Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rogue Valley Morning Trip

If you’ve signed up for a lot of shows at the Oregon Shakespeare festival, it can sometimes feel like you can’t stray very far from town. On a day you don’t have a matinee, it can be fun and relaxing to take the ten-minute drive to the nearby towns of Medford and Central Point and experience their great food and attractions.

Your first stop will probably be two neighboring buildings that both offer a lot to taste, Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates and Rogue Creamery. Lillie Belle, built with a small storefront adjacent via window to the chocolate production area, specializes in a wide variety of rich truffles ($2 each). They offer a tab service, so you can pick and choose your favorite truffles at leisure and eat them fresh, right there in the store.

Some of my top picks for truffles incude: The Añejo cup, filled with tequila cream and lime and topped with salt; the fleur de sel lavender caramels; candied orange peel dipped in chocolate; pyramid-shaped piña colada bon bons; delicate absinthe ganache chocolates, with a  hint of anise flavor; and of course the incredibly rich Madagascar chocolate ganache. Their flavors change rapidly, and with over 20 to choose from, you will have a hard time making a decision (or leaving!)

Rogue Creamery offers a number of fresh cheeses but specializes in blue cheese, the powerful savory notes of which are perfect after your half-hour eating rich chocolates. (They don’t necessarily have to be separate, though: The two food stores have collaborated on a sinful blue cheese truffle!) The store offers eight to twelve varieties of cheese to taste, alongside their signature blue cheese powder, which is great on a large number of foods. My favorite is corn on the cob.

The store isn’t limited to cheese, either – they carry food from all over the Rogue Valley. There’s fresh-baked bread, fig and blackberry preserves, salami, beer, and soda. If you want to have a nice picnic around Medford or in Lithia Park, you could do worse than to stock up on your favorite food at the Rogue Creamery.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, you could try Great Harvest Bread Company in Medford. Though technically part of a chain, the bakery has become a part of Medford’s community, winning twelve consecutive awards for Best Bakery from the local newspaper. Great Harvest bakes five or six different types of bread each morning, many of them very dense and chewy. For all-purpose uses, I prefer the honey whole wheat, but for straight eating with a little butter, the Cinnamon Chip is the best.

Great Harvest also offers a variety of cold and hot sandwiches. My personal favorite is the grilled cheese ($5.65, with optional add-ons), which – in an evolution of the already excellent grilled cheese formula – adds a garlic and herb spread. Their impressive bakery counter makes it hard to pass up a dessert to end your meal.

After eating, you might want to pay a visit to the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point. Many different minerals are on display, including a black-light section for naturally luminescent rocks. There are also regular lectures and a section for art made with semi-precious stones. The museum is small, but you could easily spend an hour or two wandering through its rooms and marveling at its displays.

A half-day out in the Rogue Valley is a great break from attending shows. If you find other places you like to go to, mention them in the comments. Building your own Ashland traditions is part of the fun of the trip!

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