LEFT: Wood-fired theme: Smoked duck and caramelized onion pizza. RIGHT: St. Patrick’s Day theme: broiled Netarts Bay oyster from Nevor Shellfish Farm with Champagne sabayon and sorrel. ##Photos provided

Experimental Dining

The Painted Lady plays with plates and pours in returning series

By Mark Stock

Oregon wine country, well aware of its prestige, takes it in stride. Part of staying ahead of the gastronomical game entails innovation, whether devising a new dish or perfecting a hybrid style of wine.

With the fourth installment of its “Experimental Dinner Series,” The Painted Lady is playing a major role in polishing the Willamette Valley’s namesake. The outstanding Newberg restaurant, set in a quaint old Victorian home a couple blocks off the highway in downtown Newberg, is taking themed meals to lofty heights with inventive dishes and pairings.

The Painted Lady represents one of few in the Pacific Northwest to have earned a four-star rating from Forbes. The restaurant manages a fine balance between white tablecloth-professionalism and the approachability and intrepid spirit inherent in the area. Husband-and-wife duo Chef Allen Routt and Jessica Bagley cofounded the restaurant in 2005.

The Dec. 19 affair focused on sustainability, but not in the most obvious sense. Initially, staff considered the various wine certifications that relate to the term, such as Biodynamic, Salmon-Safe, LIVE, etc. “Ultimately, it felt like this was too heavy of subject matter for table-side conversation,” says Painted Lady sommelier Marc Stein.


February 6:
Effects of Time on Cooking

February 20:

February 27:
Local Native American Cuisine

March 6:
The Silk Road

March 13:
Asago City, Japan (Newberg’s sister city)

March 20:
Medicinal Foods

March 27:
Preserved (Cured)

The restaurant shifted emphasis to a more familial spin on sustainability. “We largely focused on families where the land has supported multiple generations but also included a few younger producers doing really unique things,” Stein adds. This translates to producers like Schaad Cellars in McMinnville and Brigadoon Cellars in Junction City, each with multi-generational ties to the Valley.

Six courses strong, the meal totally satisfied. The Skuna Bay salmon, served with chanterelles and a sunchoke purée, played seamlessly alongside Fossil & Fawn’s skin-fermented Pinot Gris. The tannic and structured wine, made in the style of a red, showed both tropical and leathery elements perfectly complementing the fish and mushrooms. Together, the pairing offered the comforting heartiness of classic winter fare along with a bright and refreshing glimpse of spring.

Cheese from Cascadia Creamery joined leeks and kiwi next to a remarkable cider. The Clyde’s Dry from Bauman’s was as layered as a good Pinot Noir, crafted from more than a dozen apple varieties south of Woodburn. It supplied one of many aha-like moments in a meal that evolved more like a revealing, homegrown story than a sequence of plates and glasses.

Other memorable flavors arrived by way of a stew made from Quilcene oysters, a beautiful quail roulade and an elegant Gamay Noir from Martin Woods of McMinnville. An ultra-Oregonian wine crowned the meal: a fortified wine infused with roasted local filberts from Monmouth. The Ternion from Treos, a decadent mix of dark fruit and nutty flavors, was an excellent way to fade the dinner to a close.

The Experimental Dinner Series began in 2015 as a means to witness the creative process of Chef Routt and his team. It’s also become an opportunity to test and develop new recipes in the kitchen. The latest series started last December with a meal built around “molecular” cuisine.

Whole lamb and “umami” also made it on the latest itinerary. A late January installment, “Black Box Wine Pairing,” was engineered around a case of unlabeled wines sent to the restaurant from the NoMad in Los Angeles, where former Painted Lady somm Matthew Fosket now works. Creativity aside, the approach to the series is, at times, just plain fun.

These kinds of finds — a new sipper, a new food and wine coupling, a new ingredient or dish altogether — make this dinner series special. The restaurant’s impeccable service, fetching setting and genuine entrenchment in the Willamette Valley wine scene make these meals a must for any curious diner.


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