Treats and Tragedies on the Road: Oregon Coast Weekend Day 1 (Panera Bread, Nana's Irish Pub)

I know that the out-of-town posts don't resonate with a lot of you the same way that the local ones do.  I guess I don't understand that because it's not lot like I'm constantly posting from Asia, or Europe, or even just the East Coast the way a lot of bloggers do.  I'm a man of limited free time and even more limited financial means, but I'm also a man who likes getting the hell out of Boise as often as possible.  Therefore, I take a lot of short trips that are within a day's drive, and since I love the Pacific Northwest that means I end up in Washington and Oregon a lot.  I guess I can understand that people around here don't spend a lot of time in Seattle per se.  It's a bit of a drive, and the flights ain't as cheap as they used to be.  I know a lot of people who go to Portland fairly often, that drive is shorter and honestly the place feels like Boise's big brother.  Same vibe, more food and entertainment options.  But the Oregon Coast?  Yeah, the convoluted roadways make the drive as long as the one to Seattle, but the rewards are so worth it.  There are so many awesome little towns, cheap little hotels, camping opportunities, and great food.  Not to mention the freaking Ocean.  I don't even like beaches, and I could care less about getting a tan, but there's something about sitting and watching/listening to all that water.  It seriously has the ability to hypnotize me for hours.

And that's how I found myself on yet another road trip with the roommate, back to Newport again.  It's kind of becoming her home away from home.  Personally, I would like to explore some of the neighboring towns more, but she's really fixated on that particular place.  Still, when means are limited and someone is offering to split gas and hotel expenses, I'll usually play along.  Some things never change; we left early, hit Starbucks, and I did most of the driving.  There were a couple of firsts this time, though: for the first time ever, we would not be bringing either of her kids along for the ride.  I love those two, but the idea of grown-up only time was intriguing (and to be honest, their mother needed it).  Also, the roommate set the ENTIRE dining agenda for the day.  First stop?  Panera Bread in Tualatin, which was our last stop on our trip back from the Coast last year.

If you don't know about Panera, you soon will (Idaho's first one is opening in Nampa in just a few weeks).  Simply put, it's a fast casual place with emphasis on soups, sandwiches, and pastries.  We had been pretty impressed last time.  I mean it was nothing exemplary, but I like fast casual places because they tend to be consistent and the quality is better than you'll find at a fast food joint.  We both got the "You Pick Two" option (soup and half sandwich with a side)  Honestly, I was too tired to make note of what the roommate ordered or what she thought of it.  If she wakes up before I post this, I'll ask her, but I'm gonna guess it was the Napa Almond Chicken Salad sandwich.  I know for a fact that's the Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and that she got a side of bread.

As for me...well, since this was a grown-ups trip, let's talk like grown-ups.  What you see on my plate, aside from the Panera-branded potato chips, are the Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup and the Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT.  The tomato soup was fine (I really dug the croutons especially), but I have to say something about the sandwich.  The name indicates BLT plus roasted turkey and avocado.  There was roasted turkey, and there was avocado, and they were good; these things are not an issue.  The sourdough bread wasn't as sour as I would like, but I'm willing to let this slide as well.  The tomato was ripe, the lettuce crisp and dark green (even if it was a little disproportionately favored), and I love olive oil mayo.  So all that having been said, what's left?  That's right, the bacon.  The perfectly crispy but cold, greasy bacon.  Who the hell serves cold bacon on a BLT?  Even Subway has the courtesy to microwave that shit for a few seconds.  Look at this picture.  Does that bacon look cold to you?  No, because it's shiny.  When bacon gets cold, the fat and grease on it turns from shiny to opaque white.  And lest you think it was an oversight, my mother stopped at a Panera bread a few weeks later, ordered the same thing, and had the same result.  Bad form, Panera Bread.  Very bad form.  I did take advantage of the 99 cent pastry option you get when buying a meal to get a decent brownie out of them to take with me, so that helped a little.

More driving, but luckily it's a very pretty drive at this point.  Eventually arrived at the hotel, which was also chosen by the roommate and was a damn sight better than the hole I had stayed in last time.  We didn't have the kind of breathtaking vista that the mind conjures when you hear the term "ocean view", but we could definitely see said ocean, and even more importantly we could hear it.  Especially at night with the window cracked.  Trust me, it's some of the best white noise in the world.  The roommate decided to go down for a closer look while I stretched out on my bed, listening to the water ebb and flow and reading through the stack of menus, pamphlets and newspapers I had taken from the check-in counter.  Next came a little shopping trip to acquire the toiletry or two you always seem to forget, along with some beer to store in our little hotel refrigerator.  Then it was time to get cleaned up and head out to the roommate's dinner pick.

Nana's Irish Pub was the restaurant the roommate fell in love with on her first trip to Newport.  It was also the place I had a very satisfying nightcap after a very disappointing meal at a different restaurant on my own first trip to Newport, and after a less than inspiring Irish pub experience in Seattle the previous month we were both counting on it to set us right.

First and second course

Of course there was only one obvious way to kick things off for yours truly, that is with a shot of Bushmills and a glass of Harp.  The roommate, no respecter of tradition, opted for a surprisingly tasty Crispin Pear Cider that she has sadly been unable to find locally.

Cu Chulainn sandwich

Moving on to solid food.  The roommate ordered the Cu Chulainn sandwich: deep-fried all-natural chicken tenders tossed with house hot sauce, served with house bleu cheese dressing on the side, finished with lettuce, tomato and red onion on a kaiser roll.  I didn't try it, but it seems like kind of a buffalo chicken sandwich.  I wish I had tried the fries though.  For her part, she loved it as much as she loves everything at Nana's.

Traditional Irish Breakfast

As for me, I resisted the roommate's entreaties to get the Shepherd's Pie (which she had liked after trying a bite of it on a previous visit, though apparently not enough to order it for herself) and decided to take another run at a full Irish breakfast.  It's a plate of food I know I should love but didn't the last time I tried it due to cooking issues.  There are variations to this monstrous platter depending on who is making it and where, but the components here were exactly the same as the ones from Fadó in Seattle (the sausages especially, since they're made by the same company), save for swapping the bread for baked beans.

First things first, the baked beans and mushrooms were pushed aside because I just plain don't like them.  The tomato was roasted, a nice change from the plain sliced version I'd had before.  Whereas the meats had all been burnt and/or overcooked the last time I had an Irish breakfast, this time they were all done perfectly.  The rashers (Irish-style bacon, really just thin-sliced pork loin) were nicely browned, the breakfast sausages had lovely snap and were still incredibly juicy inside, but most important was the black pudding and the white pudding.  For those who are unfamiliar these are related items, the black pudding being blood sausage and the white being the same thing but made with fat and suet rather than blood.  These were the entire reason I'd wanted this meal, and the first time they had been overcooked until they were almost completely dried out.  At Nana's, they were terrific.  I could see myself getting really into blood sausage if it keeps being as good as the last few times I've had it.  Oh, and the eggs.  The most surprising thing about my first Irish breakfast experience was the fact that everything was overcooked EXCEPT the eggs, which were all snotty white gunk on top.  These were just over-easy enough to fix that problem while still leaving all that soft yolky goodness behind.

The walk back to the hotel that night might have been my favorite part of the trip.  I was buzzed, I was full of a multitude of pork products, the breeze carried the sound and the smell of the ocean with it, and all I could think about was collapsing into bed.  Not bad for a guy who hates sleep and despises wasting time while on vacation.  Don't worry, I made up for it the next day.

Panera Bread on UrbanspoonNana's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

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