The moment I walked into Latigo, Sisters’ newest fine-dining establishment, I imagined myself living there. I love the wrap-around deck, the high peaked ceiling with its huge rustic wooden beams, the oversized windows, the wood-burning brick fireplace and the romantic vibe. Then I tasted chef-owner Tim Christman’s food and the fantasy stretched to include him cooking for me 24/7.
My friends and I started with two appetizers I’d drive back for any time. The diners at the table kitty-corner to ours agreed.
“Have you tried the smoked salmon? It’s amazing,” one of the two women announced before heading home to Sunriver. Indeed. A mild smoky flavor permeates the crusty, moist chunk of salmon, which is smoked in house and served with a ginger-curry remoulade, caraway toasts and Thai chili glaze.
“One of the best I’ve tasted,” announced my friend Viv, who travels for a living.
“I’m in love with the salmon,” agreed my friend Leah. “I want to take it home.”
The corn and leek chowder soup, which our departing diners also raved about, captured my heart. A perfect pan-seared scallop, ancho chili oil and tarragon oil—two of 30 infused oils Chef Tim has created—and a splash of dry sherry and tarragon vinegar, each contributed to the refrain of flavors that sang to me with each bite of the lightly creamed soup. My three friends and I grabbed pieces of hot, house-baked bread and raced to mop up every drop still left in the bowl we had shared. Need I say more?
While our third appetizer, a beef tenderloin crostini served with chèvre, onion jam and balsamic reduction didn’t work for me due to its sweetness, the beef entrées made up for that and then some.
The filet, served with sautéed local chanterelle and cremini mushrooms and a red wine demi-glace, was about as good as any filet we could remember. I particularly liked the taste spike provided by the accompanying herb-infused oil.
The coffee-cocoa crusted Wagyu—a type of beef famous for its marbling and tenderness—reminded me of a melt-in-your-mouth pot roast only different. That’s what 24 hours of low temperature sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) braising does.
The rack of lamb, topped with sautéed shallot and cranberries with jalapeño gelée, and the duck breast, served with fennel beurre blanc, sage pan jus and pickled blueberries, were equally tender and equally brimming with flavor. Sous vide braising strikes again.
While I did miss the more juicy texture of a pan-seared duck breast, the delicately nuanced and unique flavor profiles of each of our entrées wowed me. So did all the accompaniments—ranging from perfectly al dente asparagus and broccolini to garlic herb smashed potatoes and a medley of Israeli cous cous, red quinoa and orzo. Indeed, each dish seems like its own carefully composed piece of music.
Every musical composition needs a big finale. Saying that ours didn’t disappoint is like saying that Smith Rock is more than just a rock outcropping. We shared a warm apple cobbler served in a tiny cast-iron pan with cinnamon whipped cream and local gelato, as well as a warm dark chocolate soufflé into which we poured raspberry crème anglaise. While the apple cobbler with its semi-firm chunks of apple and Brown Betty-style oat topping was lovely, the chocolate soufflé was downright divine.
“Oh my. Did that really happen?” my friend Leah asked after her fist bite of soufflé. I wanted to answer no and tell her that she’d just imagined the experience so she wouldn’t go back in for another bite. Yes, the chocolate soufflé is that good.
And yes, our experience at Latigo was that good as well. I can’t wait to see how the restaurant’s new lounge, in which they’ll serve cocktails and small plates, measures up. I have high hopes.
Latigo’s Chef Tim reminds me of the European chef-owners I watched in action as a child living in Paris. From the open kitchen he checks in and chats with diners waiting to be seated. He helps his wife Sucy, who handles the front of the house, deliver entrées. And he takes pride in every aspect of his restaurant and his food, refusing to compromise on either. Works for me.
370 E. Cascade Ave, Sisters
Owners: Tim and Sucy Christman
Hours: Open daily 5pm–close
I really like Drake. I like the look of the restaurant. I like the staff—the servers are as fun as they are informative. And I like the concept of an upscale diner with food that blends the best of Americana with French cuisine. Case in point, their burger. Sure you can get a terrific basic cheeseburger, or you can add toppings ranging from a hen’s egg and pear kimchi to pork belly and roasted bone marrow. Want to add a milk shake to that? Why not try the Apple Pie Milk Shake with maple ice cream, caramelized apples and pie crust or the Salted Caramel Milk Shake with candied pecans.
See what I mean about upscale diner?
On the other hand, I knew a new chef had been brought in, which can be a good or a bad thing. So it was with anticipation and some nervousness that I joined three friends there for dinner.
