THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
With openings, expansions, events, and growth just about everywhere you look in the Reno-Tahoe food and drink community, keeping up with our constantly evolving and ever-expanding scene has become quite a challenging task. No worry; we’re here to help. Edible Updates is your guide to all the goings-on.
After spending years leading food and beverage teams for Eldorado Resorts, Wolf Run Golf Club, and the Charlie Palmer organization, Joel Giandalia set out on his own in 2012, opening SoDo, named for the area of downtown Reno it inhabited. After five successful years in business, Giandalia sold the restaurant in March 2017 and took time off to enjoy life in Northern Nevada while searching for his next challenge. That hiatus turned out to be extremely brief: Giandalia joined the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel team as its director of beverage and food in June 2017. The reversal from the usual title might seem like a typo, but in light of the Renaissance’s business unusual approach, there’s a heavy emphasis on its beverage program — a nod to the fact that, these days, a lot of work gets done over drinks.
The owners of Reno’s healthy meal hub, Be Fit Foods, more commonly known as BFF Café, are shifting gears to make their healthful food creations more accessible to the health-conscious and on-the-go customer, with their new partnership with restaurant entrepreneur and chef Mark Estee and Liberty Food & Wine Exchange in Reno. The dine-in experience of Northwest Reno’s beloved BFF Café now is gone. But Fuelpacks, Be Fit Foods’ successful line of healthy grab-and-go meals, now are being made and sold alongside other convenient meal items through downtown Reno hub Liberty and still can be ordered online.
Fuelpacks at Be Fit Foods
Local bar goes big
Twenty-two years ago, in a South Lake Tahoe coffee shop, Tahoe Trail Bar was born, fueling outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers with its original, protein-packed, vegan, peanut-butter-and-chocolate-flavored bar. In that time, not much changed, until May 2017, when the brand received an update with sleek new packaging and the addition of two new flavors, mango coconut and dark chocolate cherry. Almost right on the heels of these changes, Tahoe Trail Bar was awarded the Whole Foods Local Producer grant in August. The program, now in its fourth year, is designed to support the growth of businesses bringing innovative, high-quality, natural products to the marketplace. Wes King, the company’s owner, remarked that the funds would be used to pursue certifications with the Non-GMO Project and expand Tahoe Trail Bar’s relationship with and distribution through Whole Foods Market.
There was a seismic shift in the local catering world when two of our region’s most talented, successful, and innovative operations joined forces in July. Great Thyme Catering, owned by chef Clint Jolly, and Blend – A Catering Company, owned by Josh and Whitney Deri, merged under the name Blend Catering to form one of the largest event and catering companies in the area. The merger expands their ability to service the Reno-Tahoe, Sierra Nevada, and wine-country areas, as well as provides them with greater regional reach.
Whitney and Josh Deri
Jolly is passionate about telling the stories of world culture through food. He has traveled extensively through Mexico and has been prominently featured in Best Chefs America and Diario de Yucatán for his knowledge of the cuisine. So it is no surprise that Jolly was invited to attend the World Forum of Mexican Gastronomy, where he will join a diverse group of epicurean professionals including farmers, traditional cooks, chefs, students, academics, and specialists to discuss all topics related to Mexican cuisine, as a representative of an important class of chefs who have great respect and understanding of its origins and trajectory on the world stage and are working to promote this cuisine around the world.
New food bank leader
In June, after having conducted a national search, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s board of directors selected Al Brislain to lead the 34-year-old organization as the new president and CEO. Brislain brings more than 30 years of national food bank experience and 20 years’ experience as the CEO of major food banks serving Southern California, Eastern Washington state, and Southwest Florida. Cherie Jamason, the immediate past president and CEO, still will work with the organization, shifting her focus to the second part of its mission, addressing hunger through community partnerships.
Al Brislain Food Bank
This month, we’re celebrating a combined total of nearly 90 years of business success in our community. Their success and longevity are no accident either, as these businesses represent innovation and exceptional execution through the years. Congratulations to Harrah’s Steakhouse for 50 years of fine dining, Imperial Bar & Lounge for one whole decade of dedication to downtown Reno, Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Co. on 18 years in operation, and Chapel Tavern on 10 years of crafting some of the best cocktails in the city, and possibly the world.
Justin Owen and Ryan Gold, owners of Old Granite Street Eatery, Imperial Bar & Lounge,
and Royce Wine Bar, and partners in Redwood Rotisserie Grill
Openings and additions
The former Carrows location, on the corner of Plumb and Kietzke lanes in Reno, has been given a new lease on life as Redwood Rotisserie & Grill, thanks to Ryan Gold and Justin Owen of Imperial Bar & Lounge, Royce Wine Bar, and Old Granite Street Eatery in Reno; Troy Cannan of LuLou’s and Kauboi Izakaya of Reno; and Steve Williams, the owner of Redwood and an investor in the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel. The name comes from the beautiful redwood accents found beneath years of paint and drywall applied by previous tenants, which were discovered during renovation. The menu centers on chicken and tri-tip prepared on the rotisserie, offered in quarter-, half-, and full-pound servings with a variety of sides, as well as salads and tacos. Vegetarians beware, as there’s not much here for you, though you always could enjoy a local beer or dram of whiskey.
Redwood Rotisserie & Grill
Liem Le, owner of Pho Restaurant in South Reno, has brought Asian fusion to downtown Reno with Creazian, which opened in June at 50 W. Liberty St. While Pho’s menu is more classic Vietnamese cuisine, at Creazian, chef Justin Sanchez uses some of Le’s Vietnamese family recipes and other classic Asian dishes as platforms for creating a new experience for diners. Le put a lot of thought into the detail of the space as well, with comfortable areas for guests to enjoy lunch or dinner, as well as a large bar ideal for happy hour cocktails and small bites with friends.
After only five years in business, L.A. Bakery has outgrown its cute and quaint space just up the road from Café at Adele’s in Carson City. With the demand for its elegant pastries, custom cakes, and café classics continually growing and the capacity of its kitchen maxed out, expansion absolutely was necessary. Growth can be hard for a local business, especially when it means leaving the space where it all began. Luckily for owners and husband and wife Ali Arbabha and Leila Tavakoli, the lot behind them became available, and it was a perfect fit. The current location will become a large kitchen to handle all of the demand they’ve been experiencing, while the new addition will add 2,500 square feet and double the bakery’s footprint, including indoor and outdoor dining with seating for 84 guests, a 500-square-foot meeting room, an art gallery, and even a small produce market.
Some restaurants literally rolled out this summer, sharing food and making new fans from inside trucks. Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, Bam!Dog, jüs, Jazmine, and the all-new Homegrown Gastropub trucks all hit the road to feed the masses at events throughout the city, including Feed The Camel, 39 North Marketplace, and Reno Street Food. The most talked-about food truck of the season, though, has to be Petite Street mobile bistro. Videos of ooey, gooey, melty cheese sliding into soft baguettes, and effervescent, local-lavender, fizzy cocktails have been circulating all over social media since Jeff Edwards and Angela Ceccarelli debuted this beautiful vintage trailer early in the season. They purchased the trailer for $200 and rebuilt it from the ground up into the business we’re all enjoying today.
It’s our support for longstanding local institutions and new concepts and cuisines that has caused the explosive and exciting growth we’re seeing in our food-and-drink community. Sharing these highlights and other great stories you see throughout the community with friends and family members 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 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.