Okay, kids, time for a vocab quiz: Who knows what “terroir” means? No, it is not, as a friend claimed credulously, the French word for “terror.” Terroir refers to the ways in which a product, most often wine, expresses in its flavors, aromas and overall character the spirit of the place from which it comes.
I didn’t, for example, care much for Scotch whiskey until I tried it in Scotland. There, where I could smell the damp air, walk on the heathered hillsides, meet the Scottish people—only then did I finally “get” Scotch. It tastes like Scotland.
With wine it’s a little different. In this case, “terroir” refers to the ways in which the rainfall, sunlight, altitude and soil work together to create grapes with certain characteristics. It’s what makes Bordeaux cabernet sauvignons different in California or South America: same grape, different styles and different terroir.
Timothy Payne and Melissa Newell chose this term as the name for their new Longmont eatery because they “wish for the community, land, and region around us to affect our food and the ambience created within (our) restaurant.” This means Main Street has a welcome addition to the burgeoning list of those committed to the local, seasonal and organic.
And Terroir’s menu delivers, smattered with the names of local producers like Haystack Mountain Goat Creamery. On the night of our visit, Chef Payne was featuring spring favorites asparagus and snap peas, and we bit left and right.
After settling in with a Gordon’s on draft (a transcendent double IPA from Oskar Blues) and a rich glass of pinot from Argentina’s Alamos label, we eagerly selected our first course from Terroir’s selection of small plates and salads. The ultra-tasty Jumbo Sea Scallop and Corn Cake ($8) was the first and best dish we tried. The enormous but delicate mollusk, seared perfectly, sat atop a housemade sweet-n-spicy corn cake, shoestring jicama and slices of blood orange. Texture, aroma, flavor: This dish was a killer.
The arugula salad ($8), meanwhile, was no slouch. Featuring snappy asparagus, delicious queso de mano cheese, and truffle oil (O, thank you, Great Provider, for the truffle!), the salad was the very definition of “seasonal.” The Polenta Fries ($7), served with lemon aioli, rounded out the trio capably, though the chipotle component was a shade too subtle.
Entrées were joyful—in their selection of ingredients, flavors and presentation. The Black Bean Stuffed Peppers ($16), served with housemade angel hair pasta and delightfully un-messed with snap peas, gave prominence to its creamy sweet corn and black bean filling. The Duck Breast ($25), meanwhile, was succulently pan roasted and served with fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus and a beggar’s purse filled with duck confit and apple. With a drizzle of pan jus to bring it all together, the plate was magnificent. Our final stanza of vanilla crème brulee, which we spotted on the way in and couldn’t resist despite being full, was superb.
We were hosted graciously, though we were perplexed by the table chosen for us, which, despite the fact that the room was more than half empty, placed us in close proximity to the bus buckets, bathrooms and garish fluorescent light spilling from the kitchen. This didn’t take away from our lovely evening, but it was an odd blip.
Regardless, Terroir is executing its mission. Much like Niwot’s Colterra and Louisville’s Empire, it brings the fancy and the tasty while staying true to its community.
Huh. Sounds like a trend.
Terroir New American Cuisine
246 Main Street, Longmont
Bottom line: A true destination. Go.