KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats.
NICK DETRICH: We're not a big restaurant. So, we try to spend at least half of our money a year within a 50 mile radius. That may only be $60,000 or $75,000, but if ten restaurants do that, if 20, that's over $1 million a year that just goes right back into the local economy, local people and also regenerative farming is far better for the environment, which is what most of these local farmers practice.
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show we talk with Nick Detrich of Small Favors in Bloomington about his approach to cooking and to running a restaurant after what some might call a reckoning in the hospitality industry. Detrich also shares a recipe, featuring French pastry and fancy cheese from Kentucky. That's all just ahead. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: The building on the corner of 6th Street and Morton on Bloomington's Near
West Side is small and unassuming, other than the fact that it's painted a bold shade of pink with black and white checkered trim. That's a carryover from the previous establishment, La Vie En Rose. It was a sweet spot, serving quiche and other tasty French style dishes. The new inhabitants, Small Favors, describe themselves as a neighborhood gathering place, serving wine, food and wine based cocktails. They go on to say on their website, "we want to serve the community through nourishing our guests, sourcing locally, investing in our farm partners, paying our staff a livable wage and serving wine from people who think similarly." I was intrigued by this statement and wanted to hear more, so I arranged to meet with the chef and co-owner of Small Favors, Nick Detrich.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, should we come back here?
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, come on down.
KAYTE YOUNG: I headed over there on a Monday morning with producer, Toby Foster. Nick greeted us in the dining room and led us down a narrow set of steps behind the bar, into the kitchen, to walk us through a recipe.
NICK DETRICH: French pastry, stuffed with chicken liver parfait, pâte à choux or gougères. Alright, shall I just dive in then?
KAYTE YOUNG: Yes.
NICK DETRICH: My name's Nick Detrich. We're at Small Favors in Bloomington, Indiana, 6th and Madison. Forgot the address. We're going to start by making the gougères. This is a puff pastry, it can be made savory or sweet. This is going to be a savory one with some Gruyère from Kentucky and then a little bit of Parmesan Romano on top. It's a recipe that dates back to the 1500s, and here I've got some butter, little bit of cayenne, and some salt, and we're just going to bring this to a boil, and on deck we've got some Gruyère from Kenny's in Kentucky, a dairy there. This is a bread flour, high protein flour from Janie's Mill, four eggs; those are from Rhodes Farms and then everything else that we need is in there. This is a really delicious snack. It's sort of like a historical cheese doodle, but the way that they cook, they're very high hydration dough. So, in the oven we'll cook them in two stages, at two different heats, so the steam will actually cause the dough to rise quite a bit, which is why it doesn't take very long to prepare the dough, you know, you don't have to let the dough ferment or anything like that. It just puffs up and it's really airy inside, and with all the cheese that's in it there's all these beautiful threads and striations of melted cheese. I mean all these cavities that are amazing for just stuffing things. So, we'll use chicken liver parfait today, but it's great for like leek mousse. You can make them sweet, like a cream puff or profiteroles, it starts with a sweet version of a gougère. But, yes, they're a lot of fun and they're great. We make them here because they sit out really, really well. So, we make them every day, but then we just leave them out in the kitchen, stuff them to order and send them out.
NICK DETRICH: So, our water's starting to boil, so I'm just going to stir it and incorporate this butter, and we want to get it into a pretty agitated state, and then we'll take it from the heat.
KAYTE YOUNG: Oh, it's really foamed up.
NICK DETRICH: Yes, it'll foam a lot, and then we'll just stir it around, get that little bit of butter to melt, and then we'll add all the flour at once, and then we're just going to stir continuously for about a minute or two. Basically, you want to incorporate the dough, but you want it to be cohesive, but you also want it to be sticky and pull away. You see, if you look, there's some residue on the sides there. After about a minute that will all dissipate and it'll be one nice, doughy, cohesive mass. But, you see, we've been at this for a minute and a half and we're already this far along. [LAUGHS] But, yes, I'll keep stirring, looking for the flakes of granules. You can see now it almost looks like mashed potatoes, so it's really getting there.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah, that's really quick how it's changing.
NICK DETRICH: A part of that too, this doesn't really work with all purpose flour, you really need a high protein flour, bread flour, Caputo flour. This is Janie's Mill bread flour; it works really great for this. Okay, so now you can see that it's kind of pulling away really cleanly. So, what we'll do is we'll put it in our Kitchen Aid here, and you want to use a wooden spoon for this, don't use metal on metal, just because you don't want to flake anything, especially if you're using a nonstick pan. Okay, we've got that in the Kitchen Aid and so we'll just turn this on. Your Kitchen Aid will probably have either five or ten settings. You might want to put it to one or two and we'll take some eggs here, and we're just going add them one at a time and let each one incorporate. So, just crack it into a bowl in case you get some shells in there, and then you'll just want to watch to see that get incorporated. You'll have to stop probably once to push everything down, unless you're really lucky, but I'm not often lucky.
