Tag Archives: French

Flour Road Paved with Dough

October 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Paul Kulik was a 20-year-old line cook, he knew restaurants would play an integral part of his life; little did he know that he would become a renowned part of Omaha’s culinary history, and one if its innovative executive chefs and restaurateurs.

Adding to his repertoire of restaurants in and around the Old Market, the talented owner of Le Bouillon and Boiler Room teamed up with local bar owner and design expert Ethan Bondelid and graced the public with the May opening of Little Italy’s newest pizza and pasta sensation, Via Farina.

“The appeal of pizza and pasta is very broad. It’s family-friendly, and has a sweet spot for all ages. Pricing our menu accordingly, not being overly pretentious, having fun, and bridging the demographic gap so that it is a place for everyone was important to our success.”

-Paul Kulik

Inspired by living abroad for a year in France during high school, Kulik fell in love with the food-oriented way of European life, the integrity of each course, and the quality of farm-to-table fare.

viafarina1“I had to meander a bit to find my passion,” Kulik confesses of his early adulthood. “But I could not imagine food not being a part of my future.”

A self-described “Francophile,” Kulik has long been obsessed with everything French, but a trip to Italy was the catalyst for his concept of creating an Italian eatery that even an Italian native would appreciate. All of that, he knew, lay in the craftsmanship of the dough.

“The process of making it fresh and of the highest quality is the difference,” says Bondelid, Kulik’s former roommate.

“The appeal of pizza and pasta is very broad. It’s family-friendly, and has a sweet spot for all ages,” explains Kulik. “Pricing our menu accordingly, not being overly pretentious, having fun, and bridging the demographic gap so that it is a place for everyone was important to our success.”

The owners received overwhelming support from the opening day of Via Farina, which translates to “Flour Street” in Italian. Thanks to their impressive collaboration—Kulik’s background in all things food-related and Bondelid’s knowledge of beverages and design—the inviting atmosphere blends an industrial sophistication with an inviting ambiance.

viafarina3The centerpiece of the establishment is their open kitchen’s dramatic wood-fired oven, manufactured in Italy and adorned with Egyptian tile, designed to retain heat. The south wall of the restaurant pictures a giant backdrop sketch of a Vespa’s assembly, modern globe pendant lights hang from the ceiling crisscrossed with natural wood beams, there is a backlit bar, and a DJ spins hits from classic vinyl. Out front is a refreshing patio and a trio of cheery yellow Vespas waiting patiently to deliver gastronomic masterpieces to famished locals. 

The menu features 11 unique pizzas, six pasta dishes, and an authentic selection of Italian appetizers. Patrons can expect to be impressed by the locally sourced meats, cheeses, herbs, and vegetables. The sauces, dough, and pasta are all made in-house using a unique process. Each menu item also features wine recommendations, chosen with Bondelid’s expertise.

“We’ve been very fortunate Via Farina has struck a positive chord with the public,” says Bondelid. Kulik adds, “We want to make sure we continue to accomplish the quality we’ve been providing since our opening. Restaurants are living, breathing things, and you always have to improve and evolve.”

Via Farina welcomes guests on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit goviafarina.com for more information.

Encounter

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Cozily Chic

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the corner of her sunroom in the historic Mercer Hotel on 11th and Howard streets, Bonnie Leonhardt can see another of the six places she’s lived in downtown since 1985. “Houses scare me,” she says by way of explaining her affinity for condo living. “I like having all the people around me. You don’t even have to know them; just having them around is nice.”

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The sunroom is part of a patio she had covered about five years ago. “Now it’s where we spend all our time,” she says, referring to husband Gail and her menagerie consisting of Henri the poodle, and cats Sophie and Xena. “It’s wonderful for fireworks, and my grandkids love it when it rains.”

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The Mercer Hotel condo is one of three downtown places Bonnie and Gail have renovated over the years. They moved in 10 years ago after someone asked if they’d sell their half-block-long condo in the old Howard Street Tavern. “We loved that place; I had no intention of ever selling,” Gail says. “But my wife blurted out this huge figure, and he said okay. I about fell out of my chair.”

