I followed the Quilt Barn Trail in Tualatin Valley, Oregon, and discovered great places to eat global, drink local, play with Mother Nature and love my stay in a fun and quirky lodge. You do not have to be a quilter to experience and enjoy this destination that is barely 30 minutes west of Portland, OR.
Where is Tualatin Valley you may ask?
If you are familiar with the Willamette Valley in Oregon, then you know where Tualatin Valley is – it’s the northern portion of the Willamette Valley, just to the west of Portland, Oregon. You can easily and conveniently get from downtown Portland and the Portland International Airport to Beaverton and Hillsboro, two of the towns in the Tualatin Valley, using the MAX light rail system.
The valley is primarily rural and agricultural, with orchards, vineyards and tree farms painting the landscape. It was the fertile soil and moderate climate in this region that brought the settlers on the Oregon Trail. But some big global names now also call this valley home: Intel, Columbia, Nike and Tetronics all have their corporate headquarters here as well.
And what is a Quilt Barn Trail?
A Quilt Barn or (Barn Quilt) is a quilt block painted on a large piece of wood and attached to the side of a barn for decoration. The practice started in Ohio in the early 2000’s, and has spread throughout most of the 50 states, and into Canada.
In the Tualatin Valley, the driving force behind the Quilt Barn Trail are Julie Mason and Jane Fouste. Julie discovered the quilt barn trails on visits to the Midwest and thought it would be a good idea to set one up in Tualatin Valley to promote area tourism and showcase the valley’s heritage. With support from the Westside Quilters Guild, grants and sponsorships, Julie, Jane and their team of volunteers have put up 50 blocks since the project’s inception in 2012. The goal is 60 (or so) blocks and they are almost there.
The Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn trail coincides with the winery and cycling trails in the valley, so if you are following one of those trails, you will undoubtedly come across many of these beautiful quilt blocks. Or, you can follow the Quilt Barn trail and stop at the various wineries and sights along the way. Either way, you’ll discover great sights and a wonderful, quintessential American art form.
(A more detailed story about the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn trail will be coming soon).
Love your stay
McMenamins Grand Lodge
3505 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove
I am always on the lookout for fun, interesting, and yes, quirky places to stay, and the McMenamins Grand Lodge definitely fit that bill. Located in Forest Grove, the lodge was centrally located for exploring the Tualatin Valley. The Grand Lodge is one of the many saved and restored McMenamins properties in the Pacific Northwest by brothers Mike and Brian. They take old historic buildings and renovate them, putting their own personal spin on the resulting hotel or theater or restaurant or bar or combination of all of the above.
Originally the Grand Lodge had been a Masonic retirement home for 77 years. Today, the facility is a hotel with two restaurants, a number of bars, including one called, appropriately, The Doctor’s Office, a movie theater, a spa, a pool, and event spaces. What makes this a really interesting place to stay is all the artwork. Practically every surface is covered in murals, funky art, mosaics, quotes, or with old photographs of the area.
My room was on the recently renovated third floor. Here, each room has its own en suite bathroom (that is not necessarily the case for rooms on the other floors). Each room is named after the title of a book-some I recognized, while others were more obscure – I had the “Electric Eden” room (look it up). The hallway had artwork from various books along with framed descriptions of each book and author.
My room certainly was a cozy and comfortable Eden at the end of each day.
And the Doctor’s Office provided a welcome nightcap.
The McMemamins Grand Lodge is a destination by itself, and if you decide to stay there, allow some time to explore it and t0 experience its amenities and activities.
I was surprised to find such a diverse, international selection of eateries in the area. The towns may be small, but the local foodie taste buds are clearly discriminating and well developed. Beaverton for example is known as little Korea and has 15 different Korean restaurants, drawing customers from nearby Portland. Hillsboro is good for authentic Indian food. And the choices in nearby Forest Grove include Peruvian, Hawaiian, Asian Fusion, Mediterranean and Thai among others.
In my three days in the Tualatin Valley, I had a chance to taste a variety of global flavors, but I think I barely touched the surface on what the area has to offer.
1928 Cedar Street, Forest Grove
Since this is the Pacific Northwest, good coffee is a cultural experience. Pick up your morning coffee or your mid afternoon pick-me-up at Tevet Coffee, a cozy little coffee house that uses house roasted beans to make their handcrafted espresso drinks. There is also a nice selection of muffins, bagels and croissants to go with your morning cup of Joe.
