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Dining out in 2013

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of flavors and restaurants that know how to showcase its nuances in new and delicious ways.

In 2013, myself and other Word of Mouth columnists recalled a number of such restaurants, including Standing Stone Brewing Co., where fresh got fresher when the Ashland pub rolled out an updated menu featuring beef, chicken, eggs and other ingredients from its private farm; Larks — both the Medford and Ashland locations — which prides itself in its copious use of locally produced ingredients, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and sustainable Pacific Northwest seafood; and Brothers' Restaurant, where a familiar breakfast fare changes with the season and every artistic whim of owner Dan Durant.

However, upon reflection, what impressed us most in 2013 was the new global flavors that were introduced to our valley. Several of these new ethnic eats piqued our palate and left us pining for more.

Qzeen Armenian Deli & Cafe, tucked inside Medford's Cobblestone Village, is worth seeking out. In the weeks following her review, my editor Laurie Heuston raved about its falafel sandwich ($6.50), topped with a juicy, herbaceous shirazi salad of cucumbers and tomatoes and hummus garnished with olive oil and paprika.

"A perfect blend of flavors," she recently commented.

The cafe's olovia — a chicken and potato salad studded with peas, carrots and hard-boiled egg — and a flaky, sweetly-stuffed nazook also are worthy of mention.

Blue Greek on Granite in Ashland opened three years ago but, this year, decided to put a tapas spin on several of its Greek and Mediterranean dishes. The restaurant's serving of mousaka, although a la carte, was generous for a small plate and $10 price tag. The classic dish featured layers of sauteed eggplant, seasoned potatoes in a creamy bechamel sauce and lean, minced beef — all this is served over a bed fresh spinach and topped with fresh herbs.

In October, two of our columnists enjoyed a proper English high tea at Roundtable Tea Co. in downtown Medford. The tea room boasts a vast selection of teas — black, green, white and rooibos — which promise something for every taste. Elegant fare, including finger sandwiches, scones and other sweet and savory treats, elevate the experience at chef's choice teas available for two or more people with at least one day's notice and at special occasion teas planned monthly.

International flavors also have seeped into Medford's food-cart clusters. During the colder months, we sought comfort in Mathew Bladek and Justin Ray's warm ramen available at Kanak Attack, a makeshift kitchen near the Medford library, and in Christian Ainzuain's Don Cesar sandwich, which was one of the specials at Peruvian Point, a red-and-white trailer parked weekday afternoons at Eighth Street and Riverside Avenue.

Potatoes are a staple in Peruvian food and at Peruvian Point and are served steamed next to the aforementioned sandwich in a highly-praised, slightly-spiced chili sauce.

"Hand-cut steaks, fall-off-the-bone ribs, made-from-scratch sides and fresh-baked bread" are the hallmark of Texas Roadhouse, a popular steakhouse chain now in Medford. However, it was the restaurant's Texas-sized combos and friendly service that impressed my fellow columnist, Nick Morgan, most.

In 2013, we also sung the praises of Sammich's Chicago- and Italian-style sandwiches, Element's Southern-style brunch and pizzas at Pasta Piatti in Ashland.

If you missed any of these in 2013, make it your resolution to visit them all in 2014.

— Teresa Thomas