Photo and Story by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop & Oregon Local Getaways
Most breakfast and lunch joints don’t offer monthly wine dinners. But Birdies Café isn’t exactly typical.
Before November’s wine dinner highlighting Spain’s Rioja region, a friend and I popped in for a mid-week breakfast. After ordering an orange juice/pomegranate mimosa to split (all in the name of research), we settled into the food which had arrived most promptly. Our initial tastes confirmed what the menu had intimated. This restaurant is a bird of a different feather.
Meet their New Mexico Benny—perfectly poached eggs served on scrumptious savory pancakes made with minimal flour, maximum spinach and the perfect amount of green onions, shallots, jalapeno and herbs, then topped with two big chunks of fried chicken coated in crushed corn flakes after being marinated in buttermilk, white wine, blackened seasoning and herbs.
Add Hatch chilies, plenty of light, lemony Hollandaise and rice and beans, and you wind up with two happy campers. The special that days, Eggs Benedict, made with house-brined and lightly smoked, lean, tender pastrami and served with hash browns also proved to be a lovely surprise.
Determined to do our duty, we tasted the fried green tomato special (owners Chris and Denise Tate gave up on the volunteer tomatoes out back ever ripening), as well as the country-style, house-made and nitrate-free sausage made with Carlton pork, dried mustard and chili flakes. We had to try the fluffy biscuits. And then there was the chocolate stout pancake. Think oozing melted chocolate with a deep, lingering stout after taste. Talk about a wine dinner warm up.
Wine dinners? That’s right. Birdies Café now holds wine dinners on the first Monday of the month (they sometimes push to the second Monday depending on how holidays fall). The wine dinner I attended—the third in a series of seven focused on different regions of Spain—featured wines and cuisine from the north-eastern Ebro River Valley.
If you don’t care for high-brow events, this is for you. Casual and friendly, these dinners feature eminently affordable wines (retail prices for the four we had ranged from $10 to $22.50 a bottle). Bend Wine Cellar’s Dennis and Diane Sienko, who team with Birdies Café to put on the wine dinners, produce educational handouts about the wines and the featured region. Which means that instead of having to listen to an expert discuss the vintages, you can enjoy the wines, along with the food.
Our four-course Rioja-focused dinner kicked off with fried piquillo peppers stuffed with shrimp and topped with a slightly creamy tomato pepper sauce with a tiny spike of heat and a nice acidic hit. Chicken in a rich onion, tomato and sweet pepper sauce followed. Next, a piquillo pepper marmalade studded with orange rind brightened up the grilled lamb chop served with chorizo potatoes. A lovely apple tart with candied orange peel and a chunk of blue cheese closed out the meal. Perhaps even more impressive than the tasty food was how beautifully the wines paired with each course.
The Spanish wine dinner series continues at least through March. Book early if you want to go—the dinners have been selling out two weeks in advance.
1444 NW College Way, Bend
Open daily 7am– 2pm
Wine dinner: Usually on the first Monday of the month at 6:30pm.
(check website for date and menu)