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Decant is a family affair, raising bar on wine country fare

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Pork loin and belly have accompaniments of apple, grilled broccolini and an oat-walnut crumble at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Delicata squash was tempura-fried for a side dish at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
A squid chip accents an appetizer of raw halibut with pickled kumquats, avocado and chiles at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Risotto incorporates chanterelle mushrooms at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Seed crackers compose a salad of roasted beets, whipped goat cheese and frisee at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Bay leaf ice cream contrasts with flavors of apple, caramel and vanilla in a playful dessert with a fresh-fried doughnut at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Sparkling wine pairs with complimentary cheese-filled gougeres to start dinner service at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The chocolate-hazelnut bar is a decadent dessert featuring whole, dark cherries, hazelnuts, dark chocolate tuiles, and a cherry reduction at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

It’s the rare fine dining establishment that’s also a family affair.

Medford’s new Decant not only keeps operations in the family but builds on generations of dedication to the wine and restaurant industries. Under its Italian matriarch’s distinguished aura, Decant brings a caliber of cuisine previously lacking in Medford and raises the bar on the region’s wine country fare.

Transplants from Napa Valley, Miriam Barchi and her daughter Jessica Colburn, along with executive chef Todd Meyerhofer, joined Barchi’s oldest daughter, Irina, in Southern Oregon. Barchi and Meyerhofer count Auberge du Soleil and Culinary Institute of America, respectively, among acclaimed employers. The crew opened Decant in mid-October at the former Cafe Dejeuner.

Decant’s plain dining room is outfitted with no-frills furniture, but its cutlery, flatware and glassware are a cut above. Attention to detail is overseen by Barchi, herself, who graciously waits tables with her daughters and granddaughter. The family exudes hospitality, fostered from Barchi’s childhood raised in her parents’ Michelin Starred restaurant in Florence, Italy.

The Italian ethic for seasonally fresh, organic ingredients is a founding principle of Decant. But Meyerhofer’s menu is firmly fixed in modern American cuisine. Reliably popular beef, pork, chicken and halibut headline the dishes, accented with fall produce and a few intriguing flourishes.

Among appetizers, the halibut crudo ($21) stood out for its “squid crackers,” although the classic accompaniment of seared foie gras almost swayed me toward the other raw preparation, beef tartare ($24). The fish won out partly for its promise of pickled kumquats, ponzu and fresh chiles.

My partner craved the beet salad ($16) with frisee and whipped goat cheese, a restaurant mainstay for good reason. Locally produced goat cheese factored into the other salad of butter lettuce with pear and candied walnuts ($14), another greatest hit when executed in season.

Sparkling wine seemed a fitting way to start, particularly with the complimentary amuse bouche of truffled cheese gougeres. While I ordered a glass of Domaine Carneros Brut ($14) from Napa, my partner requested the chardonnay available by the glass ($13), from Arterberry Maresh in the Willamette Vally.

Troon and Irvine & Roberts are the only local labels represented on Decant’s wine list, curated by wine director Jessica Colburn. It comes as little surprise that the certified sommelier’s sensibilities lean strongly toward Napa Valley cabs and Italian reds, the price for some bottles topping out at $200. The restaurant’s website invites customers to learn about wines of the world and how they compare with local wines, and the staff indeed initiates friendly conversations that don’t seem at all pushy or pretentious.

We deemed the chardonnay an exceptional example of its varietal, well matched to both our appetizers. Each was neatly plated and nicely balanced, their tender components underscored by the toothsome squid ink-flavored chip and housemade seeded cracker.

Chanterelles confirmed my entree choice of risotto ($28) without a moment’s hesitation. And because I love the mushrooms’ pairing with winter squash, I asked for the side of tempura delicata squash with herbed yogurt ($9).

My partner flirted with ordering the wagyu burger ($18) but noted that once he added truffle fries for $6 and bacon for $4, the dish would rival the cost of other main courses. Ultimately, the Duroc pork tenderloin and belly ($38) beckoned.

The New York strip steak and halibut with mussels are priced at $48 and $42, respectively. Vegetable side dishes range from $9 for Brussels sprouts to $12 for truffle fries with housemade aioli.

Barchi’s presentation of a spoon for my risotto and heavy-handled steak knife foreshadowed the entrees’ arrival. The risotto reposed generously portioned and unadorned in its bowl. The pork, by contrast, boasted numerous accompaniments of sliced apples, apple butter, grilled broccolini and a walnut crumble. The plating, however, was imprecise — or perhaps the sauces had shifted en route from the kitchen.

