Hi, I just recently returned from a wine tasting and seaside getaway long weekend in Oregon. We went to the Fresh Palate Cafe on Hwy 18 between McMinnville and Sheridan, the Red Hills Dining Room in Dundee, and Blackfish Cafe in Lincoln City.
Fresh Palate Cafe - This is actually the second time that I've been here but I have loved it both times. I started with a really great vegetarian lentil soup that was not too bland as is all too often the case with an all vegetarian soup, the lentils themsleves were still nice and crunchy offering a great texture to the soup. I had an open faced crab sandwich that was filled with great big lumps of crab meat and quickly baked with a layer of cheese on top that was wonderful and the short time in the oven kept the bread underneath from getting too chewy. For desert I had a lemon merengue pie that was just minutes out of the oven and still warm, absolutely sublime in its balance of sweet and tart.
Red Hills Dining Room - Having seen this place recommended before I decided to give it a whirl. My girlfirend and I started with a purreed potato soup that was quite good but nothing special. For dinner I had lamb medallions in a Pinot Noir reduction with some really well prepared fingerling potatoes that was quite good but again nothing especially unique. My girfriend had a pan fried sole with a ragout of local vegetables that was definitely a stand out though, the sole was moist and the ragout was a wonderful meld of flavors. For dessert we split some of the housemade ice cream, the flavor we chose was Guinness, toffee and white chocolate which was just great, I mean mmmmmmmmmm ice cream (insert proper Homer Simpson drooling sounds here).
Blackfish Cafe - We went here on the recommendation of one of the winemakers we talked with the previous day. We started with a grilled flatbread appetizer that came with a local chevre and a roasted garlic and eggplant tapenade. You know how every now and then you get an appetizer that is just perfect, that if the rest of your meal never arrived that would be just fine as long as there was enough appetizer? The chevre was fantastic but the tapenade was absolutely sublime, the morrocan style spicing that went into it melded with the roasted garlic and eggplant so beautifuly that it was downright knee melting. We then went on to our entrees which seemed certain to be a letdown after that wonderful start, but it was just an omen of things to come. I had a grilled duck breast with a white cheddar sauce and accented with a blackberry and walnut conserve, my girlfirend had a grilled arctic char with a tomato and basil reduction. The char was very good no fishiness at all a great flavor and firmness while the sauce definitely enhanced instead of overpowering the fish. The duck was heavenly, let me say that again, IT WAS HEAVENLY! If the world had ended then I would have died a happy man, no problem. The duck was grilled perfectly with just the right amount of fat retained to give it that great flavour that only comes from duck fat. The sauce was nowhere near as powerful as I had though that it would be considering that it was based on white cheddar and added just a little bit of smoothness to the dish, the blackberry and walnut conserve paired up with the duck perfectly as well and just caused everything to melt in my mnouth in a symphony of flavours that made time stand still. Unfortuntely we had no room left for dessert after all of this but we are determined to be back as soon as possible. At the end of our meal came yet another pleasant surprise, our check, for the appetizer, three glasses of wine, and the two entrees which also came with a either a soup or salad, (great chowder but lost in the sandwich of wonderful dishes on either side) the total came to only $60.