We love revisiting favorite restaurants and exploring new ones when we travel. On our 2018 trip to Willamette Valley Oregon, we had time to check out several restaurants:
- Tina’s (Dundee) a popular restaurant with a fun wine list that has one, or possibly two wines apiece from a large number of the valley’s wineries. We had three, very enjoyable small dishes; two savories (light, pan-fried oysters with sorrel aioli followed by a robust dish of wild mushrooms with truffle cream) and a dessert (blackberry and blueberry cobbler with almond crumble and fig ice cream. Our choice from the interesting wine list—based on the suggestions of our very knowledgeable and very helpful server—was a 2016 Brickhouse Select Pinot.
- Joel Palmer House, a fourth-generation restaurant that specializes in foraged wild mushrooms and truffles, which it incorporates into many of their dishes. We took advantage of this focus with two three-course meals. The amuse bouche was a less than inspired carrot tartare topped with black trumpet mushroom. This was followed by appetizers, of which we selected a delicious three mushroom tarte and a somewhat less interesting pan-seared foie gras and with candy cup mushroom, caramelized onion and a nice pinot gelee on brioche toast. Our main dishes consisted of a good (but not exciting) rack of lamb with lentils, morel mushrooms and pinot-pepper demi-glace and a chevre tortellini (less interesting than it sounded) with crab and a rich, tasty yellow foot mushroom cream sauce. Dessert meanwhile, consisted of a sinfully delicious candy cap mushroom crème brulee and a much less successful caramel apple ricotta crepe with pecans. Dinner ended with a chocolate truffle with hazelniuts. Our wine, another winemaker’s (Napa County’s Walt Wines) interpretation of 2012 pinot from Shea Vineyards, one of our favorite Willamette vineyards.
- SubTerra, (Newburg) for a dinner consisting of two seafood dishes: potato-wrapped halibut with pinot beurre rouge, garlic mashed potatoes and zucchini and seafood stew with clams, prawns, scallops, fish and Linguisa sausage in a saffron-almond sofrito with garlic, peppers and onions. Both dishes came with a choice of soup (chilled tomato cream and black bean) and mixed greens salad. We generally found the food to be acceptable other than for one major flaw. The black bean soup and especially the seafood stew contained way too much onion for our taste. Worse, the onions were undercooked and therefore astringent. While we generally addressed the issue by pushing the offending onions off to the side, this was less than an ideal solution. We assumed that, being a Monday evening, the chef was off for the night. Unfortunately, so was the sommelier. With a lack of guidance in navigating the wine list, we ended up with a 2013 Couer de Terre Heritage Pinot Noir. Although the wine was certainly acceptable, it was a less than ideal complement to our food. In sum, we cannot recommend the restaurant, or at least certainly not on Monday nights!
- Babica Hen Café, one of the valley’s favorite and most popular breakfast/brunch spots where we enjoyed two huge breakfast dishes: a brie and avocado omelet with roasted potatoes and Mexican-spiced prawns over polenta with red chile sauce and cotija cheese and two eggs (of which I had fried, sunnyside-up. As if these dishes were not enough, each also came with a choice of bread or pastries, of which we chose cornbread and biscuits. But as much as we enjoyed our very filling meals, our eyes kept wandering to the next table’s sinful-looking and sounding blueberry brulee French toast with amaretto blueberries and caramel.
Willamette Valley Hotel
We used the Inn At Red Hills in Dundee as our base hotel in Dundee Oregon. This is a small hotel that is over the tasting rooms and restaurant. The air conditioning is a little different but it works fine once they show you how to use it. The room is comfortable and the linens and pillows are comfortable. Our room had a couch as well as a chair. The refrigerator does not have a freezer component, which would have helped us freeze our ice packs to help us keep things cool during the day in our car but was convenient for any things that need to be cold (not frozen). The bathroom was large with a large shower. A night light in the bathroom would be welcomed. A lamp was only on one side of the bed. Lamps on both sides would have been appreciated. One side of the bed had a huge plug with multiple power outlets and USB charging plugs which was nice. The clock had some kind of changing light color on the top. I am not sure of the purpose but ended up putting a towel over it. The water spots around the single cup coffee maker were never cleaned up during our stay which was strange but not a biggie. We were a little perplexed by one gentleman on the staff. He would offer to help (in a very reluctant tone) with luggage but was clearly relieved when we said we were OK. While someone was usually in the restaurant area, the front desk was often unmanned. Still, when we needed someone, we found someone. We were facing the parking lot and did not have any issues with noise. For the price, I was surprised that they did not have bathrobes. The breakfast in the downstairs restaurant (not included) was huge and tasty and the location is very good. While not perfect, it is probably the best option in this area.