Various vittles

I haven’t blogged in a while and haven’t created a restaurant review in months. I am making up for lost time with several mini reviews in a series of posts. This will focus on eateries located near Corvallis.

Breakfast

In both Columbus and Greenville we had a hard time selecting a breakfast location, but for completely different reasons. In Columbus, there were too many delicious choices and in Greenville, there were too few. With a dearth of tasty breakfast restaurants, I became quite skilled at making breakfast and while my abilities grew, so did my standards.

breakfast, yogurt, egg, fruitThis is the rushed weekday breakfast at our house. Any restaurant has to beat this, and offer excellent service, to get my breakfast business.

Corvallis has both an Elmer’s and Shari’s. These are comparable to Bob Evan’s or Cracker Barrel, well maybe not quite CB. They offer a number of options ranging from indulgent to reasonably healthy. Both can have long lines on the weekends but this is to be expected, especially in the fall.

Darrell’s used to be an option for breakfast, though we only ever took advantage of breakfast- all-day and ate there in the evening. I had cheese blintz with strawberries and home fries the last time I ate there. The food memories cause my mouth to water but alas, this is no longer an option.

Tommy’s 4th Street Bar & Grill is another local diner with a big breakfast menu.  Once again, we have only eaten there in the evening. I had the crunchy strawberry French toast. The portion was more than generous; the taste was quite satisfying though the berries weren’t fresh. Here are some photos from a visit in December when I ordered a patty melt with onion rings (delicious despite the grease) and M had a massive omelette.

tommy's patty melt corvallis, or tommy's breakfast

Tommy’s allows you to select a pancake as a “side” for your breakfast. M doesn’t like potatoes so this is a fine option for him.

Finally, Philomath brings us donuts from NutCakes. These things might as well be called “crack-cakes” since there must be an illegal substance in the batter; it is the only thing that explains the amazing flavor. I have enjoyed the maple bacon donut, a must for any good donut shop in Oregon, and the buttermilk bar. Both are delicious. The bear claw was the only disappointment since I wasn’t expecting to find chopped up apples inside.

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There are some good options here but we still eat breakfast at home most of the time. It’s a comfortable part of our routine.

Lunch and dinner

IMG_1007While it isn’t perfect, we have made Cibelli’s our go-to pizza parlor. Their flavorful pies are made with quality ingredients. This is some of the best pizza I’ve had in Oregon but it wouldn’t touch some of the good New York style shops in Greenville. The staff is friendly and the pickup estimates are always accurate. On one visit, they accidentally made a 24″ pizza for us instead of the 14″ we ordered. I took home a monstrous pizza (would only fit in the trunk) for the price of a much smaller pie.

There are a number of brewpubs and casual dining spots in Corvallis. I was not impressed with Flat Tail Brewing, the flavors and variety weren’t there. Squirrel’s Tavern is a decent option. The tots are delicious. After an undercooked burger, I will stick with the salad. Brew BBQ is really very good. If a Southerner tells you that your BBQ joint is good, that’s a big compliment. Downward Dog has phenomenal chicken fingers with an espresso stout BBQ sauce. At $4, this healthy appetizer is a steal. The chicken is so juicy and the light smoky flavor is a great balance for the tangy sauce.

Until a few weeks ago, I was a huge fan of Sky High Brewing. The oyster po’boy was my tried-and-true selection. I finally took Mr. McB a few weeks ago and found that the oysters had a strong, unpleasant flavor; I only ate about half of my sandwich because it was so noticeable. The tots arrived lukewarm which was another big disappointment. The Mister picked pizza. At first, he really liked it but as he ate a bit more, the story changed. I took a bite and immediately tasted cinnamon, making the whole pizza taste like Skyline Chili. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Two spots we really liked were Fireworks in Corvallis and The Woodsman in Philomath.
Fireworks showcases their wood fired oven with their sizable menu. Mr. McB ordered pizza. The crust was light and crispy with a zesty sauce and generous supply of peps and cheese. I had the Polynesian pulled pork. I love tangy food and this sandwich didn’t let me down. The handout fries are also made in the wood-fired oven. It’s a small place and the meals do take time so pack your patience.

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Woodsman in Philomath OregonThe Woodsman might not look like much on the outside but it is a stellar Thai restaurant. The massive portions are piled with fresh ingredients. I enjoy the pad Thai and also find the stir-fry dishes to be very flavorful. You can easily eat your fill at the restaurant and still bring home enough for a couple of lunches.

Before wrapping this up, let me cover two restaurants on Monroe near OSU. University Calzone, my tastebuds would visit weekly but my waistline won’t let me.

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Bombs Away Cafe, you gave me chips from the bottom of a bag and lukewarm queso. Your food was either bland or unappealing. For me, you are a one-and-done restaurant.