I need not have worried. Chef John Gurnee, who attended culinary school and worked as an executive chef in the Bay Area before moving to Bend, is a master.
My friends and I shared four starters. While we couldn’t agree on which two were our favorites, the huge Dungeness Crab Cake with its crispy crust, moist chock-full-of-crab interior, saffron aioli and accompanying citrus-fennel salad took top billing for all of us. My companions also fell in love with meaty, tender ribs, dubbed “meat candy” by one of the two. “I could eat five of those by myself,” she said. That would be hard since I’d fight her for them.
As much as I enjoyed the ribs, I couldn’t get over the Grilled Maitake Mushroom. The char on the exterior along with the mushroom itself made me feel as if I’d been whisked off to a campfire in the woods. The spicy and citrusy yuzu aioli provided a creamy taste pop that took the dish right over the top.
Thin slices of fresh fennel also helped set apart the Belgian endive salad with apples and Rogue blue cheese, served with a tangy mustard seed vinaigrette. Delightfully refreshing and downright delicious.
We were on a culinary roll, which would continue throughout the rest of the meal.
As always, we shared the entrees as well. The Gulf Shrimp & Grits with roasted peppers, caramelized onion, bacon, sweet corn and Tabasco pan sauce combined perfectly melded subtle flavors with the perfect comfort food.
The Game of the Day was duck served with roasted root vegetables, bacon, Brussel sprouts, white beans and confit garlic. Yes that’s right: garlic that’s been slowly baked in fat. “I feel like I’m in France and went to dinner at someone’s humble but lovely home,” one of my friends announced. There aren’t many restaurants in town, or anywhere else for that matter, that can transport you like that.
Surprisingly, the ample Oregon Natural Ribeye was the weakest of the dishes we tried. I liked the green peppercorn-brandy sauce and the meat was tender, flavorful and clearly top quality. But I missed that sear which usually accentuates the flavor of the beef. An easy fix for sure. The rest of the dish, however, was divine. At every turn during our meal we realized that Drake’s accompaniments—in this case Juniper Jungle farm potatoes—aren’t just an afterthought. Carefully chosen to complement each entrée, they actually shine on their own. Wow, does that work!
Finally we tried the West Coast Cioppino. Truth be told, I’m not usually a cioppino fan; the fish stew is just too tomato-y for me. Not here. Imagine mussles, shrimp and rock fish served with ground Italian sausage and potatoes in a saffron-shellfish broth with aioli and an oven-charred, crusty baguette for dipping. It tasted like seafood paella without the rice. Stunningly good.
We ended our feast with the aforementioned apple pie milk shake and a small chocolate stout cake served with fresh hop dulce, porter gelato and popcorn cream.
Yup. Check it out for yourself and you’ll see.
801 NW Wall Street, Bend
Owner: Ted Swigert
Hours: Open daily 11:30am–9pm (10pm on Friday & Saturday)
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop & Oregon LocalGetways
The news that a whiskey bar was coming to town made me happy. That glee grew the second I walked into the small space with its wood, metal and brick décor. I’d finally found a local watering hole that was as comfortable as it was grown-up. Then we actually ate there and I realized that this is the full package. Not only does Stihl serve more than 200 whiskeys along with well-crafted cocktails from their well-rounded bar, its food is darn good too.
My friends and I started out with a round of cocktails, which included a traditional Whiskey Sour made with egg white and a Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade spiked with cardamom and sparkling wine, along with a round of appetizers.
We jumped on The Stihl Grilled Cheese which marries aged Tillamook white cheddar with brisket braised in a house-made spice rub, accented by fennel-pickled red onion. Add buttery Texas Toast and you’ve got a stellar sandwich.
Both of the salads we tried proved to be light, refreshing counters to the rich grilled cheese. The Boston Bibb salad with goat cheese, orange segments and toasted pepita seeds was tossed in a slightly sweet bourbon vinaigrette. I have to admit that I didn’t taste much bourbon in the dressing, which could be a good thing. The beautifully presented roasted beet salad included golden and red beets in an orange and ginger drizzle with black pepper thyme, fleur de sel and creamy chèvre. Lovely.
The barbecued braised shrimp was less successful with a glaze that struck us all as too sweet. But the French Onion Soup was a hit, its impressive depth of flavor accented by fried leeks with brown butter chanterelle mushrooms. Four stars.
