‘Slow fast food:’ Heartwood creates quick meals with local ingredients
Heartwood, Nevada City’s newest downtown restaurant, is now serving fresh, farm-to-fork salad and grain bowls, open-faced sandwiches, and artisanal tea and coffee drinks on Commercial Street.
Scott Weidert, the majority owner and primary operator of Heartwood, said he’s worked hard to bring the farm-to-fork tradition, which he calls “California cuisine,” to a convenient, friendly Nevada City location, which had its “soft opening” last week.
Heartwood’s grand opening is scheduled for sometime next month, after “the kinks are ironed out,” and a larger menu is unveiled, Weidert said.
Weidert attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco after graduating from Bear River High School in 1994. He’s worked for chefs all over the Bay Area, honing his skills.
Before returning home to Nevada County in 2009, Weidert cooked for Berkeley’s acclaimed Chez Panisse Restaurant, run by chef Alice Waters, who Weidert called a pioneer of California cuisine.
“Working at Chez Panisse was like going to church,” he said.
Weidert explained that even the most seasoned chefs at Chez Panisse would peel the carrots and potatoes for their line, break their own eggs and even scrub the floors. It was true craftsmanship and hard work, he said.
Weidert also worked as a restaurant consultant in the Bay Area, and eventually met Anton Jegorov, who owned Cafe Mekka, the former restaurant in Heartwood’s current location.
Weidert gave Jegorov a few ideas on how to revive the struggling cafe, and eventually agreed to join the team. His role quickly expanded, and he began the process of transforming the place into something that was entirely new — his own vision.
“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this place,” Weidert said.
He officially became the majority owner of the Commercial Street business in November 2016. Jegorov is still a co-owner of the restaurant, along with Steffen Hawkins-Snell, who also owns the FoxHound and the Curly Wolf espresso houses.
Weidert spent eight months renovating and recreating the space. Ultimately, he decided to name the restaurant “Heartwood,” which he said was inspired by his experience building the long, wooden tables, which are made from local Ponderosa Pine trees that were infested by bark beetles, donated to him by a friend.
“The name came one day when I was chiseling away at the center of one of these beams,” he said, pointing to a hand-crafted bench seat. “I had been playing around with different ideas, but that day it felt right — Heartwood.”
Weidert also used the donated wood to build what he calls “the farmstand,” where customers order food and drinks under a massive, overhead wooden structure.
Inside the farmstand, Heartwood’s cooks craft made-to-order bowls while customers follow along, starting with greens and grains and then choosing from the many locally-sourced ingredients to create their own meal. The menu also features open-faced sandwiches and toast on locally-made, artisanal bread. Drinks are made in-house, and include lemonade, coffee and espresso drinks and a wide selection of teas.
Seating arrangements are abundant and varied. A lounge-like setup with cushy booths receives natural light from the front windows. The center of the restaurant features a nearly 30-foot communal table with bench seats, and traditional tables are scattered throughout the restaurant — all hand-crafted by Weidert. Customers can also choose to sit outside at the Commercial Street courtyard, a wooden bench-setup with a few tables underneath hanging plants.
Weidert plans to host community gatherings at Heartwood, like movie screenings projected onto the restaurant’s walls, live music and communal dinners at the long, center table.
The central idea for Heartwood, Weidert said, is to create another place for people to enjoy the local, sustainable food economy. He calls it “slow fast food,” referring to the organic ingredients farmed locally and served quickly.
The flexibility of a menu that changes with the seasons gives him the freedom to operate a dynamic business, and to support the farmers who make his work possible.
“Right now, it’s just the basics — but just wait. We’ll be expanding more and more,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.
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