THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed about local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
Edible Updates began as a way to keep you up to date on all of the activities, accolades, and accomplishments within Northern Nevada’s food, drink, and farming scene. What started as concise coverage has developed into a digest devoted to our rapidly growing and evolving food community. Thanks to innovative business folks, there’s new excitement and energy in the air, and a whole lot to talk about. I get the honor of sharing it all with you. Whether you want news about businesses just getting started or love hearing about lifelong legacies steeped in rich history, we have the latest here.
Davidson’s Organics is a Sparks business steeped in rich history (pun intended). And this year, the owners will celebrate the company’s 40 years in business. Begun in 1976 as a spice-blending operation, Davidson’s became the first organic tea company in the U.S. Today, the company produces a wide range of products made possible through close relationships with and alliances to small farmers growing the highest quality organic teas, herbs, and spices. This year has even more innovation in store for the company with the addition of a Deepak Chopra Ayurvedic tea line and a new ginger tea.
Late last year, Louis’ Basque Corner in Reno celebrated the 40th anniversary of Luis Zabalegui, a beloved bartender and part of this restaurant’s culture and charm. Zabalegui has been serving up picon punches (and other libations) since Sept. 15, 1975, and he continues to do so today. Zabalegui, along with his signature songs and smiles, is part of what make Louis’ Basque Corner so special, and why it will be around for decades to come.
Speaking of deep roots, there’s a whole lot of history (and agriculture) in the Carson Valley and plenty of people who are passionate about preserving it. Recently, several businesses received some interesting updates, bringing them into modern times with requisite reverence for the past, while others have remained focused on making history and putting our region on the map.
Carson City’s Nature’s Bakery is putting Northern Nevada on the national stage beginning in February when the owners start their three-year sponsorship of celebrity racecar driver Danica Patrick. It’s a fitting partnership, as Nature’s Bakery’s naturally flavored fig bars deliver “Energy for life’s great journeys,” according to its slogan. This is exactly what professional drivers such as Patrick need to make it through the grueling races. Her No. 10 Chevrolet SS will sport the Nature’s Bakery logo and the company’s slogan, and it will be seen by many of the 75 million NASCAR fans around the globe.
While some live in the present, the past is alive and well in the Carson Valley. If the historic buildings lining the streets of Genoa — Nevada’s first documented settlement — could talk, they’d have some tales to tell. Many are owned by the original families, others have been passed on or purchased, and some sit dormant, waiting for their moment. For The Pink House, built in 1855 as the Reese-Johnson-Virgin House, that time has come. The new owner, Lois Wray, has created a gourmet cheese and charcuterie shop that successfully bridges the gap between the decades, incorporating the Gothic Revival architecture of 19th-century Nevada with modern décor, offering a limited menu of light fare perfect for lunch or early-evening bites. Certainly, The Pink House will be a stopover for many on their way to Tahoe, just a short 20 minutes up the hill.
The Park family, Carson Valley ranchers and residents for decades, know the history of the area well and continue to be part of the community to this day. Jon and David Park purchased and overhauled the 110-year-old brick building that houses the Overland Restaurant & Pub, which opened last June. They worked with Justin Owen and Ryan Gold — owners of Old Granite Street Eatery, Lincoln Lounge, and Imperial Lounge in Reno — on the restoration and menu. The team created a restaurant that focuses on the agricultural bounty grown in the region, while featuring Carson Valley products from Jacobs Family Berry Farm, Bently Ranch, and more.
Speaking of Bently Ranch, its Bently Heritage Estate Distillery project in the Minden Flour Milling Co. and adjacent creamery buildings — both listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is coming together quite nicely. Using only botanicals and grains grown on the ranch, the completed distillery will be housed in a 100-year-old flour mill, which was once the largest such mill operating in the area; the building will be restored to the modern LEED-certified Platinum level. While production isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2017, the team assembled a test still last summer to establish taste profiles and develop recipes in preparation. Bently Heritage will be one of three — including Frey Ranch Estate Distillery in Fallon — estate distilleries in the United States. An estate distillery grows 100 percent of its own ingredients, then distills, bottles, and sells all the spirits on the same property.
In other booze news, Branded Hearts Distillery owners celebrated their Reno grand opening in October, releasing their signature Panela rum and single malt whiskey. Two more Reno distilleries (Whipple Distillery and Forsaken River Spirits) are expected to open this spring. Whipple will be a brewery/distillery combo as part of a development emerging on Mill Street in downtown Reno, while owners of Forsaken River Spirits (Bell Street in downtown Reno) will create gins and whiskeys that emphasize Sierra Nevada’s heritage.
On the Northern Nevada ale trail, IMBĪB Custom Brews opened its Second Street taproom/brewery last May. The Reno brewery not only is focusing on creating exceptional beers, but also has built a Collaborator Club, similar to a wine club. Additional Reno breweries expected to open this year are Reno Brewing Co. in the Alpine Glass Co. building on Fourth Street and Lake Tahoe Brewing (across from Reno Brewing and next door to The Depot), all on Fourth Street.
Growler fill stations are popping up all over, too, offering beer lovers the chance to sit and sip, or take their favorites home to enjoy. Sporting a large number of rotating taps with beers of all styles, these shops are great for the novice or aficionado. SixFour Growlers in midtown Reno was the first to open, with 30 taps and a focus on tasters and the fill-up market. Beer NV opened soon after in South Reno, bringing 60 taps, digital menu boards with detailed descriptions and supply levels, a bar atmosphere, and cocktail program as well.
Beer wouldn’t be possible without our beloved farmers. And one of our state’s most successful farmers, David Peri, president of Peri & Sons in Yerington — was named 2015 Nevada Outstanding Agriculturist by University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources. This award recognizes individuals who play a significant role in the advancement of agriculture in our state, and with 10,000 acres under cultivation between Peri & Sons’ onions and Nevada Fresh Pak’s USDA-organic leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables, Peri certainly has done that for Nevada.
Also, you may have heard some buzzing or clucking coming from Sparks after a sweet victory was won for citizens there, allowing them to keep backyard hens and beehives, with limited restrictions. If you’ve never considered them, backyard hens simply are glorious, providing fresh eggs on a daily basis with minimal effort. If you’re curious, visit Urban Roots’ Reno farm, check out its coop, and ask lots of questions. In my house, we share all of our unwanted food with the “ladies,” converting would-be waste into wonderful homegrown goodies.
Fallon’s own Sand Hill Dairy took first place for its Panela cheese at the American Cheese Society conference last summer. Some 6,000 cheeses are entered into this competition, and Sand Hill — and owner Isidro Alves — took home the win for Northern Nevada.
Not to get too cheesy, but Laura Conrow, owner of Wedge Cheese Shop in Reno, and Katy Arias, of Whole Foods Market Reno, both passed the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional Exam. This is the only exam of its kind, akin to a sommelier certification in the cheese world. The cream truly does rise to the top in the cheese industry. We are proud to have these two women representing cheese in our community.
Until the next column, remember to eat, drink, and buy local!
Michael Tragash is a senior community manager with http://www.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.