Ashland, OR Dining (June 2010)
Sweetie and I returned to Ashland (last time was March of this year), this time with friends on their first trip to the town. So we mostly ate at old favorites.
Lunch on Friday was at Pasta Piatti. As always, this was a great meal. I had their spinach salad, J. had their meatball hero. The salad is huge, filling a dinner plate with fresh greens, lightly dressed in a creamy oreganzola dressing, with smoked bacon, pears, candied walnuts and a little pickled purple onion. The combination of sweet and smoky is delicious. The meatballs are huge, like small tennis balls, and although I think they have too much fennel, I’m apparently unusual in not appreciating that flavor. The bread used is sturdy enough to hold up to the weight and the sauce is superb.
That night, dinner was our ‘date night’ so we put on our fancy clothes and walked down to The Peerless Restaurant. The Peerless is down in Ashland’s Historic Railroad and Gallery District, which many visitors don’t get to. If for no other reason, this restaurant is a reason to go there.
I started with the chicken tagine: a perfectly-done braised leg of chicken (thigh and drumstick) was silky in texture and full of the flavor of the chicken. The cinnamon couscous was not particularly flavorful, but when these ingredients were consumed along with the ginger jam – WOW. The jam was sweet, but not overly so, and the flavor was bold and bright.
J. had the butternut squash and pear soup. It was a beautiful presentation and the soup was lovely. Thick and creamy without a lot of added flavors, just enough spice to bring out the complexity and sweetness of the pear alongside the richness of the squash. It was a huge bowl, and really could serve two as an appetizer.
For our main meal I had the grilled pork tenderloin. This has a "noble coffee" espresso & coconut rub and is served with a cherry demi-glace, yukon gold & sweet potato purée, and live sprouts of the day. The pork was delicious. The rub and demi-glace were perfectly balanced, not too sweet or sour and I loved the puree.
J. had the Double R Ranch Natural Filet Mignon which has a pinot noir reduction sauce and comes with spring vegetables (brussel sprouts, bok choy, asparagus, and snap beans). This is a delicious cut of beef, well prepared and just plain yummy.
For dessert J. had the Peerless S’More. This is a huge cup of chocolate (aka pot de crème) topped with homemade mashmallow crème, broiled so the top is carmelized, and then garnished with a huge homemade graham cracker. It was incredible. And J. couldn’t finish it (there was so much richness!) even with my help.
I had a nice lemon tart with fresh berries. Very good, but not spectacular.
Saturday's breakfast/brunch was from the ‘new’ bakery on Main Street – Apple Cellar Bakery. They had delicious looking pastries, so I picked up a selection and brought them home for us all to enjoy. And enjoy we did! S. is a big fan of the chocolate croissant, and we all agreed that the blackberry walnut muffin was special. The ham and cheese croissant was perfectly savory. All were very tasty, and we repeated this breakfast again on Sunday.
Between then and dinner I took a bad fall that led to a sprained ankle. I obviously wasn’t up for a long walk anywhere, and driving in Ashland is just plain silly. So we went to Pasta Piatti, which is literally right down the hill from the Cottage.
We started with the always wonderful calamari fritti. Light and tender, just the way calamari should be. I had the Antira – seared duck breast in huckleberry pan sauce with sautéed spinach and Yukon potatoes. J. had the gnocchi, S. had the gemelli, and my J. had the pomodoro. Everything was delicious, very fresh and well prepared. (Sorry for being so brief, I didn’t take pictures or notes, my ankle was really bothering me.)
Sunday was brunch at Lark's at the Ashland Springs Hotel. We all slept in (it was a vacation after all!) and then we headed down the hill for brunch at Larks in the Ashland Springs Hotel. S. enjoyed his bloody mary and crab benedict (Dungeness Crab Benedict On Grilled Rosemary Bread With Vine-ripened Tomato, Spinach, Basted Egg & A Lemon-caper Hollandaise Served With Rosemary Potatoes). J. enjoyed her pancakes and scrambled eggs, J. enjoyed his meatloaf sandwich (Warm Meatloaf Sandwich On Sourdough With Housemade Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Cheddar Cheese, Onion, Tomato & Lettuce Served With Kettle Chips), and I loved my berry French toast (Grand Marnier Custard French Toast With Berry Compote & Whipped Cream).
The service was good, and we were delighted to see a table full of OSF actors hanging out. (It’s a commonplace in Ashland that the actors are people too, and you see them all over town.)
We saw Hamlet which was wonderful. Then we went our separate ways for a bit, and met again for dinner at Liquid Assets Wine Bar.
We started with a cheese plate comprised of three cheeses: Cayhill’s Porter Cheddar (Firm, Cow’s Milk Cheddar with Porter, New Castle West, Ireland), Carr Valley Mobay (Semi-Firm, Goat and Sheep’s milk, Carr Valley Cheese Company, Wisconsin) and the Iberico Curado (Firm, Raw Cow, Goat, and Sheep’s Milk, Spain). We also had the Spanish Marcona Almonds. This was a great combination with our various drinks and absolutely whetted our appetite for dinner.
For dinner S. had the Porcini Mushroom Carbonara (Sautéed Fresh Local Porcinis, Spring Peas, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Linguini); J. and I. had the Lobster Risotto (Sautéed Lobster, Parmesan Cheese, White Truffle Oil), and J. had the Braised Beef Short Ribs (Roasted Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, Demi-Glace).
S. enjoyed his carbonara. The risotto was fabulous: creamy, with just the right amount of ‘bite’ in the grains. The pieces of lobster were hearty and generous. The short ribs were utterly delicious: rich with a deep flavor enhanced by the potatoes and asparagus. We were very happy people.
Which was good, because The Merchant of Venice is not a happy play.
When we went home, we opened a bottle of a Spanish red and brought out a wedge of manchengo cheese and fresh bread. We were up until almost 2am drinking and talking about the plays, life, and everything. A lovely, if late, end to our weekend.
Our new eateries were on Monday, and one was a huge surprise.
We had lunch at Louie’s Bar & Grill, which is one of the restaurants along Lithia Creek. The Ashland Amber beer was tasty as was their ‘recession burger’ ($5 for a cheese burger and homemade kettle chips). The kettle chips were great.
Eventually we got hungry again and decided to try the Sky House Bar & Grill, in the Medford airport.
J. tried the fried raviolis, which were tasty, but DROWNED in sauce. The surprise was how good the burgers were. Hand formed, the kitchen makes them when they are ordered, not before hand. The toppings were real, fresh, and tasty. Everything was more indicative of an eatery in town, not what you’d expect at the airport. Apparently the locals go here for their burgers, not just travelers.
Pics are posted at my blog:
358 E Main St, Ashland, OR 97520
Liquid Assets Wine Bar
96 N Main St, Ashland, OR 97520
Main Street Cafe
297 N Main St, Toledo, OR 97391