Category Archives: Local Restaurants

La Bete Wine Maker Dinner Review

The third monthly wine maker dinner at Encore 310 featured La Bete Wines of McMinnville, Oregon. La Bete Wines doesn’t have its own vineyard. They purchase the fruit from growers (including Momtazi) and feature that grower on their label. They share their winemaking facility with Couer de Terre winery, which we visited last year.

I again went solo and ended up sharing a table with the wine maker and his wife, John Eliassen and Kay. The Portland Concierge Association also had several members in attendance, three of whom shared my table. As always, the bonhomie was evident, everyone in the room was an instant friend. Nothing like wine (or Oktoberfest beer) to make everyone friendly.

The first course was Pen Cove steamed mussels in a wine, herb, lemon broth, served with a 2007 Aligote, Nwhouse Vineyard, Yakima Valley. I hadn’t had Aligote before. It was a very pleasant white and it paired wonderfully with the mussels. Barterhouse says, “Fermented all in stainless drums to preserve freshness of fruit and clean acidity. Offering great fruit and minerality on the palate, it will round-out and become more full as it ages in the bottle. La Bete is the only Oregon producer of Aligote, and one of only three in the country!” I’ve also never had mussels except in Brussels (where it is hard to avoid them). These were fantastic.

The second course was a lobster BLT with 2007 Gamay Noir, Rebecca’s Vineyard. John had the story that the Duke of Burgundy outlawed Gamay Noir for being “disloyal” because he didn’t like it and preferred pinot noir. And so it became one of the chief grapes for Beaujolais, while Burgundy is from pinot noir. John thinks it is a good food wine, and I agree.

The third course was prosciutto wrapped asparagus salad with 2007 Pinot Noir, Stoller Vineyard. As you may have heard, 2007 was a difficult year in northern Oregon. But wine makers defend their vintages as being more Burgundian and less big-fruit. I thought all three of the 2007 pinots served could use more cellaring, but they were good.

The fourth course was braised leg of lamb with basmati rice, served with 2007 Pinot Noir, Croft Vineyard.

The fifth course was artisan cheeses with 2007 Pinot Noir, Momtazi Vineyard. This is the vineyard that produces one of our favorites, the Maysara wines. We aren’t big fans of the 2007 pinot from Momtazi. This was ok, needs cellaring.

But we also got a bonus wine, the 2006 St. Vincent Cuvee. Each year, La Bete takes the best grapes and produces a single barrel. They break it out on St. Vincent’s Day in January. St. Vincent is also the name of their departed golden retriever, part of a series of their departed pets. The dead dog barrel definitely was the best of the night, a truly wonderful wine. I’ll have to hope for good weather and see if we can make the trek to La Bete for the Fete de St. Vincent in 2010!

Dessert was a wonderful tuile basket of fresh berries in creme fraiche, with a sweet white wine.

The next Rafati’s Encore 310 wine dinner is Bethel Heights Vineyard, Ben Casteel, Wine Maker, Wednesday, June 24, 2009 ~ 6:30 pm. $80.00 per person, inclusive of gratuities

Farrar's Bistro

Pulled Pork PlatterI was searching for a good place for our anniversary dinner in Vancouver and got a coupon for Farrar’s Bistro in Felida. I checked their menu and thought it would be worth a try. The bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I called in the morning and spoke with Debbie and with the chef, Terry, to see if they could accommodate my husband’s food allergies. Yes, they could make him a filet and mashed potatoes, while I could sample their usual fare.

Farrar’s Bistro is a small place behind an antique shop, off NW 36th Ave. Although it’s on the opposite side of Vancouver from us, it’s an easy drive and we even spied a bald eagle coming in for a landing at the Salmon Creek Greenway. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. It doesn’t have a luxurious feel, but is comfortable. Arriving on a Monday evening, there was one person drinking at the small bar, a group of runners arrived and had drinks, and another couple arrived and had dinner.

