Hood River Fruit Loop

A Message for Men

There’s something about apple picking that makes a girl grin!

Guys, you must take your lady apple picking in the fall. It’s in the manual. Read it, know it, live it!

Sure, berry-picking in the spring is great. Cherries in early summer are a no-brainer. But apple-picking in the fall is the surest way to show you’re onboard with your lady. Bonus points if it’s a Sunday when your team is playing!

Quick Turnaround Time

Tears for Fears the night before at Maryhill Winery.

Less than 12 hours ago, we were rocking out at a concert in the Gorge.

Now it’s early Saturday, and we’re already on our way back to the Gorge! I’ve packed a picnic basket and sweet-talk Andy into taking the Hood River Fruit Loop. It’s about an hour east of Portland on 1-84, but there’s nothing like a brisk autumn morning (and a stiff cup-o-joe) to pump you up to pick apples! (Ladies: promise your man apple pie, especially if it’s a Sunday and his team is playing!)

Timing is Everything

October is the peak time to visit. Fall leaves are blazing in their splendor, and apple season is in full swing. But with our wedding looming just a few weeks away, we’re on a tight schedule. September will have to do. Turns out, Hood River in September still pegs the fab-o-meter!

We plan to have a private wedding at A Blooming Hill Winery, then head to Newport, Oregon for our honeymoon. We’ll wrap up festivities with a fall-themed party the following weekend. You can’t have a fall-themed party without the best seasonal produce: apples!

The setting and mood are perfect! I am happy to say the changing leaves and the spotty rain are in full cooperation.

The Wow Factor

A drive up the Gorge is full of truly spectacular sites! We cruise beside the mighty Columbia River, topped with whitecaps from the rushing water flowing against the winds. Multnomah Falls and Vista House are in full view.

We stop in the town of Hood River to stretch our legs and poke around some local shops. Of course, this being the Pacific Northwest, we also put a little more coffee in our bloodstreams (or is it vice versa?) before heading out on the scenic 35-mile “Fruit Loop,” Highway 35. The drive includes stunning views of Mount Hood dotted with trees donning their fall glory.

The Fruit Loop has 26 farm stands and wineries. Back in Spring, we joined a group of friends on a wine tasting excursion. Andy had insisted on picking up a bottle of Marchesi Prosecco on that outing, “Just in case we need to celebrate something sometime.”

Now that we have that “something sometime,” we came back to pick up the rest of the food for our celebration!

When you’re out of your gourds, Draper Girls Country Farms has your back.

All About the Farm Stands

You know you want to pet him!

First stop: Draper Girls Country Farms. They have a generously-stocked stand and U-pick. Ever pet a goat? You can both pet and feed them at Draper Girls! And bring your camera, because it’s hard to take a bad photo here. They have beautiful gardens for a romantic stroll. It’s also a great spot for kids to run around looking cute for fall photos! (Pro tip, couples: make sure kids aren’t in the background of your smoochy selfies!)

Draper Girls is my go-to place for pumpkins, squashes, and the best dried lentils. I plan to both cook and decorate with my squashes and pumpkins for our party.

The Whoa Factor

Our next stop is Toll Bridge Park on the East Fork of Hood River. This is the perfect spot for a picnic! The gentle rain has stopped, so we find a secluded spot on the water surrounded by colorful trees to lay out our romantic Apple Country feast.

You can barely see the picnic basket behind me. We were so hungry, we snapped a quick selfie and scarfed!

It’s rainy today, so I have taken that into account for our menu. I’ve packed the picnic basket with a thermos full of Smokey White Bean Soup, the Gorge Focaccia Ham and Swiss Sandwiches, apples, cheese, and various deli treats. For dessert, Puff Pastry Plum Tartlets and a bottle Oak Knoll “Deviant” sweet red wine.

Looping On

Next, we head to my favorite place for apples, Kiyokowa Family Orchards in Parkdale. They offer a zillion varieties of apples, pears, and other produce, plus pastries and apple cider.

In previous visits, I’ve been known to lose my mind and stock up on every type of apple known to Man (well, maybe not that Garden of Eden apple…) for my fall baking. My favorite apple is the Akane, aka the “Tokyo Rose.” It’s a crisp, firm, eating apple. It has a good balance of sweet and sharp and is best eaten fresh with your favorite wine and cheese. They also look beautiful in a bowl on your dining room table. All other apples will be used in baked goods, apple sauce, and Thanksgiving stuffing.

