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Authentic and Appetizing

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Eats
Jan 26th, 2014

Sage JAN 14

Authentic and Appetizing Restaurant Sage’s Renewed Spirit
article by Mary Napoli | photography by Joli Livaudais

Monroe’s Restaurant Sage has been a local favorite since its inception seven years ago.  Known for comfortable, yet sophisticated dining, Sage has consistently provided elegant meals that guests enjoy and savor.  Throughout time, the menu has developed more diversity and gives faithful patrons the opportunity to broaden their culinary horizons.  Now more than ever, Sage is offering a contemporary, globally-inspired menu that is more exciting and flavorful than it has ever been.
The King Restaurant Group, owners of Restaurant Sage, welcomed Marc Able as Manager of Operations and Chef Mark Smith as Executive Chef and General Manager slightly more than a year ago.  The two men, who share valuable and varied experience within the culinary field, reevaluated the concept of the restaurant and endeavored to give the already successful business a fresh, modern approach.

“We get to take a great place to a new level,” says Able. Able and Smith are passionate about providing a memorable culinary experience to their guests, and both have focused on a customer based approach when making adjustments to the restaurant.  They gave much consideration to what their patrons expected and wanted most, and how they could deliver the highest quality dining experience at Sage.

“Sage is not just a place to come to for a special occasion,” says Chef Smith.  “We have a very reasonable lunch menu where guests can get a great, healthy meal that they can feel good about.  We want the food we serve to be recognized as fast, fresh and affordable.”

When it comes to preparing fresh dishes, Sage goes to remarkable lengths.  With an emphasis on healthful food with a more globally inspired influence, Smith and Able have incorporated a paleolithic dietary approach.  The “paleo diet” is a hot topic currently and is based on following the diet of our hunter and gatherer ancestors.  This basically consists of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts.  Although the menu at Sage does not feature solely dishes that are strictly within the “paleo diet,” it does provide many highly nutritional options that are healthful, but not lacking in flavor in any way.  One of the most exceptional aspects of Sage’s menu is that the steaks they offer are all provided locally by Kingsland Ranch.  Because the beef is hand cut, Sage is able to provide the exact cut and weight of beef that the guest requests.  What’s more, the steaks produced by Kingsland Ranch are incredibly high quality, mouthwateringly tender and unbelievably flavorful.

Kingsland Cattle Ranch, located in West Monroe, was the brainchild of Dr. Terry King.  Dr. King is well known as a one of the area’s best loved pediatric cardiologists and is largely responsible for advancing the neonatal pediatrics unit at St. Francis Hospital before he began considering raising cattle and investing in the restaurant business.  During his career, he saw first hand how the health of our youth is effected by the steroids and hormones in food.

“As a physician, I believe we are what we eat,” says Dr. King.

The prospect of raising grass-fed cattle without the use of hormones or antibiotics appealed to Dr. King, and the idea of Kingsland Ranch began to form.  Within only a few years, Dr. King, along with his sons David and Brady, were partnered with the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association and had begun raising red brangus cattle, a brahman-angus cross breed.   The cattle at Kingsland Ranch are big, healthy, beautiful animals who freely roam the wide open spaces of the ranch. Their health and living conditions are of the utmost concern to the Kings.  The animals are regularly examined, evaluated and vaccinated by Cooper Veterinary Clinic of West Monroe, who are considered experts in livestock health and breeding.  The King family goes to great lengths to ensure that the cattle are treated humanely at all times and live the least stressful life possible.  These factors contribute to producing healthy, superior animals who yield organic, exceptionally high caliber cuts of beef.

When it comes to dietary health of the cattle, the ranch takes a “from the ground up” approach.  On the pastoral ranch, the cows feed on a variety of seven species of grasses that the cows transform into a high quality protein.  The assortment of grasses also assists in providing a rich, complex flavor to the incredibly tender meat, which possesses marbling that rivals Kobe beef, known worldwide for its intense marbling.  The term “marbling” refers to the distribution of intramuscular fat that resembles a marbled pattern. A high concentration and even distribution of the marble contributes to the tenderness, texture and flavor of the meat.  The meat is butchered locally and results in exemplary primal cuts of beef that are supremely tender and exquisitely flavorful.  Currently, these steaks are packaged under the “flavor”  brand, which will eventually distribute the product to the public.  For now, the beef is exclusively available at Sage.  Order any steak on the menu, and you will taste the difference in the beef from Kingsland Ranch, the freshest cut of beef you may have ever encountered–cleaner, richer, and more texturally consistent than anything available in this area.

“There is beef, and then there is beef from Kingsland Ranch,” explains Chef Mark Smith.  “This steak is like Christmas morning. The texture is incredible.  Every bite counts.”

Although Sage enjoys providing “pasture to plate” meals for their patrons, their endeavors to eat locally do not stop there.  The restaurant serves produce that is locally grown, such as sweet potatoes from Delhi, and heirloom tomatoes, micro-greens and herbs from their own garden. Sage also offers several different choices of fish regularly, which is caught nearby and delivered fresh.  Even the red oak used in their wood burning grill is locally harvested from–you guessed it–Kingsland Ranch.

In Sage’s chic dining rooms or cozy Red Oak Bar, guests can be found enjoying their favorite dishes.  Menu items such as the Sage Wraps, shrimp and grits, and crab cakes give a nod to the restaurant’s culinary history and remain popular.  More recently, the grilled oyster appetizer has been a frequent order.  The tender, salty oysters are grilled to perfection and served on the half-shell with a topping of rich, buttery parmesan cheese and fresh herbs to brighten the dish.  Accompanied by grilled french bread and lemon, it is a perfect way to start a meal that includes a heavier entrée.

Considering the quality of beef that Sage serves, it is difficult to pass up an expertly grilled steak, even though there are many items that tempt the tastebuds.  Order the ribeye, and be prepared to indulge in a memorable meal.  The generous cut of beef arrives sizzling, moist and marvelously luscious.  Do yourself a favor and request that this impressively tender cut of beef be cooked medium to medium-rare.  A steak with such supreme marbling, delicate texture and natural flavor should be prepared to a temperature that enhances the flavor of the meat rather than destroys it.  This steak is obviously incredibly fresh, and this is evident not only in the complex, earthly flavor, but in the rich color of the beef and the gentle ease at which your knife is able to carve through each exquisite bite.  Served with tender, roasted potatoes complemented with a delicious smoked gouda mornay and blanched and grilled broccolini, the ribeye is an unforgettable delight.  Grilled to impart the perfect amount of seasoned crust, each bite is moist and intensely flavorful.  This is the way steak is meant to be enjoyed.
The perfect way to end a meal on a winter day at Sage? Try Chef Mark Smith’s heavenly creation–a warm and wonderful salted caramel mocha.  This scrumptious coffee beverage is served in a generously sized mug and topped with whipped cream that has been infused with decadent caramel flavor.  Garnished with roasted pecan chips, Hawaiian red salt and a swirl of rich caramel, this drink is not only delightfully indulgent, it is visually artful in its presentation.

Sage offers a variety of dishes sure to satisfy the diverse crowd that continually walks through the doorway.  Their approach to food is simple and honest: premium quality yields delectable, enjoyable dishes.  Whether it’s a lunch during the work week or a celebratory dinner, Restaurant Sage is a consistently excellent and positively memorable dining experience.