portland + tillamook + seaside // day 3

For our third and last morning in Portlandia, we grab breakfast at the Portland Penny Diner, which is connected to our hotel. Dad orders a tomato, egg and cheese concoction named the Hipster Sandwich. I want to say that this (and his bicycle) officially makes him the biggest hipster of the family, but I actually doubt a real hipster would consciously order a Hipster Sandwich. That bunch is such a walking paradox, sometimes.

We have one last stop on our list before we can leave Portland:
Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.. I don’t know how Mom heard about it, or why she was so keen on us going, but I’m very glad we make it there, because Schoolhouse Electric is awesome. Sure, it’s almost the same as Rejuvenation (they sell many similar products, especially in the lighting and accessories categories). If you’re like myself and simply can’t get enough of mid-century modern-inspired decor, then you’ll feel right at home. And remember to take a postcard and catalogue on the way out. It’s not hoarding, it’s memory-collecting!

This time, we’re out of Portland for good. Driving along the 101, we ride through the incredibly scenic Tillamook Forest Park. The trees will likely not be covered in snow if you go during the warmer months, but their sheer height will make the car ride beautiful nonetheless.

After a little over two hours of driving, we arrive at the
Tillamook Cheese Factory for the cheesiest visit of the trip. It’s like going to the chocolate museum in Bruges: it’s touristy and borderline trashy, but it’s actually worth it. Now, a few facts about Tillamook. The first settlers arrived in the Tillamook Valley in the mid 19th century, and found the humid weather conditions to be ideal for dairy farming (rain = grass = happy cows = a lotta milk). At that time, Tillamook dairy products were easier to ship by boat, which explains the ship found in the company’s logo. The cheese factory we visit in Tillamook is the company’s largest, and its warehouse has the capacity to age 50 million pounds of cheese at once! If you’re into the whole cheese-making process, I recommend you take a look at Tillamook’s website - it’s beautifully designed and well-explained.

The open-view factory floor is pretty addicting to watch, but once you manage to pull yourself away you may realize you have a petit creu (that’s French for being hungry). By the time we get to the Creamery Café, it’s 1:30pm and there’s still  a 30-minute wait for food, but at this point, we simply can’t leave without having tried and evaluated Tillamook Cheese. We’re French, OK? Cheese is our thing. Mom and Olympe get the Centennial Grilled Cheese ($9), I choose The Tillamooker ($6.50), and dad opts for the Cheese Supreme ($7) (same as mine, with added bacon and tomato). Each sandwich comes with the choice of a side, and we all try the tomato soup, except Olympe, who tries the tater tots. Props to Tillamook, because Mom affirms the Centennial is probablement the best grilled cheese she’s ever had - and that’s saying something. I really enjoyed my grilled cheese, but the tomato soup is perhaps the best dish I’ve had all trip. It’s even better than Panera Bread’s - and that’s saying something as well.

While the Tillamook Cheese Factory doesn’t produce ice cream, it still has a large Ice Cream Counter from which you can choose from an overwhelming menu of flavors. To make things easy for you, the menu is divided by flavor profile. This makes things really easy for me, since I immediately look to the chocolate section to narrow things down. In the end, everyone is pleased with the ice cream sampler ($3.55) I compose: Fireside S’mores, Tillamook Mudslide and Oregon Hazelnut and Salted Caramel. You can never go wrong with anything chocolatey.

We’re back on the road, this time for a longer ride. The sun begins to set just as we arrive on Cannon Beach, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. While our parents repeatedly question this status, I busy myself trying to capture the ominous and imposing Haystack Rock. Yes, it’s that big black thing on the photo below.

is our final destination for the day, and it also happens to be the final destination of the Lewis and Clark expedition (which only makes me wonder if my mom didn’t plagiarize their itinerary). Seaside reminds me of Coney Island, or even of Portobello in Edinburgh. While the boardwalk is stunning, especially at sundown, the rest of the town is very touristy. I recommend you only spend one night there, like we do, unless you’re a fan of arcades, carousels and redundant gift shops. There are a few antique stores further away from the sea, but they close rather early. And if you really run out of things to do, Beach Books is a cute bookstore, and Garbo’s Vintage Wear has some neat clothes and records.

In terms of food, though, options abound. Norma’s Seafood and Steak has positive reviews, so we head there for dinner. Mom feels adventurous and tries the oyster shot, and we’re all eager to discover what this mystical appetizer entails. Well, turns out it’s literally an oyster in a shotglass (what were we expecting?). Watching mom attempt to slurp the oyster itself is, however, most entertaining. I believe she ends up cutting it in half to avoid choking to death.

I guess mom really likes oysters, because she orders an oyster platter for her main dish ($17). The oysters are HUGE - even I find them large, and I don’t even like oysters. They’re perfectly fresh though, and I assure you there are no digestive complications involved in the aftermath. It’s just their size that’s a little disconcerting. The rest of us make safer choices - fish & chips for dad ($16), a crab sandwich ($MKT) for Olympe and a good old tuna salad sandwich ($7) for me. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, because all the tuna salad sandwiches I have always taste the same (maybe that’s because I’ve been getting them from the same place since I’ve been at McGill, hah). But man, that Albacore tuna really makes a difference. I can’t really describe how the flavor is different, so I guess you’ll just have to find out yourself. We decide to split a dessert, and settle on the marionberry pie. None of us have ever had marionberries before, and the waiter explains they are a type of blackberry. I actually just did some research and it turns out marionberries were developed by the USDA and Oregon State University as a cross between two existing types of blackberries. It’s therefore not uncommon to see dishes featuring marionberries in Oregon (see the ‘Brunch’ episode of Portlandia).

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