EatDrinkJax with John Allen Harrett of The Fringe CafeSeptember 8, 2013 1 comment Print Article
Talking about The Fringe Eatery with John Allen Harrett, the brainchild behind Murray Hill's steampunk fusion cafe.
11. If someone is coming to The Fringe for the first time, what would you recommend they try to get a sense of what your food is all about?
The teriyaki chicken salad is really fantastic. It's probably one of the most popular dishes too. It's the salad I got from my experience at Boomtown. It's Spring mixed greens with balsamic vinegar, Japanese soy, sesame oil, peanut oil, minced garlic and diced apricot. It's a very flavorful salad with a salty, sweet kick from the diced apricot, the balsamic vinegar and the soy. The sesame kind of mellows it out as well. I serve it with Roma tomatoes and fruit on the side. Then I do a teriyaki glaze on a boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in strips and I lay that on the side.
I also do a salmon salad, which is a Cajun blackened salmon on that same salad as the teriyaki chicken, with a lime, cilantro finish.
Those are very healthy and tasty and can give you a very good sense of one of our full flavor menu items.
On the more hearty side I've taken the classic quesadilla and done what I call the country quesadilla, which is chicken breast chunked with cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce and grilled onions in a quesadilla. I serve it with a green pesto and sour cream dipping sauce, and it is remarkable. It's our most popular item - people really love it. Because everything is made to order, I'll often pop my head around the corner and ask people if they want to try this or that on their quesadilla. Last night I did a sun dried tomato with the green pesto and then a mozzarella cheese with chicken and black olives - I guess you could call that the Mediterranean quesadilla. I think people actually like the quesadillas better than the wraps.
I have a couple of vegetarians that come in because they know I'll create something that is unique and vegetarian, or vegan - and tasty. I also have tofu so that people can substitute that for their chicken.
12. Are there things you've tried that have proven much more popular than you imagined they would?
Everyone who tries the sundered tomato alfredo flipped out over that. Our biggest selling soup is the beer cheese soup. I go through 2 pots of that everyday.
…what is beer cheese soup?
It's exactly what it says. You start with a full bodied, domestic beer and you reduce it down with stock and garlic and you add some seasoning, some cheese and bring it to a simmer. It's basically a bowl of cheese with a tinge of hops. It has a nice kick to it.
13. What's your favorite item?
I love doing the alfredos. I have a classic garlic alfredo, a coconut curry alfredo, a coffee alfredo, a sun dried tomato alfredo and a pesto alfredo.
…what's the coffee alfredo?
It's literally a classic garlic alfredo with some Cajun seasoning and a shot of espresso. It has a beefy, stroganoff flavor to it. It's really good.
14. Do you oversee everything in the kitchen?
15. What's your culinary background?
I've never gone to culinary school. Boomtown is the most that I've had hands-on in the kitchen. That was 5 years of running a dinner theatre. And at that time I spent the majority of my time at the front of the house, not in the kitchen. But understanding the food and being able to step in for prep or to help in a pinch gave me a lot of experience. And growing up I worked at restaurants as a waiter. I was also a co-GM for Schlotzsky's Deli in Tallahassee. I started baking bread for them and worked my way up to manager. I didn't go to school for much of what I do. I have a mind that can see a process with the different elements involved and then re-create it. There's no new thing under the sun. I'm not one of those people who will claim proprietary creation of a menu item. For most things I pick up recipes from people or from what I hear, then I add my own tweak or nuance to it.