Beef and beer for your backyard
The season of backyard barbecues has finally arrived in the Rogue Valley, and options for making the most of it are better than ever.
High-quality meats and brewery-fresh beers can be yours at home with a few quick stops at some of the same purveyors who supply local restaurants.
Restaurant chefs and menus regularly list Cherry Street Meats as a favored source. The friendly shop at 986 Cherry St. in Medford is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
An extended list of USDA Choice beef cuts is handwritten along the wall while a gleaming butcher case shows off a handful of specials. Rib-eye steaks on sale for $7.99 a pound enabled me to pick up a pair for $14.50, a good price for the centerpiece of a steak dinner.
Southern Oregon Fine Meats, at 885 Shafer Lane, Medford, where Schultzke Sausage was located, has the added convenience of being open Saturday, a prime cookout day.
Highlights here include naturally tenderized, aged beef, sausages and other house-cured meats, including pastrami perfect for a Reuben, as well as lean, flavorful elk salami. If you have a taste for the exotic, try elk, bison and locally raised rabbit, but the basic, ground sirloin cannot be beat.
Across the valley in Eagle Point, The Butcher Shop at 1532 S. Shasta Ave., just off Highway 62, also is well-known for quality meat and good service.
The number of local ranches selling their meats at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market has climbed steadily in recent years. Saturday markets start this month, but more vendors can be found Tuesday in Ashland and Thursday in Medford.
Full Circle Bison Ranch offers bison, of course, and pork from heritage breeds of hogs raised naturally in the Applegate Valley. A BLT with Full Circle's nitrate-free bacon is excellent summer fare when the heirloom tomatoes ripen.
Iron Age Farm, also in the Applegate, has lamb from the rare Soay breed of sheep and Tamworth pork. Owner Jonathan Boulton is working to open a butcher shop in Ashland, too.
Plaisance Ranch offers organic, grass-fed beef, including hot dogs and hamburgers that aren't just for kids. Prices generally are a bit lower for natural beef from Salant Family Ranch.
High-end restaurants in the Rogue Valley that serve goat, or chevon, usually get it from Willow-Witt Ranch, and you can, too. Flavorful goat and pork sausages are priced at $11.50 for 12 ounces of pork or $9.95 for 8 ounces of goat.
If you want your beer fresh and local, too, invest in a growler. The reuseable, half-gallon, glass jug can be filled time and again at a growing number of breweries and taprooms. It's an inexpensive, Earth-friendly way to take home interesting beers that you won't find in grocery-store coolers and often aren't available even in cans or bottles.
Several breweries and pubs sell growlers. I like the simple, brown, glass version at Bricktowne Barrel House, 111 E. Eighth St., Medford. It costs $17 filled for the first time. Refills are just $12.
The cheapest in Medford is Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub's $4 growler, which can be filled and refilled for $10.75. The Kaleidoscope IPA, brewed by Klamath Basin Brewing, is a good choice (and one you won't find anywhere else). But the pub at 3084 Crater Lake Highway has plenty of options from brewers around the region.
Southern Oregon Brewing, 1922 United Way, Medford, sells a $30 collectible German growler with a metal handle and ceramic flip top that might keep beer fresh longer. However, the ornate vessel is back-ordered and won't be available until mid-May. It probably wouldn't even fit in my overcrowded fridge, but the taproom will fill any growler for $11 for regular beers and $13 for seasonals.
Caldera Brewing's tap house at 31 Water St., Ashland, will fill any clean, resealable, glass container for 18 cents an ounce. That's $11.52 for a growler, or gather up some canning jars and create your own sampler pack. Smaller amounts sound just right for seasonals like this spring's flowery Rose Petal Imperial Golden Ale or summer's bright hibiscus-ginger beer.
Downtown Medford is home to several locations that don't make beer but have lots of taps and are happy to fill a growler. The Gypsy, 205 W. Eighth St., sells the container for $7 and will fill it with your choice from 31 taps for prices ranging from $12 to $14. Jackson Creek Pizza, 317 E. Main St., doesn't sell the glassware but will fill your growler for $13.50. Beerworks, also on East Main, plans to sell its own growler soon and will fill yours for prices starting at $12, depending on the beer.
— Anita Burke