The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse, which opened in August 2016 on Suttle Lake in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters, Oregon, is 15.5 acres of pure heaven.
The rustic lodge, where I stayed recently at the invitation of Travel Oregon, is like the most perfect, magical summer camp for adults anyone could dream up. Ok, it’s not a camp. And it’s not just for adults. But it is perfect and magical for anyone who loves the outdoors but cannot do without great food and service and, yes, cocktails.
If I had a lodge, this would be it. Imagine your every summer camp and mountain lodge fantasies with a kick-ass bar program and food to live for. Insane food. The best cheeseburger. Fried trout sandwich. Fried zucchini. Junk food that isn't; if I had a restaurant, The Boathouse would be it.
There's a beer window. Canoes to rent. A massive deck. A fantastic cocktail bar. A turntable in the lobby, which is more of a living room. All on a lake in a forest, all with design work that is spot-on. Guests can stay in the massive timber lodge or rent a large, fully-equipped lakeside cabin, like a cottage really. Or a rustic little camping cabin, which is like going camping without having to camp.
Everywhere you look, there are indoor and outdoor public spaces to enjoy in the name of creating community; enjoying the active or the not-so-active lake life as guests choose; and partaking in the fab food of Chef Joshua McFadden (the chef and owner of Ava Gene’s in Portland, Oegon) and killer cocktails from Sean Hoard (of Portland’s The Commissary).
The scenery is reason enough to go to Suttle Lodge. But the culinary magic of McFadden is some serious icing on the cake. Formerly of New York City’s Lupa, Momofuku, and Blue Hill, McFadden has also managed the Four Season Farm in Maine. His inspiring cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, shows off his veggie prowess. He is doing all sorts of mouthwatering things at Suttle Lodge’s restaurants.
Here’s McFadden on all things delicious and what inspires him and his mesmerizing menus.
The Daily Meal: From where did your love of all things culinary develop?
Chef Joshua McFadden: My grandmother had a small garden when I was growing up, and she was really good at cooking simple things. I picked rhubarb with her in the garden, which is one of my first food memories.
What would you say is your overarching food philosophy?
Sourcing is the most important thing. A lot of great cooking is based on nostalgia, but a bowl of pasta now is so much better now because of the ingredients we have access to.
How would you describe the food culture and the culinary scene in Central Oregon?
I think it’s evolving.
How would you describe the vibe at The Boathouse?
Lake vibes. We make the food we want to eat in the setting of a lake in the woods: freshwater fish, burgers, and local produce. Food you want to eat on vacation when you wake up from a nap.
Can you tell readers a bit about your menus, including the inspiration behind them and what you are hoping to achieve with their offerings?
Nostalgic food that’s like a better version of summer camp, or what you’d like to eat around the fire in an old ski lodge.
What are some of your personal favorite menu items?
At The Boathouse, the fish & chips sandwich: a whole side of trout is potato chip-crusted and fried, served with tartar sauce and iceberg lettuce on a steamed bun. So delicious.
We’re all about the Lodge Sauce on everything. It’s our version of a ranch dressing, and we serve it with the fried vegetables (currently delicata squash), crunchy vegetables, and it’s so good on curly fries and onion rings.
In the lodge, my favorites are the toasted cracker crust pizzas and Grandpa’s Burger. Grandpa’s Burger is the burger my grandpa used to make me as a kid whenever I asked for something from McDonald’s. It’s a griddled patty with American cheese, ketchup, mustard, and griddled onion.
What are some of your favorite ingredients and/or cooking styles to experiment with right now?
I’m really obsessed with amazing greens that come around, heirloom varieties, as well as all of the different varieties of apples we have in Oregon, tree nuts, and squash.
This summer, The Boathouse is hosting an outdoor dinner series where guests will have the chance to dine on the lakefront dock and lawn under the Orgeon star-filled sky. The series includes the Six Season's Book Dinner with Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s and Bow & Arrow Wines on Sunday, July 23rd at 7:00pm; the Sturgeon Moon Dinner with Mona Johnson and Jaret Foster of Tournant and Crowley Wines on Monday, August 7th at 8:00pm; and the Rattle Creek Meat Co. Dinner with Texas-style BBQ with GoodLife Brewing on Sunday, September 3 at 6:00pm. For more info on the dinners, visit the website.