Perfect Pairing at Cedar + Stone
Executive Chef Everton Clarke (left) and sommelier Greg Carlstrom are raising the hotel dining bar at Cedar + Stone, Urban Table, inside the JW Marriott at Mall of America.
When Everton Clarke was offered the position of executive chef at the then-new JW Marriott hotel at the Mall of America, he half-jokingly says he had to ask where Minnesota was.
But Clarke can be forgiven his geographical lapse. He’s spent the last few years at a Marriott property in Dubai and was just wrapping up 14 months as the chef at one of the company’s hotels in Jordan along the Dead Sea. Ready to return stateside, Clarke began researching Minnesota, along with regional cuisines and food styles.
“We ate a lot,” says Clarke of his menu development process, which included visiting Minneapolis restaurants Spoon and Stable, Butcher and the Boar, Café Lurcat and others. “Just to get a feel of what people were asking for.”
All this and more combined to result in Cedar + Stone, Urban Table, the JW Marriott’s locally focused restaurant that goes beyond the usual hotel in a mall dining expectations.
“The voice of our brand is trying to be local, sustainable, seasonal as much as possible,” continues Clarke. The MoA location is part of the mall’s new $325 million luxury wing, which also includes a third-floor food court dubbed Culinary on North.
The menu has been evolving over the 18 months since Cedar + Stone’s opening as Clarke seeks to balance “something the locals can identify with” such as spicy cheese curds or his take on a Jucy Lucy with Taleggio cheese, with a croque monsieur or the Artic char with sweet corn puree and lump crab succotash.
Clarke says he initially approached the food from a French bistro concept, acknowledging, however, that, “being a corporate restaurant in a hotel, there’s some things we kind of have to have.” Naming a turkey club, burger and Caesar salad as “bread-and-butter products,” Clarke also points out the inventory and operational efficiencies of such items within a large hotel operation that includes the restaurant, two bars, in-room dining and banquet facilities.
“My strength is banquet. I love volume, I love the excitement, the what does it take to execute 2,000 plates," he says.
Born in Jamaica but growing up in upstate Connecticut where his parents had a farm, Clarke was exposed to cooking with seasonal ingredients. He later attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University and began working at a Marriott hotel property in nearby Providence, Rhode Island.
At Cedar + Stone, Clarke teams up with sommelier Greg Carlstrom. Looking ahead to fall menus, Carlstrom says he's excited to pair “big, bold, buttery” wines with dishes such as roast chicken and butternut squash soup.
Carlstrom joined the JW Marriott earlier this year after working as the restaurant manager and sommelier at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club. Earlier in his career he was an assistant manager working at Lenny Russo’s Heartland restaurant, an experience he says “really opened my eyes to an honest style of cooking” and later helped inform his creation of the wine program at a restaurant in Lacrosse. That’s when Carlstrom really began exploring sommelier certification and he’s since completed Level 2 and won the Walter Clore Scholarship, given to the recipient of the top score on the Certified Sommelier Examination.
Carlstrom looks forward to putting his stamp on the Cedar + Stone wine program and to helping the restaurant earn a third consecutive Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
As the Mall of America continues to add more boutique and luxury brands to its new north wing, Carlstrom and Clarke expect their guests will be interested in exploring creative food and wine pairings. “We’re hoping our clientele will come to match what we can offer them,” says Clarke.