The annual Pear Blossom Festival in Medford is kind of a big deal. There’s a race (well, lots of races actually), a parade, a golf tournament, vendors galore, and – new this year – Pedals N Pears with several bicycle courses to add to the fun. The Pear-a-Fare is across the street from us at the Medford Commons with food, beer, and wine, and the Street Fair fills all the blocks of Pear Blossom Park. It’s pretty great. And we’ll be there, too. Our crew is split between running and biking for the event, but we’ll all end up at Common Block afterwards to open our doors and invite anyone who’s interested to peek inside.
It’s practically here! The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market (RVGCM) returns for the season next week, and the Thursday location has moved to Hawthorne Park, just down the street from our brewpub. But wait, it gets better. The Saturday Medford market starts in May, and is literally just across the street from us at the Medford Commons. That’s right – two fresh and tasty markets within walking distance of Common Block. We’re not even open yet, and already we’re salivating at the beer and food possibilities.
The market welcomes growers and producers from Jackson, Josephine and Siskiyou counties, making their offerings truly regional specialties. To get an idea of the produce you’ll find at the market throughout the year, visit the RVGCM In Season page. There are also crafters and producers with year-round products (including cheese, bread, meat, coffee, salts, wood-work and more), so the market is not-to-be-missed all season long.
Hungry for breakfast or lunch? The market also welcomes a handful of food carts with prepared fare to swoon over. Katrina’s Tamales, Sultan’s Delight, Daddy’s Doughnuts and Peruvian Point are just a few of our favorite (mmm…we can taste the fresh doughnuts now). We recommend getting a bite and relaxing at one of the picnic tables while the kiddos keep busy at the playground.
In the near future you’ll be able grab goodies to go, pick up a growler of Common Block brew, and celebrate local food and drink the best way you know how. Stay tuned for beer pairing ideas with seasonal fare (we’re talking Hefeweizen and Strawberry Shortcake, people!) and vendor highlights. Get excited ahead of time by visiting their webpage and browsing the photo gallery. Or don’t, if you’re nowhere near food – you’ll be hungry.
Since posting in December about places to stay and walk to breweries in Southern Oregon (because there are quite a few!), we’ve spent time with our awesome neighbors across the street at Inn at the Commons. This newly-renovated, downtown Medford hub of visitors is loads of fun year-round, and it’s a stone’s throw away from our front door.
We chatted with the newly designated Bike-Friendly hotel (which borders the Bear Creek Greenway for cycling, running, strolling, etc.) about how the Inn came to be, what they love in and around Medford, and what passers-through can look forward to when staying at Inn at the Commons.
Tell us a bit about the property and how Inn at the Commons came to be…
Originally built in 1968 as a motor lodge, the hotel had already become a gathering center in Medford for large conferences and annual community events before we took it over. In July of 2013, Doug and Becky Neuman purchased what was then a Red Lion and went about an enormous renovation project that continues to this day. Becky Neuman’s talent for restoring historic properties came in handy! She and the Neuman Hotel Group team put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into overhauling a once-neglected set of buildings into the hip and happening inn it is today.
In partnership with the City of Medford, we tore down some existing structures, and planned a new parking lot (which is currently being built.) Only 118 guest rooms from the original 185 were kept. Drawing from the farm-to-table restaurant concept established at Larks Restaurant inside the Ashland Springs Hotel, our management team and the Larks team took over what was a former restaurant/bar/coffee shop and opened a second Larks Restaurant. Beyond that, all banquet spaces, the lobby, guest rooms, the breakfast room, the facades and some landscaping were completely overhauled. Sometime in 2016, we’ll be building an outdoor courtyard for those warm summer evenings by the pool, too.
What are some highlights of being in downtown Medford?
The biggest highlight for us is that we get to play an active role in Medford’s huge economic transformation. We sort of think of downtown Medford as being like the Pearl District of Portland was 10 years ago – we see enormous potential for growth here. In the early 2000’s, downtown Medford wasn’t exactly a place you would call a bustling hive of activity (at least not compared to other bigger cities), but that is definitely changing. People are coming here for the local food scene, for the arts, for shopping, for business. There are great shops and coffee houses and businesses popping up here these days; it’s very exciting to watch it all happening! And we think the outdoor concert lawn right across from the Common Block has the potential to attract really large numbers of people. We also feel that with Inn at the Commons’ potential to bring large conferences right into downtown Medford, we can play a part in helping other businesses thrive.
Which not-to-be-missed places do you encourage guests to see?
Medford as a town is going through a fantastic revitalization – the city and certain investors have poured millions of dollars into the downtown Commons area, creating outdoor spaces for gathering, entertainment, and play. Hawthorne Park is one great example of these efforts. So one thing we encourage our guests to do is to see Medford on foot. Get out and walk around! There’s so much fun to be had in the downtown area!