The entrees that Chef Rian Mulligan (previously of Tetherow) served up also earned accolades. The boneless pork chop, pan-seared with shallots and garlic and served pink, was wonderfully moist and tender. That’s hard to do with a pork chop. The dry citrus rub which, in the words of my friend Deb “sets forward on your tongue,” was so good that the leftovers were just as tasty cold the next day.
The Fish ‘n’ Chips were equally memorable. Served in a newspaper cone, the fresh fish tasted as if it had been infused with citrus, while the light breading provided a satisfying, not too greasy crunch. I have two friends who have actively scoured Bend for the best fish ‘n’ chips in town. Girls, your search is over.
Having determined that “the pork and fish ‘n’ chips were out of control,” we also tried Stihl’s two steaks. The rib eye, served with chanterelle brown butter and garlic herb mushroom sauce was very tender. The top sirloin was a little tough and grisly, but the char on the steak coupled with a delicious red wine Crimini mushroom sauce and fried shallots made up for that and more. I’d order the sirloin again in a second.
We ended our meal with a candied orange peel bread pudding served with slivered almonds and spun sugar over a bourbon sauce. Next up? I can’t wait to sample the hot toddies and to see how Stihl incorporates whiskey into the cheesecake it serves.
The Stihl Whiskey Bar
550 Franklin Avenue, Suite #118
Owner: Jason Gartz
Hours: Monday 5pm – close;
Tuesday – Saturday 6pm - close
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop / Oregon.LocalGetaways.com
Wild Rose doesn’t serve your typical Thai food. For starters, its rural Northern Thai cuisine is based on family recipes served with khaoniew—sticky Jasmine rice meant to be eaten with your hands. Wild Rose chef and co-owner Paul Itti suggests that you form the sticky rice into small balls and then dip it into the fresh chili pastes and sauces.
This is not the place where you’re going to find Pad Thai or even chopsticks for that matter. You will discover hearty, aromatic fare accompanied by fresh, crunchy vegetables and designed to be shared.
We start our meal in the colorful and decidedly casual restaurant with Yum KhaoTod—crispy rice croquettes, shallots, chili, peanuts, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and onion tossed in a zesty lime dressing with a mild kick and a hint of cilantro. The crunchy rice balls are just this side of addictive with dueling textures and a perfect blend of sweet and salt.
We move on to Neau Yang—marinated and grilled bone-in beef short ribs. Unlike spareribs, these have plenty of meat to sink your teeth into, which is a great thing since they’re downright delicious.
Next we try two versions of the same papaya salad—one featuring raw shredded green papaya dressed with lime and fresh chili, the other a deep fried version of the same. I would have never known the two appetizers contained the same ingredients. The fresh papaya salad has a ton of flavor and complexity, with spice that starts at your lips and moves back to your throat.
“I love this salad. I’m a big fan,” says my friend Leah as she helps herself to seconds. The fried rendition isn’t nearly as tangy or nuanced, but the crispy texture is fun and the whole thing is delicious especially toward the bottom once it has soaked up the sauce.
My tablemates agree that we have to try Grandfather’s Tom Kha, a soup made with coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, straw mushrooms, cilantro and either chicken or tofu. It’s lovely as always, prompting Leah to announce that it’s the best she’s ever had.
We kick off our entrees with a Nam Prik Flight of traditional chili pastes perfect for sticky rice dunking. Much to our surprise, of the three—Nam Prik Ong (ground pork in red curry and chili), Nam Prik Moo Sub (ground pork and roasted green chili) and Tum Makeuah (roasted green chili blended with grilled eggplant)—we like the garlic-infused vegetarian version the best. That preference even holds true for my friend Dave who admits that he’s “not an eggplant guy.”
Urged by our server to go for the house favorite, we opt for the traditional KhaoSoi Curry. The egg noodles in a somewhat sweet coconut curry broth leaves three of the four of us less than impressed, although additions from the spice traydo help. We’re happier with the Kow Pad PohngGari which features a super fresh seafood assortment including prawns, calamari scallops and cod in a yellow curry sauce.
Personally, I regret not having ordered my favorite Avocado with Prawns special that’s almost always listed on the over-sized blackboard to the left of the full-service bar, and again make use of the spice platter. My brother, however, loves the seafood stir-fry. “I’ve been to some great Thai restaurants,” he says. “This dish would be at home in any of them.”
