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Meals on the move

Southern Oregon has plenty of big, white Fords pulling boxy trailers. And if you saw such a combination parked at a growers market or winery, you might even expect it to have farm-fresh produce inside.

But one particular gleaming trailer actually is a full kitchen serving a sophisticated menu prepared by two Chicago-trained chefs. That is Fulcrum Dining, an Applegate-based venture operated by Chad Hahn and Gabrielle Rysula.

Their mobile kitchen tours farmers markets in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass, makes Sunday stops to serve food at Wooldridge Creek Winery, cooks at special events around the valley and is available for catering.

Whatever the location, the menu features local food prepared in simple yet innovative combinations that make the most of seasonal flavors.

Offerings shift not just from season to season, but from day to day depending on what is fresh and available from many of the same vendors at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market. People hungry for a meal on market day usually can find at Fulcrum a few breakfast items — an omelet, breakfast sandwich with house-made chorizo, bacon or ham, or grits with bacon and eggs — along with perfect lunch fare: sandwiches made with local meats or loads of vegetables, polenta topped with mushrooms and vegetables, and sometimes tacos, soups or salads. Prices generally range from $5 to $8 per item at the markets, just a bit higher at the winery.

Polenta and grits — from blue corn grown and ground at a farm in Williams — make regular appearances on Fulcrum's menu board and usually are priced around $7 or $8. Skeptics might not think the vaguely purple mush looks like much on its own, but the polenta I ordered offered an array of creamy and substantial, almost chewy, textures and subtle, earthy corn flavor that you won't find in grains stored and shipped by mass producers. Topped with a buttery mix of lightly sauteed spring vegetables, it made a delicious, hearty meal.

My co-worker ordered a sandwich that was anything but plain — chevre, kim chi and basil on multigrain bread. This international coalition came together to make a tasty lunch for $7.

Fulcrum uses bread from another Applegate business, Rise Up! Artisan Bakery, which also prepares gourmet meals on the move, hitting the road with a mobile, wood-fired pizza oven. (The two often are parked close together at Thursday's market at the Medford Armory.)

Rise Up! owners Jo Ferneau and Rosie Demmin moved to Oregon from Napa, Calif., and began baking in 2007, but just this year, they brought a portable bakery to markets in Medford and Ashland.

The domed oven is towed on an open trailer by a biodiesel van. A small fire heats the 2-ton oven to temperatures between 550 and 800 degrees, so pizzas bake in three to five minutes. It takes a skilled baker even less time to stretch a lump of dough into a hand-tossed crust with a few quick flips into the air.

These people know dough; just try any of their bread. The pizza crust is the right combination of chewy and crisp.

The toppings range from conventional to unusual. A co-worker had recommended the pesto, pear and potato, but the guy in line before me ordered the last slice of that. While these artisans keep the pizzas coming, and the next one probably would have been along in mere minutes, there were plenty of other yummy-looking options.

The bacon, apple, honey sounded a little odd to me, although another customer vouched for its deliciousness. I went with classic cheese and basil, also available with sausage for meat eaters. The sauce had a rich, pure tomato flavor, and the whole slice was simple perfection.

Prices are $14 for whole pizzas, which are about 10 inches across, or $4 per slice.

With fresh, natural fare prepared by people with a passion for what they produce, both of these businesses are welcome additions to the local food scene.

­— Anita Burke