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Flatbread pizza at McCully House

With winter on the way out, there is another set of dining attractions to look forward to. One of my favorites is dining al fresco — whether it is at a local restaurant or just outside my back door.

With this idea in mind, my boyfriend and I headed out one pleasant early spring evening after work to McCully House Garden Bistro in Jacksonville.

The Garden Bistro is known for its delicious take on locally produced food — and garden patio seating is available, weather permitting.

McCully House showcases vegetables, meats, cheeses and pastas from family farms and ranches around the Northwest. Seasonal menus and specials are offered at reasonable prices, and the bistro's flatbread pizzas are offered Wednesday nights for just $9.

We had our hearts set on a balmy evening outdoors, delicious food and a glass of fine wine, but it was not to be. The days aren't long enough yet, and a chill sets in as soon as the sun drops over the hills. So we sat inside and sipped glasses of Slagle Creek chardonnay as we watched the gloaming on the patio.

The Garden Bistro's flatbreads are offered with ingredients intended to create an authentic Italian-style pizza. On this particular night, the selections included wild mushroom and sweet red pepper; buffalo pepperoni from Full Circle Bison Ranch in Williams with wild mushrooms and marinara sauce; roasted tomato and rough-chopped pesto; and roasted chicken with tomatoes, spinach, bacon and roasted garlic. The flatbreads are prepared with an assortment of local and imported cheeses.

The bistro was offering an additional selection the night we visited, and we let ourselves be swayed by a seafood flatbread made with chunks of grilled tiger prawns, Dungeness crab, feta cheese, onion and green pepper. We also chose the wild mushroom and sweet red pepper flatbread.

We had to wait a bit for our meal, and I looked over the bistro's wine list. Just like the salads, appetizers and entrees, the wine selections reflect what's available from regional producers. One of my picks, the South Stage Cellars Monte Rosa, is available only by the bottle.

Appetizers and salads at the Garden Bistro include baked brie, Dungeness crab cakes, Caesar salad, and the bistro salad made with organic greens and tossed with fresh pears, candied walnuts, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and a honey citrus dressing. The salad Nicoise also is tempting, with seared ahi on organic greens with green beans, olives and tomato.

According to our friendly server, Crystal, there is a dish of grilled petite beef tenders (think of a tiny roast) topped with a mushroom and red wine reduction that is new to the menu. It is served with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, in this case dark, slender green beans.

One of my old favorites is still on the menu — hand-cut ravioli. This is house-made pasta filled with spinach, shallots and ricotta with wine and mushroom consomme reduction and braised greens.

Other enticing entrees include pork tenderloin, roasted quail with shrimp stuffing and grilled wild Alaska salmon.

But this visit was about the flatbreads, and they were delicious. The breads are baked to a perfect texture — soft with crusty edges, and they are sized amply enough to serve as a meal for one or two people or as appetizers.

The wild mushrooms on the flatbreads are morels from Louis Jeandin's Mushrooms All Year. Jeandin has created a niche market by foraging for mushrooms and supplying them to small, local restaurants. The demand for Jeandin's product has grown, and his fresh mushrooms also are available at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, Ashland Food Co-op and Market of Choice.

Spring will eventually turn to summer in the Rogue Valley, and I intend to visit the Garden Bistro more than once during the warm seasons for more flatbread and, hopefully, a seat in the garden patio.

Laurie Heuston