Though architectural flourishes once called attention to their Gilded Age opulence, these days the entrance and lobby of the historic Cook?s Hotel bear the egalitarian trappings of a turn-of-the-century ice-cream parlor. These welcoming sights are just one part of Serendipity Ice Cream?s core mission. Operating as a division of Mid-Valley Rehabilitation?a nonprofit dedicated to providing employment, residential, and transportation services to adults with disabilities?the parlor gives the center?s clients the chance to get real-world work experience and independence. Here, staffers scoop 24 classic and seasonal flavors of Oregon-made ice cream into handmade waffle cones, sundaes, floats, shakes, and banana splits. Sugar-free ice cream and dairy-free sorbets attend to special diets alongside treats such as soups and made-from-scratch cookies baked fresh daily. In addition to the sky-high cones and friendly service, old-fashioned candy, glass-bottled retro sodas, and teenagers who settle their differences by dancing add to the parlor?s period feel.
Since 1997, 3rd Street Pizza Company has fused food and film into a ready-made night out. On one side of the business, hand-tossed dough is fired atop hot stones, which yields crisp New York–style pizzas topped with a signature blend of mozzarella, provolone, and monterey jack cheeses. Sauce options also reach beyond the standard red to include thai peanut, pesto, and garlic parmesan. The pies anchor a menu that features calzones, sandwiches, and microbrews, all of which can be taken into showings at Moonlight Theater. Recent releases stretch out across a full-size movie screen that teams up with a 12-speaker surround-sound system as high-tech as the ones judges use to make their verdicts extra scary. The restaurant also supports arts beyond film and pizza—a dining-room wall functions as a rotating gallery space, and live musicians occasionally play during dinner.
Instead of plain old ketchup, patrons at Burgers & More dip their fries and onion rings into the restaurant's signature fry sauce. That's not the only inventive part of the menu here, either. In addition to Black Angus beef patties, burger seekers can fashion a meal from fresh halibut fillets, and they can also customize sandwiches with toppings like ranch and bacon. Shakes and malts complement these meals with sweet, frosty flavors, while an array of salads feeds those who like to pretend they're forest-eating giants.
Named one of Portland's top-10 most romantic restaurants by Gayot, the Joel Palmer House fills fine china with globally inspired dishes, which fuse locally produced herbs and vegetables with wild Oregon mushrooms. Amorous eaters take breaks from sweetheart staring contests to thaw benumbed tongues with warm bowls of Joe's wild-mushroom soup, a 75-year-old family recipe that combines the rich essence of pureed suillus mushrooms with creamy crème fraiche ($9). The beef stroganoff, prepared with succulent meat, wild mushrooms, and seasoned rice ($30), pleases palates, and the sautéed sea scallops, served with lotus root, wild mushroom duxelles, and a Creole pinot gris sauce ($32), fill abdominal abysses. Fortify fungus fare with a bottle of locally fermented pinot noir from a sprawling list of Oregon wines and achieve a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves.
Renowned for its artisan wines and pinot noir varietals, Willamette Valley Vineyards whips taste buds into flavorful frenzies with elegant quaffs that highlight the pure grapes of the region. Like the cycles of the moon and broken sundials, reserve tastings rotate monthly, featuring a different lineup of five distinct libations. Tasters can count on three Single Vineyard Designate pinot noirs in the sippable quintet, one of which is the 2008 Estate pinot noir. Blossoming sommeliers step up to their glasses and test their scent-sensors under the guidance of Willamette Valley's professional drink detectives, aiding their efforts to detect the notes of cherry, dark chocolate, and spice laced throughout their beverage. Following their consumption and discussion of their glasses, participants receive two "It's Willamette, Dammit" t-shirts, and are welcome to keep their Riedel logo stemware, ideal for future tastings or trapping fancy tarantulas.
The sixth-annual Oregon Brews and BBQ's festival floods McMinnville?s Granary District with frothy craft beers and the smoky scent of barbecue. With a souvenir beer glass and tasting tickets in hand, guests can sample more than 50 craft beers from more than 35 breweries, including Grain Station Brew Works, Golden Valley Restaurant & Brewery, and Hopworks Urban Brewery, an organic brewery whose director of sustainability chatted with the Groupon Guide about keeping its environmental footprint as small as possible. The hoppy flavors complement tender barbecued meats, many of which grill masters have slow cooked throughout the night by using low heat and a boogie-man-repellent seasoning.
Live musicians punctuate the air with such acts as The Jake Blair Band, which blends wailing slide guitar with gravely vocals and harmonica for a blues buffet. Audiences can dance along, check out the jewelry and art from local vendors, or explore the kids' zone. This year, proceeds from the festival will benefit St. James Catholic School and the GhanaHope Foundation.