Willows Bistro and Wise Man Brewing Making Wonderful Tastes Together

On Sunday, February 25, Willows Bistro‘s Chef Travis Myers and his fantastic crew and staff provided guests an opportunity to pair their culinary delights with the liquid gold that is Wise Man Brewing‘s beer.


Chef Travis wanted to showcase the quality of beer that is made here in Winston-Salem and what better way to do that than with one of the top chefs in the area? And, he delivered. He delivered big. What diners were treated with was a ten-course (which turned into around 12 courses) pairing with five Wise Man brews.

There was no one who left out of there not satisfied. I know of no one complaining they didn’t get enough food.

Let’s talk about the courses.

Mountain Calling Beer Cheese

Starting off the shindig was the pork rinds from Harmony Ridge Farms. Willows do them in-house but the skins come from the hog that they butcher. It’s deep-fried and spiced with scallion ash and micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. When you bite into it, it’s crispy but then it melts in your mouth – and I mean melts. Delicious.

NC Coconut Shrimp and Beer Battered Onion Rings

Mountain Calling ‘Beer Cheese’ Chowder
Beautiful pancetta, monkfish from Low Country Shellfish, fingerling potatoes, micro ruby streaks and scallion ash from Fair Share Farms and this was paired with the Wise Man Dance in the Sun Kölsch and the Mountain Calling West Coast IPA. The idea was to have both beers and see which one you thought paired better with the dish. The beer cheese chowder was creamy and delicious. The monkfish, which Chef Travis calls the “poor man’s lobster,” was tender and perfectly cooked, it also nicely complemented the salty pancetta. And, since it has been a while since I have written a pairing review, let me state, right off the bat that I love any micro-green that comes from Fair Share Farms. Eliot and Em create tiny green miracles in their greenhouses. I am not the world’s biggest IPA fan so the Dance in the Sun Kölsch wins that contest.

Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings
Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings, Dance in the Sun-wasabi aïoli, Plum Granny Farm‘s ginger glaze, NC shrimp powder mad in-house by the Willows folk from all the leftover shells that don’t get used for stocks and other cooking needs (I think that’s clever), topped with orange zest. This too was paired with both the Dance in the Sun and Mountain Calling IPA. Again, the Kölsh wins that battle. I love when chefs take beer and incorporate it into other things like batter for the onion rings (and possibly the shrimp) and creating a wasabi aïoli. I especially like it when it’s done with the beer that you’re tasting. That’s keeping the theme. The shrimp wasn’t overcooked. Chef Travis told the secret to great shrimp during his introductions. He knows what he’s doing.

Crispy Duck

Pork Belly Croquette

Harmony Ridge Farms Crispy Duck
Crispy Duck from Isaac at Harmony Ridge Farms with Alt Acquaintance fermented mustard seeds, Fair Share Farms’ ruby streaks, fermented green tomato from Gnomestead Hollow – pickled and jus vinaigrette, pickled seed powder. This was paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier from Wise Man. I could have eaten a whole plate of the duck. That was delicious. Duck sometimes can be gamey but these ducks are exercised and allowed to roam the property at Harmony Ridge, it was tender and not at all gamey with a nice crispy shell, done to the perfect temperature. This matched perfectly with the malty Alt Acquaintance. More on that beer later. One of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Harmony Ridge Farms Pork Belly Croquette 
Ever since Stephanie and I spent time in Europe and fell in love with croquettes, we have wanted to try to make our own and we try to eat them anywhere we can find them. This pork belly and smoked risotto version of it was amazing. The risotto was creamy and the pork belly rich in flavor. The pickled mustard seed, confit pearl onion, pot likker, as well as the nasturtium & micro chard from Fair Share Farms were an ideal accompaniment. It was creamy and savory and the onions were very tender, too. This was once again paired w/ Mountain Calling IPA and that made for a fine dish. Another of my faves.

Pickled Okra

Plum Granny Farm Cajun Jewel Pickled Okra
The Cajun Jewel from the great folks at Plum Granny Farms pickled in brine, with extra virgin olive oil from Olinda Olives with micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. I don’t like okra and I ate every bit of it. So that is telling you something, right?

Roasted Carrots

Roasted Local Carrot Variations
As the name implies, this is a group of roasted local carrot variations. I saw them peeling and prepping them earlier in the day. Take those carrots, roast them and top them with Fair Share Farms’ micro carrot tops, Bertie County Peanuts, red curry, seed oil and Sea Love Sea Salt‘s garlic salt, then shave a bit of Goat Lady Dairy‘s Providence cheese and you have some flavor bursts here.  If you’ve not had Goat Lady Dairy’s Providence, it’s earthy, nutty, creamy and a little bit umami. I can eat that on its own. This course was paired with the Alt Acquaintance and the malty altbier mixed fabulously with that Providence cheese.

Hen Roulade

Joyce Farms Hen Roulade
Hen from Joyce Farms with a Shiitake soubise from Myers Mushroom with Harmony Ridge Farms celery root and Fair Share Farms pea shoots all in a broth made from Miso Master miso and Plum Granny Farms’ ginger. This is paired with Noble Alchemy, Farmhouse/Saison. Rolled and filled hen was earthy and meaty. Doused in the miso-ginger broth, the savory saltiness lends a good dichotomy to the earthiness of the mushrooms and micro greens.

