Monday, April 17, 2006

The Westside Cafe & Bakery

The Westside Cafe & Bakery --

The Westside Cafe in Bend, Oregon, is such a fantastic place. I have so many memories built into this restaurant, and even a "personal" belonging that makes me feel as if I have a vested interest in it's success.

It all started back in 1991, when I cashed in on a car accident and bought a house a few places behind the Westside Cafe (asking price? $82,000). The house was a disaster, as were most of the homes back in the day on the west side of Bend. Nonetheless, it was perfect for my best friend and I -- and then for our newest roommate, Chris.

Chris and I had met at Mt.Bachelor, and had snowboarded together almost every day for a few months. He was a habitual sofa surfer that sometimes ended up in our living room. I finally told him to pay up or move on, and so it came to be that he was our "Laundry Boy".

He'd sleep in our laundry room on a roll-a-bed that he had stolen from a local motel, with just enough room to sleep and stand in the same room. His rent? Fifty bucks a month.

The only bathroom in the house was between the two actual bedrooms, and so Chris would have to walk through either my roommate's room or mine to get to it. Both my roommate and I were in the service industry, and we always had our cash tips from the night before just sitting out in plain view. Every morning, Chris would mosey on through one of our rooms to get to the bathroom, and on his way out would wake us up with "Can I have a dollar for a bagel?"

We were usually too annoyed to say no, and he'd swipe a buck (or two) off of our dressers to buy a bagel at the Westside Cafe on his way to hitchhiking up to Mt.Bachelor.

One morning, after a long night of drinking PBR, I got irritated with his cheapness, and said "Chris? Every morning we give you a dollar for your stupid bagel, and you're only paying us fifty bucks for rent! That means that after we pay you a buck every day, you're only really paying twenty bucks to live here, and that a'int cuttin' it! You're such a... a.....



He was named. And "Bagler" he was from there on.

After the offical naming, Bagler began getting creative with the menu at the Westside Cafe. He was pretty friendly with the servers and the cooks, and began creating his own menu items.

See, if you ordered the eggs and cottage potatoes separately it would cost $7. BUT, if he got his favorite server, he'd order the 2 eggs scrambled ($2) and say that he wanted only a few potatoes thrown in, not a whole side. They'd never charge him. Then he asked for some cheese "just lightly sprinkled on top". No problem, they said. Then, "...and maybe some onions for flavor, sweetie" and the gal would just nod and smile.

After a couple of weeks, Bagler was eating a plate full of eggs, potatoes, onions, cheese, peppers and other tasty ingredients for only two bucks a plate! It was ridiculous.

Thus, Bagler began sleeping with the waitress that helped to create this special dish, and all was good on the west side of Bend.

UNTIL --- Bagler, being the bagel-head that he was, started fooling around with the cute brunette from the Westside Tavern just across the street. Westside-Cafe-gal was having none of that, and the next time Bagler went in and tried to order his "usual", she told him "It's on the menu. Right there, see? The HOBO!"

Oh! The way he told the story just brought me to tears! Hysterical! Yes, Bagler was a mooch, and he dressed like a sloppy snowboard bum, so I guess he could quite possibly be mistaken for a hobo. And so a breakfast was named! And it's been on the menu ever since.

Every time I go to the Westside Cafe, I tell the story to whomever I'm dining with, and have a great laugh.

Yet... on a sad note....

A few years back I was in Police Academy, and working my first training shift at the Deschutes County Jail. I was concentrating on being tough, straight-faced, and quiet - which is hard to do being a talkative, friendly-looking gal.

There was this crazy-looking guy who kept waving at me through the plexi-window of his block, trying to get my attention. My Commanding Officer commented, "Looks like you're going to be popular - you've already got a fan club."

The guy looked familiar, so I said, "What's that guy in for?" and he said, "Who? Bagler?"

My jaw dropped, and yes - it was Chris. I was able to talk to him briefly a week later, and he gave me the quick rundown on his eventual slide into drug use and criminal activity. He sounded apologetic, yet I know better. He never got over being that cool, snowboarder guy that jumped from girl to girl. What a bummer.

