Milkshakes

What would you do if you burned an apple pie? If you’re the owner (and cook) at the Silver Lake Cafe & Bar the answer is easy: make milkshakes with it.

Two weekends ago I stopped at the cafe on my way to Frenchglen. I hadn’t been that way in a while—it was The Desert Cafe for many years—but the parking lot was still dusty and once inside the spartan decor hadn’t changed noticeably. I felt welcome from the first proffered Hello. Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss

My wife and our traveling companion, Martha, vetoed an early lunch—it was barely 11 a.m.—and dinner reservations awaited over the mountains at the Hotel. But there we stood, menus in hand, undecided, the waitress’s hand poised above an order pad. I glanced at the chalkboard’s Daily Specials and made up my mind: an Apple Pie Milkshake.

As a semi-city slicker it was my duty to ask “What’s it made from?” That’s how I learned about the burnt pie, how the edge was thoroughly blackened but the middle was perfect—and how can you waste that? Into the blender it went, and eventually into tall cups to be spooned out one bite at a time. Now here’s another slick question: “What does it taste like?” You know the answer.

Kathy and Martha, for their part, couldn’t resist an order of onion rings, so we sat for a short spell, enjoying our treats and amiable talk with the Boss and her helper.

We moved on relentlessly at the posted speed limits after that, the last slurp of milkshake downed as we turned east onto Highway 140 near Lakeview. I kept an eye on my watch as we topped out above the dry Warner Wetlands, up to refuge headquarters at Hart Mountain where the Western tanagers wore brilliant plummage—a deeper red than we see here in our western valley—keenly aware that fifty miles of gravel road separated us from dinner. Thankfully it was well-graded (no washboards) and the other diners hadn’t claimed all the food before our arrival, though it was close.

After a late breakfast the next morning we left Frenchglen and drove south an hour, through the ranch country of the Catlow Valley, to Fields. On an earlier May visit to this unincorporated community we’d seen Great Horned Owls in a cluster of large cottonwoods across the highway from Fields Station, and we were again delighted to find a family holding court for admiring tourists, the adult birds keeping watchful eyes on their four fluffy youngsters from a distance. We also spied lazuli buntings and more of the colorful tanagers.

The Station advertises World Famous Milkshakes, and it’s the only reliable source of gasoline for miles. This combination of fuels had the employees hopping when we were there. I expected to find a modern milkshake-making machine manned by quick-moving teens—how else to keep up with orders?—but there was only a suspendered old-timer working magic on a simple antique mixer. I ordered vanilla, with just a dash of malt added, minutes before a thundering herd of Harley-Davidsons rolled in. I made it last almost an hour, and then we headed back to the hotel.

All-in-all, it was a very delicious trip.

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