Locked away in a bank vault are typically bundles of cash, valuable heirloom jewelry or essential legal documents.
In Summersville, West Virginia, one particular bank vault contains fries and mussels in a garlic and white wine broth and a bone-in pork chop brined in cider and served with risotto, roasted Brussels sprouts and a smoked apple and cranberry chutney.
At least, that's the case at The Vault on Main - a former local bank turned restaurant in the center of town. It has repurposed the marble lobby into a dining room, the charming wooden dividers into a bar, and the main vault into a wine cellar.
The architecture of the landmark building, coupled with Chef Libby Nolle's unique culinary background, helps shape The Vault's dishes.
“When I was 4, I put a bunch of plastic play food in a pan, turned up the heat and made breakfast for my mom. Needless to say, she didn't like the surprise, and I ruined a good pan,” Nolle said. "Though that wasn't the last pan I ruined, my choice of ingredients improved.”
Ingredients like garlic, shrimp, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, grass-fed beef and marinated artichoke hearts highlight the menu in dishes inspired by Nolle’s globetrotting.
"My parents were 'foodies' before 'foodies' were a thing. They lived in Paris in the late 1960s, where my dad was finishing his degree at the Sorbonne. He then got a job with the federal government and traveled extensively for work, always seeking out local places to eat. We joined him when possible, but even when we couldn’t, my dad always brought his culinary adventures home,” she said. “All of these experiences have had a huge influence on the flavors I use and the ingredients that I seek out.”
Her travels throughout Europe have inspired dishes like the Italian “Pasta Allo Scoglio," with clams, mussels, shrimp, garlic, white wine, and pomodoro, and the Belgian "Les Moules Frites," with fries, mussels, and butter.
Nolle’s dishes have helped create a one-of-kind dining experience that curates global flavors in a landlocked state. And the community can’t get enough.
“I love to eat good food. I love thinking about food, shopping for food, and cooking food. Often, when I am eating lunch, I am thinking about dinner. So, food makes me happy, and I love to see my food make other people happy.”
RECIPE: Ramp Kimchi
This ramp kimchi dish is a signature of Nolle’s, who usually serves it with pork belly tacos.
“I am not a native West Virginian. I transplanted when I came here for college, and now I never want to live anywhere else. When I first moved to Elkins to attend school, I was introduced to the Ramp Festival,” she said. “When I figured out that we were not celebrating highway ramps or skateboard ramps, I was intrigued. Ramps were my first introduction to native Appalachian cuisine; the first time I tried them was in a ravioli with a ramp pesto cream sauce. So, I love creative ways of using ramps as much as I love the traditional way of eating them with fried potatoes. I think I do bring a different perspective on how to use the flavor with my kimchi, and it's something I'm really proud of.”
Yield: Makes 1 quart
● 1 medium Napa cabbage, about 2 pounds
● ¼ cup plus 1tb sea salt
● 6 cloves of garlic
● 1 tsp ginger
● 1 tsp sugar
● 2 TB Fish sauce
● 3 TB Samb olek
● 8-ounce Daikon radish Julienne
● 2 carrots, peeled and Julienne
● ½ pound early ramps. If later in the season, cut off the tops.
Cut the cabbage in half through the stem, cut each ½ in 1/4s, then slice crosswise into 1-inch slices
Put the cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle ¼ cup salt on the cabbage and mix well, rubbing the salt into the cabbage. Then add enough water to cover the cabbage, cover and set out at room temp for 2 hours
While the cabbage rests, put the garlic, ginger, some olek, fish sauce, and sugar in a food processor and blend to a paste.
Peel the carrots and Julienne (matchstick)
Chop the daikon radish Julienne (matchstick)
Clean the ramps under cool water, removing the roots and all dirt and debris. If using late-season ramps, cut the tops off
After the 2 hours, drain and rinse the cabbage under cold water and let sit for 15 to 20 min
Add all veggies to the cabbage bowl along with the spice paste. Mix well with your hands
Pack kimchi into a quart jar, layering the salt 1 teaspoon at a time and press firmly till the brine comes to the top and covers the veggies
Cover set in a bowl and set in a cool, dark place for 1 to 5 days, checking daily for flavor.