Winners of Family Dinner Project Announced

When we asked you to share your stories of family and food, we thought we’d received a few cryptic notes and hastily scratched recipes.

What we never expected were beautiful essays full of tender, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking moments spent sharing food with family and friends. And so we are honored to present the winners of the Family Dinner Project, to be served and enjoyed this fall and winter at Nora’s Table:

December 3: “An Ethiopian Dinner with our New Family” by Lisa Mullis. Lisa tells the story of their family’s first dinner together in a restaurant in Addis Ababa, after waiting for three years to adopt their son and daughter.

December 17: “Mrs. Chaing and THE COOKBOOK” by Nancy Roach. A Chinese cookbook bought off a book sale table in 1980 changed everything for Nancy, Greg, and their now-grown children.

January 14: “An afternoon Quail Hunt in the Florida Panhandle” by David Hanson. A young man from the Atlanta suburbs goes hunting with a good friend who teaches him how to honor simple foods.

January 28: “My Mom, her Wake, and the Giant Sub Sandwich” by Sarah Sullivan. Since Sarah’s mom died unexpectedly last May, Sarah has spent hours poring over her cookbooks, remembering delicious family meals, and a cook who lived by the maxim, “enjoy every sandwich.”

February 18: “Scraping Together Thursday Dinner in Natchez, Mississippi” by Linda Floyd. There was always just enough on the table in Linda’s Mississippi childhood, but her richest memory is of the poorest night of the week.

March 4: “Yours, Mine and Ours: A Blended Family Dinner in Trout Lake” by Kira Fogarty. What happens when two couples who love and share their kids, move to the same community just to farm, preserve, cook and eat together.

Each winning family will be joining us as our guests on the night their family dinner is served. And you can join in. Please reserve in advance. Here are the details of our first dinner:

An Ethiopian Dinner with our New Family

Please join us and the Mullis Family on December 3 for this Ethiopian feast:

Chicken doro wat
Beef tibs
Shiro (an African-style hummus)
Injera (grilled teff bread)
Turkish coffee, popcorn (an Ethiopian tradition) and pastry

Price per person: $25

Please reserve now, for any time you wish between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Wednesday, December 3. Reservations will be accepted through Monday, December 1, and will be held with a credit card number.

And here’s Lisa’s essay about her wonderful first family dinner:

“My family’s most special and memorable dinner occurred on November 11, 2013, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

That morning, after a nearly three year long journey, my husband Brian and I left our adoption agency’s care center in Addis with our two children fully and finally in our custody. It was an entirely surreal moment to realize that we were now officially together as family, months and months of anxious waiting over.

The first thing we did after we left the care center was to go out to eat. This would have been entirely novel for our children as only our oldest, then five years old, had ever been at a restaurant and only one time that we’re aware of. The act of sharing our first meal together was so much more than gaining sustenance; it was the ageless ritual of sharing food together to mark the beginning of new relationships.

Ethiopia is a melting pot of cultures, and the only African country to have never ceded its independence since its formation. Ethiopian food is a fusion of Indian, African, European and Muslim dishes. It’s delicious! For our first meal together we had doro wat, tibs, shiro and of course injera.

It may seem surprising that in the year since our kids have been home, we have not had any Ethiopian food other than some shiro (which I really goofed up which probably explains the lack of further forays). Our son Kylan really misses injera. Our daughter Lotti LOVES hummus which is a close relation to shiro (and also my favorite Ethiopian dish). Otherwise both our children really enjoy typical American fare; if they were in charge, pizza would be on the menu every night. We do keep a steady supply of Ethiopian coffee in the cupboard … the best is Tamoca … and a bottle of berbere on the counter­­—two staples of Ethiopian food culture.

Another thing to note is that coffee is almost always served with popcorn, both during a formal coffee ceremony (which happens frequently to mark special occasions and holidays) and after a meal at a restaurant.

The Family Dinner Project would be a great opportunity for our kids to get a taste of home in their new one.”

Thanksgiving: Another chance for family dinner

Not with us, though. You’re on your own, with the help of your Aunt Sylvia who insists on rolls (“Couldn’t you just butter your stuffing, Aunt Sylvia?”) and Cousin Richard who brings cranberry sausage relish (old family recipe). But it’s a great story, no?

There’s plenty of hubbba-hubbas right now for businesses that refuse to be open for Thanksgiving. Heck, we’ve never been open for Thanksgiving for ten years, with the exception of two years at Viento when we did a free community dinner.

We will be home with our friends and families, and a few who are neither (yet) but have nowhere else to go.

We’ll see you on Friday morning for breakfast though, and we promise: No turkey and stuffing frittatas. We will have outstanding house-made eggnog, and delicious pumpkin pancakes with orange butter. And after you and yours enjoy that breakfast, we hope you will wander through downtown Hood River, including all the side streets (hint: that’s where the chocolate is) and shop here at home. There’s so little joy in fighting the crowds in an urban parking lot. Remember why you are here.





