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)
A top-notch restaurant not only needs a talented chef at the helm, it needs a staff that can produce that food in her absence. The Oxford’s 10Below delivers on both fronts thanks to Executive Chef Ingrid Rohrer, a California Culinary Academy graduate who moved to Bend after working at Bon Appétit Management Company as well as in kitchens across Northern California.
We started our meal with some of the most memorable scallops I’ve had. Ever. Dusted in porcinis and served with white trumpet mushrooms in a white wine cream sauce, the silver-dollar-sized scallops were crusty on the outside, succulent on the inside and absolutely delicious. “This is the reason you fall in love with scallops,” I announced. The tablemate sitting kitty corner to me was barely listening. “That sauce and I, we have a thing going on,” she announced dreamily. Truly a match made in heaven.
We also grazed on lightly-breaded, crispy masa-fried calamari served with a homemade lemon chipotle aioli dipping sauce that had a lovely smoky undertone, as well as oyster shooters coated in cornmeal and flash fried, then topped with a bright tomato-guajillo salsa. Both quite tasty, cooked perfectly, and fresh as could be.
The buffalo carpaccio marinated with beet powder and served with orange-pomegranate molasses and bits of Pierre Robert triple-cream cheese was less of a hit with the table. One fellow diner found the meat gamey. I didn’t, but I didn’t care for the sweetness of the meat, undoubtedly due at least in part to the beet powder marinade. On the other hand, the man at our table enjoyed the dish and what he perceived as its jerky-like flavor. “It’s a dude thing,” he announced.
We tried two salads, both as beautifully plated as everything else we’d been served to that point. The roasted beet salad with sweet heirloom tomatoes, arugula, pine nuts and Humboldt Fog cheese in a delicious orange-pomegranate molasses and tangerine vinaigrette once again proved a bit on the sweet side for me, but I’m sure my dad would have loved the triple play of sweet on sweet on sweet.
Having said that, I have to confess that the homemade candied pepper bacon on the iceberg lettuce wedge served with creamy gorgonzola dressing was positively addicting. We actually asked for more of both the bacon and the dressing. Go big or go home, as they say. And to think that my tablemates and I had actually debated about skipping that salad. My advice? Indulge. You won’t regret it.
We shared three different entrees, starting with two Oregon beef tenderloin filets wrapped in bacon and topped with a blackberry-gorgonzola demi-glace. At nine to ten ounces each, the filets were the biggest any of us have ever seen served in a restaurant. We all quickly concluded that they were also the most tender we’d had as well.
“That’s one of the best filets I’ve had,” said each of my friends including one who lived in Chicago for seven years. That’s saying something.
The chef’s daily special—seared yellow fin tuna with an Indian twist and related accompaniments—managed to encrust pungent South Asian spices onto the moist fish without overpowering its delicate flavor. That takes a deft hand.
We also sampled the wild salmon filet topped with mushroom duxelle, wrapped in Swiss chard leaves instead of parchment paper and steamed. “You can really taste the salmon,” one of my friends said. “The chard is really interesting. And there are nice kicks of lemon [from the accompanying passion fruit gastrique].”
We finished the meal with an assortment of desserts plated so beautifully it reminded me of a Kandinskimobile. Our hands-down favorites were the earthy cardamom carrot cake with candied ginger and the fun and absolutely delicious homemade ice cream and sorbet sampler. The flavors on the latter change daily, but our medley, which included blueberry cheesecake as well as peanut butter ice creams along with a cabernet-blackberry sorbetanda lemongrass, apple and agave one, will give you an idea of the delectable creativity at work at 10Below.
10 NW Minnesota Avenue, Bend
Phone: (541) 382-1010
Executive Chef: Ingrid Rohrer
(midnight on Friday & Saturday)
with dinner from 5–10pm nightly
Do you ever get that feeling that you want to get away even when you just can’t? For that staycation—or just an evening—that will make you feel as if you’ve left town, head to Pronghorn. Every time I turn on the road that leads there, the sky suddenly seems more expansive, the way it does in New Mexico. By the time I’ve reached the end of the long, winding road, I feel like I’ve left my regular life behind.
As much as I love this resort, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting fabulous food at Chanterelle. It is, after all, a club restaurant. Wow, was I in for a surprise!
We settled in on the wide patio overlooking bright flower beds and a snow-capped Mt. Jefferson framed by Quaking Aspen rustling in the breeze. After cocktails and truffle popcorn, we moved into the elegant, Tuscan-style dining room with its floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace and view out to the Three Sisters.
Just as we had started to sip a lovely Turley Zinfandel selected from the vast wine list, our server Jeff showed up with Fontina cheese sticks that had been wrapped in prosciutto and grilled, topped with fried sage, skewered with a golf-tee toothpick and served over an aged balsamic reduction. “This should be breakfast food,” my friend and regular dining companion Leah said. “Or lunch,” her boyfriend Dave added. Why limit oneself? I thought.
The Windflower Farm Fresh Salad, which changes daily depending on what fresh greens are available, was a grilled kale Caesar. Tasty dressing notwithstanding, I didn’t love the texture of the grilled kale. But Leah did. “I would add a protein and just have this for dinner,” she said. Jeff confirmed that any protein including shrimp can be added to their salad, which is served with “the appropriate vinaigrette” for the greens of the day.
We moved on. I thought the six mustardy deviled egg halves would be the height of indulgence since two were topped with pepper bacon and two with Oregon truffle and caviar. As yummy as they were, they paled on the decadence scale compared to the burrata with Brussel sprout leaves that had been quickly fried and tossed in lemon juice and salt, then drizzled with Navidi’s Meyer lemon olive oil.
“This cheese [also drizzled with the Meyer lemon olive oil] makes me happy,” Leah announced. You betcha. The burrata has a skin like regular buffalo mozzarella, but an interior that’s so creamy it’s gooey. Combine that with the lemony saltiness of the fried Brussel sprout leaves and you’ve taken the concept of chips and dip to a sublime new level.
“You’ve got to try the pasta,” our server Jeff insisted. What a great call. The handmade fettuccine combined with the veal and fennel sausage Bolognese added up to rich comfort food at its finest.
We had all agreed that we had to have the elk tenderloin dusted with porcini and topped with a black truffle and mushroom demi-glace. How can you turn away from a dish that combines four of your favorites? The intense flavors melded together beautifully, but the meat could have been a bit more tender. Still, it was delicious. So was the accompanying creamed Swiss chard.
The Chef’s Creation of the day was blackened king salmon served over beluga lentils with pickled roasted purple cauliflower and a creole Béarnaise sauce. What a treat! The fish was perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. The lentils, which look like oversized beluga caviar, added texture. And the sauce was a study of buttery lusciousness.
We ended our meal with a fresh marionberry cobbler notable for its flaky crust and a rich, warm chocolate lava cake beautifully plated with flowers, berries and hazelnuts. A shared Chocolate-Covered Cherries dessert cocktail put the exclamation point on a meal that had been downright fantastic.
From the second we sat down we did, indeed, feel like we’d gotten away. Dining at Chanterelle is simply a first-class experience that is as understatedly elegant and as comfortably low key as the clubhouse itself. The food was lovely, the staff welcoming and the service impeccable. Now that’s what I call stress relief!
65600 Pronghorn Club Drive, Bend
Food & Beverage Manager: Corey Friesen
Hours: Seven days a week 5– 9pm through the summer season. The restaurant is occasionally booked for private functions so please call ahead for reservations.