Why: The iconic Skamania Lodge overlooks the Columbia River in Stevenson. I chose the lodge to feature as my final dining review because I feel it truly embodies the spirit of this region and the people who call it home. Providing some of the best and most distinctive accommodations for travelers and locals alike, the lodge is a popular event venue with its picturesque views of the majestic beauty that surrounds us. The Cascade Dining Room is a family-friendly dining option at the lodge that features a menu populated by dishes made with fresh, regionally sourced ingredients.
What I tried: I settled on the Columbia River steelhead and my dining companions tried the braised shortrib stroganoff and the Pacific prawns.
The portion of deliciously seasoned steelhead is served over corona beans, braised kale and chermoula sauce, then finished with a garnish of micro greens. The beans and kale were a harmonious combination punctuated by butter, garlic and lemon with a few salty bites that demonstrate how coarse salt can benefit a dish.
The braised shortrib stroganoff was served in a deconstructed manner with a hearty chunk of meat in the center, which easily yielded to a fork for mixing in with the wide noodles, a few soft chunks of onion, forest mushrooms and creme fraiche all tastefully seasoned with herbs. My dining companion found the dish to be satisfying and appreciated that the meat was not greasy, though he counted only two mushrooms in the entire dish.
The Pacific prawns, which are combined with broccolini, romesco sauce, pickled red pepper and grits, was an easy choice for my other dining companion, in that she hails from the region where shrimp and grits were born. The romesco sauce was a good choice to bring this classic Southern staple together. My dining companion thought this dish, the way it was prepared, was right at home in the Pacific Northwest, and she liked the zing delivered by the pickled red pepper.
We completed our meal with the huckleberry bread pudding and the cherry walnut Linzer tart with vanilla ice cream. The tart was an expert miniature of a pie, which my dining companions found delightful. The texture of the bread pudding was bready at the surface and almost as smooth as pudding toward the base where it sat in a pool of sweet bourbon creme Anglaise, which had a ribbon of berry winding through. It was a warm and comforting finish to the meal before my rainy, solitary drive back to Vancouver.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Dinner starters include seared scallops, crispy Brussels sprouts, fire-roasted vegetable gratin and a charred carrot salad. The arugula watercress salad made with pea shoots, berries, Rogue Smokey Bleu cheese, sunflower seeds and parsley with a citrus vinaigrette sounded appetizing. The peppered bone-in New York steak is served with confit fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus and forest mushrooms. A dish that incorporates cauliflower ragu, romanesco, butternut squash, cauliflower cream, root vegetable chips and grana padano cheese with casarecci pasta sounded intriguing. Among the dessert choices are triple chocolate cake, raw cashew cheesecake and hazelnut coffee panna cotta.
Atmosphere: A fireplace at the entrance is one of several that are highlighted throughout the lodge. Below the tall ceiling that displays handsome structural wood beams, there is seating for few or many at tables and comfortable upholstered chairs. Large windows allow panoramic views of the manicured grounds and the natural splendor of the river as it faithfully flows as sure as time marches on.
Other observations: The waitstaff was highly attentive and knowledgable about menu items. The food was fabulous and prices in line with quality and presentation, though the ambiance is shy of fine dining and not particularly intimate. Reservations are highly recommended.
Cost: Dinner starters cost $13 to $23. Soup is $9, as is Skamania’s salmon chowder. Salads are $9 for a half size, and $13 and $14 for a full size. Large plates are $25 to $52. Desserts cost $9 to $11. Breakfast options cost $8 to $16 and lunch options cost $7 to $19.