The wine menu includes Northwest selections at $6 per glass and bottles for under $25. They had some of our less-expensive favorites, but we chose Washington state cabernet and shiraz. I loved the shiraz. They also serve cocktails and microbrews and a full espresso bar.

The dinner menu is small and well-crafted with grilled and barbecue selections. I went for the pulled pork platter (pictured): served with “smokin’ chipotle coleslaw, ember roasted sweet potatoes & cheesy jalapeno cornbread” plus grilled vegetable and rolls. Every bite of the pulled pork and the other dishes was a flavor orgy. The pulled pork was barbecue flavored without any obvious sauce, but no ordinary flavor, a perfect balance of mustard, smoke, sweet and tangy. The sweet potato was buttery and sweet. The cole slaw was its own perfectly balanced experience with a little heat, a little sweet, a little tangy but all in balance. The grilled vegetable was broccoli in cheese sauce with the broccoli perfectly steamed to retain crunch and the cheese sauce not overpowering but still savory. The cornbread was also delicious.

The problem with the pulled pork platter is that I don’t know how I can ever manage to order anything different. It was just too good to pass up. Rich’s steak and potatoes were also very good and we enjoyed two glasses of wine. We had passed up the salads, which looked great but we hadn’t ordered one with a dressing Rich could tolerate. So we had room for dessert. We should have shared one, but I had to have the “cranberry pecan bread pudding drizzled with caramel rum sauce” and Rich chose the chocolate sour cream cake. I am almost always disappointed by bread pudding, but this one was very good. I had half leftover and our waitress (the founder, Debbie) packaged it up with extra rum sauce.

Entrees are in the $18-$20 range. Dinner is served Monday-Friday. Lunch Monday-Saturday and open at 8 am for coffee Monday-Saturday. I’ll have to try lunch sometime soon. This place is definitely a keeper. I’ve become disappointed with Lappellah after two meals and I like Hudson’s but Rich wasn’t as thrilled. Farrar’s Bistro satisfied my desire for a place to have a great dinner with wine in Vancouver. I’m going to put Debbie’s Blog on my blog reader because I see that they have wine tastings and other events. They will be closed Memorial Day Weekend. I love supporting a great small local restaurant that serves fantastic food.

Dobbes Family Estate Wine Makers' Dinner at Encore310

Joe DobbesApril’s Wine Makers’ Dinner at Rafati’s Encore310 featured the Dobbes Family Estate wines. Their winery is located “downhill at the only stoplight in Dundee.” Joe Dobbes uses only Oregon grapes for his wines. He is also one of the hosts of NW Vine Time on KXL radio, Saturdays from 4-5 pm.

Many factors tried to keep me from attending the wine dinner. My dining companion Krista had to drop out due to family care issues, and my husband also had to go to see his ailing mother. But I booked a room at the University Place Hotel so I wouldn’t have to drive home and boldly decided to brave it alone.

scallopsNobody is alone at one of the Wine Makers’ Dinners at Encore 310. The owner Reza Rafati greets everyone and I have yet to find anyone who wasn’t eager to meet newcomers and engage them in conversation. I chatted with Joe Dobbes and had to admit that my husband and I had managed to miss their winery. Mr. Rafati invited me to sit next to him, since I was a lone woman, and I was very pleased to do so. The gathering was smaller than last month, with 20 present, in part due to the Blazer playoff game. But that made it even more intimate and merry.

We enjoyed a Spanish pinot noir champagne while meeting and chatting. The first course was seared scallops in a cauliflower puree with almonds and currants, served with 2007 Dobbes Family Estate Pinot Gris. The flavors of the dish were subtle but perfectly brought out the notes in the pinot gris. It was an excellent pairing.

saladJoe Dobbes spoke eloquently about his winery and his history in making wines. He is an Oregon native who spent years studying winemaking in Germany and France. After making wine for several Oregon labels, he set up his own shop as Wine by Joe in 2002.

The second course was an endive and heirloom bean salad with peas and oyster mushrooms, served with 2006 Viognier. The dish was delicious and I truly enjoyed the viognier, which is one of Joe’s favorite wines to create. The grapes are from an organically farmed vineyard in the Rogue Valley.

