Day four of On the Road with Oregon Bounty, and I’m home, at least in a spiritual sense. I grew up here, and it’s where the seeds of my love for food were planted. On a trip earlier this summer, I stumbled upon one of my earliest Oregon Bounty memories. Driving the back roads north of Redmond, I spotted my past sprouting among the rock-lined ditches: wild asparagus. In the very same places where, 40 years ago, I rode my bike or cruised in the car with my mom in search of a late spring harvest, these succulent spears are still there for the taking.

You can also drive by but never notice another product that distiller Jim Bendis uses to craft award-winning spirits here in Central Oregon. As a runner, Jim used to trek through the high desert of Central Oregon where juniper trees are common foliage. Juniper trees produce juniper berries, the defining botanical in gin. It was during these fits of jogging that Jim asked himself an inspirational question: why couldn’t someone produce gin in a place where the spirit’s prime flavor agent grows wild? And so Bendistillery was born. The small distillery Jim started in his garage is now an industry leader in the burgeoning craft distilling industry, selling 25,000 cases last year in nearly a dozen states.

Jim is the craft distiller mentor in our Oregon Bounty “Cuisinternship” contest, which will give seven lucky people the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Oregon for an ultimate foodie getaway (that’s right, you could spend a week as a winemaker, chef, brewmaster, cheesemaker and chocolatier, distiller, rancher or fisherman). Check out a video about Jim and learn how to enter the contest.

Central Oregon has so many culinary gems, like the wild huckleberry ice cream at Juniper Junction near majestic Smith Rock in Terrebonne, the new Maragas Winery and Tasting Room between Redmond and Madras, or the truffled mac and cheese at Blacksmith Restaurant in Bend. Go to Travel Oregon’s new culinary travel website to plan a Central Oregon getaway.

Check back tomorrow… “On the Road” will be in Eastern Oregon to learn all about ranching. Cheers!

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  1. Vernia says…

    Please let me know the closest location to Bend to pick Huckleberries .Thanks

    Written on June 7th, 2010 / Flag this Comment
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