Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Of Breads and Beaches

Just back from our first visit to Oregon! We went the long way via the Olympic Peninsula where we got wooshed and splashed by lumbering logging trucks.
We hiked in drizzly rainforests where we were joltingly reminded that  civilisation was but a rusty pun away...
...and gaped in awe at the ruggedness of the shores where forest and ocean meet.

True to form we also went bakeryspotting and right off the ferry in Port Townsend, Washington, made a beeline for Pane d'Amore where we were kindly received by co-owner Linda Yakush, She proudly showed us their signature bread, Nash's miche, made with wheat grown in nearby Sequim by Nash's Organic Produce.

There is something elven and Tolkienesque to a land dominated by rain and wind and even though I love sunshine as much as the next person and I have Italian, Provençal and Pays d'Oc's genes, I am still a Northern girl at heart (after all, I grew up in Paris where the sky has perfected both pearly mists and drizzle). So I loved the clouds over Astoria harbor...
We drove on.  Despite our best efforts,  the lovely bread aromas we had enjoyed at Pane d'Amore's bakery evaded us until we reached Portland a few days later. The only other artisan bakery we spotted was Waves of Grain Bakery in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We hit it early on a Sunday morning. The sun hung bright in a cloudless sky and it was packed. We had marionberrry spelt muffins which were bursting with berries, yet still fragrant with the flavor of spelt (the grain comes from family-owned fields in Eastern Oregon). They were just sweet enough with the barest  hint of cinnamon. Truly excellent... Definitely an address to keep in mind.
Driving further south, we hugged the coast some more, meeting many affable strangers along the way, either at viewpoints (of which there are many along the Oregon shore as the state once had a visionary governor, Oswald West, who claimed it as public land). One of our most memorable encounters was with a fifty-something motocyclist who was riding with a huge goggled and helmeted teddy bear holding on for dear life behind him. With no prodding on our part, he volunteered the information that the bear and he had already logged 100,000 miles of traveling time together and that their relationship was the only one that ever worked for him. He was quite matter-of-fact about it too. No hint of melancholy or nostalgia in his voice... I suspect the bear is a terrific conversation starter (and much less work than a pet).
Hiking on the edge of precipitous cliffs, we saw bald eagles soar above shimmering waves and densely forested hills.

We saw seagulls sunning themselves in daisy-studded meadows.

We saw cars driving on beaches...
...and a coastline that stretched to the horizon.
I missed the ocean once we headed inland but truly enjoyed discovering Portland and its bread scene. There might have been artisan bakeries along the way but we didn't find them. If you know of any in or around Portland or along the coast, I'd be grateful if you could let me know as we will surely be going back. Pearl Bakery is already on the list. We skipped it because we ran out of time.
Meanwhile here are the few we manage to spot - in the order we visited them - as well as crumb pictures of the breads we bought. Please note that these breads were chosen to complement each other: I knew we were going to bring them back home and freeze them and I didn't want to load up with just one kind. Their only common denominator is that they were all levain-based and baked in Portland. But the truth is that it was very difficult to choose as there were many more I would have liked to taste.
Since several of them are still in the freezer, I am not going to hazard any comparison or review. I was happy to see however that all the artisan bakers whose bakeries we visited were baking their loaves to a rich golden brown, standing their ground against the current fad for bread "moins cuit" (with a lighter crust).

Grand Central Baking Company Bakery on NW York Street
(Grand Central has several other locations in Portland as well as in Seattle)

Same dough as previous baguette but with toasted walnuts added

St-Honoré Bakery

Cranberry Walnut

I would be remiss if I didn't mention another food scene we greatly enjoyed in Portland, i.e. the foodtrucks. That alone would be worth a return trip but then we would need so many days to sample them all that unless we move to Portland, I don't see how we'll ever manage it. So I'll just feature the two we ate at on our last day (after visiting the bakeries).
We were at the SE Division Street nosh spot. I picked the Blue City Biscuits truck and happily lunched on a plate of tasty organic with a fried egg and plenty of excellent smoky collard greens while the Man (who seems to think real men don't ever eat grits) hit the nearby Pie Spot. He went for the chicken pot pie. It made him happy as well.

On the way back north to Seattle, we glimpsed successively Mt Hood, Mt St-Helens and Mt Rainier, sparkling white against the blue sky. No pictures as we were on the interstate and we barely spotted the mountains before they disappeared behind an eighteen-wheeler or a wooded hill but my heart certainly beat faster each time...


  1. Great trip!! Lovely photos and wonderful report on the bakeries...

    1. Thank you, Miriam! I am glad you came along for the trip!

  2. Lovely photos throughout your trip! They make me want to go!

    1. Bonjour, Mamatkamal, and thanks for stopping by! I wish you would come and see for yourself. The Northwest is just gorgeous!

  3. Hi MC, i thought i am the only crazy one making photos from bakeries and breads. I really like your way of combining photography and bread enthusiasm. Last week i ordered a very expensive camera, as i was still making only black and white photos and i really need to get the point to also combine these two things. And also thank you for your post about the granola bars - i really had problems in how to use the sourdough starter which is leftover - i dont throw it away, as i am using exclusively organic flour. Thanks also to Susan where you have taken the initial recipe. And: they taste great. I just reduced the amount of honey and butter - great ! thanks!

    1. Hi Bernd!
      What camera did you get? I am curious... Looking forward to the pictures!!! And no, you are far from being the only crazy one! :-) Which is wonderful... As we say in French, "plus on est de fous, plus on rit!"

    2. I am now using the Canon EOS 5D Mark ii - beside the bread baking i have no to compete with all the buttons :-) and no excuses anymore... i did the first pictures at the mill festival last weekend (the mill where i buy my organic grains and flour)

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  4. Hi MC,
    Your photos have beautifully captured the wildlife and scenery of that gorgeous Oregon coastline!
    Thanks for this post highlighting all of the great bakeries you visited :^)
    All of the breads look so, so good, the crumb on the walnut bread is spectacular, and isn't Nash's miche a special one, made with wheat grown by the farmer himself!
    :^) breadsong

    1. Thank you, breadsong! I loved Oregon and its landscapes and spotting all these bakeries in Portland was a wonderfully fragrant and tasty finale to our trip...

  5. Farine, this post of yours goes to the Hall of Fame, hands down!

    I am in awe of all the photos and your description of the adventures... but the photo of the marionberry spelt muffin is simply too much! I think you need to frame that one, seriously!

    awesome post!

    1. Sally, thank you! You crack me up each and every time! It would indeed be so much fun to live in a house with pictures of bread everywhere... But I think our salivary glands would be in permanent overdrive!

  6. I'm overjoyed that you had such a successful trip, MC - and, although not all may agree, I think it's good that you experienced the dual personalities of our state: the warm sun, and the moody rainy side as well - they both have their charms, and you now have memories of each.

    Welcome home (and enjoy all that stored bread!).



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