A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a special Food & Wine Weekend at the historic McMenamin's Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. While the lodge is merely an hour away from my home, it was a great getaway to see what McMenamin's had to offer. It's hard to believe I had never been inside the Grand Lodge after having passed it so many times on the road.
Honestly, sometimes I feel like a visitor in my own state and town. I'm sure we all fall victim to not exploring and indulging in what we have available right in our own backyards. This is what weekend splurges should be about. Since McMenamin's Grand Lodge is smack-dab in the middle of Oregon wine country, it's the perfect place to take a long-weekend or get some relaxation in during the week.
The Grand Lodge itself was once a Masonic & Eastern Star Retirement Home. The architecture is stunning and has been preserved throughout.
A grand entrance for sure and warm ambiance fills the halls, ceilings and walls. In true McMenamin's style there is so much to look at; walls, ceilings and halls all have a story to tell. The atmosphere screams fun and boy did we have some! All the McMenamin's hotels have some type of historical significance, which make them interesting to visit.
I was whisked into my theme room equipped with lyrical infusions on almost every wall. Hey wait, "where's the bathroom?" Most rooms at McMenamin's Grand Lodge are European style. This means your room will have a sink, but the potty and showers are down the hall. Don't panic, like I did. It's really not a big deal at all. The bathrooms are secure, beautiful and clean. And walking around in your robe just adds to the fun and quirkiness already present at this hotel.
Overall I loved the whole set up. It really works well for a place like this. I promise you will fall in love with it all.
We took a tour of the property with the lovely Shannon McMenamin. Holy moley there is so much to see. Every wall, overhead pipe, pillar, corner you name it has been painted, tiled, fixed up to tell a story. Your eyes are never tired of looking around and there is something magical around every corner.
This is Pat's Corner. It sits on the edge of the front lawn at the Grand Lodge. Tables outside are perfect for summer seating and listening to music or watching folks play disc golf. But inside is a cozy little bar with a ceiling covered in vintage album covers. All music played inside at Pat's is by record player. Make sure to request a tune.
Cozy sitting areas, artwork, smiling pipes and lyrical verse will all be part of your trip at the lodge, as well as all other McMenamin's locations. In order to preserve the lodge architecture, regular, mundane objects were given face lifts to make you smile. No two pipes are alike.
Our first evening at the lodge included a winemaker's dinner at the Ironwork Grill featuring McMenamin's wines. Clark McCool, who heads up McMenamin's winery and distillery programs, took us through Edgefield's cool and warm climate varietals. Wow, some real beauties in there. As a winemaker myself, I always appreciate tasting wine from other distinctive regions. And I even got to try the Cajun tots appetizer everyone is always talking about.
Also, here's a little peak at what I had for breakfast at the Ironwork Grill the next morning....swoon.
Jalapeno and pineapple pizzas, good conversation, delicious wine and music were all part of our evening. We were pooped by bedtime, but excited for what the next day would bring.
In true McMenamin's style the next day brought about a bit of travel. A tour of surrounding wine country was arranged with Grape Escape Winery Tours. If any of you are booking a trip to this area, I can highly recommend my friends at Grape Escape. They will craft the perfect day for you and your group in beautiful Oregon Wine Country. Leave everything to them! Trust me on this one.
Our first stop was Elk Cove Vineyards, always a favorite of mine. How could it not be with this view.
We had a great time tasting through their new releases and enjoying a few nicely paired nibbles and a tour. Needless to say I left with many bottles.
We then headed out to Quail Run Creamery, just down the road from Elk Cove. What a treat this was! Quail Run is a small, family owned farmstead cheese operation whose fresh chevre and feta is made exclusively from Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. These goats produce high butterfat milk (10%) that is then used to make Quail Run's cheeses.
We learned about the goats and were treated to an appetizer party using their cheese. It was the perfect midday stop on our tour. We found great hospitality here and couldn't petting and photographing all the sweet animals we found there.
Next up was Kramer Vineyards, a place I had yet to visit. I was really excited to see Kim, 2nd- generation winemaker and daughter of owner's Keith and Trudi Kramer.
Kim has been busy making sparkling wine and I finally got to taste it. Let's say I was not disappointed and I highly recommend getting yourself there for a sample. The tasting room is warm and friendly with cute pups all around. Make sure to add Kramer to your list of wine country stops this season.
After a hard day tasting wine and eating our way through the valley, we headed back to McMenamin's for spa treatments at the luxurious Ruby's Spa. I indulged in their signature foot soak which included a handmade infused-sugar scrub with my choice of essential oils, handcrushed herbs and their own custom apothecary salts. All of this prepared my feet and calves for a soothing 30-minute foot massage with hot stones.
I really didn't want it to end.
After my foot pampering, I headed over to Pat's Corner for my favorite McMenamin's cocktail...their Cosmopolitan. It's just the right amount of refreshing. It's my plan to have a cosmo at all of their locations across Oregon and Washington. Stay tuned for all the photos to come.
As if I hadn't had enough pampering, amazing food and good conversation, off I went to a private dinner in McMenamin's Equinox Room to wrap up the weekend. This was our gorgeous table, and the room lit only by candles...heaven right? It was.
And the menu...yes, go ahead, count the courses. It. Was. Incredible. How did I get so lucky? Not only was the food over-the-top, so were the wines. McMenamin's invited three local wineries to have dinner with us and share some of their fabulous vintages. Elk Cove, Penner~Ash and Soter Vineyards brought out their best and finest to pair with our meal.
If I were you, get in touch with these wineries and see if you can get a hold of any of the wines listed here. They were amazing, and guess what, these wineries all have wines on the McMenamin's wine list. So, when you visit the Lodge or any other location, make sure you look for them!! You are sure to be pleased.
Now, I've saved the best for last. This is something really cool McMenaimin's is doing. In fact, it's one of the best ideas I've seen for a business in a long, long time.
It's the McMenamin's Passport, a journey that will take you to all of their pubs and rewards you for completing locations and experiences. Lots of prizes, not to mention the Grand Prize for completing your book. Mostly, it gets you out there, enjoying everything McMenamin's has to offer. Locals, I think you're really going to love it. I've already given a handful as gifts.
Have you been to McMenamin's? Tell me about your favorite experience, food or which location you enjoy visiting the most. I can't wait to get to all of them.
One Year Ago: Sloppy Joe Chili Cheese Fries
Three Years Ago: Beef Irish Stew
Four Years Ago: Pork Chops Marsala
Six Years Ago: Addictive Lemon Squares
Disclosure: McMenamin's hosted me on this wonderful food and wine weekend. However, as always, all opinions about them are 100% my own. If possible please support this incredible family business if you happen to be in town or come for a visit. I promise you will love the whimsy you will find there.