2007 21st Ave., Forest Grove
This eclectic and colorful Maggie’s Buns cafe is a popular spot with the residents of Forest Grove and with the students and faculty of Pacific University which is less than a block away. It serves a variety of breakfast items with names like “Spanish Inquisition” and “Boring Bene”, and lunch items like “Bacon Mac and Cheese” or “Mango Chicken with Coconut Rice”. But if it’s your first time, you have to try one of Maggie’s Buns – cinnamon that is. Maggie Pike, the owner, developed the secret cinnamon roll recipe in the 8th grade, and she has been baking ever since. These buns are the size of a desert plate, so you may want to share with a friend – or not, once you’ve had a taste. There is a selection of other sweets as well, so you may have to come more than once, or just get a couple of treats to-go for later.
8800 SW Oleson Rd., Portland
Until I get a chance to visit the Nordic countries, lunch at Broder Söder was the closest I have come to having authentic Nordic food. The restaurant is located in the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation’s Nordia House in southwest Portland, a modern, eco friendly Scandinavian inspired building that seems to effortlessly blend into the green surroundings. Along with the restaurant, there is also an exhibition space and a large meeting space. The day I was there, they were showcasing the works of Northwest artists Leroy Setziol and Monica Setziol-Phillips. This father-daughter team collaborated on the striking yellow cedar doors that have become the focal point of the Nordia House. The exhibit featured works by both artists with many of the pieces coming from private collections throughout Oregon. I especially liked the pieces by Monica. She originally started out as a weaver, and her art incorporates both wood carving and colorful weavings.
Why Nordic food in Oregon? As many as 10% of Oregon’s population has Nordic roots. My small taste of the food from this region made me wish I was visiting the Nordic countries soon. I tried Smorrebrod or Danish open faced sandwiches, Pytt I Panna, a Swedish hash, and Aebleskiver or potato pancakes served with lemon curd and lingonberry jam. Definitely a huge step above IKEA’s Swedish meatballs.
South Store Cafe
24485 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Hillsboro
Take a lunch break from wine tasting on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route at this South Store Cafe located in a 100 year old clapboard house. Enjoy soups, freshly made sandwiches, and my favorite, homemade pastries (the passionfruit danish was excellent).
After lunch, take a quick wander across the street to the Smith Berry Barn farm stand. If you still have room, try a milkshake made with fresh berries from the farm.
4600 SW Watson Ave., Beaverton
One of the 15 Korean restaurants in Beaverton, Nak Won is a great option for either lunch or dinner. My area host and I were there for lunch and ordered two entrees (Kimchi Fried Rice with Chickern and Bim Bim Bop with Beef) and a scallion pancake. The table was groaning under the weight of all the food that was brought out along with the entrees-there was hardly room on the table for all of it. Little taster bowls of jelly, seaweed, kimchi, radishes, steamed egg, bean sprouts, and potato salad came with the main courses. It was all very, very good, especially the scallion pancake which was the best I have ever had.
BG Food Cart Pod
4259 SW Rose Biggi Ave., Beaverton
Did you know that a group of food trucks is called a pod? I learned that when I was introduced to the BG Food Cart Pod in downtown Beaverton. With over 30 food carts, the challenge is deciding on what to eat. You can taste your way around the world, trying flavors from Argentina, Germany, Hawaii, Thailand, Japan, China, Mexico, Italy and good old American burgers, chicken wings and cheese steaks. If you are thirsty, there is also a speakeasy bar with indoor/outdoor seating and a rotating tap of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I decided on an ice cream cookie sandwich from Ruby Jewel – the honey lavender ice cream and lemon cookie sandwich was divine.
2014 Main Street, Forest Grove
In the heart of Forest Grove, Bites serves up a unique Asian Fusion menu showcasing the freshest local ingredients. I was there for dinner, and ordered three of their small plates so that I could taste a variety of items from their menu, and they were all fantastic. Sweet potato kimchi fries with cheese, parsley and a tangy aioli. Seared ahi tuna with ginger, onion and house tataki sauce. And my favorite, avocado tempura that was a delicious combination of warm, crunchy, creamy and tangy all in one bite. I washed this all down with their drink of the day, a Cucumber Refresher which was a perfect balance for the rich and slightly spicy food. This was truly one of the best meals I have ever had.
