THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
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.
In 2017, after Laura Conrow closed Wedge Cheese Shop, she took a year-long sabbatical and went in search of cheese-loving friends across the globe. Guided by her nose and expert palate, she spent time exploring cheese culture in Europe, pondering life with some of the world’s top cheese producers, and, of course, eating lots of cheese. Now she’s back, and in June she hit the streets with Wedge On Wheels, continuing her mission of bringing “cheese love to the people.” Reno’s only mobile artisan cheese shop is housed within a 16-foot-long custom trailer, which is considerably smaller than the retail store. You may think downsizing would have some drawbacks, but the small space just forced Conrow to be a bit more focused in her offerings. Of the 40 to 50 varieties of cheese she’ll stock at any given time, Conrow is most excited to share those created by great American cheese producers from across the country. In addition, you’ll find 20 meats and all the accoutrements you can imagine, such as crackers, pickles, jams, olives, and more. Wedge On Wheels has been making appearances at farmers’ markets and food truck events all season long, including Feed The Camel and 39 North Marketplace in Sparks, and soon you’ll see the business start to offer classes, too. Check the website and social media to find out where the truck will be next, or hire it for your private event.
Laura Conrow, Wedge on Wheels
South Reno residents are rejoicing with the opening of Bab Cafe’s second location in The Summit this June. The first location in Downtown Reno quickly gained a loyal following for its fresh, healthy, and robustly flavored rice (bab) bowls, served in a fun, fast-casual environment. Each bowl is beautifully presented with a mix of fresh vegetables and toppings and classic Korean proteins, which had social media buzzing from the beginning. With vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo options, too, Bab Café became the ultimate crowd pleaser for diverse groups of diners. To help combat the difficult parking downtown, Bab Café became one of the first restaurants to sign on for delivery via Grubhub, Yelp, and Uber Eats, which boosted the restaurant’s reach and popularity. The new location is next to the movie theater at The Summit, where parking is abundant, service is fast and friendly, and delivery is coming soon.
West Street Market has undergone a lot of changes recently. At the end of March, Rick Martinez closed his West Street Wine Bar after 10 years in business. West Street Wine Bar always was known for its carefully curated wine list and was touted for introducing customers to new, interesting, up-and-coming, and relatively unknown wines from all over. Combining all those adjectives into one word and following in those exact footsteps, Michelle Miller opened Esoteric Wine Bar in the location the day after the closing. Esoteric’s wine list changes frequently and offers more than 40 wines by the glass, giving Miller the opportunity to educate guests with each sip and ensure they experience new wine adventures on every visit. Best of all, Miller is happy to help you pair Esoteric’s offerings with the delicious dishes available from any of the West Street Market’s many restaurants.
Sol Kava, which once occupied the space between Thali and The Deluxe in the West Street Market, has closed in pursuit of retail distribution, making way for the opening of The Pizza Collective in June. Where guests of Sol Kava once enjoyed comfortable seating, now a behemoth of an Italian-made pizza oven sits. The oven came to Reno by way of San Francisco, after 25 years at famed pizzeria Una Pizza Napoletana. Fueled by local wood and hand cut by one of the members of the collective, the oven runs at around 900 degrees F, churning out pies in about 90 seconds. Those pies are made on a signature sourdough crust, which begins with a starter that requires diligent daily care to be kept happy and healthy. That crust is then topped with the best ingredients available in our region. The Pizza Collective’s owners are conscious of the impact their ingredients have on the local foodshed and aim to reduce the overall impact the business has on the environment by sourcing as much as they can from the region. You’ll notice the menu changes regularly, reflecting the seasons and available produce, and the producers’ names are proudly displayed on a blackboard for all to see.
The Pizza Collective
Wade Johnston and Joe Bernardo have more than 35 years’ combined experience in all aspects of viticulture and winemaking, and thanks to recent changes in legislation, as of June 16, they’re now able to share it with us. The fruit for all Basin and Range Cellars’ wine is grown on a nine-acre plot in Minden, designated as the highest-elevation commercial vineyard in the U.S. With well-drained granite soil, nearly year-round sunshine, and a naturally arid climate, this is the perfect plot for sustainably growing the French-American hybrid grape varietals that the pair uses to produce small lots of rustic, unfiltered wines. Basin and Range Cellars shares a winery and tasting room on East Fourth Street with Nevada Sunset Winery and Great Basin Winery, in a nice arrangement that allows visitors to experience the range of our region with three local wineries under one roof.
Anniversaries, accolades, and updates
At the age of six, Kevin Futamachi asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, and he’s been baking ever since. His passion for baking led him to attend the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center) in New York City, where he had the opportunity to work alongside Jacques Torres and Jacques Pépin before spending time abroad sharpening his skills. His first pastry chef title came from the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch restaurant in Napa, where he learned to work efficiently in a small space, serving more than 1,000 diners a day. Ultimately, he came back to Reno to become chef Colin Smith’s pastry chef at Roundabout Grill. Futamachi’s global experience and local acclaim landed him a spot on Food Network’s Bakers vs. Fakers in March, where his bourbon-infused blondie and lime shiso posset with watermelon gelée advanced him to the final round, only to be bested by the one faker in the lineup, a news anchor and producer from Monroe, La. These days Futamachi is head chef for a University of Nevada, Reno, sorority.