Bone Marrow

Bone Marrow
Southern Food’s bone marrow (in-bone) with Myers Mushrooms’ shiitake mushrooms fried in pork fat from Yellow Wolf Farm, creole-miso aïoli from Miso Master, ponzu, zest, Fair Share Farm’s micro cilantro and Sea Love’s citrus salt. This, too, was paired with Noble Alchemy Farmhouse/Saison. Perhaps the scariest plate of the night. Really, it was just imposing. It was a half bone with the marrow right in there. Chef Travis had us scoop it out with a spoon. This was a bit pasty but that was just how you wanted it. Chef Travis loves charred bread and he highly recommended that you put the marrow on the bread. When you spread it and tasted it, it was kind of like butter. Earthy, umami-like which was very nice with the shiitake. I heard some people around me moaning; that’s how well it was liked. I preferred it without the bread because I don’t like hard bread. It tears up the roof of my mouth. The high malt/low hop profile of the Noble Alchemy was good with the buttery umami of the marrow. I also know that several folks took the bones home to their dogs.


Yellow Wolf Farms Porchetta
Kune Kune Porchetta from Yellow Wolf Farms with Moss Farms‘ Mutsu apple mostarda, Lusty Munk Mustard‘s Original Sin, Mountain Foods‘ butternut squash, golden beet from Harmony Ridge Farms, Fair Share Farms’ micro beet, seed & pancetta powder, apple cider and 3-day pork demi. This was paired with Dancing Problems English Brown from Wise Man. Absolutely my favorite dish of the night. I love porchetta. I love the top cut with the belly rolled up into a delicious bundle just waiting for me to bite into it. And, what goes better with pork but apples and mustard, right? Man, this was the pièce de résistance. The English Brown and its chocolatey maltiness also lent to this dish being so fantastic. That porchetta, though…

Beer Float

Satisfy My Soul Beer Float
Wise Man’s Satisfy My Soul Stout with salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, nuts turtle style! Scott from Wise Man said, “just stir it all up and drink it!” The salted caramel with the salty nuts and this chocolatey stout, well, that’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You needed a spoon and then you just chugged it, nuts and all. Rich and creamy but delicious.


The Humblebee German Chocolate Macaroon
The Man Who Ate the Town official sponsor, The Humblebee Shoppe, and our dear friend Brittany McGee, created a magical cookie sandwich with a ganache that makes you say “oh my gosh.” Yeah, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. I can’t tell you or describe in words how good this was. This is paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier and Satisfy My Soul Stout. Macaroons aren’t easy to make and Brittany is a macaroon maven. I loved both the altbier and the stout but the stout won the contest.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart
In probably the absolute most perfect beer pairing of the night, in my opinion, this apple tart, made with custard, spiced crumb, a variety of apples from Moss Farms and cheddar cheese-laced crust, was paired with the Mountain Calling – West Coast IPA. I know I talk that I don’t really care for IPAs but, wow. In this case, however, the spices and the cheddar cheese were made to marry the flavors in this IPA. I was darn-near stuffed when I had this put in front of me. I am not a fan of apples, either, but the flavors in this dessert popped and popped hard. The porchetta was my favorite dish but this was my favorite pairing. 

The Beer
Wise Man, since arriving on the scene just over a year ago, has taken this town by storm with their flavors and their mastery of the brew. Sam Victory, the head brewer, is the Wizard of Hops if you ask me.

Mountain Calling West Coast IPA – Dry-hopped with a pound and a half per barrel of Citra, this clean and crisp IPA resonates with strong citrus and floral qualities. It’s hoppy but it’s not offensive to the tongue. It’s pretty easy to drink, especially with its pairings (and extra especially with the apple tart). 

Dance In the Sun Kölsch – The Kolsch is a delicate and elegant, crisp and quaffable brew originating in the city of Cologne. A tantalizing touch of sweet apple on the front leads into a light base of German pilsner malt, with Noble Saaz overtones. I love when I can taste “hay” in the beer. That crispness, especially with the apple notes, that’s just splendid and I preferred it with its pairings over the IPA.

Alt Acquaintance Altbier – A rich and clean malt profile is balanced with wonderful German hop character. Toast, nuttiness, and a hint of cherry mark the palate, while a smooth finish concludes this cup of kindness. The nuttiness and hints of cherry were fantastic and, again, paired perfectly with that crispy duck!

Noble Alchemy Saison / Farmhouse Ale – Dry-hopping adds a blast of orange to a rustic base of fruit, herbs, and spice. The beer transcends its roots, awash with gold and nutmeg spice, and presents a mid-palate pop of bubblegum ester, banana, and a dozen other impressions. Low impact but formidable in flavor, nonetheless. Sam and pals did a good job with this one.

Dancing Problems English Brown Ale – Get on the good foot with this Northern English brown ale. Rich mocha and brown sugar slide in with each sip, while almonds and spice linger to dance on your tongue. Put that with the porchetta and you have a dream in your mouth and in your belly!

Satisfy My Soul Stout – A less-attenuative English ale yeast allows the beer to keep a hint of residual sweetness that expresses bready, chocolatey, and lightly roasted notes from the complex malt bill. I think it was like a roasted marshmallow and was perfect with the ice cream float.

Of course, the food offerings were special but you can find culinary delights at Willows Bistro in form of daily specials or even on their everyday menu. You can find them at 300 S Liberty Street.

Wise Man produces beer year-round and their taproom is open 7 days a week.

I highly recommend you try both of them because it will certainly be worth your time.

Thank you to Chef Travis, Chef Brent, Chef Terrell, the rest of the kitchen staff, Lele, Erica, Jamie and, of course, Ryan for all you always do at Willows and thank you Scott for bring the beer to us and making us happy!

