edible updates

THE LATEST SCOOP

Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.

WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY

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The weather may still be chilly, but our local food community already is heating up with exciting new businesses and celebrations. With every issue, there's more news to share than we can possibly fit in this column and even more coming down the pike. At press time, here were the most exciting Edible Updates on our radar:

Fresh on the scene

The Giraudo Apartments building, more colloquially known as the Shea's building in Midtown Reno, was constructed in 1928 from a design by noted architect Frederic DeLongchamps. In 1991, the Shea family bought the building and opened Shea's Tavern, where Spencer Shea spent eight years learning all aspects of the bar business from his father. The younger Shea always had wanted to open a restaurant, and when Midtown Eats opened in the adjacent space, he dreamed of making this space his own.

In late February, his dream came true with the opening of Homegrown Gastropub. The restaurant is all about classic comfort, with a heavy focus on local bounty and organic products wherever possible — but not because it's trendy. He credits an organic diet for curing his daughter's autoimmune disorder, and he wants his patrons to enjoy those benefits, too. Working with Distributors of Regional and Organic Produce & Products, Bently Ranch, and other local suppliers, Shea and executive chef Sean Studds have created a menu featuring new takes on comfort food, many inspired by their own childhood favorites, which extends to the wood-fired Forno Bravo pizza oven in the basement, which they will use to bake fresh, organic bread and other dishes and will be a focal point of Homegrown's late-night service, coming soon.

Speaking of the Shea family, Spencer's sister, Nicki Shea, made her return to The Biggest Little City as the new owner of Downtown's La Famiglia Ristorante Italiano. When the restaurant first opened on the corner of Lake and First streets in 2004, Nicki worked there that first year as a server. After completing two degrees, she left Reno to pursue a career as a food and beverage manager for The Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels and resorts. But her love for La Famiglia and the Gaspari family who owned it ran deep, so in June 2017, she entered discussions with chef/owner Paolo Gaspari about buying the restaurant. Gaspari, whose own roots in the community were just as deep, wanted to sell to someone who would preserve the heart and soul of the business, so Nicki was the ideal candidate.

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Nicki Shea, owner of La Famiglia Ristorante Italiano. Photo by Sarah Ann Grant Photography

As the new owner, she certainly is doing this, while also implementing changes. After years of requests to open for weekday lunches and on Sundays, La Famiglia now offers both. It also now features seasonal specials, and down the road you can expect changes to its bar program, too.

If you're seeking adventurous, internationally inspired dishes that also are locally sourced and organic, look no further than Reno's own West Street Market, where Maya's South Indian Cuisine joined the market's eclectic mix in December. Owner Anitha Pagidi is a passionate home cook who for years shared her South Indian specialties with friends, and they kept wanting more; she decided to make the dishes available to the public and opened the restaurant. Open for lunch Thursday through Saturday, Maya's serves vegetarian, organic, and mostly gluten-free dishes, featuring recipes from Pagidi's family, and all are served with tomato, an addictively tasty coconut chutney, seasonal pickled salad, and an Indian dessert. The Medhu Vada, a fried lentil fritter, and the Masala Dosa should not be missed.

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Spices used at Maya's South Indian Cuisine

Looking to satisfy a sweet tooth? Consider another new, family-owned enterprise, Holey Schmidt Donuts, which opened in mid-February next to the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. Sure, a doughnut shop starts with that basic combination of flour, sugar, water, eggs, butter, and yeast. But Holey Schmidt isn't at all basic; the whimsical creativity of its products sets it apart from the rest. Husband-and-wife team Galen and Cadi Schmidt along with Galen's parents, David and Laura Schmidt, are the brains and bakers behind this delightful doughnut shop. The family spent months carefully crafting secret recipes and developing a roster of more than 200 flavors before opening their doors in this ideally family-friendly location with ample parking, and they worked with local artists from DoWell Events to create custom murals that bring the beauty of the surrounding neighborhood inside for all to enjoy. Each day, you'll find 50 to 70 of their creations up front — a mix of classics and new recipes inspired by beloved desserts such as pies, cheesecakes, and candy bars — while in the back, they're constantly developing more, which makes this a place to visit often.

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From left, Galen and Cadi Schmidt, and Galen's father David Schmidt, of Holey Schmidt Donuts

Celebrating growth

Sierra Chef, a Carson Valley culinary center, resource, and market, has made a move to historic Genoa. The new location provides the ability to enlarge the culinary center for cooking classes and add the Gourmet Kitchen Pantry, where guests can purchase items such as Italian pastries, gourmet coffees, teas, fresh pasta, locally raised Bently Ranch beef, and fresh eggs from CD's Rockin' Chicken Ranch. Sierra Chef owner Cynthia Ferris-Bennett is an accomplished wedding and events professional, so expect to find the patio filled with themed dinners, wine-and-cheese pairings, and beautiful private events right in the heart of historic Genoa.