Perfect pink doneness throughout the meat echoed the pork’s impeccable flavor and texture, infused with an herb brine. I can’t recall ever tasting such distinctive savor and succulence from this cut. The belly’s unctuousness was almost unnecessary, not least because it lacked flesh interspersed with the fat.

My risotto was a spot-on rendition of Italy’s national dish, the rice’s al dente chew offset by tender mushrooms. I would have appreciated at least one hearty slice of chanterelle, retaining its elegant trumpet shape, which is half the pleasure in eating this fungus. The dish’s subtle butteriness shone through sips of delicate Black Magnolia pinot noir ($14), which also didn’t overpower the tender, slightly sweet tempura squash.

Rarely tempted by sweets, I was drawn more to Decant’s dessert menu than to any other locally in quite some time. I’d made a point to tell my partner we should order two desserts instead of sharing one as usual.

Unfortunately, the “popcorn” creme brulee with Oregon huckleberries that had so tickled my fancy when I viewed the online menu was not offered. Happily, my second choice, the apple-vanilla “presse” with brioche doughnut and bay leaf ice cream ($14) was available. My partner eagerly requested the chocolate-hazelnut bar with cherries, creme Anglaise and cocoa nib tuiles ($14).

Playfully presented, my dessert comprised apple gelee layered with vanilla custard and a cookie crust, topped with an oat crumble. The freshly fried brioche, although diminutive, was everything to which yeasted doughnuts should aspire. And the herbaceous, slightly bitter bay leaf ice cream was sublime.

Another example of lightly sweetened desserts in the European tradition, the chocolate-hazelnut bar was nevertheless decadent, resplendent in whole, dark cherries and hefty chunks of skinned hazelnuts. The cherry reduction and dark chocolate tuiles, which tasted almost charred, countered the rich, sweet cream.

Not only richly fed but warmly welcomed, we recognized that the meal’s price reflected lots of little, luxurious touches that left us with a sense of value. Located at 1108 E. Main St., Decant is open Thursday through Monday. Reserve at decantmedford.com or call 541-776-1234.

Tempo Tidbits

Pizza is a new pairing at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden.

The Applegate estate in October debuted a food menu of wood-fired pizzas prepared by in-house chef Tim Payne. New fire pits complement Cowhorn’s pizza oven. Reservations are encouraged and can be made at cowhornwine.com

Pizza recipes include classic Margherita with tomatoes and basil, as well as “pizza bianco” with ricotta cheese, leeks and arugula. Ingredients are locally sourced and organically farmed.

Paired with a pizza, tasting four Cowhorn wines, each a 3-ounce pour, costs $40. Featured wines are 2020 Grenache Rose and Spiral, a white blend comprising viognier, marsanne and roussanne, as well as 2015 syrah and Moonraker, a red blend with tempranillo.

"We are creating a wonderful new experience at Cowhorn with farm-to-table food options and a wine menu that is paired perfectly with each flavor of the pizza!” says co-owner Grant Gustafson.

A wine-only tasting costs $20 for four 1-ounce pours. Certified Biodynamic, Cowhorn wines are “nature-focused,” according to its website, which involves building up the soil with micronutrients, allowing beneficial plants to grow between the vine rows and encouraging other creatures to live around the vineyard. Other estate crops include asparagus and hazelnuts.

Founders Barbara and Bill Steele sold their 117-acre Eastside Road property in April to an investor group led by Katherine “Mini” Banks. Cowhorn recently instituted new operating hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

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Kaleidoscope To Go is back in business.

The Medford restaurant’s takeout facility reopened Nov. 1 following a four-month closure prompted by an “unprecedented” staffing shortage. To Go hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-779-7787. Online ordering is not available.

The perennially popular Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub in July suspended online and phone orders while directing customers to visit its 3084 Crater Lake Highway location — in person — to place takeout orders. Takeout at Kaleidoscope soared throughout the pandemic, constituting half of the business’ total volume, according to management. The main kitchen could not absorb takeout demand while serving dine-in customers throughout the summer and early fall.

After posting pleas to social media for job applicants, the restaurant this week promoted its $15 hourly starting wage for kitchen staff, plus $3 hourly tip sharing. The restaurant also offers yearly and referral bonus and flexible schedules. Applications can be downloaded at kaleidoscopepizza.com/apply

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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.