THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
Where oh where did 2017 go? If you’ve been out and about, or just following this column, you’ve likely seen the incredible ways in which our local restaurants, bars, brewers, distillers, farmers, and producers have helped to rapidly expand the diversity of offerings and share the incredible bounty of the Great Basin with us all. Fortunately for us, there’s no end in sight, as month after month we celebrate new openings, accolades, anniversaries, and the much-deserved attention our region is garnering around the country. Keeping up with it all has become a daunting task, but we’re here to help, serving up Edible Updates on a silver platter.
Awards and anniversaries
We’ve got a coffee crush. What once was a commodity now has become a specialty product. In today’s world, not all coffee is created equal, and, frankly, the same goes for the shops serving it. So who’s serving the good stuff? Well, that’s up to you and your taste buds, but based on the five-star Yelp rating Zuri Coffee Co. in Truckee has earned, it’s safe to say this business has hit the mark with its updated take on a classic European café. Zuri serves locally roasted and imported Swiss coffees in all the classic preparations. Zuri’s lattes and mochas are particularly photogenic, as is the food, which is freshly prepared in house. Be sure to try the lox and avocado sandwich, sweet and savory crêpes, and baked-daily pastries when you stop in for a sip.
Who would’ve guessed that one of the most carefully curated selections of fine wines, rare spirits, and limited-release beers would be found in the small town of Minden? Well, truth be told, it really could be anywhere so long as there’s an extremely passionate and educated owner at the helm. Troy Phillips opened Battle Born Wine as a way to share his passion with the residents of the Carson Valley, and in September 2017, Phillips celebrated 10 years in business. Battle Born Wine is so much more than simply a store, though. By sharing his knowledge through the years (and maybe a few samples), Phillips has built Battle Born Wine into a community hub, and he is almost single-handedly responsible for creating a new generation of budding wine and spirits aficionados. Phillips is one of my go-to resources, and he’s happy to be that for anyone who wants to reach out.
Wine isn’t the only beverage that benefits from barrel aging. Former wine, whiskey, and sherry casks all are being used to give beers a unique character. If you haven’t had the chance to try one, you’re in luck because Truckee is home to an internationally acclaimed beer made in this style, making it a great place to start. In September 2017, FiftyFifty Brewing Co.’s Eclipse, a limited-release, barrel-aged imperial stout, took home a gold medal in the Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer category at the European Beer Star awards, one of the most prestigious beer competitions in the world. This is Eclipse’s third consecutive gold and its fourth overall in five years. If you want a taste, get in line now. This beer has reached cult status, and beer geeks line up annually to buy futures on it. Bringing it full circle, one of the key ingredients is a cold brew toddy made from coffee roasted locally by Reno’s own Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Co.
FiftyFifty Brewing Co.’s Eclipse stout
International markets are hidden in plain sight throughout our community, quietly catering to local residents hailing from various parts of the world, including the Philippines, the Mediterranean, Korea, China, and other parts of Asia. Now with the opening of Turmeric Spices Grocery & Bakery in South Reno this past June, we can add India to that list. Here you’ll find fresh produce, exotic spices, and shelves lined with treats and staples from all over the Indian subcontinent, as well as a bakery making Indian specialties every weekend. Best of all, Turmeric is a place where anyone can learn about Indian cuisine and food culture either by asking questions about the items in the store or attending one of the special events hosted by the owners (details can be found on Turmeric’s Facebook page).
New developments are popping up all over Downtown Reno and filling up quickly with new residents settling into the city. Many of these developments combine residential and retail in one place, offering residents a better quality of life closer to home. Restaurants, bars, and shops are great, but where can a downtown denizen buy the home essentials? The missing ingredient has long been a neighborhood market, and, in September, Denise and Dale Barcomb opened The Urban Market, filling this need. The Urban Market is part grocery store, part convenience store, and part coffee shop with a heavy focus on locally made products. You’ll find the packaged products you can’t live without, but you’ll also be able to pick up items made here: freshly baked bread from Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, coffee from Old World Coffee Lab, produce from City Greens Gardens, and soups from Great Full Gardens, all in Reno, and even sushi from Tha Joint in Reno and Sparks. Downtown living just got a whole lot more delicious.
Old World Coffee Lab coffee is served at The Urban Market in Reno
Ijji4, Siu Korean BBQ, and Bab Cafe have helped permanently place Korean cuisine on our collective local food radar and boost it to popularity. Building on this momentum and honoring their families’ heritage, T.J. Cho and his wife, Hani, opened Arario in September, in the space briefly occupied by Bukko on Cheney and Center streets in Reno. Hani attended culinary school in Korea with an emphasis on Korean imperial cuisine. Though you will find an entire section devoted to classics such as hot pot bibimbap and spicy tofu stew, a majority of Arario’s menu is focused on Korean fusion. No dish highlights this better than the Kimchee Fries, which are topped with marinated beef bulgogi, house-made kimchee, four types of cheese, and spicy mayo. If you’re feeling a bit more refined, though, the squid salad and beef tartare both are standouts. Regardless of your mood, the one dish not to miss is the chicken wings in, as the menu reads, “spicy & sweet K sauce.” Korean fried chicken is an art form, and Arario does it exceptionally well. A visit to Arario is best enjoyed with friends, as most dishes are shareable, allowing you to taste your way around the menu on multiple visits.
