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Musings by Leah Jorgensen

Archive for Oregon

R. Stuart’s Winter Supper with Aviary


Photo courtesy of Courtney Harris

In the heart of the Willamette Valley, winter usually promises more rain than snow, but, there’s still a longing for comfort food, gathering with good friends, the warm glow of candle light, and a sense of winding down in the appropriate hibernation style.  We’re cave dwelling.  And, we’re eating what’s in season, or what’s been saved from the previous bounty of summer and fall – pickled, canned, dried, however preserved.  Once the winter solstice has passed, the days begin to lengthen like a newborn colt stretching out its feeble legs.  I love midwinter.  And, I love any excuse to get cozy and enjoy a well made meal with other cave dwellers.

One of my favorite winter feasts is the R. Stuart & Co. Winter Supper series in McMinnville.  I attended one of the dinners in last year’s inaugural series featuring Chef Pascal Chureau of Allium Restaurant, and, on that magical night, big, billowing feather-like tufts of snow began to fall and illuminate under street lamps.  It changed the mood from delight to complete enchantment.  This little event, in my opinion, is the very best Oregon has to offer for winter culinary delights.  I was lucky enough to get a seat in the sold-out second year.

The visiting chef was Jasper Shen of the trio of artists who started Aviary Restaurant in NE Portland.  His partners, Sarah Pliner and Kat Whitehead, were not at the supper, but all three contributed to what was an amazing menu beautifully paired with a wonderful array of R. Stuart & Co. wines.

to start:  gougeres smoked artichokes with radishes and grapes served with NV Rose d’Or bubbly

amuse bouche:  fried pig snout with egg and mustard creme fraiche

first:  truffled egg toast, baby leeks and beets in barigoule with 2011 Big Fire Pinot Gris and 2009 Big Fire Pinot Noir

second:  four cup chickens, taro root, apricots, wood ear mushrooms with 2008 Ana Pinot Noir and 2007 Temperance Hill Vin Tardive

to end:  almond cake, black sesame, raspberries and toasted coconut ice cream with NV Klipsun Vineyard “UnPort”

 

 

 

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Social Media ReTweet @ Raptor Ridge

From the time I began consulting in 2009, it had taken me awhile to figure out where I could bring the most value to my clients.  One of my best ideas has been my “Social Media ReTweets”, where I work with a winery client and a local restaurant to showcase the natural matching abilities of food and wine in a light, fun, casual setting.  I invite an intimate gathering of 8-10 local writers, who specialize in social media, on a culinary retreat, and while the food and wine pairings get served, they take photos and post Tweets and Facebook comments in real time.  And, they get to engage directly with the winery owners/winemaker alongside the restaurant chef.

My latest Social Media Retweet involved Raptor Ridge Winery in Newberg and The Bent Brick restaurant in Portland.  I worked closely with Raptor Ridge Proprietor, Annie Shull, along with Tom Champine, who works for the winery in distribution sales and market development.

The ReTweet started with a meet up at The Bent Brick (1639 NW Marshall Street, Portland), the second restaurant belonging to acclaimed Chef Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen.  Scott hired Executive Chef Will Preisch to lead the helm in the kitchen.  Creative snacks and small plates dominate the menu, with a couple of “roasts and braises” offered, and even an option to “eat the whole menu”, followed by a few smart desserts.

Tom and I greeted our media guests, joined by The Bent Brick’s GM, Anna Josephson, who gave us a grand tour of the restaurant and kitchen.  Neat facts – everything served at TBB is domestic, and all of the wine glass pours served come from kegs – in order to offer young, ready-to-drink wines (all local).  As far as the space is concerned, it’s a lovely modern dining room and bar with an open kitchen inside a 1920’s brick house, with an impressive upstairs private dining area, and the popular “Jenga Lounge”, a casual area centered around a fun  Jenga-like wood sculpture with log stools and built-in seating to hang out, sip on one of Adam Robinson’s glorious cocktails and nibble on some snacks.


