Updated: Jan 29
An intimate and dimly-lit cabin in the woods off of Highway 20 was the ideal setting for an Alpine dinner in early winter. The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse is located just outside of Sisters, about 10 minutes south of Hoodoo Ski Park. Recently, they announced their new Guest Chef Series, which will take place over the next six months. During that time, they'll feature eight guest chefs and chef pairs from restaurants across the country. I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural dinner series, Alpine Cooking: Dinner in the Deschutes with Meridith Erickson.
Erickson, who spent six years traveling the wintry peaks of the European mountain ranges, wrote Alpine Cooking as an homage to the recipes she collected throughout her excursions. The book has been deemed the ultimate apres-ski cookbook for "ski bums", so it only seems proper that Erickson passed through Central Oregon to feature rifugio-style recipes from her voyages.
Initially, I felt a bit out of place showing up sans plus-one at such an intimate gathering. However, I was quickly pulled into conversation with locals and travelers as we concocted our own aperitifs at the lodge's community bar cart and munched on pickled herring, preserved goat cheese, and charcuterie. Any and all inhibitions I may have arrived with were washed away with the initial sip of Génépy. The lodge's family-style dining space, which rivals the coziest of woodsy sitting rooms, was set up with three rustic dining tables set for ten and lit by candlelight.
As Erickson recalled her excursions from Chamonix of Mont Blanc to the remote villages of the Gastein Valley in Austria, local chefs prepared the recipes that she gathered along the way.
We started with a Smoked McFarland Trout, 'Col Alt-style', inspired by a Michelin-star awarded restaurant in a quaint commune village in Northern Italy. The cold-smoked trout tartare was served with a carrot puree and microgreens, followed by a 'Poetic Salad' lightly decorated in huckleberry dressing. Veal schnitzel, the star course of the meal, was breaded with hazelnuts before being flash-fried. Luckily, we got to experience the "puff" that accompanies an authentic schnitzel before dressing it with fresh cranberry sauce. Finally, we dined on apple strudel over a glass of Gamay--a light-bodied red wine (similar to Pinot Noir) that's grown in the Beaujolais region of France.
While admittedly apprehensive about spending the evening dining on pickled herring and veal schnitzel, I have to give it up to the folks at Suttle Lodge for curating an experience not often found in Central Oregon. Meredith Erickson was an absolute delight and her down-to-earth attitude was warm and refreshing. She migrated from table to table, sharing wine suggestions (and with me, her bottle of Gamay) and candid recollections of her encounters throughout the research done for the sake of food journalism--which, as you may know, are ones that I can appreciate. My only regret? Not booking overnight accommodations in a Rustic Cabin on a rainy, foggy night, so that I could have opted for a post-strudel Digestivo.