Seats Still Available for 1703 Restaurant’s Second Sunday Dinner


©Jackie Biggs

This Sunday, September 11, Chef Curtis Hackaday, of 1703 Restaurant, creates another scrumptious “2nd Sunday Supper: Beer vs. Wine Dinner.”  I reported on the occasion last month and this month is going to be a treat for anyone who attends. I highly recommend attending and tasting, for yourself, the awesome creations that Chef Curtis prepares.

This time around the theme is a luau. Chef Curtis has a brand new toy, a Caja China style box cooker and he’s going to be roasting a 40 lb. pig, whole. The first two courses will be served “cocktail” style where there will be stations set up for you to get your food and try it with the libations. The third and fourth courses will be “sit down” and served at your table.

The beer in the contest will be from Port City Brewing out of Alexandria, VA. The various wines will be demonstrated by Mutual Distributing Company‘s Jackie Biggs, who really knows her wines. She’s picked some good ones.

I’m giving you a glimpse of what fun you may be getting yourself into, as far as libations go, here:

First Course:
Reichsrat von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut vs. Port City Optimal Wit Belgium Style White Ale

Second Course:
Planeta Rose vs. Port City Downright Bohemian Style Pilsner

Third Course:
Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir vs. Port City Oktoberfest Marzen Style Lager

Fourth Course:
Robert Mondavi Moscato D’Oro vs. Port City Robust Porter

That should whet your appetite and palate. There are still seats available and if you’re ready for a culinary experience that you’ll never forget, then you should contact 1703 Restaurant at (336)725-5767 and reserve yours, today!

1703 Restaurant is located at 1703 Robinhood Rd in Winston-Salem. The “beer vs. wine” dinner starts at 6:30. You won’t be disappointed.

Bon appetit!!!

Beer vs. Wine: the Debate Continues at 1703 Restaurant

On Sunday, August 14, Stephanie and I had the opportunity to sit at the blogger’s table for Chef Curtis Hackaday’s Beer vs wine dinner at 1703 Restaurant in Winston-Salem. Chef Curtis is a superb chef that creates not only delicious dishes, he creates edible works of art. I know that can get thrown around easily but it’s really true here. When the blog post comes out, you can see the pictures. It’s lovely stuff.

The purpose of this dinner, outside of having delightful food, was to answer an age old question: beer or wine? Is it beer that goes with dinner better or is it wine? We’re about to find out. There were several clusters of people in the 2016-08-23 15.20.26restaurant and since it was a small crowd, they separated us to get “groups” opinions. We would vote after each meal and see who came out on top.

Ms. Jackie Biggs of Mutual Distribution Company was our wine sommelier and Mr. Andrew Turner was our beer sommelier (yes, that’s a thing). He is a scientist and co-owner (according to his Facebook page) of Mystery Brewing which was who provided all the beer for this evening.

First Course: Grilled Avocado, Curtido Crab Shrimp Salad, Arugula and Radish Sprouts.

I didn’t know you could grill an avocado. My question to Chef Curtis, the next time I see him, is going to be how the heck did he peel them to grill them? Never mind that he grilled it and it stayed together, I can’t ever peel it without crushing it. Then again, I’m no chef. The avocado was still very tender to have been peeled and grilled, but it was definitely firm. Surprisingly, too, the crab shrimp salad was warm and not cold as everyone at the table expected it to be.  It was quite flavorful, too and the crunchy, peppery arugula was an excellent first layer topping for the salad but then add the bright stalks of the radish sprouts on top? Man… that was some great stuff. The sprouts made it pop. One of my favorite adjectives with food construction, pop. It did here.

The beer was Mystery Brewing’s Gentlemen’s Preference Belgium Blonde and the wine was Hall Sauvignon Blanc. I thought the beer went better with the overall dish. The wine brought bright things out in the food, but I was more 2016-08-23 15.21.48about the depth that the beer brought. I voted for the beer. I was the only one at the table who did so. Wine won that round, en masse.

Second course: Gigante Bean Cassoulet, Tiny Veggies, Chanterelle Focaccia & Shiso Microgreens.

To take from Wikipedia: “Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat, pork skin and white beans. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides.” This was good, it had some giant beans (hence the Gigante) and itty-bitty carrots and onions in there. Two things of note here is that Stephanie has an aversion to beans and she ate nearly the whole thing and I have an aversion to onions and I ate all of the wee ones in my dish. The focaccia biscuit was very nice and helped sop up the extra cassoulet juices. And my new favorite word in food: microgreens. A bright accent on top of the hearty bean dish was an added, textural bonus. It made the dish.

The beer was Mystery’s Evangeline Rye Saison and the wine was the Susana Balboa Signature Malbec from Argentina. I believe that Stephanie and I have decided that Malbecs are our new favorite red. We like “jammy” and that’s what you get with Malbec. It’s not necessarily sweet, but it’s not dry either. Just good. This particular one was very good for that. We purchased a bottle to bring home. The Evangeline Rye saison was high in ABV (8.1% – which I love) and deep amber in color but easy to drink. I thought the wine and beer were neck and neck on what went better 2016-08-23 15.23.00with the dish. When a tie happens, it’s always beer for me. Again, I was out voted. Wine won the dish.

Third Course: Porchetta, Watermelon, Shaved Fennel, Baby Vegetable Tops, Peach Mustard Hot Sauce, Pickled Ramps, Okra Straws, Micro Basil and Peaches.

