Will Tuggle made the move from executive chef at Stout Street Social to Humboldt recently and has begun adding new dishes to both the lunch and dinner menus while outgoing chef, DJ Nagle, transitions to his new role as executive chef at Blue Island Oyster Bar, scheduled to open later this summer in Cherry Creek North (all three restaurants are operated by the Concept Restaurants group).
For the lunch menu, Tuggle says "We want to give the elegance that the dinner menu reflects, only in a lunch-style setting. But it's the same heart-felt, passionate style of cuisine." Tuggle's approach combines seasonal ingredients with memory-based elements that tap into sights, flavors and aromas of the Rocky Mountain region. "It could be a food memory for me or the guest," he adds — but he's also been getting the front-of-house staff involved by plumbing their childhood food memories for menu ideas too.
He begins with his own memories in the spinach ricotta gnudi, inspired by the first dish he shared with his girlfriend while on a date at the Spotted Pig in New York City. Sugar snap peas, watercress and pea puree add emerald brightness to the gnudi (like ravioli that's all filling and no pasta). Those bright greens carry through the menu in a multi-grain dish topped with a one-hour egg (which results in a custard-like texture) and Colorado mushrooms, and in a grilled salmon salad made with butter lettuce, fresh and pickled green beans, and dill, some of which came from Tuggle's garden.
There's also a lobster grilled cheese sandwich threaded with paper-thin slices of asparagus and slathered with tomato marmalade, a dish that combines childhood comfort food with Tuggle's East-Coast roots. A heartier steak sandwich combines French technique — a cheesy mornay sauce over steak imbued with a red-wine and mushroom reduction — with Western flare.
While Tuggle has put his stamp on a little over half of the current lunch menu, he'll be rolling out a new summer dinner menu in mid-July that will further showcase his culinary philosophy. He's been experimenting with green chile by combing family recipes from the region and also takes inspiration and ingredients from trips to the local farmers' markets three times a week. He's also been working with Hunt & Gather and other foragers to add wild Colorado ingredients to dishes.
Since Humboldt's tagline is "farm, fish, wine," the restaurant is also focusing on seafood, adding a Monday bottomless mussels-and-frites special for $15.
Concept Restaurants director of operations Sean Huggard says that Tuggle's style is a great fit for Humboldt and that Nagle, a Long Island native, will feel equally at home at Blue Island, which will feature classic New England seafood dishes and fresh shellfish from partner Chris Quartuccio, who owns Blue Island Shellfish Farms (based on Long Island) and will be providing oysters, clams and other seafood for the restaurant.