Four days left to participate in the Family Dinner Project

Hope you’ve been thinking about that special dinner in your family history, because we really want to hear your story! And the deadline for submission is November 10.

If you missed our announcement last week, here are the details.

This fall and winter, Nora’s Table restaurant is launching the Family Dinner Project. Send the restaurant your story of an important family dinner, complete with menu and recipes if you have them, and the restaurant will select six winning family dinners.

The dinners don’t have to be fancy to be important enough to share. And don’t worry if you have just one dish … we don’t need a three-course feast, but that would be nice too. We want to hear everyone’s story, and learn how food helped bring families together.

On select Wednesday nights through the fall and winter, the restaurant will prepare each of the winning family dinners. Each of the six winners whose family dinner is selected will win dinner for four the night their family dinner is served at Nora’s. Customers will be able to reserve seats for each of these dinners. Price will vary, depending on the menu.

So, get crackin’ going through that recipe box!

Old Home Week comes to Nora’s

Don’t get us wrong, we love Gorge visitors. But we we loved looking over the dining room last night and seeing nothing but familiar faces. One wag, mouth full of our new pork belly dish, said, “We’ve been waiting for everyone to leave so we could come in.”

And that new pork belly dish…?

We’re curing and braising that pork belly confit, then tossing crispy chunks in a delightful house-made tomato sesame sweet and sour, and serving them with wontons of kobucha squash, lime and sweet pepper, and then adding a little zing with Asian pickled kale flowers.

Just a little old thing Chris and Kathy whipped up for November.





Korea meets Germany on friendly terms

You get to hear some things only once in life:

“Kathy, I’m putting your intestines in the walk-in.”

That was Sous Chef Matt Patterson telling Chef Kathy Watson that the hog casing was going into the cooler.  That same casing came out a little later and Kathy made what she is calling Korean bratwurst.  It just seemed like the right thing to do, since Kristin and Colin Franger went to all the trouble to create Kraut-Chi at their new local company, Blue Bus Cultured Foods.

Kraut-chi is sauerkraut meets kimchi, and so our bratwurst packs a little Korean heat just to keep up. Our bratwurst is made from Carlton Farms pork shoulder and humanely-raised veal and those Korean spices. You can order a small plate of Korean bratwurst, Blue Bus kraut-chi and spicy hot mustard, for $10.

One day only, Nora’s is joined by Bill and Dick’s Steakhouse

Stu and Kathy have fond memories of their dads, Bill and Dick, loving steak. And so for Father’s Day, in addition to our regular menu, we’ll be offering a selection of steaks and sides, just like a first-rate steak house. Here’s the list:

Mountain Shadow fillet mignon, $28
Mountain Shadow rib eye, $27
Sunnybrook Farm t-bone, $32

Your choice of:

  • duck demi glaze beurre rouge
  •  Nora’s 58 steak sauce

Your choice of:

  • Twice-baked stuffed sour cream cheddar potatoes
  • French fries

Your choice of:

  • Grilled asparagus
  • Creamed garlic kale

Yes, reservations for Father’s Day dinner are encouraged. You can reserve online at, or by calling us at 541-387-4000. Father’s Day breakfast reservations can be made only by phone.

Other fun new stuff joins our early June menu

Samosas are back, those fried Indian pastries, and this time we’re filling them with duck, potatoes and peas, and serving them with Quercus Farm red currant and fig chutney.

Our delicious mushroom soup is taking a summer break, and this week, we’ve created a spring vegetable minestrone with fava beans, peas, asparagus, white beans, and a summer savory pesto.

Beginning Friday, our spring Chinook salmon will be served with potato spring garlic persillade, and fava bean and spring pea succotash


Now We Are Seven

In his classic children’s poem, “Now We Are Six” A.A. Milne wrote:

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

 This year, this very Memorial Day weekend, we are seven. There were times I thought last year we might be six for ever and ever. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep going. Many of you heard the restaurant was for sale. As our good friend Brian McNamara of Brian’s Pour House says, “The restaurant is always for sale!”

And by that he means, show up with a large enough check and a twinkle in your eye, and the joint could be yours.

We had some rough years there, around one and two and three. The recession nearly throttled us. If it had not been for great word of mouth and dedicated customers, we would have gone under. We had some bad actors in our kitchen in those days too, guys whose egos were far bigger than their toques, guys who yelled and drank our booze and stabbed the walls with their knives when things didn’t go their way.

