Our Story Through A Food Driven Road Trip

Blend Catering recently had the honor of holding a wonderful tasting for Reno Bites Week that we based entirely on a road trip we took together as a couple. This tasting was such a fun way for us to share our favorite dishes in a way that tells our story. Each menu item represented a place we visited on a map as our menu. Our guests responded to the menu and loved taking the trip along side us as we took them on a journey through food.

Being that we eat breath and dream food, most of our vacations turn into food based vacations that eventually inspire our menus. Below is the story of one such vacation.

The inspiration for our menu all started with a road trip – the first trip we took when we were living in San Francisco and moved to Florida. We drove all the way from Reno to Fort Lauderdale (in a Jetta that couldn’t quite make it over 50 miles an hour, mind you). Along the way we stopped at the most delicious restaurants we could find. Each of these dishes provided inspiration for our menu we ended up sharing for Reno Bites.

1st Stop: Vegas – Thai Sausage

Our very first stop was in Vegas where we just had to eat at Lotus of Siam, the number one Thai restaurant in Nevada. Here we had one of the best meals we have ever tasted. The sausage dish we served this night was an interpretation of their very special Isaan, which consists of grilled sour pork sausages, served with fresh chili, ginger and peanuts.

2nd Stop: Phoenix – Neapolitan Style Pizza

Our next stop was Phoenix, Arizona. Here we stopped for what was promised to be the best pizza in the US. And it truly delivered. Pizza Bianco began as a small, wood fired pizza place in the back of a grocery store and grew to be one of the most renowned pizza places in the west. We based our own wood fired Neapolitan style pizza after this meal, topping it with red onion, pistachio and parmesan cheese.

3rd Stop: Austin, Texas – Savory Granola Salad

Naturally, we ate at A LOT of places in Austin. But of all the restaurants, cafes and doughnut shops we went to, our favorite meal was a salad at Barley Swine. Everything here was meticulously plated and each meal was very well thought out. The salad course was beautifully composed. Every detail was taken into account. It was the first restaurant we had ever been to that had very thoughtful food, but in a non pretentious setting. Our salad borrowed this idea from that course – bitter green salad, savory granola, Asian pear, avocado and pea shoots. It had everything – bitter, salty, crunchy, creamy,  sweet – to touch on all your senses in a salad. Now, all our salads take texture into account because, as we found out that night, texture is what elevates a salad to something really special.

4th Stop: New Orleans – Cheeks & Leeks

We stayed in New Orleans for two nights. The best restaurant we went to was Cochon (which means pig in French). The dish they are most known for is their braised pork shoulder with cabbage and puffed chicharrones. It was lovely. It was somehow both crispy and tender on the inside, served with a bacon and pork broth.

We served our interpretation in the form of pork cheeks. Our dish was based around pork, leeks and cabbage. We slow cooked the cheeks and glazed them in chard, onion,  sherry wine and pork sauce served with leek soubise (slow cooked onions and butter puree), caramelized leeks which were poached, seared, then dehydrated and then rehydrated in butter and leek stock, crispy leeks which were thin sliced in cold oil then slow cooked and spread on a tray to let crisp. The cabbage was slow cooked in butter and bacon fat, quartered, cooked, then charred in a pan and pulled apart. We garnished the dish with nasturtium from our garden to add a horseradish spice to the dish.

5th Stop: Florida – Cuban Style Seafood Dish

In Florida you just have to have Cuban food. We stopped at Garcia’s, a Cuban style seafood restaurant right on the water. They are known for bringing in their own fresh fish. We based our Yellowtail Snapper dish on our experience here. Our dish was fried with mojo sauce which we made from fresh oregano from our garden. We paired it with a side of plantain tostones, or twice fried green plantains.

6th Stop: Nashville – Locally Sourced Grits

Grits has been on our menu from the very beginning, in our food truck days. In Nashville we went to Husk, which is famous for using all the best ingredients and keeping the Southern tradition alive with old heirloom seed stocks in the South. The best item on the menu is their shrimp and grits.

For our dish we served heirloom grits inspired from this meal. We used grits from Geechie Boy Mill (an heirloom grain from South Carolina that is not commercialized and has a ton of flavor in the grain itself), whole milk from Sonoma, and added raw milk cheddar to finish and garnished them with garden grown scallions.

7th Stop: Denver – Beet Cured Trout

Our next stop found us dining at Rioja in Denver. Here we dined on king salmon with puffed grains and Sorrel. And it was divine.

For our own dish, we used those same flavors with our refreshing beet cured ocean trout. We cured the trout with beets from our garden for three days.  Once rinsed, the fish has a beautiful beet colored ring. We served it with fresh sorrel straight from our garden. We then added blood orange and puffed malted barley from Fray Ranch in Fallon.

8th Stop: Elko, Nevada – Ribeye Cap

We just had to stop at The Star in Elko. Josh had never had Basque food and this was the best place to start. We were inspired by our meal here to create our ribeye cap which we marinated with leek oil, salt, pepper, and black garlic. The ribeye marinated for a day and was grilled with brown butter and lemon thyme from our garden. Garnished with local watercress and foraged onions.

9th Stop: Reno – Gourmet Doughnuts

Our final dish was dessert.  This dish is the culmination of everything we have learned so far and brought back to our catering business in Reno. Our families joke that when we go on vacation it’s always an eating vacation. But that is just fine by us. We love what we do and we love sharing it with our Reno Tahoe community. Our doughnuts which we started in Florida on our food truck have come along with us everywhere.

For this dish we served two of our doughnut dishes, our Key Lime doughnuts and Rosemary Banana doughnuts. The Key Lime is made with graham cracker sugar and served with Keylime curd. The Rosemary Banana is made with ripened bananas which we add to our batter with a touch of cinnamon, rosemary and banana walnut powder (freeze dried bananas, walnuts and powdered sugar) served with rosemary crème anglaise.

This tasting was a very fun way for us to be creative and to share some of our story in our dishes. We loved getting to tell our story through food. We pride ourselves on catering food and drinks that best expresses our clients’ unique story. And it was joy to share our own!

If you have an upcoming event, we would love to hear your story and help bring a menu to life.  Blend is excited to get to work and help bring to life your story through food! Contact us today to get started!