As soon as I scheduled my wine tasting trip to Willamette Valley, I took a look at the fine dining establishments in that area. And lo and behold, that's when I realized that The Joel Palmer House was there. I only know of The Joel Palmer House because I met the former chef, Jack Czarnecki, at the Fancy Food Show in DC as he was displaying his pinot sauces at one of the booths. So as soon as I saw that I would be staying very close to his restaurant, I reached out to him to find out if they might accommodate vegans to which he replied, "absolutely," and then offered to take me truffle hunting as well. Wow! I was so excited.
Come to find out that Jack Czarnecki is known to be an expert on truffles and The Joel Palmer House specializes in mushroom and truffle dishes. This was sounding like a dream come true. You might be wondering who the heck Joel Palmer is, as was I. He was one of Oregon's pioneers who co-founded the town of Dayton in 1848 and built his home in 1857, which is now where the restaurant is housed. In 1996, Jack Czarnecki purchased the Joel Palmer House and moved their restaurant there. In 2008, Jack retired and sold the business to his son Chris Czarnecki, who is now the current chef.
After spending the day truffle hunting with Jack, we arrived covered in dirt to this fancy restaurant. They allowed us to go upstairs to change into more suitable attire, then we were seated in one of the many dining areas. As a historic home, the grand pillars made it feel like you were dining in the White House, but inside it was nothing but cozy. They had a special menu planned for us and I was so excited for it to begin.
The amuse bouche consisted of three tartares. On the left was one made of cauliflower and white truffle oil, in the middle was one with carrots and black trumpet mushrooms, and on the right was one made of beets with black truffle oil. They were all so rich and flavorful.
They also served bread with a truffle-spread made with vegan butter and fresh truffles. My friend, Corey, couldn't keep his hands off of it.
For the wine, we had heard they had one of the most impressive wine lists in the area and we would agree. After speaking to their famous sommelier, we chose a 2007 Ken Wright red wine from the Canary Hill Vineyards. Loved this wine.
For the first course, we had a mushroom soup with tofu puree. It had an incredibly earthy flavor with a creamy puree. I seriously could have stopped at this course.
For the second course, we were served compressed honeydew topped with pickled radishes and set in avocado oil. For the watermelon ball, they compressed it in a vacuum sealer. The olive oil lemon sorbet was made with liquid nitrogen. Then there was the truffle powder. This was a neat way for the chef to show off his molecular gastronomy skills.
As a palate cleanser, we had a candy cap mushroom sorbet with rhubarb caviar. By this point, we were so impressed with the flavor pairings, we just couldn't wait to see what was coming next.
For the third course, we were served one of the most amazing dishes of the night. Thick black and white quinoa cakes were served in a red bell pepper couli and topped with porcini mushrooms, hazelnuts, and shaved truffles. The entire meal was just bursting with flavor as the quinoa soaked up the coulis and added sweetness to the hearty cakes. On the side were fava beans with diced onions.
The fourth course was a mish-mash of a bunch of different things presented on a slate. There was a delicious garbanzo bean hummus and a strawberry peach roll-up. Kiwi was served in a thinly sliced pineapple slice with pomegranate seeds. There was pickled asparagus and rhubarb. And best of all, was the hazelnut brittle.
As if that wasn't enough, next we were served a rich porcini risotto with white truffles topped with a morel mushroom stuffed with asparagus and bell pepper puree. It was like this unexpected amazingness!
Lastly we enjoyed a butternut squash and candy cap mushroom pie with a candy rum snowball on top and a candy cap mushroom.
By the end of the meal, we were just blown away. For every course, Chris came out and told us about each item and it was clear he had put a lot of thought into these vegan dishes which were all off-menu. From start to finish, we were amazed at the unusual flavor pairings and impressed with the complexity of the dishes. The wine was incredibly good as well. For $65 per person, this meal was incredibly reasonable and I would highly recommend a visit to this restaurant to complement your visit to the wine country. I only hope I will have the honor to return sometime soon.
The Joel Palmer House
600 Ferry Street
Dayton, OR 97114