What do three U-pick berry farms, a cafe, a diner, a farm co-op, a vineyard and an amazing new Portland restaurant have in common? They all inspired this lush and seasonal Blackberry Burrata Salad.
Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to tour the lovely Tualatin Valley here in Oregon, compliments of Washington County Visitors Association. I’d heard of the Tualatin Valley but I’ve never had a chance, until now, to tour the area and get to know this warm and vibrant community.
The Tualatin Valley is situated in the northern part of the Willamette Valley, in the Tualatin River Basin. It’s nestled just outside of Portland, Oregon, which makes it a lovely little paradise for city dwellers as well as visitors.
Our first stop was Hoffman Farms Store, a U-pick berry farm with a gorgeous farm store filled with a plethora of berry inspired products, jams, pies and ready-picked produce. For a little more berry adventure you can grab a wagon and a bucket and head out to the scenic berry patches for some berry picking.
On the way to the berry patches I completely enjoyed the incredible views of the valley from this beautiful farm. Hoffman Farms also has a new wedding venue that is spectacular for the barn wedding inspired bride and groom. Every inch of the barn is warm and festive and plenty of space for catering and dancing.
Hoffman Farms is run by first-generation farmers, Jay and Kelly Hoffman, since 1983. They began with blueberries and now grow strawberries, raspberries, marionberries, blackberries and tayberries. After touring the berry patches we went back to the farm store to do a little browsing. I left with the most heavenly tayberry jam and an enchanting mixed berry pie with a crust that could rival my southern grandmother’s crust.
Thank you to Kelly, Megan and Jayson for your warm hospitality and for making our berry farm tour delicious.
After leaving Hoffman Farms Store we drove over to the South Store Cafe, which happens to be right across the street from Smith Berry Barn, the second berry farm on our tour. But first, lunch!
I’d heard diners talking about the South Store Cafe Reuben so that’s exactly what I ordered. I was not disappointed. A perfectly prepared corned beef with just the right amount of melted cheese, sauerkraut and dressing. All on home-baked toasted rye. The coffee and hospitality were just as delicious. A fun and tasty stop while touring the Tualatin Valley.
Just across the street from the South Store Cafe is the Smith Berry Barn Farm and Garden Market run by first generation farmers, Rich and Joelle Hildner. While touring the farm with Rich, we found gorgeous seasonal berries, hanging flower baskets galore and the most lovely garden plants. Among the garden and berries there are a few friendly Pygmy goats for feeding and several large berry patches for U-pick berries. During the fall months, this is also a great place to do some apple and pear picking!
In the center of all the beautiful produce and garden plants is an impressive farm market with a gourmet gift shop with farm inspired decor, custom gift baskets, homemade jams, jellies and local honey. Toward the back of this charming little farm store is an espresso bar that also happens to create amazing berry milkshakes.
Thank you Rich for giving us a tour of your enchanting farm!
Last stop of the first day was Our Table Farm Co-operative. They are a regional co-op helping to create a resilient and interdependent local food culture. Food for the community! I am absolutely in love with what this co-op is doing.
As I walked through the co-op building, the market, the kitchens, the produce gardens, the chicken yard and beyond, my heart was leaping with joy and hope. What an impressive organization helping to feed the community with locally grown produce, meat, poultry and beef. Among everything they grow and raise at the co-op, they also host farm dinners, barbecues, Friday night pizza night and happy hour. Truly a community hangout with a mission.
After the delicious day of berries we checked into McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. A unique hotel and spa with 77 European style guest rooms, several bars, a restaurant and as we were walking the hotel grounds we found the prettiest little produce garden. McMenamins is a Oregon treasure with several locations throughout Oregon.
Bites Restaurant is located in downtown Forest Grove, Oregon just a few miles from our hotel. A quaint suburb of Portland, Forest Grove now boasts of this glorious new restaurant in town. I’m not surprised Bites Restaurant won the 2016 Reader’s Choice Award for best fine dining, best new restaurant and best appetizers. Our meal was exquisitely delightful, beginning with Kalbi Tacos, Bites Korean BBQ Wings and the Crab Cake Bites. Every bite of food so delicious, I could have ordered a second plate of everything.
