Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
National recognition for our favorite local businesses? Celebrity chefs taking a taste of The Biggest Little City? Persian cuisine and more specialty coffee? This surely can’t be happening here in Northern Nevada. Or can it?
Month after month there’s more news to share than we can possibly fit in this column. Our local food community is constantly buzzing with all sorts of exciting new openings, awards and accolades, anniversaries, and celebrations. Keeping up with it all has become quite the task, but you don’t need to worry. We’re serving Edible Updates on a silver platter, so when your friends ask, you’ve got the answers.
Online reviews on sites such as Yelp are a great way for diners to share their appreciation with restaurant or bar owners while helping locals and visitors find these great places in the future. National news outlets look at those reviews too, using our community’s collective local insights to find the best of what cities and states have to offer across a wide range of categories. In July and September, Time magazine’s Money.com partnered with Yelp to identify the Best BBQ by State and Best Pizza by State, and it should come as no surprise that Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout and Smiling with Hope Pizza, both in Reno, received this recognition for Nevada. In June, Travelandleisure.com also recognized Sparks and Smoke as one of its 25 Best Places for BBQ in the U.S., based on the local love shared in the business’ Yelp reviews.
Sparks and Smoke BBQ
In July, Smiling with Hope was recognized by the city of Reno as the second Business Recognition Program recipient, joining Dolan Auto Group, which received the honor in the first quarter. The Business Recognition Program celebrates businesses that selflessly lead the way and add to the richness of our metropolis, enhance residents’ quality of life through service and dedication, bring ideas and solutions to the city of Reno, and have the community’s best interests in mind, according to the city’s website.
Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, as well as a writer, chef, and teacher, paid The Biggest Little City a visit in August to film an episode for the new season of The Zimmern List, a show that, according to Travelchannel.com, “reveals his personal list of favorite foods, places and experiences that should be on everyone’s travel itinerary.” Zimmern’s love for the cuisines of China is widely known, and Cantonese dishes always seem to top his list. So it’s no surprise that media outlets first reported he was specifically coming to visit chef Kwok of Kwok’s Bistro, to learn how his signature, slow-roasted duck and suckling pig are made.
As it turned out, though, Zimmern received a full tasting tour of the community; he was sighted at the Reno Basque Festival, Butcher Boy Meat Market, and Pignic Pub & Patio. The rumor mill still is buzzing as locals try to figure out just how Reno caught his eye. Maybe the answer will be revealed in that episode, which is set to air during season 2 in 2019.
Andrew Zimmern Credit Adrian Danciu
Experts at Eco-Cycle predict that 500 million straws are used every day in the U.S. — a number that could fill more than 127 school buses each day. Most of those straws are nonbiodegradable and do not compost, ending up in landfills and oceans. In order to combat this waste, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa has become the first casino resort in Northern Nevada to implement a new straw policy, joining forces with other industry leaders and cities also dedicated to environmentalism.
Quite some time ago, the Atlantis stopped automatically serving straws alongside nonalcoholic beverages, and servers began presenting guests the option of using a straw or not. In July, Atlantis food and beverage team members stopped offering straws with beverages altogether, and straws now are only available upon request.
This policy falls in line with the energy- and water-efficiency initiatives the casino resort has implemented over the last several years, many of which contributed to NV Energy choosing the Atlantis for its Lifetime Leader award for sustainability.
Our coffee community continues to grow, bringing us closer to coffee producers around the globe, a wider array of specialty coffees to enjoy, and a host of new shops in which to sit and sip them. In July, Glory Cloud Coffee Roasters opened in Sparks with a mission to “honor all people.” This is a shared dedication among many specialty coffee roasters and refers to the respect they have for coffee, from bean to cup, and all the people who work tirelessly to make sure it’s the best it can be for us.
Hayden Moore, Glory Cloud Coffee Roasters
Led by Hayden Moore, owner, roaster, and Coffee Quality Institute-certified Q grader (like a coffee sommelier), Glory Cloud produces specialty coffees, teas, and herbal drinks for sale to the public at its Greg Street location and on its website, as well as to local restaurants on a wholesale basis. More impressively, the company is invested in elevating our coffee community by offering education opportunities to local business owners and consumers geared toward helping them make and enjoy the best cups of coffee or tea possible. Glory Cloud is served all around Northern Nevada, including at Pianissimo Coffee and More in South Reno and Battle Born Social in Carson City. If you’d like to see it at your favorite coffee shop, be sure to ask.
Middle Eastern cuisine, from countries including Israel and Iran, largely has been absent from the culinary scene in Northern Nevada for many years. What few offerings we have been able to enjoy, such as shawarma, have been offered by restaurants labeled as Mediterranean, a broad term used as a catch-all in the U.S. to describe the cuisines of Greece, Israel, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries with no deference to what makes each unique. Though they share similar geographies and certain ingredient staples, the cuisines of these nations couldn’t be more different from each other.
