High On Adventure - Featuring Photojournalist Larry Turner

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fire-licked cuisine

Pie + Vine

Fire-licked cuisine

Story by Paula Bandy

Photography by Ezra Marcos


You don't see the fire at first. At night you'll notice a warm glow emanating across the slick, black concrete bar. The large silver brew taps shimmer. You might think the glow comes from the black lamps with their golden lining, reflecting in the warm wood of the tabletops and large mirrors on the walls. But that's not it either.

Beyond the black lamps that hang in an uneven retro style, behind a high counter, is a large oven. Covered in small white tiles, the center opening is the source of the glow. A beautiful wood-fueled oven that is the heart of artisan cooking at the new Pie + Vine. 

Previously known as Pasta Piatti, a local’s favorite for 13 years, owners Tom and Lisa Beam have taken Italian cuisine to the next level.

"Change is good. Change is inspiring," says Mrs. Beam, "Our intentions are still the same—a place where locals can go, families can go, affordably priced—for that everyday meal. But it was time to be inspired again, just freshen up everything. Freshen the decor, freshen up the menu. We needed to create something new again."

Now with a more urban feel, Pie + Vine is showcasing a new cuisine as well. Previously with Pasta Piatti, the focus was on pastas and sauté. The owners are bringing a different culinary focus with wood-fired cooking, and with this comes a substantial efficiency shift in energy and water consumption. Before, Tom states, "The gas range would use 128 million BTUs per month, now with the use of silver madrone (locally sourced from the fire control clearing in the mountains) that number has been cut to 32 million." 

Water usage has also shrunk considerably because the house-made pasta will be cooked to order; something they couldn't do with dried pasta.

"The shift from sauté to wood-fired and grilled items, but still featuring Italian food, just opened up this whole other door of things we couldn't do before, or couldn't do that way,” says Mrs. Beam. “Not using all the oil and butter to impart flavor, everything just lightened up so now it's all about the natural flavors—the wood fire brings out the natural flavors.”

They also make their own oven-dried tomatoes in a 40-inch paella pan. Chef Sam Jackson says he makes about 100 to 120 pounds of fresh mozzarella each week. Ricotta is also made in-house and they've tweaked their original recipe from ciabatta to focaccia using their 10-year starter, and, as Jackson says, "showcases the signature flavor that has been developed in the bread."

Embracing a push toward local, Jackson sourced a Northwest organic flour blend. "The concept," he says, "is to do less as more—the new flavor component of the wood fire, but not just that, the actual baking and how that transforms dishes—you just can't emulate that in a [standard] oven."

He explains to finish the pizza he moves it to the top of the oven and it's "almost like the flames give it a little kiss. Working with a wood fired oven, the best way to describe it is intimate. Beyond inspiring."

Coming soon to their list of handpicked Italian and West Coast wines will be their own wine label. Tom and Lisa Beam tend the growing vines of Tempranillo and Pinot Gris on the south side of Ashland. Passions flame over the creativity of local cuisine and now that includes wine.

Jackson observes, "The change of how fresh we can keep things now with the wood oven, that's the fun part of discovery and working with this local food and the beautiful aspect of the local vineyards too. It's really amazing what can be pulled together in a fairly short reach to create something unique and wonderful and even more so with five core ingredients."

Getting to know Pie + Vine is a quest for everyday food. Sit by the custom fire pit with iridescent glass stones. Savor true food that nourishes, entices, and sustains Ashland's pursuit for a locally-focused healthy lifestyle. Look closely at the wood covering the front of the bar that looks woven; although it’s locally sourced from Hakatai Glass Tiles, it is recycled wood from Chinese fishing boats. The Pie + Vine manifesto speaks to this interweaving of the traditional Italian created with local bounty and the entwining of distinctive flavors with primordial methods.

Dining at Pie + Vine can invade your senses, and likely will.


Pie + Vine

358 East Main St., Ashland



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