It's time to add Range at Brasada Ranch to your list of the top restaurants in Central Oregon.
By any measure — quality cuisine, efficient and attentive service, romantic atmosphere — the fine-dining restaurant at this destination resort, on the southwest flank of Powell Butte, more than holds its own against any in Bend or its neighboring communities.
A lion's share of the credit goes to executive chef Adrian Carpenter, who moved to Bend a year ago from Aspen, Colo., and set to work building a restaurant already the envy of many resorts with a much longer history than Brasada.
Carpenter and his wife, Susan — who runs the front of the house at Range and manages the casual-dining cafe in the resort's nearby Ranch House — came to Oregon with a broad range of experience throughout the West. A few years back, in fact, they were partners in the Dogwood Grill, honored as Aspen's “best new restaurant” in 2006 by Aspen Magazine.
Immediately prior to moving to Brasada, Adrian was sous chef at the Little Nell, a famed hotel at the foot of Aspen's ski slopes. He also worked in Arizona, Montana and California, and his mentors included renowned chefs Charles Dale and Traci des Jardins.
The move to Central Oregon offered an opportunity to better pursue his interest in farm-to-table cuisine.
“We have a great pool of products coming from the Pacific Northwest,” Adrian said. “I've been used to air shipments three times a week; now, I can get things the next day by truck. The resources are so much closer.”
The relationships Adrian Carpenter has built with regional providers are evident in the ever-changing menu Range offers.
Much produce comes from Windflower Farms in Alfalfa, just down the road from Brasada. Wild-game charcuterie is smoked in-house. Eggs and cheese are local products. And Carpenter uses everything from goat to pheasant to stinging nettles in his recipes.
When my dining companion and I visited for dinner recently, we sampled a wide range of fare.
And while it would be impossible to say that everything was perfect — each of us had particular likes and dislikes — the creativity and execution of the menu has left us looking forward to a return visit.
An amuse bouche featured a chilled spoonful of truffle-flavored cauliflower panicotta topped with minced porcini mushrooms.
Organic chicken-liver pate was remarkably soft and velvety. It was served with long slices of lightly grilled bread, sweet apricot preserves and tart grain mustard.
A “butcher's board” offered several choices of charcuterie, the best of which were house-smoked venison sausage and hand-mixed duck rillettes.
Seared albacore tuna didn't have as delicate a flavor as we might have hoped; it was dusted a little too heavily with smoked paprika, and was overpowered by a jellied sour orange. Shaved serrano chilies and miners' lettuce were nice complements, however.
More meal choices
A hearty teff-flour crepe was Carpenter's version of an Ethiopian vegetarian recipe that he learned from winter visitors. Buckwheat pancakes were sandwiched around morel mushrooms and fava beans and dressed with balsamic vinegar. The pancakes were topped with red cabbage; I thought they could have used something more, like sour cream.
Gnocchi-like gnudi dumplings, made with stinging nettles, were another hearty dish. They were filled with the tender meat of young goat, braised in red wine, and presented with large porcini mushrooms and ricotta cheese. This was an unusual and delicious dish.
Wonderful as well was a soup of spinach and French sorrel, pureed in a potato-and-leek base. It was offered with a brioche, Redmond's Juniper Grove chevre cheese and a mix of potatoes with crunchy hazelnuts.
A wild arugula salad was fresh and well balanced, served with sweet strawberries and golden beets, tart Crater Lake bleu cheese, Marcona almonds and vinaigrette dressing.
A rib and shoulder of lamb, cooked medium rare, were laid upon a bed of creamy polenta. A garlicky ratatouille of spring vegetables was a fine side, along with baby artichoke hearts.
The most adventurous entree, certainly, was a “game bird trio” of duck, quail and pheasant. The latter bird, presented finely chopped in a consomme with faro (a grain) and minced vegetables, was not exceptional; the other two were wonderful indeed.
The duck breast was cooked rare and served with a mash of sweet onions and a tangy rhubarb chutney. Even better was the quail, stuffed with Peruvian quinoa and Medjool dates, and served with a pistachio sauce that set off the flavor perfectly.
Throughout our meal, from the moment we were greeted and seated, service was outstanding. Hostess Susan Carpenter, a polished restaurant professional, assisted with pairings of wines primarily from West Coast vineyards, while our server was personable and attentive in taking and delivering our orders in a timely fashion.
The Range occupies a spacious, high-ceilinged building that was constructed in rustic style just a couple of years ago. It offers an unquestionably romantic mood for dining, especially in summer when diners can watch the sun disappearing over the volcanic peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
When we dined, it was a little too cool to take advantage of a broad flagstone patio, but numerous other guests gathered after dinner around a large fire pit and roasted s'mores in lieu of dessert. Many Range diners make arrangements to overnight at Brasada Ranch, thus avoiding a dark 25-minute return drive to Bend. Those who do often plan breakfast the following morning at the Ranch House.
But after our outstanding dinner at Range, we were less than impressed by the next day's first meal, which we ordered at a counter before it was delivered.
My “skillet” was not much different from my companion's frittata. Both egg dishes, unevenly cooked, were carried to our table in cast-iron skillets. We were never offered condiments nor toast for our meals. We had to flag down a server to get refills on our coffee. The best part of the meal was a fruit bowl that we shared, containing cantaloupe and honeydew melon, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple.
However, the view of the Cascades, now illuminated by the morning sun, was the same as it had been the previous night at the Range. And that was enough to bring smiles to our faces.
The Pastrami Old World Deli opened last week for First Friday. Owner Kryste Adams has established the New York-style Jewish deli in the former location of the Letzer's Deli satellite shop, next to Remax Key Properties. The deli serves soup, salads and sandwiches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Sunday. 431 N.W. Franklin Ave., Suite 150, Bend; 541-706-1556, www.facebook.com/pastramideli.
Baldy's Barbeque has announced plans to open a full-service restaurant in the Forum Shopping Center on Bend's east side by July 1. Owner Brian Dioguardi, who also has locations on Bend's west side and in Redmond, said he would close his takeout counter at the Shop 'n' Go Shell station (2699 N.E. Greenwood Ave.) and move into the former Yoko's Restaurant, next door to the original location of Hola! The new Baldy's will serve breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. A $10,000 remodeling project is under way. 2670 N.E. U.S. Highway 20, Suite 720, Bend; 541-388-4227, www.baldysbbq.com.