Thursday, May 24, 2007

One step closer in Forest Grove

My friend Marcus once described sake as alcoholic dishwater, so when I saw a sakery in Forest Grove in my “Oregon Curiosities” book, I didn’t have a lot of hope for it.

He and I have seem to have similar palates when it comes to alcoholic drinks (i.e. we pretty much prefer soda), but I decided to give it a try anyway. After all, it’s in the book and one more item to cross off my list.

So, I made the trek to Forest Grove with my friend Mitch, who worked at a sushi restaurant before and had an appreciation for sake.

We pulled up to the tasting room at SakeOne, the world’s only American-owned and operated sakery, and were greeted by a worker who happily guided us through our sake tour.

We started off with the Silver, which was described in the brochure as crisp and dry with green apple notes. What I tasted was more like paint thinner than apples, but Mitch seemed to enjoy that one.

From there, we moved on to Pearl, which was supposedly sweet and full-bodied with a delicate coconut aroma. I could smell the coconut, but it was more paint thinner for me here.

I’ll admit my palate is unrefined, and I’ve scarcely found an alcoholic beverage I do enjoy. Although, there are a few. Mitch had no problems enjoying the various tastes.

Next, we moved on to G, which had a full fruity nose with hints of spice that gave way to creamy layers of ripe melon flavors and hints of pear and plum. Or so I’m told. This one had an aftertaste that stuck with me, and I was happy to see our tour guide bring out some water.

I thought I would get a chance to cleanse my palate, but alas, she used it to wash out our glasses.

We came to the last leg of the tour, which included a more fruity mix of sakes. These are the ones I was looking forward to the most. We tried the Asian Pear, which was light and delicate with fruity Asian pear aromas and flavors. This one, I could actually taste the pear and was pretty pleased with it.

We ended the tour with the Plum sake, which was by far my favorite. It had a taste reminiscent of fruit juice and went down easy. It was described as having a juicy plum aroma with light almond notes.

Our tour guide pointed out that the Plum goes really well with a Champagne mix. We were sure to buy a bottle to put that to the test. And I can confirm that she is correct about that. It makes a delicious bubbly drink that tastes a bit like fruit juice. But it’s easy to overindulge, so beware.

I saw in the brochure a Raspberry sake that I wanted to try, as well. But our tasting was over. I asked if we could still taste the Raspberry, and the guide seemed a little put out by the request.

It seems the Plum is the perfect finisher, and she didn’t think we would get the full effect of the Raspberry, but she did acquiesce to our request eventually. Maybe it was because the Plum was so good, but I didn’t enjoy the Raspberry much after all, despite its rich aroma of freshly picked raspberries.

SakeOne is at 820 Elm St., and there are plenty of road signs to point the way. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tasting are $3 a glass.

We left the sakery and headed to more curious pursuits. As it turns out, the world’s largest barber pole is also in Forest Grove, a.k.a. Ballad Town USA. The Northwest Barbershop Ballad Contest has been held here every March for the last 60 years.

In 1973, the Barbershop Harmony Society held its international convention and championships in Portland. Chuck Olson, a Forest Grove native and barbershop quartet aficionado, led a campaign to honor the event with the world’s tallest barber pole.

Years before, the event was held in San Antonio, where they erected a 40-foot pole to commemorate the occasion. Not to be outdone, Olson and his crew opted for a 70-foot pole with a 2-foot Styrofoam ball on top.

After the convention, the gang didn’t want to see the pole chopped up for firewood, so it was brought to Forest Grove, where it stands high above Lincoln Park.

Getting to the pole proved to be a bit of a challenge, as nearly all of Lincoln Park is under construction. We were forced to admire it from afar, behind locked construction fences.

Mitch and I actually found an opening where we were confident we could slip through the fence, despite the locks. But we decided to avoid a possible trespassing fine just for an up close and personal look at the pole. Luckily, my camera has a good zoom on it, so the experience wasn’t a total loss.

I still haven’t decided where to explore next, but it’s a long weekend, so I’ll have plenty of time to decide. Any suggestions?
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