Pork loin and belly come with apples, grilled broccolini and an oatmeal and walnut crumble at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Delicata squash was fried as a tempura for a side dish at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
A squid fry complements an appetizer of raw halibut with pickled kumquats, avocado and chilies at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The risotto incorporates chanterelles at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Seed crackers make up a salad of roasted beets, whipped goat cheese and curls at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Bay leaf ice cream contrasts with apple, caramel and vanilla flavors in a playful dessert with a freshly fried donut at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Sparkling wine pairs with complimentary cheese-filled gougères to start dinner service at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The Chocolate Hazelnut Bar is a decadent dessert made with whole dark cherries, hazelnuts, dark chocolate tuiles and a cherry reduction at Decant in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
It is the rare gastronomic establishment which is also a family affair.
Medford’s new Decant not only keeps operations in the family, but builds on generations of dedication to the wine and restaurant industries. Under the distinguished aura of its Italian matriarch, Decant brings a caliber of cuisine previously lacking in Medford and raises the bar for wine country dishes.
Transplanted from Napa Valley, Miriam Barchi and her daughter Jessica Colburn, along with executive chef Todd Meyerhofer, joined Barchi’s oldest daughter, Irina, in southern Oregon. Barchi and Meyerhofer count the Auberge du Soleil and the Culinary Institute of America respectively among renowned employers. The team opened Decant in mid-October in the former Café Dejeuner.
Decant’s simple dining room is outfitted with no-frills furniture, but its cutlery, cutlery, and glasses are a cut above. The attention to detail is overseen by Barchi, herself, who graciously waits tables with her daughters and granddaughter. The family exudes hospitality, fostered since Barchi’s childhood raised in her parents’ Michelin-starred restaurant in Florence, Italy.
The Italian ethos for fresh, organic, seasonal ingredients is a founding principle of Decant. But Meyerhofer’s menu is firmly rooted in modern American cuisine. Beef, pork, chicken and halibut, renowned for their popularity, are the stars of the dishes, enhanced with autumn produce and a few intriguing flourishes.
Among the entrees, the halibut crudo ($21) stood out for its “squid crackers,” although the classic accompaniment of seared foie gras almost made me switch to the other raw preparation, the beef tartare ( $24). The fish won in part for its promise of pickled kumquats, ponzu, and fresh chilies.
My partner was craving the Beet Salad ($16) with Frisée and Whipped Goat Cheese, a restaurant mainstay for good reason. Locally produced goat cheese factored into the other Butter Lettuce Salad with Pear and Candied Walnuts ($14), another big hit when run in season.
The sparkling wine seemed like a good way to start, especially with the complimentary amuse bouche of truffled cheese gougères. As I was ordering a glass of Domaine Carneros Brut ($14) from Napa, my partner asked for the chardonnay available by the glass ($13), from Arterberry Maresh in the Willamette Vally.
Troon and Irvine & Roberts are the only local labels represented on Decant’s wine list, curated by Wine Director Jessica Colburn. It’s no surprise that the certified sommelier’s sensibilities lean heavily toward Napa Valley cabs and Italian reds, with some bottles priced as high as $200. The restaurant’s website invites customers to learn about wines from around the world and how they compare to local wines, and the staff indeed initiate friendly conversations that don’t come across as arrogant or pretentious at all.
We considered Chardonnay to be an outstanding example of its variety, pairing well with our two starters. Each was carefully plated and well-balanced, their tender components highlighted by the delicious squid ink chip and homemade seed cracker.
Chanterelles confirmed my choice of risotto starter ($28) without hesitation. And because I love the pairing of mushrooms with winter squash, I ordered the tempura delicata squash side dish with herbed yogurt ($9).
My partner flirted with ordering the wagyu burger ($18) but noted that once he added truffle fries for $6 and bacon for $4 the dish would rival the cost of other main courses . In the end, the Duroc Pork Tenderloin and Belly ($38) beckoned.
New York steak and halibut with mussels are priced at $48 and $42, respectively. Vegetable side dishes range from $9 for Brussels sprouts to $12 for truffle fries with homemade aioli.
Barchi’s presentation of a spoon for my risotto and a heavy-handled steak knife heralded the arrival of entrees. The risotto lay generously portioned and unadorned in his bowl. The pork, on the other hand, boasted plenty of sides of sliced apples, apple butter, grilled broccolini, and a nut crumble. The plating, however, was imprecise – or maybe the sauces had shifted en route from the kitchen.
