Distilleries, Breweries, Bakeries, Burgers...oh my! also known as fun on the American Empress with me, Chef Regina!
As a lover of everything food, beverage and people, traveling the Columbia River on the American Queen Voyages “Empress” hit the sweet spot for me. The Hop on Hop off busses and custom Shore Excursions make sure the guests don’t miss out on any of the memorable cultural and historic sights and unique stops. They have perfected the guest experience of discovering the highlights of each port. The staff on this boat could not be better. I fell in love with all of them.
As culinary Ambassador I so enjoy my on-board cooking and cocktail classes and spending time with the guests. But when I step off the boat, I explore the foodways! My discoveries range from an occasional dive bar, local restaurants, distilleries, breweries’, gourmet donuts, fresh roasted coffee, food trucks and hip craft cocktail bars. I also search out local shops that carry food products.I will be blogging this year to share my “food and beverage finds” with you.
Day 1 Saturday March 12, 2022Arrived a day early to have dinner with my longtime friends Lynn and Chuck Duffy. Dinner was a great start to this beautiful trip. After looking up many menus, I luckily choose The Sedgwick RestaurantThe best dishes were: Warm Kale Salad, Lamb Belly Carbonara, Bone Marrow and Escargot and Crispy Pork Cheeks. I am not typically a fan of deconstructed desserts, but their Lemon Meringue Pie with Honeycomb was memorable! This was a great place to share plates and have a real visit. We never felt rushed, and the service was incredibly attentive.
Day 2 Sunday March 13, 2022AQ Voyages provide an overnight in Vancouver Washington (across the river from Portland) So you are not rushing to get to the boat. We checked into the Vancouver Hilton and met up with our sweet friends, Amy Allen and Tracey Fort from Eldorado, Arkansas. We met when they visited Natchez with friends and took my brunch class. We became fast friends. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel and food was surprisingly good. I had Poutine with steak bites and Gorgonzola, Doug and Amy had local halibut fish and chips and Tracey chose a good-looking burger. We immediately headed out to meet up with more friends that live in Portland to Quartz Mountain Distillery. This father-son operation is amazing. Randy (and wife Debi) and Darin Kyle (and wife Kris) represent the epitome of a family-built business. The hospitality was so sincere. I felt like I was in Natchez! I chose several products to use in my cocktail class on board and several that will we packed to take home. The tour is comfortable and informative. Plan on packing some in your suitcase to take home. So many highlights but the cask strength bourbons and the Navy strength rum stood out for me. Everyone bought a bottle or two of the flavored Vodkas which ranged from Huckleberry to Peanut Butter. They are dedicated craftsman. The Vancouver waterfront walking distance from the hotel is a polished, chic restaurant and bar scene. It seems to have risen shiny and new from the slow ashes of downtown Portland. We opted for cocktails at Dosalas Latin Kitchen & Tequila Bar, what a good choice. Not only the extensive selection of Tequila, but there was also quite the inventory of craft liquors and cocktails. The hit of the night was the Purple Rain cocktail and the bartender known as Prince! Claudette had dinner there and said the food was as beautiful as the cocktails. On our way to the cocktail bar, we spotted a whiskey and burger joint Stack 571 and made a pact that would be our dinner choice. Great choice for three of my favorite thing’s bourbon, burgers, and bacon!
Day 3 Monday March 14, 2022I boarded the boat early to join in a small celebration lunch with the Mayor of Vancouver and her entourage (she is very popular) and our amazing godmother of the boat, Claudette Waggoner who I consider one of my best and favorite friends. The crew prepared a lovely lunch, and the Margret of duck was perfect. Dinner the first night on board was my first introduction to our group of travel writers, Jeri Clausing, Judi Cuervo, Barbara Delollis and Toby Saltzman, you need to follow each of them on Facebook to find their travel writings. They are all great writers and could not be more fun!
