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Sweet treats in Ashland

With all the buzz about the amazing 3-D animated feature "Coraline" being set in Ashland, it's clear to see the town has a bit of a reputation.

It's bookish, vaguely British and sometimes soaked with rain, according to the film and its publicity machine.

While I certainly don't believe everything I see on the big screen or read in movie magazines, that seems a pretty accurate description of the Ashland I know.

Some of my favorite places celebrate just those features, and satisfy my sweet tooth, too.

The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, on the Plaza at 51 N. Main St., is a popular destination for a pint of good ale and pub fare such as fish and chips. However, it also offers an infinitely craveable sweet treat straight from the British Isles.

I'm not talking about the spotted dick. That is very British, but I can't quite imagine craving steamed sponge cake with raisins, even if it does have a whimsical name. (Actually, the name makes it seem even less appetizing to me.)

I will note in passing, though, that it is included free with every meal on Mondays, and the slices coming out of the kitchen last time I was at The Black Sheep did smell buttery and sweet as they passed by on their way to other diners.

The treat I'm talking about is the freshly baked scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam.

The menu warns that the kitchen needs 15 minutes for baking. In practice, it can take a bit longer than that for the scones to emerge, but they are worth the wait.

The golden brown rounds neatly scored into quarters could be mistaken for biscuits from a distance. But they are not so ordinary.

They are rich, tender and slightly sweet. They are meant to be slathered with raspberry jam and clotted cream, traditionally the richest bits of butter fat skimmed from unhomogenized cream that has been scalded, then cooled.

That's just how The Black Sheep serves them, too. Priced at just $4, the pair of scones is enough to share, especially when topped with a decidedly not-low-fat option such as clotted cream.

I added "a nice pot of tea" for $2.50 and wondered why I don't stop by the pub for a proper cream tea more often.

Another place I like to stop, especially if it's damp and dreary out, is Bloomsbury Coffee House, 290 E. Main St. I count both bookstores and coffee shops among my favorite places, and Bloomsbury combines the two in a quintessentially Ashland way — with an independent bookseller and an upstairs cafe focused on local, organic food.

My favorite treat here is the Dagoba hot chocolate. The small only costs $2.75, so it could easily be accompanied by one of the baked goods waiting on the counter without denting my wallet.

However, the lush chocolate goodness doesn't need a thing on the side. It's not too sweet, not too creamy and practically perfect all on its own.

I don't know how either of these confections compare with a mango milkshake dispensed from a magical chandelier over Coraline's dining room table, but I'm confident that they can be safely enjoyed without anyone trying to sew buttons over your eyes. Or even making you wear dorky 3-D glasses.

— Anita Burke