NICK DETRICH: So, I'm going to stop it now and sometimes, you know, you just want to stop it and make sure all of the dough is moving around, all of it's hanging out with the eggs as they drop in. So, it looks almost like, at this stage it looks almost like a custard. It'll get really thick, gooey, which is perfect because we're going to put it into a piping bag and pipe it out. So, we want it to be custardy. Our last egg will go in, and we'll let that incorporate and then we're going to add all of our cheese, and let that fold in and then we'll just scrape it all into a pastry bag and put it on a Silpat.
NICK DETRICH: I've got the oven at 425° right now. We'll do about 15 minutes at 425 and then we'll do ten minutes where we drop it down to 350. We want to cook it really hot at first so that all that steam release, push everything up and also brown everything really well and then that extra 350, ten minutes, we'll just make sure everything sets up really beautifully. So, it's really a nice looking dough now. So, I'll take all of my cheese, and just dump it in.
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, now it's sort of like in between a custard and like a really good pizza dough. So, like super wet and sticky, but still has a little bit of glossiness to it. Alright, so now I go and lower this down slowly, while the paddle's running, just because I'm going to use its movement to get some of the dough off of there.
KAYTE YOUNG: How do you know it's ready?
NICK DETRICH: If you look at it, you know, it's got a tackiness to it, it's glossy, it's well incorporated. I don't really see any cheese shreds anymore. I like to shred the cheese on the biggest grater side that I have too, just because that way I know for a fact it's incorporated because it'll start very lumpy, and then turn very smooth. Now I'm just going to scrape my paddle. Alright, so now I've got a pastry bag with a star tip, and what I'm going to do is just grab a little bowl, and kind of fold the tip of the pastry bag over, just so that it doesn't spill out as I'm trying to pipe it in here. And, so with the bowl scraper I'm just going to move the dough around in the bowl some, just to get it into one more scoopable mass, and then holding open the pastry bag I'm going to go ahead and just slightly fold the bowl scraper, and just start dumping all of this in here. They also sell cones, which are really handy. If I was a smarter man I'd have a cone [LAUGHS], that hold the pastry bag open while you do this.
KAYTE YOUNG: It's like storage space is at a premium here though.
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, it is, but it's a good sized kitchen here. We're only a 40 seat restaurant, so it's actually bigger than what we need for that. But, you know, a small kitchen means less inventory, less folks running around, running into each other, less accidents, a tighter knit group, and also I don't have to go as far. You know, like I'm, what, four steps from the oven right now. [LAUGHS] Alright, so we've got all that in there, and now what I'm going to do, is I've got a sheet pan with a Silpat on it.
KAYTE YOUNG: And what is a Silpat?
NICK DETRICH: Oh, a Silpat is basically a silicon mat with a mesh inside of it. It's used for a lot of pastry baking. It's great for baking in general, just keeping your pans clean and everything like that, but because of the mesh too, it ensures that, instead of with parchment paper or something else that might insulate, it's still very conductive. So, before you pick up your pastry bag, just kind of make sure your tip is set. You just want to push it so that it's flush, kind of like you're wearing a turtleneck, and then we'll pot that up. And, then I like to start at the bottom of the pan, and just sort of squeeze everything into place. If your first couple are not pretty, that's fine, they're snacks for right when they come out of the oven. What you want to do is make sure you get it set up really well, so that you can just twist the bag a little bit to pipe it out slowly, and you want to do it in a spiral with a peak, and you can use a straight pastry tip if you want. I like to have a little bit of a pizazz with the striations there. So, yeah, we'll do five of these per order, with sort of like our more small plate style menu.
NICK DETRICH: So, now that we've got all of these set up I'm going to take a Microplane and some Parmesan Romano, and just so there's cheese on top too I'm just going to grate, you know, a healthy amount. I mean it's basically about three to four grams per, and then we'll throw these in the oven, and we'll set the timer for 15 minutes, and then after 15 minutes we'll do another ten at 350.
NICK DETRICH: Next up, we're going to make a chicken liver parfait or a chicken liver mousse. You know, when we cook with meat we try to use local as much as possible. We also try to use cuts that aren't often used; chicken liver, beef tongue, things like that. One, because a lot of times they get trashed, two, they're actually full of more minerals and vitamins, and stuff like that, a lot of the muscle meat, and they're also delicious. So, I've got some chicken livers here that have been rinsed and patted dry. These are from the Flying Pig Farm. They're out in Spencer. They were one of the first folks that we purchased from, like bought a whole pig from them when we opened, and buy a lot of our chickens from them.
NICK DETRICH: So, I've got rapeseed oil, something with a high smoke point. Also, it's more neutral. You don't want to use olive oil for something like this because it'll impart too much flavor. The chicken livers have just been simply seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper, and I've got six ounces here, which is like six livers. [LAUGHS] Not very big, you know. I'll go ahead and throw those down here. Spread them out evenly.
