With jaw-dropping views of the Cascade Mountains to the west and arid, sagebrush-dotted landscape extending to the east, Oregon’s high desert is a region worthy of a visit any time of year. While Central Oregon is known for outdoor adventures including hiking, mountain biking and paddling, one of the best ways to connect to the land is through food. With the new High Desert Food Trail, it’s easy to taste your way through the region. The self-guided tour highlights the edible treasures and cultural wonders of Central Oregon’s agricultural and culinary scene.
Rainshadow Organics is one of those spots. Named after the dry effects that happen east of the Cascade mountains, this Sisters destination welcomes people to visit their farm store, order fresh produce through their CSA, take a farm tour or dine at their restaurant, which has a menu that rotates daily.
“We farm in an extreme climate: hot, cold and dry. It makes it challenging to grow here,” says owner Sarahlee Lawrence. “But every single thing we grow is selected for hardiness and is more dense in flavor and nutrients.”
Lawrence took over her family’s farm in 2010 and converted it to certified organic. Now the 160 acres of farmland and 230-acre ranch produce grain and meat. They also make their own pickled vegetables and sauces. “We have been expanding what we grow to what we call a full diet,” she says. “We raise everything we eat year-round.”
Rainshadow Organics is just one of the stops along the High Desert Food Trail. Here are some other places to check out when letting your taste buds lead you through the region.
Bend is famously home to some of the state’s top craft breweries, including vintage oak-barrel brewery The Ale Apothecary and 10 Barrel Brewing Co., which also has a Portland outpost. Visitors can also find plenty of quality produce including Tumalo Farmstand, Bend Farmers Market and the indoor Central Oregon Locavore.
If you haven’t experienced the craft-beverage wonders of La Pine, add it to your radar. The small town lays claim to Badlands Artisan Distillery, which prides itself on being an atypical distillery by filtering every product a minimum of 20 times. Also in town is Legend Cider Company, which has a relaxing backyard patio for sipping their regionally inspired creations.
Sip on some wines from regionally sourced grapes while overlooking the area’s breathtaking views at Faith, Hope & Charity Vineyards, and be sure to see when they host live music. While you’re in the area, stop in to meet the alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.
Foodies will love what’s on the menu at Redmond’s mix of eateries. You can find fried mushrooms, corn ribs and tasty sandwiches at one of the city’s premier food trucks, Feast Food Company. Stop in for a creative beer and tasty fare at Initiative Brewing, or check out the plant-forward offerings of Terra Kitchen, located inside the boutique SCP Redmond Hotel.
The hot, dry climate of Central Oregon makes it perfect for growing seed and grain, which is a specialty of Mecca Grade Estate Malt, an artisan malthouse in Madras. Take your grain appreciation one step further with tastings, cocktails and tours at New Basin Distilling Company.
Fuel up with a cup of coffee, espresso or tea from Sisters Coffee Co., then stop in to The Stand to grab vegetables, flour, eggs and more from a long list of local producers. Stop in to Boone Dog Pizza for wood-fired pies made from fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Relaxation reigns supreme at the Wine Down Ranch, a working cattle ranch with accommodations and a long list of fun on-site activities. L&S Farm and Garden is your place to spot some babydoll sheep while picking up some angus beef — be sure to check their gardening tips and recipes.