You don’t want to blink this time of year in Bend. Close your eyes for half-a-second and you’ll open them to discover everything is different. Well, different in a good way. Here are seven exciting new seasonal developments in Bend from the last few weeks.
The Lava Lands Visitor Center closes down during the icy months, but as of May 2, everything is up and running again. This bustling interpretive hub of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a great place for the whole family. Springtime is a particularly pleasant time to visit, since the mid-summer months can be downright scorching with acres of lava rock and obsidian acting as a big solar oven. The Lava Lands Visitor Center offers amazing insights on area geologic and cultural history, a cool gift shop, educational films, ranger talks, and a chance to drive to the top of Lava Butte for a spectacular view of Central Oregon. From now through June 10, they’re open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After June 10 they’ll be open daily for those same hours, which will last through early September.
It was only a few weeks ago I had to scrape snow off my windshield before driving to the grocery store. There’s still white stuff falling from the sky, but none of it requires a shovel and sturdy boots. Bend’s flowering trees are in full bloom right now, sending cascades of fluttering blossoms adrift anytime the wind blows. It’s a lovely sight to behold, but it won’t last long. And we also can’t guarantee there won’t be one more real snowstorm before things heat up for the summer.
One of my favorite things to do in Bend is enjoy a cocktail and some appetizers on an outdoor patio, so I nearly wept with joy a few weeks ago when local restaurants began dragging tables outside. I especially love 900 Wall in Downtown Bend. It’s a great spot for people-watching, and their happy hour menu is one of the best in town. Try the carpaccio and a greyhound made with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. A bit east of that is Brickhouse, which just moved to a new spot a couple weeks ago. They’ve got a great area for outdoor dining, and their bacon wrapped scallops are out-of-this-world scrumptious (particularly when paired with their tasty cucumber martini). Crossings at the Riverhouse has an enormous deck overlooking the river, plus an equally enormous happy hour menu with oodles of tasty treats to choose from. If you’re in the Old Mill District, head to Anthony’s or Greg’s Grill, which both have amazing outdoor patios overlooking the Deschutes River. The views are spectacular from either spot, and both restaurants boast awesome happy hour menus and terrific wine lists.
If fishing is your scene, you might have danced a jig on April 27 when most of the great Cascade Lakes opened for fishing season. This includes Crane Prairie Reservoir, South Twin Lake, Little Lava Lake, Big Lava Lake, and Wickiup Reservoir. All of those spots are known for spectacular fishing (or spectacular lounging in the sun reading a good book while someone else does the fishing). For a little extra challenge, Cabela’s planted a specially-tagged fish in South Twin Lake. If you catch it, you could win a million bucks through their Fish for Millions promotion. That’s almost enough to make me consider buying a fishing pole.
All I have to do is whisper the words Sun Mountain Fun Center and my gentleman friend’s offspring will sprint for the car. This is THE place to go for families looking to entertain the youngsters with bowling, billiards, bumper cars, arcade games, and more. What you may not know is that some of their super-fun outdoor activities don’t open ‘til the weather turns warm. The go-karts started running again several weeks ago, and you can ride Friday through Sunday through mid-June when they’re operating every day of the week. The batting cages opened in April, and the outdoor mini-golf opened a bit before that. The Water Wars area won’t open until the weather turns a little bit warmer, but based on the way spring is heating up, that could be sooner than normal. Save some water balloons for me, okay?
Seasonal road closures are commonplace in the land of snowy winters, but with the snow receding, popular highways are welcoming traffic once more. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened this week, making it easy for guests to reach spots like Devil’s Lake and Sparks Lake (though Todd Lake is still closed due to snow). Crews from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have been clearing the McKenzie Pass Highway, and one lane is already open for cyclists and pedestrians. Gates should open soon for motor vehicles, so stay tuned for news.
If a whitewater raft trip is on your bucket list this summer, you’ll be thrilled to know Sun Country Tours just started running their popular daily Big Eddy Thriller raft trips again last weekend. The adventure features class III rapids on a three-mile journey down the beautiful Deschutes River. It’s great fun for families who don’t mind getting a little soaked, and young kids can opt not to paddle if they choose. You can easily fit the trip into a morning or afternoon, and all experience levels are welcome. The cost is $53 for adults ages 13 and up, or $46 for kids 6-12. Book early, and be prepared to get wet.