NICK DETRICH: These will only take about one, two minutes a side. As soon as I flip them over I'm going to use some shallots, fresh thyme and some dried marjoram. I'm going to go ahead and flip them over. When you cooked these you want them to be cooked all the way through, browned on the outside, and slightly pink in the middle still. So, we'll go ahead and turn these over, and chicken livers, I think one of my favorite ways to eat them that's not a paté or mousse or parfait, is they're amazing if you just deep fry them and serve them with a wedge of lemon and pepper jelly. Alright, so now we'll add our shallots, thyme, marjoram, and we'll let that other side cook, kind of steaming all of the herbs and everything on top, and then we'll whip it around to roll it in. About another minute and a half on this side.
KAYTE YOUNG: I like how you're just steaming them on top there.
NICK DETRICH: Well you still want a sharp flavor from them, especially with shallots because they're a milder allium, you don't want to overcook them because then what's the point. [LAUGHS] So, those are calming down a little bit and what we'll do, we'll take one out and just slice it in half to see where we're at. We're not quite there yet. So, let that go for another 45 seconds to a minute. Now that we're getting close I'm going to go ahead and mix those onions in a little bit more and, just like when you're cooking a steak too, you can also tap on them to check the firmness as you're cooking. They'll tighten up. If you overcook chicken liver it'll get like brittly and almost gristly, and just not very pleasant. Alright, so we'll check this one. So, that's what you're looking for, just slightly ever so pink still, and we'll go ahead and pull that from the heat, and I'm going to go grab the blender pitcher.
NICK DETRICH: The first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go ahead and plop these chicken livers into the blender pitcher and let them just hang out there for a sec. Don't worry about getting all of the bits out because what I'm going to do now is take the pan, put it back on my burner, and I'm using a little bit of Madeira, a Canary Islands' wine that's completely oxidized, so it's great for cooking because it's already completely cooked. Cognac is also great for this recipe too, but we don't have a liquor license, so we use a lot of Madeira or Pineau des Charentes as well. So,
we'll get that on, look for a little bit of sizzle happening. Add the Madeira, deglaze the pan, get all that fond off of there. You want to take your rubber spoon or silicone spatula, and just kind of move everything around to get all that fond up, because that's a lot of the tastiness is going to reside, and we'll add that there and, again, don't worry about all the bits because we're going to use the pan again. We're going to take a cup of heavy cream, turn on our pan on a lower heat. I'm using an induction, I'm setting it to 130 just because we want the cream to warm, we don't want it to scald, we don't want it to start to turn into custard. So, just put that in there. It won't take long to heat your cream, you could even just use the hot pan still.
NICK DETRICH: I'm just going to pull that off, test it. It's warmer than my hand, so I know it's at a good temp, we'll go ahead and add all this cream. Now we'll take this, and put it on our Vita Prep. Any variable speed blender is what you want to use for this, and then I've got 185 grams of butter that's already cubed. This is a mousse, so it's like an emulsification. So, I'm going to start this, run it on a low/medium speed and just slowly add the butter. So, on one I'll just let it get going for a second. When you're looking into the blender, I've got the cover on and the little plug removed. Keep back because it'll spurt as that butter starts to incorporate. But you'll just want to check it. Same with like when you're making gougère batter. Check it periodically, and see that it's got a smooth movement happening. You know, if it's sloshing about a bit it's probably not ready for another chunk of butter. Also, your butter you can probably pull out, I cut this about a half hour ago, and it was a little bit too moist, so I threw it in the fridge for probably for a little bit too long. So, the butter texture you're looking for is something that gives a little bit when you squeeze it. And, the last piece of butter going in. So, what did that take, two minutes? Not bad. [LAUGHS]
NICK DETRICH: So, now with the chicken liver parfait it is well incorporated. So, we're just going to pour it in here, and you want to pour it slowly, and you don't want to tamp it down either because you don't want to release too much of that air that's been whipped in there through that emulsification, because that's going to give it a really lovely texture. This you want to have set in your fridge for about five hours.
KAYTE YOUNG: If you're just joining us that's Nick Detrich of Small Favors, walking us through the steps for making a chicken liver parfait. Once the gougères come out of the oven and rest a bit, he'll fill the cheesy pastries with this smooth and savory mixture. In the meantime we'll sit down with Nick in the dining room to talk about his work. That's coming up after a short break here on Earth Eats. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: Kayte Young here. This is Earth Eats. We're back with chef Nick Detrich at Small Favors to hear about the restaurant and a bit about Nick's background.
