Food and beer don't get much fresher and more local than at Standing Stone Brewing Co. in Ashland.
This spring, the brew pub long known for its environmentally responsible approach rolled out an updated menu featuring beef, chicken, eggs and other ingredients from Standing Stone's farm roughly one mile away from the pub at 101 Oak St.
Look for the "one-mile" designation on the menu to know which products are fresh off the farm, and expect to see the menu change with the seasons to reflect what's ripe and ready right now.
My husband and I headed to Standing Stone last weekend to check out the new menu and soak up some sunshine on the pub's perfectly pleasant patio.
I was pleased to see plenty of past favorites — black bean nachos, garlic fries, sweet potato curry fries, goat cheese fondue, fish and chips, wild-caught salmon. An evolving selection of pizzas and sandwiches features both classics (a margharita and a Reuben) and new options (a quinoa nut burger and a green apple, spinach, blue cheese and honey pizza).
We zeroed in on the new items, starting with deep-fried Brussels sprouts for $7. They are one of my husband's favorite vegetables, but we had never had them deep fried. The fryer turned the outer leaves crisp and black, giving them a hint of bitterness, while the heart cooked to a mellow-tasting, bright-green tenderness. Basil aioli served on the side provided a tasty accent.
Kim chi is another dish in the cabbage family that my husband can't pass up, so we ordered a $3 side of house-fermented kimchi. Standing Stone adjusts its recipe to feature seasonal vegetables. This batch featured classic napa cabbage, shredded carrots and plenty of ginger, creating a zippy dish topped with a sprig of cilantro and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.
To get a true taste of the farm, I ordered adobo chicken tacos off the daily specials list for $15, while my husband opted for a cheeseburger that is highlighted on the regular menu for $10.
The hand-formed burger was perfectly cooked, with a crusty char outside and a juicy interior. The toasted bun was tender with a hint of buttery crunch. But even with the subtly flavorful smoked tomato relish and rich Rogue Creamery cheddar made with a hint of Standing Stone stout, these quality components came together in a slightly bland burger. Perhaps he unfairly expected more intense flavor from grass-fed beef presented so simply, but he jealously eyed a barbecued burger, glistening with sauce and piled high with fried onion straws, delivered to a neighboring table. Maybe next time he should try the black and blue burger, which features a spicy chili rub, blue cheese, bacon and mayonnaise — no shortage of flavor there, I bet.
My adobo chicken tacos were nicely spiced, and the meat from the heritage-breed chickens Standing Stone raises on its farm definitely has a depth of flavor lacking in fast-grown, cage-bound birds raised for mass consumption. The lean and tasty meat requires careful treatment in the kitchen so it doesn't end up too chewy. With only one tough sliver of meat in three plump tacos, the chef did quite well.
The tacos also included sauteed red pepper and onion, a thick wedge of avocado and an artistic drizzle of sour cream. On the side were savory black bean chili, a mound of savory slaw and rosy slices of pickled radishes, which offered a piquant palate cleanser.
We paired our meals with I Heart Oregon pale ale, which is made from all Oregon-grown ingredients, including hops from Ashland's own Alpha Beta Hop Farm and Silverton's Goschie Farms, which is certified Salmon Safe for its efforts to protect water quality. Sporting a pale golden color, balanced bitterness and a hint of citrus, it especially complemented the tacos.
Standing Stone's $5 beer sampler is an excellent way to try a 2.5-ounce taste of everything they have on tap. The day we visited, that was six brews, running the gamut from golden and pale ales to hearty stout infused with Noble Coffee, but a new summer seasonal — blackberry wheat beer — will be tapped soon.
If this is what sustainability tastes like, I'll have another helping.
Standing Stone Brewing Co. is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily. Call 541-482-2448.
— Anita Burke