The Mister and I have been trying to plan a big adventure vacation for a long while now. We were flirting with barging in France (who wouldn’t?) but I got put off by how much of our vacation savings would just go toward airfare. The other thing I’ve had on my mind for years is kayaking in the San Juan Islands. So we took a couple lessens here in Portland from the Portland Kayak Company, one out on the Willamette River just toodling around and learning how to paddle and one in a pool learning to get ourselves back in our boats should we flip them over. Handy trick, no?
We booked a guided weekend tour with Outdoor Odysseys on San Juan Island and had a great time. Our guide, Kaitlin, was totally wonderful and the other couple on our trip happened to be Portlanders and also winemakers! We loved chatting with them about outdoor adventures and the making of beer, wine & cheese. We paddled out from San Juan State Park and across the channel to Stuart Island which was our base camp where we slept in tents and paddled during the day. Total, we paddled over 30 miles on the 3-day trip and it was tiring but amazing. We saw harbor seals, porpoises, stellar sea lions, jellyfish and lots of kelp. The coastline of the islands is gorgeous and the weather was great.
Our kayaks at the ready in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island
So… kayaking, blah, blah, blah. This is a cheese blog! To make a short story long, it’s a good thing we did all that kayaking because we were then more than happy (and hungry) to partake in the local cheese scene!
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I was at Foster & Dobbs three times this week. I may have a problem. Last night they were having a meeting of the occasional DIY Cheesemakers group with a demonstration by Claudia from Urban Cheesecraft. She has started her own line of cheesemaking kits with products all sourced on the west coast. The whole kickoff for the FUCheese cheesemaking adventure was the Ricki Carroll mozzarella kit that Nicole got for Christmas two years ago. Ricki Carroll has great products but her supplies are in New England so you have to order and wait. It’s great to have a local option and Claudia’s kits are super adorable!
Claudia did a mozzarella demonstration for us and she was absolutely charming and very clear. She has a great, relaxed attitude about cheesemaking — you can’t mess it up! While cheesemaking is a science it is very often an inexact science so it helps to have a cheerful can-do attitude for when things go a bit sideways. I picked up some great tips from her and look forward to sharing them when Nicole and I do our own mozzarella demo for some friends next month — eek!
Claudia is planning to be at the Wedge Festival (be there!) with her kits and may also do a ricotta demonstration on the main stage. Kits are such a great way to jump in to cheesemaking, I highly recommend picking one up. You can find out on her website which stores in Oregon are selling them or order from her etsy shop. They would make such great gifts!
Also, if you want to get notified when Foster & Dobbs do their next DIY cheesemakers meeting or to hear about any of their other many events, sign up for their mailing list!
I just had to post a couple pics from our hop harvest today. I’m so proud of my husband — these hops are his babies that he started last spring. We had a small yield last year but this year’s crop is pretty damn good! We have Willamette, Cascade & Magnum hops. Cascade were the highest yield but overall we got over a pound of hop cones. You know how I feel about cheese and beer together so I’m just tickled to make some homebrew from our very own hoppy hops! I wonder what cheese I can pair with this?
I think a cheese festival is second only to a puppy festival in terms of how awesome it would be to have one. Sadly, there is no puppy festival this year. Only a cheese festival! Hooray!
Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 3, 2009. The Wedge Cheese Festival will be held at the Green Dragon Pub on SE 9th and Belmont. The whole street will be closed and cheesemakers from around the Northwest — Oregon, Washington, Idaho & California — will be there. This is a great chance to sample and buy cheeses that are the best in the region and some that are impossible to get anywhere else!
More info can be found at the official Wedge PDX site. I cannot wait!
Our cheese plate, click to see which cheeses are which.
I’ve been waxing poetic about Foster & Dobbs to everyone I know lately as I really think they have a great thing going. This little cheese shop in Northeast Portland has an excellent case of cheese as well as everything you need to go with it. I got together with the FUCheese ladies last week to celebrate National Goat Cheese Month with a plate from Foster & Dobbs. You can buy cheese to go or sit down and eat it there. They helped us choose an array of goat cheeses plus some charcuterie and a side of almonds, olives and figs. We shared a bottle of chilled pinot gris and took the whole thing out to enjoy on their patio. Fantastic!
They also have a ton of amazing jams, chocolates, caramels, etc., and their menu also includes some amazing sandwiches (goat cheese and chocolate panini? yes, i will!). If you are in the area and haven’t checked them out now is a great time — their summer hours keep them open till 8 pm through September 30, the perfect way to unwind the day. Oh, I want to go there right now!
Foster & Dobbs
2518 NE 15th Avenue
Portland, OR 97212