The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Driving to the Moon—and The View Point Inn

Sometimes everything works out perfectly—like the other night.

We were signed up for a Sokol Blosser wine dinner at The View Point Inn above the Columbia Gorge on Wednesday, February 20—the same night as the total eclipse of the moon.

I missed last summer’s lunar eclipse because it was inconveniently “scheduled” for the wee hours of the night. I stumbled out of bed and out the front door around 4am and by then the show was almost over—anyway, the sky was overcast.

But not on the 20th. Despite the wet forecast, it was a clear evening. We drove over the Fremont Bridge from Northwest Portland and then east on I-84 into the Columbia Gorge, all of which gave us a perfect view of the fat full moon as the earth’s shadow gradually drew a reddish veil across it. We left the freeway at the Corbett exit, headed up the hill and onto the old Scenic Highway to Larch Mountain Road. By the time we pulled onto The View Point Inn’s gravel parking lot, the moon was completely covered with a fog of amber-tinted alabaster.

The View Point Inn is a splendid small mansion with the steeped pitched roof of a Swiss chalet and a lot of exterior Tudor-style details. It was built in 1925, and under the ownership of a German named William Moessner who had been the head chef at Portland’s Benson Hotel, it served as a stopping point for some glamorous visitors—Franklin Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, and the royalty of Hollywood and Europe.

In the past several years, its new owners, Geoff Thompson and Angelo Simione, have marketed it as a wedding venue, with a suite of guest rooms upstairs and a spacious, meticulously restored dining room with a stone “Count Rumford” fireplace and bar on the main floor.

Our table offered an expansive view of Vancouver and Portland lights to the east and we could see (though not hear) the planes taking off from Portland International Airport. Our dinner, created by the Inn’s chef, Matthew Crone, was for the most part very well paired with the wines from Sokol Blosser, the venerable Willamette Valley winery.

We started with a smoked trout “pizza” whose crust was more of a puff pastry, with velouté, watercress and truffle. This was paired with SB’s 2006 Rosé of Pinot Noir, as was the slow-roasted tomato soup. The next wine was SB’s cash cow, their signature Evolution, which is always a blend of nine white varietals. With it came a pleasingly different salad of locally grown “ice lettuce” (which may be another way of saying “iceberg”), with duck prosciutto, crispy cracklings, and a bit of gelled spiced cider.

I think at this point we stood up and wandered into the chilly but not freezing February air to see how the moon was faring. The eclipse was almost over and we sat back down again to our diver scallop with a bit of braised pork belly and cornbread pudding, served with Sokol Blosser’s 2006 Estate Pinot Gris. This is their first all-estate Pinot Gris, and there were fewer than 200 cases made, so you’re unlikely to run across it unless you were lucky enough to taste it at the winery.

The conversation moved from lunar events to the books we were reading as we tucked into our main dish, a tournedo of pork en croute, served with the winery's 2005 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. For dessert, a trio of chocolate confections, we were served the Meditrina Red Blend, but Sokol Blosser’s savvy regional sales manager Lee Medina realized this was a misfire, culinarily speaking, and brought out the company's Riesling dessert wine instead.

I don’t know if I’ll ever spend the night at the View Point Inn—its upstairs suite of rooms with their Victorian-style furnishings seem best configured for a wedding party—but I’ll definitely be back to sample Matthew Crone’s weekend brunch, which will be a great way to start—or conclude—a morning’s hike in the Columbia Gorge.


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