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Apr 2, 2008 05:19 PM

Ashland highlights & cravings

I'm driving up to visit friends in Ashland from San Francisco next week. On a modest budget and they have young children, so I'm curious about any cafes or unusual food destinations (farms, bakeries, etc.), you might recommend that we'd all enjoy.

I am looking forward to stopping in to say hello at Dagoba Chocolate. And just noticed this:
Would you personally recommend any of the places mentioned in particular?

Also what would someone living in Ashland crave that's hard to get in Oregon? I haven't figured out what to bring except for some pear eau de vie from Hangar One.

Salumi? Pistachios? Cookies from Arizmendi? Meyer lemons? Seems like you've got the berries, wine, and mushroom departments well covered.

Thanks for any ideas!

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    I'd pack frozen char siu bau on dry ice; go shopping at the Asian American Food Company at 1426 Noriega Street (between 21st Ave & 22nd Ave)
    San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 665-6617

    Sourdough bread? with the salumi and CowGirl Creamery cheeses?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cynsa

      Ooh, thanks. They seem to be famous for cheese (Rogue River) so that's out.

    2. A quick report from a very flavorful visit. We didn't eat out too much, unless you count visits to farmers' markets, wineries, creameries, and chocolate manufacturers... My host should be in charge of Ashland culinary tourism.

      We had a delicious dinner at Dragonfly before going to the Ashland Cabaret. Thumbs up for the plaintains with carnitas and modestly priced wine list. Desserts at the cabaret are famed more for size than flavor. i did have a bite of Dick Hay pie and enjoyed the rhubarb and cream if not the pastry in my Napolean.

      Had a decent burger at Louie's, okay breakfast at Greenleaf (skip the bagels), tasty Indian takeout by the pound from the Coop. Also a heartfelt cup of chai from the Heartsong folks (worth a visit just for the love), and a cup of the new Pike's Market blend at Starbucks. And competent poached eggs with good bottomless cups of coffee at the Wild Goose.

      On to the highlights:
      Chicken tamales from Maria at the Medford farmers' market

      Incredible jams and syrups from Pennington Farms (sold at both Ashland and Medford farmers' markets); I'm working on a razzle dazzle and a strawberry rhubarb with agave. Also picked up a fig vinegar and boysenberry syrup. Cathy the jam maker told us proudly her daughter bakes croissants at Tartine.

      Heavenly blue cheeses and cheddars from Rogue Creamery. I especially liked the Rogue River blue, Oregonzola, and sharp raw milk cheddar. Also the fresh curds. Worth visiting the shop in Central Point to see the cheese making operation, taste for yourself, and in part because it's next to...

      Lillie belle farms chocolates. Exquisite handmade treats, with the occasional sample. I realized once we'd arrived that I'd had their cayenne caramel from Cocoa Bella. The raspberry butterfly filled with fondant was my favorite. I haven't tried the blue cheese truffle yet or the chocolate-dipped pears.

      Thanks to a friend of my host, we were able to see the production line at Dagoba, which currently has a small tasting room and store but no tours open to the public. I've long been a Dagoba fan, and am delighted they seem to be thriving since the Hershey acquisition. They produce 30,000+ bars a day!

      We visited both Weisinger's winery and RoxyAnn, sampling a wide variety of wines and local snacks. I was impressed that Ashland wineries are carving out a distinct product from Willamette Valley pinot noir or Napa chardonnay. I especially enjoyed the clarets and fine viogniers. Also the modest markups in restaurants on local wine.

      My last night, we spent a few happy hours at Liquid Assets, the wine bar near the Plaza. Good stemware, great list, and comfy couches.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Windy

        Thanks for reporting back, Windy :)

      2. Another April, another trip to Ashland. I had to restock my jams.

        We spent a day in Applegate Valley, visiting Troon, Wooldrige, and Valley View wineries. Wooldridge was exceptional, if not inexpensive, a boutique winery with an ambitious winemaker. In half an hour, we tasted sparkling wine, dry gewurtztramminer, their exceptional Warwick red blend, and a sherry. And several other completely different wines. Beautiful area. Troon's tasting is also worthwhile; the wines we tasted varied significantly in quality, some excellent.

        Our real destination though was Pennington Farms, and although you can order online or buy at the farmers' markets in Ashland and Medford, take a trip out to the farm house for warm tayberry jam, hot ginger, oatmeal, and chocolate chip cookies, ollalieberry turnovers, and a chance to say hi to Kathy and the gals. I brought home a case of jam and two bottles of their fig ginger vinegar.

        This time we made it to Chateaulin, which is now offering a $29 three course prix fixe. The night we were there, it was a lovely salad, duck confit crepes, and a chocolate mousse/pot de creme. I had the largest and possibly best pork chop I've ever eaten (also $29, but it provided two huge meals). The special was halibut served over sweet black rice. My warm ginger cake for dessert was lovely too. Not cheap ($260 for three including wine, tax, tip, and three courses each), but warm, capable service and food that manages to be old fashioned and satisfying without being stodgy. Not surprisingly a well-chosen wine list. I was sorry I missed the closing time on the wine shop.

        We had a so so dinner at Hana Zen. Not sure if anyone Japanese is involved with the place, but the crazy rolls are fun. Huge portions, erratic service, which can be a challenge if you have a play to catch. Good green tea though.

        Tasty breakfast at Harper's, a lovely place to linger. I had the Ashland (eggs, bacon, baguette, and some kind of potatoes). Pots of tea, helpful service. What's good for lunch?The wine by the glass suggestion looked good.

        I also had a proper pot of tea with honey at Grilla Bites and sat out on the balcony by the river on a warm spring day. Next time I'll try the bison burger. Finally I picked up more tea (excellent prices on looseleaf teas) and enjoyed the giant scones at the Beanery. Wasn't crazy about the coffee though.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Windy

          Well, you nailed the winery. I think Wooldridge is the only one worth the drive. The wine makers strive to make their product as an accompaniment to food rather than the classic overpowering of most American made wine.
          I find Chateaulin to be overpriced and suffering from primarily catering to the tourist trade. It isn't somewhere most locals head to. It also doesn't change much from year to year, not as bad as Standing Stone, but close. SS takes the cake on the inability to change. Can you say boring?
          Wondering why you didn't hit Morning Glory for breakfast or lunch?

          1. re: runninrob

            The prices at Chateaulin are high, aside from the prix fixe, but it's a favorite of my hosts for many years. And I'd never been, so the menu not changing wasn't a problem for me. The baked goat cheese appetizer with beets was delicious, if expensive. We did seem to run into all my hosts' neighbors at the bar, past curtain time.

            Morning Glory continues on the to do list, along with Alex's. However the gentlemen I met for breakfast had been there the week before.

            There is a real difference between being a tourist and being a guest in terms of where you dine. Still hoping to make it to Sammy's and maybe the Jacksonville Inn next year. Schmidt Family winery was recommended, for the gardens as much a the wines, but it was too late to backtrack. I'd drive out there for the jam and the views. Lots of pear blossoms.

            1. re: Windy

              We had lunch at Sammy's a week ago. Excellent service and food. Recommended for lunch. In Jacksonville, I'd recommend Gogi's based on a couple of good dinners there last year.