FOOD

Jacksonville’s Culinary Pop

Chefs Mike Hite and Paul Becking of C Street Bistro in Jacksonville. Photo by Janet Eastman.
Joyce Prahl of Déjà Vu Bistro & Winebar in the garden room. Photo by Janet Eastman.
Frau Kremmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus biergarten. Photo by Janet Eastman.

By Janet Eastman

Forget the stale notion that Jacksonville is stuck in the past. Young and seasoned chefs are adding zest to this historic town, drawing on the talents of Oregon ranchers, farmers and fishermen to come up with exotic, sometimes odd-sounding creations.

Chef Paul Becking’s approach to a brunch menu is as mischievous as his Cheshire cat grin. He serves barbecued pulled pork on a sweet cornbread pancake ($8) and duck confit waffle with egg ($14). “Strange?” replies Becking, who owns the new C Street Bistro. He shakes his head “no.” “We’re just changing things up, being chefs.”

The city’s landmark restaurants are staying fresh, too, with seasonal surprises and insider perks. Gogi’s temporarily waives its corkage fee for diners who are ready to open a special bottle or who have discovered a new favorite at one of the in-town tasting rooms — Quady North, South Stage Cellars, Merrill Cellars, Umpqua Valley Wine Tasting Room and Caprice Vineyards — or nearby at the wineries in the Applegate Valley.

Many credit Jacksonville’s dynamic dining to the Applegate’s elevated wine scene. At Troon Vineyard, 20 miles away off Highway 238, a dry Riesling is served with Chef Tim Keller’s linguine made with lavender harvested on the property. The only complaint here: The kitchen closes at 6 p.m.

Back on the city’s boardwalks, amblers take it slow, savoring a much-needed escape. “Young couples love Jacksonville because it’s 21st century dining with a kickback attitude,” said Larry Brewster, who hosts the wine bar at the new Déjà Vu Bistro. “No one is in a hurry.”

Here is a sampling of Jacksonville’s new culinary offerings:

C Street Bistro
230 E. C Street | 541-261-7638
www.cstbistro.com

The contemporary décor of C Street Bistro tells the tale of a new Jacksonville. When Chef Paul Becking took possession of this side-street cottage in January, he cleared out the railroad motif and installed four serviceable round tables inside and four on the patio. He and Chef Michael Hite then got to work creating unexpected dishes made from locally grown ingredients. “We know everything about the food because we make it from scratch,” Becking said.

The Monday-through-Saturday lunch menu offers pampered 6-ounce prime top sirloin burgers that are ground to order and cooked one at a time ($10 with sea-salt fingerling potatoes; a few dollars more to top the patty with house-cured pastrami; mushroom, Gruyère and truffle mayo; or bacon jam, smoked bacon and pickled onions).

Friday and Saturday’s three-course dinners ($30; $45 with wine) begin with an amuse-bouche, such as tempura squash blossom stuffed with king crab cream cheese. That introductory delight is followed by a hearty salad. Recently, it was seared albacore with string beans, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.

One August weekend, the dinner entrée was a Moroccan-spiced local lamb leg paired with a 2008 RoxyAnn Claret. On another weekend, it was a mesquite-grilled natural New York steak served with EdenVale’s 2006

Heritage Blend. The evening always ends with a dessert, such as an almond strudel or a blackberry and white peach clafouti.

The local wine list is growing, thanks to the success of winemakers’ dinners, customer requests and the convenient bonus that wine pros bring family and out-of-towners here. Christine Collier and Chris Jiron, proprietors of God King Slave Wines, arrived during my visit with a bottle of their first release, a 2009 Syrah and Tempranillo blend. The owners of Red Lily Vineyards are regulars, too. “We want to take care of the neighbors first,” Becking said.

Déjà Vu Bistro & Winebar
240 E. California Street | 541-899-1942

Déjà Vu Bistro & Winebar could not have found a prettier home than near the gardens of the 1860s McCully House Inn. The restaurant’s name reflects the owners’ sense of humor: Bill and Joyce Prahl sold the still-popular Gogi’s on the other end of town nine years ago. Recently, they decided to be restaurateurs in Jacksonville again.

