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Essentially Ashland

The seeds of Morning Glory

It was during the summer of 1989 that we spontaneously veered away from the tried-and-true Jacksonville Inn and walked into the recently reopened McCully House Inn a few blocks away. We left a few hours later with the most delicious, fresh and visually inspired dinners that we had yet consumed in Southern Oregon. To this day I can remember exactly what I ate: tomato cilantro soup, salad with raspberry black pepper vinaigrette, loin of pork with roasted garlic, mushrooms, tarragon and scalloped potatoes. For dessert I had bread pudding topped with a hot caramel sauce. Silly me, I almost overlooked the homemade herb rolls. Who could forget such an initiation into such inspired dining?

Before exiting, I met with the new owner, Patty Groth, who I soon learned had excellent credentials, and marveled at her kitchen and very apparent hard work. She was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and had worked in San Francisco as a sous chef, baker and pastry maker. She also worked as the head chef at Bridgecreek, a breakfast restaurant two doors down from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. During her tenure there, Bridgecreek was featured in Elle, Chocolatier and Time magazine.

As we talked I looked around and realized that they grew their own herbs, used only local ingredients and made everything from scratch. Although some cutting-edge restaurants in the Bay Area were doing this, the McCully House Inn was the first of its kind in Southern Oregon.

During her stay in Jacksonville the McCully House Inn was featured in Sunset magazine, Bon Appetit, Northwest Best Places, the Mobil travel guide and many newspapers. Instead of driving 300 miles south for the best food in America, I could drive to Jacksonville and be seated in 20 minutes.

Patty ran the McCully House for five years, then sold it as her baby was due: It would be impossible to be a new mother and still put in the 18-hour days required, so she opted for the tyke over the tarts.

— — —

Ashland&

s Morning Glory Restaurant traces — its origins to Jacksonville&

s McCully House Inn.

Submitted photo

— — —

She moved to Ashland in 1993 and it didn&

t take long for Patty to begin to go stir crazy, as she exuded creativity and inspiration, and missed expressing her talent through hard work. She also missed the camaraderie of the kitchen and the satisfied looks of people well-fed and served.

1996 she had her eyes on a craftsman-style house on the boulevard, across the street from SOU. She signed the earnest money agreement on the property and went to the city for the necessary permits. What began as an application soon became a conditional-use permit and a variance. Patty, though skilled in the kitchen, was unprepared for the rigors of the planning process. Suddenly other contractors and investors wanted to buy the property and develop it while commercial neighbors didn&

t want additional competition or traffic. Persistent to a fault, she finally got her approvals after three attempts. We all know how the city helps businesses in Ashland, don&

t we?

She did the demolition herself and oversaw all of the improvements, which resulted in a warm, cheerful ambiance. In March of 1997 without advertising, she opened to a tsunami of hungry munchers, which overwhelmed her best-laid plans. (She had to let go of trying to make absolutely everything! From her own hash browns to jam, toast bread, sandwich bread, chai tea, etc.) Yet within six months she made some changes and soon was more able to handle the students, professors, gourmands, lovers of brunch and epicures as anyone with a clue cued up and waited their turn for a table.

Despite Patty&

s wealth of culinary knowledge, things would grind to a halt without a competent and seasoned staff. In the kitchen along with Patty are Mark Fuller and David Kilmer, both excellent line cooks, and Chip Maas and Josh Smith as prep cooks without whom the rest of the restaurant could not function. Jan Funk has worked in the front of the house since the McCully House days and Bev Burgess oversees the busy dining room. Nora Lynch, Ryan Foster, Lisa Mack and Matt Faurot have all been serving the Morning Glory customers for quite a few years.

The whole operation worked well for her. not serving dinner, she could be home before her son got back from school, yet she still got all the challenge and excitement that only a fast-paced kitchen can provide.

Some of my favorite breakfast items: shrimp cakes with poached eggs and smoked tomato chutney &

$11.50; applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onion and fontina cheese Omelet &

$9.50; tofu scramble with feta, spinach, tomato, kalamata olives and onion &

$9.50; lemon poppyseed waffle with lemon butter and fresh berries &

$8.50; and the three-mushroom omelet with scallions and brie. All of the plates are served with hash browns or white cheddar polenta, or two buttermilk pancakes and toast or muffin. Order your favorite fix of java and stay awhile.

For lunch, I have a predilection toward roasted beet and organic Swiss chard salad with goat cheese and caramelized walnuts &

$9.50; house smoked chicken salad with toasted pecans, sun dried cranberries and Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese Dressing &

$9.50; portabella mushroom burger with smoked mozzarella cheese &

$9.50; Black Forest ham, melted brie and caramelized onion sandwich with dijon mustard &

$9.50; or the smoked pork barbecue sandwich &

$9.50. The portions are generous, and the tastes &

simply the best.

I&

ve run across quite a few travelers who make a mandatory stop at the Morning Glory every time they drive by Ashland on the interstate, so it&

s clear that this is no longer just an Ashland secret.

The other day, while driving toward the Applegate, I passed the McCully House Inn and thought back to the serendipitous heel turn that aimed me toward an unforgettable dinner many years ago. To have such mastery relocated in Ashland means that I can forget the 20-minute drive to Jacksonville and spend my time and money locally with friends.

Future columns will focus on many businesses and key individuals that have helped make Ashland unique: Various businesses as well as key individuals and events will lead the charge from times past to lend perspective to the revival of Ashland. Send your favorite remembrances to: lance@journalist.com.