My last shift during training at the jail, I pulled a few strings and brought him a Hobo breakfast from the Westside Cafe. He smiled and cried at the same time after opening the to-go lid and seeing what was inside. His namesake.

I sure miss Chris - it's "Bagler" I can do without.

Friday, March 17, 2006


It was the Bend Chamber of Commerce Annual Recognition Dinner last night, and I was privleged enough to rub elbows with the high-society that Bend has recently created with it's population boom. Whatever. I was there for the food, and then outta there!

I arrived (purposefully) late to the mingling session across the walkway from the Great Hall, and meandered into the dining area. The tables were already set, and I must say, I was impressed.

Very nice. The salad was a roma tomato, hollowed out and stuffed with baby romaine and a parmesan-encrusted crouton. This was set atop a balsamic reduction alongside a few other slivered vegetables. Tiny, and probably for sheer presentation factor. The table also was set with dessert, which I had to wait to eat, as I was sitting with socialites, remember?

After the salad, we were served a set menu dish of New York Steak and Salmon, along with mashed potatoes and broccolini spears. Fancy shmancy, eh? The steak was raw, so I traded my dining partner his salmon for the rest of my steak. Just like kindergarten lunchtime.

The salmon was good, although a bit overdone. I guess if I were preparing over 400 salmon dinners, I might overcook a few, too. No harm done, it was fine. The mashed potatoes were a cold, crusty ball of starch which I steered clear of, and the broccolini was al-dente and enjoyed thoroughly.

Dessert was a nutty crusted pecan torte of sorts, and was delicious! It had a white chocolate spear that was perfection, and everyone at the table ate every bite. The only annoyance were the little "sponsor flags" set in the torte. Why on earth would I be persuaded to use David Evans & Associates because their silly little flag was in my dessert? I only knew their name just now because I brought the flags home to stick in a dinner that I make for my husband in the future (I'm thinking April Fool's Day?). I know that he'll find them a nice touch the next time I make Rouladen. Right.

Not that it has anything to do with a food review, I have to mention a bit more about the event itself. The Bend Chamber Recognition Dinner. Just the name should clue you about what it entailed. Everyone slapping each other on the back, shaking hands with faces with no names, and congratulating each other for jobs well done. Everyone is talking about everyone else's business, and the women are all racing to the restrooms with their safety-buddy to gossip about the garish outfits that the other women are wearing. Silly kids. I couldn't believe how much chest-puffing and hot air was going on in that room. When name-removed-for-privacy won an award and after walking on stage pulled a NOTE CARD out of his suit jacket with a list of "I'd like to thank the Academy" statements, I about lost it. Please. We live in Bend, Oregon, not Los Angeles, not New York, and not Las Vegas. Bend. It used to be humble, now it's in a race to be pretentious. Alright, I'm done.

All in all, I believe Sunriver to do a great job of group catering. The service is good, the food is above par, and the atmosphere is outstanding. The company I could've done without. I think that next year I'll wear a top cut down to 'there' and give them something to talk about.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bend Fish Market

The Bend Fish Market --

Finally, a place to buy fresh fish besides Newport Avenue Market! Nothing against NAM except the price -- OUCH! I love fresh fish, and finding seafood smack dab in the middle of Oregon has been a bit of a problem since I moved here about fifteen years ago.

The Bend Fish Market opened recently in the old Blimpies location, on Revere, across the street from Blockbuster Video. It was opened by a Eugene proprieter that saw the potential of this area, yet wasn't afraid of being located outside of downtown. With a niche product like seafood, they couldn't lose! They offer about 8 to 10 different options of fresh fish, each brought in DAILY by truck from the coast. The truck stops at his Eugene location first, then off to Bend each day. This is the real deal, kids. Halibut, Opakapaka, Crab, Grouper, Monkfish, Oysters, Clams, Tuna, Cod, Scallops, Shrimp, Snapper.... and then to top it off, a full menu to choose from of ready-to-eat items. Their menu is varied to please everyone, from halibut fish n' chips to ahi poke. The fish tacos were to die for, hand battered and served with crunchy slaw and salsa. We've since tried their Halibut, Ahi, Scallops, Snapper, Cod, Opakapaka and Monkfish for their fresh fish to-go, and also many to-go containers of the fresh ahi poke options. Fantastic! Their fresh Ahi Tuna is priced at about $19 per pound, versus Newport Avenue Market's $24.99 per pound, so it's more affordable as well.They've set up a live crab tank, and keep keep it full of fiesty pinchers. Even without the tank, I'll still be a regular at this new market.