Chef Kevin Futamachi
Downtown Carson City got a bit more lively just over a year ago with the addition of The Union and Battle Born Social, both of which celebrated one year in business this past June. The Union is a three-dimensional concept bringing together a restaurant, coffee shop, and brewery all under one roof. Its owners celebrated their anniversary with the opening of The Union Backyard, an “intimate space for people to eat, relax, and socialize, similar to a true backyard get-together,” says co-owner Mark Estee.
Battle Born Social is a small-plates concept with strong local roots created by chef/owner David Stern. Chef Stern has worked in many of the best kitchens in Reno and has become known for his elevated takes on recognizable favorites, all done with local and seasonal influence. He is a firm believer in family, having opened the restaurant with the support of his parents and two sons. The Battle Born Social team celebrated its first anniversary with a community party benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada and Meals on Wheels Carson City.
Summer is the season for farmers’ markets and salsa, so it makes sense that is the time when both Shirley’s Farmers’ Markets and Killer Salsa really got their start. This year they’re both celebrating 25 years in business, and the growth they’ve experienced in that time is incredibly impressive.
Shirley’s Farmers’ Markets started with just one location and now boasts four markets weekly during peak season, at two Reno locations. Fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers within our foodshed take center stage at these markets, but owner Shirley Sponsler also curates a wonderful group of products from local crafters and specialty food producers, such as Paul Schat’s Bakery, to round out your experience.
Shirley Sponsler and patron
Fran Pritchard started Killer Salsa on Super Bowl Sunday in 1993, when she offered samples of it at a mini-mart in San Jose, Calif., and sold 14 pints. In 2013, she moved into her current production facility in Gardnerville and now sells to many grocery stores and other outlets, including Costco. She’s still making her salsa the same way — by hand, from fresh ingredients, with absolutely no chemicals. It’s a recipe that has earned her salsa acclaim and a loyal following that goes way beyond the initial 14 customers who knew she had something special.
Fran Pritchard, owner of Killer Salsa
What’s in a name? Apparently a lot if your Nevada business is called Feast. Two years ago, Station Casinos slapped Ken Long, owner of the Reno restaurant formerly known as Feast, with a cease-and-desist order demanding he change his business’ name. Parts of speech aside, the two Feasts in question couldn’t have been more different from one another. Station Casinos operates seven Feast Buffets in its Southern Nevada locations, and Ken Long’s Feast was a single-location, fine-dining restaurant in Reno. Nevertheless, Station wasn’t letting up and Long was forced to change the name. Turning lemons into lemonade, Long hosted a social media contest to help rename the business, and entries came in droves. In June, Feast became Fin & Filet, and edible Reno-Tahoe’s own co-publisher Jaci Goodman is responsible for part of the new name.
Fin & Filet
Over the past few years, Whispering Vine Wine Co. has been busy buying up some specific barrels. Michael Moberly, spirits director for Whispering Vine, is the one who tackles the dubious task of tasting dozens of barrels from each distillery before committing to the one that will become part of Whispering Vine’s ever-growing barrel-select program. These barrels come from some of the best distilleries in the world, such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Auchentoshan, and Tequila Fortaleza, and when selecting barrels, Moberly looks for interesting nuances not found in the traditional expression of these spirits. So when you’re buying one of Whispering Vine’s barrel selects, you’re getting both an exceptional spirit and the added benefit of Moberly’s expertise and experienced palate. For its 12th Barrel Select, Moberly and the Whispering Vine team went in a different direction, selecting one of Whispering Vine’s own proprietary Willamette Valley pinot noir barrels and filling it with Rogue Spirits’ Spruce Gin. The gin rested in that barrel for seven months in coastal Oregon before being bottled, which has resulted in a gin that’s “alive with sea air and bright pinot fruit, with botanicals that complement the earthiness of the wine,” according to Moberly. As with all barrel-select spirits, a finite number of these bottles is available, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Whispering Vine’s Mayberry Spirits Tasting Room is worth a stop, and we’d encourage you to try these picks side by side with their standard expressions so you can see the difference for yourself.
A barrel-select creation by Whispering Vine Wine Co.
MaryBeth Smith, co-owner with Colin Smith of Roundabout Catering & Party Rentals and Roundabout Grill inside the Whitney Peak Hotel in Downtown Reno, had been searching for a couple of years for a space in which to host weddings and private affairs.
“It was getting harder to have more events without a venue to call our own,” Smith said in a press release.
So in April the company purchased the Tannenbaum alpine events center and renamed it Tannenbaum by Roundabout. Updates to the business are in the plan for the next year, with the Smiths focusing on delivering quality cuisine and excellent client service, while upholding Roundabout’s quality reputation cultivated over the past 11 years. Future plans include outdoor patio updates, kitchen enhancements, landscaping, and upgrades to the wedding suites. Roundabout will welcome all types of events such as corporate parties, special occasions, and weddings.
“This acquisition will allow us to complement our partnership with Whitney Peak Hotel and work with their team on new offerings such as hotel packages and hosting bridal events like rehearsal dinners and post-wedding brunches at Roundabout Grill,” Smith says. “We have terrific partners and vendors, and our new Tannenbaum clients will see what we are capable of in delivering quality catering with a chef’s vision, a wide array of party rental options, and an expert team to work with.”
Our support for long-standing local institutions and all of the new concepts and cuisines that have arrived are fueling the explosive and exciting growth we’re seeing in our city. 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.