Top Chef

The dreary winter days immediately following the holidays seem even more desolate for Ashland diners, as a number of restaurants lock their doors, taking the month of January off for a much-needed break.

But Ashland Springs Hotel remains a bright spot in town, a beacon for visitors from both near and far. The hotel's restaurant, Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, serves classic dishes in nostalgic surroundings any time of day.

Executive chef David Georgeson proved this fall that his kitchen is a destination unto itself even without the allure of the 86-year-old hotel, refurbished more than a decade ago. Owners Doug and Becky Neuman restored the former Lithia Springs Hotel to its original, turn-of-the-century luxury in a style evoking the first guests' fondness for mineral-water cures and Chautauqua lectures. In homage to the era's emerging naturalism, curio cabinets in the lobby are filled with stuffed birds, seashells and plant specimens.

Produce from local farmers holds sway in Georgeson's kitchen. He spent $100,000 in 2009 purchasing from local farms and artisan producers, according to the Ashland Springs website. Georgeson, himself, is an avid outdoorsman who spends most of his free time fishing and hunting.

The graduate of Western Culinary Institute in Portland worked for many years alongside Larks' former executive chef, Damon Jones, who instituted "farm-to-table" cooking at the hotel. Using Penn Cove mussels, clams and rockfish, Georgeson claimed the title of top chef at the 2011 Ashland Food & Wine Classic in November.

Dungeness crab, steelhead, hazelnuts and cranberries are among Oregon's bounty featured on Larks' winter menu. Macaroni and cheese, sloppy joes, Southern-style fried chicken breast and meatloaf are among Larks' upscale interpretations of comfort food.

Recommended: Anything from the weekend's brunch menu, which changes based on what's in season at local farms and growers markets — look for omelets, scrambles, pancakes, sandwiches and salads; also the classic Reuben with pastrami, beet kraut, Russian dressing and Swiss on rye served with warm German-style potato salad; the "farm plate," with housemade charcuterie, artisan cheeses, seasonal fruit and fresh crostini, is served both at lunch and as an appetizer for dinner.

Alternative diets: Two vegetarian salads and sandwiches at lunch, one vegetarian appetizer and two dinner entrees.

Beverages: Extensive list of local, other domestic and imported wines organized by varietal for purchase by the glass, 2-ounce tasting portion, half-bottles and bottles; domestic and imported, bottled beers; specialty cocktails, local spirits and a full bar.

Price range: Soups, $4 to $6; lunch salads, $9 to $14; lunch entrees, $8.50 to $14; dinner salads, $8 to $10; appetizers, $9 to $15; dinner entrees, $20 to $32; desserts, $6.50 to $8.50.

Extras: $2 split-plate charge, $15 corkage fee, 18 percent gratuity for parties of six or more; sidewalk tables available in fine weather; special menus for holidays; pay to park in lot behind hotel.

Serving: Brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays; supper from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (The restaurant will be closed for three days in January for remodeling; dates to be announced.)

Info: In the Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 E. Main St., Ashland; 541-488-5558;

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