Day 4 Tuesday March 15, 2022, Astoria, OregonBreakfast on board we had best corned beef hash, topped with perfect over easy eggs with a spicy catsup drizzle. I gathered my friends and we started with the hop on bus then got off in the shopping district. Chef Paul Wayland Smith recommended Blue Scorcher Bakery and said not to miss the Bear Claws- I missed them because you need to get there early! My favorite find that day was Pat’s Spice & Tea Shop It is now run by his daughter. I loaded up on spices that you can not find in Natchez, Mississippi. When I say they had everything, I mean there was nothing I could think of that they did not have. They have a loyal customer in me, and they ship! Follow them on Instagram @patspantryspicesWe found our way to Fort George Brewery and had a great lunch; the favorites were the tuna fish and chips, and the pork belly fries! All the craft beers got high ratings from our gang. We lost some of the crowd that needed a nap after that lunch. Judi, Doug, and I found another great distillery Pilot House Distillery. I was excited to try their Absinthe, which was better than good! It was the inspiration I needed to do a regional version of the classic Sazerac cocktail using Columbia River products. *See attached recipe for American Empress Sazerac
Day 5 Wednesday March 16, 2022This was a riverboating day which means we were on the river for the day in between ports taking in the views. This is the day that I did a cooking demo and a cocktail demo. For recipes go to www.reginaskitchen.com all my Salmon recipes inspired by this trip are under recipes of the month.
Day 6 Thursday March 17, 2022, Stevenson WashingtonThis is a charming stop. Right as you get off the boat there is a local bar and restaurant Clark and Lewies where the peanut sauce chicken wings were great, real charbroiled burgers, loved the beet and blue cheese salad and salmon chowder. Mike Hicks discovered the Charboneau salmon wrap, not named for me but for Toussaint Charboneau who was married to Sacagawea and was on the Louis and Clark expedition I am happy to say there is no relation as the Riverlorian on board kept referring to him as “a man of no particular merit”. My favorite unexpected find (You look for Chevron gas pumps) when you walk in the front door there you will not find gas station Cheetos, Fritos, or Twinkies, instead you find is Big Foot Coffee Roasters, they roast coffee have gourmet donuts, an array of pastries and you can buy coffee to take home. If that’s not enough, they have a taco truck, Taco Pepe’s in their parking lot. Love this place! There are the Red Bluff Tap House locally owned and locally sourced ingredients sports a creative small plate menu if you need a break from shopping. The steak bites and crackling-Brussel sprouts are worth a try. Veteran owned Skunk Brothers Spirits was visited by my husband Doug while I hit some of the shops. He brought me back a bottle of their Alchemist gin made with a hibiscus-apple base and a blend of unique botanicals made blue with butterfly pea flowers (Butterfly pea flowers seemed to find their way into many cocktails we found along the Columbia River. I will most definitely be creating some fun craft cocktails with this gin! Thanks to Amazon I had some waiting for me by time I got home. If the wind is blowing in Stevenson and your cold the Big River Grill received great reviews for their African peanut soup. Everyone in town said they always have the best soup..Day 7 & 8 Friday & Day 8 Saturday March 18 & 19, 2022 The Dalles OregonI am so glad we were here two days. Like Astoria there was more here than I could take in. A trip back will be welcomed. First things first: There is nothing wrong with a dive bar and I can get the inside scoop from our seasoned staff on board. The Saloon of choice is the Last Stop Saloon. I plan to continue to talk to our young staff who are in the know.I wandered into The Dalles Workshop where you can find local chocolate covered cherries where some of the proceeds goes to a local youth group. These shop keepers have two 3-D printers and have unique gift items they design and make. It is a must do. The Petite Provence was an amazing surprise to find such gorgeous French pastries in the river town. The Versailles was like heaven in your mouth, and a classic Napoléon, well, can you just say “Yum”? Great Cappuccino too!We wandered through the town and found Freebridge Brewing the woodfired pizza looked great but had no room after having dessert before lunch. Although there are craft breweries and distilleries abound. The great wineries of Oregon and Washington State are not on the main streets. We were lucky that they were served in abundance on the boat. But there is a great stop where you can taste so many of these wines, The Gorge Wine Library they have a great mix of wines and small plates. Before we left on the second day, we did have our Wood Fired Pizza at Kainos Coffee and Woodfired Pizza. The favorite was the Mother Mary which had the perfect light tomato sauce, pepperoni, salami mozzarella and kalamata olives. The prosciutto and Arugula with balsamic drizzle was a close second.
