Monday, July 9, 2007

New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro - Ashland

While planning our trip to Ashland, I of course had to find a couple fancy food places to go. I had stumbled upon New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in a San Francisco Chronicle article years ago, and then again in my research skills this time around. For a place in a small town outside of Ashland to have a 2 month wait list is pretty impressive. So I was excited to try this place that had no website, no menu anywhere online and quite a dramatic Bay Area history. Charlene Rollins was a cook at Chez Panisse and Vernon Rollins a French wine importer. Charlene does all the cooking and uses all organic and to the extent possible local ingredients.

Sammy's did not disappoint.

All reviews I had found said that it was hard to find, a shack hidden behind overgrown shrubs, and a parking lot that was more like a gas station. They were outdated, Sammy's is now clearly visable from the road due to a new facade, and what seems to be a greatly expanding space. It will be amazing when done.
Right now, finding the front door is a bit tricky (hint, it's inside the new building to the left down a hallway) and we had some random people who were sitting in the parking lot show us the way. There still is a garden in the back where a lot of the veggies and herbs they use are grown.

Inside, it is an eclectic old shack. Lots of menus and posters and wine labels from France line the walls. There are 2 tables in a back room (where we sat), and 4 or 5 in the front room. The ceilings are low (and I am only 5'2) and in the bathroom I almost hit my head. But all of this adds a certain charm to the spot, the hideaway it was for the owners who wanted to focus on nothing more than preparing good food and serving great wines.

I wish I knew more about non-domestic wines, the wine list is apparently incredible and impressive, but completely lost on me. Although there are some seriously expensive bottles on there (upwards of $800!) so if you are an oenophile, you should get yourself there in an instant. We had Vernon recommend a couple glasses of wine that would go well with our meals, and he was spot on.

For dinner I opted for the evening's three course prix fixe menu ($58) with the addition of an appetizer from the regular menu. Yes, the prix fixe came with a salad, but the appetizer sounded too good to not try.

We had an amuse bouche, mine was a chicken pate with a pickled cherry (soooooo good, I wanted to come home and do the same), some mustard, and pickles. It took me a while to finish it because it was so yummy I wanted to make it last as long as possible. My companion (A) had a sorrel soup, it was fresh tasting with a touch of creme fraiche and wasabi. The wasabi threw me off a bit, since normally I am ready to suck down anything involving sorrel and it took me a moment to realize why this tasted different.

The appetizer I got was fresh sugar snap peas (from the farm) with proscuitto and a sort of rice pudding. Portion size was quite hearty and it was indeed very filling. The freshness of the peas and mint was a good balance with the richness of the rice. We kept forcing ourselves to eat it, even though we were full and had other dishes coming, because something about it was just so right.
The salad that came with the prix fixe dinner was also huge. Soft boiled egg, applewood bacon, bay shrimp, and more fresh greens from the garden. I couldn't eat it all. It was fantastic however.

A got a salad as well, which was smaller, and also quite fresh and good.

The theme of the night was definately the fresh tasting goodness of food that comes straight from the land.

A got a ravioli entree with of course more garden-fresh peas, and I got a braised lamb with ricotta gnocchi. Little fluffy pillows of gnocchi. Honestly, the best I've ever had. Her ravioli were huge and light and so fresh tasting. This was the key to Charlene's cooking, everything tasted so crisp and clean and you just knew it was fresh. It's amazing what a difference that makes in the flavor of the food.

Dessert was a bowl of melted chocolate with scoops of ice cream and cornmeal biscotti. Let me repeat, MELTED CHOCOLATE. Nothing can be wrong in this world after eating that. It was insanely rich, I doubt the chocolate was diluted with anything. And all I wanted was to figure out how to transport it back to the B&B because I just wanted to eat it all night long.

A got a strawberry chiffon cake, with deliciously thick and rich frosting and cake that was light as air. She ate the cake, I ate the frosting. There was a final dessert amuse bouche, a cornmeal sugar cookie shaped like a cow. A ginger chocolate and a Meyer lemon jelly sqaure. A bit of whimsey to finish off the evening, and so you don't forget that Sammy wanted the cowboys to come eat here.

I don't know about the cowboys, but I will be back anytime I am in the greater Southern Oregon neighborhood.

Location: New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro. 2210 South Pacific Highway. Talent, OR 97540. 541-535-2779


annehawk said...

I'd completely forgotten about that dessert - even looking at the pictures rings no bells. I think I must have been in food heaven before the dessert even arrived. Those raviolis were awesome!!

Anonymous said...

I (heart) Sammy's!!