What if you could experience the terroir of a petite filet the same way you can a Petit Verdot? Thanks to Timberline Lodge executive chef Jason Stoller Smith, you can. He’s at the helm of a new proprietary “gate to plate” beef program at the historic resort on Oregon’s Mount Hood. A self-made chef who once built a 50-foot fire pit on the White House lawn to roast salmon for President Obama, the First Lady, and 2,000 guests, Smith was ready for a new challenge. “Anybody can raise a cow with standard grass feed and then finish it off on corn or wheat,” Smith says, “but when you’re thinking about it from the roots all the way up to the plate, there is a development of terroir in the product. You can’t get that anywhere else.”
Launched last September, the program was a year in the making, developed with ranchers Keith Nantz and Rory Wilson of Deschutes River Beef, a 5,000-acre farm in Maupin, Oregon, 45 minutes east of Mount Hood. The Timberline—which famously served as the exterior of The Overlook Hotel in The Shining—purchased 52 head of cattle, one for each week of the year, to be used in the resort’s restaurants. The cows are raised humanely without growth hormones, graze on a specially formulated pasture, and live without undue stress or cruel treatment.
“The bigger picture is on sustainability,” Nantz says. The diversity of the feed—it consists of legumes, brassicas, phacelia, and various grasses that are chosen for quality, nitrogen content, and nutritional value—is the foundation of a larger ecological system. “It’s better for the animal and the soil in the long run,” Nantz explains. “The animals stay healthy, eliminating the need for antibiotics in the feedlot. The pasture is fertilized with the cows’ organic matter, reducing the need for chemicals and fertilizers on the ranch. And the cows are finished on barley—locally grown—which promotes better flavor and marbling of the meat.”
The meat is hung to age for 21 days before being sent to the Timberline in sides or quarter pieces. Butchering is done in-house at the hotel (insert “redrum” joke here). Premium cuts are served in the Cascade Dining Room, roasts are carved for the lunch buffet, Carbonnade Flamande (a traditional sweet-sour beef stew) is served in the Ram’s Head Bar, and the grind is used exclusively for burgers in the Wy’East Café. “We have seven restaurants—all different types with different needs,” Smith says, “so we’re able to incorporate the product in a variety of unexpected ways.” Using the whole animal has only fueled Smith’s creativity. One inventive new offering is the Beef Fat Candle—fat rendered for eight hours and molded into a votive candle—which arrives at Cascade Dining Room tables lit and on a bed of preserved tomato sofrito and rosemary balsamic jus. As it melts, it creates a rich dipping sauce for the accompanying bread basket. And it gives the table a nice, warm glow.