When was the last time you saw quail on a menu in Bend? Or had a fig cocktail?
Executive chef John Gurnee and the team at Drake has composed a new seasonal fall menu, with something a little different from the traditional downtown fare.
Keeping some of the standards on the menu including a specialty burger and shrimp and grits, new nightly game specials feature venison, buffalo ribs, duck, quail and elk depending on the night and what's available fresh from the butcher.
Melanie Ehrlich, a Bend transplant via Montana last June, helped to collaboratively design the fall cocktail menu which the staff hopes will be rotating quarterly with new seasonal drink and menu specials.
Upping the standard mixology to a new level of creativity and class, drinks like the Fig & Fashion, with house infused fig bourbon garnished with orange and sour cherry have been top sellers according to Ehrlich. With a dash of bitters the drink had an earthy sweet flavor and an appetizing hombre purple coloring, dark at the bottom topped with light bubbly soda at the top. Mostly fig-infused bourbon with a dash of sparkle, it wasn't overly sweet and Ehrlich explained that after the figs are used for infusing the alcohol, she passes them over to the kitchen where they are used in a variety of nightly specials.
"A lot of ingredients go back and forth," said Ehrlich. "I have a pomegranate drink on the menu with fresh pomegranate and they have pomegranate, apple cider glaze on the house-made smoked pork chop. We're keeping things kind of paired: food and cocktails, cocktails and food."
Riding out the bourbon train after the fig cocktail, we tried the Auto Drake, a twist on the traditional whiskey ginger with Maker's Mark. The ginger ale was particularly sweet, an alternative to some whiskey drinks that will grow hair-on-your-chest. The added Grand Marnier gave a slight citrusy tinge and an additional sweetness to the gingery tumbler of booze.
Then, onto the lighter stuff, we tried the two gin martinis—both of which were so dangerously drinkable that we could have easily sipped our way into an accidental stupor. The Drakeside featured Earl Grey-infused gin with lime juice playing nicely off the classic tea's citrusy bermagot. The addition of muddled mint gave it mojito-like freshness without turning it into a summery drink. Overall, the herbal aroma combined with the feelings of warmth elicited by the Earl Grey infusion made it a perfect autumn drink for those of us burnt out on (or not yet ready for) pumpkin spice eggnog and fall's heavier harbingers. The Bohemian—Crater Lake gin, with St-Germain, grapefruit and a dash of preychauds bitters, garnished orange—tasted like biting into a sweet, juicy pink grapefruit. If we were inclined to get boozy with breakfast, this would be our drink of choice (move over, mimosas!). Worth noting: this is a very pink drink. Not recommended for men not secure in their masculinity (though it was fun to see the server make assumptions about who was drinking the pink martini, and who was having the fancified whiskey ginger). Despite the bubblegum color, it was not overly sweet. We paired our drinks with Portobello fries, baked brie and grilled prawns from the happy hour menu. The fries—long, thick cuts of mushroom breaded and fried to golden perfection—were served with a creamy beer cheese roux that reminded us of homemade macaroni and cheese (total comfort food). Just $5 during happy hour, 3:30 pm-5:30 pm daily, the Lincoln Log stacked creation made ketchup and fried potatoes look like a very low-class alternative. Happy hour at Drake strikes an ideal balance between upscale and laid back with most dishes including a burger staying under $13. We added the baked marin brie to our order topped with spiced walnuts and seasonal jam (we think this one was plum). The plate matched perfectly with the Fig & Fashion with hearty, earthy and buttery elements. The jam added a sweet finish to the satiny melted pad of brie.
The reboot of the menu at Drake is a great way to freshen up the autumn season.