Like the waves crashing on the shores of the Hawaiian Islands, poke has made a splash here in Reno-Tahoe. There’s room for more of this fast-casual concept around the area. Poke King opened in April, FinBomb Sushi Burrito and Poke Bar in August, and, this past October, Pola Poke joined Northwest Reno and Bluefin Poke opened next to the Pioneer Center downtown. All of these restaurants are similar but differ in their selections of toppings and sauces, many of which are made in house.
Pola Poke brings the island flair to Reno, in terms of both its décor and menu. Fruits, including pineapple and mango are available, as toppings or infused into sauces such as the pineapple ponzu featured on the Vacation Bowl. Pola also serves açai bowls and locally roasted coffee from Stone Mother Coffee Roasters, a Native American-owned business based in Verdi.
Bluefin Poke is Downtown’s first poke bar and comes to us from the owners of Sparks’ Siu Korean BBQ and Crawfish Asian, restaurateurs with a reputation for high quality and consistency. Bluefin has a build-your-own concept; pick your base, proteins, toppings, and sauce and enjoy. Bluefin’s bowls are among the most generous in town, offering four scoops of protein in a regular-sized bowl, versus the typical three found elsewhere.
On the move
Escape Lounge is wheels down at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and it has tapped chef Colin Smith, owner of Roundabout Catering & Party Rentals, to be the pilot.
Chef Colin Smith
No, he’s not flying a plane, but he and his team are responsible for ensuring that travelers who visit this branch leave with a delicious taste of our signature hospitality and what’s fresh and seasonal in our city. Escape Lounges operates luxury airport lounges where travelers can dine, connect, and relax in the U.K. and the U.S., with Reno-Tahoe as the company’s third outpost stateside. Think of Escape Lounge RNO as a luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of the airport for all travelers. The lounge will be located post-security, and reservations can be made online for $40 per day or $45 as a walk-up. For the savvy traveler, we've also noticed some other online deals and discounts, too.
You’ve likely heard East Fourth Street unofficially being called the Brewery District, and pretty soon that could be official. Under the Rose Brewing Co., Pigeon Head Brewery, The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery, and Lead Dog Brewing Co. all call this corridor home, and as of August, so does The Reno Homebrewer. Formerly located on Dickerson Road, aka Second Street west of Keystone, The Reno Homebrewer has become the go-to spot in our area for sharing knowledge and swapping pints with those who brew their own beer or wine at home (or want to). If you’re brew-curious, The Reno Homebrewer offers classes and workshops, but the store also carries all the essentials you’ll need to set up a homebrew system, plus the grains, hops, and even recipes to guide you on your way. Beyond the retail, this shop has been and will continue to be a brewing community hub, and this new home makes a lot of sense.
It has been a busy year on the booze and brews scene, and this year has a lot more in store. Lead Dog Brewing Co. opened in January 2017 with just four beers on tap, and the fans raved that while these were all basic styles, they were done really well. The real story, though, was the owner/operator/head brewer, Ryan Gaumer, who is Nevada’s youngest head brewer and possibly the youngest in the nation. And in September, something else started brewing, or should I say fermenting, next door. Nevada Sunset Winery is Reno’s first urban winery, and the owners are among the Nevada residents who spent years to make the wine industry a reality in the state (see related story in this issue). The winery actually houses three vintners who all share the equipment.
In March 2017, Jeremy Warren made his return to Reno with the opening of Revision Brewing Co. in Sparks. Warren and his partners spent $2 million to build a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art brewing facility that churns out some of the hoppiest beers around.
What’s on the horizon? Midtown’s about to get a few new faces as developers gobble up and repurpose some of the older buildings along South Virginia Street, and longstanding residents stake their claims as well. On Cheney Street, Ivan Fontana and Sadie Bonnette, owners of Midtown Eats and Death & Taxes, may as well be the mayors.
Sadie Bonnette and Ivan Fontana. Photo by Gagewood Photography
After moving Midtown Eats to its current location next to Death & Taxes, Fontana and Bonnette made plans for the detached garage and set their sights on other buildings nearby. Pretty soon we’ll see the rebirth of Midtown Tacos in that very garage, which is being torn down and rebuilt for the restaurant, and just around the corner, the former The Isles Teashop is being turned into a tiki bar concept called Curse of Cane. Fontana and Bonnette’s devotion to the art of the cocktail cannot go unnoticed, and this is just one more piece of evidence. In addition, the two just opened a back room of Death & Taxes to retail sales of specialty spirits.
A block down, on the opposite side of South Virginia Street, another veteran of our cocktail culture is stepping out on his own after years honing his craft at Chapel Tavern and Centro Bar & Restaurant. Rum Sugar Lime is owned and operated by Lorenzo DeVincenzi and his father, Larry DeVincenzi. Rum is on the rise in the U.S., and this bar will explore the diversity of this spirit category. And as rum also is the foundation of many tropical classics, you can expect a few of those, and a few of Lorenzo’s own riffs as well.
Lorenzo DiVincenzi of Rum Sugar Lime
Following our local food and drink scene is like drinking from a fire hose at this point, and it’s because of readers like you. Our support for longstanding local institutions as well as new concepts and cuisines is causing the explosive and exciting growth we’re seeing. 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 doing so, we’re helping our local food community thrive.
Until next time, remember to eat, drink, and support local!
Michael Tragash is our 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.