First, a dining tip. We heartily recommend, whether you are a vegetarian or not, the “Garden Plate” dinner selection at the Black Butte restaurant—where we just celebrated my second birthday dinner, ten days after the first celebration with my sister and brother-in-law. One difference this time: I had to buy my own dinner. Another difference: as good as DaVinci’s restaurant in Salem is, this Garden Plate dish was really spectacular.
Since we want Black Butte to keep offering the Garden Plate, and our waiter said it took some serious lobbying from the waiters/waitresses to get the chef to make a decent vegetarian dish, it is important—no, essential—for anyone who drives by Black Butte Ranch on their way to Sisters or Bend to stop by the restaurant and order the Garden Plate. Several years ago Black Butte had a fairly good polenta dish. Then they sold out completely to the meat/fish lobby and had absolutely nothing vegetarian on their menu. We had to beg and plead, like the second class citizens vegetarians often are, for the chef to make us a pasta dish with some vegetables on top—something we easily could have made on our own.
Now, though, the Garden Plate is an oasis in the otherwise barren vegetarian land of the Black Butte menu (OK, I think there also is a fettuccine alfredo, but that is so clichéd as not to even count). Fresh off my palate, I can accurately describe the marvelous Garden Plate: soft tofu with a crisply breaded covering, nicely fried; a grilled portabello mushroom; asparagus; sweet tomato relish; yellow squash; zucchini—all immersed in a subtle sauce, accompanied by a just-right dipping sauce. As full as I am, it makes my mouth water to remember our meal of an hour ago.
I was impressed by how, when I repeatedly took one slice of the tofu crisp and combined it with one slice of the portabello mushroom, then dunked the two-slice forkful in the dipping sauce, I ended up my meal with precisely one slice of tofu and one slice of mushroom left. It is this sort of culinary precision, combined with the creativity of the whole Garden Plate presentation, that makes Laurel and me realize that, as cooks, we aren’t worthy to butter the toast of the Black Butte chef. May he live long and prosper, and forever serve the Garden Plate to Central Oregon visitors such as we.
On a more active note, I am pleased to report that Serena and I won the human/dog Camp Sherman Iron Species Triathlon yesterday. The only shadow cast over the radiance of our win was the minor detail that we forgot to announce to anyone but ourselves that this event was being held. Still, our accomplishment deserves high praise and much publicity, which I am trying to take care of myself in this fashion.
The Iron Species Triathlon started out with a four-mile man/dog hike from our cabin to the Alingham Campground and back, walking (and in the case of Serena, running, after squirrels, chipmunks, and anything else that moved, or smelled like it had moved in the last twenty-hour hours) briskly. Man then jumped on a mountain bike and rode, with dog running ahead/behind/to each side for three miles up to the head of the Metolius River and back.
The third leg of the Iron Species Triathlon came when Serena and I returned to the cabin and took naps, each of us visualizing swimming a mile in the Metolius. At least, that’s what I did, and I assume Serena held up her end of the last leg of the Iron Species Triathlon. Since the Metolius is too damn cold to swim in, we necessarily had to make the final event of our hike/bike/swim Triathlon a virtual contest, rather than have it take place in physical reality. All in all, we were proud of our performance, and look forward to repeating as champions in the next running of the Camp Sherman Iron Species Triathlon. Our confidence is high, especially since, once again, we have no intention of publicizing the event before we’ve finished it.