Allium Bistro and Greater Portland
Born in the Loire Valley and raised in Bordeaux, chef Pascal Chureau of Allium Bistro discovered his love of food early. His mother is from Morocco, so every summer the family would drive from Bordeaux to Tangier, eating in little towns and villages along the way. After culinary school, cooking in Paris kitchens and a fling with California, Chureau found his way to Oregon.
In 2010, he opened Allium Bistro in West Linn, and a few years later launched a second venture called Field & Vine, a summertime dinner party series where guests gather on vineyards and farmland for a six-course feast. “We source a lot of produce directly from the town of West Linn where the restaurant is located,” he says. He points down street from his restaurant door to 19th Street Farms, one of his main farmers.
“If you drive to the end of this main street, Willamette Falls Drive, there are cool little farm and wineries and ranches. Everything is right there,” Pascal Chureau says. “It’s pretty awesome.”
In the summertime, the chef buys tomatoes straight off the truck from farmers passing by, and come fall, chanterelles from foragers that deliver to the kitchen door. The honeycomb he serves on the cheese plate is from a local student who started keeping bees as part of a science project (Freckle Face Farms) — a charming tale that defines the vibe of this neighborhood bistro.
At Allium, the classic French fare is the main attraction. You’ll find moules frites, duck confit rillettes, and pan roasted trout on the menu, which also offers a taste of the Pacific Northwest with bites like Dungeness Crab Toast and morel mushroom freekeh. But while you’re here, don’t neglect to explore the bounty of the Willamette Valley. Book an overnight stay at the nearby Sandes of Time Bed & Breakfast, a grand Victorian home furnished with charming antiques. The proprietors cook up a hearty seasonal breakfast feast to get you started on your next adventure.
An avid outdoorsman, Chureau spends his free-time reveling in the wilds of Oregon with his equally adventurous family. One of the favorite off-road places they go: the majestic Wallowas.
“We source a lot of produce directly from the town of West Linn where the restaurant is located,” Pascal Chureau says.
“The Wallowas are similar to the Alps in France,” says Chureau. He sketches in the air with his index finger, noting the dramatic, pointy peaks. “We love it for camping, hiking and mountain biking. In the past we’ve camped around the lake, and always try to spend as much time outside as possible,” he says. The Wallowa Lake area has it all — campground sites peer over an azure-blue glacial lake, and 9,000-foot snow-capped peaks rise from all sides. (You may find yourself channeling your inner Julie Andrews.)
“The area also has so many cool little communities and they all offer something,” adds Chureau. “We try to visit as many of the small towns as we can, along with craft breweries, shops and local artists,” he says. After mountain biking, he usually grabs lunch at Terminal Gravity Brewing and Public House in Enterprise (pop. 1,900). This is not your typical brewpub fare. The burger is made with grass-fed Corriente beef, raised at 6 Ranch just up the road. And the salmon sandwich is seared wild sockeye fillet.
Nearby you can pick up a primer for local lore at The Bookloft, the local bookshop since 1988, or peruse local potters and painters at The Skylight Gallery. On the road to Joseph, get a taste of place at Liza Jane’s Farmstand/6 Ranch, located just off of Highway 82 in front of the McAlister Century Farmhouse. Weathered and picturesque, the honor system farm stand is always open and offers local eggs, bread, honey, vegetables and grass-fed beef for sale.
For another look at where your food comes from, Chureau suggests visiting Carman Ranch located near the town of Wallowa. Here, fourth-generation farmer Cory Carman is leading the grass-fed livestock revolution. If you call ahead, you can schedule a visit to see the animals and learn more about how your food is raised. “We serve Carman Ranch beef in the restaurant,” says Chureau. “We like knowing where the cattle are from, what they graze on, and the flavor profile of the beef.”
For a different pace, walk the galleries of downtown Joseph, which Chureau likens to a little Santa Fe. The idyllic town is home to a thriving art colony and is the bronze-casting capital of the United States. Don’t miss Arrowhead Chocolates on North Main Street. This family-owned business makes more than forty flavors of chocolate truffles, barks and bars (all Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified). Try the slow-smoked caramels topped with alder-smoked sea salt or the juniper gin truffle. Also of note, Stein Distillery, Eastern Oregon’s first micro-distillery, offers small-batch spirits made with raw, homegrown grains.
On the last leg of his trip, Chureau swings by Baker City to visit Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, a family-owned brewery and restaurant. He’s prefers the point blank red on tap, and it’s also a popular beer with the locals. It’s tempting to stay. Baker City is the perfect starting off point for another back road adventure along Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. “We are buying a mini-RV soon,” Chureau muses. “This is the first place we’ll plan to take it.”
Steamed mussels at Allium by Justin Bailie; hiking in the Wallowas by Tyler Roemer; 6 Ranch Farmstand by Lynne Curry; Arrowhead Chocolates by Eugenie Frerichs.