Here's a secret: Bibo Coffee Co.'s success doesn't come just from coffee. Owners Paul Martin and Debbie Spieker-Martin have made some serious investments in training and gaining inspiration from their staff, and it's paid off. Bibo Freddo, their gelato business, was born from an employee's suggestion, and, most recently, another employee encouraged them to begin roasting their own coffee beans. Justin Craperi approached Martin about the idea after spending his own time learning the art, and now Bibo's Center Street location is home to a 10-pound coffee roaster. Craperi and Martin are roasting three to four times a week, sourcing beans from two reputable importers who work closely with the farms of origin. They've created two signature blends, Carpe Diem (light roast) and Carpe Noctum (dark roast), with single-origin and micro-lot coffees being added to the lineup based on availability. If you drop in and hear loud sniffing, sipping, and slurping, that's them cupping for tasting notes. Don't be afraid to ask if you can join in.

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Justin Craperi of Bibo Coffee Co. stands beside the new coffee roaster

Isidro Alves dreamed of providing Nevada with the freshest dairy products available. A little more than 10 years ago, Calves and his family started Sand Hill Dairy with a small, dedicated herd of dairy cows in Fallon. It eventually grew to a herd of 500, and they now produce milk and artisan cheeses that they insist be enjoyed locally to ensure freshness. Sand Hill milks and cheeses have become staples in many professional kitchens, including those of Alibi Ale Works in Tahoe/Truckee, Blend Catering in Reno, and Coffeebar in Reno and Truckee. But the products' availability in grocery stores has been spotty. Thanks to a new distribution deal with Sprouts Farmers Markets in Nevada, Sand Hill Dairy milks now are available in the South Reno store as well as all seven Southern Nevada locations. In addition, Fallon's Alpine Ranch is helping deliver this milk to other local areas; the ranch's owners added Sand Hill to the roster of products in their existing delivery program that helps make meat, meat shares, and other products available weekly in the Northern Nevada and Greater Sacramento areas.

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Isidro Alves, owner of Sand Hill Dairy

Christian Waskiewicz, owner and roastmaster of Alpen Sierra Coffee Co., opened his business in a historic cabin in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, and in 2002, it became one of the first specialty microroasters in Northern California to be certified organic under the USDA's newly launched National Organic Program. Alpen Sierra's commitment to sourcing high-quality, ethically grown coffees from around the world and bringing out the best in each bean, has earned it awards and a strong following, and it has led to the company will be celebrating its 27th anniversary in July 2018.

Honoring culinary icons

The Northern Nevada culinary community lost two iconic and influential luminaries in late 2017: Gilles LaGourgue, owner of the now-closed La Ferme and Gille's Menagerie in Genoa, and Don Carano, founder of Northern California's Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, Eldorado Resorts Inc., and the McDonald Carano Wilson LLP law firm in Reno.

By all measures, LaGourgue led a gilded and incredibly successful career in the culinary arts. He spent 20 years in Los Angeles cooking for the rich and famous, followed by five years in Incline Village, all before he took a chance and brought Provençal-style French cooking to the historic town of Genoa. La Ferme was anything but ordinary, with its warm, cozy, and rustic atmosphere that created a homey, welcoming feeling, and its impeccably trained and thoughtful staff. But it was LaGourgue who truly made this restaurant special, with his charm, wit, and hospitality. When he became ill and eventually passed away, the restaurant lost some of its joie de vivre and eventually closed — another sad loss. He was a friend and confidant to many, and he will be greatly missed.

Donald Louis Carano was a lawyer by trade, but his profession gave him access and opportunity to learn the nuances of the gaming industry in Nevada. In 1973, Carano opened the Eldorado Hotel Casino, and while other properties used cheap food to keep gamblers in the building, the Eldorado offered fine dining to attract a higher class of clientele, which continues today. Naturally, fine food demands great wine, so Carano and his wife, Rhonda, made frequent trips to Sonoma County, Calif. It was on these trips that Carano fell in love with this area, learned to make wine, and eventually became owner of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery in 1981. Since his passing, Carano's legacy lives on with his wife, five children, 11 grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and the thousands of employees who came to know him as their family-oriented and compassionate leader.

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Rhonda and Don Carano

These are all the updates we have room for in this issue, but rest assured we're working on plenty more for the next issue, so stay tuned! Until then, remember that we're all an active part of putting the Reno-Tahoe food-and-drink scene on the map, so be sure to eat, drink, and support local!

Michael Tragash is the local community director with Yelp.com. He's passionate about connecting people to all the useful, funky, and cool businesses and happenings in the Reno-Tahoe region. You usually can find him exploring the local food and drink scene or the natural beauty that surrounds us.

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