For many years, I got my hair cut at beauty schools. It was partly for the cost-savings, but also because I’m convinced that students with instructors breathing down their necks are driven to strive for perfection.
Following that same philosophy, I was delighted when I heard the concept behind Elevation. This student-operated restaurant at Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute gives culinary pupils hands-on experience, while offering diners a chance to enjoy sustainable local cuisine with a farm-to-table emphasis.
Sign me up!
That’s no joke, actually, since reservations are crucial. Lunches and dinners are served prix fixe style and the dining area is often filled to capacity. $19 at lunchtime or $25 at dinner gets you a three-course meal that includes a scrumptious starter like soup or salad, an entrée, dessert, and a generous basket of fresh bread and herbed butter to kick things off.
A key focus at Elevation is on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. That goes beyond just buying from local farms and ranches, and extends to the excellent beer and wine menu featuring a plethora of Northwest offerings.
The menu changes frequently with the seasons and with the students’ learning curve. It would be cruel of me to gloat about the deliciousness of specific dishes, since odds are slim you’d find the same thing on the menu if you walked in tomorrow.
Just as an example though, you’ll find starters like lacinato kale with Cada Dia feta, toasted hazelnuts, and sour cherry vinaigrette. Entrées might include things like sous vide heritage pork loin with juniper, sage, spruce notes, rhubarb-shallot confit, fava beans, wheat berries, and spring onion pilaf.
Should we all pause here and breathe a collective sigh of yumminess?
The prix fixe arrangement means the menu is a bit limited, which is actually a good thing. It means the students are focused on perfecting the handful of dishes offered at a given time. You can count on four or five different selections for appetizers and salads, and a similar number of offerings for the entrée. Both the vegetarian and the gluten-intolerant diner in the Visit Bend party were able to find menu items that met their dietary needs.
Each time I’ve visited Elevation, I’ve been blown away by the bread with herbed butter. It’s such a simple thing, but scrumptious and very fresh.
I said I wouldn’t gloat about specific dishes, but feel compelled to share a piece of feedback from one of the Visit Bend staffers as an illustration of how hard these students work to achieve perfection. “My onion soufflé was delicious and unusual, presented on a plate that looked like a work of art,” she noted. “The soufflés were little clouds of flavor heightened by an onion jus.”
Quite an enthusiastic recommendation, no?
Admittedly, not everything is perfect at Elevation. These are students, after all, so a certain amount of slow service or skewed timing can be expected. What’s refreshing, though, is how they handle it. When appetizers arrived at sporadic intervals for the large Visit Bend party, the servers recognized the awkwardness of having the earliest-served diners eating in front of later-served colleagues. They quickly brought extra appetizers to make up for it. Win for everyone!
It’s no secret Bend is well-known for having oodles of great restaurants and terrific cuisine. What I love about Elevation is the opportunity to be part of the process of developing the next wave of young culinary professionals poised to keep the tradition going.
You can make a reservation online, or call 1.877.541.CHEF to book directly with the restaurant. They also offer private dining options for special parties. Keep in mind, beverages aren’t included with the prix fixe price, so budget a little extra for that.
Guest post courtesy of Laura Fenske
A weekend with my husband away from my boys (who of course, are the light of my life and adorable and all that stuff) sounds like heaven.
Going to Bend for a long weekend is one of our favorite activities. That plan seemed destined for failure the week before when my 3 year old son had a high fever and that progressed into a double ear infection requiring a good dose of antibiotics. Then on Thursday, I developed a crippling migraine that ended with a day stay in the hospital and our other son running a fever. Friday finally arrived, and I was tentatively back on my feet with a dull headache and both boys dosed appropriate meds and left in grandma’s loving care.
Onward to Bend! We arrived in Sisters Saturday morning, and my headache started to creep its way back. I called my husband’s cousin and asked for a massage referral in hopes of heading off the migraine. She suggested Anjou Spa and Salon, and when I called, they graciously fit me in within hours!
I showed up expecting a typical massage and my expectations were blown away with how lovely the entire experience was at Anjou. After checking in, I was taken on a small tour to familiarize me with all the amenities. The first stop was a locker room to stash my personal items. The staff gave me a plush robe with sandals to wear during my stay. Very luxurious!
