Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ashland's Love Affair With Wine and Food

Bella Fiore: Old World Beauty & New Wine

I've written about the plethora of wineries here in southern Oregon, especially in the farmland known as the Applegate, but now wineries are appearing closer in to Ashland, and the latest, opened six months ago, is the magnificent Belle Fiore, just off of Dead Indian Memorial Rd, and only about 3 miles from the heart of town.

This gorgeous place consists of two castle-like structures, One a classical French chateau, elegant with marble, glass and art, overlooking fabulous sweeping views of the Rogue Valley.  It is magical standing so regally on its hill among the vineyards, with elegant rooms for small and large gatherings, available for corporate parties and weddings, but also open for lunch and dinner in the beautiful dining room or the spacious terraces. Oh yes, wine tasting as well, with charming tiered wine holders for flights of their signature whites and reds.
It is a stunning, delicious and moderately priced place to dine, and music is played from 5 to 7 on thursday and friday nights.  It is open to all but members are invited to private events for a mere commitment of two bottles a quarter.  Currently a bocce ball tournament  with barbecue is planned, and tasting room parties happen in September and quarterly. The chateau is also open for tours on Friday afternoons. 

Here are a few photos, that cannot do it justice.  Go to for more information.

College Food Service You Won't Believe!

Speaking of food.  One of the best kept secrets in Ashland is the amazing new Hawk Dining Commons on the SOU campus, next to the dorms on Wightman St.  I would bet you have never feasted so well in a college cafeteria, courtesy of A'viands food services.  And it is a gift to the community because anyone can eat here.

Set up like a food court, with many wonderful fresh offerings every day, including plenty for vegans and vegetarians, for a small fee (ranges from $5 to $8 depending on time of year and time of day) you can enjoy any or all of it.  This includes great coffee, varieties of cold drinks, and great desserts. The stations each have a unique speciality.  I love PAO, Asian-infused stir-fry. You choose from a variety of fresh veggies, meats or tofu, starches and sauces and it is mixed while you wait.  Always fresh and delicious.  Likewise CHOPPED lets you choose your own salad fixings and watch as they are put together just for you.  The RED PLATE always has a complete meal available for you to choose your own portions.  A hamburger and sandwich bar gives you those options.  Mexican and Italian and sometimes Chinese food is available.  Every day is different and the environment is open, light and full of college students who are always fun to watch.

Gradually Ashlanders are finding their way over to enjoy the great chefs, fresh offerings and easy prices and are grateful to be included.  Even tourists may be finding the spot someday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

1st Friday Night Art Walks

Gentle Dulcimer for Art & Soul
Rocking in the Salon
Every first Friday through Spring, Summer and Fall you can wander the streets in Ashland from 5 to 8 p.m. and enjoy snacks, wine, music and art during the Friday Night Art Walk.  Art galleries, hair salons, a church  and even a real estate office host art exhibits and musicians and we always find something new, along with enough snacking for dinner.  Main St., A Street, 4th Street and Oak Street, are the main places to explore, but we found a great band in a small new salon on 2nd, drawn by the music we could hear a block away.  There are more than 20 galleries and studios in Ashland, most hosting multiple artists.  The Ashland Art Center on Main houses 25 artist studios on three floors, with many classes available for locals. Ashland Art Works on Oak houses five studios and galleries for several artists  along side a garden and stream.  Both display the works of many local artists who work with  jewelry, textiles, wood, metal, clay, oils, watercolors, prints  and photography. Gallerie Karon on 4th and A has lovely antique pieces, Asian pieces and features 27 artists. Art and Soul Gallery on Main is always a favorite with over 30 regional artists who work in oil, pastel, mixed media, acrylic and watercolor. Last Friday they featured an artist from Medford who teaches Fashion Design at the Medford Art Center there. Who thought you might spend your retirement doing fashion design? There is the Schneider Museum of Art, with changing exhibits, at Southern Oregon College and another group of artists in the old Briscoe School.  When you add it all up it seems at least half of Ashland residents are artists, many award-winning! (And the rest are writers -- they have special events too!) And then another 20% must be actors! And Then there are dancers -- soon the outdoor green performances before the OSF plays will begin! On one first Friday we watched acrobatics hanging and dancing from silk scarves at the Black Swan. (On Sundays at 4 we can go this Irish pub to listen to the Irish fiddlers who gather there). This is a wildly creative and entertaining place to hang out.