NICK DETRICH: Small Favors opened January of this year, and we're a small restaurant, 40 seats, with an extensive natural wine selection, and then a seasonal menu that changes once a month. I'm from around here and I spent a long time away, and when I moved back the first thing that I noticed was that it was hard to find a decent bottle of wine. Like, I went to a wine shop in town and they didn't have a Chablis, which was something that I thought was pretty standard, and so I started thinking about doing something in town to help make it easier to get a bottle of wine. A lot of people I talked to used like subscription services or ordered bottles to be delivered to Bloomington, and stuff like. I'm like, well, that doesn't seem like a very good thing with all the cardboard waste, ice packs, everything that it takes to ship a bottle, getting shipped to the facility that unboxes it, reboxes it, sends it. So, I started thinking about opening up a wine shop, and then, just based on the rules and regulations and laws surrounding wine and spirits in Indiana, it made more sense to make it a restaurant. I've had five restaurants before this one, so I figured knew those ropes pretty well. So, we tried to make something that puts a lot of emphasis on the agricultural importance of food as well as wine so, you know, when I say natural wine, what I really mean is like low intervention wine or wines that are made typically by the same people that grow the grapes. A lot of them use sustainable practices or biodynamic practices, organic practices, and a lot of them don't use lab grown yeasts, they use the yeasts that grow on the grapes themselves. They also will not add any sort of food colorings, dyes or anything like that. Low amounts of filtration. Some will add sulfur, you know, sulphides which stabilize the wine, but some don't, and those are surprising wines because one bottle may be completely different from the one you have later.
NICK DETRICH: Then, on the food side of things we strive to do the same, we go very seasonally, so every four or five weeks we change our menu. We buy from local farmers. Where it makes sense we also make some decisions that are not local, but we believe are of great ecological importance. So, we do a pretty large oyster program for a landlocked place like Bloomington, Indiana. We usually have three to four varieties of oysters every day, mainly because they're very beneficial to the environment. They clean up waterways, they are low impact farming, aquaculture. They're used a lot in shore restoration projects, and so we think it's a good thing to consume them.
NICK DETRICH: We work with a distributor called What Chefs Want and Bluefin Seafood, and so they'll typically send me a text a couple of times a week and let me know what they have. So. We'll make selection basically based on freshness for the most part, and a lot of what we get comes from the North Atlantic coast. So, we will get some from the Pacific, but since it's a greater distance we tend not too. I think probably 60% of the oysters we serve come from Prince Edward Island though. Typically, they'll get harvested and cleaned and everything like that, and from that point to our door it'll usually be seven to ten days.
KAYTE YOUNG: Could you talk more about your interest or your commitment to local sourcing, whether that's on the meat side or on the vegetables?
NICK DETRICH: Sure, yeah. Well, I mean think one of the most important things that a restaurant can be is a standard bearer and member of a community, and I think trying to give back as much as possible to the community is an important part of that ethos. Also, it makes business sense too because a lot of farmers that I buy from are some of our most vocal advocates as well. But, you know, part of it is keeping money locally, and making sure that people can have good jobs like regenerative farming, that are not far way. The environmental impact I think is pretty evident on a lot of commercial and factory farming, and that translates also into the products, you know, a happy pig is going to be better meat. A pig that gets to root around out in the field for its life, instead of living in a stall for its entire life: that's going to translate into better food. There's also the welfare of the animal as part of that decision making process there.
NICK DETRICH: But, yeah, I mean the biggest part is the local economic impact. We're not a big restaurant, so, we try to spend at least half of our money a year within a 50 mile radius. That may only be $60,000 or $75,000, but if ten restaurants do that, if 20, that's over $1 million a year that just goes right back into the local economy, local people, and also regenerative farming is far better for the environment, which is what most of these local farmers practice. You know, they're not doing heavy tilling, they're not depleting the soil, they're doing cover crops, and that is going to be better in the long run too, especially if you take like a futurist lens, and a moral lens at the next generation, the next five generations. If we deplete all the nutrients in the soil then everyone's going to be eating corn in 25, 30 years. So, I guess it boils down to local impact and environmental impact.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, since you started the restaurant really with this in mind, you really just set everything up for that kind of purchasing. So, is it harder to coordinate when you're working with smaller farmers, and you're not just like purchasing everything from... [TALKING OVER EACH OTHER]?
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, there's a convenience that you lose, but I mean I think it ends up paying for itself in the wash. I've ran a lot of kitchens where I would call in at the end of every night, and have no idea where any of the food was coming from, but that it would be there the next day. That was great and easy, but now I think I would over order all the time, and I wouldn't really care as much if something spoiled or went off. But, now that I know the person who's dropping off the eggs or the dairy, or whatever that I'm buying, now that I see them every week and everything like that, I typically run things tighter. We save money on waste because of that, and I get to interact with the people that grow it, and I also get to talk to them a lot. For instance, the woman that raises a lot of our goats and rabbits will talk to me months in advance, and I'll be able to get things that make friends in bigger cities jealous, like mutton. Everyone's like "no one's willing to raise a lamb longer than a couple of years for us", and we have one farmer who's like, "yeah, we'll make sure that we have mutton for you". And, so having those relationships offers a lot more interesting variety too, and also getting it in from a processor I can butcher the meat differently. I don't have to get it all Cryovaced in five ounce portion sizes. You know, I have a little bit more control over that, and I serve stuff that you won't find elsewhere.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, it contributes to the culinary decisions that you're making, and that you can make.
