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Road Trip: Ashland, OR

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Sweetie and I went down to the opening of OSF. Here's a review of where we ate -- some old favorites and new.

First of all: Ashland Bistro Cafe (aka Ashland Bakery cafe) is closed. It's been replaced by Martolli's Hand Tossed Pizza. We had a couple of 'personal size' pizzas for takeout and were very underwhelmed. The crust was thin, and my pizza was barely cooked (I had a white pizza, the cheese was melted, just but the underside was yellowish -- not tan or darker). My partner's pepperoni pizza was 'fine'. (Which is not a rave review.)

If we have pizza again in Ashland, it'll will likely be at Creekside Pizza, which we've heard nothing but good things about.

The pastries at Mix (above Munchies) were TERRIBLE.My cheese danish was mealy, the pastry ok but (of all things) over-buttery (as in: greasy). The mini lemon poundcake was overly sweet in a weird kind of way and also greasy. My partner had a chocolate croissant, but put it down after a single bite. His comment? “Thoroughly disappointing.”

Breakfast at The Breadboard (north end of town) was nice. Their pancakes are great, as are their eggs dishes. Lots of food, very cheap. It's an ideal way to fill up before a long road trip.

We had lunch at Sesame, which has received mixed reviews elsewhere, and from locals. We enjoyed it. Lunch was take out from Sesame. I had tempura-battered cod with sweet potato fries and coleslaw; J. had cashew chicken and rice. We shared an order of coconut calamari. Very good, quite tasty. Recommended and we will eat here again. (I have pictures of the food we ate (as well as the trip in general) on my blog at: http://cybercoven.org/wordpress/?p=1098.

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Dinner was at Liquid Assets Wine Bar, a cozy, classy place with Spanish-influenced food and an excellent wine selection (you hoped I’d say that, didn’t you?) I started with the duck liver pate and a St. Innocent pinot noir, while J. had the ‘taste of spain’: Spanish chorizo, Iberico curado, Romano cheese, Marcona almonds, glazed onions, olives, and grilled bread. The pate was delightful — and very rich. I could only eat 1/2 of it. J. enjoyed his plate, except the olives. There were a lot of olives.

For our main meal, I had smoked chicken with truffle-oil mashed potatoes and broccolini. J. had braised pork should with new potatoes and broccolini. My chicken was very smoked, the texture was very firm, just on the edge of dryness but not going over, and the result was as if I was having smoked *pork*. It tasted great, but I’m not sure how much I liked it. The potatoes, however, were amazing and the broccolini was quite tasty. J’s pork shoulder was pretty fatty and while he didn’t dislike it, he tells me it was just ok. I drank a delightful VistAlba – ’06 Malbec/Merlot from Mendoza, Argentina. It was so good, that I bought a bottle to take home.

For dessert, because we were hoping for something that would really knock us out of the park, I had a white chocolate cheesecake w/ berry compote and J. settled on a Dagoba Lavender creme brulee. These were delicious. I like a thick, dense cheesecake, and that is what I got — very flavorful and the compote was minimal and didn’t hide or overwhelm the white chocolate flavor. J enjoyed his creme brulee — the first he’s ever had made of chocolate. Overall: this is a wine bar, not a dinner place. they were very expensive for above-average but not excellent food. (Pics and more at: http://cybercoven.org/wordpress/?p=1150.

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The next saw us at Pasta Piatti for lunch. We began with their calamari — always a favorite. They have a new salad, Caldo Balsamico — spinach with warm sauteed pears, toasted walnuts, carmelized baby onion, bacon, ricotta salata, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Both were incredibly good, although the calamari (for once) was good, not great (it needed about 30 seconds more in the cooking, I think). The salad was perfect.

For our main, J. had the meatball sandwich and I tried the crab ravioli. The sandwich was very good, J. tells me, but the ravioli was only ok. Lots of things in the bowl, so the crab flavor really didn’t come through. Worse, when I just ate a ravioli, it still didn’t come through. The essence was there, but it was more like a cheese ravioli than I felt was acceptable. That’s surprising, because PP has been a favorite for years. Its still on our recommended list. (Pics and more at: http://cybercoven.org/wordpress/?p=1157.

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Dinner that evening was at Amuse. It was heavenly. We began with grilled asparagus and wood-smoked prawns. The grilled flavor was exquisite -- tasty and not overwhelming. The romesco was perfect as a spread with the delightful bread. J. had the pork chop, while I went for the pan-seared sturgeon. The pork chop was the winner -- succulent, delicious, tender. . . wow. My sturgeon was very good -- beautifully cooked and tasty, but no where near the perfection of the chop. We finished with beignets which were.simply angelic. had a lovely RoxyAnn (local vineyard) pinot gris throughout and it was just the right touch for the meal.