One day, one of those chefs was standing at his station slicing mushrooms. Whack, whack, whack, very quickly, his knife barely touching the board. I walked by. He asked me, “You know what makes a great chef?” I was curious, since he couldn’t possibly mean me, considering his contempt for my abilities. “No, what?” I asked. “It’s the ability to slice mushrooms without looking,” he said. A year later, after we no longer had that negative energy in our kitchen, Sous Chef Justin Anderson was standing in the same place, slicing mushrooms. I told him the story of “what makes a great chef.” Justin laid down his knife and held up his hand. “I think a great chef is a guy with all his fingers.” THAT’S more like it, I thought, a man with an appropriate sized ego, with nothing to prove, who sends out beautiful plates and calmly guides the kitchen through brutally long nights, with good cheer for all the staff.

When another of those unhappy chefs stormed out nearly four years ago, yelling, “This place is going down!” I thought, not yet. Pastry Chef Rainbow Trosper, who was there that day, repeats that line now whenever we earn kudos, like the Oregonian’s piece last week on “Best of the Gorge” calling us the best fine dining and breakfast spot here. Not going down. No sir, not yet.

I learned something from those guys who are gone now. I learned that knife skills, swagger and creativity are not enough. I learned how to create a kitchen that squares with my human values.  No one will ever set foot in our kitchen or dining room again who doesn’t live those values. That means: we make it right, we make it local, we make it from scratch, we make every plate better than the last, we serve it with grace, and we treat each other with the highest regard at all times.

As we rolled through our sixth year, things just got better and better. I think I will remember this time, right now, as the Golden Age of Nora’s Table. We have a great crew, and I love and respect each one of them. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, but what’s far more important than either of those things is their commitment. To Stu and me, to excellence at Nora’s Table, and to each other.

We have great farmers, fabulous customers, and the beautiful Gorge around us. We lack for nothing. We want what we have.

Happy 7th birthday, Nora’s Table. We grew past six. And eight is just around the corner.




This just in … from all over

Hood River and the Gorge is getting plenty of ink the last week.

We got a big shout-out in The Oregonian’s “Best of the Gorge” piece by Terry Richard. Terry says readers think we’re the best fine-dining joint AND the best breakfast in the Hood.

And then the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine editor Jon Bonne writes a great piece about our Gorge winemakers. Watch out, the hordes are coming for us and our “promising paradise.”  Jon, we’re living that promise already, every day. Such a joy to have a Gorge-only wine list at Nora’s.



Dinner has its benefits

We are sorry to tell you, our dear fans, that we have a full house for breakfast this coming Sunday, May 11, for Mother’s Day.

But you are not out of luck. Because we still have dinner reservations available, with a nice little gift for our moms: free dessert.

And what might that dessert be, you ask? Hand-picked by two of our favorite moms-on-staff, Chef Kathy and Chef Rainbow: Salted caramel pot de crème, raspberry linzer cookie. If your mom is enjoying a gluten-free life, no problem. She can just skip the cookie.

You can reserve for Mother’s Day dinner by calling us at 541-386-8870, or make a reservation on line at

Oregon Coastal King Salmon makes Star Turn this Weekend

Fresh beautiful king salmon, hook and line caught, will be on our menu beginning this Friday. Since we cook what our farms grow, when God (and Laurel and Paul and Wildwood Farm) give us pac choy, then we pair our salmon with same. To wit: King salmon, soy honey orange glaze, pac choy, carrot ginger coulis, five spice cashews.

We’ll have three beautiful salads this weekend, too, including a new dish created by chef de partie Julia Bruggeman: Quercus Farm greens, red-wine poached Oregon marionberries, marionberry and champagne vinegar vinaigrette, blue cheese, spring garlic croutons.

Here are some of the other dishes on our menu:

Indian-spice rubbed grilled Mountain Shadow lamb chops, curried blackberry gastrique, coconut dahl and snap peas, Saur Farming turnip and turnip green raita

Mountain Shadow 12-ounce rib eye, duck fat potatoes, Windflower arugula, blue cheese croutons and blue cheese

Vegetarian: New Mexico style open-faced kale enchilada, goat cheese, red chili mole, Valerie’s duck egg, peruano beans.

See you around Nora’s Table for Mother’s Day.

Halibut and Oregon Lamb for Easter!

This beautiful fresh Canadian halibut just arrived, and will be on our menu the next two nights. Matt and halibut We’re serving it with toasted cous cous, kale raab and a velvety hazelnut orange chocolate vinaigrette.

We’ll also have sweet, tender fresh spring lamb leg from Mountain Shadow Meats, served with creamed red potatoes, snap peas and English peas.

For the rest of the menu, scroll down to the previous post.

Easter Sunday: Choose brunch or dinner for spring lamb

This week, we are bringing in a whole spring lamb from Mountain Shadow Meats, and that means very special dishes on our menu for this coming Sunday, Easter, April 20.

We’ll be serving an additional hour for Sunday brunch, from 8 am to 2:00 pm, so if you are coming from Easter services or a morning Easter egg hunt, you’ll have an extra hour to join us. Then we’ll open again at 5:00 pm for dinner as usual.

