Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Weekend of Eating through Bend, Oregon

Now that I’m living in Phoenix, Arizona, it’s so much easier to visit the almost infinite array of cities, small towns, national parks, and hiking opportunities that America’s Mountain West has to offer. I’m just a 3 1/2 hour drive from the Grand Canyon, a 4 1/2 hour trip from Las Vegas, and half a day’s drive from the wonders of southern Utah.

Phoenix just so happens to have a direct flight to Redmond, Oregon—not too far from Bend, a central Oregon city tucked inside a meander (or “bend”) of the Deschutes River. My best friend and roommate from college, Jonathan, moved to Bend last year around the same time I moved out to Arizona, but since we had both taught English overseas, we hadn’t seen each other since graduating from college. I decided to fix that problem by booking flights to Oregon over Labor Day 2017, making my first foray into the Pacific Northwest.

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Drake Park
I used Bend as a home base for making daytrips across Oregon: the Detroit Dam, Cannon Beach, Portland, and Newberry National Volcanic Monument. But Bend itself was a relaxing, comfortable city that lent itself well to simply hanging out and catching up with my best friend who I hadn’t spent time with in five years.

Bend reminded me so much of Flagstaff, Arizona. Both are located among piney woods of the high desert, both attract an outdoorsy and hipster population, both have university campuses, both have housing crises, both indulge in suburban sprawl and are poorly laid out, and—most importantly—both are home to delicious restaurants and a plethora of coffee shops.

Below are the eateries and cafés Jonathan and his friends took me to on my long weekend in Bend. I hope their recommendations give you a good starting point the next time you’re in central Oregon.

Bad Wolf Bakery & Bistro

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Cardamom almond latte
Bad Wolf is at the top of this list because my friend Jonathan just so happened to work here at the time. The night before we had brunch here on his day off, I got to shadow him as he was doing prep work for the following morning—mixing chocolate chip cookie dough, baking sweet and savory scones alike, and even mixing up a batch of secret-recipe chai.

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Fried chicken eggs Benedict
This Doctor Who-themed breakfast-and-lunch joint was the perfect way to begin a long weekend in the Pacific Northwest. Here I tried my first cardamom latte, the first of many cardamom-infused items I would consume this weekend, pairing it with fried chicken eggs Benedict. Yes, you heard me right—fried chicken in this classic brunch dish. It was unbelievable.

Bad Wolf Bakery & Bistro
1133 Northwest Wall Street
Suite #100
Bend, OR 97701

Deschutes Brewery

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
At the tasting room
Ever since I was introduced to the world of craft beers, I’ve always enjoyed the stuff I’ve tried from Deschutes Brewery (pronounced “deh-SHOOTS” [dəˈʃuːts]). I never made the connection that they were based out of Bend until recently, so I was excited to try tour their brewery and even taste a couple of their IPAs.

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
In the brewery
The tour—which was free!—left me with a much firmer grasp on how beer is made. Folks have explained to me multiple times the complex process of germinating grain, extracting sugars from the starchy malt, throwing in hops for flavor and stability, and letting the whole mixture ferment with yeast, which converts sugar into alcohol. But actually seeing the whole production line in person, from shipments of malted barley to the bottling station, really helped me put all the pieces together.

Deschutes also included four free tastings of draft beer at the conclusion of the tour, which ended, Disney World-style, in the gift shop.

Deschutes Brewery Bend Tasting Room
901 Southwest Simpson Avenue
Bend, OR 97702

Sparrow Bakery

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Ocean roll
Everybody I talked to my first day in Bend would not. shut. UP. about these pastries called “ocean rolls”—rolls of flaky, buttery dough with a sugary spread perfumed by the elegant, peppery notes of cardamom seeds. I wandered around the historic core of Bend with some friends both old and new on a lazy, sunny afternoon trying to find some ocean rolls without success, as every place we popped into was either sold out or already closed for the day. Fortunately, when we called Sparrow Bakery, which invented this pastry, we learned they would leave the door open for us even though they had closed half an hour ago. I drove everybody to the other side of town and eagerly purchased a small brown paper bag heavy with these dense desserts.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but biting into one of these bad boys totally made my afternoon. The fragrant cardamom cut through the harshness of smoke and ash from far-off forest fires, and the butter-and-sugar combination made for a smooth finish to the day as the sun set behind the pines and the cool high desert air slowly crept in.

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Bacon-breakfast sandwich
We returned to Sparrow Bakery a few days later for a proper meal, which, for me, meant almond and jalapeño croissants. This cozy, French-inspired bakery also makes lovely sandwiches, soups, and salads; see exhibit A above with the bacon-breakfast sandwich.

The Sparrow Bakery Northwest
2748 Northwest Crossing Drive
Suite #110
Bend, OR 97701

Jackson’s Corner

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Fusilli with Oregon mushrooms & pancetta
I like to think of Jackson’s Corner as more than a restaurant—it’s a hangout place. With live music, lots of windows, a wide-open dining space, and delicious, local-inspired food, Jackson’s Corner brought together my friend Jonathan and all his housemates plus some folks who were passing through town for dinner one evening. I enjoyed fusilli pasta with Oregon-grown mushrooms and pancetta—delicious!—with some hard cider and great company.

Jackson’s Corner Eastside
1500 Northeast Cushing Drive
Bend, OR 97701

Backporch Coffee Roasters

Where to eat in Bend, Oregon
Gibraltar (a.k.a. a cortado)
My go-to drink at coffee shops these days is the cortado, a one-to-one ratio of espresso and steamed milk loosely based off of the cortado that’s oh-so-popular in Spain. It’s served in a cute, fluted glass that elegantly frames the latte art on top. Cue my confusion when cortados were nowhere to be found in Bend—only something called a “Gibraltar.” Fortunately my friend Brooklyn, who is always checking in on social media at Backporch Coffee Roasters, explained to me that it’s the exact same thing as a cortado. (Wikipedia explained to me that this is due to the influence of San Francisco.) I only spent a short hour here convalescing over caffeine and updating my Instagram, but that was enough time to convince me that Backporch would be my go-to spot for blogging if I ever lived in Bend, from the pretty pictures of Oregon scenery covering the walls to the floor-to-ceiling windows letting the sunshine in.

Backporch (Greenwood)
706 Northeast Greenwood Avenue
Suite #140
Bend, OR 97701

Companion Coffeehouse

Cardamom latte & strawberry-brie scone
A new project from the same folks who run Bad Wolf Bakery & Bistro, Companion Coffeehouse sits in a cozy corner of a lodge-inspired strip mall. Framed photography from local artists and thriving houseplants in every corner complement its clean, white minimalist aesthetic. Continuing my weekend of everything cardamom, I ordered a latte with cardamom syrup—exquisite—as well as a strawberry-brie scone from the same batch my friend had baked a few nights earlier at the bakery. Companion’s a great place to warm up on a chilly morning, with friends, a book, or your laptop.

Companion Coffeehouse
1441 Southwest Chandler Avenue
Suite #106
Bend, OR 97702

What are your favorite places to eat and drink in Bend? Does Bend remind you of other cities in the western U.S.? Start the discussion down below in the comments thread!

For more pictures, check out my album on Flickr.
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