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Cocorico an accessible and affordable Ashland addition

Devilled eggs are served on crumbled potato chips at Ashland’s Cocorico. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

The mixed greens served at Cocorico by Ashland come from Wandering Roots Farm in Gold Hill. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Homemade campanelle is prepared with a multitude of seasonal vegetables at Ashland’s Cocorico. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Fresh peaches for Ashland’s Cocorico Pie are sourced from the local Rolling Hills Farm. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

The rotisserie chicken served at Ashland’s Cocorico comes from Mary’s Organic Birds. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Devilled eggs are served on crumbled potato chips at Ashland’s Cocorico. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

The mixed greens served at Cocorico by Ashland come from Wandering Roots Farm in Gold Hill. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Homemade campanelle is prepared with a multitude of seasonal vegetables at Ashland’s Cocorico. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

The rotisserie chicken served at Ashland’s Cocorico comes from Mary’s Organic Birds. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Ashland has a new restaurant to brag about.

Cocorico opened in August in the old downtown Amuse store. The French name translates to English as “cock-a-doodle-doo”. And the cuisine, indeed, is farm-to-table merriment at one of the most affordable prices and accessible formats in southern Oregon.

Restaurant aficionados in the area have had their eyes on the development since March, when Amuse chef and co-owner Erik Brown announced his retirement and the restaurant’s closure. Word quickly spread that Cocorico would replace Amuse at 15 N. First St.

Cocorico is run by Nathaniel Borsi, originally from the French department of Hautes-Alpes where he trained as a chef. His wife, Grace, grew up in Seattle, where the two met while working at the much-loved Lola.

In March 2020, the Borsis created Cocorico at Green Springs Inn & Cabins. The company’s survival in such an isolated location during the early days of the pandemic is nothing short of remarkable. I had Cocorico on my must-visit list, and then for a while I assumed it must have sunk.

Barely. The Borsis spent months making plans and giving the former Amuse space a colorful, more laid-back makeover. Perfectly suited to the setting, the menu is a refined twist on classic American, French and Italian comfort food, with entree prices ranging from $18 for the locally raised beef burger to $38 for the ribeye with Rogue Creamery blue cheese, greens and potatoes.

I limit my beef consumption to once or twice a year, but I’m so over the $60 steak. So I can only imagine how extortionate restaurant prices for beef have become for those who indulge in it regularly. Cocorico’s is a departure that Ashland and the region desperately needs.

Given the choice between beef and lamb, I choose the latter every time. But with a homemade freezer full of lamb, I somewhat reluctantly passed on one of Cocorico’s more worldly preparations: braised lamb with rose harissa, candied lemon, Israeli couscous, mint and raisins ($32 ).

A pasta lover, I was delighted with the promise of homemade noodles: spaghetti, bucatini and campanelle. Although the carbonara ($18) is a guilty pleasure, the bacon and egg dish could not compete with the “campanelle d’été” ($19) and its multitude of fresh seasonal products: zucchini, chard, corn, cherry tomatoes and arugula. My partner, however, had his eye on the same pasta, so we negotiated a second course to share.

Wild salmon on a previous menu would have been irresistible to my partner. But since the fish was no longer available, we stuck to the organic roast chicken ($29) with plum chutney, mashed potatoes and braised vegetables.

But first a salad ($11) of mixed greens from Wandering Roots Farm near Gold Hill. Although the grilled fennel yogurt, shredded fennel and bulgur lend a Levantine twist to the roasted beets ($10), this salad seemed a bit heavy for the hot evening. And the Belgian endive ($10) with candied walnuts and blue cheese seemed even more of a cold weather dish.

Sharing a salad left room for another entree, of which the deviled eggs ($7) were the obvious choice over the hot olives. Appetizer and salad actually came together, but we weren’t picky and didn’t hesitate to dive into the duo of dishes, each reminding us to eat at mom’s dinner table – if mom could cook like a classically trained French chef.

Playfully garnished with scallions and watermelon radish, generously dusted with smoked paprika and perched atop crumbled Tim potato chips, the deviled eggs were perfectly executed, utterly satisfying bites. I never tire of ordering them.

The whole lettuce leaves in the salad ensured maximum flavor and impeccable texture. Diced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes and pickled red onions come together on the plate as rich, acidic elements, mixed with homemade buttermilk ranch.

More acidity would have brightened up the decidedly vegetal flavor of the pasta. And his Aleppo chili-enriched corn mash wasn’t as generous as expected, implying the noodles could use more sauce. But the dish was a clean and wholesome representation of farmers’ generosity.

Wandering Roots also provided Cocorico’s Potatoes, fried to crispy perfection and perched alongside juicy pieces of chicken breast and thigh. Although dense and irregularly shaped, the potatoes reminded us so much of French fries that we asked – somewhat sheepishly – if the kitchen had ketchup. Grace Borsi reassured us that we weren’t pagans for asking for the banal condiment, standard with Cocorico’s burger.

Another summer standard, peach pie ($10), eclipsed Cocorico’s other dessert options, namely cheesecake, pot of chocolate cream and a banana-dulce de leche confection. We didn’t need the sales pitch for Rolling Hills peaches, which I buy at the farmer’s market and know to be superior. We confirmed that we would like the pie reheated.

Slightly undercooked to accommodate the edge heating for serving, the pie crust was just out of flakes and butter. The peaches also tasted more like preserves on the palate than individual slices. But paired with vanilla ice cream, topped off with a fresh Marionberry, the dessert crowned one of our favorite restaurant dishes so far this year.

Cocorico is open from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday, until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. See cocoricorestaurant.com. Although reservations are not required, they are only accepted online or in person.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or [email protected]