The Cyrus family is trying to do something a little bit different with its resort restaurant. This Central Oregon ranching family has taken some of its land and created a first-class golf community and, more recently, a fine dining establishment. Located outside Sisters, Aspen Lakes is a golf-centric, high-end housing development that has recently completed a majestic lodge with a formal dining room, bar and café.
The architecture is reminiscent of Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge, but with modern touches. Huge timbers and floor-to-ceiling windows framing the Cascades give this large-scale lodge a homey, country feel. There are spots for private parties, a conference room as well as a sport shop. But it's the menu at "Brand 33" that sets Aspen Lakes apart from other golf resorts.
Chef Toby Bauer has been given a relatively free hand to create what is being called Contemporary Oregon Trail Cuisine, defined as a, "modern interpretation of pioneer dishes inspired by local, sustainable and environmentally friendly ingredients." This means wild game, fish and vegetarian highlighting Northwest ingredients and influenced by the American Indian culinary tradition as well as European influences.
Brand 33 (named after the original Cyrus Family brand) serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch. By far the most innovative creations are on the dinner menu. Listed as Small Plates, Soup/Salad and Big Plates, the menu features elk, duck, rabbit, char, wahoo and buffalo. All are treated to creative preparations, such as the buffalo served as carpaccio; the elk chop marinated in juniper, and the seared char served with herbed gnocchi and roasted corn succotash. The open-ocean wahoo (another name for ono) is served with pomegranate molasses, and is melt-in-your-mouth fresh and intriguingly tart.
The soups and salads include a Caesar with brioche croutons, the back-in-vogue iceberg wedge with Rogue River blue cheese and bacon lardoons, and texturally pleasing mixed greens with matchstick beets and apples, candied pecans, blue cheese and a tart cherry vinaigrette.
Breakfast and lunch feature more traditional offerings, but with innovative twists. The Rueben is made with elk pastrami, the BLT comes with juniper aioli and the club sandwich includes Coho salmon gravlox. Breakfast offerings include wild boar sausage and huevos rancheros on frybread.
Brunch selections feature a traditional Benedict, as well as a tasty alternative of crispy Proscuitto and wild mushroom sauté, or fried artichoke hearts, spinach and bacon Bennie. The potato pancake with house cured salmon, red onion jam and tomato confit and cream fraiche was very tasty - once I got over the notion that it was not at all what I expected. Rather than the slightly dense crispy potato patty I was used to, it was almost frittata like with long string-sized strips of soft potato filling it. The venison sausage was hard to resist - lean, deep with flavor and a hearty texture. The buttermilk pancakes are fairly standard and come with real maple syrup and nice marionberry butter. There is also a self-serve pastry and fruit bar, which doesn't do the restaurant justice as the pastries are dry and the fruit is out of season - skip it and save your appetite for the delectable menu options.
The only complaint I had on my multiple experiences at Brand 33 was the coffee. It is a local brew, so kudos for that. But the flavor is bitter and highly acidic and needs plenty of doctoring with cream and sugar before it's palatable.
Dining options in Sisters are becoming more plentiful, which is a good thing. Between Jen's Garden, Kokanee Café, the Lodge at Suttle Lake, and now Brand 33, driving out of Bend on Highway 20 can mean more that just beautiful scenery - it can mean good food. A beautiful view, grand surrounding and an overall enjoyable dining experience is worth a trip to Sisters, even if your only iron has a steam setting.
16900 Aspen Lakes Dr (Sisters), 540-3663
Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri & Sat 8am-10pm, Sunday Brunch 10am-3pm