Everytime I go through my pictures of Portland to write another post, I start looking online for airfares and rentals so B. and I can make our own memories there, armed with the few penciled down addresses I already love and plan to revisit. Thing is, both our schedules are filling up already until next summer so I don’t think a vacation will happen anytime soon. I’ve been booked shooting non-stop which explains the infrequent postings here. That and catching up with friends and family.
The vibes that Portland exudes are very similar to the ones I live here in Charleston. Although we lack the vista of the mountains, both towns have a humane quality of life that I absolutely love. People are open, people smile. People love to tell you about their town and are never short of recommendation. Instead of pointing to a direction, they will make sure you know your way there with maps and drawings, phone numbers and more spots to see on the way.
Let’s get on to the second part of that Portland trip, our first real day of activities…one that took us high up, from mountains to rooftops while keeping our eyes full of magical sights and our bellies warm with exquisite meals. A day that inspired these Elderflower Cream Tartelettes.
I had chosen to take part in the foraging and wild foods exploring tour, led by Dr. Kallas and found myself staring at the beauty of Lake Tillium that morning, mesmerized by the beauty of Mount Hood majestically standing before me. Mountain air. One I miss every single day. I am a mountain gal from my area of Provence but never once did I get a crash course on Nature’s edible. Until Portland. It was fascinating.
Trust me folks, listen to the advice of experts like this guy before picking edibles in the wild. Read up, do your research, take classes. It takes one little mistake to pick up a deadly from a lovely. That plant is edible. It even tastes like vanilla at certain time of the year.
This is a "no-no" as far as edible. Sure looks lovely though…
I had a difficult time turning my back on the area and hopping into the van. Calming. Refreshing. A balm for the hurried soul. People boating, fishing or simply enjoying a quiet day off by the lake. I know that feeling all too well here in the South. Made the area even more appealing for me. But we all that foraging made our bellies ready for food and wine. Not surprisingly, we were fast obliged.
After a lovely ride up to Timberline Lodge (the same ride in the opening credits of The Shining – I kid you not), we were treated to a wonderful lunch designed by Chef Jason Stoller Smith with edibles he had foraged himself a few days earlier. Now, that’s what I call a creative culinary treat. Each dish was paired with a different glass of wine from Phelps Creek Vineyard.
Among those interesting edible concoctions were a foraged salad of Smooth Yellow Violet, Indian Paintbrush, Wild Ginger and Columbine, Hemlock Tea Sorbet, Hood River Peaches With Pineapple Weed Ice Cream and Vanilla Olive Oil Powder. A little molecular gastronomy was thrown in here and there supplying some really nice touches (nitro blast whipped potatoes are smooth as baby’s skin…) without being overwhelming or out of place. Well balanced meal throughout.
My own foraging led me to the elderflower plant grown by the next door neighbor which inspired these little tarts. With a little Saint Germain (elderflower liqueur) thrown in there for good measure. Hmmm…
We did not have a minute to spare noodling about after lunch as next on our agenda was a visit to the McCurdy Farms, Steve McCarthy and his Clear Creek Distillery. Yes, the orchard were pears and apples happen to make it into the bottle.
It is a really fascinating sight to see and the love that Steve and his crew have for their craft is clearly reflected in the quality of the pear brandy and other liqueurs they produce. We sampled and sampled and sampled some more under the blazing sun and found refuge walking in the shades of the orchards. Pears on one side, apples on the other.
The bottles are set on the fruits while they are barely buds and left until the pears or apples have reached a desirable size. In the meantime, the liqueur is made the old fashioned way, as Steve learned from his experience in Europe.
The operation is relatively young, 26 years old, but booming with all sorts of interesting concoctions. Classics like pear or mirabelle plum eaux de vie but also Douglas Fir eau de vie and a vast array of grappas.
There is something special about orchards. At least to me.
After many a small glass of brandy of different flavors, we had to ride back to Portland downtown. The bus which was bubbling with conversation and excitement that morning was nothing but a murmur of napping food bloggers. The altitude, our full bellies, our well doctored veins (eau de vie is keen to medicine in my family), made for a quiet ride back to the hotel.
A little time to rest and we were back on for dinner. Burgers and brew. Looking over Portland. Gorgeous sunset and the talented chefs of Metrovino and The Guilt Club and their team. Great fun.
We were treated to three different kinds of burgers and buns, lamb, venison, beef as well as many delicious sides and dessert nibbles. Cold glasses of tea from Smith Tea as well as copious glasses of beer from The Prodigal Son Brewery.
Once back home in Charleston, I found myself foraging my own way and came up with these tartelettes. Nothing fancy or complicated but the perfect transition from Summer into Fall. A light elderflower flavored cream nestled in gluten free tart shells and topped by Champagne grapes, figs and the last of the (good) raspberries around here. They go perfectly with a small glass of pear brandy by the way…!
*Disclosure: I was not asked nor received compensation to write about the trip. I’m doing it because I loved every bit of it. Transportation, meals and drinks when enjoyed as part of the trip itinerary were all taken care for by Travel Oregon.
Elderflower Cream Tartelettes:
Makes 8 tartelettes
For the pastry crust:
I used this one from my friend Jeanne at The Art of Gluten Free Baking but I also recommend this one from Holly Herrick if you are not gluten free.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Roll the dough in between sheets of parchment paper if you are using the gluten free one or on a well floured countertop is using the regular one. Cut the dough the fit eight 4-inch tart rings or shells. Fill the shells with dried beans or pie weights and bake until the shells are completely cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.
For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup Saint Germain (elderflower liqueur) (or can use elderflower syrup)
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest and Saint Germain and whisk again until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Divide among the tart shells and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set.
To finish the tartelettes, top each with your favorite seasonal fruits.
Love traveling for the ability it gives to lose myself in completely different surroundings. Finding the familiar in things around me would be no different than staying home. Pointless.