The next stop was the sauna. As a sauna virgin, I was a little nervous about ending up passed out on the floor only to be found hours later. Luckily, the staff was happy to answer my rudimentary questions about how to use it appropriately, and I felt comfortable enjoying this perk.
From there, we moved on to the Relaxation Room which brought us through a wall of curtains to a room filled with overstuffed chairs and couches. This room can be used before or after your massage for as long as you would like to stay and relax. There’s an exfoliation hand station in one corner of the room, and a refreshment station in the middle of the room offering cucumber water, tea, almonds, and dried cherries.
They also offer a complimentary beverage to all clients. Some options include the Anjou Signature Cocktail (Oregon Spirit Vodka or Merrylegs Gin mixed with Crazy Dave’s Ginger Brew and a squeeze of lime), wine, beer, and non-alcoholic options. My choice was the champagne served with a splash of Black Mariah (Oregon Spirit Distillers newest creation, a delicious Marionberry Cordial). At the point that I sat down with my champagne, in my robe in the relaxation room is when I realized I had made it. I truly was in Bend, on vacation…ahh. And I had yet to even have my massage!
My massage therapist was Crystal Neff, and she made me feel comfortable right away. She has a welcoming and calm demeanor, and I appreciated that she listened to what I wanted and really focused on my areas of concern. I prefer a very firm massage, and she was able to apply enough pressure to make a noticeable difference on my neck and head. A personal preference of mine is to not be chatty while having a massage, nor have to do very much active listening. Crystal offered a very nice balance of asking a couple of personal questions at the beginning to show interest, but then staying comfortably quiet during the experience, except to ask clarifying questions about the massage itself. The massage room was lovely and the blankets were warmed, which was so cozy on a cold day.
After the massage, I went back to the locker room. There was a fully stocked shower that I was able to utilize with high quality soaps, shampoos and conditioners. Anjou offered lotion, hair dryers, towels and everything else you would need to get back into the clothes you arrived in and head out again without missing a beat. That was particularly a nice surprise for me, since we were heading out for a nice dinner directly after the massage, and I hadn’t thought ahead to my need for a shower after the massage.
My Anjou Spa experience kicked off what was the beginning of a lovely vacation in Bend (you can read the rest here in Adam’s post). Besides massage, Anjou also offer skincare, facials, wraps, and more. I highly recommend any of the above for anyone hoping to add some pampering to their Bend adventure!
(Pssst….don’t forget to read Adam’s post about their kid-free Bend adventure here).
I love drinking wine.
That’s a bit like saying, “I love breathing air.”
I’ll admit it, I’m a wine freak with a well-stocked wine cabinet and a fondness for trekking to the Willamette Valley for winery tours and tastings.
While Bend lacks the plethora of vineyards, it does have a robust wine culture with ample wine shops and wine-related events guaranteed to pull your cork.
Here’s the skinny: you pay $50 for a five-course gourmet dinner prepared by Tetherow’s uber-talented executive chef. Every dish he creates is carefully crafted to pair with one of five wines served by the evening’s sponsor winery.
When I first heard about it, I pictured teeny-tiny bites of food offered with a thimbleful of wine. Uh, no. We’re talking a full-on meal here, with more wine than you can politely drink in good company.
The night I attended, I got to enjoy courses like lemon crusted steelhead with steamed potatoes, GoodLife beer blanc, and grilled zucchini. The chef concocted this dish after tasting the 2007 Chateu St. Jean Sonoma Pinot Noir, and I have to tell you it was one of the best wine/food pairings I’ve ever tried.
It was rivaled by the fourth course, which was a duck confit with white wine fettuccini, peas, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and a thyme cream sauce paired with the 2006 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Merlot.
There were other pairings that included varietals like chardonnay and fume blanc, ensuring the white wine drinkers in the group had plenty to enjoy, too. The chef knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating dishes that perfectly complement each wine, and it was apparent from the comments of my fellow diners I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
The cool thing about these dinners is that they’re not your typical, stuffy, uptight wine event. Everything is served family style at big tables, which allows you to get to know your dining companions over the course of the evening. There’s plenty of time for chatting and mingling, though those who prefer a less social scene can easily sequester themselves at the end of a table or perhaps pretend to speak only Yiddish.
