It was a beautiful Saturday at the McMenamins Edgefield Estate. The sun was out, yet it wasn’t too hot. In fact everything was just right for meeting my brother and sister-in-law, Will and Janette Harrington, who had driven down from The Dalles – a small town on the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. They had never been to the Edgefield before, so my darling and I were happy to guide them around the well-manicured and eclectic grounds.
Built in 1911 and once the Multnomah County Poor Farm, the Edgefield was purchased in the early ‘90s by the brothers McMenamin, who made it into what it is today – resort, concert grounds, golf course, winery and distillery wrapped up into what looks like a Grateful-Dead-themed, artsy adult amusement park. There is an amazing attention to detail and almost every surface has been touched by the McMenamin’s creativity in some way shape or form. Just walking around is a treat.
After taking in the gardens, the various sculptures, paintings and murals, and visiting the many bars and restaurants, we settled down in Charley’s Bar for a few beers and a rousing game of shuffleboard. This game seems fairly simple and straightforward, yet underneath takes a good bit of skill. With the exception of my wonderful sister-in-law, we all sucked at it, but it was a good way to have fun and kill some time until our dinner reservations.
At the appointed time, we made our way to The Black Rabbit – one of the more upscale restaurants on the estate. Settled into what was once the poor farm’s cafeteria, the Black Rabbit is anything but cafeteria food. Their menu is not cumbersome at all, but rather, printed on a single, manageable page.
I started out my meal with my usual martini — this time made from Boodles gin. I ordered it as I always do – with a twist – yet it came with two olives. If my family hadn’t been visiting, I would have sent it back, but because of them I quelled my irritation and accepted the mis-prepared libation. The martini itself was quite tasty. Boodles is quickly becoming my new favorite gin.
For appetizers, I ordered the Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops. These little lovelies were presented delightfully, yet tasted a bit fishy, which made me question their freshness. They were seared in the renderings of the accompanying pork belly, all of which and was floated on a bed of pureed smoked cannellini beans. The dish was then drizzled with a piment d’espelette gastrique (which, very roughly translated, is a pepper from the Basque region of France and Spain that is made into a savory sauce. These peppers are a more subtle and delicate flavor than Cayenne.) Except for the slight fishy flavor of the scallops, the dish was quite nice.
Everyone in our party – except for my dear sister-in-law – selected Jerk Spiced Slow Cooked Wild Boar as a main course. I’ve had a variation of this dish before at the Black Rabbit and it is one of my favorites. This iteration came topped with grilled pineapple compote, a salad of wild Arugula and two slices of plantain polenta griddlecakes. This dish will have you sitting back in your chair, closing your eyes and savoring an explosion of flavors. Everything on this plate accents everything else. The boar itself fell apart and was savory, flavorful, tender and was complimented nicely by the pineapple compote. The plantain polenta cakes were also very flavorful and added nuttiness to the bouquet of flavors.
We paired this feast with Edgefield’s own 2013 Cuve’e De L’Abri Rouge, which translates to blend of the red shed. This delightful red wine is made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes. It has a complex bouquet that includes hints of raspberry, blueberry and vanilla. It is a very nice wine and goes – in this red wine lover’s opinion – with most any dish.
I finished the evening off with The Black Rabbit’s own Hogshead Whiskey Bread Pudding. For a bread pudding, this dessert was surprisingly light. Served in a ramekin, the raisins were soaked in Edgefield’s Hogshead Whiskey and baked just right. It was topped with fresh whipped cream and a drizzle that, from the taste of it, was a delightful marriage of butter and sugar. I found the dessert to be satisfying and tasty although nothing about it really jumped out at me as awesome. I accompanied it with my usual one finger of 21-year-old Belvanie Portwood. The scotch married very nicely with the bread pudding.
In all, it was a memorable day. The company was awesome, the surroundings spectacular, and aside from the fishy scallops, a meal most satisfying.