By: Derek Beaven – Staff Writer
Danville’s own V the Market has always been known for its wide variety of bourbons, whiskeys, and beers. But now, the business is adding food to the list of things that it does so well.
“We have many wines and beers that are fine and wonderful on their own,” V the Market owner Mary Robin Spoonamore said, “but oftentimes when food is added, the experience of eating and drinking can be elevated and take on new dimensions. The food was our missing piece, but we realized it needed to be ‘wine-bar food.’”
The menu was specifically designed to pair well with various wines and beers, so Spoonamore created the menu with certain “templates.” There are seven such templates that include wine and beer snacks, salads, soups, haute grilled cheese, sandwiches or biscuits, noodles, and cheese and charcuterie plates. Each plate is designed to pair well with a drink from the bar. Items that can be found on the menu include Pacific Rim Chili made with peppers, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, hoisin, and brisket; a Tillamook Cheddar and Curry Mayo sandwich topped with pickled currants, apple, and parsley salad; and a Linguine with Salsa Verde, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Spoonamore prides herself on using local ingredients in her cocktail. The menu is no exception.
“We needed dishes that paired well with wine and beer and then we wanted our shtick to be ‘simple, seasonal, high-quality ingredients,’ particularly [among the] cheeses and cured meats, and unique flavor combinations with as much fresh produce, fresh sauces, and herbs as possible,” Spoonamore said. “Also, our sauces are fresh. We make our own mayo, pestos, salsa verdes, tomato sauces, vinaigrettes and [we] do some pickling, too.”
While the template of the menu remains constant, the items on the menu do change, allowing for a variety of tastes and combinations. Spoonamore bases her menu choices on either the popularity of the dish or on her own “intuition.”
“Soups change weekly and some of the other items change according to popularity. The salads change at least twice a month. Grilled cheese paninis have been a hit lately, so we need to let them run their course,” Spoonamore said. “I often think of the business as riding a sailboat. When we try one thing and it doesn’t work, it’s time to lean the other way. Listening to consumers has been most valuable.”
Spoonamore’s interest and experience in food and wine culture began at an early age. In her 20’s she worked in New Orleans as a server and became “immersed in the food and wine culture.” Since returning to Kentucky, Spoonamore has continued to read and research various food and drink outlets, drawing inspiration from New Orleans and New York.
“I read almost exclusively newspapers, magazines, books, etc. about food and drink. Our main newspaper subscription is to the New York Times and so I do read a lot about what’s going on [in the city],” she said. “I like to read about what people are doing in the bigger cities [and] oftentimes I can modify their ideas and improve something we’re doing.”
Of course, with hard work comes challenge.
And there have been a few. Spoonamore cited the smallness of the kitchen as something they had to “figure out” in order to create the best food and dining experience possible.
“Our biggest challenge is [first] figuring out how to make the kitchen serve us best so that six plates can be served hot at once, and secondly, how to raise the degree of organization to achieve maximum efficiency. So we have restraints as far as our kitchen [such as] what appliances we use and the size of the workspace, but that is our challenge,” she said. “People that see our kitchen say it’s not big enough, but I read about a wonderful restaurant today that was described as the size of a ‘broom closet,’ with a kitchen the ‘size of the backseat of a mini-Cooper.’ It all depends on perspective and how smartly we can work with what we have.”
The kitchen cannot be too big of a hindrance, however, as V the Market has managed to produce an outstanding menu for all tastes.
“We are not culinary school-trained chefs,” Spoonamore said, “but I don’t think we have to be as we aren’t aiming toward fine dining. We aim toward interesting, satisfying dining. What comes naturally is caring about food — the way it is prepared, presented and tastes. I feel confident we can find good recipes for which we can source quality ingredients. The skill comes in preparing it consistently.”