Afternoon Delights: French Onion Soup on a Sandwich & more!
08 Jul 2011
In a small kitchen downtown, no bigger than many of today’s walk-in closets, Chef Heather Nañez is standing over a stainless steel counter, white coat on, pencil in hand, jotting down the latest in a stream of ideas that are continually popping into her head. The paper is littered with her notes, sketches and musings until one day—voila! She has composed a dish with outstanding flavor, matched only by its unique presentation.
Lunch is Served
That is the case with one of Nañez’ newest creations, the Crab and Avocado Salad. Featured on the lunch menu at the Bar and Bohanan’s, this unique dish is the result of more than a decade of thought.
“I had one many years ago in Mexico, but I didn’t like the presentation,” says Nañez.
After playing with various combinations and putting her own spin on the recipe, the chef finally figured out what the dish needed.
“I flipped it upside down,” she laughs.
The result is a presentation of tender, colossal lump crab with juicy tomatoes, fresh roasted corn, and cilantro mayonnaise stuffed inside an avocado and then inverted on the plate.
Avocados aren’t the only things that Nañez is flipping. In fact, her creative approach to the menu is causing diners to flip over the impressive offerings not usually found during the typical lunch hour. Not that the dishes themselves are out of the ordinary, it is the chef’s approach to them that makes them special.
Take the Asian Nicoise Salad, for example. This classic French dish gets a twist with Asian influences. The combination of a hard-boiled quail egg, pepper-encrusted tuna, olives and cucumbers, dressed in a creamy sesame vinaigrette, Nañez created a dish that is both spicy and cooling.
She ups the ante on the classic cheeseburger with the Half-Pound Burger, ground chuck topped with smoky aged sharp cheddar, chipotle mayo, and crisp, hydroponic lettuce.
One of her favorite creations is a dish Nañez describes as “French Onion Soup in a sandwich.”
“I always wanted to serve French Onion Soup downstairs but I couldn’t, she explains. “So I turned it into a sandwich.”
The super rich Grilled Cheese & Caramelized Onion Sandwich, consists of aged Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions. The only thing missing is a bowl!
Finally, Bohanan’s just wouldn’t be Bohanan’s without its famous steaks, and Nañez has added two of the upstairs favorites to the downstairs menu. A Mesquite Grilled 7 oz Filet and 13 oz Rib Eye are both Prime Grade Center Cut and cooked to order.
Mixing It Up
Nañez takes an unconventional approach to menu creation, driven by a love of experimentation, rather than a desired outcome.
“I never go into this with an end result in mind,” says Nañez, who in her down time can be found poring over the latest trade magazines and cookbooks, or glued to the Food Network channel. “I am so totally immersed in this culture that ideas just pop into my head and I play with them until I see what happens.”
The unlikely combination of the Peanut Butter and Fois Gras sandwich, and the decadently rich Lobster Creamed Corn are just a couple of the things that have “happened.” The modest chef describes these huge Bohanan’s hits as “happy accidents” that were the result of her simply “playing around in the kitchen,” or, as she refers to it, “the lab.”
“I just play with things and tweak them until they are just right, and then I write the recipe down—never before,” she says.
New Lunch Items
Lunch Served Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Asian Nicoise Salad $15.95
Seared Sashimi Grade Tuna on Field Greens Tossed with Julienned Cucumber and Carrots with Longbeans, Asian Cabbage, Quail Egg and a Sesame Soy Dressing with Fried Wontons
Crab and Avocado Salad $14.95
Colossal Lump Crab with Tomatoes, Roasted Corn and Cilantro Mayonnaise in a Stuffed Avocado
Mesquite Grilled 7 oz Filet $33.95
Mesquite Grilled 13 oz Rib Eye $37.95
Allow time for preparation. USDA Prime Steak comes with thin cut fries and sautéed peppers
Half-Pound Burger $12.95
With Sharp Cheddar, Lettuce, Heirloom Tomato and Chipotle Mayo
Grilled Cheese & Caramelized Onion Sandwich $8.95
With Aged Gruyere on Brioche