Heritage sets the bar for flavorful food and helps forge our culinary culture.
WRITTEN BY DAVE PRESTON
PHOTOS BY SHEA EVANS
Where the iconic arch touches the west side of Reno’s main drag — South Virginia Street — stands a 164-foot sheer rock-climbing wall, the hallmark of the Whitney Peak Hotel. This boutique, non-smoking, non-gaming hotel is home to Heritage Restaurant. It’s another cog in the food empire created by chef/entrepreneur Mark Estee.
He operates the restaurant, and his chef de cuisine is local product Josh Berreman. An alumni of the former Glenn Hare culinary program at Reno High School and the Truckee Meadows Community College Culinary Arts Program — and with a hard work ethic plus experience at well-heeled establishments such as 4th St. Bistro in Reno under chef/owner Natalie Sellers — Berreman has an artistic passion for food that is quickly self-evident.
Together, these gonzo gastronomes have crafted menus that are fun, exciting, and ordinarily chic, with menu descriptors such as Plants, Animals, and Roasted on the Spit.
It’s a big space with a sizeable bar serving up creative, original cocktails, draft beers (many local), and a proper wine list. The wall behind the bar sports interesting Nevada heritage artifacts placed between liquor bottles. Wicker hanging basket chairs right out of the ’70s catch your eye, and tables for bigger groups as well as high tops offer plenty of room.
Berreman’s approach to food is based on a concept that goes back to his childhood: “making ordinary food taste good.” This still stimulates his creative juices and drives his quest to conjure up unpretentious dishes with a lot of taste and layers of flavor.
“I want to contrast textures and colors, straightforward and simple, and I use as much local product as possible,” Berreman says. “We’ve developed many relationships with the area farmers. Our lamb comes from Albaugh Ranch in Fallon, all grass fed.”
And there’s little wasted.
“We use all the animal,” Berreman emphasizes.
Take, for instance, the lamb trio with a Basque influence. It’s a potato lamb hash, with a lamb sausage and a chop. The fresh lamb has a mild flavor, and with this dish you get flavor profiles of savory, sage, salt, and even richness.
Estee’s restaurateur concepts include embracing sustainable, local products and consistently supporting community in a variety of ways. For example, when Tesla Motors Inc. and Panasonic Corp. decided to locate in Northern Nevada, Estee and Berreman rolled out the welcome mat by creating a Japanese-style chicken katsu over squash with roasted ginger and sautéed king trumpet mushroom and chicken-infused soy sauce. This chicken filet coated with panko and deep-fried has a crispy texture, and the soy gives it a sweet-salty finish.
The BLT is à la Heritage, using a slab of bacon from Reno Provisions (another Estee enterprise, where the meats — as well as other delicacies, such as breads and desserts — he uses for his businesses are butchered and crafted in house) with some greens and tomato jam aioli, which are then drizzled with tomato water and topped with a dash of pickled tomato seeds — simple elegance.
The water is interesting and simple, made by wrapping coarsely chopped heirloom tomatoes with a little salt in a cheesecloth and letting the water drain. It’s almost clear, with a delicate but pronounced flavor. Then flavors such as basil, pepper, corn, and even zucchini are infused to create drizzles of summer flavor.
Vegans even will discover options made just for them, such as the Sweet Corn Panna Cotta dessert with blueberries and popcorn. The velvety texture of a freshly made panna cotta melts on the tongue. There’s a subtle sweetness from the corn, unfamiliar in desserts. The tangy pop from the blueberries and the salty crunch of the popcorn provide a different experience with each bite. This is a dessert to be enjoyed at the height of summer, when ingredients are fresh and in season.
The renaissance of the Reno food scene continues to offer adventures and experiments in food creation. Estee and Berreman, along with several other new eateries, are opening diners’ eyes. According to Berreman, Heritage wants to set the bar when it comes to exciting, distinctively original food combinations and creative twists by creating ambitious, flavor-laden foods, thus forging a future food culture.
Dave Preston has been a food and wine journalist for 35 years. He is a social anthropologist, food historian, chef, and chef educator, and has hosted local and national radio and TV cooking and dining shows. He serves on national boards of the American Culinary Federation and the International Food Service Executives Association.
Sweet Corn Panna Cotta
(courtesy of Josh Berreman, chef at Heritage. Serves 8)
1 ear sweet corn, shucked
3¾ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons powdered gelatin
Spray pie pan or eight individual cups with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Cut kernels from corn and place in medium saucepan. Chop cob and throw in.
Cover corn with 3½ cups of milk, as well as cream, sugar, and salt. Bring to simmer and allow steep for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour remaining ¼ cup of cold milk into bowl and dust gelatin powder over it. Allow to bloom, or strengthen in consistency.
Strain corn liquid through fine-mesh strainer into bowl, and add bloomed gelatin. Strain mixture again once gelatin is incorporated.
Pour mixture into desired pan or cups, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for gelatin to set.
“For service, unmold onto an appropriate dish, and serve with fresh blueberries dressed in a little simple syrup,” Berreman says. “Or cook the blueberries down with some sugar and lemon zest to make a nice sauce. I also like popcorn with this dish; I think it’s an unexpected addition to a dessert, but it makes a lot of sense.”