Medford has a lot to offer travelers, beyond being a gateway to Ashland, the Applegate Valley, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt Music Festival, the breathtaking Oregon outdoors, or the metropolises north. Since those are the attractions most people from out-of-state already know about, we like to brag on our thriving artisan food scene, Southern Oregon wine country, and of course, all the local breweries and brew pubs. So we’ll direct our guests to places like Jefferson Spirits, Elements Tapas Bar, The Bohemian Club, Capers, Habanero’s, Porter’s, Beerworks, Kaleidoscope Pizzeria, and soon, Common Block Brewing!! And for the serious foodies, trips to Butte Creek Mill, Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates, and Rogue Creamery are musts. And also the Medford Grower’s and Crafter’s Market on Thurs. and Sat. mornings, and Dunbar Farms’ “Honor Barn Farm Stand.”
We also like to point out that there’s a pretty hoppin’ antique scene, with several antique dealers within blocks of each other right in downtown Medford.
What are some guest packages visitors should know about?
We’re guessing your heated outdoor pool is the place to be in the summertime. What kinds of activities do you recommend for guests in the winter season?
Inn at the Commons just qualified with our state’s tourism board, Travel Oregon, as a Bike Friendly Business and we encourage our guests to take advantage of the Bear Creek Greenway just behind the Inn, winter or summer (when in Rome…).
In winter, we encourage guests to visit Mt. Ashland for top rate skiing and snowboarding, or to try the trails at Buck Prairie for cross-country skiing. And indoors, there’s Rogue Air trampoline park, or taking a tour of Harry & David, which is part of another package we offer.
Thanks to Inn at the Commons! Visit their website or call for more info: (541) 779-9811
One of the best perks of working downtown has been the lunch selection at all of the area’s food trucks. Within walking distance of the brewery we can find teriyaki chicken, breakfast burritos, artisan sandwiches, and these guys: Ooblies Waffle Sandwiches. We love their tasty and quirky selection so much, and we invited them to join our brewery-preview Permit Party last August.
From the Ooblies creator himself, Tanner, here’s a bit about how Ooblies came to be, what to expect for upcoming waffle sandwich specials, and which beverages pair best with our favorite creations.
Originally, I never planned on opening up a food truck. It was a spontaneous idea that stemmed from the suggestion of a friend. I came up with the idea for waffle sandwiches in 2012 when I was in Singapore and ate a Belgium waffle that was filled like a jelly doughnut with a sweet meat paste. When I observed the street vendor injecting the waffle with the meat paste, I thought it looked like a lot of work and wondered why they didn’t just spread it over the waffle, fold it up and make a sandwich out of it. From there on the idea of waffle sandwiches stuck in the back of my head, but it wasn’t something I thought about daily or ever really focused on until a few years later when I wanted to start a business my family.
The idea to do a food truck and sell waffle sandwiches came from a conversation with a close friend about starting and running a business, and my friend happened to mention that a food-truck might be fun and maybe I could start one, but they weren’t sure what I could sell. Well, they didn’t know, but as soon as they said it, the idea of waffle sandwiches came rushing back to me and it was waffles from then on.
We always say the best place is right where your eating it, because if your eating a waffle sandwich it can’t get much better than that! We do have other suggestions though, like right outside our food truck. Sometimes, if your lucky, the magical, secret taste-test waffle appears in that area and you may get to try something new that no one else has ever gotten to try before! When not hunting for the elusive secret taste-test waffle, we suggest enjoying your waffle at the tables outside the Craterian by the water fountains during summer.
Tell us about your seasonal recipes, like the Pumpkin Spice Waffle. Are there any new ideas coming up for us to look forward to?
One of the best parts of making waffle sandwiches is that the possibilities are endless. Whether it’s savory or sweet, we always enjoy coming up with new sandwiches, and try to use what is in season or what sounds fun or festive for the time of year, like our Pumpkin Spice Waffle. That was October’s special waffle, made with my own mixture of hand-ground ginger, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest and vanilla whipped into a sweet and tiny bit spicy pumpkin cream, topped with house made caramel, crushed walnuts and fresh pears right here from our valley…. though, sometimes I just get crazy and do something really odd for the time of year, like this month’s special: the Frenchy. The Frenchy, is an explosion of summer memories in your mouth and is made with French lavender whipped maple butter on a French Toast Waffle with raspberries and blueberries…a little odd for this time of year, but hey, we are a little odd here at Ooblies anyhow!
We also have a couple other specials this month, such as our Hot Mother Clucker (with a Buttermilk fried chicken breast, cayenne chili maple glaze and half sour pickles) and The Count of Monte Cristo (a lovely sweet and salty waffle made with turkey, swiss, ham and blackberry jam). Coming up in December, we’ll do a pulled pork waffle per customer request, and possibly a peppermint crème brulee waffle sandwich.