NICK DETRICH: Well and it's food too, you know, it's a natural thing, and so it should be that way. Your decisions shouldn't be made by when the trucks arrive, it should be made by if there was a late frost, in the spring, and things like that. Not that we couldn't get chillies from New Mexico, so we got them from Peru. [LAUGHS] Those constraints are good for the restaurant in our decision making and keeping us nimble, and keeping our offerings interesting, and I think that helps to keep everyone well invested in the program, you know, our employees as well as our guests.
KAYTE YOUNG: I liked what you said too about when you've developed a relationship with the farmer, and you know that they're put their heart and energy into that product, it's more precious to you. Not just because of the cost of it or something but because of that relationship, and you don't want to waste it and you want to use it well. I mean I just know that I feel that way with food that comes out of my own garden or someone I know grew, I'm just like, oh, I want to make sure I use that, that can't rot in the bottom of the crisper, you know.
NICK DETRICH: Well, I mean, when you do this for a living too, you know, cooking, it is a craftsman's or an artisan's job. It's something that takes time, it takes repetition, it takes suffering and passion to get good at it, and part of getting good at it too is understanding the materials that you're working with. How to manipulate them and how to treat them. Same like a woodworker would much rather work with, I'm not a woodworker, so this analogy's probably going to be bad, [LAUGHS] but would much rather work with cherry than plywood. So, that translates as well to better food, better quality and, yeah, just better relationships with everyone.
KAYTE YOUNG: Could you talk about your history, how you got into cooking. You mentioned you had some other restaurants.
NICK DETRICH: Well I mean I started cooking in Danville, Indiana in 1998 and I just worked at a local pub basically. It wasn't a pub because they didn't have a liquor license, but it was like pub food. The best selling item was cowboy potatoes, which were waffle fries with mozzarella and bacon bits.
KAYTE YOUNG: From there he worked in several kitchens and then ended up in the bar at Jazz at the Station in Bloomington. He moved to New Orleans with a group of friends and wound up in some craft cocktail bars. One of his restaurants, Cane and Table, was nominated for best beverage program in 2015, and he became a partner in a group that won a James Beard Award in 2018. Detrich left the group, and opened a bar on the south side of London before returning to New Orleans where he opened two other places; Manolito and Jewel of the South in the French Quarter. When the pandemic hit and there wasn't much happening in the restaurant world, Detrich decided to return to Indiana, to be closer to his parents, since his sister and her family were moving away.
NICK DETRICH: So, I moved back and stayed with my dad for a bit. We actually planted a small apple orchard out there in Brown County, and then bought a house on Kirkwood that we renovated, and that was our pandemic, and so near the end of that we decided, well I talked about like we need a good place to get a bottle of wine in town. So, that's how we wound out deciding to jump back into the restaurant game here.
KAYTE YOUNG: Can you talk a little bit more in detail about your menu, and I know you have like special days of the week?
NICK DETRICH: You know, like I mentioned before, I think that an important facet of a restaurant is to be a member of the community, and so we try to keep things lively in that regard with special events, and things like that. Some of them are very hard to put on. Our most popular series so far was an event series called No Menu Tuesdays, which we ran for June and July, and basically every week there was a theme; it might be Spanish Basque or Midwestern Culinary Classics, things like that. Our guests would not get the menu until after the meal, so every dish was surprise, and they had to commit to that, and put a lot of faith and trust in us. But, you know, it was a very well received event, very fun. We'll do another run of that series in January, and we're planning some special guests to come into town to either cook or pour wine, and some things like that with us.
NICK DETRICH: I keep talking about how it was hard to get a bottle of wine, so we're going to start a retail shop pop up, and on Monday evenings we'll sell bottles of wine at retail mark-ups, not traditional restaurant mark-ups, so it'll be like $18 and up on the bottles. But, part of that, we're also going to do Sicilian pizza pop up. So, we'll do a sfincione pizza, like a high hydration, almost like focaccia dough with tomato sauce and breadcrumbs, basil. That'll be
like the signature pie, then we'll have some other seasonal ones,that will give us different opportunities. Like, one of our local farmers, [PHONETIC: Ellie Spear] has cardoons, I don't think she has a ton, so it wouldn't be enough to run for four or five weeks on a regular menu, but we can do a pizza with cardoon. We can use some of the produce that we get like really a short burst of, and have a good outlet for them.
KAYTE YOUNG: Can you explain what a cardoon is?
NICK DETRICH: A cardoon is similar to a globe artichoke. It's in the thistle family, but you don't actually eat the globe, you eat the stem. So, it's like a floral and woody celery almost. It's really common in a lot of bisques and soups, especially in the Mediterranean. But, yeah, then as far as our regular menu goes, you know, we were kind of just changing it every week, just as things came and went. Just for logistics here, you know, we started just doing a menu change every four to five weeks, so, that's a good stretch of time for seasonality. It's also a good stretch of time, you know, for this menu we're running a goat dish, so I've got two goats, and I know from experience that the meat from the goats will be four or five weeks on the menu.