Randy Letter and chefs and business partners, Arsalan and Shima Tavakoli, have brought an authentic taste of Persian cuisine to Northern Nevada with the May 2018 opening of Saffron on North Carson Street in Carson City. They’re infusing a lot of the menu with the restaurant’s namesake spice, which is the most expensive spice per pound in the world. Lucky for them, the stigma of the saffron crocus flower, which is painstakingly picked and processed by hand, packs a punch, and a little goes a long way. The spice is believed to have healing benefits as well, and at the restaurant you’ll find it in rice and sauces, in marinades for kebabs and vegetables, and even in ice cream. If that last one sounds crazy, give it one taste and you’ll be a believer. The wide-ranging menu is designed with a commitment to local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and everything has a Persian influence, including the burgers and naan pizzas. Yelpers are raving about the tahchin appetizer, a saffron-infused rice cake topped with chicken, pistachios, almonds, and glazed barberries, and the ghormeh sabzi, a traditional, slow-cooked, Persian stew made by simmering fresh parsley, cilantro, other herbs, leeks, onions, and garlic with lamb, kidney beans, and dried lime. If you’re unfamiliar with Persian cuisine, use this as an opportunity to explore another culture right here in your backyard. Ask questions. Try new things. Then take friends with you to sample a few more.
Cafe De Thai has been a South Reno staple for more than 25 years, with the striking, bright-orange building on Longley Lane catching the eye of just about everyone who passed it over the years. As of August, this bold eatery known for its fresh take on Thai now resides in the Sticks center in the heart of Midtown Reno, with a new atmosphere that is a bit more traditionally Thai. Cafe De Thai will add some diversity to the restaurant mix on the north end of Midtown, but with three Thai restaurants a mile down the road, the real question is whether or not Midtown can sustain the ever-increasing restaurant density.
Believe it or not, The Kitchen by Great Full Gardens has been hidden in plain sight for several years. Another Longley Lane establishment, this location has been, and continues to be, the beating heart of the Great Full Gardens empire, housing a commissary kitchen and a full culinary team that handles much of the daily prep and baking for the individual stores, as well as produces all of the Gino the Soup Man soups for retail. But it never was open to the public until August, when a new sign went up announcing The Kitchen by Great Full Gardens.
Great Full Gardens’ Cyndi Wallis and Gino and Juli Scala
Transparency always has been important to owner Gino Scala, and opening The Kitchen was a decision partly rooted in the desire to offer more of it to consumers while simultaneously enabling him to expand and offer the community another healthy, conscious dining option. The Kitchen features a self-serve, pay-by-the-pound, organic salad bar, as well as daily soups, vegan and traditional lasagna, and freshly baked goods. A few tables inside and more outside make it an excellent place to stop in for a quick bite, and it’s great for carry out, too. While you’re there, be sure to ask for a tour.
Reasons to celebrate
This fall marked the 15th year for the Downtown Truckee Wine, Walk & Shop. Each year, nearly 1,000 attendees meander the historic streets of Downtown Truckee for a day of sipping, sampling, and shopping — and it’s all for a great cause. Thanks to the generosity of attendees and participants alike, more than $30,000 has been donated to local nonprofit organizations to date. Event producers estimate that restaurant partners have doled out almost 100,000 tasty morsels, and participating wineries have poured more than 260,000 tastings for attendees over the years (that’s more than 4,000 gallons of wine, or the equivalent of 250 beer kegs). Volunteers have donated more than 7,000 man hours, and shops have reported record sales. The annual event features local restaurants, premier wineries, and the perfect opportunity to get some holiday shopping done.
Downtown Truckee Wine, Walk & Shop
Lynn Falcone and Harvey Jasny have been creating confections since 1994, and in 2006 they opened the Chocolate Shoppe as a wholesale and Internet business in Minden. As wholesalers, they never got to see the outright pleasure their customers experienced while enjoying these confectionary creations, so on May 12, 2012, they opened the Chocolate Shoppe’s retail store in Gardnerville. In the early days, countless customers came through the doors looking for their personal favorites. If those favorites weren’t already available, Falcone and Jasny set out to create them, using the highest quality ingredients. A See’s Bordeaux was a common request, so Falcone came up with a recipe that became the now-famous Ashley’s Bordeaux, combining rich and creamy brown sugar and mocha buttercream, all wrapped in dark chocolate and topped with real chocolate sprinkles. This year, the Chocolate Shoppe is celebrating its 13th anniversary, and in May the retail store celebrated its seventh. Falcone and Jasny still make all their products by hand, in small batches in the store, and maintain their high standards and commitment to providing their community with delicious artisan chocolates and confections.
Our support for longstanding local institutions and all of the new concepts and cuisines that have arrived is fueling the explosive and exciting growth we’re seeing in our area. Sharing these great stories and your own experiences with friends and family will inspire others to show their support, too. We’re all an active part of putting the Reno-Tahoe region on the map, and in so doing, we’re helping our local food community thrive.
Until next time, remember to eat, drink, and support local!
Michael Tragash is Yelp.com’s senior community director, and 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. For questions and story ideas, contact him at Mtragash@gmail.com.