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Vida Baking Co. is a ‘dream’ spot for owner, diners

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Frittata at Vida are stuffed with mushrooms and spinach. Photos by Sarah Lemon.
Sandwiches at Vida Baking Co. come on traditional Brazilian "pão de queijo."
Chickpea pancakes with tahini sauce are among the gluten-free specialties of Vida Baking Co. in Ashland.
Rice pudding is one of several breakfast “bowls” at Vida Baking Co.
Apple souffle is among the gluten-free treats at Ashland’s Vida Baking Co.
Brazil nut waffles are topped with fresh fruit and coconut cream at Vida.

A much-loved bread, traditional in parts of Brazil, is the key ingredient in a new Ashland bakery’s gluten-free enterprise.

Cassava root starch is the base of “pão de queijo,” which also contains cheese, eggs, milk, oil and salt, according to the website for Vida Baking Co. The dough is shaped into rolls, buns, bagels, focaccia and loaves that provide the vehicle for Vida’s seven sandwiches.

For breakfast, there are sweet and savory pancakes and waffles, along with “bowls” containing acai and granola. An extensive selection of pastries, muffins and other baked goods complement Vida’s roster of espresso and coffee drinks.

Open since mid-February at 149 N. Pioneer St., Vida relocated from Santa Barbara, where it stocked several grocers with bread. Owner Carla Guimaraes grew fond of Ashland while visiting friends in the area. Originally from Belo Horizonte, a city in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Guimaraes found the spot for her “dream bakery” in Ashland, says friend Sofia Archer.

Vida is indeed a dream come true for diners who are gluten-intolerant or -sensitive. And the item that sets it apart from other gluten-free eateries is the “pão de queijo.” A specialty of Minas Gerais for more than 200 years, according to Vida’s website, this isn’t an imitator of better known breads. “Pão de queijo” is distinctively different and worth seeking out for its own sake.

Taking into account that the bread is made in house, prices for Vida’s sandwiches — ranging from $6.25 to $7.50 — are a breath of fresh air among so many counterparts that top $10 locally. Sandwiches aren’t exactly piled high, but ingredients are thoughtfully combined on the single loaf of “pão de queijo,” moistened with such spreads as hummus and tomato jam.

The tomato jam, paired with turkey and baby arugula ($6.50), tempted both me and my partner on a recent visit. I also would have voted for the smoked salmon with goat cheese ($7.50), or in tomato season, the “Caprese” ($6.50) with fresh mozzarella, basil and avocado. The latter two sandwiches are among the few with cheese, somewhat redundant on bread that has cheese already baked in.

In the mood for breakfast at 11 a.m., I couldn’t pass up Vida’s rice pudding bowl ($6.25) with coconut, fresh fruit and maple syrup. I added cacao nibs for an extra dollar.

Rice pudding does for me what trendy acai bowls don’t, which is to say actually fueling me for the day. But if it’s acai bowls diners are after, Vida prepares two ($9.50-$10.50) with granola, banana and berries — one “gringo” style with peanut butter.

If I hadn’t already fueled up on coffee for the day, I would have eagerly ordered a cup of Organic Groundwork’s brew, which Vida serves as both drip and espresso. Instead, I requested a “golden milk” ($4.75), which infuses turmeric into the dairy for a tasty health tonic. We also ordered an apple souffle ($3.75) from the bakery case.

With a large walkup window opening onto its deck, Vida is nicely appointed for diners who want to maintain distance. Staff passed our order through the window, and we seated ourselves at one of several tables, including some positioned under portable heaters.

Sweet, juicy strawberries and mango topped the rice pudding. I appreciated the rich, slightly bitter counterpoint of crunchy shaved coconut and cacao nibs and would have considered the combination a hit if the rice had been more pudding-like. The texture was closer to simply steamed rice than custardy puddings to which I’m accustomed. A smoother consistency perhaps could be had in Vida’s oatmeal.

