Cannon Beach, on the northern Oregon coast, is tourist heaven. Happily, this sweet town has a lot more than souvenir and ice cream shops. Who wouldn’t love the wide, sandy beach, with Haystack Rock rising 235 feet just offshore? At low tide I walk the wet sand to this seabird sanctuary and look for the sea stars and anemones that live in the tidepools. (Keeping an eye on the tide, of course–don’t want to get stuck on Haystack with waves rushing in around me.)
Some people build sandcastles, fly kites or go surfing or boogy boarding (brrr, that Pacific water is cold). I prefer hiking the woodsy trails of Ecola State Park, on the north end of town, with the roar of the rolling surf never far away. Then I window-shop with everyone else. The last time I counted, Cannon Beach had some 60 shops and galleries: gifts, cards, candy, fine art, photography, wines, handblown glass, you name it. It has an active theater and at least 30 places to eat, from pizza parlors to high cuisine restaurants. Good bakeries, too. All this in a town with a population under 2,000.
I always head for two places. First, Cannon Beach Book Company, a 30-year-old bookstore with great reading choices. I browse for hours and invariably find something I’ve got to read. This time it’s The Mine, by Daniel Cobb, an Oregon science and technology writer. His thriller is the story of a young biologist who discovers fraud, corruption and murder in a mining company, and the disaster that follows. It’s a page-turner and a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment.
My other favorite is a restaurant, Newmans at 988. Dinner is expensive, and it’s worth it. I’m not going out on a limb here; almost everyone is wowed by Chef John Newman’s fantastic way with French-Italian food. A few have complained about the service, but I find it just right, attentive but not hovering. Newmans is small, in an unassuming yellow house on Hemlock Street. Its carpeting and low ceiling keep the noise level at a pleasant hum, and the background music (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett–old standards, but stil the best) goes well with white linens and candlelight.
The seared scallops appetizer is melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. It’s served with sweet corn, mushrooms, and a parsley/carrot reduction, with a touch of truffle oil to add a light smokiness. Delicious. The duck trio entree has duck in 3 ways: delicate liver in a light crust along with slices of dark and light meat and served with perfectly cooked polenta and vegetables. There’s a balanced wine list, with a number of Pacific Northwest wines, and delectable desserts created by pastry chef Nancy Williams.
Chef John has won a number of awards and will be a part of the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, Nov. 10, 2010. These auctions, held in about 200 U.S. cities, have raised more that $132 million for the March of Dimes effort to save babies. The Portland auction will be held at the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront hotel.
The final touch, after my excellent dinner, is a stroll around Cannon Beach with the festive crowd. With maybe just a taste of chocolate and a sip of espresso to end a fine day at the beach. See you at the tidepools.