Chefs prepping at The Bent Brick

We boarded a van and headed out to Raptor Ridge Winery (18700 SW Hillsboro Hwy., Newberg).  Transportation was provided by A Great Oregon Wine Tour.   Tom opened up the 2010 Pinot Gris and served it (he’s a sommelier, too!) while we drove through farm land on Hwy 219.

Upon arrival, the writers were greeted by Raptor Ridge Winery owners Scott and Annie Shull.  Raptor Ridge’s new winery was designed by Laurence Ferar & Associates Architecture, with a gorgeous balance between agriculture land and commercial utility.  The Shulls didn’t want a tasting room out of scale, with only one-third dedicated to consumer activity and the rest for production.

“The first thing people do when they get here is get out of their cars, take photos, then get to business with tasting,” said Annie.  The winery and surrounding vineyard offers a simple, elegant respite.  Glassed garage doors in the studio-like tasting room offer a spectacular view rolling hillsides with Ponzi’s winery in the distance and views of the Cascade’s peaks.

After a warm welcome, guests were seated with Scott and Annie at each end of the table.  Rather than do a formal food and wine pairing, Chef Scott Dolich came out and expressed his interest in great food and great wine, and how he’d prefer the group to experience that – simply.

“These are not formal pairings – everyone’s palate is different, and I’d rather the discussion be an interaction versus didacticism.” Dolich said.  Dolich’s food is always acid-friendly and Raptor Ridge wines are naturally great food wines – he added, “these wines beg to have an interaction with food.”

With some guidance, the 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve was poured alongside the 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve.  The two wines were tasted with two snacks – Mussels on the Half Shell with Tabasco Mignonette and Beet, Farro, Cream Cheese, Seeds Vinaigrette.

Scott Shull chimed in, “the wine changes for the better with good food.”

Round two included the 2009 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley and the 2010 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard with Country Pork Rilletes with Green Tomato Mustard and Quinoa and Kale Fritters with Carrot Cream.

Raptor Ridge is a small boutique winery with vineyard designate cuvees, distributed in twenty-six states and the Virgin Islands.  They have a wine club called the Raptor Ridge Flight Club, which includes four  shipments per year (once per quarter) of their award-winning wines at 15% off retail prices. Shipments are a range of pre-release wines, flights or cellar selections.  Members get 15% off bottles and 20% off case purchases, among other membership benefits.  The tasting room is open according to the following seasonal schedule:  mid January to mid March / Saturday-Sunday 11am to 4pm; mid March to mid December / Thursday-Monday 11am to 4pm; mid December to mid January / by appointment. Groups larger than 8 need an appointment – call 503.628.8463.

Also, Raptor Ridge announces it’s THIRD THURSDAY program.  On the third Thursday of each month, visitors are invited to come out to the winery to taste wines paired with bites prepared by a guest chef.  Attendees will take home the recipe and a bit of wine pairing wisdom.  Third Thursdays are from 5 to 8 p.m.


Scott Dolich, Annie & Scott Shull

The Making of “Me and My Big Fire”

 

One of my favorite things about consulting is that I get the distinct pleasure to work with some amazing wineries and wine industry people to collaborate on really smart, fun marketing campaigns.   My business tagline is “helping wine businesses tell their unique stories.”  I’m a writer, after all, and there’s nothing more gratifying than working with a client to help them successfully broadcast their stories through visual and written media, and come to see impactful results.

If I have learned anything about wine marketing and communications over the past couple of years is that, one, not only do new concepts like social media come on like a sudden and powerful storm, but, two, if you don’t pay attention, you’re going to fall quickly behind the times of what people are doing with those concepts.  You have to keep up.

Today, it’s no longer enough to have just a Facebook page for your business.  How you use your social media to engage and keep consumers interested is what will make your social media efforts hugely successful or just a waste of your time.

I have also learned that timing is everything. 

This fall, while I was working harvest, I happened to meet a kind-faced fellow who was stopping by wineries in the region to introduce himself and a brilliant high-tech concept he was developing.   He was working with scan code technology for mobile page marketing.  I took his card and immediately saw all of the possibilities in building smart marketing campaigns around this technology.