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Never fear, the Leonhardts have effortlessly instilled their joie de vivre into their current home. Every square inch of the renovated condo is charmingly utilized. Orchids, amaryllis, and paperwhites color the sunroom, cozy conversation areas pepper the common room, and the white walls and open layout keep the overall feel airy. No decorator is called in, “it’s just me,” Bonnie says, though she confesses that if she brings one more thing into the place, “I’ll be a star on Hoarders.” Chairs in particular are her weakness, as proven by the Louis Ghost chairs around a small dining table by the open kitchen. Gail approves of her selections. In general. “She has good taste in everything but wine,” he says.

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The couple took out the too-tight lighthouse staircase up to the second floor in favor of one with a looser spiral and wider steps. An office, bathroom, and bedroom are sectioned off with their own doors, adding a new level of privacy the previously wide-open loft lacked.

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The main changes to the downstairs are hardwood floors in place of carpeting and losing the galley layout of the kitchen. “I didn’t want to be in the kitchen by myself anymore,” Bonnie says. Now guests can chat with the chef over a simple island—a slab of marble atop a small Bombay chest. The marble is Carrara, she thinks. “I have chemo brain, and it’s just not coming to me.” Bonnie was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in April of 2012, prompting her to retire as a realtor from Pitney Bowes.

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She and Gail, CEO of North Central Rehabilitation, do still entertain a lot, though the gatherings these days are mostly small groups of very close friends. “People come in and say the place looks so European,” Bonnie notes. “French, they say, but I don’t know. Let’s call it Early Junque.”

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The description works only because an air of casual welcome pervades the look of downtown chic. It’s the type of place where you might arrive in Louboutin stilettos only to kick them off in a few minutes because you know it’s all right.

The Corner Creperie

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Derek Olsen pours a careful ladleful of batter onto one of two crêpe griddles, about 16 inches in diameter. Then he lightly spins a sort of crêpe trowel—a wooden dowel T’d with a smaller wooden handle—around and around, until the batter has thinned out across the whole surface.

The crêpe browns to golden in about a minute, at which point he takes a wooden spatula and lifts the crêpe away from the griddle to turn it over. Only 15 to 20 seconds on that side.

In the meantime, he’s been warming the portioned-out filling, which was made from scratch earlier that day. In this case, it’s quark and cheddar cheese, apple and bacon. And it is divine.

Sweet crêpes are served cold. The Citrus has lemon curd, macerated raspberry, and raspberry coulis—a bright tartness that brings some light to a cold and gray day.20130313_bs_9170

Why crêpes?

“It was an idea my wife and I had from traveling—a versatile way to do both desserts and savory items,” Olsen says. Cities in Western Europe as well as larger U.S. cities, like Seattle and San Francisco, all have small, outdoor crêpe stands. It’s a quick and easy street food. “Our idea was to bring the crêpe stand indoors—keep it very easy, in and out, but put a roof over its head.”

This makes it an ideal breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack for people on the go, such as the faculty, staff, and students of Creighton University. Located at 343 N. 24th St., The Corner Creperie is practically on campus.

As if on cue, a college-aged couple comes in and orders a few crêpes, which they, of course, Instagram before eating.20130313_bs_9190

Certainly the Creperie is not just for Creighton folks. It’s close to Central High School and the Joslyn Art Museum, or worth the drive from any part of town.

In addition to this new restaurant, which opened December 8, Olsen and his wife Doan (Didi) also own The Nail Salon in the Old Market. They’re busy, especially as parents of an infant daughter.

As soon as Didi arrives, she helps some new customers at the register. Derek prepares their crêpes. You can tell that they’re small business owners, ready to do whatever task needs to be done.

And they’re invested in Omaha. It’s even part of their tagline: “Simple. Local. Portable. Delicious.” “We try to source as many items locally as we possibly can,” Olsen says.20130313_bs_9207

Their proteins come from four Nebraska farms. Their coffee beans—they offer almost as many coffee drinks as crêpes—come from A Hill of Beans Coffee Roasters in Omaha. Even the metalwork in their furniture was done by Chris Kemp at the Hot Shops.