Bombs away cafe

Take me to Tillamook

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and unseasonable warmth with a drive up to Tillamook. The scenic drive took us a little over two hours. We made it to the Tillamook Cheese Factory shortly after 11. I’ll share more about this fun experience in a separate post.

After lunch at cheese heaven, we started on the Three Capes Scenic Route. Our first stop was Cape Lookout. The state park was a very popular place on this gorgeous day.

Cape Lookout CrowdsWe started with the beach. Our walking sticks were in the trunk of the car and we really could have used them as we scrambled down the rocks to reach the sand. One day we’ll learn.

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After nearly breaking both my face and my camera on the walk back up the rocks, we decided to follow the north trail. The trail is constructed in a way that the climb is relatively gentle. Seeing the Pacific from a dense forest is something that I’m still not quite accustomed to. It’s glorious but still not something I expect.

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Our climb stopped when we reached this part of the trail. Without our walking sticks and my hiking shoes, this wasn’t even in the realm of possibility.

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We decided to head back to the car and head on to Cape Kiwanda. We arrived to find very little available parking. I let Mr. McB out of the car and then navigated to a little market where I could grab much-needed water and park for a few minutes. He walked over to the beach to get a few snaps of Haystack Rock.

After a short stop, we headed toward Cape Meares. The road to the park has seen better days. I am certain that these potholes have claimed a tire or two in their day.

After reaching the park, we started out in the lighthouse for the brief tour. We learned that much was expected of lighthouse keepers. In addition to the demands of their regular duties, they also had to appease the inspectors.  One keeper’s wife received a demerit because she did not finish folding laundry before she began dinner. Your house was to be pristine at all times; I am so glad that I am not a lighthouse keeper.

We enjoyed a walk after the tour.

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We also saw the Sitka spruce known as the Octopus Tree.

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Our next stop was the Girabaldi House, our home for the night. It’s a comfortable, clean hotel with niceties like an evening reception, popcorn machine and indoor pool. It’s close to the bay, which provided a gorgeous setting for our evening walk.

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The activity of the clamers added something special to this stunning sunset. It was a perfect evening.

On Sunday morning, we began at Rockaway Beach at low tide.

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This intriguing pattern covered large expanses of the beach.

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We climbed back in the car and stopped briefly to see the Three Graces before driving back to Tillamook.

DSC_0941We stopped at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. Before noon, we owned a wheel of rich creamy brie and I learned just how quickly a goat can bite and just how much that hurts.

I was sorry to see this superb weekend end but I am thankful for its restorative powers. This little getaway gave me the calm and clarity needed to face a challenging week.

Not an easy fix

Sorry for stepping away from this blog for so many months. At first, it was all a matter of time. I couldn’t force myself to come home and write after spending hours in front of a computer screen each day.

When Mr. McB arrived in town after Labor Day, I wanted to spend time with him. When he adapted quickly to life in Oregon while I continued to struggle, I didn’t want to talk or write about it. I also had no interest in creating a fictional existence where all was rosy and bright.

Truth is, I am still trying to find my way. Admitting that is hard. I am also working too many hours to make that adjustment any easier for myself. It’s my own bad choice and don’t want pity, I just want to be honest about it. Without honesty, this blog becomes little more than a highlight reel ripe for unrealistic comparisons.

So, I am working on it. On the professional front, help will be on the way soon. Summer also brings at least a moment to breathe. 

Personally, I looking forward to little getaways. I am eager to explore, with Mr. McB or on my own if his work schedule continues to be a challenge. I vow to leave my desk at lunch at least once a week. I am indulging in a 60 minute massage every six weeks. I am making time to call and email family and East Coast friends. I might try a  little container gardening. I am getting back to blogging on at least a weekly basis. In short, I am getting back to taking care of myself.

  

Regaining the magic

I have vague recollections of the flights I took as a youngster. The oldest memories are fuzzy fragments – seeing blue lights illuminating the runway at night, receiving a pair of wings just like the pilot’s, wishing I had a jar to catch some clouds…. Somewhere between the bumpy rides on puddle jumpers and adulthood, what was once magic became routine.

Fast forward to 2008 and my cousin’s wedding. We decided to fly to Kansas City as a family. This included my grandparents and aunt who had never flown before. If you asked me then, I might have described the trip as a “production” instead of an adventure. I love my family but that’s a lot of moving parts.

My grandfather was a tall man so we arranged for his seat to be in the aisle but he was far more interested in the view than legroom. We shuffled him into a window seat. I’m not sure Pop talked to us at all during that flight. He was not a quiet man so this is notable. Throughout the flight his gaze rarely left the window. This was clearly someone who was capable of wonder and understood that safely speeding through the air is nothing short of miraculous.  

I have to admit that I remarked on it but it really didn’t change me very much. Flights were to primarily to be endured, not savored. When we flew back to Kansas City for another cousin’s wedding, I remember Pop’s perplexed, and perhaps mildly disgusted, expression as we put on headphones, pulled out magazines, and started all sorts of tasks that took us out of the experience. We could have it our way but he was opting for fascination and exploration.

