Eric Nittolo, Chef at Traverse City's Boathouse Restaurant, took an interesting road to becoming a chef. Originally an analytical biochemist, then owner and saucier at Carp River Trading Company for nine years before graduating from Great Lakes Culinary Institute with honors in May 2008 and cutting loose in the kitchen at the Boathouse Restaurant on Old Mission Peninsula. We chatted with him about sauces, crab cakes and feeding his seven kids.
Because of my pure love of fruit, almost every dish that we serve has a fruit component. Red haven peaches and Dover sole go unbelievably together. We deglaze the pan with peach puree and Bowers Harbor Blanc de Blanc. By the time we get into July tart cherries, I do cherry gastriques. Huckleberry gastrique is my absolute favorite sauce on the planet—when you hit it with a little bit of raspberry vinegar your knees knock. My affinity for acid makes my food very bright tasting.
To me there’s nothing special about crab cakes—I grew up in New Jersey and caught my own crabs all the time. I wanted to take it up a new level. Our lobster cake is just tail meat. I didn’t want that heavy remoulade, so I made a truffle vanilla crème fraîche. Then a traditional dessert crème brûlée with sweet corn pureed in it—it’s like the most amazing creamed corn you’ve ever tasted. We brûlée it and put the lobster cake on top, then for on top of the cake, sauté up a half dozen crawfish tails.
Lamb racks, bulgar wheat pilaf. I don’t like mashed potatoes. To me, potatoes are good one way: fried, as in the classic French steak frites. I’d rather pair protein with a wonderful textured grain, like quinoa pilaf with basil and dried apricots.
Taste Nittolo's bright and beautiful cuisine in a nautical, harbor-side setting from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at 14039 Peninsula Drive, Traverse City, 231-223-4030.