Bend, Oregon's Gavin McMichael ropes in praise for his "new ranch cuisine


A chef from Texas, a restaurant called Blacksmith, the edge ofdowntown Bend in Oregon's ranch country: Of course the menuincludes meat loaf and pan-fried trout. But Gavin McMichael's meatloaf is less like Mom's and more like a French forcemeat, and histrout comes with "cowboyed up" caponata and a mound of barleysimmered in stout until it resembles a dark, chewy, slightly sweetrisotto.

McMichael left Texas, went to culinary school, and cooked withchefs from Colorado to Cannes before opening his own restaurant inBend in 2003. (He first visited Bend on a ski trip in the winter of2001 and returned three weeks later to stay: "I thought, This islike getting in on the ground floor of Aspen or Boulder.") That'swhen he began to hone what he now calls "new ranch cuisine," asophisticated update of Southwestern cowboy cooking―itself anamalgam of American standards and Native American and Mexicaninfluences.

"As chuckwagon cooks traveled on cattle drives, they'd pick upon these ingredients and create these kinds of regional cuisines,"McMichael explains.

With his formal training, forgive him the stray spoonful ofbeurre blanc or crème fraîche―but what comes out ofthe kitchen is always a surprise. And his blending of New Worldcuisines with Old World techniques has drawn praise from criticsnationwide.

"It's super-fun," McMichael gushes, looking up fromdeconstructing a pineapple upside-down cake. "It's like being inthe entertainment business and you've got a hit on your hands."―Bonnie Henderson

INFO: The Blacksmith Restaurant ($$$; dinner daily; 211 N.W.Greenwood Ave., Bend, OR; www.theblacksmithrestaurant.comor 541/318-0588)

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