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Eating in the Oregon Wine Country

  • t

I'll be spending a night in McMinnville, OR, next week. Any recommendations for eating while I'm there? And what is the most highly regarded vineyard in the area that I should be sure to visit and stockpile some bottles from? Thanks.

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  1. I've had several very good meals at Tina's.

    1. Joel Palmer House -- good, small, regional place in old historic home. I've found their food uneven but others really enjoy it....it's in Dayton, a short hop from McMinnville. Also take a look at the writeup about Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville in the latest issue of Saveur. I've never been but it sounds great.

      1. My husbank and I had a very enjoyable and tasty meal at Bistro Maison in McMinnville in December. They have a changing menu with local products. Great bread. Excellant service. In an old house.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Iona

          I went there back in April. Here's my review:

          It’s the last house on McMinnville’s 3rd Street downtown—as authentic an American main street as you will find anywhere, movie house and all. But just before you reach the railroad tracks, there’s a tiny piece of France, Bistro Maison. Owners Chef Jean-Jacques and Hostess/Manager/Bartender Deborah Chatelard are ex-pat New Yorkers (and indeed, Jean-Jacques is an ex-pat of France) having recently followed their dream to Oregon’s wine country. The place is small and often fills up quickly, a combination of locals (“some come two, three times a week,” according to Jean-Jacques), tourists, and increasingly as word gets around, Portlanders who drive 30 minutes to get in on the secret. The atmosphere is bistro; that is, bustling, chairs-scraping-floors casual, with both quiet corners and loud tables. In the summer there is outdoor dining on the patio, alongside the whistle-stop train station. The menu is truly authentic French bistro cuisine, and everything on it is made on the premises, often with local ingredients; ask Jean-Jacques the story about his local mushrooming friends. The baguette is literally right out of the oven; even the butter is special. “He says, ‘It is a bistro, I have to make it all here,’” Deborah explains of her husband. As each new appetizer comes out, and each component is described, one wonders how he has the time (to make, for example, the two kinds of saucisson, pate, mousse, and dijon mustard on just one plate). This is all before the bubbling white truffle three-cheese fondue, the bisques and salads, and then, the main course. Entrée servings are ample and exquisite, so save room for them. Pommes frites in a little metal bucket on the side, so perfectly fried. The desserts remind you once more the care and effort that is going into every one of these dishes, the moment before they reach the table. Local wines (with the knowledge to recommend them) dominate. The service is better described as hospitality, and if you can understand his accent, you can always speak directly to the chef. After all the food is gone and the wine bottles empty, out come the (local) grappa and wooden bowls of hazelnuts with nutcrackers for everyone. One can feast for $35 – 40 a person, wine included. Perhaps it’s the unlikely location of Bistro Maison that has guests tending toward hyperbole when describing the experience. Still, if this bistro were located in New York—or France—it would still be one of the best.

        2. Between McMinnville and Sheridan is the Fresh Palate Cafe. It just off the highway between the two towns at the Lawrence Gallery I think. There's also an excellent tasting room there. My girlfriend and I stop there every time we visit the area, about once a year.

          1. Nick's in McMinville is excellent and should not be missed if you're staying in town. I was also impressed by Tina's last time I was down that way.

            Admittedly I've only been there once, but wild horses wouldn't get me back to the Joel Palmer House.

            1. My wife and I had dinner at the Joel Palmer House, in Dayton, a few nights ago. We are big fans of their mushroom soup, from the old days when they were in Pennsylvania. We were not disappointed. They believe in using local, natural ingredients and support the local economy, including their renovation of a historic property. So, you're not dining in some plywood-sided roadside strip mall, but a warm, gracious local mansion, wtih warm gracious hosts. I highly recommend it. Be sure to inquire about their use of locally harvested mushrooms and truffles.

              1. 5 of us recently had dinner at Cuvee in Carlton. We were all very disappointed in the quality of the food and the genuine disinterest of our waitress. She didn't appear to even know what items they served there. We had 4 different entrees between us. Two dinners were barely edible ,2 manageable and only 1 acceptable. I'll admit the wine was great, but they had nothing to do with it! I had read so many good reviews about Cuvee and was so excited to try it. I am still amazed at how bad it was.

                1. Last month PFG did a wine country outing and we ended with a meal at the Painted Lady in Newberg http://www.thepaintedladyrestaurant.com/

                  It was a very nice meal and worth the $$.

                  My notes (from http://portlandfood.org/index.php?sho...):

                  I also thoroughly enjoyed my meal at The Painted Lady in Newberg. It is a lovely old house with most of it's original detail. The service was very good, with about three staff tending to our table.

                  I started with a seriously delicious vol-au-vent (puff pastry) with veal sweetbreads, escargot, chantrelles, and other mushrooms, in a rich sauce that didn't overpower any of the ingredients. My main course was proscuitto-wrapped pork loin on parmesan polenta with brussel sprouts and was also a winner. The pork was perfectly cooked, the polenta fine and creamy, and the brussel sprouts were some of the best I have had. I don't even really like brussel sprouts, but these were mighty tasty. My dessert course was an apple tart with honey ice cream, and it was OK, but I think Calabrese's chocolate lava cake with espresso toffee ice cream was the winner.

                  I thought that the 3-courses were well worth $42. It was also nice that even though we were a party of 7, they did not add on the gratuity but left it up to us. Smart move, as we were more generous with them than they would have been on their own behalf. I don't think that after a day of wine tasting and munching on goodies (which did, indeed, help keep us sober) I could ever do the 5-course tasting menu (which the whole table has to do, and is $57, btw.) I think in order to do that, you'd have to do dinner there as a destination.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JillO

                    With a party of seven, didn't you have your own "tasting menu"?

                    When the BW and I go there, we get to taste six items......