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Skout Taphouse and Provisions: Show up and ‘have fun again’

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The “Go Big” soft pretzel adds roasted beets and sauerkraut to the typical cheese sauce and mustard at Skout Taphouse and Provisions in Ashland. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The smoked trout dip is served with housemade potato chips at Skout Taphouse and Provisions in Ashland. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The smoked trout dip is served with housemade potato chips at Skout Taphouse and Provisions in Ashland. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Chili can be ordered vegetarian or vegan at Skout Taphouse and Provisions in Ashland. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Seating at Skout Taphouse and Provisions extends onto Calle Guanajuato in Ashland. Photo courtesy of Genesis Solutions Marketing.

Tom and Lisa Beam’s restaurants — “like Madonna” — reinvent their personas with each decade.

The Ashland couple’s latest venture is Skout Taphouse and Provisions, in the coveted location facing Lithia Park that served customers as Sesame Asian Kitchen for about 12 years. Contrary to assumptions that the coronavirus pandemic caused the sea change, Lisa characterizes the new casual eatery with 60 taps as a way “to have fun again.”

Fun with food does come across in Skout’s menu, strong on perennially popular plates with a nod to health-conscious habits and a wink at brew pub favorites. The fare belies stereotypes of drinking food in its thoughtful construction and options to accommodate just about any dietary persuasion. It’s clear the Beams know their audience’s appetites after 17 years of operating Ashland’s Pie + Vine, previously Pasta Piatti, and lending their expertise to Ashland’s Falafel Republic and Burrito Republic.

Browsing Skout’s Instagram feed, however, one may anticipate just another lineup of burgers, tacos and fish ’n’ chips. I did — before paying a visit and trying some of the dishes that confirm the Beams’ commitment to creativity in a genre that rewards many industry counterparts for keeping the bar low.

To go with the de rigueur burger ($12) and bratwurst ($13.50), Skout serves an intriguing grilled cheese that layers Swiss-style raclette, lingonberry jam and bacon on sourdough ($8). The smoked brisket ($13) that constitutes Skout’s other sandwich extends its appeal on a bowl of housemade chili. The vegan or vegetarian recipe costs $8.

There’s more for plant-based diets in a grilled Romaine salad with tomato vinaigrette ($9) and a kale salad with chickpeas and avocado ($8), its main ingredients repurposed in a quinoa bowl ($9). Chicken breast can be added to those dishes for an additional $4.

While the menu’s avocado toast ($8) and truffle fries ($5) do betray the Beams’ susceptibility to dining trends that have become almost ubiquitous locally, Skout redeems itself with smoked trout dip, served with housemade chips ($9), and elevates its soft pretzel with additions of roasted beets and sauerkraut ($16).

I was powerless to pass up that pretzel although I knew the portion — aptly titled “Go Big” — would challenge three diners, two of whom ordered their own meals. Ever enamored of appetizers — and typically tempted by trout — I decided to make my own meal from the dip, accented with an order of Buffalo cauliflower ($7.95).

Among Skout’s diverse cast of beers, ciders and other brews on tap, I homed in on Chimay Grande Reserve — the blue label, for fans of Trappist ales. Given the Pacific Northwest’s pride in its own craft beers, imports like these seem less represented on restaurant lists. Skout serves Chimay and several other styles in a traditional, 10-ounce tulip-shaped glass ($9).

My partner also ordered a 10-ounce pour ($5) of pFriem Big IPA, a likely pairing with the “Happy Camper” chili, topped with shredded cheese and sour cream, lavishly garnished with fresh cilantro and served with corn tortillas on the side. Our friend declined a drink to accompany her “slab salad,” which cozied up bacon, heirloom tomatoes and Rogue Creamery blue cheese to a wedge of organic iceberg lettuce. She added chicken, bringing the salad’s price to $13.

A fan of both beets and sauerkraut, my partner made a heroic effort to eat his portion of the pretzel, pillowy but dense enough to absorb a bit of cheese sauce without becoming saturated. The whole-grain “mustard custard” packed a punch while the beets could have used a touch of acid and the sauerkraut tasted pickled, rather than fermented, as I expected. I would have had no quibble if Skout doubled its portion of housemade cheese sauce, the dregs of which I tried to lick from its paper cup.

