by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
From our table by the water, the sounds of the waves lapping against the deck melded with the gentle jazz soundtrack piped outside. Sunlight danced across the water as three ducks lazily paddled by. Had I escaped to a tropical resort destination? Nope. Just to Suttle Lake, a mere 35 minutes from my home in Bend.
Our starters represented the wide gamut of offerings at The Boathouse, the restaurant just across the lawn from The Lodge at Suttle Lake, which caters to everyone from campers to couples celebrating their 40th anniversaries in style. First we had fried pickles coated with bacon tempura and served with stone-ground Black Butte Porter mustard. Talk about a fun appetizer, although not for the faint of heart. (With all that salt, I mean that literally.)
In the Baked Pulled Prosciutto Flatbread Sandwich with melted leeks (which are cooked down to the point where they melt in your mouth), rosemary and marinated olives, the saltiness was countered by onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar and nutty parmesan.
But nothing could compare with the decadently rich Portobello and Roasted Garlic Cheesecake, served over a drizzle of aged balsamic syrup and shavings of parmesan.
“OMG. You mouth doesn’t know what to do with that,” my friend Heidi exclaimed.
“Mine does,” I countered as I savored each layer of flavor.
“You just chew and swallow … only slower,” my friend Pam concluded.
Just then executive chef Michael Valoppi arrived at our table to see how we had enjoyed the first course. “Is there anything else you’d like at this point?” he asked.
“Just 500 more of these to go,” I said, pointing to the remaining bite of the tiny savory cheesecake and only half joking.
The surprises continued with the chilled cantaloupe soup dotted with tiny flecks of mint and topped with basil cream and a splash of sparkling wine. The distinct and effervescent flavors reminded me of a great jazz quartet in which the musicians each stand out and yet work together to achieve a stunning sound that’s uniquely theirs.
Two of our entrées earned split verdicts. The smoked chicken pasta, one of the restaurants signature dishes, served with fresh rosemary and portobello, crimini and shitaki mushrooms in a Frangelico cream sauce was just too sweet for me. (On the other hand, one of my friends liked it for just that reason.) I also was less than completely wowed by the grilled salmon. The garlic, cumin and coriander grilling sauce was nicely smoky but seemed to overpower the fish. My girlfriends both disagreed with my assessment. Four thumbs up out of six.
Our favorites, however, were unanimous.
We all loved the tender rack of lamb served with a burnt blueberry and oregano gastrique (caramelized sugar deglazed with vinegar and stock), alongside perfectly sautéed baby zucchini and pattypan squash, and delicious roasted new potatoes rolled in herbs.
But, ah, the mesquite and applewood smoked quail stuffed with hazelnuts and peaches and drizzled with a demi-glace infused with rosemary and raspberry was something you write home about. The polenta served with the dish—crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside with a hint of heat—made a superb dish just that much better.
Then came dessert. One of my dining companions usually passes on sweets. She’s just more of a savory gal. Not this time. My other friend, a dessert fiend, sounded like Meg Ryan pretending to have an orgasm in the movie When Harry Met Sally. I had to fight to get my fair share of the super citrusy lemon curd served with crisp, light puff pastry and fresh blueberries, as well as the salted caramel pot de crème that merged salt and sweet into unforgettably divine richness. I’m still not sure which dessert I liked better. But I’m pretty sure that I’m going to have to return to figure it out. Soon.