Backwards and forwards
Tolon goes forth with small, local concept
It’s been seven years in the making, but this February’s opening of Tolon, the new farm-to-fork restaurant at The Landing, has been greeted ecstatically by Fort Wayne-area foodies. Chef Matthew Nolot (“Tolon” is Nolot spelled backwards) and his wife Nicky have brought a new focus on fresh ingredients prepared in unique ways to the downtown dining scene.
Nolot, late of Eddie Merlot’s, Catablu and Orchard Ridge Country Club, is an award-winning chef who finds inspiration in his ingredients. He’s a two-time champion of the Garland International Shellfish Challenge, the first and only American chef to win the $10,000 prize.
“The more I learn about food, the simpler I try to treat things,” he said. “I need to stop myself and see what I can do with” the ingredients themselves, rather than covering up their flavors with complex sauces and spices.
Nolot enjoys breaking dishes down to their separate parts, resulting in things like a deconstructed carrot cake and a deviled egg that is a work of art, something your grandmother wouldn’t recognize but would probably love.
The menu will change four times a year, with the seasons, and the Nolots aim to get their ingredients from producers as close to Fort Wayne as possible. They have contracted with Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange for their pork and chicken, Maple Leaf Farms in Leesburg for duck, and Fischer Farms in Jasper and Hawkins Farms in North Manchester for beef and other proteins. Vegetables come by way of Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, and from Berry Hill Farms and Get Fresh Farms in Fort Wayne. Other items that can’t be purchased locally are sourced from the most sustainable producers the Nolots can find, Nicky said.
“That’s how I was raised,” said Nicky, who grew up on a small working farm. “We and our children eat this way at home.”
That small, local concept extends to the bar program, Nicky said. “We really try to make our (spirits and wines) list unique, with small but still well-known wineries,” she said.
“We’re trying to give the small businesses a chance to shine,” Matt said.
That means craft beers on tap from breweries in Michigan and Indiana and distilled spirits from artisan distillers in Indiana and Kentucky. The craft cocktails are unique, funny and inventive. The Nolots shared their “June’s Sidecar” recipe with Fort Wayne Magazine this month, and it’s delish.
While the bar program is excellent, it’s the food that really shines, and it’s clear that every detail counts. One example: the butternut squash soup from the winter menu. It comes in a spaceship-like plate that has a dollop of something weird and interesting at the bottom, which you find out is onion jam, and is garnished with crispy sage leaves and the most delicious croutons you’ve ever had (yes, even the croutons are excellent). The orangey soup is poured expertly over the onion jam, allowing the croutons and sage to float to the top. A spoonful of that soup mixed with the jam is enough to send your tastebuds into gustatory orbit. It’s sweet, savory and creamy, and it has just enough squash flavor to make it sing.
Then there are the hamburgers. You wouldn’t think that the lowly hamburger could be elevated to haute cuisine, but in Nolot’s hands, the burger becomes a celebration of everything meat that’s treated properly can be. The beef is juicy and flavorful and not overworked, with just enough char to bring out that tantalizing aroma and flavor of roasted meat.
Save room for dessert, because the creativity continues there. The goat cheese ice cream is garnished with micro-cilantro leaves and is fresh and creamy and very, very interesting. The pot de creme is drizzled with local maple syrup and sprinkled with sea salt and is accompanied by popcorn brittle, and it’s just terrific.
614 S. Harrison St.
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Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday and dinner on Saturday
Specialties: Eclectic American fare based on the farm-to-fork ethos, backed by a unique craft spirits program.
Tolon’s June’s Sidecar
Make as many as you want
1 ounce St. George Citrus vodka
1 ounce St. George raspberry liqueur
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce homemade honey syrup
Shake ingredients over ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel that’s been expressed over the cocktail.
First appeared in the June 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.