Chef Hughes makes cooking polenta look like a piece of cake.
Story by Shannon Perkins | Photos by Michael Batty & Shannon Perkins
What is polenta? Polenta is the delicious result of boiling cornmeal and then typically either frying it, baking it, or punching it up with vegetables, spices, cream, milk, cheese, maple syrup, meats, or almost anything else you can find. With roots in Northern Italy, polenta is gaining spotlight attention. At 2 Doors Down in Eureka, chef Jim Hughes is punching it up in the brick oven. The “sexy little sister” of Brick and Fire Bistro, 2 Doors Down has a hot special on Monday nights: Polenta Night. Every week, Hughes makes a polenta dish with different, fresh ingredients. “A lot of regulars come back every week,” says Hughes as he prepares for the night’s service. “I like to have a constantly changing menu of hand-crafted, creative, high quality options.” Tonight’s polenta: “A lighter seasonal version of roasted chicken thigh braised with local wild fresh chanterelle mushrooms, red onions, and carrots in a savory white wine jus…served over roasted, crispy polenta topped with local fresh Italian plum and pecorino fiore sardo imported cheese.” If you’ve ever been to 2 Doors Down, you know they have an extensive wine collection, winners of the Wine Spectator Award in 2013 and 2014. Besides the often garden-fresh food, fine wine, and lively company, what makes this deal so hot? The meal is only ten bucks. Hughes chose to highlight polenta because “it’s accessible and plentiful.”
Polenta is a traditional Italian dish, as common as pizza and pasta, but without as much recognition. Because of it’s versatility, abundance, and affordability, polenta kept even the farmers fed. For ten dollars, even the starving artists and college students in Humboldt can have a high-class experience. Hughes initially started Polenta Night to attract people to the wine bar, and kept it going to provide a fun place for people to come together over great food. At 2 Doors Down, the polenta dish usually includes a protein, a sauce, and of course the polenta. Vegetables are often included and gluten-free options are always available. What you need to know is Polenta Night is popular. Lynda and Cary Christensen can be found enjoying polenta on Monday nights. Here’s why they say they keep coming back: “The food, the atmosphere; it’s always something new and different. Many times we’ll come in here, the whole place is full, and we know everyone. Half of them are old friends, the other half are new friends we’ve met at Polenta Night. Plus, it’s on Monday, and who wants to cook on Monday?!” It starts at 5:00 P.M. You cannot make a reservation and you cannot make a to-go order, so get there early; they may sell out. 2 Doors Down is located, yes, two doors down from Brick and Fire Bistro on F Street in Eureka, between Watson and Wabash. 707-268-8989