Fans of the early nineties TV series Northern Exposure may recall the mercurial character of Adam (played by Adam Arkin), an enigmatic master chef, an inhabitant of the town of Cicely. More recently, the science fiction series Eureka introduced Vincent, a gifted chef with a doctorate. This cook possesses the helpful ability to manipulate space, thus creating room for nearly infinite ingredients in his pantry. In each instance, these culinary wizards were fishes out of water, dishing out big city fare in small, rural communities.
While dining at Nederland’s Savory Café, I wondered if these TV archetypes had somehow transported themselves into the kitchen at this intriguing spot. Serving dinner, lunch and weekend brunch, this café offers up everything from lemon ricotta beignets to seared duck breast to $1 tacos during Mexican night each Wednesday. The setting is a simple mountain town café, set off by local crafts and photographs, and the humble ambience fails to prepare the diner for the high quality of the food.
During a recent brunch with friends Tertia, Eric and Addie, we were all struck by the diversity of the weekend menu. The most ambitious brunch item is the $15 Southern Gentleman, perhaps more accurately termed the Portly Indulger, consisting of eggs, cheddar grits, ham steak with chicory gravy, greens, scallion biscuit and a whiskey shot.
We started more modestly with a piping-hot platter of $4 apple fritters accompanied by maple-scented crème anglaise. These fresh-from-the-fryer treats were crisp on the outside, with a delectably steamy interior dotted with slightly sweet soft apple chunks. One could easily make a meal of this generously portioned starter, although we quickly decimated the heaping platter, leaving Eric no choice but to eat the remaining crème straight out of the dish with a spoon.
While young Addie’s $6 Belgian Waffle didn’t initially appear all that interesting, it possessed a winning malty taste.
Candied peanuts added a hint of sweet and crunch, and pure maple syrup also enhanced the flavor. Best of all, a roasted banana-infused butter added surprising depth and complemented the hearty flavor of the waffle.
Both Tertia and Eric went for traditional breakfasts. Tertia had a $6 bagel sandwich, comprised of herbed cream cheese and a house-made sausage patty. The meat had a clean, subtly seasoned and not-at-all processed taste, and its considerable bulk gave this sandwich the appearance of a quarter-pound burger. Sausage, in lieu of bacon or ham, also anchored Eric’s $8 classic breakfast, a smorgasbord of eggs, hash browns, fruit and toast.
At $10, the duck hash was a screaming deal. My only quibble is that the Hollandaise sauce, billed as flavored with lemon and truffle, wasn’t as distinctive tasting as I had hoped. The sauce did create a nice foil to the inherent saltiness of the preserved duck confit, as did the stoutness of peppers, potato and onion. The textbook poached eggs possessed ideal consistency, and the overall impression of this dish was one that successfully melded multiple hearty flavors.
An oasis of reasonably priced gourmet fare in a small mountain town, the Savory Café is an eatery that rivals its televised fictional antecedents. A great destination before or after winter sports, the quality and value associated with the fare may even warrant a special trip to Nederland for simply dining.
Clay’s Obscurity Corner From screen to platter
Another connection of the contemporary world of food to retro Gen-X television is embedded in the classic sitcom Family Ties. Observant viewers may recall that Michael J. Fox’s Michael Keaton had two serious girlfriends, one played by Courtney Cox (who I will always remember as the one who joined Springsteen on stage in the “Dancing in the Dark” video and as a star of Misfits of Science), the other played by Tracy Pollan. In real life, Pollan later married Michael J. Fox. Pollan’s brother, also named Michael, teaches journalism at Berkeley and is the acclaimed author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
The Savory Café
20 Lakeview Dr. #207 Nederland 303-258-7329