Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jacksonville's C Street Bistro

“From scratch cooking. Locally sourced. Bad-free.”

These pearls of wisdom appear on the menu for C Street Bistro, a small and charming café located on a side street in Jacksonville, OR.
“C Street Bistro has earned a sterling reputation for brunch and lunch and weekend dinners in the Rogue River Valley. Utilizing fresh, seasonal and local ingredients from farmers, ranchers and fishermen, Chef Paul Becking offers a culinary experience to remember. Recently voted 'Best Burger in the Rogue Valley'…

“Chef Paul Becking is no stranger to Celebrity Chefs or the Food Network. He's cooked for Julia Child.
And his last venture, Elements in Santa Barbara, was featured on Giada's Weekend Getaway and Rachel Ray's Vacation.” (cstbisdtro.com)

“…it already feels like chef and owner Paul Becking has been cooking in Jacksonville for years.

“Customers on a recent Friday filled the small space, waiting outside in drizzling rain until tables became available or taking food to go if dining in didn't look likely. But the ambiance never seemed overwhelmed as Becking effortlessly navigated the bustle, cooking behind one side of the counter, waiting tables on the other, and accepting compliments at every turn.
“It comes as no surprise that this isn't the 37-year-old restaurateur's first rodeo. Becking was part-owner and executive chef of Elements in Santa Barbara, Calif…. He moved with his wife to the Rogue Valley about two years ago to live nearer her family.

“Instead of signing on with a bona fide eatery, Becking worked at The Butcher Shop in Eagle Point until he could run his own kitchen again. His relationship with The Butcher Shop is evident in C St.'s emphasis on burgers…” (Sarah Lemon at mailtribune.com).

Did I mention that C. St. is small? Just how small? The café only has three indoor tables. One seats four. One seats six. And one seats eight.
Yes, there are four two-tops on the front patio, but since the day was rainy (Did we mention it has rained a lot lately?), these weren’t available. Each of the three indoor tables is communal seating. We first joined an elderly (older than us) local couple who eat at C Street almost everyday. Later we were joined by two fellow RV’ers. In fact, at one point fourteen of the eighteen seats were filled with RV’ers.

Having reviewed the menu on-line, I had already decided on my lunch choice. What else can a mushroom lover choose than the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Panini with wild mushrooms, truffle aioli, and provolone and gruyere cheeses? With this I had my choice of a cup of the house tomato soup, Bistro salad, or chopped Caesar. Since the weather was unpleasant (Have I mentioned we are having a lot of rain?), I scrapped the idea of the chopped Caesar and instead ordered the soup.

To describe the soup I have to go back—way back—in time. My father always had a large vegetable garden and the pride of his garden was always his tomatoes. He would come home from work every night and inspect the garden’s progress—especially the tomatoes. He would watch each one ripen, waiting for the optimal time to pick to accompany his dinner. And I can’t tell you how many times he would go into the garden and that evening’s tomato would be missing from the vine. Yes, during the day I had gone out and plucked that beauty and would eat it there among the plants and in tomato heaven as juice and seeds ran down my chin.
Well, Chef Paul’s soup reminded me of a warm tomato fresh from the vine. It was fresh and bright with just a bit of tomato acidity. And the topping of lemon pepper sour cream and finely minced kalamata olives added just the right note.

My panini was no less spectacular.
“Locally foraged mushrooms are the centerpiece of one C St. panini, easily among the best restaurant sandwiches I've had in years.... Revisiting the menu after lunch, I pinpointed the panini's ‘je ne sais quoi’—Oregon truffle mayonnaise (that) worked in perfect harmony with the generous portion of sautéed…mushrooms oozing with melted provolone and Gruyere cheeses” (Sarah Lemon at mailtribune.com).

Chuck was set to order from the “All-Day Brunch Specialties” section of the menu. Specifically, the Chipped Beef on Toast (a.k.a. S.O.S.) with shaved dried beef in bechamel sauce with fresh ground black pepper and salinity rosemary garlic salt on sourdough. But then I noticed written on the small chalkboard just behind him “Dungeness crab cakes are back.” S.O.S. or Dungeness crab cakes? A no brainer!
This plate was as delicious as it was beautiful. The two cakes were nice and crisp on the exterior and almost meltingly soft on the interior. There was very little “filler” and the seasoning was light so you tasted the wonderful sweet crab meat. And instead of being nothing but a large garnish, the bed of greens not only complimented the crab cakes, it enhanced them. I am not sure what was in the light and low-acid dressing, but suspect that it may have been the same that is used on the Bistro Green Salad, which is a honey and sherry vinaigrette.

C Street was very busy during most of our visit, but the pace slowed somewhat toward the end. This gave us a chance to talk with Chef Paul and to express our appreciation for the quality of food we have eaten. Since he seemed to be a good sport, as we left I approached him and asked, “Are you willing to sacrifice all human dignity in the interests of a good photo op?”
As you can see, he was.

When visiting Sophia’s Place in Albuquerque, Guy Fieri described it as “Small Place, Big Flavor.” The same could be said of C Street Bistro. As I have written before, this is the kind of restaurant we love to find. It is small. It is charming. It is chef-owned. And it is delicious food. A real 5.0 Addie find.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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