By the end of the year, I had a series of creative brainstorming meetings with Maria Stuart and Trish Rogers of R. Stuart & Co. , makers of the Big Fire wines.  They had all kind of great ideas and concepts that they wanted to cultivate, but, like many wineries, they didn’t have the time and resources to put these ideas into action.  I helped them whittle down their options to one great campaign concept – Me and My Big Fire.

Part of what makes Big Fire wines so special is the incredible community built around the shared enjoyment of these high-quality, accessible wines, and, also, the spirit behind the name.   Maria showed me photos that people had sent her or posted on the R. Stuart & Co. Facebook page to proudly show what they were doing with their Big Fire wine.  It was as if Big Fire had been personified into a best friend.  “Me and my Big Fire are going to a clam bake.”  “Me and my Big Fire just celebrated another birthday.”   And, Trish also shared her experience one night when she came home from work, tired after a long day, and sat back in her favorite cozy chair – she said, “it was just me and my Big Fire.”

The Me and My Big Fire campaign was born – a photo and video contest giving customers the forum to share, win prizes and encourage others to chime in.  I then called up that fellow with the scan codes and set up a meeting, and soon the Me and My Big Fire campaign evolved with the integration of a QR code that would launch to a video on a mobile site.

A video concept was needed to launch the campaign.  I came up with a visual of Big Fire at a bonfire over coffee.  From that, I thought of a bonfire on the Oregon coast – the perfect setting for the video.  We all know that humor is what drives video to go viral.  So, on my laptop, and under the influence of just enough caffeine, I pulled up the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, and our video concept was born.

Click above to view the ‘Chariots of Big Fire’ video

A lot of love and hard work went into the following weeks where, in a very short amount of time, we had an official script and a filmmaker signed on to make the video – Ben Garvey, of Ben Garvey Productions, a friend I met a couple of vintages ago when we both worked harvest at Anne Amie Vineyards.  We invited some very talented friends to join us in the coastal town of Seaside, Oregon on a Sunday in January, and, in near perfect weather conditions, we shot our video in just one day, thanks to Ben.

We had R. Stuart & Co.’s unique scan code printed on a whimsical sticker, which will first grace the upcoming release of Big Fire Pinot Gris, available in March, and later the Big Fire Pinot Noir, which will get bottled this spring and released in June. 

Customers can download free scan code reading applications on smartphones to scan the code on the bottle, which goes to a special mobile page with the Chariots of Big Fire video, along with links to the R. Stuart & Co. website and Facebook page, where they can send their mobile photos and videos to enter the contest.

The contest is not limited to mobile phone users.  Customers can access the rules and post their entries online via R. Stuart & Co.’s website, www.rstuartandco.com/mybigfire, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/rstuartandco.

The contest officially opens on Friday, February 18th, following the screening party of the Chariots of Big Fire video at the R. Stuart & Co. Wine Bar (McMinnville), and runs through December 31, 2011.

Winners will be chosen weekly and will receive a Me and My Big Fire prize along with a badge to post on their own Facebook page and one on their winning photo or video on the R. Stuart & Co. website and Facebook page.  It’s all about bragging rights!

For contest guidelines, rules and online entry forms, and to view the Chariots of Big Fire video, please visit www.rstuartandco.com/mybigfire.

For more information on how to build a social media and mobile marketing campaign using video production and scan code technology, please contact me for a consultation.

A Few of My Favorite Things

I love the holidays.  Whether in a time of recession, economic recovery or unapologetic decadence, I love to find ways to indulge.  But, I can be a very self-indulgent person.  In any case, I grew up in a house with an Italian-American mom who’d pull out all the stops creating, at once, magic and holiday refinery every year – from the elaborate decorations that included three to four Christmas trees in our house, to the elegantly placed ceramic manger scene on the mantle, shrouded in fresh, balsam fir scented garlands, and, of course, the glowing lights everywhere that, when I’d stare too much, which was too often, made my eyes water and blur.  Okay, maybe it was the Eggnog.  Nope, I don’t drink that stuff.  I’ll continue to blame the twinkling, glowy lights…