I just wish they had a punch card, like DiLusso Bakery -- buy 11 pounds, the 12th is free!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Toomies, Bend Oregon --

If you aren't familiar with Toomie's, then you haven't lived in Bend for any length of time.

Toomie's was one of the few ethnic restaurants back in "the day" that took a chance on Bend and opened their doors. Since then, more and more people are beginning to appreciate the unique flavor and style that they bring to the table, so to speak.

Prior to choosing our restaurant for dinner, DH and I had the same back-and-forth that you have had many times with your significant other:

"Mexican? Seafood? Italian? Do you want to go downtown? Is there anything new we haven't tried?"

Bam! Toomie's. We hadn't been there in almost a year, and it was due time.

We arrived early, about 6 o'clock on a weekday evening. We were one of two tables seated for about a half an hour.

Our server was prompt, and offered drinks and appetizers. I asked him to bring us whatever appetizer was his favorite, and a glass of spicy red wine.

After our wine, we were soon served a plate of spring rolls that were out of this world! With crunchy vegetables, diced peanuts, and other secret ingredients rolled firmly in a rice paper wrap and a fresh mint flavor, we dipped and ate until they were all gone. YUM!

Our entrees appeared, and I was a bit intimidated. It was ALOT of food, and I'm always wary of food in mass quantities at a restaurant that isn't JJ North's All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

Oh, was I wrong.

My entree was delicious -- spicy, yet sweet with flavor. Perfectly cooked shrimp, crisp veggies, and a stir-fry sauce of some sort to die for, tossed with flat pan-cooked noodles. It was the best thing on the menu, in my opinion. Yet, DH decided that HIS was the best thing on the menu as well, so we kept switching plates. We finally agreed that it was a tie... and we also agreed that it was a shame we didn't frequent Toomie's more often.

We asked for boxes, and wrapped up two more meals worth of left-overs. Then, the ultimate.

Warning: South-Beach diet readers, press your "Back" button now.


Never, ever, have I been so in love with a dessert. DH ordered the fried bananas and coconut icecream. Now how can that be even remotely OK to eat? Regardless, the presentation was impressive, and it FORCED me to try a bite.

Sweet bananas in a crisp batter, deep-fried and topped with powdered sugar. Hot and sweet, and served with a mellow, fresh coconut-flavored icecream sprinkled with deep fried coconut shavings.

It was SO wrong. Look at this!!!!

That is not a human-sized portion of a dessert that delicious.

We rolled out of Toomie's, then walked to Pave Fine Jewelry about two doors down. Great food, an even better dessert, then to top it off I get to go shopping at my favorite jewelry store?

What's the catch?

Toomie's. Get in there as soon as possible!

My dish: $12
DH's entree: $13.95
2 glasses wine: $13
Dessert: $5
Bill: $43.95
Tip: $15.00
Total: $58.95 (and with two lunches and one dinner for left-overs!)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

DiLusso Bakery, Bend Oregon

DiLusso Bakery, Bend Oregon --

I love bread, so therefore, I love DiLusso. There are many pop-up bakeries in town now, each pitching their own take on bread, each proclaiming itself to be the best, and yet none can compare to DiLusso Bakery.