The perfect pink cooking throughout the meat echoed the impeccable flavor and texture of the pork, infused with a herb brine. I can’t remember ever tasting such distinctive flavor and succulence from this cut. The oiliness of the belly was almost useless, especially because it lacked flesh interspersed with fat.
My risotto was a perfect take on the Italian national dish, the al dente mastication of rice offset by tender mushrooms. I would have enjoyed at least a hearty slice of chanterelle, keeping its elegant trumpet shape, which is half the fun of eating this mushroom. The dish’s subtle butteriness shone through sips of delicate Black Magnolia pinot noir ($14), which also failed to overpower the tender, slightly sweet tempura squash.
Rarely tempted by sweets, I’ve been drawn more to Decant’s dessert menu than any other local menu for some time. I had made a point of telling my partner that we should order two desserts instead of sharing one as usual.
Unfortunately, the Oregon blueberry “popcorn” creme brulee that had tickled me so much when I looked up the menu online was not offered. Fortunately, my second choice, the apple-vanilla “press” with brioche donut and bay leaf ice cream ($14) was available. My girlfriend eagerly asked for the chocolate-hazelnut bar with cherries, custard and cocoa nib tiles ($14).
Playfully presented, my dessert included apple jelly covered in vanilla custard and a cookie crust, topped with an oatmeal crumble. The freshly fried brioche, though tiny, was all the yeast doughnuts had to aspire to. And the herbaceous and slightly bitter bay leaf ice cream was sublime.
Another example of lightly sweetened desserts in the European tradition, the chocolate-hazelnut bar was nonetheless decadent, resplendent with whole dark cherries and large chunks of peeled hazelnuts. The cherry reduction and dark chocolate tuiles, which tasted almost charred, contrasted with the rich, sweet cream.
Not only richly fed but warmly welcomed, we recognized that the price of the meal reflected many luxurious touches that left us with a sense of value. Located at 1108 E. Main St., Decant is open Thursday through Monday. Book at decantmedford.com or call 541-776-1234.
Pizza is a new pairing at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden.
The Applegate estate launched a menu of wood-fired pizzas prepared by chef Tim Payne in October. New fire pits complete Cowhorn’s pizza oven. Reservations are encouraged and can be made at cowhornwine.com
Pizza recipes include the classic Margherita with tomatoes and basil, as well as the “pizza bianco” with ricotta cheese, leeks and arugula. The ingredients are locally sourced and organically grown.
Accompanied by a pizza, the tasting of four Cowhorn wines, each 3 ounces, costs $40. The wines featured are 2020 Grenache Rose and Spiral, a white blend of viognier, marsanne and roussanne, as well as 2015 syrah and Moonraker, a red blend with tempranillo.
“We’re creating a wonderful new experience at Cowhorn with farm-to-table food options and a wine list that pairs perfectly with every flavor of pizza!” says co-owner Grant Gustafson.
A wine-only tasting is $20 for four 1-ounce pours. Certified biodynamic, Cowhorn wines are “nature-driven,” according to its website, which involves strengthening the soil with micronutrients, allowing beneficial plants to grow between the rows of vines and encouraging other creatures to thrive. live around the vineyard. Other crops on the estate include asparagus and hazelnuts.
Founders Barbara and Bill Steele sold their 117-acre Eastside Road property in April to a group of investors led by Katherine “Mini” Banks. Cowhorn recently instituted new hours of operation of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Kaleidoscope To Go is back in business.
Medford Restaurant’s take-out facility reopened on November 1 after a four-month closure caused by an “unprecedented” staff shortage. To Go’s hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Dial 541-779-7787. Online ordering is not available.
In July, the ever-popular Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub suspended online and phone orders while inviting customers to come to its location at 3084 Crater Lake Highway — in person — to place take-out orders. Takeout at Kaleidoscope has soared throughout the pandemic, making up half of the company’s total volume, according to management. The main kitchen could not absorb the demand for takeout while serving restaurant customers throughout the summer and early fall.
After posting calls on social media for job applicants, the restaurant this week promoted its starting salary of $15 for kitchen staff, plus a $3 tip split. The restaurant also offers annual and sponsorship bonuses and flexible hours. Applications can be downloaded at kaleidoscopepizza.com/apply
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Sarah Lemon has savored the Rogue Valley dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s restaurant column. His palate has helped judge some of the region’s food competitions and festivals. A former editor of A la Carte, the weekly food section of the Mail Tribune, she writes a bi-weekly column, The Whole Dish, as well as blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.