I was in town for the chocolate festival and managed to try a few good new spots.
The chocolate festival is amazing. $20 gets you far more chocolate and wine than any reasonable person can taste. Even my friends' kids were begging for mercy. The expo at the Ashland Springs Hotel is the main event though. We went to "chocolate" themed first Fridays and found nothing remotely chocolately about it (though the art was fun).
Favorites: new flavor bars from Lillie-Belle farms, rose petal jam, tayberry Tempranillo chocolate sauce from Pennington Farms, Chocolate Beagle truffles, Slagel Creek's chardonnay-Gewurtztraminer, Jem's cinnamon maca almond paste, mole bbq sauce, Weisinger's Tempranillo, drinking chocolate, and much more. Didn't love the raw chocolates. Thank goodness for the black coffee and wine between toffee and chocolate samples.
Coquina: this was my splurge meal and we weren't disappointed. We shared osso bucco made with goat and haricot verts and duck breast. I'd have liked more vegetables. Everything was very good including brussels spouts potato chips. Nice selection of mostly non-Oregon wines by the glass. Wines were reasonably priced. Entrees are on the high end (mid to high 20s and up). I appreciated the innovative ingredients (sea urchin gelato) and the delightful owners. But I do wonder if they need to add a few plainer options to cater to locals.
Tot: best meal I had in Ashland is a new place my hosts hadn't heard of. Vietnamese/SE Asian with delicious spicy soups full of gorgeous vegetables and meats. I had pork noodle, my friend had tom yum ($9-10). They also have banh mi and BBQ bowls. Fun sakes (I tried the coconut sake but ended up with Momokawa's well-priced nigori). If I lived in Ashland, I'd eat at Tot all the time. Healthy and good.
Sesame: I had their version of bi bim bap ($15?)before a play. Had to rush, which was a shame. This is a pan-Asian place with nice ingredients but couldn't help feeling the food was dumbed down. Good quality beef ended up being cooked too much in a very hot bowl. Rice was crispy but nearly burned. Nice selection of inexpensive wines by the glass. Convenient and friendly, so I'd try again.
Umi Sushi: Tried their yakisoba on a rainy day at lunch. It was fine. Sushi looked better. Very good green tea.
Thai Pepper: Had a lovely lunch at this untraditional Thai restaurant. Loved the sweet and sour fish, which was fried cod, though the sauce was a bit sweet. Pad Thai is tasty but more of a larb with vermicelli. Good wine list. I tried Troon's Thai Pepper Viognier, which went perfectly with the food. The remodel has really made this a lovely spot.
Standing Stone: Excellent if pricey salmon salad atop Japanese vegetables. Wish I'd gotten the sweet potato fries. Solid margaritas. Bacon bread pudding was a waste of calories. They had an oatmeal stout at the chocolate festival that even this non-beer drinker liked.
Ruby's: Got jerk chicken and immediately was jealous of my friend's bison burger especially his roll. Great fries. Hot sauce selection including the house Rooster sauce is the reason to eat here. We sat outside on a sunny day.
Noble coffee: spent a happy afternoon with Noble's 4-press flight, to the envy of many around me. This is a steal: 4 mini-French presses of any of their coffees for $8. I loved the Ecuadorean and Daydream blend. Wasn't as crazy about the award winning Colombian Finca San Luis or oddly named Kenyan Kia Ora (which is Maori for welcome). Very fast wifi. Good berry scone. Sweet baristas. Wish they were open later than 4, especially on 1st Fridays
Mix: delicious cappuccino and a gorgeous Meyer lemon sorbet. Meant to come get hot chocolate but we couldn't stand any more after the chocolate festival.