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Quick Bites: Cross Creek shines on the Redmond scene 

When I was a young lad growing up in Redmond I never paid much attention to food - partly because I didn't care, and partly

When I was a young lad growing up in Redmond I never paid much attention to food - partly because I didn't care, and partly because I was too broke to walk in the door. Returning again as an adult and a professional cook, however, I was constantly reminded that I didn't miss much. Redmond feels like a culinary wasteland, filled to the brim with mediocre restaurants squeaking by on barely passable food. In every wasteland however, there are always oases. I found one in the Cross Creek Cafe. Nestled behind Redmond City Hall on 8th Street, this gem has become one of the shining lights. Hell, they even serve real pastrami - something I'd completely given up on finding anywhere in Central Oregon.

Tammy Mills, owner and chef at Cross Creek tells me that despite the economic downturn, they're actually doing better than ever. Tammy is optimistic about the future of Redmond's culinary scene, and hopes that the arrival of newcomers like Avery's Wine Bar and Chloe is a sign that greater culinary sophistication might be on the horizon for Redmond. Perhaps her hopefulness is a product of her own introduction into the restaurant business.

She started her career as a physical therapist, and describes her cooking skills as once having amounted to knowing how to open a box of macaroni and cheese. It wasn't until discovering the Food Network, then just riding the crest of soon-to-be global superstar Emeril Lagasse, that she found herself absorbed in it. She began experimenting, learning to try new things, new flavors, new ingredients, and it is this level of exploration that Tammy tries to encourage as much as possible.

The menu plays off this love of exploration as well, ranging from the familiar to the experimental, and often, blending the two. An example would be the "ultimate grilled cheese", served with three kinds of cheese on garlic sourdough bread, or my meal of the evening, the happy hour special "hot rocks": popcorn chicken like nuggets of joy tossed in an incredible sweet and spicy chipolte sauce.

While her constant testing of new recipes is part of what makes Cross Creek great, she's always happy to take advice and suggestions from her customers, and over the years some of the restaurant's changes have come about simply because enough people asked.

Speaking with her instills a certain hope in the future of food here, even for a pathologically cynical critic like myself. If someone can go from Kraft Original to brilliant bites like the not-to-be-missed Thursday night special, pulled pork sliders with boysenberry chipolte sauce, then surely there's hope for even the most unimaginative audience.

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