Imbued with history and favored by Mother Earth with its profusion of natural splendors, Hood River, Oregon has become a beacon for wayfaring gourmands. At the crossroads of the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is the perennial darling of Oregon outdoor sports (kite boarding, wind surfing, hiking, ski, you name it). The valley now boasts 15,000 acres of orchards, many belonging to longtime, multigenerational families who have called Hood River home since its 1895 conception. The restaurant scene, focused wholly on farm-to-fork, forms a base in the downtown streets and spreads out to the Heights neighborhood and into the nearby towns of Mosier (for farm fresh flatbreads) and Parkdale (for jerked chicken BBQ). The fuss of late is about the beverage—breweries of the old guard mingle with the newbies, cocktails are streamlining in from Portland, wineries have urban outposts in town and “estate ciders” are a dime a dozen. F&B enthusiasts need to get out here now—here’s how to eat and drink your way through Hood River Valley in 48 hours.
Clocking in: 3:00 pm
Happy Hour || The postcard reflection of the new Hood River Waterfront Community Park will draw visitors in immediately—animated children climb the impossible climb of orb-like jungle gyms while parents sip on pour-overs from Stoked Roasters conveniently across the street and next to the kid-friendly brewery of Pfriem Famiy Brewers. The brewery provides seating for all, from outdoor patio options equipped with a gas fireplace to indoor booths by the children’s play area and the communal dining tables of the upstairs loft. Wherever you rest your rump, do it with one of their beers in hand—Belgian-style is the name of the game here, get a tasting sheet and make sure to try the Belgian Strong ales and anything seasonal with a Flemish influence. Pub grub is abound, sample the deviled eggs and bacon-wrapped, bleu cheese-stuffed dates.
Pre-dinner Pubbing || Cross over the highway into Hood River proper, the downtown corridor of about two square miles, about two minutes driving distance from the waterfront. Sneak onto the deck at Full Sail Brewing, come Hell or high water the view will be worth it. Witness wind surfers who tripped out from Germany to harness the mighty gusts in this area and take in the mountains as you toss back a Session Premium lager (on draft for once instead of their usual stubby bottle). Walk across the street to Double Mountain Brewery, belly up to one of the two bars to order a pizza and a tasting flight. Sample the many hop-tastic staples and seasonals, from the Hop Lava IPA (and if you’re there soon, the several fresh hop options) to the Black Irish nitro Dublin-style stout.
Dinner || If you’re smart, book a reservation at Celilo Restaurant and Bar ran by managing partner and Chef Ben Stenn (a dead ringer for a goateed John Stamos). Stenn serves up plates of the season’s freshest, showcasing a menu that relies heavily on the Columbia Gorge’s harvests. Enjoy the house cured charcuterie, the fresh tagliatelle pasta tossed with Mt. Adams foraged chanterelle mushrooms or the Payne Family Farm brined ham (brined for a month) with house chorizo and sauteed chard.
Nightcap || Close your night out Brian’s Pourhouse, one of the few “late night” joints open until 11:00 pm in a charming roadside cottage. Owner Brian McNamara not only can style you a mean cocktail (go brown liquor or go home here), but he can also teach you Korean martial arts as a master level instructor at his recently opened Original Taekwon-do School in town. Brian’s also sports the Basement Bar, a speakeasy style pub open only on Friday and Saturday nights.
Breakfast || Fuel up at Doppio Coffee + Lounge downtown, with a (you guessed it) double shot from one of the skilled baristas and nourish yourself a savory-stuffed croissant or Opa’s Super Cup, a family recipe complete with organic plain yogurt, organic whole grains, fresh fruit, seeds, honey, raisins and almonds.
Agritourism || Hit the road and head out to Parkdale, Oregon, a short 30 minute drive through winding valley roads that lead to the third generation farm of Kiyokawa Family Orchards. Growing and feeding the Hood River Valley with fruit since 1911, Randy Kiyokawa runs his family farm under the staggering shadow of Mt. Hood and cultivates everything from juicy Red Delicious apple varieties to bitter crabapples that local cider makers drool over.
