Tag Archives: Worth a Stop

Hello: Los Angeles, CA

24 May

I recently joined E. Dohrmann on a business trip down to Los Angeles. I used to live there but man-oh-man, how things have changed over the last eight years. One of our bestest friends in the entire world recently escaped the Portland rain and moved to Downtown LA. Being in his presence over the week made this large city feel very small and quite familiar. We spent a lot of time up on the roof of his building taking in the sights and marveling at the glorious weather.

We booked at The Standard in Downtown LA. We loved our spacious room and the vibrant hotel scene. (Emphasis on the word scene). While E. tended to business during the day I sipped on rooftop poolside cocktails. The location proved perfect for nighttime bar hopping, catching up with friends, and discovering this blossoming area. Continue reading

Compliments to the Chef: Pinot, Pleasure and Pastor

27 Jan

Recently Evan and I found ourselves in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, famous for its stock of fertile vineyards and authentic Mexican food. Another thing this area is gaining a reputation for is the existence of one of Oregon’s premier hotels, The Allison Inn and Spa, located a few blocks off the main drag in Newberg. While I admit the setting initially threw me off, it quickly grew on me. This may not be the rustic B&B overlooking the valley’s sloping hills you might have pictured in your head when dreaming about wine country, but the hotel itself is undoubtedly an oasis. Nestled on 35 lush acres, The Allison grounds beckon guests to take advantage of the well-groomed gardens and winding pathways leading to their own vineyards, seating and picnic areas. Guests who cannot leave home without their furry companion (—ahem, cough cough—) will find they’re well taken care of here. We appreciate the front row parking reserved for eco-friendly vehicles, the posh indoor hot tub, pool and fitness studio, and what has to be one of the nicest spas I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Rooms are elegantly designed and spacious, and make a point of embracing the rich color palette of the countryside’s vineyards and nearby farmlands— lichen, bark, berry, pear, beet and squash are the inviting neutral tones you can expect to find here. All accommodations come with luxurious bedding, gas fireplaces, a terrace or balcony, window seats with  comfortable throws, and spa-like bathrooms with double vanities, deep soaking tubs with accompanying soaking salts, and sliding wood panels overlooking the bedroom area and outside windows. One gets the feeling that a lot of thought and love went into the construction and design of this place. For example, when a guest complained online about the absence of a coffee maker in the room they received this response from the hotel’s online concierge,

“We do not have coffee pots in the rooms because they are not always the cleanest items, and in most hotels the coffee made for those units isn’t very good – even when it’s clean enough to be safe to use. Instead of the unsanitary proposition of having them in room, we decided to go the greener route as part of our hotel’s philosophy, and offer fresh, local roasted coffee in our lobby. Of course, we are happy to bring a couple cups up to your room if you prefer. Just call us at the desk, and we will be at your door with the immediacy one expects when one wants their morning java.”

I like this composed response. I like it a lot. I appreciate the fact that the absence of a coffee maker was not actually a misstep, but an intentional and thoughtful direction played out by the hospitality team. I also like the fact that if you’re in to a more traditional stay, the staff is more than willing to accommodate you. In fact, they take pride in doing so.

It’s easy to vegetate here. The self-pampering you feel when staying at a place like this is almost enough to induce guilt. Please don’t let me fool you into thinking that everything here is perfect; we’ve had hits and misses at the hotel’s on-site restaurant JORY, but the rest of hotel and its staff pretty well manages to make up for it. Besides, with the existence of such fine restaurants in the area like Tina’s in Dundee and The Painted Lady in Newberg, you’re bound to find something that pleases your palate. Alternatively, you can hit up one of the locals’ favorite taco trucks, but more on that later. What I do love about the hotel’s restaurant and bar is the prompt room service (you know I’m a stickler for this kind of thing), and the ability to taste, in 2 oz. pours, several acclaimed wines from the area (A perfect compromise if you in fact cannot force yourself to leave the comforts of the hotel. Believe me, it happens).

