It was a great year for food in Bend and I got to partake in a lot of it. Here are the top 10 things I ate in 2011.
The D&D's Biscuits & Gravy
I fell in love in 2011... with the D&D's biscuits and gravy. Perfect any time of day, and especially good when you want to escape the Central Oregon morning sun in the dimly lit confines of The D. This is ultimate comfort food: good old-fashioned country cooking that you can count on being exactly the same each time.
Cada Dia Cheese
This is not a meal or a restaurant, as the nursery rhyme tells it: "the cheese stands alone." This family owned-and-operated dairy out of Prineville has been a blessing, bringing unique and incredible cheese like this to our region. The Sullivan family produces high-quality cheeses from raw grass-fed Jersey cow milk, creating a distinct flavor, rich color and higher butterfat content. My favorites: feta in herbed safflower oil and the soft rich camembert.
This was notable not only for the quality of the food and the wonderful community atmosphere present at this well-attended supper, but as a landmark for the growth of our local food system. The Root Down Community Supper, with its air of a family holiday celebration and primal carnivorous feast, was the first in a quarterly series of suppers built around seasonal local foods. Each course of the meal, coordinated by local favorites Central Oregon Locavore, Baked Bakery, Primal Cuts and Spork, was excellent, but it was the whole slow-roasted pig from DD Ranch that was the centerpiece.
Lone Pine Coffee's Toddy
Full disclosure: I am a regular at Lone Pine Coffee, probably to an unhealthy extent, at least, for my wallet. Thanks to Lone Pine's slow cold-brewed Coffee Toddy, I left the infamously watery iced coffee behind this summer for this smooth, refreshing, less-bitter alternative.
Caldera's Macaroni & Cheese
In 2011 we lost Bend's long-time downtown Italian restaurant Giuseppe's, but gained Caldera Grille in its place. Caldera may have seemed like more of the same on Bond Street's saturated dive-bar strip, but distinguished itself as a great local pub serving a full menu 21 hours a day, seven days a week. My favorite Caldera menu item is another comfort food, macaroni and cheese, rich and creamy with a nice crisp breadcrumb and cheese top.
Although pizza was only available for sale to the general public at Baked Bakery for a short time, I had the pleasure of attending a couple of after-hours pizza parties there this year. These incredible Neopolitan-style pizzas had a thin soft crust baked for a short time at a very high temperature with well-chosen toppings. My favorite was topped with locally foraged Chantrelle mushrooms and bacon. The pizza dough is available for sale at the bakery to make your own pizza at home.
Tumalo Feed Company's Mountain Oysters
I have only been to the Tumalo Feed Company once, but it was memorable enough for it to make it into my top 10 experiences of the year. The mission on the night of our fall visit was to try their mountain oysters, sliced beef testicles breaded and deep fried, served with BBQ sauce and jalapeno mustard. The menu describes them as "the most tender cut of all." The consensus among our group: "tastes like chicken!"
While The Pelican Inn is unfortunately hours away, I have to include this Marin County, Calif., establishment in my list as an ode to the relief and solace awarded to weary travelers stumbling upon a unique, ideal and unforgettable dining experience as strangers in a strange land on the quintessential summer vacation.
This hidden culinary gem far exceeded my expectations. Poppies Café and Garden in Sisters was the perfect setting for an outdoor summer lunch with seating on a beautiful garden patio that produced some of the ingredients featured on the menu. Their cuisine is a Northwestern and Southern fusion elevated by the freshness and local sourcing of their ingredients. The blue cheese bacon burger was one of the best burgers I had all year.
Don't feel left out if you haven't heard of Infinity Donuts, they are not yet available for sale to the general public. Hanna Berry's little sweet and savory orbed creations make it on to the list not only for their excellence, but as a sign of an increasing small-scale food entrepreneurship trend in Bend. She, like many others, has started out experimenting with recipes at home and distributing them among friends and family willing and eager to be food testers. These donuts, fried in pork lard, are rich but not over-done with fillings and toppings. My favorite: goat cheese, basil and honey.