The food at home consisted of our seasonal favorites that blended our Italian-Austrian heritage and Roman Catholic custom.  Sorry, Dad.  Your Viking customs were pretty much defeated by Roman conquering.  No lefse, princess tortes, pickled herring or Glögg.  And, so, my memories warm my senses with the familiar flavors of mom’s anise-kissed pizzelles, spiced lebkuchen and pfeffernusse.  Then there’s the Tuscan roasts, the Sauerbraten and, best of all, the Southern-Italian tradition of seafood seven ways for La Viglia di Natale–the Christmas Vigil- also known as ‘The Feast of the Seven Fishes’.  You’d think my mom would throw my dad a bone and include a pickled herring in the mix of fishes.  Not a chance.  I can smell my mother’s kitchen as I write, looking forward to traversing the air miles cross country to get home for the holidays.

It should also be recorded that we drink well in the Jorgensen house.  We celebrate with German salmon and caper brunches with well-topped flutes of German bubbly.  We drink excellent Oregon Pinot Noir.  And, after sitting for hours around the dinner table, dad will then disappear and re-emerge from his bar in the basement with Champagne cognac, brandies and other spirits.  A family that drinks together stays together.  Or, something like that.  All kidding aside, we do partake in moderation and enjoy the range of flavors that special wines and spirits offer.

But, I digress.  While I’m still here in Portland, in full delight with glowing lights, holiday trim and delicious tastes to be had, there are some things that I covet and must indulge in to savor the enchanting flavors of the season.  Here are a few of my favorite things…

HOLIDAY INSPIRED COCKTAILS

Staying in?

The Holiday Lennert
An update to my favorite summer cocktail.

4 cl   Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy
2 cl   Lime Juice
(fill to top) Prosecco (or Blanquette de Limoux, or Crement)
Serve in a Champagne Flute

Sexy Santa’s Bog Nog
Okay, there’s no real “nog” to this, but it sounds good.

2.5 cl (shot)   Disaronno Amaretto
(fill to top)   Vincent Family Cranberry Juice
Lime garnish
Serve in a highball glass

Note:  Pour 1 measure of Disaronno into a highball glass half filled with ice cubes. Top up with chilled cranberry juice. Squeeze a wedge of lime in to the drink and leave in as garnish.  For a richer, fuller flavor increase to 2 measures of Disaronno.

Passing on the alcohol?  Instead of a glass of full-bodied red wine, substitute with a glass of Vincent Family Cranberries Cranberry-Blueberry juice.  It’s rich, full body is unexpected!  It’s naturally sweetened and just wonderful.

Going out? 

Clyde Common Eggnog
Before last year, you couldn’t get me to drink Eggnog, even if someone’s life depended on it (see my note in the opening paragraph).  Well, I met a friend for  holiday imbibing at Clyde Common last December and was told I had to try this classic drink.  None too excited, I reluctantly ordered one.  Conceived by well-known Portland mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Clyde Common Eggnog is rich, spicy, frothy deliciousness.  Who knew?  It’s now a Portland holiday season tradition for me and, well, everyone else who likes to drink in Portland.  Try to grab a seat by the bar if you can.  Cat’s out of the bag, especially since the cocktail was featured with the recipe in Playboy Imbiber’s Dan Dunn column.

Thistle’s Brooklyn
There are lots of reasons to visit downtown McMinnville.  It’s in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country.  Great shops.  And, great food.  Thistle is a culinary destination.   I could wax poetics about the menu.  But, I’m going straight to the back of the restaurant.  To the bar.  Music from ambient sounds to the uber cool likes of The Cure and The Flaming Lips.  Yup.  Quaint and in-part hipster-esque, this bar is serving up some ridiculously good cocktails.  Strong.  Well-made.  Get the Brooklyn.   Get’s me in the holiday spirit.  Rye whiskey, dry vermouth.  Plus, they scored BIG points with me because instead of a nasty maraschino cherry, there was a lovely amarena cherry at the bottom of my pretty glass.


