You needn’t wonder why chef Jessy Ohlsen offers porridge every morning on the menu of the cafe she manages. After all, what else would the 3 Bears Inn present as its signature dish? But this porridge is likely far superior to that which Goldilocks sampled; it’s Bluebird Grain Farms’ organic Cracked Emmer Farro Porridge. Smooth in texture, nutty in flavor, and high in fiber, had this porridge been in the three bears’ bowls, Goldilocks never would have left the table.
Neither will you, quite possibly, once you visit the 3 Bears Inn in downtown Winthrop (unless it’s to browse the irresistible selection of fabrics and notions in the adjoining quilt shop). Using local eggs, grains, cheeses, and meats, Jessy puts together a small but inventive menu of breakfast and lunch dishes that are perennial favorites. “I’m taking all my favorite childhood foods,” says Jessy, “and making them more sophisticated for the adult palette.”
Crêpes, for example, are a staple on the 3 Bears menu, as are soups, sandwiches, skillet hash, and breakfast wraps. “Our dishes aren’t too complicated,” says Jessy, “but with cheese from Sunny Pine Farm, pork and beef from Thomson’s Meats, Bluebird’s Sage Biscuit Mix, Mazama Store baguettes, and eggs from [a local famer], we’re able to offer really fresh and delicious items.”
It was, in fact, crêpes over which Jessy and 3 Bears Inn co-owner Cyndy Oliver bonded. Cyndy and her husband Jerry had just returned from a trip to France for their 26th wedding anniversary (which, incidentally, they originally intended to take for their 5th, their 10th, their 15th…you get the idea), where they ate crêpes almost every day. Well, Cyndy did at least. Jerry, who quite possibly has the distinction of being the only person to visit France and not like the crêpes , was converted only when he tasted one of Jessy’s mascarpone crêpes; now he, too, is hooked.
After being introduced by Darold Brandenburg, who did the excavation on the site for the 3 Bears Inn, Jessy and Cyndy quickly learned that they had more in common than just crêpes. “We were just a neat match,” says Cyndy. “We had similar ideas about the menu we were looking to offer and the ambiance we were hoping to create.” Jessy, who graduated from culinary school, says that after being a line cook for several years (including at Sun Mountain Lodge and Glover Street Market), she feels like being the chef at the 3 Bears Inn is simply the best opportunity to be a chef. “I’m feeding people food they enjoy in an atmosphere that they love,” she says, “People want to linger here.”
When you walk into the 3 Bears Inn, it’s hard to believe that the Olivers only opened their doors in early September. The place is bustling. A barrista serves up Blue Star Coffee drinks, men and women alike browse the gorgeous fabrics and fun accoutrements in the quilt shop, and there seems to be a constant flow of food coming out of the kitchen. It’s just what the Olivers envisioned when they bought the property in 2008. (The property itself has an interesting history, which you can read more about here.)
“We believe in Winthrop and wanted to invest in it,” says Cyndy. After the Olivers’ three boys grew up and went away to college, Jerry and Cyndy put their empty nesting energy straight into creating a space that is both welcoming and practical. The cafe and quilt shop downstairs nourish the body and feed the creative spirit; the meeting space upstairs encourages social and professional gatherings. “In small towns,” says Cyndy, “businesses need to work together and meet different needs. The more successful businesses are in small towns, the more people will visit.”
In that spirit, Cyndy sees no competitiveness with Twisp’s quilt shop. “We’re two different types of quilt shops,” she says of The Quilting Hive. “I do more of the wool and embellishments, and Heather does more of the piecing and long arm work.”
“Besides,” Cyndy continues, “if you know quilters, you know that they like to visit all shops. They’re like antique hunters. The more quilt shops you have in your town, the more quilters will visit.”
Both the food and the fabrics are perfect examples of the “build it and they will come” philosophy. Indeed, it seems as the if 3 Bears Inn is doing everything “juuuust right.”