When you think of Springfield Missouri you might think of the home of Bass Pro Shops, Springfield Cardinals, BBQ and where a Chinese Buffet is on every street corner. Well Springfield is starting to make a change with its eclectic food scene. We have Farmers Gastropub ran by Chef Andy Hampshire, that buys as much local as he can get his hands on. We have Chef Drake Tillman that is bringing new concepts to our area with pop up dinners, pop up restaurants, and even his own Brick and Mortar “Elkhart and The Robberson”. Chef Drake is also about to launch “Margot” located inside the Artisan’s Oven on Commercial Street. It will be a seasonal menu that will change weekly and be based upon what is the best at that time of year. Caleb Strangroom is doing some amazing stuff at “The Order” Downtown inside Hotel Vandivort. We also have access to amazing local farms in the area and fun artisans to buy products.
There are a hand full of other Chef’s in the area that are taking the quality of ingredients into their own hands. I commend these chef’s and feel that the era is upon us, to actually put the ingredient first, then make a dish around it. So many times a restaurant will demand to have the same dishes year around, and that may seem impossible for an artisan that wants only the best. When you want the best, that means the best is in limited supply most of the time. Fresh fish has seasons, local produce has seasons, even goats take a beer break and stop producing milk at least once a year.
So to say the least, these chefs are hand carving a path, that has not been dug before in Springfield Missouri. Many have failed trying to bring this concept to the area and only the strong survive. The concept of buying local when possible, the concept of having a delicious simple drink at the bar like a daiquiri. How many of you have ever tasted a true daiquiri? I have been all over the world and had my first true daiquiri in Springfield Missouri by the master of mixology Dylan Fox co owner of Hepcat. A real daiquiri is Rum, Fresh Lime Juice, & Simple Syrup. It is so simple, yet so divine! Thank you Dylan, I will forever be in your debt, and you carved a memory that will be long to be lost. For a recipe of a classic daiquiri CLICK HERE
So we see that Springfield is making Progress on the food scene but did you know there is actually a restaurant called “Progress”??? Let me tell you the cool aspects of how this came to be about. This was a group of 3, a team that was devised out of pure passion for what they do. You have “Jersey” Michael Schmitz who is the drink master. Seriously when I order with this Jedi Warrior of Cocktails I tell him my mood. Then he tells me what I want to drink and makes it. For instance, I might tell him I have had a long work week, I want something strong, but not too sweet but I want a hint of liveliness in the drink. One other bit of information, Michael has never let me down. I remember the very first time I told him how I felt, he made me a Smokey Mezcal Manhattan. Who does that? That takes a set of brass you know what, but it was divine! Over the top heavenly with splash of everything that is good. This magician of flavors, spice and everything nice Michael can pair my drinks at any gathering, any meal, any time!
Now onto the front of the house and the lady that makes the flow, flow. Cassidy Rollins is the smiling face you will see when you walk into the doors of Progress. I will admit I have seen Michael take a day off, I have seen Chef take a day off, but Cassidy has been there every time I have dined. She is a work-a-holic and it shows in the gracefulness of how the floor is ran. She has always accommodated me even though I bring my 18 month old daughter and never made me feel unwelcome. Even when Chef or Michael can’t make it over to say hello, Cassidy is not only there, she is asking what else can they do to make the stay more pleasant. Not only does she say the words, she means it and you can feel it in her tone. Thank you Cassidy for always making my family and myself feel so at home at your establishment. When we did my wife’s surprise 30th birthday you accommodated over 20 guests and with ease. You have made memories that will last a life time for me as well as so many in our area, thank you from all of us!
18 years old, living in Australia in a house with 10 other people and they didn’t know how to cook. So Chef Daniel Ernce steps up the the plate and knew from then on he wanted to cook and learn more. Later he did an internship at 108, a Michelin-starred restaurant. This was a twist of chef Rene Redzepi’s temple to Nordic cuisine, Noma. I am sure this was a game changer for Chef Ernce and the things he would come back home with in his culinary arsenal. Expressing himself through pop up dinners in the Springfield area, he found himself cooking for Tim O’Reilly, the CEO of O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC. That was a big deal, and now had lead to the birth of the trendy restaurant Progress with their rooftop bar Reverie right above them.
