For those drawn to downtown Rochester, with our city in full glow for the holidays, why not plan to enjoy a meal while you’re out? Downtown dining options have transformed greatly in recent years, and the Kahler Hospitality Group has recently launched new menus at several of its locations.
The impetus came this past September, when Stewart Woodman joined the Kahler group as their area executive chef. Most recently he comes from the Twin Cities. Prior to that, he worked at world-renowned restaurants in New York City, Paris and Monaco.
Woodman’s culinary interest expressed itself at a young age. He chuckles as he recalls selecting all cookie- and baking-related books from the Scholastic books pamphlet when he was just 7 or 8 years old, and his early passion was peanut butter cookies. Somehow, he always managed to angle his way into the kitchen upon arriving home from school, to watch his mother and grandmother cook.
At age 14, he started working in the kitchen at a McDonald’s. His formal culinary training came through the program at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada, which included a formal four-year apprenticeship.
Among other recognition, in 2006, Food & Wine Magazine named Woodman one of America’s “Best New Chefs,” cheering his “flawless modern-American food.” Fast forward to today, and indeed, Woodman has already shown his influence in recent revamps of downtown dining.
Upon his initial assessment last fall, Woodman concluded that in no way is Rochester “a wasteland of culinary options” as some may claim. He is quick to note that we have some fantastic local beer and some great farmers in the area to support the culinary scene. OK, he admits things lean toward being “a bit less trendy and more measured” here in Rochester — locals being more cautious … OK, even conservative — in trying new things.
At the same time, Woodman finds people are yearning for more options. Indeed, in collaboration with the executive chefs at each venue, Woodman has implemented notable changes. Lord Essex has reopened with a new dinner menu.
Fear not! Those of you who remember the traditional Duchess Soup, a hearty potato cheese soup, will be delighted to find it is still offered. While both the Oyster Chowder and the Squash Agnolotti, homemade stuffed pasta similar to ravioli served in a sherry brown butter cream sauce, would make a great start to any meal.
On a more adventuresome whim, try the Chicken Liver Mousse appetizer presented with extract of yuzu (a Japanese fruit), cranberries and hand rolled black walnut lavash. It would make a great stand-alone with your favorite beverage from the bar. Though entree items are limited at Lord Essex, the Shrimp Fettuccine, again crafted from homemade pasta, is a standout along with the Dijon Crusted Rack of Lamb and a number of hand-cut steaks.
Speaking of hand cut, Woodman has mandated no more “frozen fries.” All menu revisions now feature hand cut fries.
“We’re getting back to working in the kitchen,” he said, adding that he is eliminating premade items at all levels.
Changes at the Grand Grill have been made in a way that “retains the wholesome feel of a diner.” Indeed, Monday night is meatloaf or check out the other nightly dinner specials. There is a bison burger on the menu as well as a lamb burger. An extensive menu offers something for everyone, including several vegan dishes and hearty salads.
The new menu at Crossings, in the Kahler Inn and Suites — now referred to as CB3 or Crossings Bistro and Bar — now focuses on variations of the classic beef burger — 13 in all — along with a handful of sandwiches and malts. Want to be a little more adventuresome? Then try their unique “Hella-Good Nachos,” an irresistible specialty with a duck confit, sharp cheddar cheese sauce, pickled red onions and cilantro.
Salute Wine Bar and More, located in the Rochester Marriott main level, has retained many of its signature favorites. For fans of homemade pasta, several creative dishes are available along with their specialty pizzas and some “rib sticking” solid entrees.
In addition, over the lunch hour, they now offer a “build your own lunch” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Patrons can select two choices — a cup of soup, half salad, half flatbread pizza or half Panini — for just $10.