As you make your way up old route 99 towards McMinnville, you are presented with great views, of farmland, with agricultural buildings and great old farmhouses from a time gone by — before there was Interstate 5 to get you from Eugene, or even Sacramento, to Portland in a hurry. You are reminded of a time when it was not uncommon to see farmers driving big contraptions that look like they came out of a Pixar film. A time when a slower pace was the norm, there was no processed food, no one ate fast food, ever, it didn’t exist.
Some of the towns along the route look like they may have seen better days when they weren’t bypassed by the hustle and bustle of daily life. That is, at least, until recently. With the burgeoning wine industry in the valley, people are rediscovering that the slower pace of life on the farm may not have been such a bad idea. There was just “the land” — there was no concept of “back to the land”, because no one had gone anywhere. Now we’ve all been to the “future.” The “future” involves endless cell phone calls, email, buying gas, standing in line, traffic, and lots of bad food. There is a little town along Route 99 that is a welcome retreat.
Amity is a distinctly rural town, with maybe one stop light, or maybe it’s just a crosswalk for the local kids to make their way back and forth to the little elementary school. Amity was the site of the first woolen mill in Oregon, and the first town in Oregon to ship wheat around Cape Horn to England. Established in 1848 by Joseph and Ahio S. Watt, brothers who had immigrated to Oregon over the Oregon Trail. A portion of Joseph’s land claim became the town site. The name “Amity” came from the name of the school that was built by two rival communities after reaching an amicable settlement of a dispute. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2000 there were 1,478 people in the town. Perhaps there are a few more by now, but not many.
The town looks like not much has gone on for some time, until recently. There is now a beautiful new store in the center of town, Amity Foods and Coffee House built by Chuck Lawrence. There is the very chic Cohelo Vineyards tasting room just off the main drag. There is a farm stand that caters to visitors and locals alike — take home a pie from the Blue Raeven Farm stand as you enter Amity from the south, and there is a restaurant on main street that could just as well be in “the big city.”
The restaurant is “The Blue Goat” — Amity’s newest upscale eatery. If you weren’t paying attention, you might just drive right by, but that would be a mistake. What a beautiful restaurant! The instant you walk in the door, it’s very clear that this is no ordinary place. All of the tables and chairs were built by owner Dave Van Domelen from reclaimed schoolhouse furniture and unique pieces of richly seasoned woods. The result is a fun, inviting and intimate cafe that says “welcome, good to see you, have a seat.”
Owners Cassie and Dave are both very creative and artistic, Dave’s talent as a woodworker surrounds you in the restaurant, Cassie is a painter, and most thankfully, a cook. When you arrive, you are greeted by Cassie’s painting of “The Blue Goat.” Once you settle in, you are greeted with Cassie’s wonderful food.
The Blue Goat has only been open since December first of last year, mere months. Things are going well. Originally, Dave had a notion to open just a pub – with local brew and snacks. Cassie and Dave live on 25 acres nearby and decided a full restaurant might be a good means to utilize some local farm products, from their own farm. Of course since opening their restaurant, there hasn’t been a lot of time for farming, but there’s no shortage of help in the area with fabulous local produce, meats, cheeses and of course, wines. Dave estimates the furthest distance from which they source their produce is about 20 miles. The menu even includes a veggie pizza with a wild harvested nettle pesto – very local, very good.
One of the things Dave is happy with is the on-site meat processing at the Blue Goat. On site processing means they are able to legally serve a medium-rare burger, hallelujah! In-house butchering also dictates the ever-changing menu. Meats are served at the peak of freshness, and when certain cuts are gone, they’re gone — until next time. And of course, goat is on the menu. Not a common meat in American restaurants, but very common in the rest of the world, goat is actually quite good done right, and at the Blue Goat, it’s done right. One of the featured items is a goat empanada (em·pa·na·da Noun: A Spanish or Latin American pastry turnover filled with a variety of savory ingredients and baked or fried.). While traveling in Latin America, Cassie became enamored with empanadas and has developed her own flakey, whole grain crust. Sometimes a whole grain crust can be a little heavy, but not at the Blue Goat, Cassie is to be applauded for the perfect balance she has struck between flakey, white pastry, and healthy whole grain — her empanada crust is outstanding.
A big key to the baked goods at The Blue Goat is the hand-built “earth oven” — like a brick oven, but made of earthen blocks, and clay. The oven in the Blue Goat is the centerpiece of the restaurant, and diners can watch things cooking to perfection. The oven was built by Kiko Denzer of Blodgett, OR. author of “Build Your Own Earth Oven.” Those familiar with Fireworks restaurant in Corvallis may have seen his work there. The oven is an interesting thing. When they arrive at the restaurant, the oven is still warm enough from the night before to bake the days bread, then when the bread comes out, the oven is stoked up again with more wood to bring the temperature up to bake the perfect empanadas, pizzas, and other menu items. Dave said when the oven was first built, it took some time to “season” it. The moisture content in the oven would not allow it to reach a higher temperature until the moisture was baked out of the earthen walls. Now, it’s “broken in” and ready to produce the kind of baked goods only possible with an earthen oven.
While visiting with Dave, Cassie brought out a few more of her delightful creations. I think the favorite among the samples was the oyster stew. Unlike other oyster stews with “plain old” oysters, the Blue Goat version has breaded, fried oysters in a delicious, creamy chowder-like stew and is seasoned with red pepper esplette, a paprika made from heirloom chilies and produced by Viridian Farm on Grand Island. The oyster stew is out of this world, a “must have.”
Cassie also presented a green salad with a light goat cheese. Of course, the greens were as though they had been picked just before arriving at the table, and the goat cheese was light and flavorful — just perfect.
Another of the Blue Goat “regulars” is the gnocchi, a pork sausage, spring radish, gouda cream sauce affair with house-made potato dumplings. Not surprisingly, this dish was also excellent — a perfect blend of comfort food, and fresh vegetable, with the slightly crisp, warm radish.
The wine list is extensive, and growing. Being in the heart of Oregon’s Wine Country, you can’t go wrong. Most wines are from local wineries and the beers are also mostly locally sourced from brewers such as Ninkasi in Eugene, and Seven Brides in Silverton. On tap, so to speak, for Spring and Summer are the Winemaker and Brewer dinners planned at the Blue Goat – sure to be a great success.
Summary: With the delightful interior, the rotating local art, the local beer and wine lists, and the top notch local fare, The Blue Goat is a definite must for anyone who likes to eat! Go there.
House Salad: $6
Oyster Stew: $6
Goat Empanada: $3
Blue Goat Burger: $10
Rhubarb Custard Cake: $6
Many gluten free options are available.
FIRST THURSDAY FARM DINNER
(First Thursday of each month)
Enjoy a four course family style dinner at the large farm table. Featuring special preparations of dishes not regularly on the menu. Share good food and conversation.
reservations required and limited to 14 seats (the capacity of the table) reservations must be made by the Wednesday before. Only $24 per person
Call ahead for Farm Table Dinners, or just stop in for lunch & dinner from the menu.