We moved on to our entrée’s of Ahi Tuna Salad and the Seoul Noodles – heaven on plates! The ahi tuna was perfectly prepared, the salad greens and vegetables were fresh and vibrant in color and the wasabi ranch dressing was cleverly layered on the bottom of the plate, so that one could conveniently swirl the vegetables and ahi in as much or as little dressing as desired. The Seoul noodles were balanced in flavor and spice and deliciously laced with fresh cabbage, onions, celery, bell pepper and the optional addition of pork belly. To complement our meal we had the Bites signature mojito that is prepared with quality ingredients. Truly one of the best mojito’s I’ve sipped!
Thank you Fon and Thomas for your gracious and delicious hospitality!
The next morning we drove out to our third and final U-pick berry farm, Unger Family Farms. What a scenic and magical farm it is. It was a typical cloudy and cool Oregon summer day but the views of the surrounding landscape from Unger Family Farms were so beautiful, the weather never got a second thought.
Along with ready-picked produce, farm made jams, jellies and farm inspired decor, the delightful Unger Farm Store has a cafe called The Berry Cafe. The cafe serves an assortment of home-baked berry goods, sandwiches and salads for a light breakfast or lunch – with a tranquil seating area to enjoy all the delicious.
Unger Family Farms is a third generation farm run by Matt and Kathy Unger. Along with their four adult children, Matt and Kathy run a 144 acre farm, U-pick berry patch, the farm store, along with booths at 10 farmer’s markets around the area. Needless to say they are one busy family! Thank you Kathy and Laura Unger for your time and gracious hospitality while visiting your farm.
After leaving Unger Family Farms it was on to wine tasting! The drive to Ardíri Winery was nothing short of spectacular. A beautiful hilltop winery with surrounding vineyards and the most spectacular view of Mt. Hood – voted one of Oregon’s top wineries with panoramic views.
Ardíri Vineyards and Winery is located in the heart of the Chehalem Mountains in the Tualatin Valley. They specialize in Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. On that lovely day we sipped the gorgeous Pink Tractor Rosé along with a Pinot Gris and several Pinot Noir. Breathtaking views, a lovely open-air facility for wine tasting and of course excellent Oregon wine. Yes, we left with a few bottles. 🙂
Last stop was lunch at the Cruise-In Country Diner where the warm and welcoming owner, Terry Hummel, makes his rounds to each table to chat with guests and diners. The diner kitty, Tiger, also greets guests and this particular day she decided to greet us and hop in my car. After several minutes of pets and purrs, she hesitantly jumped out of my car and followed us to the front door of the diner.
Country Cruise-In Diner is a family run burger joint decorated with classic car memorabilia from the 1950’s – 1960’s and a menu that features organic and sustainable local produce and quality oils for frying. So of course I had a beer, burger and a few french fries. Yep nothing like going all out at lunch time. Right?
After much reflection of my Tualatin Valley Tour, loads of photos edited, notes re-written and memories jotted down, I knew a berry inspired seasonal recipe was in order. Blackberries are currently in season and make the loveliest addition to sweet and savory recipes.
I personally adore fruit in savory recipes so I created this Summer Blackberry Burrata Salad drizzled with a silky balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with Oregon toasted hazelnuts. Each of the ingredients mingles tastefully with each other and makes for a dreamy plate of seasonal deliciousness. Because who can resist blackberries and burrata?
Thank you to Jackie Hagan and the Washington County Visitors Association for the opportunity to tour this lovely area of Oregon.
Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,
- 1-2 pints fresh seasonal blackberries
- 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved or 1-2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- 6 cups fresh, washed salad greens or 4 good handfuls (I used an assortment of butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce and romaine, friseé and baby spinach would also be lovely)
- 2 knobs of burrata cheese, sliced right before placing on the salad
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Dash of water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of gourmet finishing salt (grey salt, etc)