Since opening in November, Funkalicious Market and Deli in White River Junction has proven to be a welcome addition to the Upper Valley food scene, packing powerful flavors into unique sandwiches, deli meats, and daily specials. Now, Head Chef Kevin Halligan and Sous Chef Dee Sonthikoumanne are taking on fine dining right next door when they open The Chef & Butcher on Friday, July 9th.
“I haven’t cooked dinner in awhile,” Kevin laughs as he prepares test dishes for the new restaurant. “I almost forgot the silverware.”
Sandwiched between Funkalicious and Standard Tattoo Company, The Chef & Butcher is a narrow strip of a restaurant with dark walls and bright artwork by Matthew Denton, purple-veined wooden tables and a small corrugated metal bar. The Chef & Butcher will use meats from the deli, prepared by Tom Rendall, the butcher half of the name, along with locally sourced food, to create continuously changing menus based upon growing seasons and availability. Cocktails and desserts will be featured, as well. Tom, who worked with Kevin in Laconia at Local Provisions and Local Eatery, is now the “Sausage King of the Upper Valley,” at least according to the Funkalicious crew.
Kevin says he has been busy connecting with local farms, making sure ingredients are as local as possible. In Laconia, he was successful getting fresh ingredients from within a 150-mile radius. He would send out emails to the farms, see what they had available, and think up a new menu every two weeks. With The Chef & Butcher, Kevin says he may change the menu weekly, or even daily.
“I’m still doing what I love, and I’m going to do it even better here,” he says. “Everything’s good, unpretentious, approachable, and the best flavors you’ll ever have.”
From the deli countertop, he grabs a notebook filled with his ideas and inspirations for menu items and pairings. For someone who likes to riff in the kitchen like an improvisational jazz artist, Kevin has gone through hundreds of menus in his career, and often doesn’t write them down. He points to his head and says, “Usually it is all up here. I can’t remember my dad’s birthday but I remember recipes.”
“I try to write them down,” he says. “I’ve been getting better at actually recording new recipes after I come up with something.”
On the menu for this test-run night: Miso maple bacon, pickled veggies, and gorgonzola cheese butter lettuce wraps — the biggest debate of the night was whether you should eat these in one or two bites; roasted chicken and poblano taquitos con queso (applewood-smoked cheddar, sharp provolone, and asiago) — smoky gooeyness with a bite of poblano; Chilean sea bass in corn butter sauce and a crab and veggie salad —the fish flaky atop a colorful cornucopia of veggies laced with crustacean; prime porterhouse steak and fries, served on a cutting board with grilled mushrooms, onions, and brussel sprouts; white chocolate cheesecake and peanut butter jelly beignets — decadence and a fun twist. To drink: a white russian with a homemade coffee liqueur.
The star of the evening, the porterhouse steak is “prime, single-source” from Colorado. Though quality meat, Kevin says he hopes that the source changes soon.
“We are getting into local, though,” he adds with a wide grin. “There’s this local guy who raises Charolais — that’s my favorite cow. Best for steak, I believe, besides wagyu. We’re hoping to do a Charolais-wagyu mix, eventually.”
After cutting the steak, he throws them down on a custom-made, wood-fired grill that a next to their flattop. Applewood fed flames sear the marbled meat.
With the new upscale Chef & Butcher, Kevin wants to start a Butcher’s Club, where people for $500 a year get exclusive access to “big dope steaks that have been aged for a long time, or wagyu for example,” along with a branded cutting board, apparel, 10-percent discounts at both restaurants, and other perks.