In June, they opened Déjà Vu with an intimate, contemporary dining room, a window-filled garden room that overlooks shady patio dining, and a warm, roomy wine bar. The rotating wine list includes Oregon Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Pinot Gris, as well as Cabs from Chile, French blends, Australian Shiraz and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

A grilled romaine salad is $5 and refreshing “raw” starters — ahi tuna, Pacific oysters and sea scallop cruda — are $10 to $12. Generous main courses include coffee-rubbed grilled flat iron steak with smashed yams ($19), Hoisin barbecue baby back ribs with black beans and corn ($19), and a flavor-packed penne with pancetta, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, capers and Parmesan ($17).

Frau Kemmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus
525 Bigham Knoll | 541-899-1000
www.fraukemmling.com

Frau Kemmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus also occupies a scenic spot, inside a thoughtfully restored 1908 brick school high on Bigham Knoll with an inviting biergarten overlooking the grassy, vineyard-dotted campus.

German food isn’t everyone’s top cuisine, but Chef Hilary Kemmling wanted to acknowledge many of the city’s early German settlers and her personal taste for schnitzel and wurst. She makes perfectly roasted Idaho brook trout stuffed with breadcrumbs, mushrooms and herbs ($18.50) for lunch and dinner, and a sizable pork knuckle with knödel and beer sauce ($24) Thursday through Sunday after 5 p.m.

Some days, nothing beats a pretzel and beer, and the Frau delivers. There is always a selection of Pilsner, Hefeweizen, dunkels and doppelbock on tap. Many of the German-style varietals produced by local wineries are offered as well as imported Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Dornfelder reds and Dr. Loosen Rieslings ($4.50 to $6 a glass).

If you’re going to the Britt Festivals, accept the offer for a free trip over and back in the Schoolhaus bus. 

Janet Eastman is an Ashland-based journalist whose work can be seen at www.janeteastman.com.

Miso Black Cod with Grilled Japanese Eggplant and Barbecued Rice Balls

Recipe by Chef Paul Becking {C Street Bistro, Jacksonville}

Chef Paul Becking wowed guests at a recent winemakers’ dinner with this moist, buttery fish, which he says is too often discounted as bait.

WINE PAIRING: EdenVale or Valley View Viognier

INGREDIENTS

4 4-ounce portions of fresh black cod, skin on, bone out

4 Japanese eggplant

RICE BALLS

2 cups Calrose or short-grain Japanese rice

2 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

* eel sauce or Teriyaki sauce

* sesame seeds, for garnish

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

MARINADE

½ cup Viognier

½ cup Mirin (rice cooking wine)

1½ cups Shiro Miso paste

1 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat broiler to 450°F and preheat gas or charcoal grill. 2. For the marinade, boil the Viognier and Mirin in a pot until the alcohol evaporates (about 20 seconds). Add miso paste and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Put the pot on low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Reserve ½ cup of the liquid for the grilled eggplant. Use rest to marinate the black cod for at least six hours (preferably overnight). 3. For the rice balls, rinse the rice until the water is no longer cloudy. Combine rice and fresh water in a pot. Boil for 1 minute, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Fold in salt, rice vinegar and sugar. Let cool. Lightly coat a 1-cup measuring cup with cooking spray. Press rice firmly into the cup until it forms a rice ball. Tap on cutting board until molded rice comes out. Set aside and repeat. 4. Combine vegetable oil and sesame oil in a small, flat-bottom dish. Quickly dip rice balls in oil on both sides and put on hot clean grill or grill pan. Turn carefully with a spatula when nice charred marks are visible and repeat on other side. Drizzle with a bit of eel sauce or thick Teriyaki sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 5.  For the eggplant, slice in half, salt liberally and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse quickly and spray with cooking oil spray. Brush on miso sauce reserved from the marinade. Place on the grill, skin side down. When the sauce bubbles, flip it over and brush with more miso paste. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. 6. For the fish, cover the bottom of a pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil spray. Lay fillets on the foil and broil at 450°F until browned and flakey, about 6 to 8 minutes. Serves 4.

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