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Tastes better with sunshine: Dining outdoors in Clark County satisfies wanderlust

Places to travel, eat and drink during long summer days

By Rachel Pinsky, Columbian freelance food writer
Published: July 5, 2024, 6:08am
5 Photos
Ridgefield hosts an annual farm-to-table dinner.
Ridgefield hosts an annual farm-to-table dinner. (Contributed by city of Ridgefield) Photo Gallery

Summer brings a magical mix of sunshine and long days. It’s the perfect time to drive somewhere and dine outside. This list includes places to travel, eat and drink while sunlight lingers late into the evening.

Farm Dinners

The agricultural tradition of Clark County lives on in the chiles, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and berries that cover the rolling hills of Ridgefield, La Center and Brush Prairie. A few farms and the city of Ridgefield are throwing farm-to-table dinners to celebrate this lush harvest.

Gather & Feast (2706 N.E. 369th St., La Center; 360-768-3323) will host a farm dinner on Aug. 10 as well as a casual get-together featuring brats. For the farm dinner in August, Chef Ethen Treichler of Alta PDX will prepare food from Busy Beetle Farm (which farms at Gather & Feast) and other local purveyors like Kenai Redfish Company for his Nordic-inspired family-style meal (around $50 per person).

Treichler has worked at local notables like Fuel Bistro and Little Conejo. He’s currently at Ghost Runners Brewery and Kitchen in Minnehaha. Alta PDX is his passion project to throw events using locally grown and raised food. Treichler is drawn to Nordic cuisine because he believes that the bounty of the Pacific Northwest has a lot in common with Nordic countries. He also loves this simply elegant but hearty and warming cuisine. For the August dinner, he plans on preparing a veg-forward meal including watermelon feta salad, tomato caprese salad and smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) featuring his house-cured gravlax made with fish from Kenai Redfish Company.

Flat Tack Farm (9400 N.E. 134th St., Vancouver; 360-566-3030) hosts Taco Tuesday with Razos Tacos in August and October ($30). Visitors can also register for an optional salsa demonstration ($10) that includes harvesting produce, turning it into salsa, then packing it up to take home ($10). On Sept. 21, Flat Tack’s Annual Autumn Equinox dinner returns featuring a four-course meal (approximately $130 per person).

Dilish Farm (22904 N.E. 58th St., Vancouver; 360-947-8992) is planning two farm dinners: one on Aug. 1 and another on a date to be determined in September at the family farm in Vancouver ($150 per person). These events invite the public to see how food is grown on Dilish Farm, meet the people who grow it and celebrate the seasonal bounty. The evening begins with a farm tour providing information about Dilish Farm’s stewardship practices and conservation efforts followed by live music and a social hour with drinks and appetizers. The menu for these multicourse farm dinners is based on freshly picked produce from the farm prepared by a farmers market chef. The Green Grocer will prepare the August meal. Diners can choose from a vegetarian or meat entree.

On Aug. 17, the city of Ridgefield will host a farm-to-table dinner in Overlook Park ($75 per person through the city’s website). This multicourse feast features a bruschetta duo of watermelon and blueberry as well as tomato and basil toppings, housemade gnocchi with a creamy white wine sauce, and blackberry cobbler with fresh whipped cream prepared by local caterer Killa Bites.

Ridgefield Art Association runs the beer, cider and wine tent (one drink is included with the dinner ticket, additional drinks can be purchased at the tent). Ridgefield Craft Brewery supplies beer and cider. Everything, including flowers from Ridgefield Floral and Gifts, is locally made. Live music from Reckless Kompany entertains guests. This event is for adults 21 and over only because alcohol is served.

Wineries

Agriculture products in this county aren’t confined to community-supported-agriculture boxes and farmers markets. Excellent wineries abound throughout the area. The Southwest Washington Winery Association’s website at www.swwawine.com has a complete list of businesses. Here are a couple wineries I visit to escape reality.

I’ve never been to Spain, however I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Mar Meyerhoefer’s love letter to her hometown of Madrid — Emanar Cellars (1113 S.E. Rasmussen Blvd., Battle Ground; 360-513-2448). Nibbling on tapas while sipping Spanish wine on the patio decorated with bright ceramic tiles feels like a European vacation. In summer, Emanar Cellars offers frozen sangria ($8 per glass) and gazpacho served with bread from Portland French Bakery ($9).

Idyllic Bethany Vineyard & Winery (4115 N.E. 259th St., Ridgefield; 360-887-3525) spreads over 75 acres featuring two lakeside patios, a floating patio and lush gardens to explore. Relaxing by the water with some bites from their kitchen — like a vineyard wedge salad ($15.50) or cheese board ($18) along with a white or red wine flight ($15 for six wines) — feels like stepping into the world of “The Great Gatsby.” Outdoor spaces are 21 and over. The indoor tasting room is family-friendly. Reservations required for groups of eight or more. Outside food and beverages are not allowed.

Breweries, taprooms

Lately, when I feel the need for a nice long drive, I find myself heading east on state Highway 14 into the Columbia River Gorge to hike and grab a pint.

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The first stop after Washougal (home to Trap Door, 54:40, and Recluse) is Walking Man Brewing (240 S.W. First St., Stevenson; 509-427-5520). It offers craft beer, salads ($6-$16) and pizzas with such interesting combinations as Thai chicken ($22) and black olives, mushrooms and blue cheese ($22). Walking Man’s patio has an enchanted forest theme. In the summer, the picnic area expands with striking views of the Cascade Mountains. A new boutique next door called Traverse PNW Market is perfect for grabbing some gifts like artisan jewelry or snacks and refreshments for the rest of your trip. Walking Man has live music on Thursdays during the summer.

Another great outdoor space to eat and drink in the Gorge is Everybody’s Brewing (177 E. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon: 509-637-2774). Ask for a seat on the spacious patio and, if there’s a chill, sit by the fire pit. This Gorge taproom offers more than the typical pub grub. I was impressed by vegetable-forward dishes like vegan nachos with mushroom and cauliflower “chorizo” and cashew-based vegan queso ($16.50), and a Chicago-style Italian mushroom sandwich with marinated lion’s mane and cremini mushrooms and spicy giardiniera ($17.50). I typically stick to pilsners and light lagers when eating, but sometimes it’s nice to throw a curveball to the taste buds with a fruity sour like Everybody’s peach or pink guava. Live music plays here on Mondays during the summer.

Dining outside in Clark County in the summer and fall satisfies the itch of wanderlust, but doesn’t require planning or a passport, just some free time and a full tank of gas.


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Chef Ethen Treichler works at Ghost Runners Brewery and Kitchen  in Hazel Dell. 

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Columbian freelance food writer