1910 Main St., Forest Grove
I have not had Hawaiian food since I visited Hawaii over ten years ago. The goal of Kama‘Aina is to provide an authentic Hawaiian comfort food experience, and that it did with both the food and the ambiance. I had a bowl of the Cali Ahi Poke which had cucumber and avocado mixed with ahi tuna, finished with a garlic wasabi aioli and topped with won tun strips, all served over rice. It was delicious and made me think that I really need to get back to Hawaii again soon.
Cruise In Country Diner
9785 SW River Rd., Hillsboro
You may be a thousand miles form Rt 66, but you can experience the ambiance of a classic road side burger joint at Cruise In Country Diner with its car memorabilia decor from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The menu may look like a typical greasy spoon, but in keeping with Northwest sensibilities, all ingredients are organic and sustainably sourced from the local area. The beef comes from grass fed cows. The potatoes for the fries are organically grown and the oil comes from brown rice. This is diner food at its healthiest.
Oregon’s Wilamette Valley is known for producing an abundance of award winning wine. The Tualatin Valley alone has over 35 wineries. The area also has craft breweries, distilleries, cideries and the first American owned and operated craft sake brewery. Unfortunately, I only had time to taste a small sampling of all the liquid offerings.
Ridgewalker Brewing Company
1921 21st Ave., Forest Grove
I enjoyed a beer and lunch at Ridgewalker Brewing Co. If you like to try a variety of beers on tap, this is the place to go – they have 34. Besides their own brews, they also have an interesting selection of west coast micro brew offerings from other parts of Oregon, as well as Washington and California. The food menu also went above and beyond typical pub grub with options like “Braised Short Rib Nachos” or “Seasonal Orchard Salad”. I couldn’t resist the “Barbacoa Grilled Cheese” which was braised beef with Tillamook white & mild cheddar on white bread, along with a side of fried brussel sprouts. Yum.
820 W. Elm St., Forest Grove
I didn’t think I liked sake until I visited Japan, and had real, well made sake. I learned that good sake is like fine wine, a continuum of subtle tastes for every palette from dry to sweet. If you can’t get to Japan, then a tour and tasting at SakeOne is the closest experience in the USA. They are the first American owned sake brewery in the world.
Even though I have been to Japan a number of times and have tasted a variety of Japanese sake, I really did not know how it was made. So, I really appreciated the tour of the production process at SakeOne. (Complimentary tours are offered by appointment on Mon-Thurs and at 1,2,and 3 PM on Fri. to Sun.)
I learned that fermenting rice to make sake is a closer relative to beer brewing, rather than wine making because the starches in the rice have to first be converted to sugars which then produce the alcohol.
A special type of rice is first polished to remove the surface layers and expose the starchy core. It is then washed, steamed and sprayed with a microorganism to start the initial fermentation. After a couple of days, yeast is added, and the mass fermented for another 30 days. The sake is then filtered and aged about 4-8 months to develop the fruity flavors. The final alcohol content is closer to 20%, about twice the concentration of beer.
Besides the sake made on site, the tasting room also carries a nice selection of sake from Japan.
And yes, I took a bottle of the Momokawa Diamond sake home to my husband so he could try some also.
Montinore Estate Winery
3663 SW Dilley Road, Forest Grove
For a brief moment as I was driving up to the entrance gate of Montinore Estate winery, I thought I had been transported to Italy or France. With its grand gates and the winding drive passing rolling hills planted with row upon row of vines, I was quite impressed as I started my wine tasting visit. The setting for the tasting room was equally impressive, both inside and out. These first impressions set very high expectations for the quality of the wine – and I was not disappointed.
240 of the estates 400 acres are under vine, growing most of the grapes for their vintages. The winery, which was established in 1982, proudly told me that they have been practicing biodynamic farming since 2003. They are the largest producer of certified estate wines made from biodynamic grapes in the country. I learned that biodynamic farming is a higher step above organic farming and produces wine with a resulting flavor that has more of the characteristics of the location where the grapes are grown.
The winery grows the classic Pinot Noir for which the Willamette Valley is known, but they also grow Teroldego and Lagrein varieties as a nod to the family’s Italian roots. As I toured the wine making process, I was surprised to find that they also make wine the really old fashioned way by fermenting their Muscat grapes in clay amphora. I enjoyed all the Montinore wines I tasted, but I especially liked the depth of flavors of their Ruby Port and went home with a bottle. Their port is fortified with brandy made from their estate grown Pino Noir grapes, so it truly is a complete taste of their land.