NICK DETRICH: So, that means we're launching a new menu October 4th, but I'm already planning the next menu which we'll launch the second week of November, so we can incorporate our plan for waste and plan for future menus. For instance, the last menu we did a lot of corn dishes because it's Indiana and it's August, or September, and you can get tons of corn, so we took all the corn husks to start making corn husk vinegars, and things like that. So, that way we're working one menu the month in advance, but then we're also planning out the three after that, just to make sure that we don't throw a ton of stuff away.
KAYTE YOUNG: Wow, I don't think I've ever heard of corn husk vinegar, that's interesting.
NICK DETRICH: Anything can be a vinegar, and it's really delicious too because there's a lot of nuanced flavors in there that take a lot of time to develop, and if you basically mash it all and throw in a mother and let it rest for about three or four months, you'll end up with amazing product.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, are you making your own stocks and things like that?
NICK DETRICH: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean we'll buy stock at a pinch. I mean Bloomingfoods is across the street, which is a godsend sometimes when I need a quart of beef stock or something like that. But, no, like the goat, for instance, I broke that down yesterday, and all the bones are back there right now, so I'll make stock and then turn that into a demi-glace. But, yeah, we try to throw as little away as possible. I mean Earth Keepers though comes twice a week to pick up all of our compost but most of that's cooked, and we're extracting all the deliciousness that we can out of it before it goes there.
KAYTE YOUNG: Can you say what some of your favorites, something you love making?
NICK DETRICH: We always have an ice cream. I always love making the ice creams, and it's usually a vegan ice cream too. So, we'll use like coconut milk and arrowroot, and churn it, and usually it's something that's pretty fun that we only get for a short period, because it's a lot easier to change the desserts over frequently. We just had a sweetcorn ice cream recently, and we're going to have a fig leaf ice cream next week because fig leaves are amazing, and we're getting those from the same woman that has the cardoons. They definitely have a fig note to them, but they also have like a weird coconut tropical note to them. If you dry them they make excellent tea, especially like ice tea. But, if you just simmer them in the coconut milk and then churn the ice cream it's delicious ice cream. We also use it in a cocktail on the menu, in a syrup, with some Corsican vermouth. So, it's always fun because that's like usually the thing that's changing a lot is on the dessert list. Then we'll often a burrata set, so like a fresh mozzarella stuffed with cream. On the last menu we had a ton of these beautiful peppers from Seven Ridges Farm, so we did a quick pickle on them, and made a sweetcorn quick pickle pepper salad, and served it with a ball of burrata and then some fresh baked focaccia with sage leafs pushed into it.
KAYTE YOUNG: Do you have menus or menu items that are for vegetarians or vegans?
NICK DETRICH: Always, yeah. So, we typically will have about two to three items that are vegan, about three to four that are vegetarian. The remainder will typically be seafood or meat. We always have, for instance, a dip. So, like a chip and dip, and we always make that vegan, so there's always a good vegan appetizer option. So, that currently is a Sea Island red pea dip, and Sea Island red peas are a field pea that's grown by Anson Mills down in the Carolinas. It was a very common pea for the Gullah Geechee peoples there. So, what we do is we soak those, and then whip them with confit garlic and black garlic, and then a little bit of the confit garlic oil and smoked cashews, and we serve that. We slice potatoes, fry them to order, and then as soon as they come out of the fryer we toss them with fresh rosemary, so it steams a little bit of those aromatics into the chips as well, and then we put the dip down and cover it in, a savory miscellany is what I like to call it, which is like lemon zest, orange zest, capers, pickled shallots, so it's a really tasty dip.
KAYTE YOUNG: Wow, that sounds really good. So, you said that, you know, you tried to source a certain percentage of your menu from a 50 mile radius, but it sounds like even when you're not purchasing things that are that local, you are prioritizing these smaller farms. You talked about Janie's Mill and then this farm in the Carolinas.
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, well Anson Mills, they're responsible for a lot of incredible grains and produce that would have been lost to time without their work in reaching out to people who had heritage seeds, that had, seed banks that have been passed down by family members and almost lost. So, that's something that we want to support. We will do some Masa dishes every now and again, and we'll work with Masienda, which is an importer out of Oaxaca. They use heritage grown maize for everything there, and those are typically indigenous peoples that are growing the corn, and it's made for Masa, so it's going to make the best tortilla because of that or tlayuda, or whatever you may want to make. You know, typically, it's people that have a very close agricultural connection that'll make the best food.
NICK DETRICH: My favorite olive oil that we're using right now is actually from California and it's from Séka Hills. It's from an indigenous tribe in Northern California, they're in Central California I think, but they press olives, and they make a bunch of preserves, and things like that. But, it's like a really grassy, delicious olive oil that's just perfect as a finish on a lot of dishes.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, it sounds like a lot of the ingredients that you're sourcing, they have a story?