Family folk in the Parking Lot

Wining in the Valley

Spent Easter afternoon with friends enjoying the views at Trium winery, just one of over 60 winery options in the Rogue Valley and Applegate. Trium was new to us, with sweeping vineyard views that reminded us of Italy -- quiet, peaceful, a lovely magical spot in Talent, only a few miles from Ashland. Wineries are rapidly multiplying in this area, and many have evening musical programs along with tastings. A couple of wineries held family events with easter egg hunts and special prizes, but we are without young children these days so opted for the quiet.  There are several major events a year where you can do wine and food pairings at many events, and your group can designate a driver who can snack all he or she wants for a very reduced price, without the wines. Most of the wineries have wine clubs so that if you agree to buy 2 or 3 bottles a quarter you get invited to special parties and events.  We've enjoyed the Schmitt Family winery for several years with its annual mexican fiesta and a Father's Day event. Another favorite is RoxyAnn which has bands and an open dance floor  on many Friday nights and a variety of food wagons to choose your dinner, as well as a great place to buy wine, snacks and gifts.  You could visit a different winery every week for a year and still not see them all, each unique and special in its own way.  For lists and info about southern Oregon wineries you can so to, or for a commercial tour through the wine country try  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Events

Coming Back to Ashland is more than coming home! It is falling into vacation rhythm for us. We don't love the winter cold so we head south at that time, but returning in March is a return to a  new world. It takes a while to recover our home and yard -- here is a picture sent by our neighbor in December. But all the nurseries are blooming with new offerings and it is a spring ritual to fill my deck pots with bright colors.

Our House in Dec. -- WHY WE WERE GONE

BEFORE: Our street for a few days

AFTER:  Spring Showers

So much happens in southern oregon in the spring. Last Saturday alone was the Pear Blossom Festival in Medford,  with a parade and great food booths and lots of local informational booths, and bands in the new Commons area. Medford is gradually looking up from the 50's, reinventing itself and becoming a place where families go. Over 15,000 people came to this event.   Lots and lots of young children at the parade, who are as much fun to watch as the parade! Miles of tractors, jeeps and even a long string of beautiful corvettes from every era. (There seem to be many car clubs in Oregon!)
The same weekend offered a Home Show at the Fairgrounds in Central Point, a performance by the ensemble of the Ashland Peace Choir as a fund-raiser for the Yes to banning GMO crops in southern Oregon on the upcoming ballot, a writing workshop, a choice of 7 theater performances (always available!) and a couple of wineries with musical programs.

The weekend before was the 13th annual Ashland Film Festival, with over 80 films.  It is always special for many Ashlanders, who stand in line for an  hour to get into each event and enjoy the time chatting with new neighbors and old friends. The films here tend to be adventurous documentaries and touching features. Awards are given for achievement to a few celebrities who show up.  One I especially enjoyed this year was with Barbara Koppel, the winner of two academy awards for documentary film-making, who was interviewed. Clips were shown from several of the films she directed, folk music from Appalacia was played by a father and son musician (the father's music was featured in her first award-winning documentary about the battle for unionization in West Virginia coal mines 30 years ago.) A lot of variety for a great and educational program!

Miles of jeeps in parade
Cute Characters
Here are some photos of the events!
Great Strawberry Shortcake
 Food and wine tasting from Harry & David's 
Roller Derby Girls

A Few Band 

Peace Choir With Young Friends

The Peace Choir is over 100 members who sing for the love of peace and singing. The main choir is open to all and the ensemble is by audition. They hold concerts    and special event performances in Ashland, and their are rumors another group will be forming in Medford.  It is one of several outstanding choral groups in the area.
Another is the Threshold Choir, who sing at the bedside of folks who are ill or dying.
There are also male and female Barbershop Quartets.