Mix Sweet Shop

Already the preferred spot for enjoying European-style pastries with coffee, Mix Sweet Shop in Ashland is expanding its appeal with more seating in the former basement digs of Munchies.

Albeit a bit less cozy stripped of Munchies' carpeting and wood trim, the lower level of Mix has become a local favorite in the past month or so it's been open. A co-worker and I took refuge there on one of the recent snow days for hot drinks with a light lunch.

Mix has offered mini baguette sandwiches over the past five years or so and more recently added focaccia sandwiches to the lineup. All the bread is baked on the premises, which also supplies the co-owners' other endeavor, Amuse restaurant in downtown Ashland.

Because I'd previously enjoyed the day's two baguette selections — ham with thyme butter and romesco sauce with manchego cheese — the focaccia sandwiches were the obvious choice. Unable to demerit either the egg salad, bacon and radicchio or the hummus, cucumber, pickled fennel and feta sandwich, I happily ordered both, for a total of $8.

It came as no surprise that my co-worker selected the vegetarian sandwich. Seasonally inspired, Mix's sandwiches also have incorporated heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

To reward our intrepid trek over icy roads to Ashland, we splurged on macarons at the price of $2.75 apiece. Little more than bite-sized, Mix's traditional, handmade, pastel-hued cookies come in several seasonal flavors. We chose chocolate-peppermint, matcha tea and hazelnut to complement our hot chocolate ($3) and single-serve French press coffee ($3.50) steeped from Portland's Stumptown beans.

The cold deterred me from Mix's house-made gelato, which I rarely pass up. I only hope its pear-Champagne and pumpkin cheesecake will reappear when the mood beckons. The most impressive flavor I've sampled at Amuse, however, has to be this past summer's huckleberry-lavender macaron.

The sandwiches and macarons were plated immediately for us to carry downstairs, leaving only the beverages to claim later from the baristas. Although the flight of stairs seems a bit precarious for juggling plates and cups, the new seating area encourages patrons to linger amid the quirky, framed photographs and retro, sheet-metal, gas stove.

I tore into the sandwiches without ceremony, stopping just long enough to poke a bit of the bitter radicchio back among the perfectly seasoned, rich salad mixture and equally rich, perfectly cooked bacon. I was pleased to find myself enjoying the hummus sandwich a bit more, typically passing up the genre in favor of something with more flavor. The chickpea spread, however, lacked the extreme earthiness that so many can impart while the feta almost mimicked blue cheese. The pickled fennel and thinly sliced cucumber brought just the right texture and freshness to the combination.

The macarons each constituted a nibble for my friend and I, who has expended no small effort shopping for this classic French pastry in Paris. Indeed, Old World desserts inspired pastry chef Jamie North to open Mix on the Plaza with husband Erik Brown, executive chef of Amuse.

Serving superior coffee was another of North's goals for Mix. I would have preferred a few more ounces than the 12 or so from the French press, but upgrading to the $5 press that fills two enormous bowls isn't wise without at least one coffee-drinking friend along.

I predict plenty of opportunities for that in the future.

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