Earth & Sea Chef Thomas Ghinazzi. ##Photo by Rusty Rae
Farm fresh eggs and green beans top this frisée salad at Earth & Sea. ##Photo by Rusty Rae

Earth and Sea Provides

De Ponte joins Chef Ghinazzi to open new Carlton restaurant

By Mark Stock

Carlton, a town practically made of eateries and tasting rooms, has yet another establishment to mention. Earth & Sea opened in early August in the historic firehouse in the middle of downtown. The collaborative venture joins longtime Dundee Hills wine producer De Ponte Cellars with Chef Thomas Ghinazzi, formerly of Ponzi Vineyards and The Blue Goat in Amity.

As the name suggests, the food is a mix of Oregon-inspired surf and turf. There are fresh oysters, lobster and ling cod options, salmon and more. There are also freshly made pastas and slow-cooked meats served alongside any number of seasonal dishes. The menu serves as a pleasant reminder that while there’s plenty of great ingredients in the encompassing Willamette Valley, there’s also a bevy of them swimming in the Pacific, just an hour’s drive, or so, away.

A grand bar welcomes patrons as they enter the building. Modish light fixtures hover above the tables and little wood accents give the old yet refined decor a bit of the rustic treatment. There are tables on the patio out front, near the main drag, ideal for a drink and appetizer as you people watch. Additional outdoor seating is available in the restaurant’s more secluded backyard space.

Inside, the place is spacious and lifted, with a simple but welcoming demeanor. It’s matched by an eager and attentive staff, genuinely excited to show off the new restaurant.

“We strive to bring unparalleled service to the Willamette Valley through fresh ingredients and creativity,” says Chef Ghinazzi. “Our menus highlight seafood and the changing seasons as well as sustainable practices.”

The wine list is full of intrigue. There are even extensive library options from the likes of De Ponte, Ken Wright and Domaine Drouhin. The glass pour options offer a nice panorama of the area. There’s also a few local beer options and a fairly inventive cocktail menu. The bottle list, however, is the most appetizing, with reasonable prices on a broad array of selections spanning the region.

The location and approach will serve the place well. As Earth & Sea grows into itself and the town — and incorporates the various fine ingredients coming in and out of season — it will be enjoyable to witness. At the moment, the portion sizes are decidedly small, but that could be one of the many little kinks that come with a brand new eatery. The menu is clean and focused and very much of the Pacific Northwest. 

More seafood, especially, should always be welcomed with gracious arms in Willamette Valley wine country. It fares beautifully with local wines and while it’s certainly no stranger to the valley, there’s room for a lot more in terms of fresh, thoughtful options. The ocean, after all, is just beyond that mountain range to the west.

The building is a seemingly well-preserved time capsule. Its brick facades and airy interior speak of another generation altogether. De Ponte refurbished the place a while back, opening the building to the public as a wine tasting room in 2010. Since, it has also served as an events space. But a restaurant may be its best form yet, taking full advantage of large garage-doors, a town-oriented patio and Carlton’s natural attraction to foodies and wine enthusiasts. 

Earth & Sea is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s open for brunch on Sundays and offers both bar and restaurant seating.


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