A coffee stout is an excellent choice for the Breakfast Waffle. A vanilla porter goes quite well with any dessert waffle, except maybe our Berry Delightful. For the Berry, we suggest a sparkling champagne, which is also a killer with….wait for it….our Buttermilk Fried Chicken! An IPA is a good choice for the Hot Pastrami, and if your looking for something non-alcoholic a sparkling IZZE soda will hit the spot every-time
How did you come up with the name Ooblies, and what does it mean?
According to Larousse Gastronomique, the ancient Greeks (1100 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E.) made wafer-like waffles called obleios. The wafers were cooked by pouring a thick batter mixture onto one heated plate and then setting another heated plate on top of that. These wafers were not exactly the waffles you think of today, but they created the foundation for modern day waffles. We derived Ooblies (pronounced oo-blees) from obleios, and since it’s a word we created, we say Ooblies means Waffle Sandwich!
So why did we pick Ooblie’s compared to other possible names such as the illustrious Two Jerks and a Waffle, or Waffletastic? Well, three reasons: first, it was derived from the ancient Greek word, Obleios, that helped create waffles, and our family is part Greek so that’s a big point for family heritage – booyah! Second, it makes the sound “ooo,” like ” Ooo that’s good,” and our waffles tend to leave that impression on everyone who tries them. Loved it! Third…. well, you know that googly eyed looking thing people text to each other? —> 0_o We liked how if you added a little line underneath Ooblie, it looked like a smiling googly eyed dude, and that pretty much sealed the deal.
There you have it! Thanks, Ooblies, for taking the time to answer all of our questions. And for making us hungry.
We’re continuing our Common Block coworker bio series with our graphic design guru, Ashley. Shirts, stickers, glassware, posters…Ashley creates them all and more, and we love her style, enthusiasm, and wildly funny sense of humor.
During an opportune nap time for her two boys, Ashley answered a few questions about her experience in the craft beer/design world for us all to get to know her a little better:
Tell us a bit about the beer festivals and conferences you’ve attended. Did you meet any famous beer people?!
My first experiences with beer/food festivals and conferences were awesome events like The Bite of Oregon in Portland and the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) conference in Bend. These events brought to my attention the depth of what’s possible in the industry, and set my sights on areas other than table service. My excitement and interest grew as Alex and Danielle sent me to the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in Chicago, followed by Savor in Washington DC. Both of these “sealed the deal,” and I was overwhelmed and excited by the infinite amount of learning to be had.
At Chicago’s CBC, I remember seeing quite a few brewers and founders I had already met (in frequenting their breweries, maybe a bit too frequently…) and was surprised that many of them remembered me! “Oh you’re that crazy lady that asks for a brewery tour EVERY time you come through! We hate you!” But really, this is evidence of the personal, unique and humble facets that give the craft beer community the excellent culture it has.
I definitely had my “star-struck” moments when meeting brewer Tonya Cornett of 10 Barrel, Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, the wild and crazy Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi, Jim Koch of Sam Adams, and a couple of Portland’s legendary bar managers/cocktail gurus such as Dave Shenaut, Jacob Grier, and Kevin Ludwig.
What attracts you to design in the brewing industry?
I feel like I have the coolest design gig ever! Combining graphic design and beer is definitely not what I had in mind when graduating with degrees in Psychology and Spanish, but I personally can’t think of a cooler, more unique, ever-evolving job! I think that what I love most about design within the craft beer industry is that you are working with creative, artistic, hard-working, problem-solvers who can’t really be doing what they do without passion and community investment. Doesn’t that sound like a kick-a** group of co-workers? Yeah!
Honestly, it’s taking something that is already an art form involving highly-honed skills (brewing), and helping to creating branding or visual concepts that help to bring that craft to life in a different way. It’s also an industry that tends not to take itself too terribly seriously, so there’s a lot of fun to be had. Plus having a weekly meeting or press-check with a beer in your hand ain’t too shabby.
So far, working in downtown Medford has been a blast. I love having a reason to check out spots I would have otherwise driven right by, or seeing the community already rally with such support and excitement! Any time I’ve been at Common Block, someone from a local business walks by and smiles or waves, or stops in to check on progress. Having a park literally across the street with live music, a grassy spot to relax, and a water-park/playground for my kids is amazing; the location is perfect. Plus, having an excuse to grab happy hour at Porters, drinks at Jefferson Spirits, a pour-over at Limestone Coffee or a slice of pizza at Kaleidoscope is a bonus!
If friends invite you to a beer and food pairing at their house, what do you bring?
And if you’d like to read about more of our coworkers: