Ten-Mile Dinner: Chef, winemaker and nearby farmers go the distance for a fresh-picked feast

Oregon Wine Press, September 2012

Paul Bachand steers his 1963 vintage Ford Fairlane along the curvy backroads of wine country. It is Saturday morning, just after 8, and the summer sun is already high in the sky. The first destination for Bachand, the chef and co-owner of Recipe in Newberg, is Natalie’s Estate, a boutique winery celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, located only a few miles from the restaurant.

Winemaker Boyd Teegarden is waiting, standing near rows of kale, hot pink radishes, cherry red tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and beans. A rooster stretches its vocal cords as the chef begins pacing and plucking vegetables from the garden, consulting on taste with the winemaker.

Sarah and Bubba King, farmers from The Collective CSA join the duo. The Kings farm a small plot of land on Natalie’s Estate, providing baskets of fresh produce weekly to their 20-member CSA (community supported agriculture), as well as pig shares and pasture-raised chickens when available.

When the couple has extra eggs from their hens, they drop a basket by to Bachand at Recipe — farm-fresh eggs are a commodity and well worth a glass of wine. The chef, vintner and two farmers survey the gardens and collaborate on a menu for an upcoming winemaker’s dinner, showcasing ingredients grown and raised within a 10-mile radius of the restaurant.

Bachand, like many local chefs, sources his meat and produce from nearby farmers; he also tends a kitchen garden one block from the restaurant. The chef smokes his own fish, stuffs his own sausage, cures bacon and pastrami, and makes his own cheese — the housemade burrata is divine.

He can’t imagine cooking any other way. “We have such great ingredients right at our fingertips,” says Bachand. “Plus, you are supporting your local community.” The chef has been cooking in the Willamette Valley for more than 20 years. Buying local is one way he honors his wine country roots, supporting the local growers and ranchers.

After snacking along the vegetable rows holding his steaming mug of coffee, Bachand knows he wants to use red cabbage, radishes and Walla Walla onions from the Kings’ garden for the upcoming dinner.

“Coming out here and really seeing the gardens is when the menu starts to evolve,” says Bachand, with a bundle of radishes in hand. Although the bounty of Oregon stretches yearlong, summertime is when gardens burst with the brightest colors, and ripe vegetables and lush berries taste best.

Although the chef regularly sources close to 90 percent of his produce from less than 10 miles away, this dinner is special for its deliberate timing with the garden’s peak. Both winemaker and chef chose an August date in order to showcase the food at its finest and freshest.

“We live in a truly unique growing area,” says Teegarden, gazing toward a crest where two acres of Pinot Noir vines splash down a hillside. Near the vines he planted more than a decade ago, garden beds brim with greens that the Teegarden family uses for home meals and wine club events.

“There are not many places in the U.S. where you can eat a dinner where [almost] everything was grown within 10 miles,” he adds. “We are blessed with the fertile valleys we live in and the extended areas where we can grow grapes.”

Bachand and Teegarden nod while tasting a tomato from the family garden, and chilled tomato soup is added to the menu. “With pork cracklins,” says the chef, scribbling notes on a piece of paper pulled from his pocket. The pork skin will come from one of the Kings’ large black hogs — they raise other breeds, too. Bachand also plans a stuffed pork belly dish.

Cuttings that Teegarden provides from last year’s Pinot Noir vines will be used to smoke the lamb course, served with a goat feta from Briar Rose Creamery. The purple irises blooming near the winery will add color to the tables.

A bundle of onions and radishes ride in the front seat to the next stop, Kerr Ranch Farms, run by husband-and-wife team Julie and Rolland Kerr, both Newberg natives. Bachand eases the Ford next to a grove of walnut trees — note the smoked walnut aillade on the menu.

Julie introduces the chef to the new group of turkey teens as the chef bites into figs plucked from the tree nearby. He tosses a few over to the peeping birds; they chortle in chorus.

Nearby crisp lettuces in pristinely neat rows radiate vibrant green, while bright orange globes of Turban squash tumble beneath giant leaves. “I brought these seeds back from France for them last year,” says Bachand of the colorful winter squash. “I snuck them in along with sausage and cheese.”

The chef sources most of his produce for the restaurant from Kerr Ranch Farms and visits up to three times a week. “I love to come out here — it’s kind of my getaway,” says Bachand. He and Julie walk the farm together, tasting vegetables to harvest at their peak.

One of his favorite stops is the hothouse bursting with 12 varieties of peppers. After sampling a Padrón — in prime season in August — Bachand pauses … then scribbles notes for a starter: fried Padrón peppers with duck egg aioli and fresh-baked gougères.

While at the Kerr’s farm, Bachand discovers another key ingredient for the dinner: beef.

In fact, the rare seared grass-fed beef was the standout dish for almost everyone at the table. Served with wine-pickled onion, heirloom carrot-squash salad and pommes de terre robuchon, a side the chef describes as “just enough potato to hold together butter and cream.”

The age of the 12-year-old grass-fed steer was a surprise for many. The texture and quality reminded CSA grower Sarah King of beef she had in France from the Blonde d’Aquitaine, a breed of cattle originating from the South of France, where farming traditions raise them to live long, full lives — six to eight years.

As the evening continued, the volume increased with conversations sprouting around the table. Mingling with the winemaker and farmers, guests listened as harvest stories were shared and gardening tips swapped.

The food was incredible and the wine — a soft, lush Viognier; a bold, rich Zinfandel; a stunningly vibrant Pinot Noir; and a meaty Meritage — was a feast for the palate.

“Everything you are eating and drinking tonight is from small, site-specific lands,” says Teegarden during one of many toasts. “Here’s to one of the great things in life,” he adds, “sharing wine, food and time with friends.”

Somewhere between the pommes de terre robuchon and the last bite of honeyed panna cotta with Katata blackberries — picked from the chef’s backyard — and hazelnut baklava, the table raised a glass to a couple celebrating their 40-year anniversary.

As glasses clinked, the sound of community was also heard … approximately within a 10-mile radius.