridiculous but the food is cheap and they serve only two menu items. This time it was a spicy taco dish with a zesty ceviche. It is the kind of place the builds on the rich counterculture that most clearly manifests itself in the wanna be rebel outfits (tattoos, earrings, weird accessories, etc.) locals wear in great quantity here. David and I also visited a trendy restaurant
in one of the old industrial districts that cuts meat, serves good wine and cooks fine food. We had an octopus and sardine dish that were both some of the best food I have had in months. Again much of the cooking action is visible when you sit at the bar. We finished the evening at a comfortable lounge with good cocktails and desserts. David lost his phone here, but thankfully knew the owner who called him the next day.
Evenings, I slept at David's beautifully landscaped house an hour north of Washougal. It is as lovely and quite as a remember it. I am a little disappointed I didn't get a chance to do any walking as the valley and the nearby mountains (like Mount St. Helen's which can be seen in the distance) are gorgeous on a foggy morning.
Outside of my drive along the Columbia River, David loaned me his truck to head into Portland and have an excursion of my own. The restaurant was open on my second day so David was busy with that. Meanwhile, I was on a mission to discover some of the local microdistilleries, particularly one making rum. I didn't
succeed on the rum count but found some spicy vodka infused with chilies and some Aqua Vit (a licorice tasting vodka like drink popular in Scandavia). Local laws have recently been passed making it easier for small businesses to produce hard liquor and as a result there is what is called "Distillery Row" in part of Portland's old Industrial District near the Willamette River that separates the two halves of the city. Distillery Row was more spread out than it sounds and required a mixture of walking and driving. I visited three distilleries, one of which let me have samples......Yes!!!(It is all made in very small batches and so much better than any of the mass produced stuff......and often around the same price. Both bottles were $24 or less). Microdistilleries making hard liquor is something I see as the next small entrepreneur rage, as microbreweries once were.
I had a chance to hang out with David's Terri at the restaurant and shoot the shit with some of David's staff. The chef's are both really cool!!! (Datsusuke and Edwin). Terri looks great and we got to take a walk together along the Columbia River. She seems so busy with her
Along the Columbia River
This walk is not far from David's restaurant and perhaps a nice place to take a walk after dinner at sunset.
teaching now that I was happy to have a few hours with here. David too is really stressed about the restaurant. I got a feel for some of his stresses but can only imagine all the uncertainties that go with getting that up and running. I went along with him one day as he tried to do some canvassing with local soccer moms. The food is so good. The restaurant is so comfortable. The location is so pretty. It has just got to work out. I am just happy I got to see it from the beginning and to spend some time (however brief) with David again. We had lots of sporadic time to sit, talk, drink and bond in between all the rash activity that could be fit into two days. I hope I can see him more often. Maybe I can own an helicopter or airline company someday.....LOL.
Two mornings after flying in, David and I hugged and parted with the bittersweet emotions that always accompany departures and I pulled my bags to the Southwest checkout that would take me to my aunt/cousin Tania and her clan in Sacramento.
There are more photos below