When you think of fine dining, where is the first place that you think of? A trendy downtown restaurant? Maybe even some obscure and off-the-beaten-path place that is cool enough to make people go search for it? What about a hotel? While the hotel used to be a destination for fine dining, that association has long since dissipated, but the people at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco are trying to change that with their hotel restaurant, Bin 20.
With the help of Executive Chef Charlie Reed, the Red Lion Hotels is attempting to make dining at a hotel cool again. They realize that this is an uphill battle, but they seem to be up to the challenge. "If you walk into almost any hotel in America, you find the same food." Chef Reed told me. "Our goal was to position the hotel with a better product. We wanted to get good food in here and build a reputation for the restaurant." The restaurant has made a push to get fresh quality ingredients to go into the food, and have created the menus to showcase those ingredients.
Chef Reed has been cooking most of his life. He told me that his culinary training started when he was only 10, and continued into his time as a student at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado. He has been an American Culinary Federation certified chef since he was seventeen. While in the Denver area, he worked in the kitchen of a local country club. Over the years, his love of food has taken him around the United States and Europe, and he has held positions with restaurants, country clubs, and hotels, including being the Executive Chef with Hilton and now Red Lion Inns. During that time he has been able to work in a variety of styles and environments. In talking with Chef Reed, his love of food was evident. "I hope I die in the kitchen, just fall over dead into something I'm cooking."
The new endeavor only started this June, but already they have started to build a solid reputation. One way that the restaurant has been able to increase its exposure is by hosting a series of monthly winemaker dinners, featuring a 6 course meal, paired with the wines from one of Washington State's many great wineries. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a recent dinner featuring the wines of Robert Smasne. The theme of the night was "Farm Boy", named for one of Smasne's wines. The food was a great mix of game meats and delicious vegetables. Every dish was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the Colorado Lamb Lollipop on Buttermilk Blue Cheese Polenta, and the Roasted Duck and Wood Cocks. Not only was the last dish very good, but it also helped spark a little off-color dinner conversation with a nice couple seated at our table, one of whom was an undersheriff whose name I will withhold to shelter from being connected to such conversation. One of the benefits of these dinners is that you will be seated at a table with other diners, and will have the opportunity to meet some of your fellow wine lovers.
The winemaker dinner events make for a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful food and great wines. I was very impressed that the Bin 20 people were able to get Smasne to participate, right in the middle of harvest. There were a couple of moments where he was called away to attend to some winemaking duties, but the people who attended were able to get the stories behind some of the vineyards that produced the grapes that go into Smasne Cellars wines, as well as hearing about the wines themselves. The effort that went into selecting the pairings was also evident, as each wine was perfectly suited for the dish that it was served with. Bin 20 is taking a hiatus through the holidays on the winemaker dinners, but will be resuming them in January. Although some might shy away from the $60 price tag for these dinners, I found the price to be very reasonable. The food is definitely gourmet fine dining, and through the course of the evening you will rarely see the bottom of your wine glass. You will have the opportunity to try a number of different wines, and meet with the winemaker who produced them. You can stay up to date on the upcoming events at Bin 20 by looking at their website. In addition to the events that they offer, they also have a wonderful daily menu, as well as some great wines and Scotch flights.
Farm Boy bottle image credit to Sara Nelson Design