Apr 28, 2013

Posted by in Articles, Featured | 6 Comments

“There Will Never Be Anywhere Like This” – A Glimpse of The Joel Palmer House

After a truly incredible wine tasting at downtown Dayton, Oregon’s, Seufert Winery (which I’ll be writing all about), we headed two blocks down the road where we were lucky enough to catch a few minutes with world-renowned Chef Chris Czarnecki – chef and owner of the  highly acclaimed restaurant, The Joel Palmer House.

Following in steep family tradition, Chris is a 4th generation chef and restaurateur. In 1916, Chris’s great grandfather opened a tavern (Joe’s Tavern) in Pennsylvania, which was later transformed by Chris’s grandfather into a restaurant of fine dining, wine and wild mushrooms as a focal point (Joe’s Restaurant).  Chris’s parents’ dream of combining fine cuisine with wild mushroom hunting and world-class wine came true IMG_6012when they purchased the Joel Palmer House, in Dayton, in 1996 and moved the restaurant business from Pennsylvania to Oregon.  After Chris spent years traveling and working in different kitchens around the world, he returned to the U.S. in 2006 to join the kitchen at The Joel Palmer House. In 2008, Chris’s parents retired and he took over to carry on the family tradition of fine dining with a focus on mushrooms and truffles, which are foraged by family and friends, along with highlighting wines; in fact, the wine list at The Joel Palmer House consists entirely of Oregon wine.

The Joel Palmer House, which is on the National and Oregon Historical Registers and boasts quite a history, is stately with its white pillar, two story facade and welcoming wrap-around front porch.  The entrance to the restaurant is on the rear side of the house, where outdoor seating with a nice view of the lawn and gardens is available during Oregon’s beautiful summer months.  Chris, who I briefly met once before (during the Wine Bloggers Conference where he prepared an outstanding meal for a group of wine writers at Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn), met us on the back porch.

IMG_6013First leading us on a tour of the herb and vegetable gardens, where spinach, arugula, artichokes and fava beans (to name a few) are grown and used for culinary creations, Chris then took us through the restaurant and down the stairs to the wine cellar.  On the way down to the cellar, the wall on one side of the stairs is completely covered in Oregon wine labels.  About five years ago, Chris sent an email blast out to wineries around the state in hopes to receive some wine labels; he received so many that he was actually able to cover the entire wall in a single day.  The wall on the other side of the stairs was completely covered in messages and signatures from Oregon winemakers, and the one that caught my eye was, “There will NEVER be anywhere like this,” signed by Sarah of WKE. I was thinking WKE was short for Willakenzie Estate, but I’m not familiar with a Sarah from there, so I’ll need to find out from Chris who it was that wrote a message I thought to be somewhat profound.


Chef Chris Czarnecki in the wine cellar at The Joel Palmer House

Once we were down in the cellar, a most exciting place to be for an Oregon wine enthusiast like me, racks made using Brazilian Cherry wood held over 600 selections of Oregon wine.  Much like I do, Chris believes restaurants that claim to source everything locally, should not only source their foods locally, but their wine as well. With a focus on locally foraged mushrooms and truffles at the Joel Palmer House, there’s no better pairing than a locally grown and produced Pinot Noir.  And the selection of Pinot Noirs on the list is plenty, consisting of both big names like Domaine Drouhin and Archery Summit to smaller lesser-known producers like Helioterra and Omero Cellars.  Being surrounded by so many incredible Oregon Pinot Noirs reminded me of the Beef Stroganoff Chris had prepared for us during the wine bloggers lunch at Youngberg Hill.  It was a Stroganoff like none other, served over rice with Porcini and Trumpet mushrooms paired with the 2009 Youngberg Hill Natasha Pinot Noir.  The earthy finish on the Pinot Noir perfectly complemented the earthiness of the mushrooms in the Stroganoff – clearly a pairing that I’ll never forget.

Sarah from WKE was right when she wrote, “There will NEVER be anywhere like this,”  it’s truly a distinctive place with a unique and rich history.  Visit The Joel Palmer House at 600 Ferry Street, Dayton, OR 97114. The Joel Palmer House


Thanks to Chris Czarnecki for taking time out to show us around the beautiful gardens, restaurant and super-impressive cellar.  Special thanks to Michelle Wasner of Seufert Winery for introducing us to Chris, cheers!