Whew, there was a lot going on in this dish. First off, porchetta is a big, fat piece of pork roast. And what a wonderful thing that is, too! The watermelon cubes, baby veggies, peaches, shaved fennel, all culminated in a bombastic finish, especially when you drag it through the peach mustard hot sauce schmear. I am not a fan of okra, but I liked the okra straws. The pickled ramps were good, too. I usually steer clear of those but not tonight. The pork center was very tender and the belly was chewy and delicious. The skin was very crunchy! We all remarked about how loud we each were chewing; it was that loud. Overall, it was my first time having porchetta, I think, and it was by far my favorite course of the evening. Then again, I’m a meat eater and this dish once had a mother.

Mystery’s beer was Lockwood’s Retreat West Coast IPA and the wine was Zaccagnini Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo’s Rose di Montepulciano from Italy. Now, I have mentioned many times that I’m over IPAs and I’m hopped out. This wasn’t that kind of IPA. Sure, there was some hoppiness to it and it was definitely noticeable but it certainly did not attack my tongue. It was a smooth drink and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the rose and thought the light fruit of it went perfectly with the pork and the watermelon and peaches. So, believe it or not, I went with the wine for the dinner. Again, surprisingly, I was outvoted. Most everyone at the table went beer, even Stephanie. Beer won that dish.

Dessert Course: Matcha Beer Pound Cake, Carrot Ganache, Macerated Cherries, Chocolate Crumble, Peach Honey Sorbet and Lacy Pistachio.

To me, and I believe to everyone at the table this was two completely different desserts. The green tea and beer cake with the cherries on top on one side and the chocolate crumble, peach-honey sorbet and lacy pistachio on the other; both on top of a schmear of carrot ganache. The cake was very moist and the green tea mixed wonderfully with the cherries and those both went quite well with the beer that I’ll mention in a bit. The chocolate crumble was rich 2016-08-23 15.24.05but not too much so. And, the deliciously sweet sorbet with a lacy pistachio “cookie” dipped in it was a mix of warm and cold; deep and tart all at the same time. I thought it paired best with the wine that I’ll mention. I liked the carrot ganache but I think it would have been okay if it wasn’t there. Not bad mouthing it, just didn’t think it was absolutely necessary for the dish to work. Or should I say ‘dishes?’

The beer was Mystery’s Papa Bois Foreign Export Stout and the wine was Gerard Bertrand Banyuls from France. The blackberry and woody taste of the wine made it a great choice for me when it came to the chocolate crumble and sorbet part. And, the deep rich coffee-esque flavor of the stout made the green tea and beer stand out in the Matcha cake and cherries. Because it was, as I said, considered two different desserts on one plate and I thought that the beverage choices were each right for one of the components, I split my vote to a tie.  That happened with several of the diners, but overall for that course, beer won out. That made the overall consensus; 2 courses for wine and 2 courses for beer.

We bought the Banyuls and the Malbec as well as Mystery’s Gentlemen’s Preference Belgium Blonde and the Papa Bois Stout. I think all were fantastic but those were our favorites.

Chef Curtis, I tip my hat to you, brother, you did a fantastic and amazing job with the courses. Your food artistry is amazing. I appreciate you having us there and we will be returning to dine with you more often. It’s added to the ‘rotation,’ if you will.

1703 Restaurant owner, Molly Curran, said that they were going to have these kinds of dinners every second Sunday of the month. If you’re interested in participating in a future pairing or just having some of Chef Curtis’ wares, you can find more on their website. They’re located at 1703 Robinhood Rd in Winston-Salem. I highly recommend you do check them out.

Kudos Chef Curtis and Molly!

Bon appetit!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #6

In episode #6:

Food and restaurant news including accolades for a local food staple.2016-08-23 15.21.48

Food holidays and history for the week of August 22-28.

I also review our great experience at 1703 Restaurant and their “beer vs. wine” dinner from Chef Curtis Hackaday. There will be a blog post about that on Thursday.

Don’t forget my sponsor, Washington Perk & Provision Company. Better than a convenience store but not quite a grocery store, in the heart of Washington Park and Downtown WSNC.

Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the page).

Bon appetit!

The Food Pairing Series: DiLisio’s Wine Dinner

We had the opportunity to sit among friends, in an intimate setting for the latest DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant Wine Dinner. Usually these dinners are for upwards of 60 people. For this dinner, there were only 18 people. I think this made the dinner more accessible from both the house’s perspective and the diners’. First, there’s the cosmetic upfitting that Tony and Maria did to the restaurant the week prior. The DiLisios changed the color scheme to a warmer earth-toned theme and moved away from the sometimes drab and dull white that has been the motif since the beginning. They replaced the floors and installed sound baffling on the ceilings and walls to help eliminate the abundance of noise the flat-surfaced walls admeasure at times.

However, the true star of this remodel is the new bar area. They have simultaneously eliminated a less-than-attractive register area and the need to wade through waiting patrons to get to the “hostess” in order to obtain a place in line. In doing so, they created an aesthetically beautiful structure that allows for a few eating seats, a place to service the imbibing and allow for draft beer, a sure attraction. Add this to the fantastic fare that DiLisio’s is known for and you have a win-win. But, we’re here to talk about the pairing, so let’s.

The dinner leaned a little heavy on the seafood and that’s a good thing. In fact, the first three full courses were seafood based. The wine pairings were on point and whether they stood on their own or not, their accompanying the foods they were with, molto bene!

First Course: Insalada Di Gamberi with Arugula Scaglei di Parmigiano Limone Extra Vergine di Oliva

2016-03-14 09.50.42An arugula salad sounds basic enough, but add generous portions of shrimp and heap some shaved Parmesan cheese to the top and it jumps tall buildings in a single bound. Add the lemon extra virgin olive oil and it flies to the moon. It’s amazing how so simple a thing can be so extraordinary. The citrus on top of the shrimp reminded me of ceviche, even though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the preparation process. And, the citrus wasn’t quaint, it was a full immersion of flavor that took the shrimp, cheese and arugula, all of which are quite flavor-potent in their own rights, for a joyride.

