The road winds through the forest beneath the lofty green canopy of hundred-foot ponderosas. The one-lane bridge over the creek is like a threshold into another world. Then you spot The Suttle Lodge, its massive timbers and national parkitecture fitting the environs perfectly.
At the hefty front doors, the giant carved wood slabs depict the lake, mountains, deer, a life-size swooping eagle and a Native American dancer, all created by artist J. Chester “Skip” Armstrong. Armstrong has said his goal was “to reawaken your soul to the primal energy and life force of earth-based imagery.”
The mile-and-a-half long Suttle Lake laps at the shore as you make way to your base, where you can get cozy, start unwinding and embark on a weekend adventure—this time, a culinary one.
Here in the middle of the forest this spring at The Suttle Lodge and Boathouse, some of America’s best chefs are swooping in like the eagle on the front door, each making the journey to create a multi-course dinner inspired by the surroundings.
Earlier this year, Chef Ben Sukle arrived from Providence, Rhode Island, where his restaurant, birch, was named one of the fifty best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit in 2016. At a handful of long, rustic tables around the fireplace, locals joined guests from around Oregon and the country, sipping cava (a sparkling wine from Spain) while vinyl spun on a vintage record-player console. Each course, served family-style, enhanced the conviviality.
“Restaurants have such an easy platform to reach people,” Sukle said. “They aren’t just about keeping people from starving, they are cultural meeting places, integral to the community and dinners like this reinforce that.”
We passed platters of roasted Hama Hama oysters with cream, dill and pork fat and discovered we also shared a mutual friend with others at the table. Next came the Painted Hills beef tartar with umami-heightening mushrooms foraged by Sukle’s aunt and uncle who traveled from Coos Bay, and had nurtured Sukle’s interest in food as a boy.
When the Dungeness crab salad with preserved, sweet habanada pepper and ginger dressing made the rounds, I was certain I’d met another woman at the table before. After the steelhead salmon with Portuguese, spicy-sweet piri piri sauce and winter greens, we realized she was my dentist. Dessert, Portuguese egg tarts, citrus punctuating the sweet, creamy custard, were en route, so guests took a few minutes out on the deck, watching the moonlight reflect on the lake.
Strolling the path to their cabins, guests vowed to make another reservation soon. They weren’t alone. It had been Sukle’s first trip to Central Oregon, but he intended to return. “You come out here and feel these endorphin rushes from these giant trees,” he said. “I want to come back.”
Stay and Play
The Suttle Lodge offers eleven lodge rooms, a few lakeside cabins with kitchens and bathrooms, and a handful of rustic cabins. The lodge and the Boathouse restaurant are your source for food and amenities.
The lake is central to the experience here, no matter the season. Stroll, hike, mountain bike or ski around the mostly flat, three-and-a-half-mile trail around the lake, formed by a glacier 25,000 years ago. Kokanee (tasty land-locked salmon) may be biting as early as March.
At the nearby Hoodoo Ski Area, grab free-heel skis for a day of lessons, stories and Nordic culture, March 9, or check out Spring Fling pond skimming, April 11.