Chef Jeremy Nolen swears he’s not a dessert person. But his pastry chef wife knows better.
“He’ll say he doesn’t like dessert, but he comes home late at night and he’ll have his dessert snack,” says Jessica Nolen, who works alongside her husband at the new Whetstone Tavern in Queen Village. “When I was practicing the peanut butter chocolate cake at home, he took a bite — and I could tell he didn’t want to let me know he was really excited about it.”
The Whetstone team is known for Brauhaus Schmitz, nearby on South Street. But the new restaurant is a departure from the German cuisine Jeremy creates at Brauhaus, with more of a classic American tavern menu. Jessica designed her nostalgic dessert list to complement the savory side. (The couple has been complementing each other in the kitchen since they met in 2007 working in the former Coquette, in the same space as Whetstone.)
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She’ll soon be making the pastries and bread for both Whetstone and Brauhaus from her upcoming Little Bird Bakery and Café, at 517 S. Fifth St., a block away from Whetstone. It’s slated to open in October.
You and Jeremy have been working together for a while now. Does collaborating always go smoothly?
It’s all I know! I was really young when we started working together — it was my first chef job. Jeremy guided me, he had been [a chef] for a long time and he’s incredibly talented. Now I consult with him, we discuss things, but he trusts me to get the job done.
Do you guys have a similar approach to cooking?
We do, it’s really seamless. We have a similar style so it works really well: Non-pretentious, good food that looks nice on the plate.
How does the rustic, casual feel of Whetstone come across in the dessert menu?
It’s the same type of feeling. We took things that people can relate too — Jeremy did it with his part of the menu and I reflected that in the dessert menu. We have apple pie — everyone loves apple pie. It’s nostalgic. Lemon meringue. Strawberry rhubarb. The only thing I put in the desert menu that isn’t a familiar dish to people is a maple custard pie. It’s like a maple syrup custard baked in a sugar cookie crust. But still, the maple flavor hits into that nostalgic aspect.
Are you planning to change the dessert menu seasonally?
We’ll see what people really love. That’s what we did at Brauhaus — there were some things we were like, “OK, we cannot take this off the menu, ever.” But we’ll change it as we move from the warm months to the winter months. And then we’ll have people excited when we bring something back.
So what’s the best dessert on the menu? What should everyone order?
That’s so tough! The maple pie, it’s not a typical thing you’ll see everywhere, everyone should try that. But I can never stop eating the lemon meringue cheesecake. I’m like, “oh no, I cut this piece wrong! I should probably just eat it.”