This is paired with Domaine Laurent Miquel Albarino from France. The wine was fair on its own but the citrus and cheese in the salad were even more vivid when paired with this wine. For a first course, it was amazing how plentiful and powerful it was.

Second Course: Ostriche served with Panna Acida and Caviar

Ostriche is Italian for oysters, not ostrich. Three deliciously fleshy oysters, prepared raw with a dab of red roe caviar on each. A tangy creme fraiche dolloped on the plate made a great team when added to 2016-03-14 09.52.42the roe-topped oysters. But, really, what made it near perfect was the addition of the seaweed salad that separated them by position but brought them to a perfect harmonious union. I have become quite fond of this particular style of seaweed and its pickled tang with chewy texture sat on the oyster with the caviar and creme fraiche like royalty upon thrones. The flavor was just as majestic. Some of the guests were a little hesitant because the oysters were raw, which, was good news for me because my near neighbors allowed me to finish off what they weren’t keen to. I believe I had around nine total.

The ostriche was paired with Echo Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand. This light and airy white wine made it easy for the seaweed and creme fraiche to envelop the oysters and caviar creating a party on the half shell.

Interlude: Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon

2016-03-14 09.54.27Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong! Sure, it is a cantaloupe that has thinly sliced Italian ham draped over it like it was putting it to bed. But, you add the dark and rich balsamic gastrique to the ensemble and you get a salty-sweet explosion that I really don’t believe your taste buds are ready for. There was more than one person “oohing and ahhing” over this course. It is meant as a palate cleanser and the melon does its job, all while showing you its new friends’ tricks along the way. Okay, simple yes. Plain? No way.

Third Course: Swordfish Involtino with Pane Profumato a Limone with a Marscarpone Orange Risotto

Ah, the steak-like swordfish. Cooked nicely; not too done and not under done. This sitting on some of the creamiest, yet firm risotto that I can remember having tangy from the marscarpone and orange. A 2016-03-14 09.55.48blood orange sits to the side with the crusty bread. As I have said before, the perfect secret ingredient is the microgreens. Earthy and bright, these tiny leaves pack quite a wallop. I think the microgreens are a wonderful compliment to almost any savory dish, here’s no exception. Meld the earthy and bright with the swordfish and lemon-tinged roulade; almost plate licking good.

This was paired with Treanna White Blend, Central Coast. 50% Marsanne, 50% Viognier grapes. I will be honest that I really did not like this wine. At least, not on its own. However, when I took a bite of the risotto, swordfish roulade and microgreens and then sipped this wine, it opened my mind and taste buds to its true potential. It is not a wine that I would go out of my way to drink but if I’m having swordfish with creamy risotto, then I may give it another try.

Fourth Course: Spezzatino di Carne with a Chef Vegetable Blend

Tony DiLisio described this as Italian Filet while spezzatino di carne actually means “stew meat.” I will say it was quite tender. It was cooked closer to medium/medium-well and I would have rather it be medium-rare, but other 2016-03-14 09.56.51than that, its seasoning and texture was spot on. The only thing that kept it from perfect was the temperature and in the long run, that was not an issue. The beef was placed on top of nicely seasoned potatoes along with pickled carrots and, you guessed it, more microgreens.

The pairing for this was Ferrari-Carano “Siena,” Sonoma, a delicious jammy red with a good bit of blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and a bit of darker flavors, those of cocoa and licorice. I have always been a white wine drinker but I have found that there are many reds that I have started to grow quite fond of; especially when having it with red meat. The fruit-forward jamminess compliments the savory beef and vegetables. This is a marriage made in paradise. I will not say that the wine was the highlight of the meal but it was certainly a major contributor.

Fifth Course: Caprese Bianca with Almond Coulis

2016-03-18 19.45.50

©Jillian Hernandez

A moist cake with lemon with a thin, syrupy, almond sauce and edible flowers. It was sweet but not too. The almond coulis mixed with the edible flowers was a nice touch with the cake. This was not my favorite dish of the evening but desserts rarely are. That, however is not to say that I did not enjoy it or that there was anything bad about it. It is fitting that it had an almond coulis as the pairing was almond as well.

The pairing was with the JFJ Almond Brut, California. This is some sparkling white that is fully infused with almond flavor. I had this wine once before and liked it so much I purchased two bottles of it. The almond flavor was flowing abundantly between the coulis and the wine. The cake almost got lost in the mix, but that is not a bad thing, either. The nutty profiles were the stars of this course and with good measure. If you have the chance to have the JFJ, especially when you have other almondy things in the mix, you should certainly jump at that chance.

Tony DiLisio is a fantastic chef. He has a cadre of professionals in the kitchen with him. Maria DiLisio’s servers are loyal and attentive and top-notch. Together this team knows how to bring you finest in food pairings; the best Italian food and wine pairings. Each of their pairing dinners are something new, different and honest. These dinners are where Tony shows off. DiLisio’s everyday fare is exactly what it should be. An Italian meal that is honest, delicious and authentic. Sometimes, Italian (as well as other specialized cuisines) restaurateurs have the tendency to try to “jazz” up the wheel when the wheel is perfect the way it is. When I go for Italian, I want the spaghetti, lasagna, picatta, caccitore, amici and other like meals to be “authentic” and true; not jazzy. I would never call DiLisio’s plain, just “delightfully right.” But, as I said, these meals are Tony’s time to shine. He creates works of art that we are able to, and happy to put into our mouths. The portions are not huge and they are not meant to be.

