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Slow food and local ingredients at Hunter's Ridge

by: Anthony Roberts, Executive Chef Paul Bachand, right, and Chef de Cuisine Paul Gorton III, survey the fresh-made chorizo and pork raised at a farm on Parrett Mountain.

For Paul Bachand, a meal isn't just about eating; it's also about education and interaction.

That's why you're just as likely to see the executive chef at Hunter's Ridge Grill in the kitchen as you are to see him in the dining room, chatting with a local family or suggesting a food and wine pairing. That's why kids eat free on Mondays, followed by special tasting nights on Wednesdays, where Bachand pairs local foods and wines.

Bachand graduated from culinary school in 1994, and worked in Italy, becoming a disciple of the Slow Food movement, which focuses on using local products and traditions.

"Educating the customers is really important," he said. Since the majority of his ingredients come from Oregon, that's easy. During Wednesday tasting nights, Bachand regularly invites local winemakers and artisans to talk about their foods. He also changes the menu seasonally. "What's on your plate tonight was most likely growing on a local farm this morning," he said showing off the back of Hunter Ridge's menus, where the restaurant's suppliers are listed. Bachand uses 16 local farms, including three in Sherwood.

Despite his time in Europe, he also shows a slight bias toward Oregon wines, and cooks accordingly.

"I've always been into food that complements wine and vice versa," he said. "We are the gateway to Oregon wine country, so my food is made with local wines in mind."

That's resulted in popular dishes like the Saffron Scented Orzo Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish blended with the restaurant's hand-made chorizo. For a more casual dish there's the Wine Country Burger, topped with pinot noir barbecue sauce and aged provolone.

First in line

There are advantages and there are pitfalls to being first, and during its first seven months in business, Hunter's Ridge experienced a little of both. There was the upside of being the first fine-dining option in the area, and the challenge of making people aware that there's an upscale restaurant in a town where, until recently, the only options for dinner were a few bars and chain restaurants.

Judging from the growing crowds, Hunter's Ridge is starting to reap the rewards of being the first to step into Sherwood's restaurant void. Fueled by continued development of the Hunter's Ridge condominium complex around it, word of mouth from a loyal customer base, and a good relationship with the Willamette Valley's wineries, more people are partaking in what Bachand calls "American bistro fare."

The biggest challenge at the beginning was letting people know Hunter's Ridge existed. The restaurant is tucked into the corner of the Hunter's Ridge condominium complex on Roy Rogers Road. Construction on the building took longer than anticipated, creating parking and visibility problems for businesses there.

"People would say, 'We didn't even know you were here,'" said Lisa Schur, the restaurant's general manager. "But word of mouth has been huge for us. We have loyal local customers that have become regulars and spread the word. You can see the pride in their eyes when this place is full."

Hunter's Ridge also has a good relationship with a number of wineries, many of which have the restaurant's menu on display.

The restaurant is owned by developer Pat Lucas.

Most of the dinner entrees at Hunter's Ridge are in the $12 to $20 range, with lunch coming in around $8 to $10. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There's a limited bar menu until 5 p.m., when dinner starts. There's also a happy hour on weekdays, a Sunday plated brunch, and a "local's night" special every Monday and Tuesday night featuring a three-course meal. For more information contact 503-625-1912 or visit www.huntersridgegrill.com.