This trio is a power house in the culinary scene and are doing amazing things in Springfield. Today after Church we went to Brunch and had some mind blowing snacks! I will be honest and let you know I came for the dessert I saw floating around on social media and everything else was just cherries on top, luxardo cherries actually. I am taking a phrase off social media to describe this dessert: A great chef once said ‘a dessert must be worth its calories’ and this one is! Kyle’s brownies stacked with The Coffee Ethic espresso semifreddo ice cream, brown butter caramel, toasted pecans and a maraschino cherry.
Actually it was two Luxardo Cherries, the original Maraschino and they were superb! As you were biting into this dessert all the trumpets of heaven were sounding at once and you get lost in each layer. You almost have to take 3 different bites of this dessert to get the full elevation of what the chef is trying to express. The Coffee Ethic Semifreddo was literally to rob a bank for! Then you get the perfectly cooked Brownie with this decedent Brown Butter Caramel Sauce and toasted Pecan Crumbles. To just strut his stuff Kyle topped it with Two Luxardo Cherries to just take a swing for a grand slam! Thank you Kyle for this creation, you rocked my world today!
The top two things on my list today was the “Kyle’s Brownie Stack” and “The Hendricks Feature” which has Hendricks Seasonal Gin, Grapefruit Liqueur, Cucumber, Lime, Grapefruit Oil, and garnished with a sugared rim and a dried grapefruit. This cocktail literally made me feel like a firework show of good flavors and perfect ratios of everything mentioned above. It was literally perfect! From the first sip, I had to close my eyes and drift off to paradise, like I was standing on an ocean pier watching the fireworks in the distance with breeze upon my face like non other, please if you like Gin, get here and order this cocktail before it is off the menu.
We also had the Donut Holes $5 which were fried in house, dusted with Sugar and served with Nutella. It was almost Beignet-Like and I loved it! Then you got to dunk it in a big vat of nutella, and don’t act like we all don’t need an excuse to dunk in some nutella??? They came out hot, and crunchy with a doughy center. Next time I might order some milk with this dish, that would go perfect! And I am sure Jersey could pair an alcoholic mixer that would set your world on fire!
Now onto the main course of this tasty brunch, the Progress Hot-Brown that started off with a cast iron skillet. At the bottom of this food sculpture was a toasted sliced bread that was toasted perfectly and for just the right amount of time. It did not get soggy even though it was covered in gravy. Which leads us to the next ingredient, smoked chicken. It was nice and simple, yet well seasoned. Then that was topped with scratch gravy that was delicious. Big chunks of sausage and the gravy was perfect in consistency. Then that was topped with a local Edgwood Cheddar Cheese and house made Newman Farm Bacon Bits. This dish was way over the top, and I will say normally I don’t like a smothered bowl, but this reins supreme over any smothered bowl I have ever had. You could taste all of the flavors and nothing got lost. I will say the acidity of the cocktail helped part the seas of flavor, so final verdict. You will have request Jersey to come to the table and do a paring with your Progress Hot-Brown.
I can safely say that every time I have come to dine at Progress it has been and experience and I truly appreciate that about this team. So anyways, when your experience is over you must head to the south west corner of the restaurant, for those of you that are not good with directions look to the right of the hosting station and you will see the big sign that says “Progress”. You must get a picture, don’t worry, the person at the station will notice and offer to take a picture for you. Then you do a big smile and recommend to all you friends on social media to try this place as well. Thank you team Progress, for being apart of the change here in Springfield and truly being apart of the progress.
by Chef/Food Blogger Paul Allen (remember to subscribe for more reviews and food adventures to come)