The one thing I will say about these wine dinners is when they pour the wine, until that course is over, they will continue to fill your glass when you finish it until you tell them to stop. Most places give you a tasting and then you are done with it. Not here, and thankfully so. As I said before, all of these wines were spot-on, whether on their own or paired. Bravo, Tony, il amico mio! Fantastico!

I write this Food Pairing Series with the idea of highlighting the chefs, restaurateurs and other merchants that make this area wonderful for food. You should know where to find the best food and drink when it is out there waiting to be tasted. You can find more about DiLisio’s by visiting their website here. They are on Twitter (@medilisios) and Instagram (@dilisios). DiLisio’s does not accept reservations but if you need to call in an order or ask questions, you can reach them at 336-546-7202.

Bon appetit! or should I say: Buon appetito!!


The Food Pairing Series: The Willow’s Bistro Bourbon Dinner

Within a month, we were privy to not one but two amazing bourbon dinners in our little culinary hideaway, Winston-Salem, NC or as we locals like to call it, WSNC. This time we delve into Chef Travis Myers’ bourbon wonderland event at Willow’s Bistro. These drinks and cocktails were from the Jim Beam family of bourbons and the food pairings were right on point, making it a fantastic marriage of goodness. Chef Myers has taken Chef Will Kingery’s vision of Willow’s Bistro and enhanced Will’s baby to blossom into a foodie paradise. Let’s look at this pairing dinner.

Amuse Bouche: Country-Style Cajun Gumbo

Take pork belly mix it 2016-03-17 09.38.34with seafood, scallions and a spicy gumbo broth, toss in a dollop of white rice and what do you have? Yumminess, that’s what. The salty pork with spicy broth was a great marriage of the earthy flavor. Oysters and scallions took the earthy to a lovely place in the sea with herbal essence and made the dish pop. The dish wasn’t overly spicy as Stephanie was afraid it would be since it is “Cajun.” Any self-respecting Cajun would want to pat Chef Travis on the back, I’m sure. A great starter, indeed.

This was paired with a Jim Beam Apple Mule which was fresh muddled mint, apple cider and Jim Beam Apple Whiskey all topped with ginger beer. When you take this drink and let it mix with the spicy gumbo, your tongue is at conflict with itself, but that’s a good thing. The cool crisp with the savory spice sends your taste buds into a flavor frenzy and really, what could be better?

Rabbit Rillettes

Hunter Farms mutsu apples and cherry compote, charred bread, house pickles, candied pistachio, Lusty Monk grain mustard and Fair Share Farms microgreens. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: microgreens, while usually a 2016-03-17 09.40.14minor addition, can take a relatively understated dish and turn it out like a debutante at her ball. That’s exactly what happens here, other than the dish wasn’t understated. It was a clever re-imagining of rabbit. The rabbit was ground and served pate style beneath the charred bread, covered with the compote with the pickles strategically placed between bread pieces and then dollop of mustard to the side. The microgreens, along with the pistachios, were scattered about the plate, in a controlled chaos. The rabbit wasn’t gamey but light and tasty. Take a piece of the bread, place a bit of rabbit on it, a small bit of pickle and compote and, trust me, you only need a small bit of the mustard and you have yourself a treat. Follow that up with a candied pistachio chaser and you’re in business. The mustard is delicious but if you put a lot in your mouth at one time, you’ll clear up, not only your sinuses, but any future sinus problem you may have in the next two weeks. But, that flavor is amazing, especially with that rabbit.

This was paired with a Basil Berry Martini which is fresh muddled basil and blueberries, Basil Hayden’s bourbon, fresh squeezed lime juice and simple syrup. They served it in a dainty little martini glass with a single blueberry. It was better than a lot of berry martinis that I’ve had. Understandably, you have to go light on these pairing dinners but I could have used a bit more of this one. It cooled off the mustard if you got too much. And the berry aspect went well with the rabbit, as well.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp, Grit Cakes and Chives

Grit cakes made from Old Mill of Guilford Stone-ground Grits covered with a pair of shrimp properly smothered in a bourbon-infused barbecue sauce and sprinkled with chives. The sauce was tangy and easy, not too heavy. The 2016-03-17 09.41.54shrimp was firm but tender and the chives have an herbal lightening-up of the glazing you had with the sauce.  The Old Mill of Guilford grit cakes offered the texture you needed with the shrimp and those cakes were delicious. I’ve only come into grit maturity in the last three or four years and I love it when I find something that rocks me like these cakes. It was on the bottom of the pile but I think it was the best supporting actor in the dish. The only bad thing about having the tails left on the shrimp is: with a dinner like this, I find it improper to pick up the tails and suck the leftover meat from it.

This was paired with Willow’s Twisted Old Fashioned made with Maker’s 46. Combine the Maker’s 46 with a crushed brown sugar cube, Crude orange & fig bitters, muddled orange slice and Bordeaux cherries topped with a splash of soda. The Old Fashioned is my absolute favorite classic cocktail and when I can get it made with new elements or with a few twists and turns in its concocting, that’s even better. This is especially true when you have it with a dish like the barbecued shrimp. Delicious.

Blood Orange & Beet braised Lamb Neck, Rice Grits, Dirty Style Barrel Aged Bourbon Gastrique

Border Springs lamb neck, succulent, delicious, tender. I don’t know how many more words I could fit in to describe this lamb. Combine that with the Anson Mills Carolina rice grits and you have a savory textured delight that is 2016-03-17 09.43.41doused in a blood orange and beet sauce. Then surround it with a bourbon gastrique and this is a party in your mouth. But, guess what makes it all spectaculicious? That’s right, microgreens. I’m telling you, if you’re not on the microgreens train, no matter the style, you’re truly missing a treat. These babies really bring everything to a head and your dishes, and those who taste them, will thank you for it. There was nothing left on my plate when I finished this dish.

