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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Meatfest Returns to Bend

Meatfest Returns to Bend

Judging from the attendees’ comments, the thirteenth installment of my little summer barbeque was once again a hit. The food always seems to range from great to amazing, and it never ceases to amaze me that the guests seem to come up with wonderfully tasty new creations every year. I vary the meat and what I make from year to year, but I really think it’s your contributions that make it such a memorable event.  

After two years in the Bay Area (our last two years there, if there’s a God in heaven), we’re once again back in our beautiful house off the river in Bend, Oregon. We have two guest bedrooms and can easily accommodate a couple more by putting inflatable beds in one of the offices or the massage room. Risa’s bedroom served as my sister’s room for the first night of her stay, and she then moved into the bigger guest suite after Angela, Nicole and Rebecca headed home to the Bay Area and North Carolina, respectively. So, our guest count varied from three, to four, to one, over the course of a week.


I’ve written extensively about the unpredictable nature of our weather up here in the high desert of Central Oregon. While it’s mainly a moderate climate with four distinct seasons, it can and has snowed on the fourth of July. The snowfall is generally close to the published average of thirty-two inches a season, but in the five years we’ve lived here we’ve seen it range from fifteen to over seventy inches. Like sharks, the only thing that’s predictable about our weather is that it’s unpredictable. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that there was a little wind and chill on the day of the annual big barbeque. It was a hundred degrees a week earlier, and just over sixty on Meatfest Sunday. Typical, as always. 


Meatfest was always a Memorial Day event in the Bay Area, and we continued this tradition our first year in Bend. But given the fact that it snowed the day before the BBQ, and was chilly and drizzly on Memorial Day Sunday, we opted to move it to the other end of the summer in the subsequent years, where we assumed we’d have a better chance at good weather. Sometimes we luck out, and sometimes we don’t. I’m thinking seriously of moving it to a non-holiday weekend in late July next year. Maybe the law of averages will swing in my favor, and I’ll actually have some sunny summer weather! 


But the weather never makes a huge difference in my guests having a good time. And this year was no exception. The house is big enough for people to come inside if they’re cold, so we had pockets of people all around the yard searching out the elusive patches of sunshine, as well as in the living and family rooms, and of course in my kitchen. Many of you know I’m working on a book titled “Out of My Kitchen,” and this event is a good illustration of the duality of the title. It documents all the meals, friendships, and experiences that have come out of my time in the kitchen, and of course emphatically requests that people generally refrain from being in my kitchen while I’m preparing their meals. 


A notable exception during this year’s event was my friend Nicole, who completed pastry school last year. It must become second nature for anyone who spends time in a kitchen with multiple chefs, to learn how to do your thing and maneuver yourself around the other chefs. Nicole managed to prepare a tray of cheesecake, which she transformed into the most delectable “chocolate cheesecake lollypops,” and an amazing apple pie with a perfect homemade crust. These went quickly, and there were no leftovers. 


Our guests brought some incredible side dishes this year. Very inventive salads seemed to dominate … pastas, chicken, fingerling potatoes, orzo and more. Several people brought desserts, and these too were total hits. Nice to see people cook, particularly the ones who don’t do a lot of it. Good for you!  


Meatfest meats are usually my contribution, but this year also featured Chris’ incredible Spice Crusted Salmon. This is a dish that she graciously let me borrow several years ago, and I make it many times a year. She cooked two huge salmon fillets, and they were devoured. Once again … no leftovers. 


I cooked tri-tips, a whole pork tenderloin, chicken, and a huge pot of chili. The tri-tips were tenderized with the Jaccard tenderizer (couldn’t live without it!), marinated in my Rubbit dry rub, and cooked on the charcoal BBQ with a mop of Rubbit, apple cider, Lea & Perrins, and tomato paste. The pork tenderloin was marinated in Penzey’s BBQ 3000 dry rub, smoked in the Big Chief smoker for 2 1/2 hours with four types of wood chips, then cooked off-heat in the BBQ. The chicken was marinated overnight in tandoori spice, and I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. Kind of bland, probably needed some liquid marinade. 


The chili was a tad spicy, but it got rave reviews. A combination of Anaheim, pasilla, jalapeno, serrano, and habanero chilis (only two of the latter) were sweated down, along with a couple Walla Walla onions. Spices included several chili powders, cayenne pepper (in moderation), oregano, and of course lots of cumin. Early in the process, it seemed like this may be too spicy for the general population, but it mellowed just enough over the course of the day and turned out perfect. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge what “spicy” means to a large group, but I didn’t see anyone running for cold water, and people were highly complementary. Successful batch of chili!


I do something that’s arguably a tad strange when I put on events like this. After spending the bulk of two days doing the prep work, then testing the chili and meats as I go, by the time I have the meats cut and placed on platters, I’m commonly ready to park and enjoy a martini. I eventually had a small bowl of chili (because it really was good), but I almost never prepare a full plate of food for myself. I imagine everyone put on a little weight during the event … I lost three pounds. Interesting. 


This event is always fun, and the biggest reason is the guests who grace us with their presence. The crowd varies from year to year … some people have been to many of these, and there’s always a few newbies. This year was no exception; we had visitors from California and North Carolina, and a good many of our local friends from the Bend area. I believe the count was around 35 this year, which is about average. I had 75 one year in San Jose, and all three of my current bands also played for the entire event. Thirty-five and no band was nice, as it gave me a chance to spend some quality time with each of these wonderful people. 


It’s great being home in Bend. As I mentioned at the outset, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever move out of this area again. The mountains, river, relatively slower pace, four seasons (unpredictable as they surely are), and the amazing group of friends we’ve amassed up here, has totally won us over. I’m so grateful that family members and friends continue to visit from California and elsewhere, and I’m always happy to provide them a place to stay, and hopefully cook some good meals for them. It’s what I do, and I enjoy playing host. There still may be a B&B in the future … who knows. But for now, I’m content to be back in the big house by the river, and able to entertain friends and family in relatively nice style. 


Thanks to everyone who attended and contributed to the incredible array of food. We’ll of course see most of you with some regularity, and you can all look forward to next year’s Evite for Meatfest 14 … quite likely in July!


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