If your stomach growls at the thought of naan bread, chicken tikka masala, and butternut squash and lentil samosas, you’re in luck. Spice, Truckee’s first Indian restaurant, will open its doors on Nov. 15 and add some spice to Tahoe cuisine. Opened by Pour House owners Christa Finn and Dean Schaecher, Spice will combine slow and fast food, serving Indian cuisine that is affordable, made completely from scratch, and sourced as locally as possible.
The couple, along with Chef Carl Simoneau, completely transformed the former KFC, located in the Crossroads Shopping Center, into their new restaurant, and there isn’t a trace of fried chicken left. When the “For Sale” sign went up in KFC last spring, Finn immediately began negotiations with the corporation. Finn, Schaecher, and Simoneau had been discussing opening an Indian restaurant for years, and after a few unsuccessful attempts to make it happen at other properties in town (due to budget or space issues), this time the cards were in their favor. They received ownership of the restaurant in September, and the Spice team has spent the past two months prepping for opening day.
“We’ve basically been cleaning and repairing, just small stuff,” Finn explained. After ordering additional kitchen equipment, sewing curtains, and bringing in local mural artist Sara Smith to add some Indian-themed painting to the walls, Spice is now a reality.
“We’re trying to bring slow food to fast food,” said Schaecher. “We want to have a place that’s easy and accessible to everybody. And it’s healthy and it’s fast and it’s convenient.”
They will buy locally grown produce (as much as possible) and cook everything from scratch, all while keeping costs down for the customers; Finn hopes that people can get fed for under $10. Plus they’ve designed the menu to appeal to both Indian food novices and picky children.
Simoneau — who is a classically trained French chef — traveled to India a few years back and returned to the states with a collection of cookbooks and an insatiable desire to experiment with Indian cuisine. “I loved their food,” he said. “It was flavorful — not really necessarily burning hot, had lots of spices, and I just loved it.” With a résumé that includes cooking at restaurants in France, Switzerland, and the Resort at Squaw Creek — where, in 1992, he met Schaecher, the restaurant manager at the time — Simoneau prefers to make everything, including the five different breads Spice will serve, from scratch.
One staple of Indian cuisine is curry, and Simoneau grinds his own curries, which are blends of around seven different spices. In addition to his yellow curry, Simoneau also created a special smoked curry with smoked chilies, a super spicy red curry, and a lamb curry that is cardamom-based and works well with lamb and in his chickpea and lentil stew.
As owners of two businesses in town, it makes sense that a bit of the Pour House, their wine bar, is making its way into Spice, and vice versa. Spice will serve beers and wines chosen specifically to work with the menu’s flavors. “The wine that will go the best with this food, it’s not a big California cab, it’s going to be wines that people may be less familiar with,” Finn explained, like Riesling and Gewürztraminer (the prefix Gewürz translates to spice). “Whites will certainly play a larger role in pairing with the spiciness and the complexity and the subtlety of some of the flavors in our foods.” Additionally, the Pour House will sell à la carte items, like prepackaged naan breads and ground curries.
“This is an inexpensive fast food restaurant with a real chef behind the wheel,” Finn said. “What Spice is all about is flavor and freshness, and something different.”
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