Grey’s Anatomy

Another foodie paradise up and running smoothly at Midtown Crossing

Journalists are supposed to be unbiased. Most writers, at their best, do as well as they can to stay neutral, too. That being said, I knew I would like The Grey Plume before I even saw the sign go up last December outside its home on 31st and Farnam. I know its chef/owner Clayton Chapman professionally. I interviewed him for a profile several years ago when he was the executive chef at Spencer’s For Steaks and Chops, and I run into him periodically around town, mostly at foodie events. He is always pleasant, and frankly, he’s just plain cute. Actually, dreamy is the right word, with his wavy blond locks, permanent smile and soft voice. So I confess, I knew I would have plenty of good things to say about The Grey Plume well before I visited. But even without Chapman’s good looks and charm, there’s a lot to be said about the restaurant, starting with its green initiative. The restaurant has been named the greenest in the country by the Green Restaurant Association, which awards points for sustainability in construction, recycling programs, initiatives to limit waste and energy consumption. The Grey Plume has the most points in the country. Environmental impact was taken into account in what seems like all aspects of the restaurant, from its beautiful floors, which were salvaged from a barn, to its composting and recycling programs, to its emphasis on locally-sourced food. The restaurant’s menu changes a little every day depending on what it can get from area farmers and other suppliers. “Anything we cook is as seasonal as possible,” says Chapman. “Right now it’s a lot of root vegetables: beets, parsnips, turnips. We’re definitely looking forward to spring and the sprouting, greens and peas.” Carrot soup garnished with red carrots, black walnuts and truffles led the first course list for lunch and dinner on a recent visit. The puree of vegetable went down smoothly sweet with a delightful crunch from the walnuts. At dinner the soup was $9 and at lunch a bowl is $7, and a very small cup is $4. As of right now, the pork belly option is still on the menu. When I was there the meat, something akin to bacon in flavor yet meatier in texture, came fully loaded with a coffee sauce puree; grapefruit and its sweetened peel represented a deep balance of flavors and textures. The contrast of sweet, sour, savory and bitter is just my favorite thing in a dish, and it was all over The Grey Plume’s menu. There was a heavy emphasis on citrus garnishes the January evening I visited, with bearss lime accompanying my lamb (which cost $27), meyer lemons with the trout ($25), tangerine with the bison ($27) and cara cara orange (whatever that is) with the red beet agnoletti pasta ($21). My plate of lamb came with spears of butternut squash over creamy apple sauce, roasted parsnips (maybe my new favorite vegetable) held up the medium-rare lamb that I was practically dying over. The Grey Plume’s baker/pastry chef makes bread early in the morning, and the restaurant makes its own butter from buttermilk, which lends a fantastic crème-fraiche sourness to the creamy pad. Chapman takes on brewing his own coffee for the restaurant, which I was skeptical of at first — how could this twenty-something be this good at everything? But he is. Lunch is, as Chapman says, more comfort- food -driven. There are sandwiches and small plates of pasta. Pulled pork was the highlight at lunch with house-made barbecue sauce and garlic aioli served with roasted potatoes ($11). “This has always been the goal,” says Chapman. “It’s been the dream that when we did open this would be the type of restaurant we would open. We wanted to open a fine dining restaurant without pretension.” Service was a little sluggish on my visit at dinner, but the wait staff was friendly and helpful. I was greeted warmly by the host at the front and sat on a bench watching the bartender and and, behind him, the kitchen staff, which has a view of the bar area. The bar area is cozy and clean and the rest of the restaurant is almost too clean. I feel the same with the local Delice European Bakery across the street. The new Midtown Crossing development is still so shiny and new. I just want these great restaurants with great stories to have a home that has a story as well. No one has spilled on the floor of The Grey Plume, no one has fallen in love there, there hasn’t been a fire or a blow-out fight like you know has happened at any given downtown and midtown building at some point in its past. But that will take time. The Grey Plume, located at 31st and Farnam, is open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday noon-4 p.m. Visit thegreyplume.com or call 763.4447 for more information.

posted at 07:18 pm
on Wednesday, February 02nd, 2011

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