Breakfast Is Served At Abbey Road Farm — And How!
On a road trip to Oregon last week, I ate very casually and exceedingly well.
But by far, my most memorable and breathtaking meals came surprisingly at breakfast — sitting on a screened-in porch on a farm where I slept overnight in a converted grain silo.
You don’t typically expect a five-course, gourmet spread like this in such rustic surroundings. Sure, the herbs for the meal are hand-picked from the property’s culinary garden, the honey harvested from its own hives, and the eggs courtesy of its own chickens. But you’ll also find on the premises a chef who goes the extra mile to make his own cherry blossom syrup, garum (Italian fish sauce) and shio koji (Japanese fermented grain marinade) — all used to great effect in breakfast.
When I was invited to stay as a guest at the 82-acre Abbey Road Farm in the town of Carlton in Oregon’s Wine Country, its web site promised “one of the best breakfasts in Oregon.”
That was no hyperbole. Because Chef Will Preisch more than delivered on that.
Preisch, who grew up in Cleveland where his dad ran a 24-hour diner, is a bona fide fine-dining chef with serious chops.
He just happens to work now in a setting surrounded by 40-plus chickens (all named Betty); goats that are named after strong females, such as Audrey (Hepburn) and Linda Carter (aka Wonder Woman); five pigs including the largest named Hammy; an adorable black alpaca named Indigo and a white one named Magnolia; mini donkeys; peacocks; and the chief protector of them all, Abigail Grace, a Pyrenees.
He has staged around the world, including at revered Noma in Copenhagen and Manresa in Los Gatos, and worked in Portland at celebrated Le Pigeon. His Holdfast Dining, an intimate tasting menu-only supper club in Portland was acclaimed for its creative fare. With no feasible way to execute that type of dining outdoors, though, it was forced to close permanently during the pandemic.
So, Preisch and his wife Sarah moved to Carlton, where he became the chef and his wife, an artist who also makes a mean homemade marzipan for his pastries, became the innkeeper.
While he is sometimes nostalgic for his own restaurant, he doesn’t miss the exceedingly long hours. As he gazes at the farm, he smiles at the fact that this is the most time he’s spent in the great outdoors in years.
When you stay overnight in the B&B silos, his breakfast is included. The five silo rooms are indeed circular, and each is named for a different wine type or varietal, such as Gamay or Chardonnay.
With Abbey Road Farm boasting a tasting room featuring its own wines, a horseshoe pit, a cozy fire pit, a former horse-riding arena turned into a soaring events space, plenty of paths to meander down, and of course, those adorable animals you can’t get enough of, this is a place you could easily spend a long, relaxing afternoon unto itself.
Breakfast is served at 9 a.m. on the porch of the Ranch House, just a few yards away. Coffee, tea, and juice are set up so that you can help yourself.
Take a seat at the already-set table, and the feast begins.
Preisch, who is the only one in the kitchen, cooks everything and serves everything. On my first morning there, breakfast began with a golden pastry tart glistening with elderflower-glazed, local strawberries nestled in rhubarb cream.
That was followed by toasted slices of Japanese milk bread slathered with ricotta, shingled with thinly sliced seared peaches, and drizzled with vanilla olive oil and farm honey.
To make use of the veggies in the garden (half of which goes to sister property, Quaintrelle restaurant in Portland), Preisch always includes a salad-type course. On this day, it was Little Gem lettuce with a lively Green Goddess made with homegrown parsley, chive, basil, and dill. I can’t say I’ve eaten salad often for breakfast, but this definitely makes me want to do so more often. What a wonderful way to start the day with something so bright, fresh, and crisp tasting.
Farm eggs get scrambled with plenty of Parmigiano, black pepper, and a touch of that house-made garum for a play on cacio e pepe that is supple, creamy, and rich.
The finale is shrimp and grits with the garden’s own Swiss chard. The dish gets heightened by that house-made shio koji, as well as ginger-scallion compote and chili crisp.
It would be hard to top that breakfast. But the one the next morning surely rivaled it.
It began with flaky morning buns, spiraled with cardamom and a touch of that house-made marzipan. That was followed by a bowl of strawberries macerated in cherry blossom syrup and homemade granola with bits of candied ginger — all topping yogurt that had been whipped with heavy cream. This was like dessert masquerading as breakfast, so luxurious and devilishly indulgent that you felt almost guilty spooning it up.
The salad course that day was a play on an Everything bagel. Asparagus, potatoes, peas, and pickled red onions were arrayed over miso cream cheese made from chickpeas. Garden-grown ice plant, cress, dill, and parsley, along with capers, and poppy seeds completed this fun dish.
My late-father would have swooned over the poached egg that followed. It floated in a pool of red eye gravy, seasoned with coffee for a boost of umami, that had been fortified with maple syrup, ginger-scallion oil, and chili oil. Burst the runny yolk to let its goodness mix with everything else, and what you end up with is a very Asian-tasting dish that truth be told would be total comfort alongside a bowl of steamed white rice.
Finally, the piece de resistance — fried chicken and waffles. The yeasted cornmeal batter creates a very crisp, airy waffle that gets brushed with heavenly brown butter. The boneless chicken thigh meat is done Japanese Karaage-style, producing moist flesh and crazy-crunchy battered skin. The dish is finished with maple-sherry glaze, fried sage from the garden, and a dusting of Parmigiano for the ultimate sweet-salty-savory bite.
This is the kind of breakfast that fills you up way past lunch-time.
And it’s the kind of breakfast that boosts a special place into the realm of extraordinary.