Friday, June 18, 2010

Eclectic mix of French and American

THE OREGONIAN

Ashland Loft restaurant
By Jennifer Margulis

Shakespeare had much to say about food, from "the apple of her eye" ("Love's Labour's Lost") to "shall we go and kill us venison" ("As You Like It"). As the Bard's fans flock to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland each summer, they have plenty to chew on over the city's dining scene, as well.

During the past 13 months, a number of eateries have opened in Ashland. But there's a lot of turnover in this town, and some locals have noticed that high prices don't always mean high quality.

The real question is: Are the new restaurants as pleasing to the palate as the Bard is to the ear?

Don't let the ugly entranceway fool you. The restaurant upstairs, which has 18-foot ceilings, a fireplace and patio seating overlooking Ashland Creek, is casually elegant. You'll be welcomed by Jacqueline Vidalo, 28, who opened the restaurant in March with her husband and head chef, Jeremy Vidalo, 25.

Jacqueline is as enthusiastic about sourcing food locally as she is about the restaurant business. The huckleberries for the sauce on their handmade chocolates ($6), and the truffles for the truffle-infused macaroni and cheese, are handpicked by a French native, Louis Jeandin, who also sells his wares at the Tuesday Grower's Market.

With entrées like wild mushroom pesto lasagna ($17) and coq au vin ($17), made with chicken from a farm in neighboring Talent, the menu is an eclectic mix of French and American, and the Vidalos are becoming famous for their macaroni and cheese ($20), made with reggiano, pancetta, and Dungeness crab and cooked to salty, creamy perfection.