I just returned from two days in Eugene to attend the Oregon Wine Symposium with a group of business colleagues and fellow members of Canopy Wine Marketing Network. I have only had a few opportunities to enjoy the fine dining choices in Eugene, including Cafe Soriah and Cafe Marche. Both offering consistent quality.
I met up with some friends, including Shane Tracey and his wife Tiffany Petry, owners of Nib Desserts (769 Monroe Street, Eugene) for dinner at The Rabbit Bistro (2864 Willamette Street). “Don’t make any assumptions based on the strip mall location next door to Market of Choice,” Shane warned.
No warning was necessary. Because, in a large town like Eugene, some of the best surprises are the off the beaten path destinations like The Rabbit Bistro.
We hopped inside and had a perfect table by the window waiting for us, glowing with candlelight. We ordered a bottle of Chablis and started with a couple appetizers to share, the Sweetbreads with Apple, Upland Cress and Hard Cider, as well as the Cheese Plate of Izarou, Morbier and Munster with seasonal fruit.
I ordered for my first course the cream-based Lentil Soup with Hamhocks and Sea Foam with a little Clam Garnish, Powdered Vanilla and Piment d’Espelette. It’s rare when I get to enjoy a meal that inspires a whimsical mood or feeds my imagination to create a story – but this was one of those moments. The flavors of this soup made me feel like I was surfing on a perfectly sunny day – the clam garnish and sea-foam were delightfully evocative of swimming in the ocean and getting a hint of sea salt on your lips and slightly in your mouth.
For my main entrée, I ordered the Pork Tenderloin with Parsnip, Vanilla and Burnt Onion. The pork was extremely tender and melted in my mouth with the soft and velvety parsnip and burnt onion puree. It was the perfect portion, too. I’ve been to many restaurants lately that seem to lay out a whole pig on your plate – I was relieved for the balanced plate.
The service was impeccable, as Mel, the server who more or less played the role of Alice in this Wonderland of a meal, led us down the Rabbit Hole into a whimsical, yet serious dining adventure. When one my dinner companion’s plate came out with a bit of sea-foam on it, I was a bit jealous. It was a playful yet artful accent to this lovely meal.
After dinner, we headed over to Nib Sweets for a late dessert. While Shane went into the kitchen to prepare our treats, Tiffany brought us each a cup of drinking chocolate with orange essence – pure delight! A few moments later, Shane returned with four desserts from his menu, including The Pure (Chocolate Almond Cake, Ganache, Chocolate Pave, Chocolate Ice Cream and Chocolate Mousse), Apples to Apples (Caramelized Apple, Maple Vinegar, Brown Butter Cream, Maple Paper, Calvados and Muscovado Ice Cream), Lord Grey (Burnt Caramel Lavender Sorbet, Hazelnut Cake, Earl Grey Consomme, Earl Grey Cream with a Pear Pave) and Chocolate Peanut (Peanut Caramel, Chocolate Cream, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie, In-House Cracker Jacks with Peanut Praline Ice Cream).
The highlight was the Apples to Apples, with Shane’s beautiful presentation of glassy Maple Paper – it looked like stained glass on the plate – both visually and flavorfully exquisite. His artistry is truly something special and it was a pleasure to indulge in these inventive fusions of flavors.
When in Eugene, visit The Rabbit Bistro for a refreshing change of pace and when you’re feeling that sweet tooth coming on, be sure to relieve it at Nib – the only place in town that serves a Steamed Chanterelle Cake with an Apple Cider Gel!! Oh, and they serve brunch, too. (Sigh).
BLOG FOR FOOD: Not part of the Oregon Wine Symposium, however, for a very worthy cause – the Oregon Food Bank. Visit www.oregonfoodbank.org to make your donation today!