Similar to twins, Ashland and Medford, Oregon are close in many ways, and uniquely different in others. These two cities, though, stand out as having some of the best Rogue Valley brunch spots. Here’s a shout out to their focus on farmer-chef collaboration and reliably creative, seasonal mouthfuls. Look no further for a weekend brunch where the local farmer and the chef share the spotlight.
Larks – Home Kitchen Cuisine, dining room. Image credit: Barb Magee
Known for their commitment to organic, farm-to-table, seasonal eating, Larks also sources from Southern Oregon farms, such as Dunbar Farms and Wandering Roots Farm, to provide that fresh, just-picked taste experience. In fact, these farmer-chef offerings were on full display during a recent visit.
At the helm of the kitchen team is Chef de Cuisine Franco Console, Ashland Culinary Festival Top Chef 2009. Among his seasonal menu offerings using locally grown ingredients are the Caramelized Leek, Spinach and Butternut Squash Omelet with Sage Chevre and Garlic Roasted Potatoes; and a Fall Vegetable Hash replete with Caramelized Onions, Fall Squash, Roasted Pepper and Sweet Potato, under a cap of Brown Butter Creme Fraiche and Fried Egg.
Not new but you need to know: Classy drinks and coffee in Snoopy mugs, top-notch meals, and the homey atmosphere in one of Ashland’s most colorful Craftsmen-era homes are the hallmarks of the Morning Glory experience in Ashland. Don’t settle for boxed flapjacks when there’s an order of sourdough blueberry pancakes or lemon ricotta-stuffed french toast waiting for you in this cozy establishment.
Chef-owner, Patricia Groth, sources organic ingredients whenever possible from local farms, utilizing the best of what is in season. The menu is family-friendly and approachable for all dietary and age-appropriate needs, so grab the kids or your favorite date and drop in. Weekends are busy year round, so plan to arrive early. Hint: They open at 8am.
“From scratch” cooking is the culinary philosophy embraced by each of the three Neuman Hotel Group restaurants. It’s no surprise then to discover fresh pumpkins from Dunbar Farms and Hillcrest Orchards apple bounty put to their highest use in a stellar stack of Pumpkin Pancakes with Chai Spice Apple Butter, Candied Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Syrup.
Mushrooms All Year, owned by the regions’ favorite forager, Louis Jeandin, and TerraSol Organics play a central local role in a gluten-free menu option, pictured. Composed of Wild Mushrooms, Caramelized Shallots, Spinach and Fontina Cheese, this omelet, topped off with Pea Shoots and nestled against Field Greens with Cranberries and Pear Vinaigrette is light and satisfying. For the gluten tolerant, fresh-from-the-oven scones are gratis. Other brunch highlights include a rustic Smoked Salmon and Potato Hash, Pork Cheek Chilaquiles using Dunbar Farms corn flour, and Oregon coast Albacore Tuna Nicoise Salad, among others.
Chef de Cuisine Maggie Trujillo and her team at Larks Restaurant in Medford guarantee brunch guests a true taste of place.
Each day, owners Ellen and Gibson Holub, who honed their restaurant skills in Seattle, present irresistible artisanal sweets, including biscuits, fruit scones, and seasonal cakes and tarts. They also tempt with a variety of special breakfast and lunch dishes, some using local ingredients layered on their signature big buttermilk biscuits.
The piled-high sandwich selection consists of the regulars, like the Farmhouse, and a special each week that depends on what’s fresh from the farm. Each one is made to order and and on this visit we opted for the tower of sliced chicken, caramelized onions, arugula, and a melty Rogue Creamery lavender cheese….balanced on that flaky famous biscuit. If you’re feeling poetic, though, you can satiate your Seussian cravings with a plate of green eggs and ham.
In situations where you have room for more, there is a weekly rotating offering of tart, cake and pastries featuring local in-season fruits and flavors. Okay, we just figured out Ellen’s secret to keeping loyal fans coming back…change the sweets every week!
A local weekend brunch pop-up by Chef Braden Hitt, who honed his craft as an Oregon Culinary Institute Chef Instructor and executive chef at numerous establishments around the state, has grown a loyal following at his digs inside the Downtown Market Company in Medford. The Market is open for lunch during the week, and Hitt’s stint at the stove rounds out the week with service on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. (or until the food runs out!).
The brunch features a rotating menu every week that shouldn’t be missed. Recently, Hitt served up a stack of Eggnog Malted Waffles with Chocolate Chips, Pie Spiced Chantilly, Hazelnuts and Peanut Butter Maple Syrup; and Bacon and Three Cheese Potato Gratin with Smoked Provolone, Cheddar, Parmesan. Sunny Side Up Eggs and Pea Shoots, giving seasonal ingredients their rightful place on each plate. Sourcing from Fry Family Farms, Mushrooms All Year and TerraSol Organics, Hitt assures guests a just picked experience. For loyal fans, every week is a guaranteed surprise.
Contributor: Rebecca Scott
Image credits: Open Face, Over Easy; all others: Barb Magee
Editor’s note: Refreshed with updated photos and restaurant offerings from original post in December 2015