Apples and Cider and Pears, Oh My!

On Saturday, Tara and I decided to take a drive to Hood River, Oregon. Our destination? The cleverly-named Fruit Loop, a 35-mile circuitous route around the town of Hood River, home to some thirty-odd farmer’s markets, fruit stands, U-pick orchards, and wineries. We hoped to enjoy some fall colors and stock up on apples and pears, and we weren’t disappointed in either regard.

It was overcast and cool when we set out, with a little rain falling, but when we got to Hood River – about an hour east of Portland – the sun broke through the clouds. This was deceiving, though, as it was breezy and cold whenever we stepped out of the vehicle. It definitely felt like fall. I had only been there once before, a few years ago, on my own.  That day was clear and warm and felt more like summer than autumn. I much preferred Saturday’s weather. There were a lot of trees with colorful autumn leaves dotting the countryside – mostly yellow and gold, but beautiful nonetheless.

Altogether, we stopped at seven or eight different places, and loaded up with fruit. Mostly apples, because we were planning on making and canning both applesauce and apple butter, but we also came away with pears, cider, cookies, jam, and Indian corn for decoration. We even got to feed some goats. No big deal maybe, but I love goats and have always wanted one for a pet, so that was fun. The apples we bought were mainly heirloom varieties not available in grocery stores – flavors like Spitzenberg (reportedly Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, and I don’t blame the guy, because they are incredible), Black Arkansas, Sonata, and Criterion. Why bother with a Fuji or Gala when those are so commonplace? After a couple of hours we stopped at one place for a barbecue lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, pear slaw, and cider baked beans. We carried our plates to a picnic table under a tent, but the clouds were rolling in, the wind was whipping, and it felt like it was about 30 degrees outside, so we moved to the warmth and comfort of the car instead. And then the heavens opened up, and it absolutely poured on us as we headed out of town and back onto the freeway. We timed our trip pretty well, it turns out.

On the way home we stopped at the base of the Bridge Of The Gods. There are clusters of Native Americans selling freshly-caught salmon and steelhead out of ice coolers here. I’d always been curious, so I picked up a filet for dinner. I feel kinda stupid because I posted on Facebook that I’d bought “a steelhead salmon” when, in fact, they are two different fish. Steelhead is actually a variety of rainbow trout, but in appearance and flavor, it’s indiscernible from salmon. I actually have no idea whether I ended up with steelhead or Chinook salmon, but regardless, it was delicious – probably the best fish I’ve ever made. I just baked it with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper and capers. To die for. Tara made a loaf of her famous beer bread to go along with the fish, and we had rice pilaf on the side. Mmm…so, so good. We then headed over to the new Cinetopia 23-screen living room movie theater in the mall to catch Argo. I’d purchased a Groupon that included two tickets and a large popcorn, and it was set to expire at the end of the month, so we decided to take advantage. Great true story about a previously classified rescue mission during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980 (although I felt a little old when Tara asked me if I remembered that and I responded yes, of course I did, it was all over the news for 444 days back then – because she had no recollection of these events. Probably because she was all of three years old when they happened).  And you gotta love Cinetopia. We relaxed in plush leather seats with ottomans for our feet, and a server brought us alcohol. Man, they should have come up with this kind of movie theater experience a long time ago!

So Saturday ended up being a really busy day, but was tons of fun. It made returning to work this morning more difficult than usual, but my supervisor took me out for Thai food at lunch to go over my 90-day review (which was actually at this point a 122-day review if we’re being technical), so that softened the blow. And yes, I got a very good review, so I guess they like me. I may just decide to stick around for a while.

Here are some pics from Saturday’s excursion.

The Hood River valley.
The apples of my eye.
The other apple of my eye.
The Mount Hood railroad.
Notice the number 14 behind my right shoulder. Why am I not surprised?
Hmm…I hope we have enough apples…
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17 thoughts on “Apples and Cider and Pears, Oh My!

  1. Totally awesome weekend.

    So I take it Tara enjoyed the salmon? (If it was salmon, that is.) I believe anything is good as long as it’s cooked right!

    I wish they had something like that up here. I’m sure they do but having to work the weekends, it’s kinda hard to do stuff.

    Or I’m just still lazy! ;-)

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    1. Actually, yes – to my surprise and delight, Tara did enjoy the salmon! (Or the steelhead. Let’s just say she liked the fish). Of course, she had picked up a stuffed sole from the grocery store instead, but did say she wished she’d gone with mine instead. It was good stuff!

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  2. Okay, so you must know HOW MUCH I enjoyed this post, Mark!!!!

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those are some DELICIOUS-looking apples!!!!

    OMG…I would have had an apple orgasm!

    And listen, do you think there is anyway you could email me a few of those apples? HA!

    GREAT photos, Mark! Love the one of Tara holding the corn and the one of you two together! Also, the one of the train. Hell…they’re all great!

    And is that apple cider I see in that last photo? YUM-MY!

    Thanks for sharing you day, buddy!

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    1. I actually thought about sending you an apple or two, Ron. I mean, if your other blogging friends send you Barbie dolls and cardboard squirrels, why not?

      And yes, that IS cider back there. It’s delicious, too!

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  3. Aw man, this sounds like the perfect day to me! Your photos are gorgeous – you really captured the intensity of fall colors. I’m jealous because every day off I’ve had it’s been overcast and rainy. I’m always working the nice days. Joe and I have gotten in a few walks, but no hiking in the bluffs or apple picking yet this year.

    Your loot looks so delicious. I’m a glutton for apple cider! Plus that’s really cool you picked up mystery fish and it turned out so well. I haven’t yet figured out to cook fish well. I’m a over-cooking, always thinking I’m going to poison people unless the meat is really really well done. I’m getting better. LOL You and Tara can cook for me any day of the week, your meal sounds amazing and I’m glad you guys such an awesome saturday!

    Now get to work on those halloween costumes!

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    1. And I was bemoaning the fact that the “only” fall colors were yellow. Ha! They were still beautiful. As far as cooking fish, I think it’s pretty foolproof. A few simple seasonings, 15 minutes in the oven, and – as Emeril would say – BAM!

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  4. Where are the pictures of the goats? Have you ever seen the fainting goats? If you haven’t, you should check it out. They are so funny. Looks like another awesome weekend. Almost makes me want to get dressed on the weekends and leave the house…almost.

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