By Rebecca Coudret (Contact)
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Danny Kollker just smiled and looked at his cooking crew
at The Knob Hill Tavern.
"They take care of things for me — Ed and Steve — and my
son, Keith. When you have a good crew, you know they'll
Hill's Stephen Crabtree works his magic
as he flips a New Potato and Vegetable Medley
as he prepared the dish for the Chef's Challenge.
Head chef Ed Teamer, sous chef Stephen Crabtree and
co-owner Keith Kollker make sure the fiddlers and other
fare at the Knob Hill are a given every time they're
"We're known for our fiddlers, and everybody who comes
in here knows they're that same level of delicious every
time you order them," Danny Kollker said.
Restaurants are in the Kollkers' genes. Danny and Keith
have owned The Knob Hill in Newburgh since 1991; before
that, Danny owned the Deerhead Tavern, but sold it in
Danny's dad, Robert Kollker, owned Das Kollker Haus, an
upscale German/steak house on Evansville's East Side.
And even though he was a staunch Democrat, in 1943 he
began hosting an annual Hasenpfeffer Dinner for members
of both political parties.
Despite the Kollker pedigree, Danny turned over the
cooking duties to Teamer and Crabtree for the July Chefs
Teamer said he looked at the slightly lopsided list of
ingredients and "was ready to run with it."
"I didn't mind having two starches because they're so
different. I looked over the ingredients with Steve, and
right off he knew he wanted to do his Vegetable Medley —
and that included the potatoes. I knew I wanted to do a
pasta salad, and it all went together well."
For their two "extra" ingredients, Teamer chose
strawberry ice cream — and halibut.
"Yeah, I know; it's a bit out there. But I kind of
resurrected a dish we did when I was a sous chef at the
Petroleum Club," Teamer said.
"I thought it would be a nice addition."
The Rainbow Citrus Baked Halibut was at the other end of
the flavor spectrum from the Fried Fiddlers.
Teamer used lemon, orange and lime zests to top the
halibut, which he pan-seared on both sides in butter and
then baked to finish the dish. The result was a mild,
flaky fish with citrus flavors that burst through with
But fiddlers were the highlight of the July Challenge,
and The Knob and its challenger, Jacob's Pub, offered
some of the best in town.
"I know some people are intimidated by fiddlers, but you
don't need to be," Teamer said. "They're farm-raised, no
heads — but they do have bones, and that makes some
people (leery) of them. Once you know how to eat
fiddlers, I promise you'll want them again."
Teamer wouldn't divulge the recipe for the batter, but
said it's "the best batter around. The fiddlers are
consistent. It's the batter that makes them special."
Teamer said The Knob sells about 700 fiddlers "during a
The day of the Challenge, and on a subsequent visit, the
fiddlers were just perfect, with no greasiness at all.
The batter was perfect — didn't even need extra salt —
and the meat slid off the bones easily. The combination
of crunchy batter and soft fish worked perfectly on the
For those intimidated by the fiddlers, The Knob also
offers a catfish filet. Teamer said it's good and has
the same breading, but "there is a difference in
"The kind of 'wild' flavor isn't there, and that's what
makes the fiddler special. Whenever you leave bones in,
no matter what the dish is, it makes the meat or the
Crabtree also "borrowed" his vegetable medley from a
previous restaurant experience.
"I'd done this before," he said. "It was one of our main
sides from the old Ashley Grill. It's so good because it
has so many fresh herbs in it — right out of Kathy's
The medley includes tarragon, basil, sage, curry, mint
and thyme, as well as salt, pepper and garlic.
"I go out every night and cut herbs," said Kathy Bivens,
manager of The Knob Hill. "They add so much to the
dishes — and I love growing them."
Hill chef Ed Teamer places a Fried Fiddler on the plate
as they prepare for the Chef's Challenge.
Teamer and Crabtree know they're cooking for longtime
fans of the restaurant and vow to keep the quality
consistent. But the two wish they could bring in some
new diners, too.
"It would be nice to get more younger people in — people
in their 20s, 30s," Teamer said.
"I guess we just have to hope that our regulars bring
their kids in often enough that, as they get older,
they'll still consider us a place to go for lunch and
dinner and a nice place to spend an evening."
"It's hard to get people, especially young people, to
think about (independent restaurants)," Crabtree said.
"The chains are so convenient — but you give up so much
when you don't try the local places."
"We'd like to see them look at us as a 'get-together'
kind of place," Teamer said. "Sometimes I think people
don't realize what a nice, elegant, special place this