What would you make if you had a wood-fired oven? Mark Estee’s answer is pretty much anything, and he has designed new menu items and remodeled Liberty Food & Wine Exchange to show off this beautiful addition.
On the night I visited, Reno Moms Blog was given a behind-the-scene look at that oven and a chance to try it out for ourselves, with some help from the professionals. I learned something important: I need to improve my pizza-making skills, and I need to order a lot more of the garlic cream sauce on pizzas when I am at Liberty.
I also learned that they are making almost everything in that oven. The famous Nonni meatballs are made in the oven. So many kinds of roasted veggies are made in that oven. Baked pastas are pulled bubbling from the oven, but so are the burgers, the pita and the pork shank and steaks.
You think Mark is excited about that oven? So is Executive Chef Geoffrey Calliger. When I was there, Chef Geoff left me steal a bite of his duck confit cannoli with green garlic sauce, which was a special of the day. This talented addition to the team is highlighting seasonal ingredients, which can often be seen as part of the nightly pasta, fish and steak specials. I encourage you to try those specials — think roasted salmon and lobster on a bed of asparagus or lamb ravioli with harrisa, fava beans and mushrooms. And you might be lucky enough to try one of his grown-up takes on the pizza pocket.
Let’s take a moment to talk about those pizzas. Pizzas can be made with organic dough fermented for 72 hours as well as gluten-free and vegan crust options. The meaty Joey Pizza features those famous meatballs, house-cured salami and bacon with fresh mozzarella, while the Fun Guy is all about mushrooms, truffle oil, fresh mozzarella, shavings of grana padano and a garlic cream sauce I have been thinking about for weeks. Next time, I am ordering the apple pie featuring the Liberty ham, garlic cream sauce, Fuji apples, caramelized onions, sage, thyme, gruyere. A slice or two with a glass of red wine would be perfect before a movie or a concert at the Pioneer Center.
Ready to try something new? Order the Heirloom Carrots with a hint of cumin and a curry yogurt sauce, or the flatbread with roasted tomato shakshuka, labneh, hummus and dukkha. The dukkha is like the special guest star on the plate. It is a mix of herbs, spices, seeds and nuts that you will want to sprinkle on everything. Polenta comes topped with carnitas, pickled mustard seeds, and leeks. The charcoal beets with honey thyme goat cheese would go well with the one of the many salads on the menu.
Don’t worry, those Liberty favorites are still on the menu — from the DROPP salad and fondue to the caramel bundino that we always seem to have room for at the end of the night. Look to Micah and his team for craft cocktails — from perfect-for-the-patio Elder Collins or Bermudian Rose to the late night Sweet Foggy Peet.
One of the things I have always liked about Liberty is how welcoming it is in a casual and classy sort of way. The remodel builds on this vibe, with new lighting and updates in the dining room, and when the weather cooperates, the patio will be open for lunches, dinners, drinks and brunch. Can I just add that they make a wood-fired pancake for brunch that is served with dulce de leche? I’ll repeat that dulce de leche part, just in case you missed it. I wonder if you can just plan a day around Liberty: Start in the late morning with brunch, grab some of those wood-fired veggies as a snack midday, and then come back for pasta that night. Just thinking out loud here.
Liberty makes it easy to plan a date night or even a family night for Reno Moms. It is as simple as checking their Facebook page. Need some one-on-one time? On Thursdays, they have a special menu with sharable courses and a carafe of wine for two; or you can drop in for pasta night on Tuesdays. Family dinner also is covered with a series of family-friendly pizza nights benefiting Urban Roots. Check out the Facebook page for ongoing events and special dates.
Liberty Food & Wine Exchange 100 N. Sierra St. Reno, NV 89501
Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m
Bar: Sunday – Thursday until 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday until 11 p.m.