Lunch || Drop into Solera Brewery, located just down the street from Kiyokawa’s orchard and enjoy a pint in a historical building with a million dollar view of the mountain. Cross the road to Hood Valley Hard Cider and sample the draft ciders only found in the valley. Lunch is served next door at Apple Valley BBQ, owned and operated by Justin White, whose famous cherry-wood smoked ribs are not to be dismissed and coleslaw featuring pears that traveled down the road from Kiyokawa.
Wine Tasting || Back in Hood River, tour the downtown winery tasting rooms for “exercise.” Visit Naked Winery for a $10 flight and a takeaway signature wine glass. Step into Stoltz Winery, a former mortuary that produces organic Pinot Noir and pours a honey-infused sparkling Chardonnay. Fantasize your next party at Springhouse Cellars, a working winery housed in a turn of the century fruit cannery and distillery. The new White Space Gallery and Cerulean Winery provides an urban, Portland feel to the tour, featuring local art and a wide variety of wines.
Happy Hour || Afternoon brews are at Big Horse Brew Pub, the original Hood River brewery that sits in the center of town as a guiding light of beer. Loitering is acceptable and encouraged—service is a bit stagnant so order and pay as soon as you can to secure your desired speed.
Dinner || Assuming you’ve established a trusty legal driver at this point, jump back in the car and head to Rack & Cloth in Mosier, a 10-minute drive out of town. This humble mercantile is a true farm-to-fork wood-fire pizzeria, seating less than 20 people at capacity and feeding eaters with flatbread topped with ingredients straight off their farm, Pomona’s Branch. Founded by Silas Bleakley and joined later by his partner Kristina Nance (who runs the household and the mercantile’s kitchen), the 10-acre farm turned cidery was named for Bleakley’s pressing process. The small press, which requires hand sorting of their estate fruit and includes a crusher, racking area and press is simplistic, artistic and historic in only about seven feet of production space. As a fully functioning ecosystem, Rack & Cloth uses the apple pomace byproduct as feed for the livestock (sheep, pigs, roaming farm dogs and more), which in turn fertilize the orchard. And eventually become cured meats in their basement. Find their current pub-style cider, Stony Pig, on draft at their mercantile and nosh on whatever Nance is plating from the farm that day.
Drinks || Get your late night cocktail fix at the newly minted Camp 1805 Distillery and craft cocktail lounge back on Hood River’s waterfront. Named in honor of Lewis and Clark’s route timing through the area, this distillery features their house spirits (white rum, aged rum, white whiskey and vodka) in their signature cocktails, as well as a full bar for personal imbibing preferences led by Portland cocktail native, Eric Bottero. Try his Camp Daiquiri, a mix with Hemingway approval using Camp 1805 Backbone Rum, fresh lime, demerara syrup (turbinado sugar simple syrup), Angostura and Regan’s orange bitters, served up.
Breakfast || Sleep in and head to Knead, home to the rustic, artisan breads and pastries in downtown Hood River. Grab a fresh baguette for the drive home while you munch on a grandiose cinnamon roll or chocolate chip croissant.
Wine and Cider Tasting || With a name like Stefan Guemperlein and a sharp German accent to match, the Bavarian immigrant and his wife, Erika, make Gorge wines under the Ovino label and European-style ciders as Gorge Cyder House. Tucked into the pantry of their deli in Hood River’s Heights neighborhood, the two produce small-batch, native yeast ciders unique to the area. The lineup is, of course due to production size, modest and includes a sidra (Spanish) style cider as well as a cyser (mead-cider fusion).
Farm-style Lunch || Before leaving town, head back out to the Gorge White House, a historic Dutch colonial home and working farm standing in Hood River city limited since 1908. With wines, ciders and beers on tap, a fruit stand, U-Pick flower garden, local art and a food truck, the Kennedy family owns and operates the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway landmark.
Clocking out: 3:00 pm
Although not entirely edible, stop at the magnificent Multnomah Falls on your way out of town. Parking is available right off Interstate 84, with a short pathway that leads to the base of the 611-foot-tall cascade of icy mountain water.Majestic, mountainous yet modest, Hood River, its valley, people and their creations are worth years beyond 48 hours. Use this loosely as a guide and stay as long as the wind (and wine, cider, beer) keeps you.