I dipped to my heart’s content in the creamy trout, its ratio to the thick-cut, fresh-fried potato chips nearly perfect. The appetizer’s lemon wedge wasn’t superfluous, and the sprinkle of capers spot-on. Celery sticks provided another clean counterpoint to the chips’ and dip’s richness.

Also served with the quintessential celery sticks, the Buffalo-style cauliflower didn’t skimp on blue cheese, which could hardly temper the sauce’s heat. I loved the spice against my beer’s slight bitterness, but I was alone at our table in that assessment. I do think the dish represents a good value, and the leftovers transitioned easily at home to a stir-fry dish.

My partner mopped up his chili with tortillas while our companion was less impressed with her salad’s somewhat dry proteins and minimal produce. Recalling that the electronic menu board above the bar is a bit challenging to decipher, I wondered if she didn’t see the other salads, which I found more enticing. In defense of the “slab,” it does indeed come with a hefty wedge of blue and a decadent chunk of chicharron, which isn’t to every diner’s liking.

It’s evident diners do love Skout’s convenience to Lithia Park, Ashland Creek and Calle Guanajuato, all offering prime perches, particularly as the weather warms. Neither reservations nor phone-in orders are accepted, and Skout’s website is an online placeholder for the time being. The Beams encourage guests to just show up at 21 Winburn Way — and “have fun” —between 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tempo Tidbits

The new general manager at DANCIN Vineyards & Winery brings food and wine expertise from New York and Denver.

Cara Patteson joined Medford’s DANCIN after serving as general manager and wine director at Denver’s Quality Italian, which also has a New York location. In addition to Quality branded restaurants, Patteson has worked at such top-tier eateries as Buddakan and Kingswood. She ran her own restaurant consulting business for two years.

“I have a particular interest in Italian wine, food and culture,” said Patteson. “At DANCIN, I’m looking forward to getting the chance to work closely with the hospitality, winemaking and culinary teams to help to create a tasting room experience for guests that is both enjoyable and educational.”

Working closely with DANCIN co-founders and proprietors Dan and Cindy Marca, Patteson will manage the estate’s tasting room, with a focus on wine education and pairing cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients.

“Cara has a unique depth of experience in management and operations at exceptional restaurants and other hospitality venues across America,” said Dan Marca. “Plus, she has extensive wine knowledge, having recently earned her Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma.”

A Florida native, Patteson discovered a love of wine while studying in France. After college, she began her career in Manhattan as a sommelier, wine director, general manager and consultant.

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Locally brewed craft beers season a specials menu at Medford’s Common Block Brewing Company.

Celebrating American Craft Beer Week, Common Block tapped Walkabout and Opposition brewing companies, both of Medford, to provide the ingredients for mussels and onion dip. Craft Beer Week runs through Sunday.

Walkabout’s Workers Pale Ale, along with chorizo and jalapeño, spikes the shellfish broth, served with Rise Up! baguette for $16. Opposition’s Sixth Seal IPA combines with caramelized onions, served with salt and pepper kettle chips for $9. Common Block’s own Block & Mortar Porter makes a float with coffee ice cream for $8, and a sampler of Rogue Creamery cheeses paired with three beers can be had for $10.

Located downtown at 315 E. Fifth St., Common Block is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Order online and see the menu at commonblockbrewing.com

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Food trucks, craft beverages and live music flavor the new Applegate Evening Market every Wednesday through October.

Electric Gardens Flower Farm hosts the market, which celebrated its debut May 5 at 8035 Highway 238, Ruch. The new Nomad Kitchen truck served globally inspired cuisine while Blossom Barn Cidery of Grants Pass poured its pear ciders, also available at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Markets and Grants Pass Growers Market.

Between 5 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays, the Applegate Evening Market offers farm-fresh produce, food artisans, crafters and live music, in addition to prepared foods and beverages. See applegateeveningmarket.com

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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.