The Resort at the Mountain in Welches, OR, has new ownership, and they're sinking $17 million into renovations for what they call a "hidden gem." Ensconced in the Mt. Hood wilderness and a short distance from nearly year-round skiing on Mt. Hood, the Resort has villas, suites, and guest rooms, along with golf courses, a pool, and other recreation. A full spa is due to open next year.
Moreover, they've got a new restaurant called Altitude, and a media dinner showcasing the talents of new Executive Chef Paul Bosch took place on Sunday, October 26. How did I get the task of going all the way out there to check it out for the Mercury?
Food Editor Patrick Coleman assigned it to me. "I need you to go way the fuck out to Welches," he slurred as he lurched towards my desk with bloodshot eyes. "Now get out of my office before I cut you!" he snarled, hurling his tumbler of whiskey at my head.
Okay, that part isn't true, but I did end up going way the fuck out to Welches for a free meal--no shame in that, right? I even dragged a friend along, which--in addition to the delightful company--turned out to be a useful move since she was very familiar with the Resort at the Mountain, having gone there every year for Thanksgiving with her family. The place is still in the throes of renovation, but the Altitude restaurant is all ready to go, replacing the staid, plaid, decidedly Scottish-themed eatery that was there before.
Altitude is totally fancy-pants, catering to the well-heeled who are looking for a sumptuous apres-ski meal with multiple courses and accompanying wine. And judging by the staged media dinner I went to, the upscale grub is pretty tasty as well--but keep in mind that everything I tried was for free, and they were ostensibly pulling out all the stops.
Highlights of the menu included: lava-salted nairagi (fancy-pants word for marlin, which is a fancy-pants kind of fish) served raw, or nearly raw; a robust duck sausage that's their chi-chi "version of a hot dog"; and a lightly seared buffalo short loin that was pink and softly tender. As you can surmise, the menu is heavily meat-centric, with a wintery sort of heartiness, although Bosch's goal is to change up the menu at all times based on what's fresh, what's local, and what's in season. This is probably a little harder to do out in the hinterland of Welches, although proximity to the bounty of Hood River orchards will probably keep the place stuffed to the gills with fresh fruit. Indeed, there was a lot of huckleberry on the menu, in a jam for the bread and in the dessert. Cocktail-wise, the Italian margarita, served with a shot of amaretto on the side, was unusual without any amazing results, but their hot buttered rum would make for an excellent winter warmer.
I got a brief look around the place, and it seems there's still a lot of work to be done, but the restaurant is ready to go. It's probably the best restaurant in the area but to be honest I have no idea what the competition is like, and unless I suddenly fall backwards into a bottomless pit of cash (it could happen!... right?) I probably wouldn't eat at Altitude under my own dime--it's 'xpensive, see? The dining room is pleasant, and very comfortable if not aesthetically remarkable, and I didn't see any innovation that isn't following some other Portland trend: a small plates menu, foie gras appearing in more than one setting, local/organic leanings... I'd say with a few more vegetarian options--there really are virtually none--this place could warrant a trip from Portland on its own for those with the scratch to burn, and the setting really does have a lot to offer.