Christian Moreno calls Swift Creek Café’s Turkish Eggs a “super simple” dish.
To make the plate, the chef layers on homemade hummus, cucumber yogurt, some shredded castelvetrano olives, pickled jalapeño, parsley, a little bit of green onion, flash seared lamb leg, za’atar seasoning, Aleppo pepper, two sunny-side-up eggs, a side of naan and, to top it off, “a lot, a lot of extra virgin olive oil.”
One of Christian Moreno’s cooks came to him with the vision for Turkish Eggs a few summers ago — a vision that has morphed in flavor, style and composition, eventually becoming the rendition of the egg dish that is being served at the Whitefish café today. It’s a crowd favorite. In fact, Moreno says it’s something he “can’t get off of the menu,” as tourists and locals alike order the dish day-after-day and send their compliments back to the kitchen.
For Moreno, the goal is to “make [the Turkish Eggs] delicious, still make it fairly authentic, but at the same time, make it accessible — something that people, even if they’ve never had it before, will try it and be like, ‘Wow.’”
Moreno took over Swift Creek in 2018 with his father, Guillermo Moreno, revamping the local spot on 2nd Street and adding his own culinary twists in the kitchen. Christian, who is the owner and executive chef at Swift Creek, grew up in Texas and spent his early adulthood working in kitchens across the United States — in Texas, Colorado and Florida — before moving to France to become a certified pastry chef. After his time in French pastry school, Moreno returned to the States and got a job working at Patisserie 46 in Minneapolis. Then, five years ago, after Moreno relocated to the Flathead Valley, his family took over Swift Creek.
The café’s wide-ranging breakfast and lunch menu includes globally influenced items, as well as classic diner dishes. Take, for example, the piña colada pancakes, served with vanilla rum roasted pineapple, coconut cream and mint. Or, on the lunch side, there’s the farro salad, topped with hummus, cinnamon roasted yam, roasted vegetables, cucumber, carrot, parsley, green onion, avocado, sumac and shallot. For a more traditional meal, diners can order classics like biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict or a French omelette with manchego and fine herbs.
Moreno hopes that the café can offer staple dishes while also introducing new cuisines to the Flathead Valley. Many patrons who come through his doors have never tried elements of the Turkish Eggs like lamb, hummus or za’atar, or think they simply don’t like the taste of the ingredients. Yet the Mediterranean breakfast platter has pushed more than a few diners to change their minds, and open up their palates.
“Realistically, I’m cooking the stuff that I want to eat. There’s things that we don’t find around here that typically we want to highlight. It’s not a knock to anything, but there’s only so many burgers and French Fries that one can have in the area before you’re kind of over it,” he said.
The key to success in making Swift Creek’s Turkish Eggs, Moreno said, is high-quality, homemade ingredients.
The dish starts with fresh hummus, which Moreno and his staff make in-house. Moreno swears by Soom, a high-quality tahini made out of Ethiopian sesame seeds and created by three sisters in Philadelphia. He discovered the product while reading a book by Philadelphia-based Israeli chef and restaurant owner Michael Solomonov.
“Hummus is one of those things that I feel like a lot of people really don’t like,” Moreno said. “It’s typically because they buy it and it just tastes like old chickpea. It’s just kind of gross. I feel like when people try this hummus, they’re floored that hummus can actually taste like that.”
The star of the show is the grass fed lamb leg. Swift Creek’s cooks remove the bone and sinew from the lamb, pound it flat and flash sear it. Moreno said that adding the lamb, which was originally not on the dish, gave the Turkish Eggs an authentic element it was once missing.
“It’s interesting with lamb,” Moreno said. “It’s one of those polarizing things where either you love it or you hate it. Typically with lamb, the reason why people don’t like it is because they associate it as being gamey.”
A lot of the gaminess, Moreno said, comes from the fat and tallow left on the lamb, which he removes before preparing the dish.
Moreno exercises great care with each and every layer of the Turkish Eggs.
While the dish usually has lovage on it — a more intense cousin of celery — Moreno is currently using parsley because the lovage cultivation season has ended. The restaurant makes its own za’atar seasoning blend. There used to be feta on the Turkish Eggs, but Moreno removed it. He’s not “a huge feta fan” and found it too salty for the dish. He thought about using pita, a more traditional side for such a plate, but went with naan instead, which he finds “softer” and “more delicious.” No element goes overlooked or forgotten, each piece making up the full picture of one of Whitefish’s most unique breakfast platters.
“Nobody’s doing anything like that breakfast-wise around here. Nobody’s putting game meat on a plate for breakfast. It’s very rare,” Moreno said of the dish. “It’s kind of nice to be able to spread our wings a little bit.”