Another twist on a classic cocktail, this dish was paired with “Not Your Father’s Manhattan.” This was made with Baker’s Bourbon, dry vermouth, Crude lavender bitters all shaken with a cherry and garnished with a lemon twist. This was also served in the itsy-bitsy martini glass. A thing of beauty. I think the lavender bitters was the over-the-edge push on this one. The bitter  (not the bitters) flavor of this drink was a perfectly compliment to the rice grit and lamb neck dish. A wonderful dish.

Palate Cleanser

The palate cleanser for the evening was called The Sunbeam. Gray and Jessica, Willow’s mixologists/bartenders 2016-03-17 09.44.58for the evening, took good ol’ Jim Beam and mixed it with local WSNC staple Sunshine Drink and juice from one to two limes. Light and refreshing with the patented “Pick Me Up” from the Sunshine with the grand old taste of Jim Beam’s classic bourbon and you were ripped and ready to hit the next course. It didn’t hurt that it was a delicious beverage.

Venison Loin w/Juniper Salt, Fig-Bourbon Gastrique, Black Trumpet Mushroom, Bacon Jam, Potato Pave ‘Tater Tots’ and Microgreens

When I was growing up, my father (who is still an avid deer hunter) would bring home deer meat and my mother would fry it up beyond recognition and I could never figure out why I hated it so. I steered far away from venison until way after I’d reached adulthood. When I realized that I like my steak and most other non-fowl meats at most cooked medium (I prefer most red meat to be rare/medium-rare), I decided to give venison another chance. I had it as our 2016-03-17 09.47.40wedding dinner in Edinburgh, Scotland and I loved it. Now, I try it anywhere I have say in its cooked temperature or know the chef will not steer me wrong. This venison loin was made with juniper salt and cooked just medium rare. It was drizzled with the fig-bourbon gastrique and was fantastic with the bacon jam that accompanied it. That brought an extra saltiness to the deer. The potato pavé style tater tots were very flavorful for potatoes. I think sometimes potatoes have a tendency to just be plain. These weren’t plain and weren’t typical tater tots if that’s what you are looking for. Tater tots tend to be squishy and mushy. These tots were firm. Not a huge fan of mushrooms of any kind so I can’t really comment on those but what I can comment on: microgreens from Fair Share Farms! Add them to the bacon jam and the deer and that’s earthy, salty and savory all in one package. Très magnifique!

This is paired with a Willow’s staple: The Capone. The bartenders smoke each glass individually over hickory chips then add Booker’s bourbon, maple honey simple syrup, Crude smoke & salt bitters and top it with ginger ale and peppered bacon. Holy smokes (pun intended)!! Bacon, maple, honey, smoke? All that in itself would be perfect but then add some Booker’s on top and you’ve got yourself “Amazing in a Glass.” All that with the venison? There are no words.

Olive Oil Cake, Bourbon Caramel, Buttermilk Ice Cream, Glass Pecan Soil, Fig Syrup

The big finish. Two mini olive oil muffin/cupcakes. Between them lays a scoop of buttermilk ice cream and they’re all covered with a flavorful caramel made from bourbon and a fig syrup? Oh yes. Scattered upon these treats is a soil 2016-03-17 09.49.04made of pecan glass in which Chef Travis told how they made but I was too busy eating the cake and marveling over the drink pairing to remember what he said. The cakes were moist, as you’d expect something made of olive oil to be and the caramel was buttery, again, as you’d expect. It was a little thick and sticky but the flavor was spot on. I mentioned the drink pairing:

It was a Bourbon Float. Read that again, a bourbon float. One made of Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon mixed with Uncle Scott’s Root Beer (non-alcoholic) and throw in a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The ice cream frothed right up as it does in a root beer float and then you get the kick of the single barrel bourbon in there, as well. Don’t forget the fluffy whipped cream garnish, either. A sweet ending to a great night of food and bourbons.

I don’t want to leave off the fact that Lele Nguyen and her staff were on top of everything and we never wanted for a new eating utensil or a water refresher or whatever our needs were. The kitchen staff were functioning like a well oiled-machine and Chef Travis and his team seemed to be having fun. Gray and Jessica, again, getting that many drinks out in such a timely manner, was a feat in and of itself. Kudos to the entire Willow’s crew for making the night memorable. And thanks to Beam Suntory Brands for having such beautiful bourbons for our entertainment. The portions of this dinner were just right; not too heavy, not too big, not too much bourbon (with all that we had). Stephanie and I felt like we left satisfied, well-fed and not over-stuffed. The food was all delicious and just shows the genius that Chef Travis Myers is. Chef Will Kingery has to be proud.

Chef Travis has a lot of ideas and plans to have a lot of themed dinners. You can visit Willow’s Facebook Page to find out more about these dinners (for some reason their website isn’t working). Willow’s Bistro is located at 300 S. Liberty Street, Suite 125 in Winston-Salem. Their phone number is (336) 293-4601. Another great resource for all things good happening at Willow’s Bistro is to follow Chef Travis on Twitter and Instagram both @Chef_Myers

One last thing, anytime you’re tagging Willow’s, Chef Travis or anything to do with the restaurants, be sure to include the hashtag: #SOB40 (South of Business 40). Bon appetit!