Somewhere along the way, and it might have been the first flight I took after he passed, that I realized that I was wasting a perfectly good opportunity to experience awe and joy, two emotions that far too many adults are lacking in their lives. Now, I savor the glorious moment when the plane leaves the ground and begins to climb toward the heavens. I find myself peering out the window and counting my blessings. I don’t have a perfect life but it’s full of wonderful people and amazing opportunities. There’s something about lifting off the ground that puts everything into perspective.

These photos were taken on a recent flights between Portland and Seattle. I think he would approve.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

         


Yaquina Head Photos

I finally remembered to pick up an SD card reader so here are the photos from Yaquina Head. I have photos from the aquarium too but those need a bit more TLC. For anyone considering a visit to the House of McB, these photos were taken just about 75 minutes from our house. Yes, we can take you there. Yes, you will need a coat; no, I really don’t care what time of year it is.

 

It’s a whale. I promise.

Yaquina Head, OregonYaquina Head, Oregonwhale spout Yaquina Head, OregonLandscape and lighthouse

Yaquina Head, Oregon

Yaquina Head, Oregon

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Harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocks.

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Cobble Beach, a result of a basalt lava flow some 14 million years ago

cobble beach oregoncobble beach oregonThere is a sign that explains that many little creates live under the cobbles. It might not be the safest place in the world. The beach itself was a little tricky to navigate in flip-flops. Mr. McB is pigeon-toed and prone to twisted ankles so he’ll definitely have to sport his hiking boots when we visit Yaquina Head.

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When home isn’t “home”

I had the great fortunate traveling to Burlington, Vermont for CASE’s Summer Institute in Communications and Marketing last week. Quick review… Burlington is an adorable little town. The “crepedilla” from Skinny Pancake might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. If you are a marcom professional working in higher ed, beg your boss to send you to this conference. You will come home with fantastic contacts, good ideas, and a determination to become more strategic instead of simply being a task monkey.

After recovering from the red-eye, I found that my body happily adapted to being back on Eastern time. I had settled into a comfortable routine and rhythm in Corvallis but there was just something about being back on the East Coast that put me at ease. When I wasn’t in sessions or catching up on work, I could easily chat with friends and family without thinking of the time difference. I wasn’t prepared to feel at home in Vermont but I did.

Maybe a little too at home…

On Thursday night when I was waiting for my plane to leave JFK, I had the strongest urge to simply not come back. I was boarding a plane to go home but suddenly, Oregon just wasn’t home. I felt a tightness in my chest and tears bubbled near the surface when I thought about coming back to a place that is so far away from family and dearest friends. I seriously planned my escape. I pondered what I would need to do to get my checked bag. I wondered if I could call my husband’s family in NYC to have a place to land for a few days.

Thankfully, I am far too responsible and boringly predictable for all of that. I got on the plane and made my way back to PDX. I wasn’t happy but I was coming back. When I woke up on Friday morning, I cried and questioned what I had done. It had been weeks since I felt like that. I went into work on Friday afternoon and kept myself busy with tasks. I was so tired that work pushed away all my anxiety and sad thoughts.

I knew I had to get a handle on this so I treated myself by stepping away from work and driving to the coast yesterday. I had a great time in Newport and felt that maybe, just maybe, I could get used to this. Part of this is doing a better job of taking care of myself, one cannot center everything in her life around work. Fun has to be a part of the equation.

I don’t regret my choice but this opportunity didn’t come without sacrifice. That’s true of many things in life. I am not writing this for sympathy. I want to faithfully document this whole move and just like with life, skipping over the rough parts isn’t an option.

 

Tastes of Oregon

On Friday, I had the opportunity to sample some delicious new flavors. The first was the coconut oatmeal cookie created by Mennonite bakers. That is a delicious flavor combo. Overall, I prefer an oatmeal scotchie but the coconut oatmeal is not as rich, making it a better choice for summer.

On Friday night, I sampled the bacon guacamole from Del Alma. I enjoy my guac with loads of lime and cilantro so I wasn’t sure about this concoction featuring bacon, chipotle peppers, and chopped hazelnuts but it turned out to be so good that my taste buds did a little dance. The hazelnuts were a perfect balance to the heat of the peppers. The bacon appeared in thick, flavorful chunks. It isn’t an everyday guac, but it is delightful!

Yesterday, I thought I would order a pizza because I had good experiences on Friday and good things come in threes, right?

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Wrong! Woodstocks delivered this pizza in a timely fashion and they use quality cheese. That ends my list of positives. The crust was burnt on the edge and soggy on the bottom. The sauce tasted like spaghetti sauce and the seasonings didn’t belong on a Hawaiian pizza or any pizza for that matter. This pizza was not great cold on day two. At least American Dream had that going for them. A good pizza is hard to find in Corvallis!