Huckleberry’s 9th Street Bistro, located on south Monroe, has been a family favorite since our kids were in grade school. Now that the kids are grown and out of the house, we often have a reunion there — purchasing four bowls of soup (from a daily selection of six) and two bagels to pull apart and dunk in the steaming bowls. Huckleberry’s Natural Market and Bistro opened in 1996 and has been a fixture for organic produce, sustainable practices and excellent home-style deli selections. The gracious eating space is often buzzing with locals enjoying the daily fare and warm conversations.
Huckleberry’s 14-year run has given many local chefs a springboard to create dishes, explore new ingredients and delight customers. Nicholas Marinovich, the current executive chef /manager, holds a lengthy resume — starting with the basics. His restaurant career began in the dish pit at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Nick remembers being seduced by the environment.
“I was fascinated by the busy, fast-paced life a restaurant worker lives … the fiery intensity of the chef so passionate about his food,” he says. “I soon realized food wasn’t just food, it was an art.”
He started to work his way onto “the line” and through the Resort itself, feeding hundreds in banquets, and gleaning creative fine dining skills at Beverly’s. “I have never had formal school training, and was dubbed ‘The Natural,’” he says. Capone’s Pub was his next stop. There he saw food-life on a smaller scale and assisted in their second restaurant opening.
Then Marinovich hired on at Bin 9820 on North Nevada, a short-lived venture in what he calls an “ultra-fine dining concept.”
Although the restaurant turned to a pub/bistro concept and was re-named Stix within a year, it did allow Marinovich to work side by side for four months with Kevin Gillespie, who later became the fan favorite and nearly won 2009’s Top Chef. “His influence on flavor and simple foods sticks with me to this day,” Marinovich says.
Marinovich next worked at Ambrosia Bistro and Wine Bar, where he benefitted from yet another mentor with whom he felt a great culinary connection — executive chef Jeremiah Timmons.
“He taught me so much more than I ever expected there,” says Marinovich. “My time at Ambrosia really fueled me to push the limits of my food and where I could take my career.”
And now he finds himself as the executive chef and bistro manager at Huckleberry’s. “Huck’s is one of my favorite places to shop, and now being able to be a part of this wonderful restaurant and establishment is an honor.”
Marinovich doesn’t plan to stray from the Bistro’s mission of creating great dishes with organic, sustainable ingredients. “Organic doesn’t mean bland, boring food by any means,” he says. “It’s really exciting to be able to participate in an establishment that prides itself on forward-thinking and being environmentally conscious.”
Marinovich does plan to bring food to the table that will remind you of comfort favorites, but with a finesse that makes it elegant. “Being in a deli setting, the food itself has to stand out on its own, and I guarantee my food will indeed speak for itself. I will be changing the menu seasonally, to support local farms — there will always be new ideas and items in the Bistro,” he says.
I asked if he had tips for healthy living. He reflected, “I do not smoke. I firmly believe this is huge factor toward a healthy lifestyle. I choose ingredients that are fresh and in season, and avoid fast foods if possible.” He enjoys working out with his fiancée and his two dogs help him enjoy the South Hill parks. He also is an avid snowboarder. Then with a mischievous grin he says, “I also have a little hobby of getting tattoos, if you can call it a hobby, that is.”
Quinoa Salad with Grilled Mango & Charred Scallion
Chef Marinovich loves using quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) in his salads. Protein- and fiber-rich quinoa is not a true grain, which must come from a grass-like plant, but instead is the seed of the Chenopodium plant. It is used as a grain because of its similar cooking characteristics. Quinoa ranges in color from ivory to pinks, brown to reds, or near black depending on the variety. It has a fluffy consistency and a mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor.
1 cup quinoa, any color
2 English cucumbers
1 large red onion
2 fresh mangos
6 scallions (green onion)
1 bag fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder
1/2 Tablespoon ginger powder
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1/4 cup honey
juice from half an orange
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup olive oil
Bring two cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Cook on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover pan. Allow quinoa to sit, fluffing several times for 10 minutes. Chill quinoa. Dice cucumbers and onions. Grill mangos and scallions on barbecue, or broil in the oven till the onions are crisp and the mango is soft. Cool mango and scallions and dice. Add to quinoa along with cucumbers and onion. Toss with spinach. Dress immediately before serving. (There may be dressing left over.)
Incorporate all ingredients except olive oil into small mixing bowl. Mix together well, then pour in oil very slowly, while mixing, to create an emulsion.
Serves 4 to 6
Tip: Pair the salad with halibut or pork tenderloin, a crisp Chardonnay, or a smooth Pinot Noir.