The creation of their menu was also a communal effort. The Olsens collaborated with Brian O’Malley, a faculty member at the Metro Culinary Institute. They later added Chase Grove, a recent Metro Culinary grad, to their staff.

Grove helped develop the new menu, which debuted in May. He says they’ll make it refreshing for the summer and try some creative takes on familiar foods. “We’re doing things people will recognize, but do them in a new and surprising way,” Grove says.

The Corner Creperie
343 N. 24th St.
402-955-9577

British Regency, French Chic

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“My favorite thing in life is to read a book and be cozy,” confesses Julie Kenney. So when she is designing a space in her Dundee home, she thinks, “Would I want to sit here and read a book?”

Thus, it is no surprise that one of her most-loved spots in the house is a small chair and robin’s egg “poof,” as she dubs the felted, flower ottoman, tucked by the fireplace in her living room. On cold, rainy days, a crackling fire with cup of tea and engrossing book are the tickets to contentment.20130111_bs_0634 copy

Kenney and her husband bought the Georgian brick 13 years ago. Though the architecture is purely British Regency, her interior decorating is unabashedly French chic. She mixes wood, iron, and upholstered furnishings and is drawn to crystal chandeliers and light fixtures. Silver-framed snapshots capturing family and friends are clustered on a French country side table, and works by local artists Paula Wallace and Dan Boylan hang conventionally on walls and unconventionally from molding and overlapping windows. Kenney would call it “shabby chic,” though even a cursory peek into her foyer would indicate it is more “chic” than “shabby.”20130111_bs_0640 copy

Kenney only fills her home with items she loves, though the space for which they are intended is rarely where they end up. “I buy things because I like them. Then, I find a place for them,” she reveals.

The sideboard in the entry called three other spots home before landing in its present location. But it shouldn’t get too comfortable there; Kenney has a propensity to move smaller pieces of furniture and decorative accents around. It keeps things feeling fresh in her home, she says.

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She also likes to pair investment pieces with inexpensive finds. To wit: the high-back upholstered couch facing the fireplace and the chair kitty-corner to it in the entryway. The couch was a substantial purchase. Its Old World character and metal stud trim caught her eye. But then while perusing the nooks and crannies of McMillan’s Antiques on 50th and Leavenworth (the day the Kenney family moved into the house, no less), she spied her sofa’s black sheep of a step-brother—a slightly banged-up wingback chair very nearly the same color with almost identical bronze-stud trim—and promptly purchased it for a song.

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But that is Kenney’s way. Be open to possibility. Look for fun additions in the most unlikely spots. The crystal chandelier in the dining room is a modern (albeit a good one) replica of a French antique. She made the chairs at the ends of the table her own by reupholstering hand-me-downs from a friend. The hanging light fixtures on either side of the bed in the master bedroom were cast-offs from another friend who thought them “God-awful.” Kenney didn’t. She snatched them up off her friend’s front stoop (literally) like a wide-eyed kid given free rein in a candy shop.

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Whimsy is important to Kenney. Function does not preclude fancy; utilitarian does not mean ugly. After searching for a canister set in vein, Kenney decided to store her dried goods in glass containers. Cluster them on an antique silver tray and you’ve added another layer of interest. The greenery adorning her kitchen light is last Christmas’ mantel decoration. “I use the bay leaves in soups and cooking all year,” Kenney shares.

And the miniature serving platters filled with lemons and limes? They are actually antique silver ash trays. So, yes, they come out at parties still…But to a healthier end this time around.

Small spaces are her favorite. Sometimes, it’s just a nook she has created in a larger room: her reading spot or her children’s computer space, tucked into the corner of her living room and delineated with a bookshelf “wall.”

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Sometimes, it’s an actual room. Guests, she says, gravitate to the butler’s pantry during gatherings, with its Toile paper and dimpled and dented concrete countertops. She is particular to her office space off the master bedroom. The walls are painted black and white stripes—“because I’ve always wanted a black-and-white-striped room”­—and the ceiling is papered. An oversized red, lacquered mirror which was intended for her foyer adds a dramatic pop of color to the room.

Large or small, home for Kenney is where her family gathers. “I would rather be home than anywhere else,” she contently confides.