Day 9 & 10 Sunday and Monday March 20, 21, 2022, Richland Washington I took this time to work and begin packing and enjoy one more day with our darling staff. While Doug walked the Sacajawea Park and others took advantage of the hop on hop off tours. It was a great day to enjoy the food on board one more day. Every meal was done so well and again the staff has truly brought hospitality to the river. I won’t attempt to name them in fear of forgetting someone and hurt their feelings. They know how much I love them and how proud I am of each one of them. Chef Orlando who is beyond precious, had a cooking demo and made Focaccia which was delicious. He did a great job of engaging our guests to the point they will go home and make it! I know I will be making it soon. The high light of this evening was getting my sweet friend Amy Allen to play for us one more time. She found time when the onboard entertainers were away from the piano and shared many of her own songs. There are not enough adjectives to describe how talented she is, you just need to go and download some of her albums on Soundcloud. Our group of 10 started out the trip together and ended it together with great food on board, adventures off the boat and music that will stay in our hearts.Monday Morning Blues Lots of early morning hugs with the amazing staff that I wanted to take home and old friends, new friends. The fact that we had been eating nonstop for 8 days, we vowed bone broth would be our lunch of choice for the next month. However, with three- and four-hour layovers at the Spokane Airport, there was one more unplanned reunion with friends from the boat, more Oregon Pinot Noir, more craft beer and one last carb loaded sandwich with fries at the Spokane Airport. My favorite toast- Happy are we now, happy have we been, happy shall we part, and happy we will meet again.
Location and Address ListVancouver WA• The Sedgwick Restaurant 801 Washington Street • Quartz Mountain Distillery. 4601 NE 78th St, Ste. 210, Vancouver, WA Phone: (360) 904-5472 • Dosalas Latin Kitchen & Tequila Bar 777 Waterfront Way phone: 360-768-5249 • Stack 571 670 Waterfront Way
Astoria, Oregon• Pat’s Pantry purveyor of Fine Spice 1153 Commercial Street• Blue Scorcher Bakery 1493 Duane Street• Fort George Brewery 1483 Duane Street• Pilot House Distillery 1270 Duane Street
Stevenson Washington• Red Bluff Tap House 256 SW 2nd Street• Big River Grill 192 SW 2nd Street• Big Foot Coffee Roasters 91 NW 2nd Street• Taco’s Pepe Food Truck 91 NW 2nd Street• Skunk Brothers Spirits 40 SW Cascade Ave.
The Dalles Oregon • The Dalles Workshop 201 E. 2nd Street• Last Stop Saloon 209 E. 2nd Street• Petite Provence 408 E. 2nd Street • Kainos Woodfired Pizza 418 E. 2nd Street • The Gorge Wine Library 506 E. 2nd Street• Freebridge Brewing 710 E. 2nd Street• Amy Allen - Theamyallen.com for music she shared with us on the boat
Empress Sazerac Cocktail I am took one of my favorite Mississippi River Cocktails and went on a hunt on the Columbia River for local ingredients to recreate it with local flavor!Ingredients for 2 cocktails• 1/2-ounce absinthe, I found a beautiful absinthe made in Astoria at Pilot House Distillery. Their tasting room is easy to find at 1270 Duane Street in Astoria and they have quite the array of liquors and who knew I could I find a local Absinth!• 4 ounces rye whiskey, I substituted rye with Quartz Mountain Bourbon from our embarkation city of Vancouver Washington. I had a great tour in the father and son operation. When in Vancouver it is a must visit. The grains used in their bourbon had qualities that were reminiscent of rye. • 1 ½ ounce simple syrup• 8 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters is the typical bitters for this classic cocktail however, I wandered into the most amazing spice and tea shop at 1153 Commercial Street in Astoria. They even had bitters made in Portland, they were named product of the year at the specialty food show. I chose “The Bitter Housewife” Orange Bitters to give a local twist to this classic cocktail. I also loaded up on some great spices that are hard to find in my local stores.• Orange zest (for garnish)DirectionsPour absinthe into chilled rocks glass. Swirl to coat interior, then discard excess liquor.In mixing glass filled with ice, combine whiskey, simple syrup and bitters. Stir until well chilled, 30–40 seconds. Strain into absinthe-rinsed glass without ice. Garnish with orange zest and serve neat.
An Old Fashioned contains Bourbon, while the Sazerac favors rye whiskey. Both contain sugar and bitters, but a traditional Old Fashioned tends to use Angostura bitters. while the Sazerac demands New Orleans's own Peychaud's Bitters, which was integral in the creation of the drink unless you can find a good local orange bitter like The Bitter House Wife orange bitters from Portland Oregon.