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Archive for September, 2013

IMG_7721 I generally don’t care to eat mold, but Rogue River Blue has changed my attitude. The delicate veins of blue molds running through this blue cheese add a tang to the firm, buttery, incredibly flavorful cheese, a perfect contrast, and I’m happy to taste it any time I get the chance. Today it’s in the maker’s facility, Rogue Creamery, in Central Point. IMG_7722This small southern Oregon town, just west of the I-5 freeway–four miles from Medford, 218 miles south of Portland–has attracted artisans who craft top-quality, handmade products. Cheese is one of them, and I’m watching the experts at work through large windows at Rogue Creamery. Turning rich, local milk into award-winning, internationally acclaimed cheese takes care and time, up to five years, manager Craig Nelson says. Here’s how the website describes part of the process: “After draining in their hoops, wheels are dry salted, pierced, and dipped in wax before the bulk of their aging to prevent mold growth on rind. At the end of their maturation, wax is removed and the wheels are wrapped in foil.” The blue cheese is aged for at least 90 days.

Rogue Creamery has been in business for 80 years and crafts several other cheeses, the best being cheddar and their signature blue. I’m also trying something different: classic hand-milled cheddar combined with Rogue Ales’ Chocolate Stout. The beer is melded with the curd, then hand-dipped and pressed into blocks for aging. Along with the cheddar, I get hints of chocolate and coffee from the stout, a nice blend. Another produced here is TouVelle, which the makers call a workhorse in the kitchen because it’s semi-hard, mild yet flavorful, and melts evenly. In the gift shop I, along with a lot of other visitors, browse among the locally produced jams, sauces, pastas and breads and pick up a nifty chiller bag that will keep cheese purchases cool.

Ledger David Winery  Next door is Ledger David Winery. In what was once a 1950s garage and is now a small, elegant, light-filled tasting room, I can taste fine wines paired with, what else, Rogue Creamery cheeses. Owners David Traul and Lena Varner produce several varietals, including Chenin Blanc, malvasia Bianca, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo. My favorite is their unique, award-winning red blend labeled Orion’s Nebula. It’s more than 50% Cabernet Franc and has an intriguing mixture of flavors: cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, and more. Ledger David wines come from grapes grown in their 15-acre vineyard in nearby Talent.

The next shop in the developing Artisans Corridor is Lillie Belle Farms, and that means Chocolate with a capital C.  Jeff Shepherd began selling IMG_7749truffles at local farmer’s markets ten years ago, naming them after his wife, Belle, and daughter, Lillie. Everything was (and is) handmade with high-quality ingredients, some from his own organic farm. The business grew, word spread, and today Lillie Belle Farms has a staff of twelve and sells more than 20,000 pounds of chocolate products a year, worldwide. In 2009, Jeff was chosen by Dessert Professional magazine as one of the top ten chocolatiers in the U.S.

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One of the best things about the place is its festive atmosphere. It’s fun to walk in the door, sniff mouth-watering aromas, and survey the bon-bons, ganaches, caramels, truffles and chocolate bars. Glass cases hold spicy cayenne caramels, blue cheese truffles, chocolate-covered bacon, and chocolate fortune cookies. Anejo candies contain tequila, lime and salt. It’s mighty hard to choose from these offbeat delights. One bar’s name is also a playful warning: “Do Not Eat This Chocolate,” and one taste tells you why. The chilies in this one are some of the world’s hottest peppers. It’s hot! “I warned you,” Jeff says with a grin.

Artisans Corridor is a great southern Oregon stop off the freeway now, and with changes and additions underway, it’s only going to get even better.

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IMG_7708  I’ve reviewed hundreds of bed-and-breakfast inns for guidebooks, and by now it takes me maybe two minutes to tell if I’ve found a good one. As I walk in the door of The White House Bed and Breakfast, in Medford, Oregon, I know immediately it rates high on the list. kathy rulonKathy Rulon greets weary travelers with a smile, shows us to our spacious upstairs room, explains how things work, and points out a box of cards with breakfast menu choices (nice idea!). Then she leaves us alone in our haven of quiet, saying “I’ll be in the kitchen or garden if you need me.” Kathy is a former flight attendant, and she knows how to take care of people without any annoying hovering. Her relaxed, friendly style makes guests feel immediately at home, and this, plus nice accommodations with thoughtful touches, are to me the ingredients of a perfect bed-and-breakfast inn.  Reasonable rates help, too.

The White House B&B is a two-story, columned home on a residential hillside lane in East Medford. It’s white, of course, and has a veranda complete with inviting rocker. Our room is lounge area Whiite house suite actually a suite stretching across the   house front to back, with windows  overlooking the tree-shaded street and large garden.  The queen-sized bed is comfortable and the light-filled bathroom spotless. And there’s plenty of space to put our stuff, which inevitably gets scattered around. Down the hall is another bedroom that sleeps two, but it’s used only if a group is traveling together, so we have the entire floor to ourselves.

Asked for a dinner recommendation, our hostess is happy to oblige. We choose Porters, a century-old train station restored as a patio, porterspopular restaurant.  It has both  historic charm and an excellent menu of American classic dishes, emphasizing local foods: wild mushrooms, herbs, cheeses, Northwest seafood and wines, Oregon poultry and lamb. We dine at an outdoor patio table, with train tracks on the other side of the vine-covered fence, and couldn’t be more content.

In the morning, Kathie has breakfast on the table at the time requested. We have the granola/fruit/yogurt parfait and a IMG_7620spinach-mushroom omelet, only part of a small feast that includes whole cooked pears, fresh coffee cake and preserves, juice, coffee and teas. It’s all delicious. (Kathy’s secret to a perfect  non-rubbery omelet: cook it more slowly than you think you should.) Her most requested dish is the Dutch Baby, a baked pancake cooked at high heat in a heavy cast iron pan so it crawls up the sides. Kathy fills it with blueberries and gives it a sprinkle of powdered sugar. IMG_7705

Search as I might, I can’t find a thing to complain about, so I’ll end with the recipe that made Kathy a finalist in a Best Breakfast contest by BedandBreakfast.com. It’s easy to prepare if you roast the sweet potatoes and yams the night before, which I did.  Also, I skipped the eggs and it was uniquely tasty anyway, a good, hearty brunch dish.

Sweet Potato Hash on Beet Greens with Bacon Brittle (serves 4)

2 sweet potatoes

2 yams

1 onion

4 scallions

1 bunch beet greens

4 strips bacon

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

8 eggs

Roast sweet potatoes and yams.  Cool, peel, and cube.

Sliver onion and sauté with potatoes and yam in olive oil.

Cut stems from beet greens; sauté greens lightly in olive oil.

Fry bacon, drain off most of fat, and add syrup and brown sugar. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes. (Pinch of cayenne pepper here is optional.) Spread onto baking sheet to cool; then break into pieces.

Poach eggs.

Lay a bed of  the beet greens on each plate. Place a spoonful of potato/yam/scallion mixture on top. Sprinkle with bacon/sugar brittle and top with 2 poached eggs. Garnish with a scallion.

 

 

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