“Have you ever heard of Redmond’s Red Martini, Bar & Grill?” my friend Jill asked me.
The establishment is so new it doesn’t even have a website. But one look at the Facebook page and the menu, and I knew this was my kind of place. That feeling was reinforced the second my friends and I walked into the lovely Art Deco-style lounge with its 15-foot ceilings, original pillars that date back to 1928, vintage movie posters, dark wood bar and old Hollywood feel. We settled into opposing red velvet banquettes and quickly made our selections from the 16 signature martinis. “I don’t feel like I’m in Redmond anymore,” one of my friends said as our cocktails were presented with a couple of amuses, in this case tiny dishes of mixed olives and house-brined vegetables.
We start off with three appetizers. The Artisan Charcuterie plate offered top-notch local cured meats—salami, prosciutto and capicola—served with toasted baguette slices, tasty stone-ground mustard and cornichons. Our second choice, the marinated mozzarella cheese and walnut salad, would have been more successful had the heirloom tomato been ripe. Still, we all liked the contrast of the sweet rosemary balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnut with the salt in the fresh mozzarella and the acid in the tomato. Our third appetizer took things to a whole new level.
The Smoked Salmon Rillette melded both smoked and steamed salmon into a silky and yet slightly chunky spread. A sealing layer of clarified butter added an element of creamy decadence to each bite, with the accompanying fried capers and diced shallots providing contrasting sharp, salty notes. The dish reinforced my sense that I’d found a new home. My friend Viv echoed that sentiment. “Bottom line, I can’t wait to come back,” she announced. And that was before we’d tried the small plates.
Our five selections ran the length of the table. We started with the five-ounce beef tenderloin medallion served with a wild mushroom Merlot sauce on a bed of roasted root vegetable puree. “Rich, delicious comfort food” we all agreed. The Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin served with a lavender pomegranate glaze and sweet potato hash was a pig on pig delight—tender with a hint of salt and sweet. Crispy Dungeness crab cakes—actually a mixture of crab meat, scallops, white fish and fresh herbs with minimal filler—were lightly breaded and moist. The accompanying tomato jam and Cajun aioli worked just as well as the seafood cakes themselves.
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
Marcello’s Italiana Cucina, which has been in Sunriver since 1980, is an institution. Institutions can often live up to their billing, but they seldom surprise. So while I expected quality upscale Italian-American food during the dinner I recently shared there with friends, I didn’t expect to be wowed by unanticipated taste combinations.
We started our meal well, if predictably, with fried baby calamari served with marinara and Dijon cream dipping sauces. “Anyone who likes calamari would like this dish,” my friend Leah said of the tasty, lightly fried baby squid.
Our very next shared course—the risotto special with chicken breast, pancetta and hedgehog mushrooms—provided a hint of things to come, with brilliantly flavorful basil and tomatoes adding a lovely fresh contrast to the creamy rice dish. I would have been even happier without the chicken, which seemed superfluous.
After sharing a disappointingly unremarkable Caesar salad, we moved on to our main entrees, which we shared by eating neatly and rotating to the right.
“Someone has to order the Pork Osso Bucco,” said Thad Lodge who owns Marcello’s with his sister Autumn Lodge Persinger.
My mother used to adore Osso Bucco, a Milanese specialty traditionally made from veal shanks and vegetables braised in white wine. The version at Marcello’s features pork shank slow-roasted with mushroom and jalapeño in a Dijon-Chianti cream sauce. I knew the dish would be special when Leah passed it over with the greatest reluctance.
“I wanted to fight to keep it, but I thought that would be inappropriate,” she joked.
Ginger Aguierre, owner with husband of Ginger’s Kitchenware, echoed her enthusiasm. “They put a nice char on the pork before slow-cooking it so that it’s fall off the bone.”
by LINDEN GROSS One Stop Writing Shop
Some meals, like some lovers or crushes, grab you right from the outset with their dynamism. Others are more subtle, exhibiting nuanced moderation that makes you want to know more. That’s exactly why so many locals from both Bend and Sisters return to Jen’s Garden month after month and year after year for its southern French-inspired cuisine.
As my two friends (neither of whom had been to Jen’s Garden) and I walked up to the restaurant’s front door, I had to restrain myself from knocking. As always, I felt like I was entering someone’s home. That impression continued when I walked in and saw the fireplace blazing. The Chanson Française playing in the background added to the homey yet elegant sense of comfort as we perused the menu at our table in the small alcove off the cottage’s intimate dining room.
Jen’s Garden offers a prix-fixe menu and paired wine flight that change every month. You can choose the three-course or the five-course prix-fixe, and then select various options from there. Naturally, my friends and I opted to sample just about every dish. We are, as it turns out, those kinds of girls. My friend who is gluten intolerant couldn’t indulge in absolutely everything, but almost since the restaurant cheerfully accommodates all kinds of food sensitivities.