During our most recent (sloth-like) stay at The Allison, we did manage to make it out of our room and into wine country. Understandably, Mondays during the dead of winter in Oregon are not the ideal time to visit this area, as many tasting rooms are closed. That said, we were greeted warmly at Adelsheim, Lemelson and Archery Summit. Standouts from our tastings include: Adelsheim’s 2008 Stoller Vineyard Chardonnay, Lemelson’s 2008 Stermer Vineyard Pinot Noir, and Archery Summit’s 2007 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir. Six years ago, before we were married, Evan and I paid a visit to Archery Summit where we were fortunate enough to grab a bottle of the 2003 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir. Back then, we were more in the habit of immediately opening bottles rather than saving them. However, Evan made the recommendation to save this particular bottle so that we could open it in five years, on our ten-year (dating) anniversary. Little did we know at the time of purchase that this wine would eventually receive plenty of acclaim from the press, including: 95 points from Wine Spectator and eventually a spot on the magazine’s “Top 100 Wines of 2006″ list. This past summer, in celebration of the marked occasion we opened the bottle we had been saving all this time. Archery Summit’s pinots are meant to last, so this trip we decided to take our chances and pick up another bottle from Arcus Estate to save for five more years, hoping for a repeat performance. I gotta say, I’m a big fan of this tradition. I love the idea of our relationship maturing along with a good bottle of wine.

We were hungry after our tastings and had no problem deciding where we should head to fill up. Evan first heard about Pastorcillos, the taco truck parked in downtown Newberg, from several fans here in Portland. When the guy assisting us at Adelsheim also sang its praises we knew we had to go. After eating here I can confirm that we are joining the flock and following this “shepherd.”* This is what Mexican food is supposed to taste like.  The pastor tacos are some of the best I’ve had, and that’s after living in Los Angeles and faithfully pledging my love to a man named Leo. Looks like wine tasting just got a whole lot better.

*pastor in Spanish translates to shepherd

Adelsheim Vineyard
16800 NE Calkins Ln
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-3652
The Allison Inn and Spa
2525 Allison Lane
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 554-2525
Archery Summit
Archery Summit, 18599 N.E. Archery Summit Rd.
Dayton ,OR 97114
(503) 864-4300
Lemelson Vineyards
12020 NE Stag Hollow Rd.
Carlton, OR 97111
Corner of Main and First
Newberg, OR 97132

Worth a Stop: Lago de Atitlán

16 Nov

You can’t help but notice the three volcanoes flanking Lago de Atitlán. As the bus creeps its way down the cliffs into the town of Panajachel, you are offered a breathtaking, panoramic opportunity to consider this majestic lake and its volcanic origins. Located in the southwestern Guatemalan Highlands, Lago de Atitlán,or Lake Atitlan, takes some time (and effort) to get to. I promise you, this view will make it all worth it.

The lake was formed approximately 85,000 years ago in a tremendous volcanic eruption that resulted in the formation of a caldera. The volcanic activity persisted, and over time, three volcanoes, Volcán AtitlánVolcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán built up on the southern rim of the caldera. While Panajachel represents the economic and tourist center of the Lake Atitlan area, it is merely the tip of the iceberg. The enormous caldera is ringed by small villages, each with their own distinct personalities. You can reach these villages by lanchas, or small boats, which act like buses transporting visitors and residents alike.

Each of the towns and villages around the lake offer a wide range of hotels and restaurants, at a variety of price points from luxury to budget. Looking for a taste of unforgettable coffee and indigenous Mayan culture? Head to Santiago. Hungry for a heady burrito? Look no further than San Pedro. You can find top-notch massage in San Marcos, collectible pottery in San Antonio and tranquil anonymity in Santa Cruz. Whether you’re hiking, kayaking, bird-watching, or simply sunbathing lakeside, Lake Atitlán will not disappoint those looking for an unforgettable vacation. Or, if you’re like me, you will aspire to live here one day, if only because it’s the kind of place that can make even mosquito nets sexy.

