If you haven’t been to dinner lately at the Wild Sage (inside the Rusty Parrot Lodge), now is the time to do it. There’s a new chef, a new menu and a lot to look forward to sampling. We asked Executive Chef Travis Catanzaro to tell us a little bit more about his style, inspiration and what is in store for the spring and summer.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I would say my cooking style is technique driven, with a focus on using the best ingredients we can get. We try to do dishes that are engaging for us professionally (to keep learning) but also keep things approachable for the JH/tourist crowd.
Tell me about the current menu at Wild Sage.
I suppose the menu would be contemporary American. We always build dishes around a theme, so if it’s carrots, Japanese, umami, etc… but something as a common thread. I try to give every one of the cooks a dish on the menu that they come up with, and that’s how we build it with a lot of internal conversation, research and testing.
What kinds of things do you do to go the extra mile and create great, not just good, food?
I think what makes our food different is that we put more hands-on time into everything. We make everything in-house, so the country ham for the gnocchi we make from pigs that we butcher and that our farmer raises. He raises the best pigs I’ve ever tasted. The gnocchi is a good example. We figured out a technique that we only use potato, flour and salt — no egg — to bind them, and we actually steam them so that no flavor is purged into boiling water.
The ribs are pretty cool too – that dish was built around a sauce that one of the cooks made at a previous job, and after tasting it we devised a play on it. We malt our own barley, then we toast it in butter until it is the color of chocolate malts (like you’d use to make a stout) then we simmer it until tender and puree with black garlic. Steve from Prairie Harvest dry ages bison short ribs for us then cuts them Korean style. We sear them and then cook them in the malted barley black garlic sauce at 145 F for 34 hours. We remove them and reduce the sauce and add it to the aioli sauce that originally inspired the dish. So from there we build things around a Chinese theme.
What do we have to look forward to this spring?
This spring we’ll start getting into some foraged stuff from our supplier in Washington State, and my favorite salmon (which I don’t like salmon at all) — Columbia River wild, early season — it’s one of my favorite fishes. We pare the menu back in the spring since it is slower, so there will likely be nightly specials working with the spring ingredients we love (spring onions, wild fennel, ramps, morels, rhubarb, miners lettuce, wood sorrel).
For summer we’re pretty excited. Our chicken farmer started a batch of Delewares for us back in January. They take 6 months to come to a meagre slaughter weight of about 3 pounds, but the flavor is awesome when raised right. We’ll also have halibut as long as the season is open. Other than that we’re still working with our farmers to get produce dialed, but we’ll have a lot of fresh local stuff as always. We’ll get two more hogs in June that we’ll butcher and probably start some more curing projects as well as having fresh pork chops/tenderloin around that time.