Brian's Photo Blog — Article 559
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McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse
Thursday 26 May 2016   —   Category: Dining Out
In an article from last week, I shared the joyful news that after 14 months of Craigslist ads, I had finally sold my Olympus 75mm lens. Finalizing the sale required a special trip to Port­land, but seeing that I’m positively passionate about Portland, that wasn’t a problem at all — there’s always plenty to see and do in the Big City!

After successfully closing the deal at the sprawling Seventh-day Adventists Conference Center in the southeastern Portland sub­urb of Gladstone, I slowly made my way northwest along back­roads, driving by Oswego Lake for the first time. After a couple of stops for grocery shopping, I finally arrived in Hillsboro, in the western Portland metro area.

As part of my continuing quest to explore breweries and pubs in Portland and beyond, I stopped at the McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse property to have lunch at their Imbrie Hall res­tau­rant. What awaited me was more than I had imagined!
To start things off, I perused the beverage menu to see what the local options were. McMenamins operates 25 microbreweries across their nearly 60 locations, and each brewery offers its own unique beers in addition to the McMenamins standards.

I eventually settled on a beer brewed on-site, their Haymaker Gold, which they describe as:

“A bright, crisp golden ale named after a piece of farm ma­chin­ery once used on the Imbrie property. Enjoy the rich, nutty and toasty flavor and aroma profile of the malt, hidden beneath Cascade hops with grapefruit being the noticeable fragrance.” Meas­ure­ments: 5.0% ABV • 16 IBU

It was good ... I would try it again! Unfortunately, I didn’t make any detailed notes of my impressions of this beer — I was too busy admiring the gorgeous interior. This 15-year-old hall was built with a number of historic materials. McMenamins’ history department writes:
“Huge columns rescued from Portland’s venerable Washington Hotel support a skeleton of massive beams from Port of Port­land’s Terminal No. 5, wall posts and headers from a vintage barn near Forest Grove and rafters salvaged from Port­land’s old Blitz-Weinhard brewery. The latter ingredient seems particularly fitting owing to the landmark brewery’s recent closure and be­cause the Imbrie farmstead supplied Blitz-Weinhard with barley for years. All of this formidable framework is secured by bolts the size of a fist....

“[There are] wide planks that were well-aged as part of Sea­gram’s distillery in St. Louis, and red oak flooring (milled from old New England barn beams).... seven-foot-high doors from a Eugene Masonic Lodge, the original glass doors from the Crys­tal Ballroom’s notorious elevator.... Contributing significantly to the pleasing atmosphere and temperature of the place are two classic wood-burning beauties. Called Jewel Triple Heaters, these four-foot-high cast-iron stoves have more than a passing resemblance to an old steam locomotive’s boiler.”
My gawking was interrupted by the ar­rival of my gorgeous lunch. The flat iron steak was so tender that it almost seemed like filet. The horseradish mashed po­ta­toes were heavenly, and the asparagus was perfect: not too crunchy, not too mushy. I would like to say that the Black Rabbit Red demi-glace was heavenly as well, but I’ve already used that adjective ... how about sumptuous?!
After my awesome meal I wandered up­stairs to check out the loft. At the back end I was delighted to find a wonderful view of the large Imbrie Hall kitchen spread out beneath my feet. I can’t say it better than McMenamins:

“The view to the kitchen allows cus­tom­ers a chance to witness the drama of Mc­Menamins’ largest culinary operation: plumes of fragrant steam, the glint of stainless steel, all set to the fast-paced choreography of the cook line.”
Next stop before leaving the restaurant: the loo.

Inspired by the quirky The Best Places To Pee: A Guide To The Funky & Fabulous Bathrooms of Portland book, this is now the third time I’ve indulged in my own bathroom shot.

For the best results, you need a perfect aim!

It was very dark, so I had to crank the ISO up to 6,400 — but the image quality produced by my Olympus OM-D E-M5 cam­era was still quite good.

The intriguing tangle of pipes, valves and gauges (see close-up) looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book!
After taking care of business, it was time to explore the expansive Cornelius Pass Roadhouse property. Although it covers an entire six acres, one-third of that area is for parking. Still, that leaves four acres to discover and enjoy.

