Monday, March 23, 2015

Frankly My Dear…That Was Delicious--Juniper, Rapid City

Accomplished British chef and cookbook author Delia Smith said, “Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed... I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Over the course of the last five years, Rapid City has become a hub in the Black Hills for restaurants producing beautiful food, not only for the eyes, but for the palate as well.  Though the restaurant business is perpetually changing in this area, one personality has remained a constant—Pete Franklin.  His arrival in the Black Hills in 1999 ignited his long and evolving career here.

Franklin arrived in the Black Hills after having worked in restaurants for years.  His initial food service-related job was as a dishwasher when he was fourteen.  This sparked the flame that would become a life-long passion.  His first restaurant here was Mad Mary’s Steakhouse in Spearfish in 2001.  Then he opened the Sunset Grill.  Next was Delmonico Grill in downtown Rapid in 2007.  During this time Pete also opened the new building and concept of Manchegos, also downtown.  In 2012, Pete sold both of these businesses and took a short break. 

However, in 2013 Debbie Michealree of Catered Two Productions and Uncorked in the Canyon Lake area was incredibly busy with her daytime catering business and nighttime restaurant business.  Pete stepped in to cook at Uncorked in the evenings so Debbie could focus on the catering aspect.  Then, the duo decided to split the same kitchen and run their businesses separately but together.  In February of 2014, Debbie focused on catering only, using the kitchen during the day.  Pete’s Juniper became the evening business. 
Juniper at Uncorked...a partnership made in the kitchen.
Running two full-time endeavors out of the same space is challenging at times,  but Pete’s love for the beauty of food and the Canyon Lake neighborhood have made it all worth it.  His goal after reopening in this space is to be ever-evolving while filling the needs of this part of town.  His regular menu is always changing, using seasonal ingredients and flavorful combinations.  Pete also strives for a certain level of consistency in service and food, even if the food options are ever-changing. 

To help reach this goal, Pete recently unveiled his Saturday Prix Fixe menu—a four course meal that is different every Saturday night.  No other menu items are available that evening, just the Prix Fixe.  Wine recommendations are given for these courses, but customers can still choose other options from the wine menu.  This menu is different every Saturday, so no two weekends will be the same. Pete hopes to have these menus posted online two to three weeks in advance so patrons can plan ahead.
Beauty is found in the environment, food, and service of Juniper.
I was fortunate to visit Juniper on the first Saturday of the Prix Fixe option.  It was a wonderful experience all around, from course one to the final sip of our dessert wine.  This evening was proof that Pete Franklin has met all of his goals at Juniper.  The food was beautiful, unique, and amazing, while the service was top notch.  From start to finish, Pete’s years in the hills and his appreciation of food was evident.

Course one:  lobster bisque—this large bowl of soup was filled with flavor, topped with truffle oil, and finished with slight spice.  Our table took the wine recommendation from Server Matthew and paired the soup with the Chateau Marjosse 2013 white Bordeaux.    This was a great pairing.  The wine muted the spicy note while being a nice light wine to start the meal. 
Lobster bisque and white Bordeaux.
Course two:  prosciutto wrapped chicken breast stuffed with Taleggio on top of tomato-olive salad.  This was a light yet filling course.  The combination of the flavorful chicken and spring-like salad was perfect.  We also paired this with Matthew’s recommendation of the Marjosse, the same wine as the first course.  The wine actually seemed sweeter when paired with the savory flavors in the chicken, tomatoes, and olives.  This was another great pairing, yet an interesting demonstration of the same wine going well with two different food options.

Marjosse white Bordeaux and stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast. 
Course three:  herb encrusted pork loin with caramelized apples, fennel, and haricot vert with fresh green beans.  This was paired with another wine endorsed by our server, the Cristom Willamette Valley 2010 Pinot Noir.  (Those of you who know me know how I feel about Oregon and Willamette Valley noirs.)  Another special pairing, the earth, mint, and red fruit of the wine was wonderful with the savory pork and slight sweetness of the apple. 

Cristom Willamette Valley Pinot Noir to pair with the roast pork.
Course four:  caramelize pear in red wine reduction sauce with mascarpone cream.  This dessert was wonderful without being too sweet and rich—a perfect way to end a delicious meal.  I tried this with the last few sips of my Pinot Noir, and really it was a better pairing than one might think.  However, the real pairing and second part of dessert came when the glasses of Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauterne arrived.  It was a nice pairing with the dessert (as a port would have been as well), but the last few drinks of the Sauterne on its own were also incredibly special, like silk in a glass.
Caramelized pear in red wine reduction sauce.
Sauterne--silk in a glass.
 Pete Franklin proves that good food should be enjoyed for its beauty and its flavor.  His many years in the Black Hills have led him to know the area and what his patrons want.  He is not afraid to risk and try new endeavors, as shown with his Prix Fixe menu and the unique idea of sharing a kitchen with another business.  Pete’s goals of an excellent and evolving menu to meet a neighborhood’s needs show he understands the joy of excellent food.  He has definitely had a part in creating Rapid City as the culinary hub of the Black Hills and in increasing the beauty of Black Hills’ cuisine.