We arrived the next evening at our amazing B&B in the Willamette Valley and fell in love all over again, as we had not been here in almost 14 years. Two wine tastings and a long drive from the south filled our day of discovery, but we had no clue what was in store for us in one of Oregon's newest and most highly acclaimed dining spots.
We keep saying how nice the people are in Oregon and it's really an understatement; they are downright warm and loving.
Our arrival at this historic house (built in 1857 by pioneer Joel Palmer) turned restaurant in 1996 was odd as the place was heaving and we could not seem to find anyone running the desk. It was short-lived, although their approach to multi-server serving (is that the term) often leaves a wine glass unfilled or something lacking. While the service is attentive and friendly, we just wanted to have our glass filled or something simple like that. That said, we chose the blow your mind Mushroom Madness Tasting Menu for $80 (when you read on you will think, how can they do this for $80?)
We ordered from Paul, who seemed to disappear halfway through the meal, but Andrea the sommelier was always at hand to help. They don't do wine pairings but she suggested two local Pinot Noirs which she felt would truly complete the mushrooms and flavors of the menu:
Joel Palmer House 2008 Cuvee is made by Mark Huff and comes from his Stag Hollow Vineyard in the nearby Yamhill-Carlton AVA. I love the fact that everyone in the Valley (and virtually every tasting room) uses quality Riedel Pinot Noir glasses as well. The wine was superb and paired perfectly with the first courses. The second Pinot was Ken Wright, one of our favorite winemakers, and here we had the 2012 Abbott Claim Vineyard also from Yamhill-Carlton. Andrea decanted the wine for over an hour, which was a smart move, as it is so young and quite big.
The meal began with an amuse trio of Carrot tartare with pickled black trumpet mushroom, Beet Tartare with Truffle Oil (made in house from Oregon truffles, which we purchased to bring back home) & Rosemary, and a divine orgasmic Mushroom Risotto called Jack's (named for the chef's father who opened the restaurant) Wild Mushroom Risotto and truly memorable due the foraged by hand mushrooms (the chef and family and friends do this for all their mushrooms) with Oregon White Truffle Oil and Romano style goat cheese. What a change from the previous night's mediocre block of rice.
The first course on the menu was Joe's (named for the chef's ancestor who opened the first of a long line of dining spots in Reading, PA in 1916!). Today the soup was a duo, with a mushroom blend soup with creme fraiche that was truly awesome as well as a Matsutake Chowder that was cream based with toasted sesame. Keep in mind the earthy dishes are being enjoyed with the earthy Pinots!
Foie Gras was a poached version with Quince Glaze, Candy Cap Caramelized Onions...we were very happy and a glass of Arbor Brook 2011 Late Harvest Semillon (made with Washington grapes in Oregon) was a nice foil.
Heidi's (named for the chef's mother) Three Mushroom tart is a superb creation with porcini, portabella and suillus mushrooms with a sprinkling of white truffle powder on the plate for flavor; I may never be able to eat another mushroom quiche again after this revelation.
The restaurant was emptying, we were slowing down, and the super moon was rising outside our window; it was a perfect meal and evening.
We were treated to an extra course of DUO of GAZPACHO with one being Cucumber Lemon Balm and the other Tomato Pickled Ginger, which came in the same bowl and after enjoying severally, we could swirl them together for a third version! YUM.
Sturgeon here is treated with great care and lots of flavor with a Cayenne Aioli, Quinoa and Wild Mushroom Duxelles. My notes are unclear, but there seems to have been broccoli, bread crumbs and poppyseeds as well.
The main meat course was a Filet Mignon with Porcini, demi-glace, pureed Rusett potatoes, asparagus and more of that oh so wild Oregon white truffle oil (I can't wait to try my bottle at home this week).
The filet can come with extra foie gras for a supplement, but we were nearing full as Chef Christopher Czarnecki made the rounds and we told him how spectacular the entire meal had been.
We were now left with servers Gretchen & Jill who delivered "Into the Woods" a forest inspired tasting of desserts:
5 Spice Vanilla Bread Pudding
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Muddles Sorrel & hazelnut Crisp
Frozen Grand Marnier Souffle with Candy Cap Mushroom Whipped Cream
Warm Honey Apple Clafoutis with Brandy Caramel
I loved it all and we were thrilled when Chef Christopher returned to close the place down as we were the only ones left. But before this he took us on a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar really making our day and making feel right back at home in the Willamette Valley wine country, even after being gone for 14 years.