1000 Delta Ave.
Chef Julie Francis is the epitome of locavore – her Mount Lookout restaurant, Nectar, is the place to go to sample the best of the local food chain. She is perhaps the area chef most committed to buying from local farmers and uses a variety of cooking techniques to bring out the best of the tri-state's locally raised ingredients.
Because Nectar grooves in harmony with the seasons, Chef Francis’ ever-changing menu will be different from the one we had on the evening we visited, but vegetarians can rest safe in the knowledge that there is always at least one vegetarian appetizer and meat-free entrée on the list.
Rather than dine in the sparse modern dining room, which gets noisy when filled, we opted to sit at a table in the peaceful courtyard and enjoy the summer evening with glasses of sparkling wine.
The Mediterranean Meze was the big winner in the appetizer lottery. Containing house-made falafel, chipotle hummus, feta, spicy harissa, garlic yogurt and pickled vegetables, it was worth every dime of the $12.50 asking price. The chipotle hummus was possibly the best I have ever had. Smokey and sexy, it was the Greta Garbo of hummus. I thought the falafel was a bit too crispy though - they reminded me of overbrowned hushpuppies.
Steve’s dandelion greens salad was a hit or miss appetizer. He found the greens to be on the bitter side, but liked the strong marriage of beets, blue cheese, bacon and apple, finished off with fresh sherry vinaigrette.
The vegetarian entrée on the night we were there was layered ravioli. Roasted heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, Swiss chard, and chevre basil-corn sauce were served enveloped between layers of house-made red chili pasta. It was much more robust than perhaps I naively anticipated, and I ended up leaving a little of it so that I could leave room for one of Nectar’s famous desserts.
Steve chose the Turner Farm pork belly with German potato salad, local chard, and blackberry compote, and was underwhelmed, to say the least. At $22.50, it was one of the most expensive items on the menu and wasn’t nearly as tender as it should have been, and he had to cut out a fair amount of gristle. He reckoned he would have been better off with the beef sirloin from Indian Hill’s Green Acres farm, which our friend ordered. It came with Southwestern succotash and roasted poblano peppers with goat cheese tucked inside a tamale, served with red chile sauce. The menu also offered wild salmon with black rice cake, a vegetable stirfry and coconut curry sauce. Either option would have been better than the failed pork belly.
Although I only managed a photo of my dessert, all of the sweets we sampled were heavenly. Be sure to leave room.
Nectar uses ingredients from the following local producers: Sallie Ransohoff, Shady Grove Farm, Thistlehair Farm, Walnut Ridge Acres, Farm Beach Bethel, Turner Farm, Greenacres Foundation, Fishback Farm, Maple Grove Farm in Lebanon and Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese. Chef-owned restaurants that take the utmost care in choosing ingredients and suppliers usually aren't cheap, and Nectar is no different, but it's a fantastic way to explore the local bounty.