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Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch puts a premium on exacting standards

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A frittata combines locally foraged chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and asiago cheese served with Yukon gold potatoes and sourdough toast at Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Polenta is served with house-cured pork belly, broccoli rabe and sunny-side up eggs at Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Coffee at Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch in Jacksonville is roasted by nearby GoodBean. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Jam is house-made at Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Freshly baked desserts at Jacksonville’s Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch include pear tart with Chantilly cream. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

Expertise is evident in Jacksonville’s elegant Honeysuckle Sunday Brunch.

The weekly pop-up hosted at Gogi’s Restaurant is chef Colin Cox’s way of sweetening an endeavor that soured during the pandemic’s most stringent restrictions on business. He and wife Monique Cordova were compelled to close east Medford’s Honeysuckle Cafe in 2020, just a couple of years after they relocated from Ruch.

But the food service veterans weren’t about to call it quits. After putting their restaurant equipment in storage, Cox and Cordova called on allies in the local food scene and devised a plan to keep doing what they know and love. Sunday brunch commenced over the summer, followed in September by pop-up preparation of Cox’s wood-fired pizzas, served Friday evenings at Ruch’s Indigo Grill and Tuesday evenings at Gogi’s.

The latter’s sophisticated ambiance is an ideal setting for Cox’s brand of breakfast presented with the flair and gravity of dinner. Seasonally inspired menus change each week, pricing dishes at $20 to 25 apiece regardless of ingredients. The majority of items are savory, usually with a single sweet counterpart, although fresh-baked breads and desserts are available a la carte.

Chanterelles in a bacon-laden frittata appealed to both me and my partner, who favored the side of potatoes more than I did. Extracting his promise of a few bites, I settled on my second choice: creamy polenta with house-cured pork belly, braised broccoli rabe and eggs sunny-side up.

Pork belly also beckoned in a crispy rice salad with mint, cilantro, scallions, cucumber and eggs. While intriguing, the dish’s bold flavors and accompanying lacto-fermented hot sauce sounded a bit much for my palate before 10 a.m. It was a close contest, however, between the polenta and my perennially favorite eggs Benedict, in-house cherry-smoked ham distinguishing Honeysuckle’s iteration.

Also brined and aged in house was Cox’s brisket, prepared as a hash served with eggs in a cast-iron skillet. The only dish seeming to lack value for the price point was the pumpkin spice Belgian waffle with toasted pecan mascarpone. Anticipating more than a month of exposure to pumpkin-spiced foods, I advocated to add a slice of the pear tart ($8).

French press coffee would have made a classic conclusion alongside the tart, but I ordered the beverage first for pairing with breakfast’s sourdough toast and house-made jam, which Cordova said she concocted herself. The fresh-squeezed grapefruit mimosa also briefly tempted me among morning cocktails and other beverages, priced from $4 to $10.

Honeysuckle’s may be one of the most expensive morning meals locally, but its cost didn’t keep crowds from filling Gogi’s dining room by 10 a.m. With additional outdoor seating at a bar fronting Gogi’s facade at 235 W. Main St., service runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are required.

Cox cites Ashland’s Morning Glory, which opened in 1997, as one of his early sources of inspiration. A co-founder of Ashland’s Village Baker, Cox also cooked at some of the town’s other storied eateries, including Omar’s and Greenleaf, before he attended culinary school, worked abroad and served as the corporate chef of women’s clothing retailer Coldwater Creek. He and Cordova returned to the Rogue Valley in 2015 and put down roots that even the coronavirus crisis couldn’t sever.

The couple take plenty of pride in place, touting chanterelles foraged just a day earlier and also featured on some of their pizzas. The frittata’s subtle seasoning allowed the mushrooms to shine, nicely proportioned with toothsome bacon under shards of asiago cheese. The Yukon gold potatoes’ crispy edges and bits of skin struck just the right balance with their inherent mealiness. The toast was on the pale side but a suitable vehicle for Cordova’s luscious jam.

