Increasingly, in the Rogue Valley, there’s a dining alternative to restaurants, fast food, takeout, take-and-bake, delivery or home cooking. And I’m not talking about Blue Apron.
Wholesome entrees, prepared from scratch, by no lesser hands than chefs’, are ready to take home from at least two local businesses and reheat at customers’ leisure. Fry Family Farm’s west Medford store has been open for almost two years, offering preserves and fresh bakery goods to complement its certified-organic produce. This winter, The Farm Store on Ross Lane expanded to “farm-fresh, take-home meals.”
In nearby Jacksonville, Kristen Lyon’s Jefferson Farm Kitchen sells meals to go, along with such pantry staples and mealtime starters as pie crust, pizza dough and bone broth. Both businesses post the week’s menus on their websites and market through social media and email newsletters.
A busy day culminating in a casual dinner with friends, who live just outside Jacksonville, afforded an ideal chance to sample Fry’s take-home dishes. The light, bright and airy building, fronting the Frys’ fields, is something of a clearinghouse for the region’s artisan foods, aside from the items crafted in the on-site commercial kitchen. Customers can expect to find locally raised meats, fine cheeses and even wines.
Curating the store’s wines and creating its prepared foods is the task of Skyler Golden, executive chef and sommelier. A restaurant-industry veteran of 17 years, Golden got his start at Ashland’s Omar’s before earning recognition in Austin, Texas, at the acclaimed Driskell Hotel. Since returning to Southern Oregon and joining the Frys, Golden has embarked on The Court of Master Sommeliers Program.
While fine wines — domestic and imported — fill The Farm Store’s inventory, Fry’s prepared meals are comfort foods at their best. Lasagna, shepherd’s pie, Indian- and Thai-style curries, casseroles and stews are mainstays. What doesn’t sell for the week goes into the store’s freezer case, alongside the cooler with the current week’s ready-to-heat entrees.
Chili Colorado, either chicken or vegetable, with Mexican-style pinto beans, was the week’s bill of fare when I stopped in late on a Sunday afternoon. I worried the meals might have sold out before I claimed some, but a half-dozen portions awaited.
At $13 apiece, Fry’s take-home meals aren’t cheap. But the price affords organic ingredients and a flavor that far surpasses grocery-store counterparts. Buying two hearty servings, the cost also is less than ordering to-go from the average restaurant menu.
To feed three adults and five children, I pulled three meal portions from the refrigerator case. Intending to make a salad with fruit on hand, I decided to sweeten the deal with one of Fry’s fresh-baked, lemony pound cakes for an additional $10.
Spending just shy of $50, I left knowing that I couldn’t have fed our group for less with restaurant takeout. And unlike hot food biding its time in inadequately insulated containers, this meal would be hot off our friends’ stove and served at our leisure.
So much sauce around the chicken suggested a vehicle for soaking it up, so I prepared a pot of brown rice to augment our meal. Some basic condiments — salsa, sour cream and a few chopped scallions — are easy flourishes available in the majority of home kitchens.
With a deep, intense flavor, the sauce was the star of this dish. Almost suggesting a molé in its complexity, it obviously was the product of long simmering and careful seasoning, better than anything I’ve tried at most local Mexican eateries.
The chicken was tender and flavorful, plenty to satisfy our appetites. Prepared from scratch, the beans were creamy and delicious, an endorsement for the time it takes to produce pintos of this quality, instead of popping open a can.
Our friends raved about the flavors and determined that for their family, which intermittently subscribes to an organic meal-assembly service similar to Blue Apron, Fry’s take-home meals would save them both some time and money. And we all agreed that supporting a truly local business is a practice we prefer.
The Farm Store at Fry Family Farm is at 2184 Ross Lane, Medford. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday. Call 541-622-8154 or see fryfamilyfarm.org.