Cowboy Dinner Tree

Tonight my wife and I are driving down to Silver Lake to eat at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. This is actually something we’ve wanted to try out for years, but it was this article in the Bend Bulletin which finally prompted us to make reservations.

Probably the best description I could give is one I’ll lift from the Bulletin article:

The Cowboy Dinner Tree, about 85 miles from Bend, is about as rustic as a restaurant can get. Made of rough poles and barn planks, the building itself has the look of a hermit’s cabin. A sign on the wall proclaims “No electricity – No credit cards – No kidding,” and it’s not. A 12-volt solar-powered battery provides the juice for a couple of bare light bulbs in the dining room, but when the sun sets, the lights dim. All the food is cooked from scratch with propane.

When you make your reservations, you get the choice of either the steak or the chicken for dinner. And their serious about they’re food; when they say chicken, they mean a whole chicken. And the steaks are 26 to 30 ounces. That’s almost two pounds of steak!

Should be an experience, one I’ll write about sometime in the near future, if I’m not comatose from that much red meat.

Johnny Carino’s sneak preview

Last night we got a sneak preview dinner (along with about a zillion other people) at the new Johnny Carino’s at the north end of town. It was kind of their shakedown cruise to train and assess the staff and work out any glitches ahead of time; my wife had gotten an invite, so we went. (Everything except drinks was half off, too.)

It was actually very, very good, except for the amount of time everything took—and this we attribute simply to being a preview, testing night—we were there for an hour and a half or so, most of that time waiting on the food. Otherwise, the drinks, the service, and the food were all excellent. I’d definitely go back again, but after a few weeks have passed to give them time to work out all the kinks.

Bend restaurants blog

A new local weblog has popped up: Bend Oregon Restaurants. Found it when “BrENDa” (its author) left a couple comments here. Finally! A good restaurant review/guide blog for Bend, by someone who knows what they’re talking about.

And you gotta love the honesty in her reviews: read the O’Kane’s review or the Bon Bien review to see what I mean. My favorite line: “Bon Bien is Non Bien.”

Bluefish Bistro

We ate at Bluefish Bistro (no website that I see; instead here’s a link to The Source’s dining guide entry) in Downtown Bend last Saturday (my wife and I), and yes, I’m just now getting around to writing about it. Bluefish is one of the newest restaurants in the current trend of upscale, fine dining experiences in Bend (others being Merenda, Cork, Zydeco, Ariana, for instance), and it’s also one of the most expensive. More on that in a bit.

Located downtown on Franklin, on the corner of Drake Park and Franklin basically, it’s kind of an unassuming place from the outside. I don’t know if that bodes well or not because that location has generally seen more turnover than other places downtown; I can think of two previous establishments there in recent memory. Inside is nice, more character; I particularly like the water fountain dividing the entry area from the dining room.

One nice touch: the water had a fresh sprig of mint in it. My wife wasn’t sure how well she liked that, but I thought it was refreshing—we grew up with a lot of mint growing in the gardens, and there’s nothing quite like being able to pick and eat fresh mint leaves.

The bread was very good, but it was the butter that stood out. There are three kinds: a sweet butter, a honey almond butter, and a tangerine butter. They were, frankly, amazing.

A note to beer drinkers: they apparently don’t have any beer on tap, it’s all bottled, and at four dollars a bottle, you’d probably be better off going with a glass of wine (which is what I did).

The food was good, but expensive: all the entrees were in the mid to upper twenties, the heirloom tomato salad was $12, glasses of wine tended to run seven dollars and up. The food was excellent—I had the halibut which was tender and moist and flaky, along with well-chosen root vegetables (beets and turnips, I want to say), and the vanilla cheesecake was stunning—but I think it’s the most expensive of restaurants we’ve been to lately. Sad to say, this will be the limiting factor as to how often we visit Bluefish, I imagine.

Overall, a very good dining experience. If you can afford it, it’s worth a try at least once.

Ariana

Amid all the craziness of the past weekend, my wife and I were able to have a Saturday evening out (the grandparents watched the kids). We went to Ariana with Shannon and her fiancé

Ariana is located on Bend’s west side, in one of the renovated old houses that make up much of the west side’s character. My review, in a word: awesome! The weather was just right to sit out on the patio, the wait staff was refreshingly good, the food was excellent. Next time, though, when we’re out with friends, I’ll order an appetizer; Shannon wrote that I “ate off our plates” and that makes me sound like a homeless person or something. Really, I’m not.

The one nagging question I have is whether the Spaten Oktoberfest I ordered was on tap or from the bottle. Bottle is fine, I don’t know of any other restaurant in town that has it, but if it’s on tap, then kudos, Ariana. Kudos indeed.

Seriously, I’m not a homeless guy.

Bend Farmer’s Market

Wednesday after work (around five) I met the the family down at Bend’s farmer’s market in Drake Park. Strangely enough, it was the first time I’d been to it, despite living in Bend for, oh, most of my life. I liked it a lot; we ended up buying a bunch of stuff, including giant cookies, three kinds of berries, a bouquet of flowers, cherries, dried apples, and fresh vegetables (including zucchini—I’ve been totally wanting to make zucchini bread for ages, and I’ve got a nice big one now to do so). I was hoping to score some fresh honey, but I didn’t see any (I’d heard honey mentioned on the radio that morning when they were promoting the farmer’s market).

Next time we go back I think I might also pick up some locally-made cheese, from Juniper Grove Farm in Redmond (no website that I can find). And maybe a baguette.

What’s funny is Shannon was there too—but we missed her. Next time we’ll need to coordinate better :). Or how about this? Get a blogger/friends/family thing together at the farmer’s market, buy a bunch of food there, and have a picnic dinner in the park.