Johnathan L. Wright •
Reno Gazette Journal - June 19, 2013
At the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, culinary scraps and other organic materials are separated from the main stream of disposables and sent to Full Circle Compost of Carson City for recycling into composts that nourish the soil. Using some of those composts, the folks at Full Circle grow garden tomatoes, a colorful riot of nearly 100 varieties.
On June 27, some of these tomatoes will grace the salad course of Bistro Napa’s six-course farm-to-table dinner — one whose own kitchen and table scraps will make their way to Full Circle Compost to begin the cycle again.
“Now that’s coming full circle,” said Clay Slieff, Bistro Napa’s chef de cuisine.
The dinner is the fourth in a series of twice yearly dinners hosted by RGJ Media’s food and drink editor, Johnathan L. Wright. It’s the first of the dinners to be held in Bistro Napa and the first to concentrate on sourcing from at least one Northern Nevada farmer or producer for each course.
The process of creating the menu pointed up not just the increasing bounty of our region, but also some of the challenges chefs and restaurateurs face when they want to go local.
Stone fruits like apricots aren’t farmed in Northern Nevada, so the local component of the amuse-bouche — apricot slices striped by the grill, then dolloped with balsamic hazelnut mousse — is the Bees Knees cocktail pairing created by Atlantis sommelier Shelly Curt.
The cocktail is built from London dry gin, housemade rhubarb bitters and a syrup made using honey from Dharma Bees, which harvests honey from about a dozen locations across Reno-Sparks.
“The traditional recipe for the cocktail doesn’t call for the bitters, but the flavor of the whole-clove honey combined with a hint of rhubarb gives everything a depth of flavor,” said Christian O’Kuinghttons, Atlantis’ cellar master.
A trio of nibbles featuring Sand Hill Farmstead Cheese, Northern Nevada’s only artisan cheese maker, arrives next. A topknot of Sand Hill queso fresco crowns beet “tartare” stuffed in a savory mini waffle cone. Sand Hill cream cheese fills a fried Rangoon won ton set in a swipe of red pepper sauce. Fennel salad sprinkled with yet more queso fresco completes the trio.
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“This is very smooth, very creamy, very fresh,” Slieff said on the afternoon that Sand Hill owner Isidro Alves stopped by the restaurant to present his cheeses. “I can’t stop eating it,” he continued, slicing off another piece.
Although Atlantis chefs bought the cheese directly from its maker, not every local farmer is set up for direct sales, able to service extended delivery routes or able to consistently supply sufficient product to large culinary operations. The Great Basin Community Food Co-op helps family farms meet such barriers-to-entry by acting as a central source for local food.
So, the salad starring Full Circle tomatoes also is fashioned from herbs and lettuces sourced from the co-op. The fried egg from Back 40 Farms of Reno atop the salad? It comes from the co-op, too. Crisp pork fat lardons stud the salad, which is tossed with ground mustard vinaigrette and paired with Four Graces Winery pinot blanc from Dundee Hills, Ore.
“I think it’s a gracious, elegant wine,” cellar master O’Kuinghttons said, “with aromas of quince down to white peaches.”
When you’re crafting a farm-to-table menu in Northern Nevada, the fish or seafood course is going to be challenging.
“It’s hard to get local seafood in Nevada,” said Bob Katausky, the Atlantis’ executive chef, chuckling at the landlocked state’s lack of coastline.
That being the case, the pan-seared black bass-cum-deconstructed paella that follows the salad isn’t sourced hereabouts, but the accompaniments are: chorizo from Carson City’s Sausage Factory and first-of-the-season corn from Fallon. A flurry of fried corn silk tops the dish.
“A lot of people think you can’t eat corn silk, but you can if you fry it,” chef Slieff said.
Next up is a porchetta — a stuffed, boneless Italian pork roast — lined with roasted eggplant, Swiss chard and roasted peppers; beneath, there’s a bed of Swiss chard and Winnemuccca potato hash. Butcher Boy Specialty Meats, the new, online incarnation of the beloved Butcher Boy outfit, provided the suckling, which is “so much sweeter,” Slieff said. “It’s a younger cut of meat, with all those beautiful natural juices.”
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The wine pairing, a Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant syrah-cabernet blend, offers “ripeness upon ripeness,” said O’Kuinghttons the cellar master, “with hints of cocoa powder and undertones of espresso beans.”
The dinner ends with peach cobbler. Like the apricots in the amuse-bouche that begin the meal, the fruit comes from Frog Hollow Farm, a certified organic grower in the Sacramento River Delta between Sacramento and San Francisco.
The peaches are “ripened on the tree, picked and delivered to me,” Slieff said.
Mango purée and local Model Dairy ice cream spiked with cardamom, warm yet tangy, swirl about the sugar-dough cobbler.
Alongside diners will find a sip of Rombauer Vineyards Joy late harvest chardonnay, “like honey in a glass,” O’Kuinghttons said.
“I think the cobbler is a nice finish to the meal,” Slieff added. “We’ve really enjoyed creating this menu and giving the Atlantis the opportunity to get in touch with more local suppliers. We’re excited to bring this dinner to Bistro Napa.”