If you are a regular reader of the Dining Out column, you likely recall the rave revues given the whipped ricotta cheese appetizer under the Bread & Spreads section of Red Feather’s menu. Briefly, this dish features house-made ricotta cheese, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of chives and truffle oil, all flanked by thin bias slices of French baguette made crunchy by toasting over the wood-fired grill. In a greater metro that never sleeps on its culinary laurels, this dish ranks as one of the all-time bests I have found anywhere in or around the Queen City.
Now the ricotta appetizer has a cousin in its section of the menu that looks delicious — roasted curds. “It’s a nice, simple, gluten-free starter made from local milk,” says Brad Bernstein, chef and owner of Red Feather, and the inspiration behind dishes the likes of this one.
The cheese is artisan-made by Urban Stead Cheese Company in Walnut Hills. Those folks describe their product as follows: “fresh squeaky cheese curds are day 1 cheddar…perfect for snacking.” They go on to say this cheddar is made from Pasteurized Jersey cow milk, salt, cultures, and enzymes. Turns out, the provenance of milk used in cheese-making is more important than one might think. Jersey cows produce milk with a higher butterfat content and protein than all other dairy cows. These content factors are great for making cheese, according to the folks at Urban Stead.
Bernstein is constantly on the lookout for local suppliers who put love, care, and quality into the products they offer. By building relationships with such purveyors, he is building on the age-old connection between the foods we eat and the hallowed agrarian husbandry from which it is derived. For any diners-out with active, discerning taste buds, his devotion to that chain of supply is a deliciously winning proposition.
So, how is the roasted curds appetizer made? “We toss it (the cheddar-cheese curds) with a fig and Calabrian chili preserve that we do here, and then we roast it in the wood-fired oven. It is served with sliced apples, strawberries if I’ve got them, and honey (drizzled over the apples and berries),” he said. The apple slices are used as dipping wedges, or one can spoon the molten cheese from the cast iron au gratin dish onto the apples and berries. The appetizer is said to be like a bread service, but without the bread, and therefore ideal for anyone dealing with gluten issues.
A new addition to the Soups & Salads section of Red Feather’s menu is the ahi tuna poke. According to Bernstein, this salad treatment is inspired by Hawaiian and Asian island cultures. Certainly, it features a tropical combination of ingredients. The tuna is sushi-grade and is served raw in a chilled salad of avocado, pineapple, and serrano peppers. A fermented chili-aioli mayonnaise is used as a dressing and binder for the salad. The ahi tuna poke is a cross-over dish that can serve as a salad for one or a light appetizer for two. Also, it fits the profile for lighter summer dining, cool, fresh, and appealing in appearance.
Other additions to the menu include a BBQ chicken “sando” sandwich, and falafel, with a Greek salad base. Sando-style chicken generally is breaded and fried or sautéed, and spicy. The chicken on this eye-appealing Red Feather sandwich is more on the order of pulled chicken, the pieces glistening with house-made barbeque sauce. Bernstein’s sauce is white instead of the traditional reddish-brown sauces common in these parts. Kosher-style diners will want to hold the cheese curds that are part of the ingredient list for this sandwich. That ingredient list includes fresh-sliced jalapeño pepper wheels, so one should be prepared for a spicy finish to every bite.
Middle Eastern tradition is apparent in the falafel salad offered as a part of Red Feather’s new menu. Falafel is an ancient food that dates to pharaonic Egypt, according to some scholars. Though always vegetarian, falafel may be made from fava beans or chickpeas, or a combination of the two, depending on where one might be in the Middle East. Red Feather’s version is made from ground chickpeas that are flavored with herbs and spices, formed into ball shape, and fried. This classic dish is served with Greek salad, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce, similar to what one might be served in Israel or along the North Mediterranean coast.
See you at Red Feather!
Red Feather Kitchen
3200 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH 45209