NICK DETRICH: So, I spent a lot of my hospitality career as a bartender, and a lot of that's storytelling. A lot of that is if there was an Eau de Vie or a cognac, or something like that that I was excited about behind the bar, it was usually because of the story behind it. And, you know, having the ability to tell a story with something that implicitly has such a personal connection, like nourishment, you know, really helps to tie you to it, and it really makes it more nourishing because of that. It's not just petrol or gasoline in a car, you know, it's like what makes the car move, and the story behind it. Again, I'm not a mechanic, so I keep making these analogies that are terrible [LAUGHS]. But, the story of how it came to on the plate in front of you, and how all of the components came there, it can make more tantalizing and more delicious. When you hear the story of like one or two items in a dish you focus more on not just eating the whole dish, but you think about all the components, you think about how they arrived there, and then you really get to enjoy the dish that way.
KAYTE YOUNG: And how does it feel for you preparing those and cooking with that?
NICK DETRICH: Well, I mean, like I said before, you know, it is an artisanal job. So, making sure that you have the right equipment and the right ingredients to put a dish together, you know, it forces you to be more focused. It forces you to care more about what you're doing, and so you derive a great deal more enjoyment and satisfaction out of making something, when you take all of these beautiful things that other people have put so much energy and time into making, and then you take them and make something else that's beautiful, it's really special.
KAYTE YOUNG: It sounds like enjoyment and joy is a part of your practice here.
NICK DETRICH: Oh, well it's hospitality, you know, like joie de vivre should be part of any restaurant's mission statement. Making people happy, and taking care of people is what this industry is all about from top to bottom. So, if you're respecting and taking care of the people that grow and produce your food, as well as the people that make it, as well as the guests that enjoy it, then it can be a truly fulfilling career, and a place to be.
KAYTE YOUNG: My guest today on Earth Eats is Nick Detrich and we're talking about his restaurant, Small Favors, which opened on the Near West Side of downtown in Bloomington in January of 2022. After a short break we'll return to our conversation. And hear about what it was like to start a restaurant as a global pandemic was, hopefully, winding down, and we'll talk about some of his ideas for the future. Oh, and we'll taste those gougères that just came out of the oven. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: Kayte Young here. We are in the midst of our spring fund drive at WFIU and we’ve been talking during this drive about perennials. In the garden, perennials are the plants that come back year after year. You plant them once, and they return again and again to delight and inspire. It’s a great metaphor for becoming a sustaining member of WFIU. Once you set your donation in place, you can relax, knowing that your support is there to keep WFIU strong. Help this station tend our garden of trusted news, meaningful storytelling and delightful music, so that we can keep our programming healthy and lush. Become a sustaining member today at wfiu dot org slash donate
Let's return to my conversation with Nick Detrich, owner and chef of Small Favors in Bloomington. Nick opened his restaurant in January of 2022. I was curious about the timing and how the pandemic has influenced his approach to running a restaurant.
NICK DETRICH: What happened in March of 2020 just laid bare a lot of things that had been stewing for a long time with things that are wrong with the industry, and, you know, it was a reckoning for a lot of people. You know, for me it's just like I just don't know what else I would do. [LAUGHS] So, I think, you know, being in Bloomington, and being able to have a much tighter knit community that relies on people that live here rather than tourism, and things like that, made it important to make something that served that community, as well as deal with some of the issues that have been prevalent in the industry for a long time. Like, we're coming through the hangover of the celebrity chef movement, and there are a whole generation of people who went to culinary school thinking they could get like a glamorous gig, and be in food and wine, and everything like. When in fact it's a working class gig, you know, like this was a craftsman job, It's like being a carpenter, and so there's now, all of a sudden, a huge, what people are referring to as a labor shortage. It's just people are moving on, and doing other things because there's not the glamor and everything there.
NICK DETRICH: I mean like I was reading a piece on Nancy Hiller, who recently passed, she's a woodworker, and she was talking about the root of the word passion being passio, or suffering. Like, there is a degree of suffering involved in anything that are passionate about, and especially when you're creating something. So, I guess, in a long roundabout way, you know, I think that the restaurant industry is still a vibrant place to be, but I think that I try to make sure that people know what they're committing to when they come to work here. For me it's just working with food, and wine and spirits, and everything like, it's such an interesting and wonderful place to be. I can't imagine doing anything else, which is why, you know, I thought I was getting out of the industry, but it only took about a year for me to get pulled back in.
KAYTE YOUNG: And what about the people who work with you, your staff?
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, well we're not very big so we have a pretty small group of people. I think we have about a dozen all told that work here. Very few of them had much, if any, experience in the restaurant industry before, some here or there. But, you know, I just tried to find people that were very interested, and engaged and excited about what we were trying to do. It was hard when we were hiring because how do you sell someone on something that doesn't exist? You know, I just feel like a snake oil salesman. [LAUGHS] But, you know, I was able to get enough to get off the ground, and we've had a very low rate of turnover since we opened, which is rare in this industry. But it is, like I said, I keep saying it's a craftsman's job, so we pay a high wage, higher than the standard in Bloomington. Education is very important for us, we've sent some of our staff out of town for some events, and to learn a little bit more. We're going to start sending some of our culinary team out to do stages in other cities, basically to work for a week in someone else's kitchen to learn a little bit more, and basically give them the opportunity to further their education, further their career, and hone their craft.