My partner and I both relished the tomato jam, particularly well matched to the cheese bread. Sliced turkey and mixed greens were assembled on the bread in pleasing ratios. The apple souffle, on the other hand, would have benefited from a bit more fruit.

Vida had expanded its breakfast menu upon our next visit, affording the chance to try frittata ($8.25), chickpea pancakes ($7.25) and Brazil nut waffles ($7.50). My son asked for a bacon “pão de queijo” bagel from the bakery case to tide him over until our meal arrived. After clarifying that it didn’t come toasted or with cream cheese — and having taken the first bite — I reluctantly handed over the addictively savory, delightfully chewy morsel and tried to referee its fair distribution with his younger brother.

The two kids clamored for waffles topped with sliced mango and strawberries, maple syrup and coconut cream, which we requested on the side. They gobbled up the bulk, dipping their forks in coconut cream and finally chasing their waffles with the whipped cream substitute.

The chickpea pancakes were less remarkable, contrary to my high hopes for the combination of cherry tomatoes and avocado drizzled with tahini sauce. But the pancakes, which suggested advance preparation, had a tougher and denser texture than I typically associate with pancakes. The dish could have been better served hot rather than at room temperature.

My partner praised the fluffy frittata with mushrooms and spinach, served with two “pão de queijo” buns and a small salad of mixed greens. I’d enjoy this light, wholesome dish anytime, but Vida serves it and other breakfast dishes until noon Wednesday through Saturday. Breakfast is available all day Sunday. Bakery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call 541-708-0562. See facebook.com/vidabakingco or follow @vidabakingco on Instagram.

Tempo Tidbits

New hours and a new menu of Indian, Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern specialties are available at Gather Cafe Bistro Bar in Talent.

Asian sweet and sour vegetables are one of the new menu items at Gather Cafe Bistro Bar in Talent. Photo courtesy of Dimple Bakshi.

The restaurant, owned by prolific Southern Oregon restaurateurs Sumesh and Dimple Bakshi, builds on the cuisine featured at their other establishments, Flavor Global Kitchen in Medford and Masala Bistro & Bar in Ashland. The couple say they opened Gather a month after the catastrophic Almeda fire swept through Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, at the community’s encouragement.

New at the eatery at 200 Talent Ave. are ground lamb curry, Moroccan tagine, Middle Eastern “shakshouka,” Asian sweet and sour vegetables, “biryani,” a rice dish with a choice of chicken or prawns, and Indian’s beloved “butter chicken.” The selection includes many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, including cauliflower flatbread.

Gather’s kitchen still prepares burritos, yucca fries and street corn, along with a lineup of sandwiches and several brunch dishes. The original menu offered “everyday food” with a focus on breakfast, deli items, baked goods and coffee from Griffin Creek Coffee Roasters, say the Bakshis. The March 5 edition of Tempo published a review of Gather, formerly Downtowne Coffee House.

Resuming indoor dining last week, Gather is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. See gathercafebistrobar.com

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Expanding dining at Jacksonville’s BK Crossing encourages food service professionals to submit their proposals.

The multifunctional campus home to the School House Grill is soliciting chefs, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs to open a new eatery alongside other food and beverage purveyors. The property owned by Brooke and Mel Ashland offers a turnkey kitchen fully stocked with equipment. The team at BK Crossing is pitching support for a unique dining concept or an expansion of existing restaurant operations.

Natasha Hopkins, owner of The Rogue Grape, recently relocated her business to BK Crossing and plans to serve wine alongside a new food service venture at the property. MT file photo.

The announcement comes on the heels of The Rogue Grape’s recent relocation to BK Crossing from downtown Medford. The wine bar and bottle shop cited the Jacksonville property’s numerous options for outdoor dining that would allow it to grow and safely serve guests in compliance with statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic.

After returning some German favorites to its menu, the School House Grill at BK Crossing closed in mid-November and has not reopened. Anyone interested in business opportunities at BK Crossing can email The Rogue Grape owner Natasha Hopkins at natasha@bkcrossing.com for more information or to schedule a tour.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole. dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.