December 19, 2014

Well, the moment has finally arrived. Heritage Food and Wine is now (softly) open in the old Zin Room space at 15th & Harney Streets. Tonight and tomorrow - Friday and Saturday - 11am to Midnight all food is 40% off as well. You can make reservations by calling 402.991.0660.

Now Open (albeit, softly)
I had the pleasure of attending last night - the very first evening - as part of a blogger group. That in and of itself was an interesting experience as I'm not used to sharing food-picture taking with so many people. But while we're on the topic of pictures, I was sad that the lighting level wasn't really conducive to the nice bright food pictures I crave (and I'm really resistant to flashes in dark spaces). C'est la vie.

But since people seem eager to hear more about this new addition to the downtown dining scene, I'll oblige now - shadowy pictures and all.

First impressions of the bar (and bartenders) was very good. As I took it all in, I pictured myself spending time here, sipping house cocktails and snacking on small plates before shows at the Orpheum. Unfortunately, I'm still off the alcohol until mid-March, but I'm sure the Heritage Bar will still be there waiting for me then.

If I had been imbibing, I'd have probably started with the 'His and Herbs' seasonal house cocktail - Dewar's White Label, house strawberry cordial, Yellow Chartreuse, Fino Sherry, herb blend and lemon.

As it was, I started with an artfully crafted mocktail of white tea, grenadine, lemon, soda water, and peach bitters. And I'm happy to report that went down nicely... even without booze.

Hints of boozy greatness
They boasted a very impressive selection of beers also, that I'm looking forward to perusing (drinking). Full menus for Dinner, Drinks, Happy Hour, Lunch, and Bar are all available on the Heritage website: http://heritagefoodandwine.com/menus/ 


Once we were seated, the food started flying. And it didn't stop until we were all stuffed to the brim. Still, somehow, we only made it 40% of the way through the menu. And the take-home message is that I am looking forward to trying other 60%.

There were some miscues, which you might expect as part of a soft open, and some hits. So considering the context, and the fact that I plan to make subsequent visits, I'll try to hit the highlights in this post.

The space and service were both spot on, which was impressive for a first night. There was a flurry of activity and excitement in the restaurant, which maintained a relaxing ambiance even when the space got a bit loud... though most of the noise was likely sourced from my table, I suspect.

Mood lighting (make sure to look up)
Menu-wise, Heritage is focusing on family style food. This means the dinner menu is organized into 5 sections: Garden, Sea, Coop, Pasture and Cave. Which kind of makes you feel like you're foraging for these foods yourself at first glance. So things aren't really arranged in 'courses' and are intended to be shared and ordered in phases. But I'll focus on each menu area separately here.

Hopefully it'll help give a little taste of what Heritage is offering up. I for one will be revisiting to and look forward to the refinements that surely will come with time.

Garden

On the topic of this section, though, I will throw out a word of warning for any vegetarians (or vegans). The menu does list several items as V-compliant, but they appear to be mislabeled currently. I'm sure this will be corrected on subsequent printings.  

House Pickles made with seasonal vegetables (carrots, onion and cauliflower in this case). Not really one to complain about pickles in any variety, these served nicely as a palette cleaner between items.

house pickles
Potatoes: described as frites on the menu, these giant wedges reminded me more of steakhouse fries. Aoili was a nice compliment. Could've been a little crispier on the outside and a little more cooked on the inside, for me, last night. But since Heritage is actively seeking this same goal, I'm sure they'll get perfected soon. (The process includes blanching in water, freezing, parboiling in oil, cooling and then frying to deliberately get that soft inside and crispy outside).

Potatoes
Sweet Potato: a big hit at our table, due mostly to the caramelized white chocolate and marshmallow toppers. When they say sweet on this dish, they mean it.

sweet potato
Broccoli: With cheddar fondue and chili pepper. I didn't get around to sampling this until it had cooled, so the impact was somewhat lost.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips: One of my favorites and a standout dish of the evening. Simply dressed with maple syrup, rosemary and walnuts. Very good.

carrots and parsnips
Kale Salad: Probably not for everyone, but I was also in love with this salad and the heavily dressed dill buttermilk vinaigrette and dried fruit. Bonus, there's pastrami at the bottom!

kale salad
Biscuits: House biscuits came with several items, but vegetarians take note at least some of these are made with lard. Just one of many potential vegetarian / vegan landmines to keep an eye out for.



Sea

Only one item was sourced from this section, the Smoked Salmon and Gravlox. With capers, pickled red onion, farm egg, dill and a black pepper meringue, it was a beautiful plate to behold and devour. Of course that also means I did not get a picture of it. 

Coop

Heritage Fried Chicken: What I feel is being touted as the premier item on the menu (it has brackets, after all) the chicken was probably my personal disappointment of the evening. I was hoping for a crispier, lighter breading. And all the spice appeared to be residing in the accompanying sauce. But I always like lots of spices... if you're not into that, maybe this would be your holy grail? I'll try this again, for sure, though since I suspect we didn't get a perfected version.
chicken!
Foie Gras: I'm not morally conflicted enough about this item to not eat it, but I was flavor conflicted as I didn't know what to think of this dish. Maybe I only like foie gras warm? This was served terrine-style (cold) with milk jam, & maraschino cherries. (They do have a seared option with the cabbage dish, which I'll be trying next time).

foie gras
Duck Breast: Medium-rare cook style wasn't really tempting to many of our diners, but I sampled several slices. Definitely a healthy portion if you know of any duck-meat lovers you want to impress. The creamed kale that came along with this was another big win.

duck breast

Pasture

Ham Hock and Beans: Keeping it simple here. Beans, greens, molasses (and the meaty ham hock noted in the heading). Beans were purposely presented al dente, but when I eat beans my preference is for the squishier variety.

ham hock and beans (oh, and greens)
Bone Marrow: The one item I specifically made a request for. Served 'out' of bone in beef stock, onions and parsley, with grilled bread. Mmmmmm.

marrowlicious

Cave

Meat and cheese charcuterie tray. I think we had a little of everything - a well-balanced array of both cheese and meats (almost a bit heavy on the meat?) with mustard, honeycomb, etc. I also learned a new word - nduja - a 'spicy, spreadable pork sausage'. Also, synonymous for delicious, in my book.

I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to meat and cheese, but I would ask for grilled bread only in the future (when I come back to eat more nduja). 

charcuterie
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