It's been seven and a half years since Adrianne Calvo first opened Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Bar and much has changed, both in terms of her culinary development and the industry.
"When I opened we had a similar menu to the one we have now where everything was farm-to-table, organic, and locally sourced produce or grass-fed beef," says the chef. "Everyone told me I was crazy."
Farm-to-table wasn't a trend seven years ago. Neither was eating grass-fed beef or locally sourced ingredients. Americans were way more naïve then when it came to food, and while we still have much distance to go, many improvements have been made. "I was 22 and people thought I was young and had no idea what I was doing. 'This poor girl,' they would say."
A year after Adrianne's opened, the economy crashed. Yet Calvo kept her cool and her prices high. "Guests thought it was an outrage that I was charging $38 for a steak." But that grass-fed piece of meat was coming from a ranch in California. "They just weren't ready then."
Fast-forward to today. The chef has her third cookbook coming out next month and is cooking up a storm at her tucked away treasure in a Hammocks strip mall every single night. Her menu is a culmination of all the greatest hits of the past seven years and, as she creates new things daily, some stick. So the menu continues to change."Everything on the menu now was once a special and got a hundred percent positive response."
And don't even think about asking servers for a recommendation because they're not allowed to answer that question. "Our mantra is to ask diners what they're in the mood for, and guide them that way but never to recommend one thing because everything on the menu is what everyone has loved."
Dining in the Dark, the monthly event that started locally here, continues to be integral to the anatomy of the restaurant, selling out within 24 hours of posting on social media. Diners eat blindfolded and are guided by their servers. It's a feast for the senses, so long as you're good with getting a little dirty.
Although once upon a time no one appreciated her sourcing from Paradise Farms, Calvo still buys there. "Now people ask for those things. We've seen a total 360." Every weekend, she visits either the farmer's market in Sunset or heads down to Homestead, which isn't all that far from the restaurant, to pick produce for the week.
"Now it's a trend. I've never been one to follow trends, but I do this cause I believe in it." Going against the grain was something she learned during her three-month tenure with Thomas Keller in Napa Valley, which is where the theme for Adrianne's was born. "Thomas forever changed the way I see food. He taught me to never compromise the quality of your food or your vision."
She does neither. As a matter of fact, Calvo doesn't mind that she gets 100 e-mails a week complaining about the wine list and its lack of boutique wines. "My vision is to relive wine country. I remember going to Napa Valley when I was 19 and I couldn't even drink, yet I fell in love with this whole idea of enjoying a meal with a nice wine that doesn't break your wallet. That was the idea when we opened and it continues today."
In the kitchen, it's just Adrianne, her sous chef, and her mom helping her decorate plates. It's impressive how two people manage to turn out such perfectly executed dishes for a dining room full of patrons eager to cut into a 24-hour braised prime beef short rib from Harris Ranch in California that she's been serving since opening. In a way, it's almost as if nothing has changed, although everything has.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha
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