Wine Country Dining: Newberg Oregon's The Painted Lady

As Gwynne and I were planning our Willamette Valley weekend, we solicited some advice from friends and fellow winos on where to eat in Newberg. Many of the recommendations included the line, "Go back to Portland and then...". We had already driven from Seattle to Newberg that day and had no desire to get back in the car. We wanted to let Newberg wow us, and we knew from experience that when talented culinarians set up shop in wine country, they know what they're doing. They are looking to highlight the local produce, but most especially to make food that is deserving of excellent wine. With all that in the cards, we headed to dinner at The Painted Lady.

The Painted Lady is located in a painted lady, a Victorian era home painted in multiple and contrasting hues. The Painted Lady movement was born in San Francisco to restore beautiful Victorian homes to their former splendor in accordance with the established standard. The house is only about a block off the the main street in downtown Newberg, and is surrounded by a white picket fence. The proprietors have granted a special meaning to The Painted Lady, applying the ethic of the movement behind these beautiful homes to their food. As the paint colors of the house compliment each other, bringing out aspects that might otherwise be unnoticed, so too, does their food strive to use complimentary flavor profiles that enhance the natural flavors of their ingredients.

The Painted Lady offers multi-course meals of local Northwest ingredients and wine pairings with each. The prix fixe menu allows diners a a four course offering for $60 per person, and you can have the courses fully paired with wine for an additional $40. During the slower season, The Painted Lady does a three course meal with a wine pairing for $60, featuring a different local winery each month. We signed up for two and made reservations for a Friday. We were excited because the featured winery for the April menu was Anam Cara Cellars, which is a personal favorite for Gwynne and I and was on our itinerary for the following day.

The three course meal started with a Oregon Shrimp Napoleon, paired with the Nicholas Estate 2008 Riesling. I was really surprised by this dish, it was a local item that made me feel like I was eating in a slightly more tropical clime. The shrimp and avocado were placed on and paired very well with the bright cool climate (Chehalem Mountain) riesling from Anam Cara. The meal was amazing, with the textures and flavors marrying extremely well. The wine pairing was suburb, bringing out the delicacy and sweetness of the shrimp and nicely complimenting the other ingredients.

The second course was more food than you could ever imagine, the pork shank with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. The pork shank is visually stunning standing in the middle of the plate atop the roasted cauliflower and potatoes. There is a metric ton of meat on the shank, and while I was able to plow through it, Gwynne didn't even come close to finishing her meal, and truth be told, were I not there, she would have had an embarrassing amount of meat left. The pork shank was paired with the 2007 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir. The wine is an incredible statement of the terroir over on Chehalem Mountain. It did very well with the natural flavors of the pork shank and the seasonal vegetables. This dish and pairing had Oregon written all over it.

At this point, as we tried deep breathing exercises to get us through the amount of food we had already eaten, and prepared for the dessert course, the chefs threw us for a loop by bringing out a complimentary cheese and Madeira interlude. This was an incredible adventure through Oregon's cheese-producing acumen. We were brought four cheeses, hazelnuts, quince paste and some local honey, complimented by a Madeira from The Rare Wine Company. The cheeses were an almost otherworldly experience and the Madeira changed Gwynne's opinion of that wine forever. The cheeses, from Rogue Creamery, River's Edge and Ancient Heritage make me wonder if cheese should have just waited to be invented until Oregon came along (no offense, France.)

Dessert arrived. It was an apple tart tatin topped with homemade ginger ice cream. It was perfection and delicious and was paired with the Anam Cara 2009 Late Harvest Gerwurtraminer. The pairing was spot on, the sweet fruity wine with the apple flavors and the tatin pastry. The ginger ice cream was incredible and brought a refreshing bit of zing to the dessert. Tatin is French, I think, for "ginormous."

As we prepared to depart, our waitress brought us a selection of chocolates, which they boxed in a small takeaway box when we cried uncle. There was so much food and all of it was delicious. The staff was highly attentive and very well-informed.

As we were planning our trip and when people asked where we ate, their responses confirmed our choice. People in Oregon are clearly impressed with what The Painted Lady is doing. Cliff Anderson of Anderson Family called it "the best restaurant in Oregon" and someone else said, "it's probably better than we deserve here in Newberg." I'm not in a position to confirm or deny what Cliff said, but I can easily argue what that other person had to say. Newberg is highly underrated and its producing some of the best Pinot Noir I've had. Allen and Jessica of The Painted Lady knew that when they selected Newberg. In addition to the great terroir, Newberg is home to some great people in the wine industry. I'd recommend you head down and grab a meal and a glass of wine with some of them. And The Painted Lady should be your first stop.


Lea Ann said...

Painted Lady is indeed a special experience. We enjoyed a lovely evening there with friends and a beautiful meal.