The third course was a chicken apricot ginger sausage with peppers and polenta. It was served with a 2007 Skippers’ Pinot Noir. Ah, this is a pinot I need to buy. It is a Rogue Valley pinot noir, named after Joe’s daughter. It isn’t released yet, but is very drinkable now. It escapes some of the problems seen with 2007 Willamette Valley pinots. The sausage was also delicious.

steakThe fourth course was a wonderful beef tenderloin topped with wine braised onions and a potato gratin, accompanied by a 2005 Fort Miller Syrah. The steak was excellent, and the wine was as well. Together they were magic. I wished my husband could attend these dinners, but he has some food allergies. Reza Rafati said to call him and he could ensure my husband got a portion that didn’t have onions or pepper. I hope I can entice Rich to attend, as this food and wine are a great experience.

“Because this is Rafati’s, we have a cheese course,” our host said. The delicious cheeses were accompanied by a 2005 Grand Assemblage Syrah and a 2005 Griffin Pinot Noir. I liked both, but preferred the pinot. By now, I was definitely grateful that my destination was a hotel room upstairs. The conversation kept flowing, with never a dull moment. Although I was a newcomer, everyone was treated as an old friend.

berry'misuThe dessert was a berry’misu tower, and it was a perfect ending. It was served with a 2006 Late Harvest Viognier that was rivaled a German beerenauslese.

I hope to make it to most of these monthly wine maker dinners. The food, the wine, and the company make it one of the best local getaways you can buy.

Winemaker's Dinner at Encore310

Rack of LambI attended the first Wine Maker’s Dinner at Rafati’s Encore310 on Thursday, along with my friends Steve and Krista. They plan to make these monthly events, featuring local winemakers. Maysara Winery was featured, and I am a member of their wine club and enjoy their wines. I was looking forward to the food just as much. Encore310 is owned by Reza and Georgia Rafati and they specialize in Northwest cuisine produced with local products.

We were greeted by Reza and the members of Maysara’s Momtazi family. The 2007 vintage is Tahmiene Momtazi’s first year as the winemaker. It was also a very rainy year, resulting in very low brix scores for the grapes. This made its mark on the wines produced in 2007. My husband and I found ourselves stocking up on the 2006 vintages as we prefer the fuller fruit flavor of that year. Tahmiene said that she had been studying with DePonte’s winemaker, Isabelle Dutartre, and that bodes well for us, as DePonte is our local favorite.

We first had champagne and smoked salmon/goat cheese appetizers. I could have eaten a plate of those alone. But at 7 pm we were ushered into the dinner room and encountered a grand place setting with wine glasses and utensils for each of the next six courses.

With each course, Tahmiene or her father Moe Momtazi described the wine, the wine making process, and their vineyard philosophy. They practice biodynamic farming and are striving to make biodynamic wines. This method uses as few “inputs” as possible, relying on having a balanced ecosystem in the vineyard to produce healthy crops.

The first course was dungeness crab cakes with a 2007 Maysara pinot gris. Loved both. Each table sat 6 people. On my left was Carol Thomas, whose husband operates Wine Tours Northwest. The other couple at the table were wine stewards from a restaurant and the Gresham Fred Meyer. Carol asked if we were “winos.” I said I was, but Steve and Krista were more newbies and here to learn. I learned quite a few tidbits about the wineries and the wine scene in Portland from my table companions. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting Carol and I hope to see her at future events.

The second course was a roasted beet and baby greens salad, with 2007 Maysara Roseena Rose. I am not usually a rose fan, but I like the Roseena. The salad was perfect.

The third course was steak tartare and foie gras mousse with the 2006 Maysara Jamsheed pinot noir. This is one of our favorites from Maysara. Krista and Steve discussed how it tasted different between the steak tartare and the foie gras. I realized my palate wasn’t educated enough to feel the difference in wine and food pairings. I loved the food and the wine.

