Cafe 116 and Rogue Valley Roasting Co.
While quaint coffeehouses are commonplace in Ashland, ones that serve quality eats along with hot and cold specialty beverages are not so prevalent.
I was introduced to two this month — the new, trendy Cafe 116 downtown and the cozy, neighborhood Rogue Valley Roasting Co., which sits on the edge of Ashland's Railroad District. Both cafes offer locally made breakfast and lunch options, as well as delicious pastries for any time in between.
My husband and I patronized Cafe 116 on a Sunday morning. The tiny eatery has taken up residence in the former home of Key of C Coffeehouse & Bakery.
With its clean lines, upholstered furniture and a muted color palette, the narrow lounge resembles a classy European cafe.
The restaurant is the investment enterprise of Oliver and Gesa Wald, who moved to Ashland from Hamburg, Germany, a year ago. For the first six months, the couple partnered with Kelly Hay, the chef and creative mastermind behind the menu.
For breakfast, there was house-made granola, breakfast sandwiches, quiches and tortilla de patata, a thick Spanish omelet. Lunch offers five green salads and four deli salads, plus six sandwiches and two soup specials. All baked goods, including croissant varieties, pecan rolls, tarts, cupcakes and cookies, are made fresh daily.
Sean and I ordered a breakfast sandwich ($5.75) and slice of quiche ($4.50), respectively, as well as a pecan roll ($3.50), glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice ($2.75) and a latte ($3.50).
A veteran barista, I am particular about coffee and was glad to see employees pulling their own espresso shots, which I think yields a better crema. The barista also created a small heart in the pillowy foam of my latte — a nice touch.
Cafe 116 serves organic blends by Blue Bottle Coffee Co., based in Oakland, Calif. The cafe doesn't serve drip coffee in the traditional sense. Rather each cup of coffee is prepared individually, using the pour-over method. This way, the coffee is not only fresher but retains its subtler notes.
Sean's sandwich was served on a light, buttery croissant. Inside were thick slabs of bacon, scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese. The uncomplicated, four-ingredient sandwich was filling and garnered only compliments from Sean.
The quiches of the day were bell pepper-mushroom-onion-cheddar and olive-tomato-basil. I chose the latter. The egg custard was studded with sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives and sprinkled with grated Parmesan. The quiche, which is served by the slice, was reheated but not enough to warm the thick middle.
The sticky bun was soft and sweet without being sugary. Orange zest in the topping also added a light citrus flavor that I especially liked.
Food options at Rogue Valley Roasting Co. expanded four years ago under new ownership. Most items are prepared at an off-site kitchen or by various, local vendors, including Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery, Annie Mac's bakery and Heidi's Pie in the Sky.
Compared with the chic Cafe 116, the 17-year-old Rogue Valley Roasting Co. is rustic with wooden tables, wooden paneling and open rafters.
Sean and I met there for a late lunch earlier this week. Food items straddle breakfast and lunch. There's frittata, turnovers, spanikopita, ham and spinach pastries, wraps, focaccia pizzas, chicken fajitas and breakfast burritos — all reasonably priced under $6.
Sean ordered a chicken fajita, reheated and served with a mild salsa. I took a fellow foodie's tip and ordered the pulled-pork turnover. The meat-filled pastry was simple but hearty with a subtle barbecue flavor that didn't overwhelm the flaky, buttery shell.
Despite the good meal, Sean and I agreed the cafe's coffees were the hallmark of our visit. Sean's mocha was sweetened with dark-chocolate chips and topped with house-made whipped cream and chocolate shavings. My latte, served in a clear glass mug, also was artful with beautiful layers of dark espresso and silky foam.
From the diverse array of baked goods, Sean and I chose a bread pudding ($2.65) and a dipped orange-almond biscotti ($2.35) to enjoy later.
Rogue Valley Roasting Co. beverages are now also available at Yogurt Hut in Ashland.
— Teresa Thomas