Last night’s 22nd Sagebrush Classic feast was the best one yet. Presented by Deschutes Brewery with a host of co-sponsors, the annual event in the Broken Top meadow drew more than 1,000 guests. They ate great food with wine and beer pairings, bid on nearly 100 auction items to benefit local child-and-family charities, and danced for hours to a 10-piece Seattle show band, Oncore, whose styling of ’80s music made them an immediate crowd favorite.
Between 5 and 9 p.m., I enjoyed a 17-course dinner prepared by some of the nation’s (and the world’s!) great chefs. This included fresh oysters from Tomales Bay, CA, courtesy of Hog Island Oysters, and desserts by Bend chefs Michelle Morris (pastry chef at The Blacksmith), Matthew Neltner (Deschutes Brewery) and Rick Adamo (Broken Top Club).
Once a food critic, I suppose, always a critic. These are the dishes I thought were marvelous, and a couple that weren’t quite in the same category of exquisiteness.
Ken Frank (La Toque, Napa, CA) for a cassoulet-style seafood salad of sauteed shrimp, seared ahi, braised baby octopus and calamari rings with white beans and piquillo peppers. Wow. “This is the first time that I’ve ever really liked octopus,” said my companion, Barb.
Mark Kiffin (The Compound, Santa Fe, NM) for a seared diver scallop with a torchon of fois gras, figs and a Madeira duck jus. The combination of ingredients was a complete tour de force.
Scott Neuman (Oba!, Portland, OR) for Cuban-style sirloin seared and sliced with tomato-caper relish, basil potatoes and crispy onions. Neuman gives Caribbean cuisine a whole new look.
Michael Smith (Extra Virgin, Kansas City, MO) for charred octopus on grilled radicchio salad with braised goat-meat empanadas. So good that I can’t wait for my next visit to the Midwest.
Tom Fleming (Crossroads Diner, Dallas, TX) for seared Kobe beef with baby greens. A plum glaze, made with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, was the key ingredient.
Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place, Portland, OR) for a Dungeness crab salad with house-smoked bacon, fresh greens and cherry tomatoes. Fresh and crisp, a superb summer dish.
Cory Schreiber (International Culinary Institute, Portland, OR) for albacore tuna poached in olive oil, served cold with tomatoes, microgreens and crispy-fried onion rings. Another wonderful picnic plate for a hot summer evening.
Greg and Mary Sonnier (Gabrielle, New Orleans, LA) for alligator tail popcorn with a Mardi Gras slaw and red-chili remoulade. I don’t normally love fried foods, but I have never had better ‘gator. Never had ‘gator? As Barb said, “It’s time we bite back.”
Johnathan Sundstrom (Lark, Seattle, WA) for pan-fried butterflied smelt with a relish of heirloom tomatoes, black olives, red onions and rosemary. John and seven assistants de-boned 900 Camano Island smelt on Saturday morning. A deliciously tasty surprise.
Jean-Pierre LeLievre (Le Henri IV, Rostrenen, France) for oxtail braised in Obsidian Stout with a tomato-and-fava bean salad. The Deschutes beer added tremendous flavor to a dish that was fall-apart tender.
Charles Phan (The Slanted Door, San Francisco, CA) for braised pork belly in a steamed hum-bao bun with scallions. I loved the meat but the bun was too filling to enjoy on a night with so many other dishes to try.
Jackie Lau (Roy’s, Honolulu, HI) for a surf-and-turf sushi duo: a spicy-garlic ahi tuna roll and beef tataki with a seaweed salad. This was a mild disappointment after the melt-in-your-mouth butterfish she served at this feast a year ago.
Roberto Donna (Galileo, Washington, DC) for a handmade fettucine with artichoke pasta. Although the pasta was freshly made on Saturday morning, it lacked flavor or zest.
All photos by Barb Gonzalez