My husband John and I visited Ashland, Oregon to enjoy the plays showing at their renowned Shakespeare Festival. We saw plenty of theatre, however found ourselves captivated by local food offerings. I became obsessed with seeking out “the Rogue River Cuisine.”
We arrived in Ashland around 9 p.m. on a Saturday, and actually had to run to get to one of the few restaurants that were still serving. As the host showed us to our table, she said, “If your order is not in the kitchen by 9:30 p.m., you are not going to get dinner.” Needless to say, we did not take long to select our meals. When my dinner (an heirloom tomato stuffed with Israeli couscous, herbs and cheese), I took a bite and I was in paradise.
We quickly fell into a routine – biking during most of the day, dinner at a local restaurant and then out to a play.
As our vacation was winding down, I emailed Sarah Lemon, a local reporter who writes about food. I wanted to meet her so I could talk to her about the Southern Oregon or Rogue River cuisine. She suggested we meet at a local restaurant – New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro – just a couple miles down the highway in a town called Talent.
As we parked the car, I noticed the large vegetable garden on the property. Chard, tomatoes, leeks, lettuce and corn were thriving. Even with the hot southern Oregon sunshine, the tomatoes were green even though it was mid August.
The restaurant was so unassuming we would have missed it if we weren’t paying attention. The parking lot was empty, so I guessed we were the first to arrive.
Soon Sarah walked into the dining room. We were seated at a large table by the owner of the restaurant. The menu consisted of six options for lunch, each had the same price – $15. I wanted to try everything, but settled on the Grilled Emerald Hills grassfed beef tri-tip sandwich with smoked mozzarella, roasted walla walla onions, and “gribiche” sauce and grilled corn on the cob with spicy Spanish “pimento” butter. John ordered Green salad with green beans, broccoli, fava beans, cucumber, potato, a farm egg, grilled organic chicken,
We asked Vernon for a wine suggestion. The rose’, Velo Malbec 2009, from the nearby Applegate Valley paired nicely with our meals. And yes, we ended our meal with dessert.
As a writer, I am always striving to show rather than tell. Sarah told me plenty about the local cuisine, however her suggestion to meet at New Sammy’s Bistro gave me the opportunity to see it, taste it and savor every detail.