POUR Kitchen & Bar
By Janice Binkert | Sept. 22, 2018
Fancy a creatively crafted cocktail or a fine glass of wine in sophisticated, yet unpretentious surroundings? Longing for exciting New American cuisine, reinterpreted to bring you a melting pot of global flavors? What if you could have both at the same place, right here in Northern Michigan? You’re in luck, because that’s just what Pour Kitchen & Bar is serving up, in a beautifully renovated historic building right in the middle of charming downtown Petoskey.
Entering Pour Kitchen & Bar, the first thing that strikes you is the warm, eclectic mix of old and new materials and styles, of cozy seating areas and soaring ceilings. Then your eyes are drawn to a horizontal wall of draft taps — 60 to be exact, about a third of which dispense wine by the glass, in addition to pre-batched cocktails and beer — and a vertical “library wall” (complete with a library ladder) of just about any spirit you could wish for, backlit for dramatic effect. Should this perhaps be called a bar & kitchen, you may wonder, instead of the other way around? No, as one look at the menu will reveal, the kitchen here deserves its top billing.
Presiding over operations at Pour is general manager and sommelier Todd Chinnock, a native of neighboring Harbor Springs, who started working in the hospitality industry in his teens, then later in college, and eventually around the world. “I’ve been interested in wine since my early twenties, when I took a wine vacation with my parents to South America,” said Chinnock. His pursuit of accreditation from the Court of Master Sommeliers began a few years after that. He eventually earned his Level 1 and Level 2 certifications, and is scheduled to take the Level 3 exam in 2019.
UPPING THE FOOD ANTE
Chinnock had just taken a job as a sommelier in Ann Arbor in early 2016 and was home visiting family when an acquaintance mentioned a job opportunity with a new wine bar that was about to open in Petoskey. “I didn’t take it too seriously,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wine bar – they probably don’t know what they’re doing, and it’s not really something I would be interested in.’I applied anyway, but almost didn’t go to the interview. In the end, I did, though, and when I met the owners, David Meikle and Steve Steffes, and they pitched their concept, I could see that they were very serious about it. At the time, it was pretty progressive and sophisticated for Petoskey — there was nothing like it here — so I was excited to come on board.” The trio opened Pour in August 2016.
“The initial concept was primarily the beverage program, and the food was kind of an afterthought,” said Chinnock. “It was mostly cold line items. The kitchen was very limited in terms of equipment and space — it was definitely not set up to be a full-service restaurant. The owners’ main focus was to expose people to new experiences and a new appreciation of fine wines and craft cocktails, which was a great idea, but it very quickly became clear that that wasn’t going to be a sustainable business plan in this market, at least not 12 months a year.”
Luckily, a new chef came in and really pushed the creative envelope with the food program. “He definitely laid the groundwork for what we’re doing now,” said Chinnock. “He convinced the ownership that they needed to invest heavily in more special equipment in the kitchen to be able put out a more ambitious and adventurous menu. It was a very extensive endeavor, but it has proven its worth again and again. He left on very good terms, and now Chef Colin Campbell has taken up where he left off. Our menu today is completely his own, and the food absolutely drives the business. There is a whole lot of technique behind almost every dish, and that’s what our kitchen staff prides itself on. For example, the BBQ pork belly that shows up in several items on the menu is a five-day process: cured in house, pressed and braised. The amount of passion that goes into our food program – and our beverage program – is very real. We really care about what we’re doing here. You have to be a little daring sometimes. Of course, it’s all relative. It wouldn’t really be considered that adventurous if you were, say, in New York.”
Pour has not forgotten its original wine and cocktail bar, concept however. Chinnock maintains a broad, carefully curated rotating list of 52 wines, and everything is available by the glass (on tap or poured) and by the bottle. And while wine is definitely Chinnock’s specialty, he is also very much into food. “You can’t really be in love with wine without being in love with food – they are meant to go together,” he said. “With a wine education, they really educate the palate, so my understanding of balance and taste goes into the culinary arena, too. And I’m the lucky one who gets to try new dishes first when Chef Colin first makes them.”
Pour’s menu, which incorporates seasonal changes three times a year (the fall version comes out in October), is as eclectic as it is straightforward. A good helping of exotic spices and condiments marry with familiar ingredients to create exciting new tastes. And in keeping with the importance of wine here, suggested pairings are included on the menu for everything from appetizers to desserts.
