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Best in dining 2011

Best dining in 2011

Ashland is the Rogue Valley's default destination for celebratory meals. On the cusp of the new year, the Revels staff took a look back at our best dining experiences of 2011. We realized that while there were some standouts, Ashland's restaurant scene is so diverse that we could assemble an entire menu from our favorites, as well as recommend dishes for breakfast and lunch.

Appetizer: Smithfields' charcuterie board of house-cured bacon, silky pate, tender terrine and house-pickled quail eggs and vegetables is served both at brunch and dinner. Chef Neil Clooney even makes his own mustard for this dish.

Soup: Coquina's carrot puree has a sweet, caramel-like finish under toppings of creme fraiche and finely shredded, fried carrot.

Salad: New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro's duck confit-kale salad features an entire leg of tender fowl covered in a thin layer of crispy fat atop a bed of lightly sauteed kale studded with bacon and walnuts and dressed in melted goat cheese and lemon — dubbed "amazing" by several diners at this Talent hideaway.

Entree: The most craveable dish in town is Loft American Brasserie's truffle-scented macaroni gratin. Each bite is redolent with the earthiness of this prized fungi. Adding Dungeness crab for an additional $5 pushes decadence to the extreme.

Dessert: Polish off Loft's macaroni with another truffle — the dark-chocolate kind. These are hand-rolled and flavored with sea salt and caramel.

Breakfast: Morning Glory's rock-shrimp cakes with white cheddar polenta are still an Ashland original nearly 15 years after the little blue cottage across from Southern Oregon University opened for business.

Sandwich: Anything Happy Falafel puts on pita bread — chickpea fritters, lamb, chicken, shrimp and tuna — at its hole-in-the-wall shop specializing in Middle Eastern street food.