Editor’s note: The Oregon Health Authority strongly recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings in public indoor spaces. It’s also wildfire season — plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
When diners sit down to a meal at the Steamboat Inn in Southern Oregon, they’re already in a state of heightened bliss. Steps from the sparkling turquoise North Umpqua River, red umbrellas and wildflowers offer pops of color on the outdoor patio of this historic lodge, built in the 1950s. For decades it’s been a go-to haven for fly-fishers, hikers, cyclists and others looking for adventure surrounded by pristine beauty.
Then comes the charcuterie and cheese board, the smoked-steelhead dip, the kale Caesar, the black-truffle ravioli, the butter-poached rockfish and more. All of it — from house-cured and smoked meats to the handmade pasta and produce and herbs plucked from the on-site garden — is lovingly made from scratch and sourced hyper-locally.
“A few months ago we were mending the soil, and we got 40 flats of starts [at the lodge’s on-site garden],” describes Bryar Horn, executive chef of the lodge since 2019 and a native of Glide — a small town 20 miles west of Idleyld, where the lodge is located. “This year we’re focusing on herbs, edible flowers, blueberries, alliums and nasturtiums — which we put on salads and use in vinaigrettes. The brightest orange ones are so pretty and tasty.”
Horn works closely with local farms and ranches including Moyers Farm in Glide; Uneven Ground Farm and Harbinger Farm in Myrtle Creek; Wagonhoffer Meats, Whistlers Bend Beef, Kalapuya Honey and Norm Lehne Garden & Orchards in Roseburg; Ubuntu Gardens in Idleyld Park; River Ranch Oregon Olive Oil in Glide; and Honey Bees Garden in Roseburg.
Growing Up Organic
Horn’s earthy, homegrown ethos blossomed at a young age. Growing up on a ranch in Glide, Horn spent much of her time helping her mother. “We grew and canned our own food,” she says. “Everything was fresh and organic.” She also attended a private school with a strictly vegetarian menu.
It wasn’t a traditional childhood. “I didn’t really like school too much,” she adds. “I stayed home and helped my mom. I’d sit in the kitchen and read cookbooks.”
As a teen, Horn started working in local kitchens, starting with a coffee shop in Wilbur, near her home. She attended beauty school briefly before deciding cooking was her passion. She landed two more cooking jobs in Southern Oregon — one at the nearby Illahee Inn and the other at the fine-dining restaurant Parrott House in Roseburg, where she learned to run every station: saute, grill, salad, pizza oven, baking and overall managing the kitchen.
Horn joined the Steamboat Inn staff as a server in 2018, rising to executive sous chef in her second year, at age 28. She’s since worked to elevate the quality of the daytime menu while holding true to the lodge’s history and traditions. Under new ownership since 2017, the lodge has a rich past as a favorite retreat of famous guests including President Jimmy Carter, Jack Hemingway and novelist Zane Grey.
Since the dining experience has always been a central feature of the Steamboat Inn, the previous owners, Sharon Van Loan and Pat Lee, published their first cookbook, Thyme and the River, in 1988 and the second, Thyme and the River Too, in 1993. A third Steamboat Inn cookbook — set to publish in 2022 — will feature both Steamboat traditions and new recipes from their current chefs, as well as recipes and stories from past guest chefs.
In the meantime, guests can also sample the deliciousness all year long except December through February, when the restaurant is closed. There are also special wine-pairing weekends in the spring and beer- and spirits-pairing weekends in the fall. (Check the website for details.)
Sharing Tasty Passions
Day-to-day, Horn is hard at work on her mainstays, even items as simple as a sandwich. The corned beef for the Reuben is made in a five-day brine; the steak sandwich on fresh ciabatta is served with a gouda crisp and foraged watercress. The pork tacos are made with pigs that were raised on the lodge’s own vegetable and fruit scraps in its own little cycle. And like many Oregon chefs, Horn also forages for fun — sourcing her own mushrooms, greens, sorel, pine tips, spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns and anything else she can find.
Her favorite part is interacting with visitors. “Because I know everything that goes on in the kitchen, I just want people to ask me what the guanciale [cured pork cheeks] is,” she says. “I get to explain not just what it is but what’s the process. It’s my favorite part about it — getting to share my knowledge of these dishes. You’re showing them how much passion you have, and it’s just a good connection.”
If You Go:
The Steamboat Inn reopened in spring 2021 after coming within inches of the Archie Creek wildfire in 2020, which damaged several sections of the North Umpqua Trail. Check conditions before you visit.
Steamboat Inn Kale Caesar Salad (serves 8-10)
2 anchovies (rinsed)
2 garlic cloves (microplaned)
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp + ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup water
1 egg yolk
1 ⅕ cups grapeseed oil
⅕ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 oz parmesan (microplaned)
3-5 oz baby kale per serving
Croutons, fresh parmesan and cracked black pepper to garnish
In a food processor, combine anchovies, garlic, salt, lemon juice, black pepper and water until almost
smooth. Add egg yolk and mix until well incorporated. Slowly pour in grapeseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil to emulsify. Add microplaned parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning. To finish, place two heaping tablespoons of dressing into a bowl with 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil. Stir together and add kale and croutons. Toss until evenly coated, and serve topped with fresh parmesan and cracked black pepper.