Carman Ranch hosts foodiefest

<I>Chuck Anderson/Chieftain</I><BR>Chefs prepare Plate &?Pitchfork dinner in a pasture on the Carman Ranch in Wallowa.

Chefs came from Portland. Tables were set with white tablecloths. Some 96 discerning guests paid $150 apiece to take part.

And all of it took place in a rural pasture in the shadow of the Wallowa Mountains.

While much of Wallowa County was celebrating mules or watching a couple thousand bicyclists roll through the area, 96 Oregon food enthusiasts - most from west of the Cascades ­- gathered at Carman Ranch in Wallowa to dine al fresco Saturday, Sept. 11.

It was the final dinner of the season and the first ever in eastern Oregon in a program known as Plate & Pitchfork.

For eight years, foodies have traveled around the Portland metro area to experience locally grown food right on the farm.

Earlier this summer, Plate & Pitchfork organized dinners in Hillsboro, St. Paul, Dayton and Forest Grove.

Rancher Cory Carman invited the group to Wallowa to try Wallowa Valley grass-fed beef. The meal was prepared by chefs Pascal Sauton and Aaron Dionne and confectioner Faith Dionne.

Stein Distillery of Joseph and Bethel Heights Vineyard of Salem provided refreshment with appetizers at an introductory reception. The guests then took a tour of the ranch, famed for careful stewardship of the land as much as for its Herefords.

The menu emphasized the beef. It included beef tongue fritter and beef heart and potato churrasco appetizers, steak tartare with poached quail egg, braised short ribs with garlic and ginger, and rosemary- and olive oil-marinated strip steak. Stein raspberry cordial was served with dessert.

Cory Carman is the latest generation of her family to manage the ranch, founded by her great-grandfather, Fritz Weinhard, who forsook brewing for ranching in 1913.

Plate & Pitchfork's 2011 schedule isn't set yet, but will be posted at (www.plateandpitchfork.com).

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