Heartwood Provisions has been over a year in the making. At the center of this new concept are pairings that unite the bar and kitchen. We sat down with Beverage Director Amanda Reed and Chef Varin Keokitvon to learn about the inspiration behind Heartwood’s menu, and to get a sneak peek of what’s to come.
Varin Keokitvon: For me, the menu has been inspired by our Seattle location, seasonality, my heritage, and personal travels.
The Pacific Northwest is a magical place with a bounty of produce, seafood, game, fish, meat, and foraged items to work with. In turn, this allows us to create dishes we love to eat and share them with our guests. It is also our responsibility to support our local markets. And, cooking with the seasons also challenges us to become better and more innovative.
As for heritage, I was born in Laos but raised in Seattle. Growing up in a Laotian household I was lucky to be exposed to many types of Southeast Asian cuisine. And while I griped as a kid about helping in the kitchen, I truly appreciate what it left me. My memories include wonderful flavors of grandma’s kaffir lime sausage and her ginger pesto; my mom’s pig feet stew with eggs and her Vietnamese crepes. Chefs worldwide may be drawn to Asian flavors for their freshness, but for me these flavors are also nostalgic, and you’ll see their reflection on the menu.
Travel has also been inspirational. In 2011 I was one of 22 chefs to win an ICEX culinary prize from the Spanish government, which allowed me to spend nine months in Spain studying and cooking. As we mentioned in the December story, during my time in Spain I fell in love with gin and tonics, calcots, jamon Iberico de bellota, and so much more. I hope to be able to showcase some of those flavors at Heartwood, even if it is mostly for my own indulgence.
America is a hodgepodge of so many different cultures, peoples, and places… being able to incorporate many experiences into a dish is enriching. In the end, we want to make great food, serve it with a beautifully balanced cocktail, and inspire conversation.
Amanda Reed: I began my bartending career in 2005 while in college in San Francisco. It was around this time that fresh-ingredient cocktails were becoming the norm throughout the city. The craft cocktail movement has come a long way since then; the emergence of new products, techniques, and literature in the hands of passionate individuals has elevated the bar experience in cocktail bars and restaurants around the country. At this point, it can feel impossible to come up with an original concept, so when Josh Anderson—Heartwood’s Director of Operations—sought me out to partner with Varin in creating a cocktail pairing focused menu. I was excited for the challenge. Pairing cocktails with food is not new, but the style and execution of our pairings and presenting them at the forefront of our concept, is truly unique.
I believe it is important for the beverage program of a restaurant to reflect the style of the food, décor and overall vibe of the place. So in creating my menus, I have tried to use ingredients and products that are in line with the concept at large. Given our location in downtown Seattle, our proximity to a Pike Place Market, and our emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, there will be a high concentration of Washington products on the menu. Since the my pairings incorporate a lot of wine products (i.e. vermouth, late harvests and fortifieds), you will see these ingredients show up in specialty the cocktail menu as well. In the end, my focus has been to experiment with old and new ideas, while expressing Northwest personality and it’s seasons.
While Amanda and Varin are still putting the finishing touches on the menu, expect to see some of their offerings listed here when our doors open tonight on February 8, 2016.