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Smooth landing at the Luna

Some friends and I had just enjoyed (mostly) the Steve Martin play “Picasso at the Lapine Agile” at the Cabaret Theater in Ashland. The matinee ended at 3 p.m., and the butternut squash/carrot soup tasted great, but didn’t stick. I’d seen where Luna Cafe inside Ashland Hills Inn had begun serving Sunday evening jazz from 4 to 6, so Lane and I made our way to the southern end of town for a groovy change of pace and no-sweat parking.

Luna Cafe and Mercantile has a distinctly mid-century modern appeal but isn’t in the least cold or aloof. Tables, chairs and a sofa are arranged to feel more like an open living room where everyone can visit and enjoy the vibe. A patio for pleasant days looks to the inspiring hills surrounding Ashland. Pets are welcome there. No cougars allowed. Unless, well, um, no.

I ordered their grilled chipotle chicken sandwich. The chicken was tender with just the right spread of garlic aioli and avocado puree, sprouts and tomatoes. As far as I was concerned, the choice of sides could only be chickpea tots with yogurt sauce.

What a nice changeover from the expected. Plus it was fun to say, like, “pork chops and apple sauce.” They went down quite easily. Just ask Lane, who “helped.” He didn’t leave a crumb of his BLT with brown sugar bacon and basil aioli, accompanied with delicious cabbage and fennel slaw, of which I “helped.”

Again, a little finesse made a whole lot of good. Their wine offerings by the bottle represent local wineries well, though the tempranillo I enjoyed more than usual issued from a northerly cousin. I look forward to more locally sourced fare from chef David Georgeson.

Only one student and his laptop shared the space on arriving, but when the band appeared, people trickled in until we had a satisfying community.

The night’s lineup was what drew me in the first place, the Paul Turnipseed Trio with percussionist Theresa McCoy filling in capably for an absent Mike Fitch, and Jeff Addicott’s clever manipulation of the strings on his stand-up. Their selections are a mix of standards, New Orleans style, and dreamy Latins, with Paul’s soothing vocals here and there. The time came when dancing in my chair was no longer an option. Though neither of us really know how, we found an inconspicuous place to move and work off a few tot calories. We were not alone, and some wanted to, I could tell. Dancing is good for the soul.

Luna rotates a few different jazz groups weekly, including the Ed Dunsavage Trio, Danielle Kelly Trio, who showed up and took control of a couple of tunes, the Bear Creek Jazztet, and the Mark Hamersly Trio. Other jazz groups will join the roster going into the new year.

I met with restaurant manager Peter Bolton from Dublin, Ireland, who brought us the jazz we once enjoyed at the former Playwright Pub. Bolton reminded me that the south end of Ashland has much to offer. Other stops in the area include Belle Fiore Winery, Wild Goose Cafe, Caldera Brewery, Weisinger Family Winery, and Irvine & Roberts Vineyards.

I love this advice: “When you’re orbiting Ashland, land at Luna.” I am not sure how I missed the photo booth, however. Next time.

On a personal note, my book, “Trips & Tangents: 101 Favorite Southern Oregon Journal Columns,” will be out and strutting its stuff momentarily, in paperback and e-book. I hope you’ll join me on a stroll through wonderful memories and a few laughs from the past five years in this space. It will be available at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, Rebel Heart Books in Jacksonville, and everywhere books are sold, including my trunk. For autographed copies (is my face red yet?), find me on Facebook for signing info.

Reach freelance writer Peggy Dover at pcdover@hotmail.com.

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