THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
To say Reno-Tahoe is growing quickly would be an understatement. The arrival of world-renowned companies and the influx of residents they’re expected to bring are causing explosive growth. Our food community is answering the call, preparing us for a prosperous and delicious future. Less than three months into 2016 and we’re already making national television (again!), seeing the formation of new partnerships that will make local food more accessible, watching new expansions of local favorites, and hearing whispers of coming attractions that will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat. It’s my honor to share these edible updates with you, celebrating the accolades and accomplishments of Northern Nevada’s food scene, and connecting you to all of these great local businesses.
We’ve all cringed in agony as competitors on the Food Network’s cooking competition show, Chopped, have forgotten ingredients at the sound of the buzzer, burned their biscuits, or battled it out with the set’s infamous ice-cream maker. We’ve all been there, calling the shots from the comfort of our couches as culinary competitors duked it out in the Chopped kitchen. And this past January, not one but two of our own local chefs had their chances at glory. With the support of the community (through online voting), Reno chef Clint Jolly of Great Thyme Catering and Butcher Boy Meat Market took first place in the Food Network’s Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge for his Peruvian roasted pork with crispy quinoa. He beat out 400 chefs from across the country. The honor earned Jolly a trip to the Food Network studios at the end of January to compete, where he won. He was given 40 minutes to make a delicious meal using secret ingredients, including pork belly and cherry pie filling. He received $10,000 for his win, and will be featured in a national promotion for Sysco, the food services company that partnered on the challenge with the Food Network. The episode debuted online March 1. You can watch the action at Foodnetwork.com: search for Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge.
Also in January, Incline Village High School graduate and chef Brenden Darby tackled baskets filled with nutritious surprises in an episode entitled Healthy Rivalry. He made it to the dessert round and then, unfortunately, was chopped. Darby got his start at the now-shuttered Dragonfly in Truckee. Since then, he built quite an impressive résumé, having worked at two of the world’s best restaurants (Noma in Copenhagen and Restaurante Martín Berasategui in San Sebastian, Spain). Currently, he’s a private chef in Santa Cruz.
Good Food Awards
It’s wonderful to see locals on the national stage and equally exciting to see our local products there as well. The 2016 Good Food Awards finalists were announced in late 2015, and Yerington’s Hall’s Honey was one of 22 finalists in the honey category. The Good Food Awards celebrate foods that are “tasty, authentic, and responsibly produced” and “producers who push their industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhancing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities,” according to the Good Food Awards website. While Hall’s didn’t win the honey competition this year, the fact that it was a finalist, putting Nevada products on the national map, makes us proud.
Wolf Pack Meats expands
Hall’s Honey is just one example of the quality products coming out of our local foodshed. And in 2016, thanks to exciting partnerships and developments, you can expect to see a lot more products becoming available throughout the community. For one, a $150,000 gift from Bently Ranch in Minden to Wolf Pack Meats in Reno late last year will allow Wolf Pack to purchase additional cooler space, upgrade its facility to allow a more efficient flow of animals, and increase its capacity to train students. The gift helps more Nevada and Northern California ranchers ready their meat for resale. Wolf Pack offers the region’s only full-service, U.S. Department of Agriculture-endorsed, meat-processing facility. It’s also a leading research, education, and extension facility tied to the University of Nevada, Reno. It enables students to receive firsthand experience in all aspects of meat processing and production. Wolf Pack Meats is vital to many small, local ranchers. With the increased demand for local meat, it had reached maximum capacity, causing the harvest calendar to fill in just three days. Bently Ranch’s gift will help open that calendar to more area ranchers.
Meat isn’t all we eat, and we’re going to see an increase in Nevada-grown, USDA-certified organic fruits and veggies this year, too. Local farmers who were certified organic or wanting to secure certification became dismayed after the Nevada Department of Agriculture officials announced they would phase out its organic certification program by June 2016. Local leaders answered that call by forming Basin and Range Organics. In addition to certification, group members plan to provide education on organics and GMOs, as well as soil, air, and water pollution.
Urban Roots and Renown partner
Urban Roots, a nonprofit urban teaching farm on Fourth Street in Reno, and Renown Health, our area’s largest hospital, also are coming together to form a healthcare system one-of-a-kind partnership. They plan to feed bodies and minds by offering programming on food used as preventative care. Blossoming from the partnership will be an urban teaching farm on Renown’s vacant property at Gould and Second streets. Three high tunnels, fruit trees, and pollinator gardens will be developed there. The property will produce food for those staying in the hospital. But, unlike any other programs in existence, this one aims to provide food prescriptions to patients, including children. Renown has already invested $100,000 to prepare the space and granted Urban Roots another $60,000 for materials to build the farm. And Renown will invest $120,000 annually to support and maintain this program, including the AmeriCorps volunteers needed to run it.
