When you think of eating out in Bend, you might think of hearty, upscale brewpub grub designed to pair with a pint and satisfy your hunger post-adventure.
You might not have imagined that there’s also a thriving upscale dining scene where you can go for braised rabbit and wild jumbo scallops, Dungeness crab and carpaccio for a white-tablecloth, wine-paired, homegrown meal.
Since 2004, Andres and Ariana Fernandez have been providing that experience for diners as chefs and co-owners of Ariana restaurant, which is housed in a charming Craftsman bungalow on Bend’s westside. He’s from Bogota, Columbia; she’s from Northern California. They met while training at Cascades Culinary Institute in Bend and then worked in other kitchens around the city before opening their restaurant with help of Ariana’s parents, who are also co-owners.
Like many Oregon chefs, they have embraced the hyper-local, sustainable ethos that is now becoming prevalent across the United States. Menus change seasonally, if not daily. Chefs make everything from scratch and source ingredients from local purveyors. And diners happily clean their plates. For Ariana restaurant, it’s been a labor of love — surviving the recession, raising their children, and receiving recognition such as the invitation to cook at the James Beard House in New York in 2014, and landing on the list of Top 100 Restaurant in America in 2014 and 2016.
We sat down with Andres Fernandez to ask about the growing food scene in Bend, their favorite ingredients and producers, and where they love to eat and play around town.
Tell us about how Bend’s food scene has grown since 2004.
We have watched Bend grow so much in the 14 years since we opened our restaurant. We have been through the recession, when restaurants were closing every week — especially fine dining. Our first daughter was born in 2007; our second daughter was born in 2010. It was a scary time [to launch a restaurant with the economy], but we never sacrificed our quality and we made it through. Every year we have improved and been busier and we are so grateful. Ariana and I are passionate about what we do. We love cooking for people and taking care of them as best we can. People can feel the love and intention we bring.
What do you love to cook with in the summertime?
It’s so hard to narrow down favorite summer products — there are so many. Wild salmon from the Oregon Coast is a staple all summer long. We have a group of fishermen that catch and bring us the most beautiful salmon. Sweet corn always finds a place on our menu, wild mushrooms are always present, and tomatoes are Ariana’s favorite — we always have a beautiful tomato salad all summer. When peaches are in season from Hood River we peel them and serve with butter biscuits and poured cream for dessert.
Who are some of your top local purveyors?
What do you do with your family when you’re not at the restaurant?
I love to fly fish and I love to explore all the rivers and lakes here in Central Oregon. It is a meditative time for me to be calm and quiet and be in nature. Ariana and I like to take our girls to the river or lakes to swim and hike. We love to visit the Coast as much as possible, and we are always taking weekends in Portland to eat.
Where do you and your family eat when you’re hungry around town?
For even more sublime seasonal eats in Bend, try the Cascade Farms osso bucco at Jackalope Grill; harvest pasta at The Blacksmith Restaurant; grilled Pacific cod fish tacos at Drake; wild sockeye salmon and shrimp at 900 Wall; and breakfast sandwich with poached egg, bacon, avocado and arugula aioli on a hand-rolled croissant at The Sparrow Bakery and Restaurant.
Inspired? Here’s a recipe:
Ariana Restaurant Braised Rabbit With Fresh Bay Leaves and Cream
- 1 rabbit, cut into pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot
- ½ cup wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons chicken stock
- minced chives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add oil and seasoned rabbit pieces to heavy Dutch oven over high heat. Brown on both sides. Add the shallots, wine, chicken stock, cream, Dijon and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cover with lid. Place Dutch oven in preheated oven and bake until tender, about one hour. Gently remove rabbit from cooking liquid and set aside on a plate while finishing the sauce. Mix the cornstarch and chicken stock together and drizzle into the hot cooking liquid while whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and strain through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois. Nestle rabbit pieces back into the finished sauce and serve with chopped chives. Serve alongside roasted potatoes or sunchokes. Serves 2-4.