A New Way to Go Out for Dinner
There are more dining options in The Applegate Valley than you might think...
Going out to eat in the Applegate can be a tricky affair. We all have our beloved standbys. For instance, I go to the Applegate River Lodge nearly every Sunday evening for a top-notch kale Ceasar salad and a burger from Plaisance Ranch (and a glass of Plaisance red as well!). The view of the historic, green bridge over the river and the old-timey live music make me sure I'm in the dead-center of paradise.
But, overall, eating out options around here are pretty limited—largely due to strict Oregon rural land-use laws that limit commercial spaces in our valley. So, a night-out can often involve driving to Jacksonville, Grants Pass, or beyond.
At least, that’s how I used to think--until the other night when I had this realization: There are actually plenty of options for eating-out in the Applegate. You just have to get organized, make reservations, and change your habit patterns a bit.
This insight came to me standing on the terrace of Vista 222, a new event venue out on North Applegate Road. This space was created by a group of passionate locals to host weddings, and events like the one I was attending: A Louisiana-style boil catered by Jefferson Farm Kitchen.
I generally don’t go to special events like this—my erratic freelance schedule and wobbly income keep them off my radar. But my friend Megan inspired a group of us to go, and the tickets were only $35—a super-approachable price point for me.
Before sitting down for dinner, I stood with my friends and looked over the 70-acres of vineyard that stretched toward the mountains. Whenever I drive out to that part of the valley, I’m struck by what another world it is. Miles of vineyards surround some really impressive tasting rooms: Troon, Schmidt, Augustino Estate, and more.
"Events like this make me fall more in love with The Applegate Valley," my friend Caroline said, looking out at the impossible beauty.
The staff at Vista 222 were pouring several varieties of wine, but 2020 rosé seemed to be the evening’s most popular pick. It was a visual stand-out, radiating like peach-orange bird perched around the crowd. It was made from Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc, and after a waning interest in rosé, this version brought me right back into the fold.
Along with the rosé, Kristen Joy Lyon from Jefferson Farm Kitchen was the other star of the show. She fed dozens of eight-top tables beautiful plates of shrimp, corn, potatoes and sausage, as well as deviled eggs, Rise Up! Bread and a cobbler dessert. Her special events will now be firmly on my radar.
Aside from the great food and wine, there were a couple of aspects of this event that won me over. Unlike the restaurants I go to in Medford or Jacksonville, I knew a lot of people there. I also got to know a lot of people; because you are seated at large tables, you inevitably get to talking with new people—something that doesn’t happen at an ordinary restaurant. It also felt good to directly support Applegate Valley businesses—in this case, the Vista 222 venue and Jefferson Farm Kitchen.
In the end, the whole experience added up to more than "going out to eat": It was a truly meaningful dining experience, infused with an intimacy that you just can’t get by randomly going out to dinner somewhere.
So, my new restaurant realization is this: I’m going to go out less often, but more thoughtfully. Instead of driving to Jacksonville or Medford several times a month for dinner, I’m going to look at my schedule, save up my money, and attend more of these special events. Then I can enjoy food with the people I love, while supporting the places that makes this valley so amazing.
These events require some forward-thinking, so it's going to take me a while to change up my habits; I had hoped to go the the Winemaker Dinner at Troon coming up on June 25th, but the tickets are sold out. But there is a new Wednesday night Supper Club coming up at The Applegate Country Club on June 22nd. Tickets are $25 and there are several seatings throughout the evening. The menu sounds outstanding. I also want to try the Korean BBQ night at the Provolt Store.
Soon, I hope gather a list of special dinners coming up in the Valley so they are accessible in one place. Stay tuned!
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