Our last two dishes absolutely wow me. The lighter Kow Pad Boo—stir-fried jasmine rice with Dungeness crab meat—features an astonishing depth of flavor accented by a hint of grilled char. I’d order that dish again in a second. Ditto for the hot pot mussels, which my Dad had urged us to have and which we almost forget. They arrive steaming in a homemade curry paste heavily accented with ginger. “You could serve this sauce on anything including oatmeal,” announces my brother. My friend Leah, who had announced that she was too full to even sample one, finds room for a mussel along with several rice balls dumped in the sauce. It’s that good.
150 NW Oregon Ave, Bend
Owners: Paul & Ampawan Itti
Sunday – Thursday – 11am–9pm
Friday – Saturday – 11am–10pm
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop & Oregon LocalGetways
They had me at the truffle parmesan fries.
One of my writing coach clients, a Sisters resident, told me about The Porch. “It’s our favorite place.” After dinner there I understood why.
Some restaurants are like a carefully composed symphony, with dishes that build on each other. The Porch is more like a jazz riff, with a creative, international approach to comfort food served in a charming, rustic, cottage setting that’s as playful as the food.
In addition to the divine aforementioned truffle fries dusted with shavings of parmesan, our shared plates kicked off with a serving of corn fritters featuring creamy interiors and crunchy exteriors drizzled with Sriracha mayonnaise. The corn tasted so fresh that they must have picked and shucked the corn cobs that same day.
Salads followed. The Orange Caesar Salad, served with Mandarin Oranges and a tasty, crunchy filo black-pepper crouton, didn’t quite have enough zip or anchovy taste for me, but I loved the Strawberry Salad with its organic mixed greens, fresh strawberries, creamy goat cheese and candied pecans. “I like this ballet of texture,” my brother Jeff announced. I had worried that the salad would be sweet, but the emulsified strawberry vinaigrette balanced fruit and tartness wonderfully.
Mountain Raspberry BBQ Ribs accompanied by Southern Broccoli Slaw got our main courses under way. People often talk about meat that’s fall-off-the-bone tender. That’s not just talk at The Porch. The pork actually slid off the bone and onto my plate as I served myself. “This is how a rib should be,” announced my friend and trainer Scott Lemon. “Tender, moist with a wonderful outside char.” I also loved the faintly sweet Mountain Raspberry Sauce made with freshly-picked wild raspberries. “We work closely with forgers and farmers,” said co-owner Jon Hosler. That clearly makes a world of difference when it comes to taste.
The menu at The Porch changes about every two months. September’s empanadas featured Chicken Teriyaki, grilled pineapple and green onions—they were topped with a soy reduction and served on a bed of Napa cabbage slaw with chili paste dressing.
“There’s always some kind of empanada on the menu,” said Hosler. Past empanadas have included hot wings with blue cheese, chicken Cordon Bleu and one packed with Indian flavors. “There are no boundaries at The Porch,” Hosler added. “We just have fun.”
That explains the Chicken N Waffles served with sautéed spinach and herbed maple syrup. The juicy fried chicken’s breading had a lovely cayenne kick and risks being positively addictive. Personally, I would trade the waffles and syrup for smashed potatoes (which is an option), but a couple of my tablemates loved the fun, soul-food dish.
Since the restaurant’s menu will switch to mostly Italian dishes in October, something The Porch does twice a year, Jon and his mother Caryl Hosler, the restaurant’s chef and co-owner, sent out Chicken Piccata next. The chicken breast was moist and super lemony, and the generous portion of capers added a delectable hint of pickled saltiness. The accompanying rustic smashed potatoes were the ideal vehicle for the deliciously zesty sauce.
We ended the meal with downright perfect Almond Roca Crème Brulee (now there’s a winning combination if I ever heard one) and a chunky carrot cake whose recipe dates back to Caryl Hosler’s grandmother (who was Jon Hosler’s great grandmother). The topping of fresh whipped cream sweetened with just a hint of brown sugar put this not-overly sweet dessert right over the top.
The Porch opened in Sisters three years ago. “We’re a great little secret,” said Jon Hosler. I’m guessing that with a chef whose credits include cooking at Jen’s Garden for four years and winning (with TR McCrystal) the Iron Chef title at Bite of Bend, a menu that lives up to its “crazy good comfort food” billing, and a setting that’s as cute as it is homey, The Porch won’t be a secret for long.
243 N Elm Street; Sisters
Owners: Caryl Hosler & Jon Hosler
Dinner: Friday-Tuesday 5–9pm
(closed Wednesday & Thursday)
Sunday Brunch (complete with build-your-own Bloody Mary bar)