Also served with toast, my dish far surpassed my expectations of polenta, which I often order while dining out and also prepare at home. The much lauded shrimp and grits at Portland’s Screen Door, where I had brunched the week prior, can’t hold a candle to Cox’s version.

Intensely savory, the steaming hot polenta boasted the perfect creamy consistency. I initially had to hunt for the pork belly, which I expected to come in a single chunk, rather than shredded over the polenta. Similarly, the braised field greens were a surprise but worked beautifully with the cornmeal, pork and eggs in a combination so satisfying that I almost found the broccoli rabe superfluous.

Reading the following week’s menu, I relished the thought of Cox’s mushroom risotto with poached eggs. Mushrooms also factored into his khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread, typically finished with an egg. The promise of poached eggs, which I prefer over sunny side up, could even entice me to order avocado toast with house-smoked salmon. Cox says his new recipes have to meet Cordova’s standards, which are more exacting than any customer’s.

My partner and I had no problem polishing off both our dishes, leaving behind just a bit of toast for want of more jam. Our sweet tooth was sated, however, in the decadent Chantilly cream dolloped alongside the pear tart, which suspended sumptuous slabs of pear in a crumb accentuated with almond paste.

Honeysuckle’s latest brunch and pizza menus are posted on Facebook. Call 541-973-3201 for reservations. See thehoneysucklecafe.com for more information.

Tempo Tidbits

November brings more opportunity to dine at Ashland’s MÄS.

The champion of “Cascadian” cuisine announced it will add a nightly seating for its multicourse menu, priced at $165 per person. Beginning Nov. 4, guests can reserve the 5:30 p.m. slot in the dining room or the 8 p.m. experience at the chef’s counter.

The long Thanksgiving weekend also affords reservations at MÄS, including the Nov. 25 holiday and preceding evening. Multicourse menus will showcase ingredients from the restaurant’s garden, as well as those locally fished and foraged.

Typically open Thursday through Sunday, MÄS is located at 141 Will Dodge Way. See masashland.com. Reserve online or call 541-581-0090.

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Dining at Medford’s Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub Nov. 9 helps to fight hunger locally.

ACCESS, Jackson County’s emergency food pantry, will receive 100% of proceeds from Kaleidoscope’s sales during its Feed the Hungry of Jackson County event. Customers dining in or carrying out between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. support the cause, which excludes sales of alcohol and merchandise.

Last year’s event raised $16,000 for ACCESS. Soliciting donations for local wildfire relief efforts, Kaleidoscope helped to raise an additional $138,761 late last year by matching all donations to ACCESS up to $25,000. Funds were earmarked for food, housing, energy assistance and basic needs to local families impacted by the Sept. 8, 2020, wildfires.

Every dollar donated to ACCESS can provide four meals within the local community.

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A family of restaurant and wine professionals bring a legacy of Michelin stars to Medford’s new Decant.

Owner, wine director and certified sommelier Jessica Colburn learned the trade on her family’s vineyard in Calistoga, Calif. Her mother, Miriam Barchi also is a certified sommelier who worked for 23 years at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, Calif., as a Captain Sommelier Maitre D’ with 13 consecutive Michelin Stars. The distinction built on Barchi’s childhood spent at her parents’ Michelin Starred restaurant in Florence, Italy.

Barchi’s oldest daughter, Irina Colburn, has worked in Southern Oregon’s restaurant and wine scenes for the past decade. The trio and executive chef Tod Meyerhofer opened Decant this month at the former site of Medford’s Cafe Dejeuner, 1108 E. Main St.

Former executive chef at the Culinary Institute of America at Graystone and Copia in California’s Napa Valley, Meyerhofer crafted Decant’s debut menu around halibut, mussels, beef, pork and chicken with seasonal produce and mushrooms. Prices range from $14 for soup or salad to $48 for New York strip steak.

See decantmedford.com for reservations and information or call 541-776-1234.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.