Clams and mussels at the Trout HouseIn a departure from our usual format, we sent writer Alice Finer in search of a different kind of dinner pairing: a day of play in the great outdoors followed by a memorable meal at one of the many far-flung restaurants around the region. Look for other destination dining stories under the Retreats flag in upcoming issues.
Last week, with Memorial Day looming, my organizational skills severely lacking and a dramatic economic recovery increasingly unlikely, it was time to come to terms with the collapse of my summer's more ambitious plans. But living in the land of plenty when it comes to recreation, I could instead embark upon a season-long staycation here in Central Oregon to rival my most riveting excursions to date. Unfortunately, in all my excitement, pragmatism flew out the window, and I kicked off the summer with a tour of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument on a holiday weekend along with every visiting man, woman and their six screaming children. I ended up on a trail of tears, the highlight of which was a full panic attack about 50 feet into the mouth of the Lava River Cave that sent me screaming back into the light while grannies and preschoolers skipped by me with their lanterns and wide-eyed enthusiasm.
Famished and refusing to let that be the end of my local adventure's first day, I headed to nearby Sunriver to wash off the humiliation with a meal at one of the area's most idyllic dining spots, the Trout House. Flanked by the marina on one side and the Sunriver Nature Center on the other with the Deschutes flowing out back and a view that reaches Paulina Peak to the front, the setting cannot be beat. The recently renovated dining room is lovely with tables facing the river, but if at all possible, get a seat on the patio. It's glassed-in with an open ceiling, so you're outdoors with a near panoramic view but protected from the wind and the stream of boaters floating by outside.
The Trout House could probably get by on atmosphere, but luckily the kitchen holds its own. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus feature relatively straightforward but interestingly prepared regional dishes with many seafood options, as you might imagine with a name like Trout House. To start, I went with steamed Manila clams and Pacific mussels ($12) and a half dozen Barron Point oysters ($14). The clams and mussels, served in a sweet vermouth broth with small chunks of prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, coarsely chopped garlic and red onion and a couple of thick pieces of garlic bread, were superb. The Barron Points, faring from Washington, were fresh and fruity as is typical of Pacific oysters, and came with a lemon-black pepper mignonette that brought out the flavor nicely.
Entrees include a nice variety of proteins from pan-seared duck breast with a ginger orange port glaze to braised wild boar. I couldn't resist the sound of shrimp and Portobello mushroom gratin ($27). The shrimp were marinated in garlic, olive oil and rosemary, topped with breadcrumbs and set in a circle on a large charbroiled Portobello mushroom cap sitting on a bed of jasmine rice and cioppino broth. I didn't get much in the way of seafood flavor from the cioppino, which is a traditional Italian tomato-based fish stew, but the dish was successful nonetheless. The Carlton Farms pork chop ($24) grilled on the bone and topped with brandy garlic butter and scallions came with a tasty potato latke - a nice break from traditional sides - and sautéed zucchini and red onions. The plate was beautiful and the meat was perfectly cooked.
With first-rate Pacific Northwest cuisine, a nice selection of regional wines and stellar Central Oregon scenery on all sides, a trip to the Trout House is an excellent reminder to locals of why we live here and a quality sales pitch for those lucky enough to be visiting our neck of the woods.The Trout House
57235 River Rd., Sunriver, 593-8880. Breakfast, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5-9 p.m.; happy hour, 3-6 p.m. (closed Tues. and Wed. winter)