After my family camped for a couple of nights in the Rogue River National Forest last week, we drove to Ashland. Back to civilization, the first thing we did when we got to our hotel was shower. A shower in which you can see dirt leaving your body and swimming toward the drain is especially satisfying.
The second thing we did was look for a restaurant.
Fancy Ashland restaurants (like Amuse) were out because we had kids with us; besides, we didn't have reservations. Someone had mentioned Standing Stone Brewing Co. (101 Oak St., 541-482-2448), so we decided to give it a try. I'm glad we did.
The service is cheerful and efficient, and the space is bright and attractive. If it's not too hot, you can sit outside on the big patio with a view of the hills surrounding town. The handcrafted brews are good (we liked the crisp lager best), and the food is satisfying.
We didn't sample the fancy stuff (and there's not that much of it), but the burgers, the pizza and especially the salads are great. The superb steak salad is crispy romaine lettuce sprinkled generously with high-quality diced tomatoes and topped with a sliced Painted Hills top sirloin. The blue cheese dressing is tangy with small chunks of pungent blue cheese. The substantial Cobb salad is tasty, too. Only the Caesar was disappointing.
Standing Stone is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week starting at 11:30 a.m. It's in downtown Ashland, just a couple of blocks from the theaters.
Visit www.standingstone brewery.com for information.
Back to the big city of Portland, for once there wasn't a new restaurant I felt compelled to check out, so I headed to an old favorite, BeWon (1203 N.W. 23rd Ave., 503-464-9222).
The small and minimally decorated Korean restaurant, which opened in 2002, has a few black-and-white photographs on the walls and crisp, white tablecloths and napkins on the tables. That simplicity makes the perfect backdrop for elegantly presented food.
The must-have appetizer, gujeolpan, is a case in point. A short stack of small crepes sits in the center of a large plate. Surrounding the crepes are eight evenly spaced, pretty little piles of treats - minced beef, chopped bean sprouts, julienned black and shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, carrot, egg yolks and egg whites. Put a smidgen of each pile into a crepe, drizzle with the accompanying sauce, and pop the whole thing into your mouth.
Another starter, the BeWon salad, is one of my favorite salads in Portland. Primarily lettuce, it manages to explode with flavor. The trick is the spicy sesame soy dressing. Though it's not even described as 'spicy' on the menu it varies from mildly spicy to guzzling-water spicy.
Another standout salad, avocado doobu, involves melt-in-your mouth tofu, tender little shrimps and perfectly ripe avocado drizzled with mustard-vinegar dressing.
Entrees are served with rice and are accompanied by nine side dishes (five at lunch) of things like sautéed spinach, fermented black beans, mushroom dumplings and kimchi. One smart entree choice is bulgogi, well-seasoned, thinly sliced rib-eye steak with sautéed onions. Another is stir-fried baby octopus with vegetables in a spicy sauce.
To try lots of dishes, choose the seven-course prix fixe meal called han jung shik. It's $24.95 per person, or $39.95 per person with wine pairings.
BeWon does not serve cocktails, but it does have a decent wine list (including some Korean rice wines) and a few bottled beers. Service at the restaurant is informative and brisk.
BeWon may not be the newest restaurant in town, but it offers a culinary trip worth taking.
BeWon is open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and for dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit www. bewon restaurant.com for information.
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In bleaker news, I have a couple of restaurant closures to announce.
Epicure (1700 N.E. Broadway, 503-916-1676) closed recently after less than a year in that location. Apparently it had more to do with trouble with an investor than the restaurant's popularity. No word yet on what will move into the space.
Across the river, Nina's Place recently closed in the Pearl. A new restaurant called Graze (939 N.W. 10th Ave., 503-808-9888) will open in the space July 22. Katharine Browning is the owner and executive chef.
The Web site www.graze restaurant.com includes a sample menu if you want to take a peek. Graze will offer a full bar, weekend brunch (starting Aug. 5) and an international array of small plates to share. And, according to sous-chef Chuck Green, the restaurant has applied for an off-premises sales license, too, so people can pick up dinner and a bottle of wine to go. Sounds like a smart plan with all the new condos opening across the street.