It was pure coincidence, said Bill Ballard, that soon after he was hired as food-and-beverage manager and executive chef, Bend's Broken Top Club opened its restaurant to the public.
Previously the executive chef at Sunriver's Crosswater Golf Club, Ballard joined Broken Top on Dec. 20 of last year. The restaurant went public seven weeks later on Feb. 10.
The club is a great addition to the local dining scene. Ballard is a fine chef, as adept at fashioning tasty and stylish entrees as he is at creating award-winning desserts. And the vista from the clubhouse dining rooms provides one of the most pleasing atmospheres for a meal in Central Oregon.
When it opened in 1993 as a private-membership golf club, Broken Top initially welcomed non-member diners. Later, however, the restaurant was closed to all but its members. It remained so until this year.
Ballard, an Illinois native who double-majored in philosophy and physics in college, found his calling not in academia but in the kitchen and on the golf course.
“I have to admit, I have a hankering for golfing,” he said. “And once I got into culinary art, I found that in private golf clubs I had a little more artistic freedom.
“I've lived in several areas of the country, and in each one, I've tried to use ingredients indigenous to that area. When I moved to Oregon (in the mid-1990s), I was like a kid in a candy store, with the plethora of ingredients that are out here for a chef to use.”
Setting the mood
When my companion and I arrived for an early dinner, the sun was still high in the southwestern sky. We were greeted by a hostess and promptly seated with a view across a quiet lake to the golf club's driving range, with the peaks of Broken Top and South Sister in the distance. We saw fish jumping, ducks and geese swimming, and red-winged blackbirds swaying in the boughs of lakeside aspen trees.
Within the restaurant, the mood was one of casual elegance. We sat upon rustic, rattan-backed chairs at tables with glass tops over black tablecloths. An artistic presentation of dishes added to the ambience.
Our only major complaint, more so at a subsequent Sunday brunch visit than at dinner, had to do with spotty service. At our evening meal, even as the restaurant became busy, orders were quickly taken and delivered, and even our water glasses were kept full by a diligent busboy.
But when we arrived for our midday meal, the host stand was unmanned and it took a while before a server noticed and seated us. Although few tables were occupied, service was overly casual. As a table of 12 had been seated just ahead of us, we had a wait of more than a half hour for easy-to-make plates, yet our server never returned to apologize until shortly before our food was delivered.
At dinner, my companion started with a simple Caesar salad. She said it was one of the best she's had in Bend. Chopped hearts of romaine were tossed in a tangy lemon-pepper dressing with aged Asiago cheese, garlic croutons and just a touch of anchovy paste.
For an entrée, she chose a dish of angel-hair pasta cooked in coconut milk with a squeeze of Kaffir lime, scallions and capers. The blend included crushed cashews and sliced shiitake mushrooms, as well as several large prawns and a modest chunk of smoked salmon on top. She said she had been in the mood for comfort food, and this fit the bill.
I was a little disappointed with my watercress-and-watermelon salad. The delivery was impressive; a handful of watercress greens were bunched in a staunch red-onion ring, topped with crumbled feta cheese and toasted pine nuts, garnished with a few halved, roasted cherries and three small scoops of melon. (Whereas the menu had promised “red and yellow” watermelon, my plate had but a single bit of red watermelon and two bits of cantaloupe melon.)
A bigger problem was that the salad was underdressed. Watercress is a bitter herb with a taste that must be balanced with sweetness. A drizzle of orange-citrus vinaigrette was insufficient. When I requested and got additional dressing, I was much happier.
My main course, a grilled Copper River salmon, was wonderful. The Alaskan red salmon, available only during a limited season, was beautifully presented: A half-dozen thin asparagus spears sat upon a generous cold relish of crab meat and heirloom tomatoes, which topped the fish.
For my taste, the salmon was cooked perfectly, seared medium-rare with a warm center. It was served atop jasmine rice with a sweet-corn garnish and, according to the menu, an avocado-chive vinaigrette, although I couldn't find the avocado!
Service issues aside, we did enjoy returning to Broken Top for Sunday brunch.
My companion, in the mood for breakfast, ordered the corned-beef hash. The blend of beef brisket and hash-brown potatoes was topped with a couple of eggs, over easy. She found the meal bland, and in need of hot sauce to give it a little zest.
But she loved the accompanying breakfast bread, which was served with a delicious pumpkin butter and boysenberry jam.
Rather than a formal lunch menu, I was presented with Broken Top's “bar card menu,” normally presented only between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. Although that reduced my meal options, I was pleased to request a pulled pork sandwich.
This had no faults. Shredded, slow-braised pork shoulder was topped with small, lightly fried onions, served on a delicious plank roll with a tangy house dressing. On the side was a slaw of jicama, white cabbage and red bell peppers, heavily seasoned with dill, and a sweet, house-made zucchini relish. Hand-cut French fries were tossed in garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Had we left room, we would have finished with one of Ballard's personal desserts. His triple-chocolate torte won Bend's recent Tour du Chocolate competition; it comprises a flourless chocolate torte, chocolate mousse, ganache and a white-chocolate cream. And his banana-toffee ice cream, with hazelnut praline and caramel sauce, will be featured at next weekend's Sagebrush Classic feast.
Avery's Wine Bar is now the 750 Wine Bar & Bistro. Mother-daughter owners Rebecca Sullivan and Emma Farnsworth, who took over on June 15, plan a July 22 grand opening. Named for the size of a wine bottle (750 ml), the bistro serves tapas-style meals, desserts and daily world-cuisine dinner specials. Open 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; lunches 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Friday beginning July 22. 427 S.W. Eighth St., Redmond; 541-504-7111 or www.facebook.com.
Cuppa Yo Frozen Yogurt will celebrate the grand opening of its new east-side Bend location on Wednesday with a performance by local musician Mosley Wotta at 7:30 p.m. The Crossroads Plaza shop (at Northeast 27th Avenue and U.S. Highway 20) opened June 29. Hours are the same as at Cuppa Yo's west-side store: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 547 N.E. Bellevue Ave., Suite 109, Bend (541-706-9352); 937 N.W. Newport Ave., Suite 110, Bend (541-306-6993); www.cuppayo.com.
Pono Farm & Fine Meats (A-): A carnivore's delight, this custom butcher shop on Bend's north side serves quality beef and pork from Pono's own 200-acre organic livestock ranch near Culver. Sandwiches and combination plates, all priced under $14, are served in a well-maintained cafe. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday; kitchen opens at 11 a.m. 63595 Hunnell Road (at Cooley Road), Suite 100; www.ponofarm.com or 541-330-6328.
IHOP (B): The restaurant group formerly known as the International House of Pancakes serves meals that are often humdrum but sometimes excellent. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. 30 Bend River Mall Drive, Bend; www.ihop.com or 541-317-9812.
Hola! 3 (B+): Extending over the Deschutes River, there are few more beautiful places to dine in Central Oregon. The newest of the locally owned Mexican-Peruvian chain has held back on its creative menu to satisfy clientele more interested in traditional fare. Breakfast 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday to Sunday; lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. 57235 River Road (access from Circle 3), Sunriver; www.hola-restaurants .com or 541-593-8880.