Monday, August 24, 2009

Family Brewery Tour: The Sequel

Mcmenamin's Old St. Francis School in Bend, Oregon

The plusses and minuses of this place could pretty much be summed up by these two pics. If you haven't heard, Mcmenamin's is a chain of breweries in Oregon and Washington. They buy old buildings and renovate them into artsy hotels with breweries and beautiful gardens. The buildings are awesome, the beer and food is ok to good (kind of like the Starbuck's of the brewery world), but the service is notoriously bad.

This particular Memenamin's is in an old Catholic school building. The walls throughout the hotel and brewery are painted in the style of art-student-on-acid and include lots of historical references to the purpose and people associated with the original building. This was our one hotel stay for the trip and the beautiful thing about it, besides the private shower and beds, was free access to their huge soaking tub as seen above. This giant hot tub with water splashing down from the fountain and lion heads is kept at a tolerable enough temperature that the kids could play in it for an hour at a time.

We did eat at the on-site brewery but I really wouldn't recommend it. The service was so slow that I had to leave with the kids - who were bouncing off the walls - before I finished eating. I ordered a green salad with grilled wild salmon, and it didn't seem to be very fresh or well-seasoned, especially for the price. The kids did love the tator tots that come with most of their entrees, but they are the same version that you can pick up in the frozen section of any supermarket. I later noticed that the bakery next door had gourmet sandwiches for about half the price of the brewery . . . such as tuna salad made from freshly caught tuna with lemon zest and sundried-tomato aoli. I would definitely skip the brewery next time.

Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon
I love Hood River. I have friends who have lived there over the years and have visited several times. It's a picturesque town with lots of old buildings, good shopping, coffee houses, and drinking establishments on the Columbia River. The town is filled with fit people wearing tevas who are there to kite surf and mountain bike. The vibe is super casual.

This time, we made just one stop in town at the Double Mountain Brewery on our way to Portland. It is a tiny place with almost nonexistent service (you order at the bar). Their menu is assorted pizzas and salads. We love The Jersey Pie (hot capicola, provolone and marinated spicy peppers), which somehow tastes better than it should. I would have to say that it was the best food-beer pairing we had on the trip. The kids had the Sausage, Onion and Mushroom but it was all too spicy for them. Plus, there was no rootbeer. However, the kids kept an eye on the leather couches until one opened up and then happily took it over, giving us a few minutes to relax.

Mcmenamin's Spar Cafe in Olympia, Washington

You may wonder why we went to another Mcmenamin's after the lackluster experience we had in Bend. The thing is my husband really, really loves them and he arranged to meet some family we rarely see at the one in Olympia. At over three hours, this was a brutally long stop for the kids and I. We did have lots of fun meeting cousins, and luckily, there was a deserted pool table area where the kids could play. But by the end of the visit, I felt exactly like Violet did when she belly-flopped under one of the tables.

I ordered a seared ahi sandwich, and it was a huge piece of fish that was more cooked than seared on really big bready bread. Not bad, better than lots of what I'm able to make at home but not really that noteworthy. Service was solid though, and the waiter was nice about charging my cell phone. Oh, and I should mention the Ruby Ale. It's one of the only fruity beers that I like with just a hint of grapefruit.

Stay tuned for the final installment . . .

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