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Mix Sweet Shop

As hot weather inspires cravings for ice cream and other cool desserts, customers will crowd into Ashland's Mix Sweet Shop for artisan gelato.

But there's so much more to this Plaza eatery than ice cream and coffee. Mix is perhaps Jackson County's only true European-style patisserie, specializing in from-scratch, Old World, utterly delicious breads and pastries made fresh every day.

Mix celebrates its third anniversary this month. Because of its low-key facade, at times the top-notch bakery Mix must rely on the aroma of Stumptown coffee or its wireless Web platform to lure newcomers inside.

If Ashland is an evening destination only, it's easy to miss out on the majority of Mix's culinary creations, made in small batches to ensure freshness and to prevent waste. You might purchase a Mix lemon bar or meringue after the dinner hour but don't expect to score a fresh fruit tart or a croissant stuffed with Rogue Creamery blue cheese and spinach.

Even after a handful of visits over the past three years, I never realized Mix made a truly French interpretation of the sandwich until about a month ago when I stopped in on a weekday afternoon.

Composed on a baguette measuring about 8 inches long and about as wide as a ruler, the tartines ($3.50) are in high demand. Patrons usually get their choice of two, vegetarian or meat. Most recently, ham and thyme-infused butter and fresh mozzarella with tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar were on hand.

I considered the ham for reasons of nostalgia (it's quintessentially French) but picked the fresh tomato with a little persuasion from the woman operating the counter. Mix's produce is purchased fresh at local farmers markets or delivered directly from growers.

For that reason, the fresh berry tart ($4) that boasted strawberries just a few weeks back was topped this time with olallieberries from Pennington Farms. Combining a few contrasting blueberries, candied lemon zest and vanilla-infused custard in the flakiest shortcrust imaginable, the tart couldn't be passed up.

Likewise for the lemon tart ($3.75), crowned with a lightly browned tiara of meringue. Cradled in the same flaky crust, the first mouthful of meringue was almost like biting into a sweet, fluffy, edible pillow. The lemon custard's vibrancy also did not disappoint.

With recipes like these, it's no wonder pastry chef Jamie North conceived Mix to showcase classic desserts that don't require the painstaking plating of those served at Ashland's fine-dining restaurant Amuse, which she co-owns with husband Erik Brown.

Observing a lack of Ashland coffee shops that make fine pastries on site, North also designed Mix to bake all the bread used at Amuse. Mix customers, she said, flock to purchase baguettes ($2.75), boules ($3.75) and the like, cranked out warm several times daily.

After the sandwiches and tarts, my friend and I certainly could have skipped the chocolate-coated cream puff ($3.50). We decided that superior coffee, however, needed company that only chocolate can provide.

Yet we overestimated our appetite for coffee, taking the barista's word that the smaller French press ($3.50) produced just a little over a single, 12-ounce serving. The larger brewing for $5 practically left us swimming in coffee, filling two enormous bowls that transported me straight back to France, with more than a bowlful left over.

Coffee in hand, I also left with some croissants, dithering briefly over the bacon-Gruyere gougeres, for the next morning's breakfast. And just so I wouldn't have to suffer inferior coffee, I threw in a bag of Stumptown's Guatemalan-roast beans for $12.

No doubt I'll be back this summer for gelato, about the only item Mix doesn't make in-house. But there's no telling when a craving for pastries or curiosity about Mix's cute chocolate cupcakes could warrant a trip to Ashland.

— Sarah Lemon