by David and Susan Greenberg
As we drive the weather-scuffed towns of Oregon Coast Highway 101, we notice their similarities. Many have one or more “vintage treasure” emporiums. Chowder joints, smoked-fish mongers, gift marts, taffy stores and workaday watering holes abound. Aside from the cannabis dispensaries (which multiply like weeds), we see roughly what our grandparents would have seen. And then, we enter Nehalem.
Innumerable hanging flower baskets spill waterfalls of color and scent. We sit beside the Nehalem River and watch fantastic spires of mist rise from the water. As they collapse, we behold a watery tableau: herons, elegant as calligraphic letters, stand one-legged, flocks of kayakers flash paddles, fishermen cast. We are in a Monet painting.
We sop morsels of Wolfmoon Bakery honeybuns in our Hugo’s coffee as we saunter through town. Wolfmoon Bakery’s popularity is such that they can’t provide counter-service. They’re too busy baking. We must order online and pick it up on their porch. One taste of their baguette and we comprehend. Based on hard white spring wheat and house-milled kamut, an ancient-grain wheat, their baguette could be straight from a Paris bakery hypersonically delivered.
We find a food-carts patch alongside the river. The battered cod at Riverside Fish & Chips makes us growl with pleasure.
Then there’s Buttercup Ice Creams & Chowders, a culinary mixed martial-arts master. The curry paste in their green curry chowder was, like everything else they serve, scratch-made. Plump with potatoes, leeks, peas, and yam, we paused between slurps to contemplate its ineffable depths. It was topped with caramelized shallots, a scrumptious hallmark of the most authentic Thai cuisine. Each of their hand-crafted ice-creams has its own custom cone. Their marshmallow ice-cream comes in a graham-cracker cone with a marshmallow-chocolate plug at the bottom and a chocolate rim—a frozen, conical s’more.
The nearby distillery, Spirits of the West, distills, among other spirits, dark rum to beguile Hemingway and peach schnapps that tasted like fruit off the tree. We were compelled to buy a bottle of each.
DO JU MOON specializes in hand-mixed teas, bitters and tinctures. The proprietress, Alesia Franken, serves us Turmeric-Astragalus-Ginger-Cardamom-Black-Pepper tea and a flight of bitters including Cardamom Sun Bitters (cardamom, orange peel, white-peony root). Like concoctions from a Chinese apothecary, each has specific healthful properties.
We mosey next door to BAYBAY, where we browse cool-vibe furniture and hep-cat homewares.
Such is the power of the muse, Nehalem has not one, but two pottery studios—North Coast Mudworks and Nehalem Bay Pottery. There must be something special about the local clay.
When we’re thirsty for culture, we’ll return to visit North County Recreation Performing Arts Center, the local hub of theater, concerts and films.
Nehalem would widen our grandparents’ eyes. Isolated yet worldly, it brims with artful-scrumptious-soulful establishments that resonate with the here and now.