KAYTE YOUNG: The building where Small Favors resides is a small corner spot, across from Bloomingfoods and Hopscotch Coffee's express location. It's where La Vie En Rose used to be and the building is still painted pink on the outside, though they have fully transformed the interior. The kitchen is down a few steps from the dining and bar area and it's long and narrow, like the restaurant. I asked Detrich how the space is working out for him.
NICK DETRICH: I like it a lot. I mean I don't big restaurants. I've had big restaurants in the past and once you exceed, I don't know, 25 employees, it's really hard to take care of your staff at that point. It's also way easier to make smaller numbers work. You know, we're 40 seats, so it's much easier for me to budget and plan and forecast based on 40 seats rather than 120, 150. It also makes us nimble. I don't have to carry a big inventory, so it's very easy to change
the menu as frequently as we do. I love the space too, it's really convenient being across the street from Bloomingfoods. You know, I lived in Bloomington before I moved to New Orleans. I lived mostly on the West Side and I still live over there, so it's like a ten minute walk to get to work every day. You know, we're close to downtown without being downtown, which is nice because it forces people to seek us out a little bit more. If we were on the square and people kind of stumbled in, we'd probably have a lot more difficulties with just trying to convince people about what we're doing, and whether or not it was worthwhile. Here, people hear about us from friends or something like that and kind of know what they're getting into, so it makes our life easier, as far as like greeting, and walking guests through the menu and things like that.
KAYTE YOUNG: Speaking of menu items, it was time to sample the gougères. The pastries were out of the oven and after resting for 15 minutes they were filled with the chicken liver parfait by cutting a hole in the bottom, and inserting the tip of the pastry bag with the parfait inside. It was pretty straightforward, but the results seemed magical. The chef recommended taking a bite of an unfilled one to get that crunch, and then also reaching in to pull out some interior dough. That way you fully experience both textures of the gougères. Toby tried that method.
TOBY: And that's a good tip. It's nice that sometimes when you eat this kind of like cheesy pastry thing it doesn't taste like cheese at all, but this really does.
KAYTE YOUNG: Toby, himself a previous owner and chef of a local restaurant, The Owlery, was familiar with the Kentucky cheese maker, Kenny's Farmhouse where the Gruyère came from.
NICK DETRICH: One dish that I didn't mention actually, that's been on our menu since day one, is our cheese fries. So, they're hand cut, Russet potatoes that we blanch then fry to order, cover with the Kenny's Gruyère, throw them under a salamander to melt the cheese and then serve that with a little bit of garlic aoili and a miso bagna càuda. So, it's like a broken bagna càuda, like the classic Italian crudité dip and we use miso instead of anchovy. We use it a lot on savory dishes for vegans and vegetarians too.
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay, I need to talk for a minute about what I just ate. The pastry is fluffy and light, and yet it has the crunch on the outside, and the flavor's really sharp. It just has that tang. It's so good, and the filling, the parfait, I keep wanting to say pâté, but it's parfait, so it also is very light and smooth. It is somewhat mousse-like, but it's not that airy. But, it's very smooth and the flavors are incredible. I mean so much richness with the chicken liver. It's an unusual flavor because I just don't eat that often, if ever, and then the herbs. That steaming really did work to bring out all of that just kind of savory, herby, of the thyme, and the marjoram, and the shallots.
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, I think thyme is an amazing herb, an amazing ingredient, and it's so often abused, it doesn't take much to kill it or to extract bitter flavors or woody flavors. I think if you can get that ethereal savory, almost like a savory mint, a heavy mint almost, and almost a light rosemary flavor from it, it's delicate and it needs to be treated delicately. Raw it's a little bit much on its own, but like a quick blanch, a quick steam, is great. I don't like it as much for stocks and things like that, I feel like it loses a lot with that long process, but I'll typically throw it in as soon as I kill the heat on a stock before I strain, so it doesn't extract as much woodiness, but just that bright pop. It's like a savory mint kind of vibe to it.
KAYTE YOUNG: Well thank you so much for taking the time today.
NICK DETRICH: Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure.
KAYTE YOUNG: We've been speaking with Nick Detrich of Small Favors. That's all we have time for today. Hopefully we can share our discussion of wine based cocktails in a future episode of Earth Eats. You can find links for some of the ingredients mentioned in the show and for Small Favors on our website, eartheats.org. Thanks for tuning in. We'll see you next time.
DANIELLA RICHARDSON: Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young with help from Eoban Binder, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Abraham Hill, Peyton Whaley, reporters at Harvest Public Media and me, Daniell
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Nick Detrich and everyone at Small Favors.
DANIELLA RICHARDSON: Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from artists at Universal Production Music. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey.