NEWS / FEATURES

Classic Cuisine, Quaffers

November 2009

By Janet Eastman

Consider this bargain: A $25 weekend pass to Ashland’s Food & Wine Classic opens doors to heart-pounding chef and pastry competitions, hands-on cooking workshops, three days of sampling cuisine and wines, plus citywide special events and discounts.

The third annual Food & Wine Classic, Nov. 6–8, starts with a Friday reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Weisinger’s of Ashland Winery will be pouring its new releases and the hotel’s restaurant, Larks, will serve appetizers as the eight chefs who will be competing in the Chef Showdown are introduced.

On Saturday and Sunday, workshops on wine tasting, hand-rolling sushi, holiday appetizers and desserts, and a cardiologist’s healthy heart diet will be offered from 9:45 to 11:30 a.m. at the Ashland Springs Hotel and various nearby locations.

After lunch at one of dozens of restaurants offering culinary specials to complement the weekend’s events, head over to the Historic Ashland Armory from noon to 1:30 p.m. for round one of the Chef Showdown.

Four chefs vying to be named Ashland’s Top Chef will hear the key ingredient they need to work with—steelhead? bison? chocolate?—and have 70 minutes to prepare a dish that will be scored on flavor, texture, originality, creativity, technical execution and the chef’s workstation cleanliness.

Round two, from 3 to 4 p.m., will include a new set of four chefs. These chefs will be given a different key ingredient to create their masterpiece. Two chefs will be eliminated during each round. On Sunday, the final four chefs compete from noon to 1:30 p.m. with the remaining two chefs battling for the Top Chef title from 3 to 4 p.m.

The winner will be invited to join the statewide culinary showdown in Portland at The Bite of Oregon. One of this year’s Ashland judges is Neil Clooney of Dragonfly Café and Gardens, the reigning Iron Chef Oregon as well as Ashland’s Top Chef in 2007 and 2008.

At the end of the competition, the chefs’ finished dishes will be auctioned off to the audience, with the money raised going to support the event’s waste reduction, composting and sustainability mission.

New this year will be pastry competitions scheduled between the chefs’ meets.

Spectators can watch as the chefs and bakers labor around specially built cooking units set in front of the stage. Or they can walk around the hall and visit the food stalls stocked by Rising Sun Farms, Deux Chats Bakery and Branson’s Chocolates, as well as 10 to 15 wineries, including EdenVale Winery, Slagle Creek Vineyards, Troon Vineyard and Wild Rose Vineyard.

The Food & Wine Classic is sponsored by the Ashland Visitor and Convention Bureau, which invests three times more money into the event than it receives from ticket sales and other revenues, according to Katharine Flanagan of the Bureau, which is part of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.

“We are increasing awareness for Ashland’s culinary scene and Oregon’s great bounty. Education is an essential part of that,” Flanagan said. “We want residents and visitors to not only sample our food and wine, but to learn why ingredients thrive here: It’s the land, the Mediterranean-like climate and culinary experts using these ingredients in creative and innovative ways.”

Dozens of the city’s retailers are offering 10-percent discounts during the culinary weekend. Many of the restaurants will have special dishes with wine parings and music. Art galleries will be hosting events during the First Friday Art Walk and Saturday’s growers market will have extended offerings of local produce.  

Admission to the Friday evening reception is $10. A single day pass for $15 includes that day’s workshops, Chef Showdown admission, a souvenir glass and a food and wine tasting card.

For an updated list of participants and getaway lodging packages, call 541-482-3486 or visit www.ashlandchamber.com .  

Janet Eastman is an Ashland-based journalist who covers Southern Oregon wine for www.examiner.com and other media.

Ashland Food & Wine Classic

Locations: Ashland Springs Hotel (212 E. Main Street, Ashland); Historic Ashland Armory (208 Oak Street, Ashland)
Dates/Times: Nov. 6, 5–9 p.m. (A.S. Hotel); Nov. 7–8, see website for times (A.S. Hotel, H.A Armory, and nearby locations)
Tickets: Fri.: $10; Sat. or Sun.: $15
Information: 541-482-3486; www.ashlandchamber.com

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