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Hard Rock's Main + Abbey brings plenty of gobble-gobble to a five-course Turkey Day feast

Hard Rock's Main + Abbey brings plenty of gobble-gobble to a five-course Turkey Day feast

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Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

Kelly Bunkers, chef de cuisine at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant, flambes green beans, a side dish to the restaurant's bone in spiral ham.. The restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.

When Hard Rock Hotel + Casino Chef de Cuisine Kelly Bunkers thinks of past Thanksgivings, he recalls the holidays spent with cousins at his grandmother's westside Sioux City home.

Of course, he also remembers the food.

Specifically, Bunkers' thoughts are drawn to the succulent turkey dinners and the traditional slice - or two -- of pumpkin pie that finish off such a feast.

Fast forward a few decades and see what he has in store for Main + Abbey's Thanksgiving Prix Fixe menu.

Simply put, this five-course, Turkey Day feast ain't no trip to Grandma's house!

Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

Kelly Bunkers, chef de cuisine at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant, holds a M+A turkey dinner, left, and carved bone in spiral ham. The restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.

THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH A ROCK & ROLL ATTITUDE!

"Actually, Main + Abbey's Thanksgiving menu takes what is traditional and elevates it," Bunkers explained. "Or we go in another direction by adding items you'd ordinarily never see at Thanksgiving."

In other words, he wants to be a bit of a rock and roll renegade when it comes to holiday fine dining. 

"Yeah, you could say that," Bunkers said while offering a sneak peek at the Nov. 26 menu. 

FIVE-COURSE TURKEY DAY FEAST WITH PLENTY O' GOBBLE-GOBBLE! 

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., M+A guests will be gobbling up an "Amuse Bouche" bounty that includes appetizers like deviled eggs (complete with avocado, feta and bagel seasoning) and mini tarts topped with a cranberry compote and baked brie.

For appetizers, guests can choose from such options as a Bavarian soft pretzel, crispy flatbread and stuffed mushrooms. For the next course, you can choose either a crispy Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad, a baby beet salad or a butternut squash soup. 

Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

Kelly Bunkers, chef de cuisine at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant, is shown with a selection of items the restaurant will be preparing for a prix fixe Thanksgiving menu.

OK, when it comes to M+A entrees, things do get a bit more interesting.

While a guest can order turkey, Bunkers will rev up the flavor profile by making it apple-smoked, creating a zesty cranberry sauce, smothering it with herbs and cramming the birdie with plenty o' brioche and pecan stuffing. Add a pile of gouda mashed potatoes and prepare for maximum Tryptophan action.

SOME HIGH-ROLLING FAVES, PLUS A FEW LIGHTER OPTIONS

While Hard Rock high rollers can get such casino staples as carved, bone-in spiral ham, a six-ounce filet and 16-ounce slow-roasted prime rib, Bunkers has something unusual cooking up in the M+A kitchen.

"We associate Thanksgiving as a meat holiday but what if our patrons prefer something lighter?" he asked. 

This is why Bunkers added miso-glazed Coho salmon and a miso-glazed halibut as sea-worthy options.

Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

A baby beet salad is shown at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant. The restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.

Eating lighter, huh? We can dig it. That is, as long as this means we can load up on desserts.

As a meal topper, M+A will offer a choice between a chocolate chunk pecan pie, pie-spiced apple beignet and, get this, a pumpkin swirl cheesecake!

Yup, you read that right! Good gourd, Bunkers has replaced pumpkin pie with a pumpkin cheesecake. Heck, since it is a cheesecake that has a ginger snap crust, cinnamon-infused whipped cream and topped with a milk chocolate twig, we're certain even Bunkers' grandmother would approve.

CREATIVE CUISINE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19

According to Bunkers, this is the first year M+A has opened on Thanksgiving.

"Most years, guests would go to World Tour Buffet for the holidays," he explained. "With our buffet closed due to COVID concerns, we decided to give a special Main + Abbey menu a try."

Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

Carved bone in spiral ham with sides of green beans, carrots and gruyere mashed potatoes is shown at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant. The restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.

Even then, Hard Rock is following CDC guidelines as well as limiting the number of guests at Main + Abbey. Plus making reservations is strongly encouraged for the Prix Fixe feast.

MIDWEST BRED, TRAINED IN FRENCH CUISINE

Which is fine for Bunkers, who has been working in the hospitality field since he was 16.

A culinary and restaurant management graduate from Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Bunkers was named executive chef at Omaha's French Cafe while in his early 20s.  

Relocating to Las Vegas, he accepted a position as chef de partie of L’Atelier De Joël Robuchon, a French restaurant within the MGM Grand, where he served from 2006 to 2008. Bunkers was a member of the culinary team in 2008 when Robuchon captured his Michelin one-star status.

After working at various top eateries in Vegas for nine years, Bunkers relocated to Washington, D.C., to work at Le Diplomate before returning to Sioux City a few years ago.

Food Main+Abbey Thanksgiving

A M+A turkey dinner with sides of brioche and pecan stuffing, carrots, and gouda mashed potatoes is shown at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Main+Abbey restaurant. The restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.

Even now after working for Hard Rock, he still considers himself a French chef.

"No matter what cuisine you work in, everything utilizes classic French techniques," Bunkers said. 

However, his Thanksgiving is anything but fusion.

"I tried to stay as close to our guest's expectations as possible," Bunkers said. "Still, don't call my menu a typical Thanksgiving spread. 'Typical' in my mind equals boring."

CRANBERRY MULES & APPLE PIE MARTINIS? WHY NOT?

M+A's food and beverage manager Zach Kreider agreed. That's why he and fellow mixologists will be making such unusual-but-festive drinks as cranberry mules, apple pie martinis as well as few Hot Toddies.

"We are incorporating Thanksgiving ingredients, even with our cocktails," he said. "We all think about family meals around the holidays. At least I do."

In fact, Kreider learned how to make food with his family. Or, at least, that's where he mastered the fine art of making "Ants on a Log."

"No holiday would be complete without 'Ants on a Log,'" he said. "I loved that when I was a kid."

Indeed, Bunkers wants to recreate memories for Hard Rock guests, whether they're from the area or traveling for the holidays.

"Whether we like it or not, this will not be a typical Thanksgiving for anyone," he admitted. "That doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves with good food and good company."

Every 2020 photo of Siouxland food (and drink) in the Journal

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