Two years ago, I was sitting at the bar at Highland Tavern, the purpose of which was not to eat, but to drink. But when a bartender handed over a menu, I was intrigued. It was anything but your standard issue bar board. Rather, the menu was full of food that I wanted to eat, including a pork knuckle sandwich that later earned a well-deserved spot on our list of 100 Favorite Dishes.
That dish was the effort of David Bumgardner, now the executive chef of Williams & Graham, a prohibition era speakeasy in Highland that opened earlier this week. And while Bumgardner isn't doing the pork knuckle sandwich at Williams & Graham, his menu -- tight, classic and tidy -- is, yet again, a compilation of foodstuffs that makes me want to hunker down in one of the deep burgundy booths, and stuff myself silly.
"I tried to do as much research as I could about food from the prohibition era, and what I'm doing here is fresh, updated versions of that style of food," says Bumgardner, whose repertoire of dishes zigzags from boar bacon to bacon beignets to a deconstructed Waldorf salad. "I took grandma's Waldorf salad, took it apart, put it back together again and made it look pretty," he explains.
"It's all classic food that I'm revisiting," notes Bumgardner of the seasonal menu, which also includes "stuffed," rather than the more ubiquitous deviled eggs. "We decided to go with stuffed eggs instead of deviled eggs, because it's an older term, and deviled eggs are just one type of stuffed eggs, which means I have the ability to change things up whenever I feel like it, "he says, adding, too, that he has the same freedom with the pâtés and terrines, which will change on a whim, although he's partial to pork.
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"We're kind of pig-crazy around here," confesses Bumgardner, who says that he's also partnered with Pig & Block, a new charcuterie and butcher shop that opened last month just a snout's toss from Williams & Graham. "Pig & Bock will do some specific recipes just for us, which we're really excited about."
And after spending a few hours in Bumgardner's kitchen, where I had the opportunity to taste -- and photograph -- the majority of his dishes, I couldn't be more excited to spend an evening at Williams & Graham surrounded by some seriously good food, which you can view on the following pages.
Stuffed eggs dotted with rings of chives and powdered with smoked paprika. Fleur de sel-salted popcorn with peanuts and masala caramel. Roasted Chioggia beet salad with spiced walnuts, watercress, Gorgonzola and a balsamic reduction. Wild boar bacon paired with pommes puree and a porcini, chanterelle, oyster and king trumpet fricassée. : Pork rillettes and pâté forestier accompanied by cornichons and grilled toast points. Halibut plated with charred scallions and caperberries in a stewed tomato broth. Bacon beignets dusted with confectioners sugar. Grilled and confited pheasant, wreathed in a cherry cumberland sauce, and sided with bread pudding. Pommes Anna: Sliced apples glossed with butter and whiskey. A classic -- and beautiful -- Waldorf salad with Granny Smith apples, micro celery, spiced walnuts, sultanas and lemon aioli. Colorado lamb ribs with black kale, fresh rosemary and honey-yogurt. Chocolate beet cake with spiced walnuts and chevre. Oatmeal ice cream sandwich with Sailor Jerry spiced rum ice cream and orange ganache,