Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Ashland, Oregon:Good Housekeeping for the Mind

I am back from my vacation. I had no computer access because I don’t have a laptop and my friend doesn’t have a computer at home. I don’t have a mobile device so there was no checking email. I never read the newspaper and didn’t listen to the radio or watch TV. I didn’t even check my land line voicemail messages because I couldn’t remember the 4-digit password which I don’t need to use when at home. And only my dog sitter had my prepaid cell phone number.

I highly recommend being unplugged. I call it good housekeeping for the mind.

As I said to one of my business contacts, “I don’t care what famous person dies and I don’t care what politician cheats on his wife.”

Here’s a rundown of my vacation: I flew to Oakland. The second leg of my flight out of LAX was cancelled which caused me to sit in the airport for another 1.5 hours. I was reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I highly recommend this richly-told family saga about a Bengali-American family living in Massachusetts. And yes, it has a food tie-in because like with most families, food is important to the storytelling. In the final chapter, I could almost taste Ashima’s croquettes.

My best friend – MJ — picked me up at the airport and we drove directly to Berkeley to the Berkeley Bowl. Now there’s a food market! The Bowl is huge and the sheer choices of brand names were overwhelming, many of which I’ve never seen before.

Take for instance fig yogurt. There was St. Benoit, Voskos, Greek Gods, Chobani, and Rachel’s. We only walked around the perimeter of the store so I cannot vouch for most of it but the produce section astounded me with seven kinds of eggplant, 14 kinds of mushrooms, four kinds of cauliflower – red, orange, purple, and white. On the berry table sat boysenberries, blackberries, olla berries, black raspberries, golden raspberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, bush berries, and currants.

We bought a few things including a small Korean melon grown in Mexico.  There were numerous fruits that were hybrids. For instance we bought plumogranate pluots which tasted better than a ripe apricot to me. I could’ve really spent more time but that wasn’t an option.

Later we went to T-Rex Barbeque also in Berkeley. I ordered a BBQ brisket slider and we shared deviled eggs and greens, fries and chipotle ketchup, and roasted asparagus with Meyer lemon aioli as well as a ginger margarita. It was all very good and at happy hour prices too.

The next day our journey began up Interstate-5. I have never been in that part of Calif. (after living there for 30 years) and the further north that we drove the more spectacular the scenery. But first, we made a pit stop for lunch in Corning at the Olive Pit. What a goldmine this venue is. For miles before, billboards boast olive tasting and olive oil tasting. I would’ve bought Meyer lemon olive oil but since I wasn’t checking baggage, I didn’t dare. I can picture that citrus olive oil brushed on salmon or fish or shrimp or drizzled over a simple heirloom tomato and basil salad.  We stopped, we tasted, we ate lunch (not remarkable), and drove on but not before MJ bought several mustards and other condiments.

Back to the view, stately pine trees as far as the eye can see and then around a curve juts the breathtaking snow covered Mt. Shasta.

Crossing into Oregon was uneventful except for some confusing signs that said, welcome to the state of Jefferson.

Our destination was Ashland. We stayed at the Bayberry B&B – clean, comfy, and not too far from the plaza but too far from the plaza for my friend to walk as she recently recovered from a broken foot. Although I carried my camera with me, I never took it out of the bag in order to a take one photo. That just seemed like too much work.

I loved the living room at the Bayberry so I’ll describe it instead. The walls were painted with verticial black and white stripes.  Each stripe was about four inches wide and stopped about two-thirds of the way to the ceiling. The rest of the wall was a pale butter yellow with black crown molding and a black wood fireplace/mantle. Two huge red couches perfect for sinking into sat in the middle of the room plus some nondescript chairs and tables were scattered about.

For the two mornings that we were there, I got up at 7 a.m. to take long walks. One day I walked deep within Lithia Park and another day I explored a hilly neighborhood and all its colored craftsmen-style houses.

Ashland is a dog friendly city as every store had a water bowl out front. MJ was interested in looking in galleries and I didn’t really have an agenda; I was just happy not to be in triple-digit weather and to be away from real life.

At the recommendation of three different shopkeepers, we ate dinner at Sesame Asian Kitchen which is across from the entrance to Lithia Park. I’d go back in a flash. We shared wild mushroom spring rolls and lobster cakes for appetizers, an Asian pear/cabbage/citrus salad which I’m going to try to recreate, and grilled salmon with rice noodles/veggies/ and seaweed. I had something alcoholic made with ginger vodka and lemon and MJ had a passion fruit and lime margarita. Sesame Asian Kitchen is modern fusion fare at its finest.

Although Ashland is famous for the Shakespeare Festival, we instead went to see Spelling Bee at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. The musical was truly enjoyable and most of the cast was from Southern Oregon University (SOU) which has an extensive theatre arts program.

One day we drove to Jacksonville, a historical city, and did the trolley tour which proved to be fascinating. There were mansions, historical buildings, lore, and one grocery store to serve the city of 2,300. Our guide said that Ray’s Market was the home of two mega million dollar lottery winners. Then we drove to Central Point to taste cheese and buy exotic chocolates at Lillie Belle’s. While wineries dotted the map, somehow they fell by the wayside in our pursuits.

Those are the highlights. I recommend Ashland to anyone who wants to kick back and likes live theatre, clean air, walking, wineries, and good restaurants. The negative about Ashland is that it’s 325 miles south of Portland so there’s no easy egress.  It was a 5 to 6 hour drive from the East Bay. Nearby sites included rivers and lakes for fishing, hiking, and camping and in the winter, Mt. Hood for skiing.

As for the state of Jefferson, we saw the signs a few times. Our B&B host said that  people from Redding, Calif. and north and southern Oregon want to start a 51st state called Jefferson. Who can blame them when California is in a state of I.O.U.s?

  1. Welcome back Karyn. You were missed. I long to be “unplugged” and envy your ability to do so. Thanks for sharing all your delightful details. Sounds wonderful.

  2. Welcome back! I spent four months in China and was virtually unplugged. Everyone really needs to do it. It was the best four months of my life. That living room in Bayberry sounds very interesting! I would have never even considered the possibility of black crown molding, yellow, and stripes, but it sounds amazing! I actually have a yellow living room, and I happened to have a scrap piece of crown, which I promptly test painted black, just to see. I’m thinking about it! Thank you for sharing!

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