Chef Tim Grandinetti – Bourbon and Pappy

This is part of the “Food Pairing Series” that will convey the culinary genius that is Winston-Salem’s (and surrounding areas’) wonderful restaurateurs, chefs and food visionaries. This series isn’t designed to display any certain holidays, seasons or time frames. It is simply a demonstration of what the area has to offer and why you should follow the restaurants and chefs to be informed about the events that they will be holding in the future. You won’t be disappointed… guaranteed. Enjoy!

This event brought a pre-Valentine’s treat for Stephanie and me. We were guests at the chef’s table for Tim Grandinetti’s American Whiskey Celebration, AKA the “‘Illest Bourbon Dinner.” A limited-seating event (there were only 16 people, max), we were treated to some fantastic bourbon and delicious food at Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen and Bar.

Pan Roasted Diver Scallops & Smoked Giant Shrimp

First off, who doesn’t like seafood saddled beside (or on top or under) a bourbon gravy laced with bacon? EspeciallySH Roasted Diver Scallops 1 when that bacon is the delicious Italian pancetta? Well, here you have large, meaty shrimp and tender diver scallops that are perfectly enveloped in this pancetta bourbon glaze and all of this on top of creamy grits. And, please, don’t forget the microgreens. I have gotten on a microgreens kick lately and these, while quaint, set it all off. It was a small dish but bursting with large flavor; lots of smokiness, wonderful savory and seafood tastes.

Pair this with a craft cocktail called “Maple Ginger Smash” and that was made with Buffalo Trace Whiskey. It’s spiciness matched with that of the ginger and against the sweet of the maple creates a flavor party for your mouth. This along with the salty pancetta, the earthy microgreens and our delicious friends from the sea? A wonderful first course.

Slow Cooked Duck Confit with Grand Marnier Aioli

I’ve just discovered the joys of duck in the last few years and duck confit (cooked in its own fat) is even better. I’ve SH Slow Cooked Duck Confit 2really never been a fan of dark fowl meat: duck, turkey, chicken, etc., but lately these things have started to really appeal to me. First, though, there’s a smeared smattering of the Grand Marnier aioli. Grand Marnier is absolutely my favorite liquor or liqueur, ever. So, an aioli – not unlike (but not exactly) mayonnaise but with garlic – made with this lovely orange treat is just perfect. Take the fat-cooked duck leg and place it on top of said aioli and it’s a match made at least near heaven. Garnished with large-cut sweet potato steak fries, both they and the duck are great candidates for “dipping” in the aioli. I believe this was my favorite dish of the night.

The duck was paired with the craft cocktail called “Toasted Apples” made with Basil Hayden, a lighter bourbon in the Jim Beam family. The lighter bourbon with the fresh apple essence went well with the dark fowl and created a delightful contrast and flavor balance.

Orchard Apple, Estate Honey & Bourbon Sorbet

The palate cleanser was a delicious sorbet that was infused with Maker’s Mark, a very flavor-rich bourbon. The woodSH Orchard Apple Estate Honey 3 notes of the bourbon and the sweetness of the honey makes a great match for the apple flavors. I could have eaten about 12 more of those.

Bourbon Chicken & Crispy Chicken Livers

Take some potatoes, whip them up with creamy brie and scallions and you have a delicious bed on which to lay your breaded bourbon chicken. Then take chicken livers and hearts and bread them up and place them SH Bourbon Chicken and Crispy Livers and Hearts 4on the potato bed right next to the wonderful chicken. They are from the same bird so, naturally they make great bedfellows. I’ll be honest, chicken innards aren’t usually my thing, but Tim Grandinetti has a way of making me eat things I normally wouldn’t. The hearts were a little more chewy than I’d want, but they were definitely edible. The livers were quite earthy but when you mixed all that with the roasted tomato chutney, the tomatoes gave just the right amount of acidity to the hearty bird and potatoes.

This was paired with the craft cocktail called “Smoke Signals,” made with Elijah Craig bourbon. Its smokey tones made the pungent brie cheese pop in the potatoes, brought out the brightness of the tomatoes and tamed the earthiness of the livers and hearts. This dish, overall, I’d describe as simply: “bold.”

House Signature Bread PuddingSH House Signature Bread Pudding with KK Streusel 5

This bread pudding was sticky (which I think is the point) and moist. It was made with a Krispy Kreme streusel and that WSNC staple brought new life to the pudding. Add a side of egg foam and you get a creamy sauce to pour over the pudding/streusel to lighten it up a bit. It was good, but the anticipation of the bourbon distracted me from getting a full flavor experience. The bourbon in SH 15 Year Old Pappy Van Winkle 5question was the Pappy Van Winkle 15 year-old. Pappy is made in very small batches: perhaps 7000 bottles a year (compared to 7 million cases of Jim Beam a year). Its flavor was the absolute smoothest I’ve ever tasted in a bourbon. You get the full bourbon hit but, it’s very low on the bite, which is what some people complain about with bourbon.  I am honored to have tried this, especially with the company I was with when doing so.

Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen and Bar is a collaboration between husband-and-wife team, Lynn Murphy & Lynette Matthews-Murphy and Chef Extraordinaire, Tim Grandinetti. They offer Southern, New American cuisine that is rotated seasonally using farm-to-table ingredients whenever possible. This, with craft cocktail artistry and a wonderful, out of the ordinary beer and wine list, makes this restaurant unique and you’ll love eating, imbibing and enjoying at its beautifully historic grounds, bar and dining rooms. You can find more about Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen and Bar on their website. You can call them: (336) 293-4797. Follow Chef Tim on Twitter: @DocBrownstone