Road Tripping from Wine Country, Sonoma County to Eugene, OR (then on to Belknap Hotsprings, OR) this Weekend
My husband and I are leaving lovely wine country, CA and heading out Thursday AM for a drive up 5 toward Eugene. I am looking forward to any weird/odd/unique experiences along the way, but mainly need somewhere to eat in Eugene.
I see from the Boards that Eugene is a wee bit of a culinary waste land, but La Perla seems promising.
Anyway, any suggestions between here (Sonoma County) to there Belknap Hotsprings (1 hour East of Eugene) would really be appreciated. Wineries along the way also would be appreciated, I love me some Pinot Gris from Willamette!
We are leaving Thursday, returning Sunday, overnighting in Eugene.
So I wanted to report back on our trip:
Friday we drove up, we stopped at Granzella's first, it was fine, but too touristy and their olives were not to our liking. They do have a nice looking selection of gelato that we didn't sample, and other "gourmet" foods and gadgets, all of which I have access to Sonoma County-side.
Next we stopped at Bartel's Giant Burger for a deliciously simple burger. Just lovely people, and lovely stop along I-5 for someone who LOVES a good burger. Only word of advice, order Ketchup on your burger if you fancy, otherwise, you don't get it. It wasn't horribly hot, so we sat outside... It was nice...
Our next stop was the Rogue Creamery. Amazing and SO fun. We met one of the cheesemakers (the older gentleman) who, apparently, lives and produces cheese in Sonoma County. (He lives in Sonoma.) All of the cheese is fantastic. We settled on Oregonzola, white cheese curds, and a "touvelle" which is a cheese of their own invention. Smooth like a mild cheddar, but a little sharp too. Their lavender cheddar is also fantastic if you enjoy the subtelties of cheeses.
At Rogue, we noticed Lillie Belle Farms (http://www.lilliebellefarms.com). Normally, I am not a chocolate fan, and certainly don't like truffles and the like, but we were intrigued, so we popped in. I wish my computer wasn't acting up so I could post pictures. The pallette of colors that welcomed us was incredible. We had a sample from the proprieter of the Agave Lime truffle, tasting vaguely of tequila, which was SPECTACULAR. My PERSONAL favorite was the lavender infused caramels with Fleur du Sel salt. Ridiculously good. Everything was good there. They also do a smoked blue cheese bon bon using their neighbor's cheese! And the display was just fantastic. Too lovely to miss, truly.
Finally, stuffed full of those delights, we headed out for the rest of the drive. Based on the suggestion here, and the fact everywhere else looked, as you had suggested, just eh, we found BELLY. I thought Belly is the type of restaurant I would open if I were rich. Simple, simple, simple, but good, good, good, too. We started with a Little Gem Salad with tomatoes and bocorones. The Bocorones were a little overpowering if you ate them straight, but the flavor they imparted to the olive oil was fantastic, sharp and salty. Our mains were skirt steak with spinach and salsa verde and the pork belly over lentils. First, I have never seen such generous portions for $14 that taste this good ever, I don't think. The pork belly was HUGE. My only complaint was the lack of green on the dish. I thought that a vinegary swiss chard would have complemented the dish nicely. The steak was lovely, and the rough cut salsa verde (just parsley and garlic, really) was delicious. I used the spinach from my DH's dish to supplement my own. Everything at Belly was nice, and the price, with 2 glasses of wine each, plus 1 salad and 2 mains was about $75, which doesn't seem outrageous at all. The chef may get dinged for being "too simple" but I think the flavors are there, just need refinement. Solid B, in our book, but we think if we had tried more the rating might have gone up. As an aside, for a place with a growing wine region, the lack of ANY local selections was just weird...so that needs work. Wine list is a C, if not worse (cheap, but limited).
Hope this helps future road trippers!
re: Jeni Bean
I would agree, its (literally) refreshing to see a Eugene restaurant with food this good offer a interesting bunch of very drinkable wines for 25-30 a bottle. Compare that with Marche, which charges $45 for a bottle of Sweet Cheeks Pinot Gris, a nice but not spectacular local wine that sells for about $15 retail. We had a great pink prosecco the last time we were at Belly that was the perfect summer drink and at $25 a bargain.
Nice place to visit is King Estate, they also have great food, overlooking the vineyards. Just turn off I-5 at Creswell and it is about 15-20 minute drive. Be sure to get some of their Pinot Gris, the best of the southern willamette valley.
On the way up the McKenzie you will be on I-105 going through Springfield. Hole in the Wall BBQ built a new place just off Mohawk on Olympic. I ate there last week and had brisket, ribs and pulled pork. I though it was pretty good Q (from a certified bbq competitor and judge). Just turn off 105 on Mohawk exit and then first left on Olympic.
I'll put my 2-cents in for a new place in Eugene, Belly, across from the 5th street market. All the small plates are uniformly very good (great by Eugene standards), wine is very reasonable, decent whites, and a nice rose prosseco for $25. Very casual, no reservations. La Perla is also a good choice, Marche is the nicest high-end place in town, and does good NW-driven food, but its pricey and most similar places in PDX put it to shame.
Olives at Granzella's in Williams and in Corning.
Bartel's for a luscious hamburger at the N.Corning exit, W side of freeway.
Sengthong's in Dunsmuir, though you'll be too early for dinner.
New Sammy's in Talent for lunch: 12-2 W-Sun;
Here's a list of Southern Oregon Wineries:
If you're in a hurry you can hit Paschal
just to the east of the Talent exit.
Ice Cream at Rice Hill is a standard stop.
If those places don't correspond to your time frame, there are many more suggestions.