Chef Jason Stoller Smith cooks a mean steak. His secret? He doesn’t do anything fancy.
“It’s simple salt and pepper on the grill and charred,” says Smith, who oversees the seven restaurants at Timberline Lodge, the iconic visitor lodge perched 6,000 feet atop the slope of Mt. Hood. “After eating the first bite, there’s a big kick, an intense finish. I really feel like you taste the terroir of Oregon.”
The gorgeously marbled meat is part of the lodge’s new Gate to Plate initiative, launching this fall. It’s a partnership with Deschutes River Beef in Maupin, 45 minutes east of Mt. Hood, to use 52 head of cattle that have been sustainably raised.
Ranchers Keith Nantz and Rory Wilson raise the animals on their wide-open field, where the cows graze on 14 different plants, including grasses and vegetables. The cows are finished on barley grown in the area, which promotes better flavor and marbling. There’s no use of antibiotics, fertilizer or other chemicals on the land or animals. Smith, executive chef here for the past 5 years, eliminates the middleman by butchering the animals in-house.
Nowadays it’s becoming commonplace for Oregon restaurants to feature grass-fed local beef. It’s special at Timberline, Smith says, because diners can enjoy it in a formal setting — a 21-day dry-aged steak at the Cascade Dining Room — just as easily as a juicy grab-and-go burger or braised short ribs at any of their other six casual pubs, cafes, cabins and breweries that are either open now or will open for winter around Thanksgiving. The bones, trim, off-cuts and organ meats are also used for stock, sausage, charcuterie and stews, for little to no waste.
Vegetarian diners also eat well at the lodge, with dishes like a maitake mushroom smørrebrød with goat cheese, toasted multigrain, compressed pear and smoked onion jam highlighting the best of local farms. “This should be a resort everybody can enjoy,” Smith says. “Something that identifies and helps translate the sense of place — in a special environment, on a mountain. Everything I do, I try to communicate that message: To remind you that you’re in Oregon, and what it’s like to be in Oregon through our food.”
Through Oct. 31, 2016, visitors can check out the Pasture and Pinot dinner (a four-course pairing with Willamette Valley Vineyards wines) or indulge in a romantic stay for two at the lodge, which includes the dinner and a queen room at $299. Timberline also offers a grand five-course Thanksgiving feast.
Ski warriors take note: The ski forecast is calling for heavier than average snowfall at Mt. Hood this year, with Mt. Hood Meadows anticipated to open in mid-November and Mt. Hood Skibowl in mid-December. Until then, enjoy the tranquil days at Timberline this fall with a scenic hike or mountain biking adventure in the Mt. Hood National Forest, or relax with a cozy stay at Silcox Hut, a mile up the mountain from the main lodge.