It didn’t take long for Rolf & Daughters to be discovered. As locals spread the word among their circles about this fabulous local eatery, Bon Appetit featured Rolf & Daughters as its #3 best new restaurant of 2013. After that, the secret was out. Since the restaurant opened in 2012, diners have been captivated by the care that chef and owner Philip Krajeck puts into pasta making, for which the restaurant is renowned. Now, as fresh pasta is being rolled at Rolf & Daughters, pizza dough is firing in the oven across town at Folk, the new East Nashville eatery Krajeck opened in mid-April.
“The commonality is the ethics and motivation behind the sourcing of ingredients,” Krajeck says of the two restaurants of which he is both chef and owner. Stylistically, there are parallels — the food is bright, with a seasonal approach. On paper, the ingredients seem simple. Radish, butter, sea lettuce. Tomato, mozzarella, basil, parmesan. Royal red shrimp, Old Bay, lemon. On the plate, the ingredients are transformed into something more complex than anything we could have imagined. “There are a lot of things that go into the process, even if it comes off simple,” he explains. “Rolf and Daughters is more modern, more progressive, more contemporary in the way we construct dishes. Folk is more classic cooking, with a little more of a classic European influence.”
When conceptualizing Folk, Krajeck asked himself what space he wanted to be in and what food he loved making and eating — because those things are intertwined. “I want to create a restaurant that is as appealing to as many people as possible. We are here for everybody.” The space he chose to be in is a former A&P grocery store in East Nashville’s McFerrin Park. “I love being a part of restoring old spaces and doing creative things with them,” he shares. The bar and dining room offer a combined 108 seats, not many more than Rolf & Daughters. That is where the similarities between the spaces end. Warmed by exposed red brick, wood planked ceilings and wood floors, Rolf & Daughters is cozy. With white-washed brick, an abundance of plants, cool colors and soaring ceilings, Folk is bright.
We snagged our seats next to the expansive wall of windows, with views of the open kitchen. Discussion of the interior design, including art by Alex Lockwood and Paul Collins, lasted long enough for the first cocktail to arrive: Midnight at the Roxy, a refreshing combination of vodka, Aperol, ginger, blood orange, lemon and soda. Simple ingredients transformed. As we sipped, the knowledgeable waiter walked us through the menu — from snacks, seafood and meat to vegetables, big plates and pizzas. “The menu is pretty straightforward in how it is laid out,” Krajeck says. “Try a little bit from each section, and share everything.”
We decided the beginning was a very good place to start, and thus ordered coppa and radishes — a hard decision as the olives came highly recommended. And as anyone who has dined at Rolf & Daughters knows, the sourdough is life changing. The house-cured meat showcases Krajeck’s abilities in butchery while the radishes exhibit creativity. Familiar with (and a fan of) the French snack of radishes served with butter and salt, I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. Silly me. The radishes are spritzed with sauvignon blanc and served with a butter and mascarpone blend and flakes of sea salt.
Next, we tackled the seafood, meat and vegetables. The waiter wisely steered us away from the mussel escabeche on toast and beef fillet on pizza dough, as he knew we needed to save room for pizza. So from the seafood and meat section, we opted for blue crab with agretti, spring garlic, bottarga and breadcrumbs. Truthfully, it was the agretti that sold us. Agretti is an Italian vegetable we were first introduced to on Rolf & Daughters’ menu. Hard to come by, a pound of the vegetable at New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket will cost you close to $40. Krajeck worked with local farmers to bring the crop to Tennessee. “We have incredible local farmers who produce the majority of vegetables for the restaurant,” he explains. The art piece in the bar area is dedicated to one of these farms, Rocky Glade Farms. “We are nothing without good ingredients,” Krajeck continues. “You can’t make good food with substandard ingredients. The farmers make life so much easier by bringing us the best ingredients and working with us to figure out new and interesting things we can work with.”
The quality of ingredients continued to shine in the vegetable section. Another tough choice had to be made. We landed on the sugar snap peas with kohlrabi, celtuce, pistachio and feta. Salty, thanks to the feta and pistachios, and refreshing, thanks to the crisp vegetables, this dish was a true treat.
We regretfully declined the “big plates.” Although the mention of pork Milanese, lamb meatballs and dry-aged Bear Creek NY strip was enough to make our mouths water, we made our way straight to the pizza section. Head baker Michael Matson, the man responsible for the life-changing sourdough, creates a flavorful crust — surprising, as the ingredient list is only three ingredients long. Salt, water and freshly milled regional flour. The dough is naturally leavened, and with 50% whole wheat, it is easier for the body to digest. “It is infinitely more challenging to produce on a consistent basis, because it is a living, breathing thing that always changes,” Krajeck explains.
The crust is the basis for everything from tomato, mozzarella, basil and parmesan to clam, bonito, lemon, chili and agretti. The latter is a combination inspired by a clam pizza at the now-closed Franny’s in Brooklyn. “This is my homage to their clam pizza, plus a bit of our perspective,” Krajeck says. Clams are steamed in wine with aromatics (thyme, basil, parsley, garlic, onion), then strained and shucked. Cream and lemon are added to the leftover liquid (at this point, too salty and briny), and this becomes a sauce for the pizza. “The pizza is fairly minimal,” Krajeck tells us (and we politely disagree). “The clam cream, which is briny and intense, is lightly brushed over the crust, then we add clams and garlic agretti, which is naturally salty. The pizza is fired for 90 seconds and there is a violent transformation of things from raw to cooked.” The pizza is then topped with chili oil, thinly shaved bonito (tuna) and lemon for a fresh acidity that makes it pop. Simple, right?
There are two notable options for getting your greens while eating pizza. The kale pizza, with herb pesto, mozzarella, Coppinger reserve and Calabrian chili was a crowd pleaser. A bite from the center will melt in your mouth, thanks to the sizable sprinkling of cheese. The crispy crust gives a variance of textures, and the kale and chili oil add flavor. Altogether, the ingredients create a cascade of flavors that come together beautifully. And just when we thought Krajeck couldn’t take any more simple ingredients and marry them in an unexpected and delightful way, he did. Charred, blistered crust and lightly dressed spring Misticanza and briny, buttery cerignola olives are a combination we never knew we needed to try. Easy to mistake this pizza for a salad, a generous serving of lettuce brightens the pizza in a welcomed way.
Although Folk is much more than a pizza place, it is a place that does pizza properly.
The plate of radishes appeared and disappeared before we could dissect the flavor combinations. Hands moved so quickly to snag the last bite of blue crab, the first slice of pizza and seconds of the sugar snap peas. Unclear which hands belonged to which body, we proceeded with calculated caution, plotting our next attack. All is fair in love and food, especially at Folk.
Please note that the menu changes regularly. These dishes may no longer be available, but we have no doubt you will love everything they have to offer.
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