DAILY TIDINGS — Ashland On A Plate is more than a website showing restaurants, wineries and lodging. It’s a new platform aimed at rebranding the town by selling tickets to special dinners, paid for online and served to a COVID-safe crowd of 10 to 16 well-spaced diners.
The portal, a brainchild of longtime restaurateur Michael Donovan (Chateaulin, Peerless), was in the planning stages a year ago to shore up Ashland’s tourism-slim winter season, but COVID-19 kicked it to the front burner, where now, at no charge, restaurant owners and wineries can post news, photos, events and live music.
“As we connect with local chefs, winemakers, innkeepers, farmers and food pros,” he says, “the message loud and clear is simple — ‘Make Ashland on a Plate a rolling year-round culinary celebration featuring micro festivals with a seasonal focus.’”
The mission of Ashland on a Plate is to save downtown businesses and Ashland’s reputation as a tourist mecca as the town tries to lessen its dependence on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is shut for the year because of the pandemic.
It’s enabling something Donovan calls “citywide micro-events that are high-quality, high-value culinary and wine experiences.”
Ashland on a Plate is an attempt to reach “foodie” millennials who travel the West looking for spots to hang for several days, says Donovan. To this end it will “showcase the collaboration of local culinary, winery and brewery professionals with farmers, ranchers, cheese makers and artisan food producers.
Harlan Brooks, new owner of Peerless, says the old style of promotion was big culinary festivals that promoted competition, but since the pandemic, a new spirit, as fostered by Ashland on a Plate, is all about collaboration, creativity and celebration, as all help each other to survive and thrive.
Immediate cash flow is now a primary need for restaurants, and Ashland on a Plate, as it gets digital receipts, will pass the money immediately to restaurants, who can view what gets clicks and shape their presentations accordingly. Diners can still go to the Facebook pages of restaurants, but the new system allows flexibility to peruse latest dishes, click tickets and text friends to meet up.
The system, designed by Paul West of Gnosis Media in Ashland, is the engine for “a long term, gradual process to rebrand Ashland, but we’re going to blast it out there in the next two weeks, with half a million digital addresses,” targeting the area between San Francisco and Seattle. These include thousands of travel writers, and come from the lists of OSF, Chamber of Commerce, TravelAshland, Neuman Hotel Group and others.
A detailed calendar of events, just starting to fill up, is at ashlandonaplate.com/events. They range from nicely affordable to foodie upscale — and are definitely “events,” something you have to know about and seek out. That’s the purpose of Ashland on a Plate.
In a tutorial on the site, Donovan points to one event he curates, a flight of six Oregon chardonnays at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Peerless Gardens on Fourth Street. It includes a light picnic board of Rogue Creamery cheeses, sliced, cured meats from Olympia Provisions, Oregon hazelnuts, olives, fresh artisan bread from Ashland’s Mix Bakeshop, and Fry Family Farm fermented vegetables. You click “tickets” and it says $45.