Me, holding up the amarena cherry in my Brooklyn cocktail.

Again, passing on the alcohol?  Then go by Cacao and order some of their elixir of comfort and joy – drinking chocolate!  Go get some now!  It’ll get you in a cozy mood.  Soon, you’ll be walking down the streets of downtown PDX, or in the Pearl, whistling “Sleigh Ride”.  You won’t even notice that it’s freezing and raining.

HOLIDAY INSPIRED FOOD & WINE PAIRING

Feeling decadent.  Om.  So, why should I bother running through the typical courses?  I’m gonna cut to the chase, to the mantra of eternal tasting bliss.  The best holiday thrill is none other than this ridonkulous dessert pairing.  I learned about this when I managed the Best Cellars wine shop in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC,  nearly a decade ago.   When I tried this pairing, I realized that if I died, all would be well.  I had reached nirvana.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.  And, to be honest, nothing else really matters after you taste this.  Really.  You’re so blissed out that there is no fear, no stress, just pure light and joy.  So, what better way to lose your fear of dying? 

I recommend eating and drinking this now, if not sooner:

Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Rabitos Royale Bombon de Higo.  That’s fig bonbons.  I have to admit, I’m slightly miffed that the best friggin’ pairing of the season doesn’t belong to the Italian people.  Spain, baby.  Spain. 

Sono spiacente, mia cara mammina.

You can find a listing of Pedro Ximenez producers here on Snooth.

HOLIDAY INSPIRED FOOD
I was going to include a recipe for Rum Raisin Ice Cream with Pizzelle Cookie.  But, I’m tired and no longer in the mood to list any more favorite things for the season.  I’ve been sitting in traffic all day.  The stores were slammed today with impatient, vexed people holiday shopping.  Loads of screaming kids.  Then, I got home and realized I was out of Disoronno, so, no flippin’ Sexy Santa Bog Nog tonight.  Oh well.  Deep breath.  It’s the holidays, after all!

And, in the brisk and carousel-like moments of hustle and bustle that go with the season, I try to keep a sense of humor as best as I can, and, mostly, reflect on all of the blessings that make the season bright.  It’s love, love, love.  And, I wish that, along with peace and joy to all.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Pinot in the Pearl

The Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers promised to bring over 100 wines to Portland’s “First Thursday” at their inaugural Pinot in the Pearl wine event held at the tres elegant Venue Pearl (upstairs from 50 Plates, NW 13th and Flanders) on Thursday, May 6th.

Wine Country on Portland’s Doorstep
Participating wineries included: Adelsheim Vineyard, Alloro Vineyard, Anam Cara Cellars, Anne Amie Vineyards, ArborBrook Vineyards, Archery Summit, Artisanal Wine Cellars, Barking Frog Winery, Blakeslee Vineyard Estate, Carabella, Chehalem, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, deLancellotti Family Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, Et Fille, Freja Cellars, Hawks View Cellars, J.K. Carriere Wines, K&M Wines, Lachini Vineyards, Laura Volkman Vineyards, Le Cadeau Vineyard, Longplay Wine, Raptor Ridge, Rex Hill, ROCO Winery, RR Wines, Terra Vina Wines, Trisaetum, Utopia and Vidon Vineyard.

Culinary partners included: 50 Plates, Aquariva, Gracie’s Restaurant, The Heathman, Phresh Organic Catering, Sweet Masterpiece Chocolates, The Painted Lady and The Sweetest Thing Cupcakes.  Other partners included:  A Nose for Wine Tours, Fanucchi Oils, Perfect Picnics, Volcanic Minerals Refresher and Whole Foods.

The wines were the main focus and draw on this beautiful First Thursday eve.  The event producer, Pravia Wines & Events, however, made the destination.  Upon taking an elevator up to the banquet hall of Venue Pearl, you arrived in a very sexy, posh space with white sheer curtains running along the entranceway, emanating a bit of hip Miami Beach.  The set up was simple and elegant and guests were dressed for the occasion in high fashion.  It was visually one of the most impressive wine events I have attended in Portland…ever.

