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24 Hours in Culinary Corvallis

Guest Author | 03/03/2016 | Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries, Restaurants

Tasting this small town’s passion for food

I don’t normally equate cutting-edge cuisine with a college town. But since my college days in Corvallis, Oregon, over a decade ago, I’d heard the city had blossomed into an incredible culinary destination, brimming with delicious, locally sourced and sustainable food and drink. My dear friend from those graduate school days, Rebecca, still lived in the area. So, when she invited me back for a mini-reunion, I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend experiencing this new foodie destination. We set out to eat and sip our way around Corvallis, ready to taste this town’s revitalized flavor.

Our first sip

Rebecca and I started our tour east of town at Nectar Creek. Brothers Phillip and Nick Lorenz – Corvallis natives with a background in beekeeping – started this company in 2012, quickly establishing their mead as award-winning and delicious. At the small tasting room, we learned how combining 100% pure raw Oregon honey, water and yeast create a one-of-a-kind drink. We sipped on the Brood Raspberry mead, which was incredibly refreshing – the berry taste brightening my senses.

We crossed the Willamette and journeyed into downtown. Rebecca raved about Flat Tail Brewing and the cheese curds they source from OSU Creamery. OSU students make the curds and Flat Tail Brewery chefs deep-fry them in batter made from their own beer. I paired mine with a Rough Cut IPA. The cheese was soft and melted, the batter crispy and savory, both complementing the slightly bitter hop flavor in the beer. The cool carbonation of the beer perfectly followed the warm cheesy treat on my tongue.

“Alright, so far I’m impressed,” I told Rebecca. “Probably a good thing these places weren’t here when we were in college – the Freshman 15 would have been a Freshman 25.”

Old favorite

That evening, we found our way to Big River Restaurant, which has been a favorite of mine ever since I was an OSU student in the late 90s. Even back then they served local, organic produce, natural meats, sustainable seafood and more, in a lovely high-ceilinged space on the riverfront. I remembered the succulent steak – a rare treat, enjoyed when my parents came to town – and ordered the Cascade Farms flat iron, served with roasted garlic, mashed Yukon potatoes, lemon citron-herbed rapini and beurre rouge crimini mushrooms. The flavors brought back memories, a little taste of heaven in my mouth.

“This place isn’t new, but it’s definitely a favorite,” Rebecca said between bites of her leg of lamb.

“Mmmm,” was all I could manage in between bites.

I paired my meal with a glass of 2013 Tyee Estate Pinot noir. The Willamette Valley provides a wide range of excellent Pinot noir – the wine was reminiscent of roses and pie spice. Rebecca is more of a cider gal, so she tried 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s, a local cidery, hard apple cider.

“To a tasty return!” Rebecca said, raising her glass.

New favorites

The next afternoon began with lunch and a beer tasting at Sky High Brewing and Pub, a new favorite for Rebecca since they opened a few years ago. Here, not surprisingly, local craftsmanship and sustainability is a way of life. I laughed when I learned that they deliver kegs around town on a cargo bicycle built in Eugene. I ordered a burger, made with local purveyor Carlton Farms’ natural beef. The spicy pepperjack cheese layered over the tender, savory meat was only improved because it was paired with a Dream On Pale Ale, which balanced delicately between malty and hoppy.

Rebecca swears by her weekly trips to Corvallis’ downtown farmers markets, so that was our next stop. Here, everything is a unique local product, from blooming flowers to fresh meats and produce from Corvallis farms – like Afton Field Farm, Gathering Together Farm and Wandering Farms – to hydroponically grown herbs. The colors, sights and smells overwhelmed our senses, making us hungry again even though we’d just eaten.

“This is a dangerous place to shop on an empty stomach,” Rebecca told me. “Thank goodness we had lunch first.”

Regardless, we gathered as many items as we could carry, a collection of fresh produce, cheeses, meats and baked goods made within the Willamette Valley and grown with that local charm. With the scent of lavender lingering and a basket full of handcrafted goods in hand, we carried the items to Rebecca’s house, inspired to make a delicious, home-cooked meal. However, I stowed a good amount of it away in my suitcase for use when I got home.

The next day, it was time for me to go home. When Rebecca helped me with my luggage, she lifted my bag a couple times, like she was pumping iron. She smirked at me, realizing that’s where most of the farmers’ market goodies had disappeared to.

“I’m definitely coming back for more,” I said. “Fresh, local goodies and your company, of course.”

“Oh, of course,” Rebecca agreed with a grin.

Discover Corvallis’ culinary delights crafted with locally sourced products.

Article by Gertie Rodgers.

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