DiLusso began in Bend in the early 90's, with the orginal owners selling their loaves door to door to downtown restaurant owners. I remember Kim, one of the owners, pregnant out to HERE, hauling a big basket of baguettes on Wall Street. She offered me a taste, and broke off a tip of a loaf that was just pulled out from an oven somewhere. I told her it was some of the best bread I'd ever had, and I wasn't just trying to be nice to the little woman with the big belly and big basket of bread.Since then, DiLusso has made a name for itself, and is now served in all of the fine dining establishments in Central Oregon. It is also sold at Newport Avenue Market and Wild Oats Market, alongside other vendors loaves. It amazes me that someone would choose the La Brea Bakery loaf, or the Village Baker loaf over a DiLusso Baguette or Ciabatta. Once you try a DiLusso brand, you'll understand.DiLusso has a retail outlet as well, located on Galveston Avenue up the street from the Westside Cafe. Fresh, homemade soups, delicious sandwiches, big salads, and free wireless internet, along with a full coffee bar makes this location my favorite. Try the Kalamata Olive Ciabatta, the original baguette, or the Rosemary pull-aparts if you're taking a loaf home. The house-made desserts are awesome, too.

This is the devil's playground, kids, not for the weary at heart or the Atkin's faithful. Splurge a little! You only live once, and if I had a final meal, DiLusso bread would be a part of it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pizzicato, Bend Oregon

Pizzicato, Bend Oregon --

Pizzicato is here, and it's good. If you love a true thin-crust pizza, crusty and crunchy, you'll love Pizzicato. If you're a thick-crust, Chicago-style pizza person, well, get lost. Chicago-style lovers don't belong here. :o) Alright, maybe if you're FROM Chicago you can appreciate deep pan pizza, but everyone else has to love thin, crunchy crusts.

Pizzicato has opened in the Pizza Shmitza location in the Ray's Foodplace Shopping Center on Bend's Westside. Terrible location, but if they can get enough people to try their offerings, they'll do fine. Their pizzas are unique and varied, and a bit spendy. Click here for their menu

While I love their pizzas, I can't wait to try the panini sandwiches. Their salads are huge and delicious as well. I've tried the pear and blue cheese salad, and it blew Crouton's similar fare out of the water!

Arugula Pear Salad $4.00
Slice of Cheese $2.00
Pelligrino Water $1.50
Bill $7.50
Tip Jar $2.50

Total for lunch $10.00

Monday, January 23, 2006

East Bend Liquor Store

East Bend Liquor Store, Bend Oregon --

It's not fine dining, but it's certainly worth a mention. Besides, some people claim that liquor is a main food group.... The Eastside Liquor Store is the finest liquor store in Bend, with the largest selection, and the best deals to be had. Mark, the owner, takes pride in keeping his store in stock of the finest brands, and also those bottles that are hard to find. The best holiday gifts are found here, too, with your favorite brands packaged with matching glasses or shakers. Not only that, but there's all kinds of trinkets, glassware, and mixers to shop. It's not just the bare basics like most Liquor outlets in this state.

I hate going to the original location in the Wagner Mall now, and will go out of my way to visit Mark's store instead. I had to go to the Northside store just recently, and was so irritated that I left in a PMS huff. First, they didn't have my favorite rum. Then, I decided to buy something new and couldn't reach the top shelf. I asked for help, and the oily woman behind the counter rolled her eyes at me, then told me that she wasn't much taller. "Yes," I said. "But do you have a stepstool in the back that I might use?" What a pain in the ass I must have been to ask for this, because it took another five minutes to find one. Sorry to make you haul your butt into your disorganized back room to find a stool to stand on to help a customer purchase a TOP SHELF LIQUOR!!! I almost walked out without purchasing the rum, but she pulled it off the shelf and walked it over to the register herself, as if I were going to run out the door with it.

I followed her, and as she rang it up, I commented that I had to go the Eastside Liquor Store for other brands that they didn't carry. She just nodded.

I'll tell you what... if I had said that in front of Mark at the Eastside location, he would've whipped out his notepad and not only wrote down the names of those brands, but my name and phone number to contact me at when he got those bottles in stock. I was so irritated with the Wagner Mall liquor store that when I left, I swore that I would never step foot in there again, regardless of the hurry that I might be in.

So here's to Mark and his Eastside Bend Liquor Store! Keep up the great work!