Some chefs are purely artists, their major concern the subtleties of flavors expressed in the dishes they prepare.
David Touvell is as creative in the kitchen as almost any of them — but he is a businessman first.
A year ago, when the longtime local chef and owner of Chow, on Bend's west side, cast an eye down Brookswood Avenue, he saw a rapidly growing neighborhood with an utter lack of restaurants.
Located south of the Old Mill District near Deschutes River Woods, Brookswood Meadow Plaza is at the heart of a suburban community which, according to Touvell, has 18,000 residents within a three-mile radius.
That's what the entrepreneur's demographic research told him — and that made it an ideal place to open a restaurant.
“I know that every neighborhood can support its own businesses,” he said. “And I saw the growth potential here as higher than NorthWest Crossing.”
Thus was born Local Slice in late April of this year.
'Flavor is more alive'
Local Slice is a pizza parlor that places an emphasis on locally produced ingredients. Cheeses and meats come from area farms, vegetables from organic gardens in Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley, and many producers are acknowledged by name. The menu can be expected to change as produce comes in or goes out of season.
“Flavor is more alive when the food is in season,” Touvell said.
“But more than that, our approach is an educated response to the economy and to what people eat. If we don't support our local producers, the world from a food perspective will collapse,” Touvell added.
Touvell, whose cooking background ranges from fine French cuisine to sushi, had never ventured into pizza before. But he considered it a good fit for the local market.
“Everybody loves pizza,” he said. “My goal is to offer a family-friendly alternative.”
The menu at Local Slice is decidedly nontraditional. Choices like “Fire on the Mountain” (spicy red chili, roasted peppers, red onions and fennel sausage) and “Breakfast for Dinner” (farmers' bacon, ham and farm fresh eggs, sunny-side up), both on a foundation of mozzarella and tomato pomodoro sauce, already are attracting many repeat orders.
In the everyday hands of general manager Mike Dupras, Local Slice “is doing double and triple what we had expected, in terms of sales,” Touvell said. “Everybody is kind of losing their mind over it.”
Local Slice isn't a big restaurant. It seats only about two dozen indoors, at a handful of tables and a built-in counter of lacquered pine. Cutting-edge art by local painter Jesse Lockwood and 8 1/2-by-11 testimonials by schoolchildren adorn the walls.
Diners order as they walk in the door, selecting from a large blackboard menu that stands next to the open kitchen, and just behind the local draft-beer taps. This features weekly specials along with the regular printed menu.
After a couple of recent multiple-order visits — one bruschetta, three pizzas, two calzones and three salads — these are some of my Local Slice favorites:
The classic bruschetta was one of the best I've had anywhere. That may have been because the lemon-basil pesto with crushed garlic and olive oil had been made seconds before it was served. A generous topping of tomatoes, red onion and Cada Dia Farms cheddar was the beneficiary of the pesto.
My favorite of three pizzas was one called “The Woodsman.” Fresh wild arugula, marinated porcini mushrooms and Walla Walla sweet onions topped a layer of mozzarella cheese drizzled with a roasted-garlic cream sauce.
The “Nanny Goat” may have gone overboard with caprine ingredients. As goat has a strong flavor, I don't think I would have put Sand Lily Farms goat sausage and Juniper Grove Farms goat cheese on the same pizza. Tomatoes, fennel and pesto finished the pie.
“Da Big Kahuna” was Local Slice's version of a Hawaiian or “hula lula” pizza. A teenaged friend, who prefers more traditional styles of pizza, was not impressed. Ham and pineapple on mozzarella and pomodoro tomatoes was great, he said, but he could have done without the roasted red and green peppers, and certainly without the jalapeno peppers.
Calzones and salads
Calzones might be called oversized pizza pockets. Ingredients are baked entirely inside of the dough, rather than being spread on top.
I enjoy Mediterranean cuisine, but I did not love the vegetarian “Greek Freak” calzone, a recent weekly special. I don't know why, but I wonder if placing both feta cheese and herbed ricotta in the same pocket was not complementary. Spinach, red onions, Kalamata olives and roasted bell peppers worked fine with the tomato sauce.
I preferred my friend's “Ranch Hand” calzone. This one was better suited for the meat lover, with farm-fresh bacon and ground beef from the DD Ranch. It also contained Walla Walla sweet onions, Cada Dia cheddar cheese and that roasted-garlic cream sauce.
Of three salads, I was most impressed by the “Farmer's Market Salad.” Local field greens — arugula, spinach and radicchio among them — were topped with a variety of freshly roasted vegetables, including zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, shallots, roasted garlic and tomatoes. The salad was finished with feta cheese crumbles and a balsamic vinaigrette.
A Caesar salad of freshly chopped romaine featured a generous squeeze of lemon and a notable addition of anchovy paste, along with roasted garlic cloves and crostinis. “Jardin's Garden,” named for Touvell's daughter Jardin, was a simple salad of fresh greens, tomato, red onion, croutons and a dressing of choice.
Jardin will be 2 years old next month, just about the time that her parents welcome a second child to the Touvell family. But that's a whole different business.
Chef Caryl Hosler, formerly of Jen's Garden and Thyme, opened The Porch in Sisters with her sons, Jon Hosler and David Elliott. Serving comfort food with an international flair in a late-1940s residence, The Porch began serving dinners on July 6. It emphasizes a range of shared plates, from quinoa-stuffed sweet peppers ($6) to a hearty Greek lamb-and-bison moussaka ($11). The restaurant has a full bar and a modestly priced list of international wines. Dinner 5 p.m. to close. 243 N. Elm St., Sisters; 541-549-3287.