The Garden at McCully House Inn

While there is a rich supply of locally farmed produce during the spring, summer and fall seasons in the Rogue Valley, a bounty of winter vegetables, greens and artisanal foods are available during the shorter days and colder weather of the year.

The Garden, a bistro-style restaurant at the McCully House Inn in downtown Jacksonville, showcases dishes prepared from foods produced at family farms and ranches in the Applegate and Rogue valleys, as well as fare from farms in Northern California, Northern Oregon and Washington. It was the idea of executive chef Bob Denman and sous chef Kristen Lyon, and it was put into play when the historic inn reopened its restaurant last fall after a remodel.

A dinner out with close family members was the perfect opportunity to try several of the a la carte dishes on the bistro's menu, along with a couple of the weekly specials.

The dining room was expanded during the inn's remodel and now about 70 people can be comfortably seated. Large windows around the room look out onto the patio and garden area. There's room for about another 50 diners on the patio, and a full bar with seating for 12 also was added during the remodel.

Our group started out with a bowl of tri-tip and vegetable stew and some of the restaurant's flat bread. The unleavened bread was drizzled with olive oil and served hot and crunchy. It was a delicious complement to the tender stew of potatoes, turnips and onions and beef in a nicely flavored brown broth. The beef was from the Salant Family Ranch on Little Applegate Road outside of Jacksonville. Salant's beef is naturally raised, free of antibiotics and hormones and grain-finished.

We moved on to the next course, and Rob and his brother, Duane, ordered the bistro's house salads, made with hearty mixes of fresh greens tossed with blueberries and walnuts, garnished with sliced pears and topped with dressing made with blue cheese from the Rogue Creamery in Central Point. Both men asked our waiter to hold the dressing. It appears the two share an inherent dislike for blue cheese, but our willing server happily obliged them.

Duane's wife, Adrienne, and I had no such reservations when it came to our salads. Adrienne enjoyed a salad of beets, Oregonzola and blueberries garnished with pea sprouts, and I liked the bistro's Winter Salad, a dish of fresh spinach covered with a saucy blend of chopped apples, red onion and bacon. My salad was garnished with some darling little clover sprouts that had a sweet and distinctive flavor.

After sampling the stew, Rob and Duane couldn't pass up the flatiron steaks for their main courses. Adrienne opted for the cioppino, an Italian seafood stew in a broth seasoned with tomatoes, wine and herbs, served with a side of crusty, white bread. I'd been looking at the bistro's menu posted at the McCully House Inn's Web site all week and couldn't wait to try the fresh rigatoni from Wolf Creek Pasta Co. The dish was oven-baked with squash, spinach, fresh herbs and fontina and parmesan cheeses. I find pastas and cheeses to be the ultimate comfort food during the colder months, and this dish hit the spot.

I cadged a delicious taste of mashed potatoes from Rob's plate. I also was impressed with Adrienne's seafood dish. Sometimes a cioppino's broth is too heavy, too red. This one touted a lighter broth, along with lots of plump prawns and scallops, crab in the shell, small razor clams and sole.

We topped our meal off with the Raspberry Coffee Cake made with Myrtle's raspberries and the Chocolate Molten Truffle Cake. All of the bistro's desserts are served with a little dollop of Mamma Mia's handmade vanilla gelato. The gelateria is on California Street in Jacksonville. From producer to the table, it doesn't get much fresher than that.

We liked all of the dishes we tried that evening. The Garden Bistro serves lighter portions than some restaurants, we all felt that the size of our meals was "just right." I'm willing to spend a little more for fresher fare, but the bistro's prices weren't too expensive. See the weekly specials at

We talked about how much we enjoyed the Garden Bistro's food all the way home. I'll be sure to try the cioppino the next time it's available.

— Laurie Heuston

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