Besides apples, Kiyokowa has a big play area for kids and families. Parkdale is a cute little village at the end of the Mt. Hood Railroad line.

Apples of My Eye

When you make a pie with a variety of apples, each bite is just a little different in flavor and texture,

Now that we have our bounty of apples and squashes, the rest of the day is devoted exploring our way slowly back home. We slip in a side trip to Apple Valley Country Store and Bakery. If you’re looking for gourmet treats, baked goods, ice cream, and country decor, this is your Paradise. It smells really good inside too, like apple pie and vanilla ice cream! They also have a lovely flower garden outside that is perfect for a romantic stroll.

As we head back to Portland, the rain starts back up again and we are worn out from our eventful weekend. We have had some fun, bagged our limit, and brought back the trophies.

The Road Ahead

The next two weeks will be a flurry of last-minute wedding details, moving everything Andy owns into my garage, dealing with car breakdowns, silly banking snafus, and my house getting painted two months late… literally on our wedding day!

Apple Country Smokey White Bean Soup

A comforting Fall/Winter soup. Cook up a pot on a snow day and serve in chili bowl or do what we did: load it up in a Thermos for a day of apple picking!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Picnic, Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ lb Pancetta cut into cubes (a good smoky bacon is also a good option)
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 14 oz can white kidney beans, or cannelloni beans don't use those nasty little pinkish-white beans
  • 6 sprigs of fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary chopped
  • ½ cup white wine No white on hand? Red will work too.
  • 1 14 oz can crushed or petite dice tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup Small dried pasta or broken spaghetti noodles
  • salt/pepper to taste check sodium content on chicken stock before deciding on salt. Sodium content may vary.


  • In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil, then add the pancetta and onion
  • Sautee for 10 minutes
  • add garlic and continue cooking 1 minute
  • add the beans, chopped herbs, salt and pepper
  • Cook 2 minutes, then add wine and cook until reduced
  • add tomatoes, then chicken stock
  • Add the dried pasta
  • Simmer 30 minutes
  • Taste test and adjust salt and pepper


Serving Suggestions:

  • Picnic:  Condition the Thermos by filling it with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour out the water and pour in the hot soup. 
  • At the table:  Garnish with parmesan cheese, more fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.
Keyword bacon, white beans
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Columbia Gorge Sandwich

For this sandwich, we start with the basic focaccia dough recipe, take it to the next level with toppings baked into the dough. Then ham, cheese, and assorted goodies fill the sandwich.
It can be made a day ahead. Oh and they are messy so bring extra napkins.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Picnic, Sandwiches
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 1 Bowl of focaccia dough already risen
  • 2 Large, sliced tomatoes heirloom is best
  • 1 Yellow bell pepper diced
  • ½ cup Fresh basil julienned
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Drizzle of olive oil extra virgin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 oz Sliced deli ham
  • 7 oz Sliced Gruyere (or other Swiss cheese)
  • 1 Red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Sliced pepperoncinis
  • 2 cups Mixed baby greens
  • 4 tbsp Dijon mustard


  • Spread focaccia dough in a well oiled pan and top with the sliced tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Bake as directed, then allow to cool completely
  • When focaccia is cool, slice horizontally and layer the ham, cheese, sliced onion, pepperoncinis, and baby greens
  • Spread the top half of the focaccia with the mustard
  • Cut sandwiches up to about 8 servings
  • Place on a serving platter, or wrap tightly in plastic for easy picnic transport
Keyword cheese, ham
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Puff Pastry Plum Tartlets

My favorite pastry to work with goes "mini!" These make tasty fall party snacks too.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling Time 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6



  • 1 sheet of puff pastry dough defrosted but still cold, cut into 6 squares
  • 1 lb plums cut in quarters use firmer plums like Victoria plums
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy


  • Pre heat oven to 400°
  • Spray a muffin tin with non-stick
  • Place puff pastry squares in the muffin tin
  • In a sauté pan, melt butter
  • Add plums and brown sugar, then sauté until plums are soft but not mushy
  • Add brandy and cook 1 more minute
  • Place plums equally in the puff pastry
  • Drizzle the pan juices over the top of the plums
  • Bake for 10 minutes, until edges of the pastry are golden
  • Allow to cool before removing from the tin
Keyword pastry, plum, puff pastry
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

1 comment

  1. Pingback: The Honeymoon Thing in Newport - Darcy Dishes