Ruddick/Wood and the Willamette Valley
Paul Losch found his way to Oregon the way many chefs do. While slicing and dicing his way through restaurant kitchens in New York City, he was also daydreaming of the left coast. He took the leap to Portland in the summer of 2008, and after four years of cooking around the city, he and his wife alighted to the wine country town of Newberg, where he now runs the kitchen at Ruddick/Wood.
“The area reminds me of the small towns where I grew up and I wanted to return to that lifestyle,” says Losch. “I find that as I get older I am drawn more to rural areas than the city, and that puts me much closer to where a lot of the products that we use come from.” Many of the farms the chef works with are within a 20-mile radius of the restaurant. An added bonus: He can sneak in a foraging excursion before dinner prep. “I have a great spot for chanterelles and lobster mushrooms in western Yamhill County,” he says.
The dishes at Ruddick/Wood (e.g., deviled eggs with smoked trout roe, duck confit and oat hush puppies, a spicy Fisherman’s stew) reflect the tavern-meets-restaurant ethos. “We run a lot of specials that cover what we call hyper-seasonal ingredients,” says Losch. “Right now that would be something like Oregon albacore with sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and tomatillo relish. Or, melon salad with amaranth, cucumbers, serrano peppers, apple molasses and pecorino cheese.”
You’ll find a lot of locals (including boot-clad pinot producers) dining here. And just a few miles away, the most serene and sophisticated lodging at The Allison Inn & Spa, an ideal spot to stay before embarking on a road trip to the wild frontier of Central Oregon. “The high desert landscape is so different from anything around the Willamette Valley,” says Losch. It’s the scent of sagebrush and sunshine, and views of cathedral-like rocks, and rambling blue sky.
“The area reminds me of the small towns where I grew up and I wanted to return to that lifestyle,” says Paul Losch.
An avid rock climber, the chef made his first pilgrimage to Smith Rock in late spring. “It was a weekend of climbing and camping trip with a couple of regular customers who have become good friends,” he says. Their go-to breakfast spot along the way: Sisters Bakery. At this small-town bakery, the aroma of butter mixes with fresh-baked croissants, quiche, apple fritters and more.
Even better, they cater to early risers. You can fuel up with coffee before sunrise here, as the doors open daily at 5am.Waterfall enthusiasts will want to detour to Proxy Falls to soak up one of Oregon’s most photographed waterfalls. Later, back in the town of Sisters, you can gallery hop, or begin the Bend Ale Trail at Three Creeks Brewing Company.
For lunch, Losch heads to Terrebonne Depot. “It’s right outside of Smith Rock and has really solid, casual American dishes with lots of great options.” Housed in a century-old former train station, the restaurant serves classic fare like pizza, burgers and hearty sandwiches, made with Oregon-sourced ingredients. Take a seat outside on the deck — where views of Smith Rock and the Cascade Mountains change by the minute as clouds coast across the sky.
A few miles down the road, you can explore Redmond’s Antique District, where you’ll find echoes of the Old West — nostalgic farmhouse furnishings and vintage cowboy boots. You can get a sense of place walking the Dry Canyon Trail, also known as Redmond’s Central Park, a mosaic of basalt cliffs, wispy desert grass and juniper trees.
For starlit sleeping digs, Losch camps at Skull Hollow Campground, which offers views of Gray Butte and easy access to Smith Rock State Park. “It’s really beautiful place,” he says, “you can see the night sky so clearly.” This is where you’ll want to look for shooting stars.
The next day, head to Bend, where fleece is always in style and craft beer reigns. (The town has more breweries per-capita than any other city in Oregon). Current count: 21 breweries in Bend alone. Losch is partial to the Crux Fermentation Project. The tasting room is smack-dab in the middle of the brewery, with roll-up garage doors that frame Instagram-worthy views of the Cascade Mountains.
Ruddick/Wood burger by Justin Bailie; Smith Rock by Christian Sorenson; Proxy Falls by Sumio Koizumi; Crux Fermentation Project by Lasala Images.