Supporting sustainable seafood
While our local producers and processors provide us with more ethically raised and organically grown food from the land, Sierra Meat & Seafood is making sure we have access to the most sustainably sourced seafood. In October of last year, it became the first company to receive a perfect, 100-percent rating on the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable certification from its third-party auditor. This is no small feat. By consuming Sierra Meat & Seafood products marked with the MSC label, we can support the company’s efforts to help oceans remain plentiful for future generations.
Reno’s local business owners are keeping our restaurant scene fully stocked as well, with extraordinary concepts and new locations for local favorites. Quite possibly the most anticipated opening has been The Basement, an underground marketplace located beneath the historic post office at 50 S. Virginia St., built in 1933. The Basement brings together a variety of boutique businesses, which include Sugar Love Chocolates, Beautiful Bearded Man barbershop, Botanicals Flower Bar, Global Coffee, Pantry Products, Kalifornia Jean Bar, and Tahoe Nevada Love, as well as a space to congregate and a stage that will host music and lectures in the near future. The crown jewel is Brianna Bullentini’s cold-pressed juice bar, RAWBRY. The crew at RAWBRY wants you to “steal back your health” with a variety of juices, produce shots, smoothies, infused waters, and mylks (non-dairy), with names such as Jalapen’yo Business, Smooth Criminal, and Cereal Killer. Be sure to check out RAWBRY’s Threads, snap a selfie on the mugshot wall, and “join the heist” while you’re there.
Stepping it up
Diving into indulgence, the Atlantis Casino Resort’s Toucan Charlie’s Buffet recently underwent a major update. The atmosphere and presentation are a sophisticated step above. And the new menu offerings — such as stations dedicated to dim sum, charcuterie, and pho — make this an interesting, ever-changing, and exciting dining experience.
Casual Japanese eats
New dining experiences will be a trend in 2016. How about our first Japanese izakaya? Troy and Coleen Cannan (who have co-owned the modern fine-dining LuLou’s for 18 years, in addition to Troy being executive chef at Eldorado Hotel Casino) are bringing us Kauboi Izakaya. If you’re not familiar, izakayas are Japanese pubs typically serving small, shareable plates of Japanese drinking food such as robatayaki (grilled meat and seafood), dumplings, and rice dishes. The one thing you won’t find at this Japanese restaurant is sushi. It’s scheduled to open in April in the heart of Midtown Reno, between Chocolate Walrus Boutique and Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co. on South Virginia Street.
Sticking with the seafood theme, Morgan’s Lobster Shack and Seafood Market is opening its second location in Midtown Reno in late spring or early summer. Morgan’s owners fly in fresh seafood daily for the market and restaurant. Its menu offers a build-your-own lunch option, along with traditional seafood favorites such as a New England-style lobster roll, fried Ipswich roll, and New Orleans-style po’ boy. Morgan’s Lobster Shack will be one of three tenants taking up residence in the former Heritage Bank building at 1401 S. Virginia St.
Bar and grill develops
Northwest Reno residents rejoice: Now there is a great bar and grill within your reach. Bighorn Bar & Grill underwent a remodel and branding update thanks to new owner Haley Stuart. If you’ve been to the original Bighorn, you won’t recognize the place. The interior has everything you want in a neighborhood restaurant, with a touch of rustic charm that warms up the space and makes you feel right at home. The new menu — which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings — features a selection of snacks, sandwiches, salads, and entrées, along with a full bar and great wine list.
Great Full Gardens, Batch expand
South Reno, which is in dire need of more dining options, will get a Great Full Gardens, the third location for this restaurant, later this year. The owners were looking at a spot on Double R Boulevard and South Meadows Parkway, but at press time it was in flux. In addition, Batch Cupcakery (in Midtown Reno) opened its second location in Incline Village this past November. The popular bakery offers kombucha (from local Folk Brewing Co.), bagels, breads, and organic coffees, teas, and cocoa, as well as all of its delicious organic cupcakes and baked treats.
In the fall of last year, Hub Coffee Roasters in Reno opened Hub Tea Bar adjacent to its Riverside Drive coffeehouse. The new spot offers hand-selected artisanal teas, brewed to exacting standards and served in one of the most pleasant places in town. Natural light pours into the tea bar’s large windows, and mature trees outside them combine with the wood and other design accents to make the space feel alive. Hub also celebrated the opening of its university-area location at the end of the year. The grand opening featured a latte art throwdown that filled the space with aromas of specialty coffee, energy, and excitement.
Southern café moves
M&M’s Southern Café, which serves up southern classics such as fried chicken, collard greens, and sweet potato pie, found a wonderful new home on Holman Way in Sparks. M&M’s has blackboard specials daily that are not to be missed, but the fried chicken livers are a must-have item.
After reading this column, it should be clear that our food scene is growing in many directions. To ensure that the forward movement sustains, it’s our job to nurture and support all of it. Visit these businesses, tell friends and family about what’s happening here, and be sure to share feedback with owners and staff members. It’s the only way we can all grow as a food community.
Until next time, remember to eat, drink, and buy local!
Michael Tragash is a senior community manager 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.