I get the good joe; put politely, the Pacific Northwest obsession with coffee borders on the unhealthy. True to form, Bend espresso bars, each one more exquisite than the next, feature organic beans and rarified roasting techniques. It goes without saying that they observe fair trade practices and pay their mellow hippie employees a living wage. This is Oregon, after all.
I even get the good bakeries: those cold, snowy winters invite consumption of chunky loaves of fresh baked bread and oversized muffins. Skiers and snowboarders need their calories, as do the mountain bikers who swarm the region in the summer (Bend also has a ludicrous number of bicycle shops).
What I don't get are the many, very good restaurants in Bend. I too reside in a moneyed town where pleasure figures significantly, although I'm beginning to suspect that a life of boating--the local pastime--dulls one's taste buds. Maybe it's all that cheap hooch the yachties consume. In my nearly three years of living in Annapolis, I've had one very good meal (more about that in future posts) and one excellent meal, although we had to venture over the Bay Bridge into Easton to get it. Am I jealous? Hell, yes.
So here's a brief paean to Bend, where we had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Ariana's. Yes, the waiter was a little young and inexperienced, and, yes, the Dungeness crab was a tad overcooked, but the restaurant was warm and inviting, and the holiday menu was inventive and tasty. I'm still dreaming of the plump, juicy mussels I ate at Merenda's, the best I've had since dining in Kinsale, Ireland three years ago. Perfectly prepared and lightly seasoned to preserve their briny flavor, these mollusks were a culinary marvel (and I consumed an embarrassing number--only shame prevented me from eating more). I would kill to find an Asian restaurant in Annapolis that came close to the Thai treasures at Typhoon. And then there was all that coffee, crusty bread, and--oh yes, did I mention the gourmet chocolates flown in from Belgium? Life ain't fair.