One thing you need to know is that every single one of these dinners has sold out thus far. Make your reservations quickly if you want to attend the December 13 dinner featuring Archery Summit & Pine Ridge, or the January 4 dinner featuring Four Vines. The dinners will continue monthly after that, so call 541-388-2582 ext. 120 for dates and featured wineries.
Oh, and so you know it’s not just me blowing smoke up your skirt about the quality of dining at Tetherow, they just won two categories in Central Oregon Magazine’s readers’ choice awards – Best Dining with a View, and Best Place for a Cocktail. Congrats, guys!
Save a glass of celebratory wine for me, OK?
My parents spend several months a year on Kauai, and when I visited recently, they showed me their secret spots – a hidden beach, an off-the-beaten path farmers’ market, a secluded place to watch the sunset.
They’re protective of their secrets, and threatened dismemberment if I shared. While I’m not willing to risk a limb for Kauai, I am willing to cough up some of my own favorite secrets for Bend, Oregon.
Bend has amazing hiking trails, and while you can’t go wrong with common spots like Tumalo Falls or the Deschutes River Trail, my personal favorite isn’t as well known. The trailhead for Blow Lake is right off the Cascade Lakes Highway about a mile south of Elk Lake. It’s a 1 mile hike to Blow Lake, and another 1.5 miles to equally beautiful Doris Lake. Besides being gorgeous and fairly easy to hike, the trails are often empty. I seldom encounter other hikers even in peak season, which makes it a peaceful place to let my dog run without the risk she’ll tackle small children. It’s also a great spot for a picnic if you don’t mind foregoing tables and tossing a blanket on the ground.
Speaking of picnicking, that’s one of my favorite Bend activities. My secret spot to buy picnic goodies is Bend’s locally owned Grocery Outlet on 3rd Street. This bargain store is a hodgepodge of food and household goods at insanely low prices. You never know what you’ll find, but I have great luck scoring unique cheeses, tasty prosciutto, seasonal fruit, and crackers for a fraction of prices at other places. The best feature is the wine. Many times I’ve taken a gamble on a $3.99 bottle of something mysterious and foreign and returned for an entire case. If you’re a serious bargain hunter who likes sampling new things, this is the place for you.
If you’d rather have someone else assemble your lunch, two of my favorite spots are Parilla Grill and Croutons. Neither is in the middle of Downtown or Old Mill where visitors tend to gravitate. Instead, they’re a few blocks apart on 14th Street (technically, Croutons is on SW Century Drive…don’t ask me why the road randomly changes names). Parilla specializes in amazing wraps, and my favorite is the Bombay Bomburrito. Croutons features fabulous soups, salads, and sandwiches. Try a combo and sample a tasty Santa Fe Salad paired with a Granny Smith Chicken Salad Flatini.
I have a tough time keeping up on fashion trends, and a tougher time paying the prices required to be trendy. A wise person once shared a secret: if you splurge on a few high-end accessories, you’ll look fashionable no matter what you’re wearing. That concept makes me a huge fan of Clutch: a handbag boutique on Minnesota avenue in Downtown Bend. They specialize in handbags and wallets by designers like Hayden Harnett, Rebecca Minkoff, Kooba, Lauren Merkin, Mar Y Sol, Elaine Turner, Ellington, Hobo International, and more. I can buy a sassy little clutch or a gorgeous leather shoulder bag and feel like a million bucks without having to purchase an entire outfit. Their prices are surprisingly reasonable, and the owner is great at helping you find exactly the right bag to match your style or budget.
That’s it for my roundup of Bend secrets. What are yours? Share if you can (without risk of dismemberment, of course).
Since going to Hawaii a few months ago, I was dying to try stand up paddle surfing along a serene Maui beach. With one rental car, a short window of time, and conflicting activity schedules within my travel group, my stand up paddle dreams were crushed. Flash forward to being home in Bend again and I’m finally able to check this activity off my life list. Stand up paddle boarding has found its way from the isles of Hawaii to the middle of Central Oregon.
The Visit Bend team met up with Mike and Tom from Sun Country Tours—one of few companies in Bend offering both instruction and paddle board rentals—on a warm July evening in River Bend Park in the Old Mill District along the Deschutes River. Mike and Tom were paddle pros with years of experience in the ocean on typical surf and paddle surf style boards. The biggest question looming in the back of my mind was “how hard is this?”