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  1. Sounds heavenly! We love Liquid Assets and Amuse! Thank you for the great report back. :)

    1. Glad you made it down for opening. As locals we enjoyed the four plays that are now open. This is OSF's 75th year and it looks like they've got a blockbuster on their hands.

      Thanks for the report. Sesame has come back from a weak opening, so it was nice to hear you mention it as being better than you expected. I've had a similar situation as you did with the new pizza spot. We waited for five minutes at 7:30 on a Saturday for someone to sit us, but no one showed up. We walked out.

      There is a new "French Bistro" in town, The Loft, that is a bit off target. Well meaning people, but concept and execution isn't where it needs to be in this town. In my opinion, if you're going to open a French Bistro, you better have the pomme frites dialed in. They aren't. $13 for a generic hamburger. $15 for Mac and Cheese (with truffle oil!). Did think their wine list was reasonable. From the write-up in a local rag, the chef doesn't have any experience in French, but "it sounded interesting"...

      The Italian resto at the bottom of Granite Street was closed and will soon reopen. Not yet sure what is going to replace it. Harpers, on Second Street was closed. Looks like they lasted less than a year. Chateaulin was recently bought, is closed and undergoing a remodel. Plans are to open March 10th. Sounds like a bit more informal and less expensive. Their new chef comes from Elements, a Medford restaurant. The Apple Cellar, a South Ashland institution, has just opened up a cafe downtown across from the Varsity Theater. They have great pastries.

      Liquid Assets is one of our favorites, and our kids love Pasta Piatti. If I'm going to pay Amuse prices I'm heading north of town to New Sammys! FYI, the people that own Amuse also own Mix. I'm a bit surprised with your review of Mix. I've been happy with what I've had there, although granted, I've never had the items you ordered.

      Ashland appears to be a tough town to keep a restaurant going. I'm still not sure why. If I were knowledgeable and experience in Asian, I'd head down here pronto!

      2 Replies
      1. re: runninrob

        Thanks for the update. We will be down in three weeks for the first set of the plays for the year. Since we do not live there we come down three times a year to see them all. Looking forward to trying Pasta Piatti. We have yet to go there. Have you tried the newish Mexican place on the creek? Just wondering how it is. Did the replacement for KatWalk ever open?

        We have enjoyed Hana Sushi: http://www.passport2ashland.com/artic...
        We always love The Black Sheep: http://www.theblacksheep.com/enter.html
        The deserts at Munchies are usually good. The food is often hit or miss, but they do have good pie. http://ashland-oregon-munchies.com/
        Any other new good suggestions welcome.

        1. re: PaqpIn

          Newish Mexican place on the creek is out of business, taken over by the new French Bistro I mentioned earlier.
          Replacement for KatWok opened but haven't heard anything good about it. Suppose to be Vietnamese but still can't decide if it is a dance/nightclub or a restaurant. Hours are sporadic and the physical layout strange.

      2. Also made a trip to Ashland recently! What a great town. We too tried the new Martolli's pizza place and found it wonderful. As another reply stated we weren't sure what to do coming in, but quickly noticed the "order here" sign above the counter which we should have figured out having been to many slice shops in the past. The service was really fast considering the line. We were quickly served a nice slice and a wonderful tossed salad with a drink for only $6.75! The tax was included and the atmosphere was fun! It's great to have something a litttle more casual on the plaza where we don't have to spend an hour and tip a fortune for so so food. They're new and probably have some quirks to work out. Try it again and I bet you'll be happy.
        We had a really pleasant meal at Alex's. We didn't have the highest expectations considering that it is really more of a bar than a restaurant, but the shnitzel was super tender, and the drinks were great!
        We too had breakfast at the Breadboard which is always a staple for us in Ashland. The mountain man is a wonderful and greasy indulgence of eggs, cheese, sausage, buscuits and gravy which will leave you full all day!

        2 Replies
        1. re: bobdilla

          Great point on the pizza counter. Still think we should have seen someone behind it to direct us. I also think it is great for all the school kids coming to OSF to see the plays. It is relatively cheap and very close to the theaters.
          I do hope they succeed as I do any resto in town. If they survive, people like what they do.

          1. re: runninrob

            I agree with the suggestion for New Sammy's, we have had two excellent lunches there. Best Ravioli dish of my life was served at New Sammy's, they grow alot of their produce right on the property, the chef is amazing and food farm fresh! I would love to try dinner there if our schedule ever allows for it. :)