You might want to start out with the multicultural Tuna Poke Nachos (wonton, pickled avocado, ponzu, wakame, mango slaw, sesame seed and pickled jalapeno) or Bao Tacos (Korean BBQ pork belly, cucumber kimchi, miso mayo and fresh herbs on steamed bao buns with a side of ginger-scallion dipping sauce). Or perhaps you are a sushi fan. The highlights here are the Tuna Tataki (house sriracha, miso mayo, ponzu and avocado) or the Striped Bass (Korean BBQ, scallion, pickled ginger and miso mayo). “Those two are nigiri-style sushi (a mound of vinegared rice topped with a slice of raw fish), which use only the highest-quality cuts of fish. In this case, it’s Bluefin toro – the best tuna we can get – and Baja striped bass,” Chinnock explained.
His personal favorite among the entrées on the menu is the Ricotta Cavatelli (hand-rolled pasta, cudighi sausage, oyster and shiitake mushroom, Parmigiano Reggiano, chives and cured egg yolk). That exotic-sounding sausage, which contains sweet spices like cinnamon and cardamom, originated in Italy, but is now a staple in the Upper Peninsula, where both the chef and sous chef of Pour went to culinary school.
If you’re a meat-and-potatoes lover, you could branch out and try a really unique and different take on that standard fare: the cast iron-seared Hanger Steak (with ginger-scallion sauce, roasted potatoes and spicy buttermilk). What makes the buttermilk spicy? A Chinese condiment called “chili crisp.” Chinnock’s assessment of the dish: “Fantastic. It’s all so earthy and full of umami — the flavors are really pronounced.”
Other intriguing entrée choices include prized Hudson Canyon Scallops (pan seared, with BBQ pork belly, blistered shishito peppers, sea beans, beech mushrooms, ponzu and dashi broth), Lamb Tagine (braised lamb sirloin from Sweet Grass Farms in Pickford, Turkish apricots, chickpeas, ras al hanout Moroccan spices, naan, couscous, cilantro and mint), and Ethiopian Roasted Vegetables (lentils, berbere-spiced local parsnips, carrots, fingerling potatoes, house garlic hummus, pea shoots, grapefruit segments and pistachios). The latter is noted on the menu as a vegan dish, but Chinnock said it is equally popular with non-vegans.
Sous chef March Sorrell, who is of Russian descent, is responsible for one of Pour’s signature desserts, Russian Honey Cake, inspired by a family recipe that dates back five generations. The menu description simply notes that it is served with fruit compote, giving no hint as to the work of art that comes to the table.
“We want to offer something new and different to our guests, and our staff is committed to making them feel comfortable, encouraging them to ask questions about our cuisine and beverages,” said Chinnock. “That personal connection is a big thing that we try to cultivate. The culture of Pour is not pretentious at all. One of the goals we have had from the start is to make fine wines, cocktails and food accessible and approachable.”
Pour Kitchen & Bar is located at 422 East Mitchell St. in Petoskey, (231) 881-9800. Open six days a week starting at 5pm (closed Sundays). Happy hour is daily from 5pm to 6 pm and a late-night menu is available on Friday and Saturdays from 10pm to 11 pm. pourpetoskey.com. $$
BACK TO (WINE) SCHOOL
Chinnock hosts a wine class series at Pour from November through April, focusing on specific growing regions of the world. “We taste five different wines every time, concentrating on classic styles that have typicity to a certain area,” said Chinnock. “We also serve a bit of light food that pairs well with the wines. It’s casual and fun, but also educational. It was kind of a slow start last year, but there has already been growing interest in it this year.” Check the Pour website for more information.
Pour puts a lot of emphasis on its cocktail program, which goes far beyond those that are offered on tap. Perusing the extensive craft cocktail list, you’ll encounter tongue ticklers like Tiki Torture (Zaya 12 rum infused with cacao nibs, coconut syrup, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, fresh lime, pineapple, ancho chile and chipotle pepper), Darryl Strawberry (red sangria, pineapple, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, mint, lime and a house spirit infusion) and Duck Fat Sazerac (rye infused with duck fat, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe rinse and lemon peel), making it quite obvious that the players behind the bar are no rookies to the game. “They are true mixologists,” said Chinnock. “They have a ton of experience and are very knowledgeable.”