IDLEYLD PARK — Back in the early days of the Guest Chef & Winemaker Dinner Series, Patricia Lee did the wooing.
“I’d be cold calling and almost pleading with chefs to come,” recalled Lee, who co-owns Steamboat Inn with Jim and Sharon Van Loan.
It’s different now. “Now I have chefs calling Steamboat, because they’ve heard about it and they want to come. Winemakers, too.”
What they heard was the buzz around the series that starts the first weekend in March and continues through mid-June. It features chefs from upscale restaurants mostly in the Portland area, though Sisters, Eugene and Newberg also are represented. Each evening matches up a chef’s creations with those of a different regional winemaker. All dinners start with appetizers served at 7 p.m. Three savory courses follow, ending with dessert. Most dinners are $90. Lodging rates, when rooms are available, vary with the accommodation. Seating is for 45 to about 65 people, Lee said.
Every chef has been sent samples, well in advance, from his or her designated winemaker and then decides on a culinary complement for each wine, Lee said. In addition, one brewery has been added to the mix. Heater Allen Brewing of McMinnville is on the schedule for April 5, along with Chef Ray Anderson of Nuestra Cocina for a night of brews and Mexican food.
Three Douglas County wineries will participate this year, starting with Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards. The Roseburg winery will furnish five wines to be served Saturday, the first evening of the series, with entrees by Chef TR McCrystal of Jen’s Garden in Sisters.
Winemaker Stephen Reustle said he and others at Reustle Prayer Rock look forward to the series each year “because of the wonderful opportunity to showcase its fine wine with fabulous food pairings in a wonderful yet intimate setting.”
Two of the vineyards’ award-winning wines that will make an appearance Saturday are its 2011 Grüner Veltliner (“spicy white fruit aromas ... intermingled with hints of acacia wood and an intense stone and mineral element”) and the 2011 Pinot Noir (“offers aromatics of sweet cherries, red berries, flowers, smoke and toasty bread.”)
On March 29, Brandborg Wines of Elkton takes a turn with Chef Mark Hosack of Gracie’s Restaurant in Portland. Terry Brandborg, co-owner of the winery with his wife, Sue Brandborg, said the couple furnished several cool-climate whites and pinot noir for Hosack to consider. Terry Brandborg said he’s not sure which ones Hosack will choose. One of the candidates is Brandborg’s Fleur de lis Ferris Wheel Estate Vineyard, “a crisp white rendition of pinot noir that, for example, we paired with a pan-seared scallop with a mandarin orange gastrique.”
Brandborg said this is the fourth year the Elkton winery has been included in the dinner series schedule.
“The Van Loans and Pat are such great hosts, (and) the venue is so conducive to letting their guests have a great time,” he said. “As a participating winery, you are treated so well, it makes you feel very special to be part of the program.”
Abacela near Winston, owned by Hilda and Earl Jones, is the third Douglas County winery to appear on the Steamboat schedule. Earl Jones said Abacela, which has been a dinner series participant for more than a decade, typically has its tempranillo paired with a guest chef’s creations. In this case, Chef Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen & the Bent Brick in Portland will do the honors.
“We pioneered American production of this internationally famous grape here in Douglas County back in the 1990s, and the guest chefs jump at the chance to match an entrée with the original American tempranillo,” Jones said.
Jones added that the dinner series is popular with food-focused Douglas County residents who “cherish the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of big-city dining on their home court.”
A list of guest chefs and winemakers for the Steamboat Inn dinner series is available online at thesteamboatinn.com/calendar.html. Information also will be printed weekly in The News-Review’s In Season calendar. Information and reservations: 800-840-8825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.