The fourth course was a cassoulet with artisan sausage and the 2007 Maysara Estate Cuvee pinot noir, one of Tahmiene’s wines. This was Krista’s favorite wine of the night. It definitely is the lighter kind of pinot that was produced by the 2007 grapes.

The fifth course was rack of lamb with potatoes and 2007 Maysara Asha pinot noir, one of their top-priced wines. We were really getting stuffed by this point, although the portions on the plates were appropriately small. I like the Asha, although it could use more cellaring, and it is not as fruit forward as the Jamsheed.

The sixth course was really two courses. First we got a cheese and nut plate with the 2005 Maysara Delara pinot noir, also one of their top-priced wines. It was delicious. Then dessert arrived, a brioche with quince and the 2005 Maysara Anahita riesling. We had been discussing rieslings and this one was not a typical riesling. Unlike all of the other food, I thought the dessert was just too sweet and not very interesting. But the rest of the evening was so far above hope and expectation, and we were so stuffed, that I can’t complain.

I shall keep tabs on the Encore310 wine dinners and plan to attend. The price is a great value – $75 includes tip. Krista is the Your Money Examiner at and she endorses saving frugally for splurges such as these. Encore310 has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. I believe that next time I may even book a room at the attached hotel so I don’t have to throttle back on how much wine I drink of each glass. The dinner lasted from 6:30 pm till 9:30 pm. It was a full evening’s entertainment and left us satiated and eager to return.

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North Bank Magazine for SW Washington Locavores

I am very jazzed to discover North Bank Magazine, which covers locavore issues in Southwest Washington. As I reside in America’s Vancouver, I felt like they were writing this just for me. The glossy issue that came out February 20, 2009 was filled with the info I want. They had an interview with my own CSA farmer, and I was happy to hear that CSA farms are growing and thriving in our area. The Vancouver Farmers Market may also be changing some policies so they attract more of the local farms. I learned about the challenges of selling produce to local restaurants, from both sides.

Subscriptions are free for North Bank Magazine. You can sign up online. It is published by the Vancouver Business Journal. I’ve added their editor’s blog to my blog reader and blogroll.

Lapellah – Locavore Restaurant in Vancouver

Lapellah just opened in the past few weeks at Grand Central in Vancouver. The name means “roasted” and comes from the trade language used in Vancouver in the 1800’s. They feature a wood fired grill, oven and rotisserie. The dining area was designed “with a sustainable approach.” I found it to be warm and cozy, with a mixture of booths and big family-sized tables for groups. Their hours are also convenient – lunch and dinner every day of the week and brunch as well on Sunday.

The menu focuses on local, sustainable and seasonal choices to produce “American comfort food.” These include lamb, steak, fish, seafood and macaroni and cheese. The pork and beef come from Carlton Farms. I made a reservation online through Open Table. We arrived at 6 pm as the snow was falling, and many booths were taken. Chef Brad Root also operates Roots and 360 Pizzeria in Camas, Washington.

The decor was stylish yet comfortable. Our waiter was pleasant and helpful with my husband’s food allergies. We selected a two different local wines they were offering by the glass and each was quite quaffable.

I was tempted to get the dungeness crab and cheese fondue for an appetizer, but we didn’t want to be out too long with the snow possibly accumulating. Rich had the caesar salad and I had the mushroom and wild rice soup. The entrees come with your choice of two sides. I had the molasses greens and cauliflower with gouda. Both were delicious. I had the braised pork shank and Rich had a New York steak. The rolls were much like my mom’s raised yeast bread – sweet and delicous.

The entrees were competently prepared. I would have liked more oomph in a glaze or sauce for the pork. I could have been tempted by the dessert menu, but the snow was sticking and we didn’t want to delay getting home.

I had a $5 off coupon but forgot to use it. No matter, we shall be returning and definitely trying the macaroni and cheese and fish and chips. It is great to have a new restaurant in Vancouver that focuses on local foods.
Lapellah: web site coming soon.
Open Table Listing