Take Hotel Aaculaax for example. The hotel is ideally located on a hillside on the shores of San Marcos de La Laguna, a small serene town boasting 15 hotels, 14 restaurants, 2 Internet cafés, laundry service, a natural clinic, a holistic center, the Pyramids meditation center and numerous stores that sell fresh, local produce. In a town geared towards the spiritually minded, Aaculaax is a great home base to explore all that San Marcos has to offer. Aaculaax is a small (6 rooms and suites) boutique hotel that takes “ecologically minded” to the next level. Walls are built with clay, chicken wire and plastic bottles, using only local materials, and the stained glasswork scattered throughout the property was created from recycled glass, made in the eco-construction workshops the hotel hosts during the low season for locals and visitors. The property boasts an impressive array of original artwork spread amongst the vibrant flora and fauna, and each habitation provides incredible views of the lake and volcanoes. Every room is individually designed, with compost toilets and one-of-a-kind art works and locally made furniture. The hotel has small beach that’s great for swimming and also happens serve one of the best breakfasts in town. Trust me, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to get lost in.

Photo by E. Dohrmann

Worth a Stop: Ecola State Park

9 Sep

Ecola State Park

Located off Highway 101, approximately eighty miles west of Portland, lies one of Oregon’s greatest treasures. Steeped in rich history, Ecola State Park’s first claim to fame came by way of a beached whale back in 1806. Capt. William Clark and twelve members of the Corps of Discovery faced steep cliffs, rocky headlands, shrubs and trees fighting their way to reach the whale in what is now Ecola State Park.

Goonies Rock

Today, the park’s whale watching opportunities, reliable waves, and cult Hollywood connection that pulls in the crowds. Part of the cult classic “Goonies” was filmed on Indian Beach, located at the northern end of the park. The offshore rock structure with the oval hole in it, used at the end of the film, is now referred to as “Goonies Rock.” Even with all this draw, Ecola retains an incredibly mellow vibe, providing the perfect escape from the often-overcrowded community of Cannon Beach. It is as if this park has remained off the radar, its existence kept secret, tucked away amongst the Sitka spruces.

We come here to hike. It appears that no matter which trail you take, you’re guaranteed breathtaking views. We also make sure to pack a baguette, some cheese, and a little salad and fruit to enjoy down on Indian Beach once we’ve finished. It’s a great place to watch the surfers, and we’ve even witnessed a few weddings over the years.

Ecola State Park provides pit toilet restrooms, and there are several picnic areas located around the park with barbecues. Dogs (leashes required) are permitted but no horses. There is a year-round day use fee of $5.00 per vehicle due upon entry. Whether you’re a surfer coming for the waves, a day-tripper exploring the trails and wildlife, or an adventurer seeking a place to rest your head for the night (check out the park’s primitive cabins on Tillamook Head), Ecola State Park definitely won’t disappoint.

Worth a Stop: Calo d’es Moro (Sunset Strip)

22 Aug

Calo d’es Moro is a small beach located in the town of San Antonio on the Spanish island of Ibiza. San Antonio is famous for its sunsets, and there is no better place to take in the view than the Sunset Strip. In 2007 the government invested millions of Euros into building a brand new paseo (boardwalk) that connects the entire strip, making it easier and more comfortable to appreciate the natural beauty. Along this paseo is where you’ll find numerous trendy beach bars, all vying for your business with seductive cocktails, resident DJs, and breathtaking views. Every night hundreds of tourists and locals alike flock to this area to get a taste of the electrifying atmosphere.

On your way to the beach make a point to stop in at Cafe Mambo. In addition to a solid menu and a view that can’t be beat, Mambo’s relationship with Ibiza’s most famous dance club Pacha, has helped establish it as the place to pre-party before hitting the clubs. Opened in 1994 by Javier Anadon, Mambo is a magnet for the biggest DJ names in the business like David Guetta, Pete Tong, Roger Sanchez, and Paul Oakenfold. It is the ever-revolving roster of international musical talent, good vibes, and its amazing concierge service that’s made Cafe Mambo an island institution and our favorite place to chill out on the sunset strip.