There needs to be a restaurant in this space; an eatery is necessary to serve as the in-house canteen for hotel guests and the residential building next door. Armed with this imperative, management hosted a dinner for a dozen bloggers to display Wagenhauser's expertise.
A Dallas native, Wagenhauser has hotel experience, including a stint as sous chef at the Landmark Restaurant in the Melrose Hotel. Prior to becoming a chef, he was a photographer at Fossil.
His atypical culinary approach felt both traditional and modern, with a prominent yet matter-of-fact attention given to vegetables as well as meat.
Perhaps that unique background explained his sunny, amenable personality, rare in the chef world. (A spokesperson for the restaurant called him "a breath of fresh air.") His atypical culinary approach felt both traditional and modern, with a prominent yet matter-of-fact attention given to vegetables as well as meat.
The dinner, a parade of courses, began with a bruschetta-like toast and ended with two desserts. In between came soup, four entrees and three sides, all served family-style to be shared.
The toast was topped with cubes of butternut squash, farmer's cheese and fried sage leaves. There was also okra, whole pods fried in a crisp cornmeal crust, served with celery sticks and colorful heirloom carrots.
Entrees included seared scallops with parsnip puree, and filet of beef with roasted potatoes and buttery Swiss chard.
Fried chicken with mashed potatoes had a novel crust, made of three cereals, including corn flakes and frosted flakes. Accompanying Brussels sprouts were cooked until just soft and glazed with maple; Wagenhauser said he applied it to offset the sprouts' inherent bitterness.
The fourth entree was a vegetarian pasta with paper-thin pappardelle, mushrooms and bite-size tomatoes. Vegetable sides such as collard greens and mac and cheese were dosed up with loads of cheese and meat. But he served a cool concoction of cornbread topped with black-eyed peas, goat cheese and a strip of crispy chicken skin.
Here's the entire menu:
Cornbread with vanilla honey butter
Butternut squash toast with fried sage and pumpkin seeds
Green bean flatbread with cauliflower puree, caramelized onions, Maytag blue cheese and cilantro
Artisanal cheese and charcuterie board
Soup and salad
Butternut and barley soup with water chestnuts
Mixed green salad
Seared tuna salad
BBQ pork sliders
Short rib rigatoni
Pappardelle pasta, fennel, tomatoes and maitake mushrooms
Shrimp and grits with étouffée
Beef filet with Yukon gold potatoes and Swiss chard
Trout with potato and corn succotash
Scallop with apple-bacon jam, endive and parsnip puree
Fried chicken with mashed potatoes
Maple-bacon collard greens
Artichokes, potatoes, Asiago cheese, sun chokes, salami
Mac and cheese with piquillo pepper
French fries with garlic aioli and spicy ketchup
Cornbread croutons with black-eyed peas, goat cheese and crispy chicken skin
Cook Hall chips
Devil's food chocolate cake, brittle pumpkin seed, mascarpone
Orange Bundt cake with sugar frosting and blackberry jam
Pumpkin ice cream sundae with pumpkin ice cream, rehydrated cranberries and spiced whipped cream
Pear sorbet with homemade gin shot