Many area restaurants use the equinoxes and solstices as inspiration for what Jonathan Krell, executive chef at Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, 1201 N. Walker, calls “a change of palate scenery.”
He is among a number of city chefs planning fall menus right now; most will change in late September.
“The primary reason to change menus is that it keeps everything fresh,” said Christine Dowd, executive chef at The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro, 6418 N. Western. “Seasonal menus help guarantee that products are fresh from the ground to the restaurant.”
Metro co-owner LaVeryl Lower, who has always changed food and wine menus seasonally, said the restaurant is considering a more radical menu transformation.
“We’re looking at keeping some of our signature items, like chicken fricassee and veal liver and onions, but reworking the whole menu seasonally,” Lower said.
Keeping a base menu of regular dishes while providing seasonal options is an approach shared by chef Eric Smith at West, 6714 N. Western.
West offers a base menu throughout the year and gives diners a second, smaller menu with seasonal features. The soup, salad, entree, dessert and beverage categories all feature seasonal options.
Stella reworks the entire menu seasonally, but maintains a few signature items. Krell and owner Lori Tyler choose items based on availability, freshness, locally produced options and their desire to experiment.
“This fall’s menu is going to be our most experimental yet,” Krell said, noting that it will include pork cheek ravioli, pumpkin broth, panzerotti, ham shanks and lobster.
Fall menus typically move toward heartier fare, but with Oklahoma’s extended summers, Dowd is beginning to think in terms of three seasons.
“Oklahoma gets extended Indian summers,” she said. “We’re thinking in terms of spring, summer and winter.”
Fall and winter menu options are similar in many ways, Dowd noted, so it’s easier to work with fall/winter as one seasonal menu.
“Winter menus should be stickto-your-bones food without being overwhelming,” she said.
The seasonal change affects nearly every kind of food, including produce, meat and fish. Fall means wild mushrooms, braised meats, short ribs, stews and flatfish.
This fall, The Metro will offer a hachis parmentier — similar to shepherd’s pie, but made with duck confit, wild mushrooms and a port reduction. Dowd said she is also considering brandade, a salt cod dish.
“Oklahoma City is a red-meat town,” Dowd said. “You always have to factor that in for any seasonal menu. Fish tends to sell better as a special.”
Even with the weather cooling, hot days are ahead — and that means there is still time to sample summer offerings before the change.
Tyler said that she would love for diners to try the grilled peach salad before it leaves the menu.
“The salad is wonderful,” she said. “It’s made with grilled peaches, arugula, house-made pickles, onions, Gorgonzola and a delicious vanilla white-balsamic vinaigrette.”
Smith recommends three dishes before the summer’s end, including West’s gazpacho made with seedless cucumbers and green onion oil. It’s garnished with a Parmesan tuile, a thin, savory cookie.
For a more down-home experience, he makes fried green tomatoes topped with remoulade and served in a basil vinaigrette.
For dessert, the bread pudding is made with blackberries and goat cheese. Yes, goat cheese. It gives the dish a rich creaminess that has to be experienced.
Lower recommended the chilled avocado cucumber soup and the basil ice cream. The ice cream is served with an orange/apricot sorbet and tart lime syrup, topped with fresh mangos.
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