New Restaurant - Gander and Ryegrass
by Erin Peterson
photos courtesy of Andy LaBolle of West Plains Roasters
Opening a restaurant is no easy task, and Peter Froese is taking on a big job. The former location of the innovative French-inspired restaurant Santé is about to get another huge makeover this year in the form of Froese’s new restaurant - Gander and Ryegrass. Jeremy Hansen, the former owner of the location, called Froese and said, “I’m leaving in 30 days. Do you want my restaurant?”
The answer for him was an easy one. With a kitchen set up nearly exactly to his desired specifications and a prime downtown location, it was a project he was prepared to run with. Though Chef Froese is largely unknown in Spokane to diners, he is no stranger to the scene here. He was hired at Mizuna as a host by Sylvia Fountaine (and now the writer of the exceptionally popular blog Feasting at Home), spending most of his time there as a server. He also worked as a chef at Santé, Latah Bistro under David Blaine, worked with Ethan Stowell in Seattle, and a variety of other restaurants.
He had chosen the restaurant’s name while he envisioned a new restaurant project, and the intent was that the “gander” part of the name would be a nod to the more visually appealing dishes he planned, and “ryegrass”, a nod to the more approachable nature of the food he planned to create. With his current vision and menu ideas, it sure seems to fit that narrative. In trying to ascertain exactly what “category” the cuisine at Gander and Ryegrass fits into, it was tough to nail down the specifics. This is largely because of the overall philosophy that Froese has, which is to serve seasonal, imaginative cuisine.
He did express his affinity for pasta, and after spending time in Florence, he definitely wants to include freshly made pasta dishes on the menu. “The only meal that ever made me feel really emotional was a ravioli dish. It was made with taleggio and ricotta cheese, radicchio, sage and brown butter. The simplicity and expertise of the fresh-made pasta made me take pause,” Froese said.
It’s a part of his repertoire after spending time at what he calls a “real cooking job where I mostly stayed out of the way” through a Gonzaga program that enables students to study abroad and connect with local people. After that experience, he continued to press into that experience to expand the techniques he learned in his travels. “I’m not Italian, but most of my time in Seattle was connected to some kind of Italian food. It’s just a part of how I cook now,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how fancy your restaurant is if you make pasta, because it’s still pasta. It grounds you.”
He mentioned his desire to source as responsibly as possible, and is not only shopping local vendors with intention, but is also already planning what he plants in his garden to align with dishes he wants to cook come spring. He also expressed interest in continuing the legacy of nose-to-tail butchery that Santé was known for, but in his own unique style. Under the restaurant, there is a room specifically designed for these herculean tasks, and he is eager to make use of it.
A recent preview dinner for family and friends was filled with dishes that showed his strength in the kitchen, both with technique, the conceptualization of dishes, and presentation. The photos from this article all come from that meal, where diners gleefully described each dish with a great appreciation for the skill of Chef Froese. He served everything on his grandmother’s set of china, which was an appropriately sentimental choice in such a dynamic project.
You can find the restaurant on Instagram at @gander_and_ryegrass and follow them for updates on their opening date, which should be very soon. In the meantime, we’ll just be peeking through the windows and watching the progress of this beloved spot come to life again with Chef Froese’s unique signature.
You can find Gander and Ryegrass at 404 West Main Avenue, Spokane, WA.