During my time there I visited each part of the grounds more than once. It was so quiet and peaceful that I felt I had to tread carefully — as if I were exploring a holy, majestic European cathedral rath­er than an American pub property! It is hard to put into words what I felt there.

Be sure to click on the preview map to the right so you can check out the full-​sized version.
This is the back of the Imbrie Hall res­tau­rant, as seen from the southeast.

The barn-style architecture of this new structure fits in beautifully with the orig­i­nal, much-older historic buildings on the property.
The turn-of-the-century octagonal barn is now a special-event hall which can sit up to 150 guests. There was some sort of event taking place inside on the day I visited. About this barn, McMenamins writes:

“When Robert’s son, Frank, inherited the farm [in 1897], he developed it into a sizable dairy. It was Frank who had the wonderful octagonal barn built soon after the turn of the century. Its unusual design was ideal for the farm’s milking and feeding operations.”
The east side of the historic (built 1866), three-story, Italian Villa-style house, in which six generations of the Imbrie fam­i­ly lived until 1977.

This building housed the original Mc­Men­a­mins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse pub and brewery for fifteen years until the Imbrie Hall restaurant and a separate brewery were constructed on the prop­er­ty. The Roadhouse is now a special-​event venue which can seat up to 65 guests upstairs and 35 downstairs.
One of many enchanting spots to discover on the four-acre property. McMenamins employs teams of year-round gardeners who work hard to keep the grounds of their properties fresh, healthy and in bloom.

The colossal natural-gas-powered Big Red ceramic torch. Ac­cord­ing to McMenamins: “Fashioned by Beaverton artist Joel Cottet (1948–2002) ... the towering lamp is glazed fire-red with bluish highlights, and is similar to the more famous, and only slightly larger lamp that for more than a century has been il­lu­mi­nat­ing the New York harbor, beckoning refugees in search of liberty....

“The sculpture was originally produced as a prototype for film­maker George Lucas, of Star Wars fame. Lucas wanted Jedi-​worthy lighting along the two-mile-long driveway leading to his Skywalker Ranch in Marin County. Unfortunately for Lucas (but fortunately for McMenamins), plans for the torch-lined entry fell through. So in 2001, Big Red’s formidable light came to grace our grounds instead.”
I was glad to find that the on-site brew­ery was giving a tour while I was there. Well, tour might be too big of a word, seeing that the entire operation is housed in a single good-sized room. I was the only participant, so for about ten minutes the brewer gave me a quick rundown of the process, and answered a couple of questions I had. It was interesting, and I’m looking forward to touring some of their other 24 microbreweries.
I was also fortunate enough to get a tour of the distillery which, from what I was told, are given much less frequently than the brewery tours.

The distillery is located, appropriately enough, in the historic (built 1850s) farmstead granary. They use a century-​old, 160-gallon, hand-beaten copper Alambic Charentais pot still which once sat in an old barn in Cognac, France.
Even more so than the brewery, the word “tour” isn’t the best term. There is ab­so­lute­ly no place to walk around, so a small group of us stood there for about 40 minutes listing to Bart the distiller explain, in fascinating detail, the process of distilling and aging spirits. You can get a small taste of things by watching the YouTube video to the right.
And that brings both the tour of the dis­till­ery and the tour of McMenamins’s Cornelius Pass Roadhouse property to an end.

Although I got some nice shots during my visit, they don’t do the place justice at all. Your presence is required in per­son! You have to engage all of your senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing, as well as sight, in order to get the full experience.

During my two-hour stay, I took exactly 100 photos. The best 47 are now on dis­play in the new McMenamins Cornelius Pass 2016 album.

In my next article I will explain how a McMenamins Passport will be helping me discover and explore as many of their 57 other locations as I can this year — see Beginning My McMenamins Passport Adventure.

For all the details of my second visit to this property a couple of months later in July 2016, see McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse 2016 Brewfest.
For more tales about other locations, see My McMenamins Passport Adventure.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 559
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