If you come by this blog now and then, you may remember a post from this spring, when I reported on our good fortune in luring Scott MacInnis to cook for us and spend and eveninTg talking about food and the restaurant business in Southeast Michigan. I haven’t had much of a chance to catch up with Scott since then. We see each other at the market once in a while, and we had one botched plan to get together for pizza and ice cream that we had to cancel at the last minute, so I was really pleased when an invitation turned up in my inbox asking us to join him and a group of other interested-in-food folks for a first look at his proposed new restauarant, The Redding, in Chelsea, MI.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a proposed restaurant, but it sounded like a lot of fun. When we arrived, on a dark and chilly Sunday evening, we spotted the place by a small paper sign tacked up above the door and a ladder underneath it, indicating the sign was really brand new. The Redding isn’t even quite a work in progress yet — it’s more in gestation — but both the conversation and the food that evening has me crossing my fingers that the talented and enthusiastic team that’s working on The Redding will get a chance to show us their stuff.
Erik Majcher, Nathaniel Stanton, Aaron Vermeulen and Sandra Vermeulen are the investing partners in The Redding, and they are a team with deep expertise in architecture, real estate development and general contracting, as well as a considerable passion for food and wine. They’ve joined up with Elizabeth Smalley, who will be the brains behind the wine selection, and our friend Scott who will head up the kitchen. The group has a really nice rapport, and their experience and knowledge of the many aspects of restaurant development is very much in evidence. And besides being smart and talented, they were all just plain nice, too.
The Redding is across the street from The Common Grill, directly in front of The Purple Rose Theater and underneath The Chelsea Gallery and The New Chelsea Market.
We spent the first part of the evening prowling around in that “underneath” part, the actual restaurant area, sipping on sparkling wine and eating crostini. At present, The Redding is, well, a basement. A very nice basement, filled with art from the gallery upstairs and clearly a basement with “good bones” (lots of brick and fieldstone) and really great potential, but a basement nevertheless. All the guests enjoyed looking at the illustrations of the plan for the space and trying to visualize the plans in relation to where we were standing. I was wondering, myself, if and how we would be eating down there and if I would have to keep my coat on the whole time (it was a bit basement-ish in temperature too) when we were ushered upstairs to where the gallery had been transformed into a dining room for the evening (special bonus — eat delicious dinner while looking at nice art; pretty cool).
Despite the fact that Scott was cooking under difficult conditions — he had to use a small stove in an empty apartment up above the gallery, and the (very gracious, volunteer) servers had to whisk the hot food across a small alley — he pulled off an elegant and excting four course meal. Each course was accompanied by one of Beth’s intelligent wine pairings. Except for the main course which had two wines (is that a wine tripling?) because of some friendly disagreement among the menu planners. The two wines led to a great and educational discussion about choosing wine to either complement or contrast with your food; news to me, but something I’ve already given some thought to since in menu planning.
And, what you really want to know? The food? Amazing.
The menu, in all its tasty detail is below, but, in sum, there was a creamy romanescu and leek soup, handmade butternut squash tortoloni, beef short ribs in a red wine reduction sauce, and lovely little coffee creameaux to finish. I didn’t know from creameaoux before, so in case you don’t either, don’t feel bad. It was a sort of very dense mousse. Most of the ingredients were sourced locally, and all put together with care and attention to detail. I need to give a special shout-out too, to the coffee. I left my french press behind a long time ago and became an espresso snob, but the special roast from San Rafael, made up in a french press had me swooning (and up a good part of the night because I didn’t know my limits).
The group behind The Redding says they “aim to fill a void in the local market for wine and food enthusiasts” and create a place where patrons are encouraged to explore. They estimate that they’ll be able to open about six months after they actually begin work. They’re in the process of lining up funding now, with an eye toward starting work soon. (First task, lower the floor almost three feet. Eek.) Their web site is not quite complete, but will soon be available at www.theredding.com with more information for both potential investors and interested (and eager) spectators like me. I look forward to these good folks being able to put together the right funding package, their considerable talents and great location and provide us with an interesting and welcome addition to the Southeast Michigan restaurant choices.