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Larks at Inn at the Commons

Larks at Inn at the Commons in downtown Medford offers the same concepts for farm-fresh, made-from-scratch cooking as its counterpart restaurant in the Ashland Springs Hotel.

Doug and Becky Neuman — owners of Ashland Springs Hotel and Lithia Springs Resort — began renovating the former Red Lion restaurant and lounge last August and opened it Dec. 20. The interior's new design transformed the old space into a large, open room with oversized, cream-colored leather booths, fresh pops of color and copper, brass and gold finishes.

It's a comfortable place that is perfect for any special occasion, as well as family get-togethers. The menu touts "a celebration of Oregon's farms, orchards, vineyards, chocolate and charm."

A friend and I celebrated the day after Christmas by getting together for dinner at Larks. Everything on the menu tantalized — even my friend who had eaten a big dinner with her family the day before. The belly rules the mind, according to an old proverb.

She chose the grilled rib-eye steak with a pinot demi-glace, fresh horseradish, steak fries and grilled asparagus ($29). I hadn't been to a family dinner Christmas Day, so I decided to go ahead and live it up with the southern-fried, boneless chicken breast with mashed potatoes, braised greens and bacon pan gravy ($21).

We labored over these choices, which finally won out over the red trout, winter squash gnocchi, bourbon-ketchup meatloaf (with mashed potatoes) and others, including duck, boullabaise and braised pork shank.

Elaborate appetizers, salads and desserts also enticed.

There's a charcuterie plate of meats, cheeses and baguette; steamed mussels; Dungeness crab hushpuppies; and phyllo-wrapped brie with mint pesto, huckleberry compote and crostini. Prices range from $8 to $13.

Salads include a classic Caesar; a salad of organic greens, toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries; smoked beets with micro radish greens, chevre and horseradish vinaigrette; and an organic spinach salad with pickled egg, blue cheese, pecans and andouille vinaigrette. Salads cost $8 or $9. Desserts range from $6 to $8 and are just as elegant.

Executive Chef Damon Jones — who works the kitchens and catering at Inn at the Commons and Ashland Springs Hotel — says he likes to source meats and produce from local farms and ranches in Southern Oregon.

"We buy what is in season and what is available from ranchers," he says. "That insight is what drives me and my sous-chefs' imaginations, and it's why some items are not regular features on the menu. Our specials (such as prime rib or lamb) are more localized."

It's also why Larks' cuisine costs a little more, but it's worth it for a delicious plate of food made from the best ingredients possible.

— Laurie Heuston

Oversized booths upholstered in cream-colored leather line one side of the dining room in Larks at Inn at the Commons. - Photo by Bob Pennell