But what are the current trends? Have you recognized a proliferation of anything in particular lately? Those were the questions bouncing around the Source Weekly offices recently as the Restaurant Guide 2023 was being curated.
Local dining and community tops the “10 Hot Trends for 2023” compiled by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with the American Culinary Federation. Also in that top 10 list are comfort fare and sustainability. It’s really no surprise that Bend is in line with those current national trends; we’ve long been a progressive community in so many ways.
We’re proclaiming the 2023 Top Food & Drink Trends for Bend to be: Authentic Italian cuisine (comfort food), sustainability and wine.
Italian food in BendWhat could be more comforting than a big bowl of pasta? Thanks to Juri Sbandati and his restaurant Trattoria Sbandati, Bendites have been enjoying authentic Italian cuisine since 2009. Now, suddenly it seems, we have even more Italian dining options. And we’re talking traditional Italian fare versus straight up Italian-American food such as fettuccine alfredo or chicken parmigiana.
Examples include Bosa Food & Drink (opened summer 2021) and their offerings of Bigoli Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper pasta from Rome) and their bone-in ribeye which compares to the traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) served throughout Florence, Italy. Then there’s the Reginette Wild Boar Ragu pasta on the menu at Nome Italiano (opened early 2022) along with the Pizza Tartufo Autunnale featuring truffle oil and fontina cheese (first produced in Italy).
Back to Sbandati’s for a moment and the Antipasto Toscano, a charcuterie board featuring Italian-cured meats with grilled bread and the Piatto Di Formaggi Misti, a selection of imported D.O.P. Italian cheeses served with jam and aged balsamic from Modena. I mention this because charcuterie boards still rank in the top three trends on the Restaurant Association’s 2023 list. It’s not a separate trend for Bend, per se, but worth a mention within the local Italian trend.
Another fairly new Italian restaurant opened downtown on Bond Street right before the pandemic hit in 2020. One of the dinner menu items at Salute’ Ristorante Italiano is the Ragu ala Cinghiale (wild boar) with braised Berkshire pork, ragu and spinach. Again, just another indicator of the authentic Italian cuisine dominating the current culinary scene in our town.
SustainabilityNext up on the local trend list is sustainability. Customers are caring more and more about how menus fit with the environment, sustainable farming practices, packaging and less food waste. A couple of local eateries deserve a shout-out in this category and they are Mountain Burger in Northwest Crossing and A Broken Angel food cart. Both are vocal and transparent with their sustainability efforts.
Mountain Burger opened last September and is on a mission to reinvent the iconic American burger joint. It offers locally sourced ingredients, meat and plant-based alternatives and the restaurant has a Climate Action Plan with the ambitious goal of getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2025.
Bend’s Original vegan food cart, A Broken Angel, is now located behind The Pantry on NW Newport Avenue and still serves plant-based food which has its own earth-friendly benefits. But the cart also focuses on sustainability including plastic-free food service. The cart serves “for here” meals as much as they can and uses compostable packaging plus do as much food composting as possible. They refer to the catering side of their business as sustainable catering.
Bend as a wine townThat brings us to trend number three, wine. As reported in a Source Weekly cover story earlier this year, Bend is pushing beyond its beer town image with an emerging wine scene. In the past half dozen years, at least half a dozen wineries have opened tasting rooms in Bend. Numerous wine bars have also popped up and there’s no sign of a wine slow down. The most recent announcement came in early May with Willamette Valley Vineyards announcing its expansion into Bend. The historic E.A. Sather Building downtown is currently under renovation with plans to open as Willamette’s new wine tasting room and restaurant by this fall.
Willamette Valley will be joining the likes of Domaine Serene, Bledsoe Family Wines, Stoller, The Winery at Manzanita, Va Piano and Evoke Winery who all also have tasting rooms in Bend. Other local wine bars include FERM & fare, Flights Wine Bar, The Good Drop Wine Shoppe, Portello Winecafe and Viaggio Wine Merchant, to name a few. Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards in Terrebonne also has a tasting room and host other wine-centric events, while Maragas Winery in Culver is making old-world, hand-crafted barrel-aged wine while farming organically and using sustainably farmed natural cork and solar energy.
The power of food to transform individuals as well as entire communities was driven home in Mark Winne’s book, “Food Town, USA,” which came out a few years ago. He outlined how food can be used to attract people and businesses to a region while at the same time taking care of people in a community and improving quality of life. Whatever current food trends we have happening in our hometown are just the cherry on top of the food scene that is rapidly becoming a pillar of our local economy, both economic and humanitarian. Buon appetito!