Adding to the elegance was the exquisite music of local harpist Leigh Brown, who looked more like a Grecian goddess in her off the shoulder green dress. 

The flow was open, spacious and inviting, allowing the consumer to float casually from table to table, in order to comfortably sample the amazing showcase of Chehalem Mountains wines.  Kudos to the team who brought this swank, exciting event to the Pearl!

Vindalho Easter

Easter Sunday means a lot of different things to different folks – for Christians, it’s about the Resurrection of Christ, for children it’s about hunting for hidden pastel-colored eggs, a fluffy bunny and easter baskets, for others it’s about renewal, rebirth and an opportunity for self-reflection.

To quote my dear friend Ali Guida’s Facebook post, “Today I remember this precious life, to resurrect parts of myself I’ve undernourished, and make a Renaissance of it.  In practice: nurturing Nalia (her daughter), relationships with family, husband, friends.  …In a nutshell: love; dancing; shining a light from the heart; yoga practice; meditation; art for illumination; emanating pure mind; traveling the path with courage.  Happy Renaissance beautiful beings!”

What a beautiful sentiment!

I had a moment of reflection today and decided, like Ali, to make a Renaissance of it.  I meditated and prayed, I went for a walk and meditated some more, I studied chemistry for my winemaking degree program, was fulfilled with learning, and then I was hungry.

And, when I was hungry, I considered where I’d enjoy my supper, as Easter dinner has always been a special tradition in my Italian-Catholic family upbringing.  Yet, all I could think about was lamb – something a little bit more east of Italy – and, well, French wine.

I headed over to Vindalho (pronounced vin-da-loo), known in Portland for its spice route cuisine.  The lights were low and enchanting far east music serenaded the restaurant, shifting from cool tunes like a Bollywood dance mix to an ethereal blend of traditional dosha, new agey beats.  I broke open my Science of Wine textbook and did some assigned reading while contemplating what I was going to eat for my Easter supper.

I ordered a glass of the 2007 Domaine St. Jean from the Languedoc.  The server brought me a plate of papadum, a crisp, thin cracker that was baked with cummin and caraway seed, and served with pear ginger chutney.

 
At first, I worried that I couldn’t eat the papadam, until I learned that it, along with most of the menu, is gluten-free, which delighted my appetite and spirit.  

I loved the papadam and especially the chutney, which I scraped clean and nearly licked the sacred little bowl.

I ordered the Madras Lamb Curry for my main dish, which was Oregon lamb braised in coconut milk, chiles and curry leaves, served with saffron basmati rice.  Pure dosha bliss.   Anything braised makes me wildly happy.  The lamb gently pulled apart as I gingerly made a cut with my knife and fork, and then it melted in my mouth.  This was seriously good.

The saffron basmati rice was deliciously bejeweled with golden raisins that blossomed with savory-sweet perfection, and, topped with almonds, soaked up the curry, offering all kinds of glorious textures and flavors.

I also ordered a side of spicy braised winter greens.  Again with the braising.  I’m an addict, I suppose.  This blend of beautiful chard, collards and kale were rich, tender and savory with subtle hint of spice and heat, topped with bright red peppers.  Pretty on the eyes.

Finally, I ordered a scoop of the blueberry ginger ice cream and a cup of decaf.  The ice cream glistened and sparkled in the bowl like a sugar plum.  It was so glittery lovely and the first taste…succulent, summer blueberries on a dark night, ripe and candy sweet, with the ginger coming on mid-palate and unexpectedly extending to a nice, sweet-tart finish.

Happy, happy flavorful Easter dinner – an unexpected journey along the spice route on this holy Sunday, a sacred engagement, a tantalizing treat…breaking the bread (or papadum), savoring flavors as old as ever, this was special.

Vindalho.  2038 SE Clinton Street, Portland, OR.
Phone ~ 503.467.4550
Web ~ www.vindalho.com

EUGENE: Watch Out Hippies – The Foodies Are Here!

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).  


To my good fortune, the first three were gluten-free.  I was pleasantly surprised by Nib’s gluten-free selection. 

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!