In addition to our regular breakfast and dinner menus, we’ll have these Easter specials available for both brunch and dinner:

Easter Specials

Strawberry salad, hazelnut black pepper cracker, reduced white balsamic vinaigrette $8

Crab salad with Quercus Farm greens, pepper cress, poached eggs, remoulade sauce $12

Roast leg of lamb, lemon mint relish, with creamed baby new potatoes, English peas and snap peas, $24

Grilled lamb kabobs, carrot, olive and chick pea salad, lemon tahini sauce, $18

Carrot cake, roasted pineapple coulis

Chocolate covered mint ice cream terrine

Strawberry shortcake with white chocolate whipped cream

Dessert Sampler: 3 for $7, 5 for $12
Lemon tart with fresh berries
Mocha truffle
Salted caramel cream puff
Chocolate covered strawberry
Mini lavender creme brulee

Reservations? Oh yeah, that would be good, and so appreciated. You can reserve for breakfast and dinner by calling the restaurant at 541-387-4000. Dinner reservations are also available on line at or through

In Good Company: OpenTable diners pick us

Thanks to local Superman-About-the-Gorge Lee Weinstein for telling us we’re listed on OpenTable as one of the ten “best overall restaurants” in Oregon by users of OpenTable.  See who else is on the list:









Putting the “YUM” in Your Gluten-Fre Breakfast

For all you gluten-free Nora’s Table breakfast fans who look with longing at the waffle with fried chicken and sausage gravy: we are making your dreams come true.

Beginning tomorrow, you can order a gluten-free waffle and gluten-free fried chicken topped with maple bacon BBQ sauce. And it’s crispy, crunchy good.

Get Those Last Seats NOW

Mountain Shadow lamb ribs, slow roasted in Indian spices, grilled with curried Cherry Ort gastrique, grilled naan, and carrot chutney. That’s just ONE of the 7 courses served this Saturday night, April 12, at our wine dinner with Springhouse Cellars. We’re featuring street food from around the world paired with Springhouse wines, at a terrific all-inclusive price: $50 per person.

Procrastinators rejoice: There are still a few seats left, so please call us or the winery to reserve.

New Plates Spring Up On Our Menu This Week

Three crowd favs return to Nora’s menu this week:

  • Fried calamari, napa cabbage, celery, radish, scallions, lime chili vinaigrette and peanuts
  • Crispy pork belly, peanut butter pain perdu, blackberry red chili jam, pickled red cabbage
  • Braised pork shank in sweet bean sauce, rice noodles, Scratch a Lot Farm pac choi

Plus these new (dare we say … world premier?) dishes:

  • Mountain Shadow 12 ounce rib eye steak, asparagus and crimini mushroom ragu, duck demi glace, beurre rouge, High Roost Farm duck egg, blue cheese bread crumbs
  • Hawaiian butterfish, toasted cous cous, kale raab, savory hazelnut, orange chocolate vinaigrette
  • Beef tongue, braised leeks, caper cornichon vinaigrette, grated duck egg
  • Scallops, farro, baby kale, chardonnay-poached sierra figs, fig vin cotto, Windflower Farm arugula

See you soon around Nora’s Table. Next week: our Easter menu.










A Taste of the Street 4/12 at Springhouse

We are very excited to be working with the great crew at Springhouse Cellar to bring you a very special and unusual wine dinner on Saturday, April 12 at 7:00 pm. We’re preparing street food from around the world, and that is NOT, as one wag suggested (yes, Levi, YOU) food lifted from the street, as in possum, armadillo, etc.

No, this is food from the vibrant food carts and street shops of the world, at a price even street urchins can afford: $50 for five  +  courses, wines and gratuity.  Or as they say in the cruise ship world: all inclusive.

And here’s what we’re serving:

Amuse Bouche: 2013 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, and from France: ham and mushroom quiche

2012 Columbia Gorge Sauvignon Blanc, and from New Orleans:  Blue crab and Gulf shrimp gumbo

2013 Annala Vineyard Pinot Gris, and from Germany, Currywurst, house-made bratwurst on house-made buns

2011 Columbia Gorge Grenache, and from Greece: Grilled calamari salad with olives and preserved lemons

2011 Columbia Valley Cab Franc, and from India: Cherry Ort-glazed Indian lamb ribs, carrot chutney, grilled naan

2012 Southpaw red blend and from Italy: Eggplant and mozzarella panzarotti (small calzone hand pies)

And for dessert, Cherry Ort and chocolate Florentine cookies

There are still a few seats left. To reserve, please call Nora’s Table at 541-387-4000 or Springhouse at 541-308-0700. The dinner will be at Springhouse Cellars, which if you aren’t from around these parts, is right downtown Hood River. Credit card required for reservations.

That’s all folks. See you soon around Nora’s Table, or down yonder at Springhouse.