We carried the boards to the river’s edge, kicked off our flip flops and slipped into the water. With my paddle straddling my board, I immediately hopped up and began to paddle my way upstream towards the Farewell Bend Park bridge. The on-the-water instruction and advice provided by Mike and Tom came in handy when we hit strong currents under the bridge, which left us working up a sweat and going no where fast. Best advice of the day: stay close to the edge of the river where the current isn’t as strong.
Once we arrived at a placid area along the Deschutes River, Tom showed me some advanced tricks and tips for paddle surfing on the ocean. Then, it was time to head back down stream which was much less of a work out and gave me some time to perfect my surf skills.
The sport of stand up paddle surfing is definitely a relaxing way to blow off some steam, burn off my lunch, commune with nature, and stay cool on hot summer day in Bend.
Tip: Sun Country Tours offers inflatable paddle board rentals that are incredibly stable and rigid. You can collapse them into a vehicle and hit a high Cascade Lake for some paddling. No roof racks or tie straps required.
Tip: Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe offers women’s stand up paddle surfing every Monday night through the summer and special fitness classes (with personal trainers) every Tuesday from their river front location in the Old Mill District.
Tip: Good enough to race? Join the race series August 6-8, 2010 at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe
Tip: I highly recommend it to anyone of all ages and skill levels. It’s really much easier than it seems. Wondering what to wear? Bring your life vest (if you have your own or one will be provided by Sun Country Tours), water shoes or shoes you don’t care about if you toss them to shore, and board shorts over your swimsuit. Leave your sunglasses behind or get one of those cords.
One of the ways we know that summer has arrived in Central Oregon is that Mt. Bachelor has opened for summer operations. It’s great to ride up during the day for hiking and disc golf – and maybe to sit on the deck and enjoy one of Bend’s local micro-brews in the sun – however, I was really excited to check out the sunset dinners last Saturday evening.
Fellow “Bend Expert” Lisa and I rode the chairlift up to the Pine Marten Lodge around 5:00pm and had a fantastic view of the Three Sisters and Broken Top. It’s amazing how close they look! Upon arriving at the lodge, we were blown away by how the lodge has been transformed for summer dining options. There is a bar and lounge area set up for cocktails and appetizers (which are half off during happy hour 4:30 to 5:30 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights when the restaurant is open). The main dining area is positioned to take advantage of the incredible views. Lisa and I sampled a glass of Northwest wine from the bar before heading to our table.
It was difficult to decide on dinner since everything sounded delicious! We split the Oregon chevre with rosemary, caramelized onions and figs appetizer and the arugula salad with citrus, watermelon and feta cheese. I could have stopped eating right then, but we just had to try the pacific halibut with garlic and orange served over a grape tomato and tarragon salad and the New Zealand baby lamb over mashed potatoes and asparagus.
I don’t know if I can do the dessert justice by explanation – it was a handmade smore – a rich chocolate brownie with a graham cracker crust topped with perfectly broiled marshmallows. It was served with a side of vanilla ice cream, of course!
Since it was still dusk when we left, hiking down the mountain would have been an option, but it was nice to sink into the chairlift and watch the rosy glow on the mountains on the way down. Sunset on Mt. Bachelor is definitely a Bend summer must-do!
The snowsports event Bend has been waiting (and training) for all year, the 8th Annual North American Pond Skimming Championships will be held on May 16th, at Mt. Bachelor’s West Village.
Click here to witness Mt. Bachelor Pond Skimming at its best!
The Pond Skim event is judged on three separate components, style, distance and appearance (i.e. costume). Contestants launch themselves, preferably in costume, onto the pond and ride their boards across the surface. If you don’t know how to swim, you had better wear a life jacket: the water is sure to be cold. Prizes for best costume and best skim will be awarded.
If you want to really push the limits, sign up for the extreme version of the Pond Skim, the Scramble. Only for the very brave, the Scramble is a clever name for an obstacle course through water. Read: You will be swimming through the pond!
Sponsored by Full Sail Brewing and featuring live music by Blowin’ Smoke, the 2010 Pond Skim is sure to be one of Bend’s most competitive and electrifying events. Cash awards and a chance to win a 2010-2011 Mt. Bachelor Season Pass will be up for grabs at this marquis event.
The small print:
Call 541.382.1709 to register.
Must be 18 years or older to participate.
$30 for one event, $40 for both.