We started by sharing the two first course offerings. The country paté managed to simultaneously be coarse and creamy, and was perfectly set off by two types of mustard, my favorite being the homemade and surprisingly airy Dijon. A hint of five-spice gave the accompanying pickled vegetables extra depth.
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
Long-term locals know that the Blacksmith basically jumpstarted Bend’s culinary scene. Somewhere along the way, however, the Blacksmith lost its way. But I’m happy to say that with new owners, a new chef and a renovation that was completed in March, the Blacksmith is on its way back.
Two friends, my brother and I made our way into the dining room after a round of wonderfully creative cocktails. I still love looking at the rock walls and log beams that once sheltered Pierson’s Blacksmith Shop. There’s nothing subtle about this restaurant’s décor, or its food for that matter, which is described on the website as distinctive, bold cuisine.
Before we had even ordered our appetizers, costini salmon mousse nibbles topped with bacon and fennel, along with crusty, warm bread served with oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, toasted coriander seeds and molasses hit the table. The Blacksmith may be known for its beef, but this clearly wasn’t going to be just another ordinary steak dinner.
Our appetizer round started with paper-thin beef Carpaccio wrapped around frisée and arugula like a sushi roll and served with fried capers. The crunchy freshness of the bitter greens contrasted nicely with the tender beef, creamy truffle aioli and slightly sweet red onion and lemon preserve.
We moved on to the Tuna Poke, which was fresh and silky but a little over-seasoned. With a lighter touch, the taste of the tuna would shine through the prominent ginger, cilantro and soy flavors. The layer of guacamole that topped the poke also seemed ill-conceived, as if it had boarded the wrong train. My tablemates and I all agreed that simple avocado slices would have worked better.
Despite somewhat tough puff pastry, our third choice—a tart with deliciously meaty mushrooms roasted in garlic and deglazed in sherry—was lovely.
Our favorite starter, however, was the Roasted BLT Wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese vinaigrette, crispy bacon and tomato caviar. A nice take on a classic.
We moved onto the entrees, which we all agreed outshone the appetizers. Since the Blacksmith has always been famous for its steaks, we ordered two. The scrumptious Northwest Ribeye was about as tender as a steak ever needs to be. Served with a rich mushroom bordelaise (a French wine sauce), horseradish mashed potatoes and topped with crispy shallots, the dish can only be described as deeply satisfying. My brother, who has spent the last 31 years living in Paris where this kind of steak just isn’t available, was in heaven.
The Blacksmith’s Tender Rogue features a grilled tenderloin filet served with a truffle potato sauce which proved a nice foil to the Rogue creamery smoked blue cheese and the balsamic reduction. There’s a lot going on in this dish, but the flavors all come together beautifully. “This is schmearing heaven,” my friend Deb announced. A side of braised, slightly crunchy sun choke helped cut the otherwise unmitigated richness.
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
Ever since I was introduced to the intoxicatingly delicious and downright seductive off-the-menu fare at 5 Fusion, I’ve yearned to repeat the experience. While some people dream of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, my dreams were of delicate slices of ivory salmon served in a glass fish bowl draped atop a large black stone and perfumed by lemongrass-scented cold smoke that curled up the sides of the bowl.
There are only two words to describe 5 Fusion executive chef and co-owner Joe Kim: culinary genius. If you’ve eaten his food, you already have a sense of his talent. But if you haven’t tried the Chef’s Tasting Menu (five to seven courses—either raw or cooked—for $55) or Joe’s “off the menu menu” for which you can establish a price cap when ordering, you haven’t begun to experience what he can do in a kitchen.
Our other-worldly off the menu dinner began with corn, black truffle and tapioca push-pops. The last time I had a push-pop it was strawberry flavored and I was seven. I won’t wait as long to have another, as long as it has the same deliciously savory, velvety, earthy richness of the one Joe served. “This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever eaten,” one of my dining companions said. “This could make me give up on trying to have a body,” another added. The unanimous conclusion: crazy, ridiculously good.
A caprese salad served Joe-style followed, complete with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella spheres that looked like white egg yolks and oozed white creaminess when punctured. Olive oil powder resembling grated parmesan and balsamic pearls that looked like caviar took the dish over the top.
Speaking of caviar, Joe served us Toro tartare and Blue fin tartare topped with tiny, raw quail egg yolks and accompanied by sturgeon caviar, rice caviar and soy caviar. “I think I’m in love with Joe,” I told my friends. And that was before the foie gras hit, along with little demitasse cups of foiepaccino, a play on cappuccino in which espresso coffee, foie gras and cream are cooked together and then transformed into foam. The foiepaccino was crazy enough. But the foie gras wasn’t just any foie gras. One slice was done peanut-butter-and-jelly style (I’m serious!) while the other was served atop sweet-chili granola, Joe’s tongue-in-cheek nod to those who object to foie gras being served at all.