Oak Knoll Winery
29700 SW Burkhalter Road, Hillsboro
Founded in 1970, Oak Knoll winery is one of Oregon’s five pioneering wineries. They founded the first winery in Washington County with an experimental batch of grape and fruit wine. Clearly the experiment succeeded. They made their firs Pino Noir in 1973, and the rest is wine history. Oak Knoll also has the distinction of being the featured wine for the annual Portland Rose Festival for which they create a special vintage and label. I took home a bottle of the 2018 Rose Festival wine, a rosé of Pinot Noir which was very refreshing on a recent hot summer evening.
Plum Hill Vineyards
6505 SW Old Hwy. 47, Gaston
Plum Hill Vineyards is a loving retirement project for RJ and Juanita Lint. No taking it easy in retirement for these two boomers. Since 2007, they have taken an old abandoned dairy farm and turned it into a successful winery and tasting room. Though this is a small, family run operation, they are not afraid to be experimental. They are the only commercial farm in the region growing Schönburger grapes, a cross between Pino Noir and Muscat.
The tasting room is a cozy experience, and also offers wine inspired gifts. My wine tastings were paired with dried fruits and cheeses, a great way to get a sense of how the wine will taste with a meal. I was especially intrigued by their White Lace desert wine, which JR called a white port, and took home a bottle of that as well. Plum Hill is also a Harvest Host – a program which provides overnight stops to RVs at farms, wineries and attractions throughout the US and Canada.
You’ll also find Plum Hill as one of the blocks on the Quilt Barn Trail, showing a colorful double wedding ring block. Juanita is also a quilter, so besides talking wine, we also shared quilting stories.
Raptor Ridge Winery
18700 SW Hillsboro Hwy., Newberg
Raptor Ridge winery has a beautiful raptor’s eye view of their grape vines, four mountain tops, and the valley below, and the tasting room takes full advantage of these fantastic views. The tasting room focal point is a beautiful Navajo blackbird tapestry from the 1920’s, which I couldn’t help but admire. The winery specializes in a variety of Pino Noir wines as well as more unusual vintages for the area such as Grüner Veltliner. The Grüner Veltliner had a lovely crispness which will be very refreshing in the summer. Raptor Ridge keeps some of the Grüner Veltliner on tap and can fill up growlers for their customers., which I thought was a great idea. I especially liked the depth of flavor of their Tempranillo-not surprising as it is barrel aged for two years. (I took home a bottle so my husband could enjoy it also).
Play the Natural Way
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
2600 SW Hillsboro Highway, Hillsboro
After tasting so much good food and drink, I was ready for some outdoor activity. The Tualatin Valley has a number of parks and preserves and I headed to Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve for a walk along a portion of their 4 miles of trails for some wildlife watching. Jackson Bottom Wetlands is a 635 acre preserve that is home to many indigenous and migratory birds, including bald eagles, egrets and red tailed hawks. It was near sunset and the educational center was already closed, but the trails were open, and I enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few hours as I explored the preserve. One of the things I liked the most was a large blind along one of the trails that had large hole cutouts in it. I could stand there and look out across the wetlands without being seen. I stood there for quite a while, watching as a drake persistently courted a female duck. It was spring after all when all thoughts turn to romance, even for ducks.
On another section of trail, a large number of nesting boxes had been installed. In many of them, tree swallows had set up housekeeping. Again, I stood there, watching as they flew off to swoop up insects and then come back to the nest. It was clear that in some of the birdhouses, the mom was sitting on a nest of eggs.
I really enjoyed the variety of experiences I discovered on the Tualatin Valley’s Quilt Barn Trail. The area is such a lively mix of rural and sophisticated small town vibe. I had a lot of fun finding the various barns with their quilt blocks. I loved my hotel stay at the quirky McMenamins Grand Lodge. I was jealous of the great global cuisine and wished I had as many choices near my house back home. And with each wine tasting and the sake tasting, I couldn’t help thinking how much my husband would have liked this also since he is the wine maker in the family (I did bring him home a bottle from each winery and a bottle of sake).
If you are planning a trip to the Portland, Oregon area, then spending a few days in the Tualatin Valley should definitely be part of your itinerary. Follow the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn trail like I did and you’ll discover all sorts of great experiences.
I want to thank the Washington County Visitor’s Association for setting me up with such a perfect itinerary for my three day visit.
Please note that my visit to the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn Trail was sponsored by the Washington County Visitor’s Association. All content and opinions are my own.
Do you have thoughts or comments about this post? I would love to hear from you on my facebook page.
Thanks for visiting.