The best meals delivered at Saturday’s annual Sagebrush Feast were provided by chefs from Denver and Portland, both of them veterans of past classics.
Thirteen chefs — from nine states and two foreign countries — offered bite-size entrée portions in the meadow of the Broken Top Club. Three Bend chefs and two area cheese makers provided desserts as several hundred attendees
danced to the ‘80s-style music of The Show.
Twenty-one different beers from lead sponsor Deschutes Brewery — and 20 wines from Bend, the Willamette Valley and Walla Walla — were matched
with the various dishes.
Jennifer Jasinski, executive chef of Rioja and Bistro Vendôme, emerged as the culinary star. The Denver artist delivered the hands-down favorite of most diners with whom I visited — a perfectly seared scallop, presented atop a silky lemongrass panna cotta, drizzled with a Thai curry vinaigrette and served with a plantain chip and wedges of Kaffir lime and pineapple.
“The only thing that I went back for,” quipped one friend. And it was outstanding with a short pour of 2009 Amity Vineyard Riesling from Biggio Hamina Cellars in McMinnville.
The silver medal, had one been awarded, would have gone to my friend Scott Neuman, executive chef of Portland’s !Oba! Restaurante. Before barbecuing, Scott glazed baby back ribs with port wine and a zesty guava extract. The bite of the sauce was balanced by a salsa-like salad of watermelon and queso fresco.
NW Supercritical, a light amber steam ale, was the perfect complement.
We gave at least one thumb up, as well, to the following chefs:
Jackie Lau (Roy’s, Honolulu) for Hawaiian opah fish, steamed in pesto and served with fried garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
Ken Frank (La Toque, Napa, Calif.) for grilled New York steak with wild oyster mushrooms, port wine and a green peppercorn sauce.
Matt Lightner (Castagna, Portland) for grilled lamb collar with sautéed beer hops.
Mark Kiffin (The Compound, Santa Fe, N.M.) for slow-braised pork tomatillo tacos with a chipotle sauce.
Michael Smith (Extra Virgin, Kansas City, Mo.) for a pair of Peruvian-style ceviches, one of them tuna with Serrano chiles on taro, the other sea bass with piquillo chiles on plantain.
Bend chefs Bill Ballard (Broken Top Club), Gavin McMichael (Bourbon Street) and Matt Neltner (Deschutes Brewery) all offered outstanding desserts, while Pierre Kolisch (Juniper Grove Farm) and Flavio DeCastilhos
(Tumalo Farms) served their chèvre and Pondhopper cheeses, respectively.
But no line was longer than that for Sagebrush Classic regulars John Finger and Terry Sawyer of Hog Island Oysters, near Point Reyes, Calif.
I suppose we Central Oregonians crave fresh oysters because they’re hard to get here. I had a full half dozen.