Standing Stone Brewing Company is one of my friend Stacey's favorite restaurants in Ashland. Committed to an organic, waste-free lifestyle, she enjoys the meats, eggs and produce that are sourced from the restaurant's own One Mile Farm.
Celebrating 20 years of sustainable business at its location on Oak Street, the restaurant and brewery has found value in the local community's tastes and lifestyles with its free-range beef and lamb, pizzas, pub fare and solar-powered brewery — right along with the preferences of Ashland's strong tourist trade.
On my last, long-overdue visit to Standing Stone, Stacey and I chose a table outdoors on the roomy patio. She wanted me sample the fritters made with cauliflower and Parmesan and served with Green Goddess dipping sauce ($7), and I had an appetite for my longtime favorite, the salmon tacos.
I was delighted with the deep-fried fritters, served with a smattering of micro-greens on top. Rolled in panko or bread crumbs and cooked until golden brown, they were creamy and decadent inside. Stacey decided to make the fritters a meal and ordered a salad made from organic greens.
Standing Stone's tacos are available with choices of seared salmon, crispy Baja fish, chili-rubbed steak, Adobo chicken or pork carnitas. At $5 each, one makes a tasty appetizer, or order the plate with any two tacos and rice and beans ($14).
My salmon tacos were served on house-made tortillas and garnished with fresh avocado, red onion, cilantro and a just-right drizzle of sour cream sauce. The servings of rice and beans were favorably light, and an accompanying condiment dish was filled with green chili sauce, pickled onion and a spicy habañero sauce. Looking for that little bit of extra flavor, I put just a dab of the habañero sauce on a bite — only to be reminded that this spirited chili pepper is not for me.
The first thing Stacey and I noticed when we sat down was the restaurant's considerably smaller menu, though it still offered a range of items, and as we dined we noticed that the food had a little more snap to it than usual. Our server mentioned that the restaurant had acquired a new chef, who plans to make the menu smaller yet.
Chef Stefano Cippoline moved from Belle Fiore Winery to work at Standing Stone about four months ago.
"There were 70 menu items when I started working here," Cippoline says. "It wasn't wrong, but it was large and cumbersome. Our flatbreads, pizzas, tacos and burgers are great, and we want to stay with the best-selling items while paying attention to trends, what we can provide and how we can provide it better.
"We must be one of the only breweries on the West Coast that has its own farm and legitimately resources its own beef, pork and lamb," he says. "I have access to New Yorks, rib-eyes and filets at the restaurant, yet these choice cuts aren't showcased on the menu."
A smaller main menu would allow the restaurant to offer its farm-centric fare, showcasing what is actually grown at One Mile Farm.
"You'll always be able to come to Standing Stone and get the great tacos and burgers, but you'll also be able to try a filet, a rib-eye, lamb or pork, something different every week," Cippoline says.
Plans also are in the works for a new pastry chef. Cippoline says he wants diners' experiences to end on a good note. The new menu will be unveiled sometime in July.
Being a chef is the only job Cippoline has ever had, he says.
"My parents are chefs and owned restaurants while I was growing up, and my grandparents owned restaurants before them," he says. "I tried to be a wild-fire fighter for six years with the U.S. Forest Service. That's what brought me to the Rogue Valley. I eventually decided it wasn't for me and went back to being a chef. My grandfather makes a joke about jumping from the fire into the frying pan."