Gleneden Beach, OR. — If all you know about this state is its artsy, quirky city of Portland, take a drive to the central coast to see a whole ‘nother side.
That’s just what I did when I was invited with a few other food writers a few weeks ago to stay at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort, following its multi-million-dollar renovation and opening of its new restaurant, Samphire.
The hotel is about two hours from Portland. Its 250 acres of forested land hug the rugged coastline that gets its share of sunshine and misty days at this time of year.
The 205-room property was developed in 1965. The cozy, rustic-chic hotel is decorated with $500,000 worth of art, created by Native American, and other Oregon and Washington artists.
There’s an 18-hole golf course, and a spa complete with a relaxation room sporting a fire pit and sweeping views of Siletz Bay. It’s the perfect place to head to when you’ve spent the day hiking along the coast.
If you fly into PDX to make the drive to the resort, you can break up the trip by stopping at various wineries in the Willamette Valley.
We did just that, pulling over to enjoy a taste of estate pinot noirs at White Rose Estate, owned by Greg Sanders, who formerly worked in the aerospace industry. Winemaker Jesus Guillen crafts wines full of earthy, brambly terroir.
If you stop in for a tasting, you’ll be given a shot glass of club soda to clear your palate before trying any wines — something I’ve never seen any other winery tasting room provide. But the employees there said it’s the best way to prep your palate with a clean slate so you can really appreciate the wines to come.
More wine was definitely on the docket when we arrived at Salishan. We were treated to a wonderful wine dinner featuring pours from nearby Purple Hands Winery. Proprietor Cody Wright, who was on hand, is a second-generation winemaker. He is the son of winemaker Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars, and formerly of Panther Creek Cellars; and step-son of Rollin Soles of Roco Winery, and formerly of Argyle Winery.
Cody, 37, worked his first harvest when he was 17. Nowadays, he produces 5,500 cases annually, including a lovely 2015 Holstein Vineyard. It’s an inky, big-bodied pinot, full of barnyard, licorice and raspberry.
Chef Andrew Garrision just came on board this spring to open Samphire, which is named for the crunchy, salty, slender sea beans found along the coast at low tide. A Minnesota-native, Garrison is at home here, sourcing from local farms for top-notch ingredients, and even foraging both on the property and on nearby coastal hikes for wild mushrooms.
While on a trek with us one afternoon, he scurried down from a trail to fill a bag with Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, including a specimen that was one of the largest shrooms I’d ever seen, with an almost coral-like appearance. That night, the mushrooms cooked up meaty with a subtle natural sweetness to them.
It was just an added treat to a six-course dinner that included a clever sweet corn “chawan mushi” paired with butter-poached lobster, brown butter foam and a fun popcorn-infused sorgham.
The carrot dish showcased the root veggie in a variety of ways: caramelized with mole, citrus-glazed, and with the feathery green tops made into pesto. Duck confit added hits of richness that was balanced by fresh wine-y figs .
More mushrooms, this time lobster ones, arrived with Willamette’s Finnegan Creek striploin, which had been cooked sous vide in duck fat, rendering it supremely tender. Potatoes also were cooked in more duck fat for good measure.
One of the highlights of dining at the resort was getting a taste of a Native American potlatch. The festive ceremonial feast traditionally includes music, dancing and story-telling.
But here, it’s all about the salmon. The centerpiece of the dinner is a side of salmon cooked upright on its side against a vertical cone of fiery coals.
It’s quite the sight to see, as the fish cooks for about 18 minutes, depending upon its size, turning smoky and moist.
The potlatch salmon is a signature dish that has been offered at Salishan since it opened its doors.
Nowadays, it’s offered only on the banquet menu or for special events that have a minimum of 25 people.
That’s incentive enough to grab a load of friends when you visit this restorative resort.