The Beer Dads Go To Cúrate

I know that Winston-Salem is “the town” in The Man Who Ate the Town. But, every once in a while you have to step outside the box. Sometimes that’s to Greensboro or High Point. Sometimes it’s further out. This time it is Asheville, NC.

Yep, Stephanie and I went up the hill (I can’t call NC mountains “mountains” being as I’m from WV; these are hills) but we didn’t go alone. We met up with my cohorts from The Beer Dads, Jon Lowder and Paul Jones and their pilots Celeste and Susan (respectively). We were going up to celebrate Susan’s birthday month. It was a milestone one and I won’t get into which milestone that is. We set out to have a grand time with some great food, great drinks, and especially great company. We got all of that in abundance.

But, this post is about one restaurant in particular. This restaurant is called Cúrate (pronounced coo – rah – tay). Cúrate means to cure yourself in Spanish, or according to their website, to eat Spanish tapas. That’s what the restaurant specializes in, tapas. It has a reputation for being amazing and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. Paul and Susan had been there before and the restaurant had changed a bit, expanded, since then.

Sangria

Our server, Michael, got drink orders from us all, which we opted for the pitcher of red sangria. The glasses were kind of small but perfect for the setting and the service. Each pitcher got us about two glasses each and there were six of us. Twelve glasses is a good amount for a pitcher. The sangria wasn’t overly boozy and it also wasn’t overly winey. The fruit didn’t take over either. To me, it was a perfect blend. It was very refreshing and light but you still felt like you were getting your drink on.

Tabla de Jamónes

Michael then explained to us the concept of the “Spanish Experience.” That is where Michael and the chefs come up with a custom menu for the table, ensuring we all get to try each item, and they bring until we say we can’t have anymore. We decided, as a table, that this was the right course for us. Basically, he asks us questions like: are there any food allergies or is there anything you just won’t eat? The answer to both was no. I was willing to eat (around) asparagus had it come out on a plate. I don’t know how much asparagus is used in Spanish cooking. Something to research, I guess. Paul ate octopus and while it wasn’t his favorite dish, he said it wasn’t “bad.” Props for that. And, I think we were all ready to experiment and just try new stuff. That’s the point, right?

Pan de Cristal con Tomate

Before we got into the heart of the meal, we did order something from the “para el aperitivo” (appetizers) and “charcuteria y quesos” (charcuterie and cheeses). We had the tabla de jamónes or a selection of all four of their cured hams. Most of these were Ibérico pigs. The difference in the four was the length of aging and the cut of meat. They ranged from being cured one year up to three years. The nutty flavor of the Ibérico and the stronger flavor of the longer aged pig was magnificent. We got that at the same time we also had the pan de cristal con tomate which is toasted crispy bread with fresh tomato, garlic, and olive oil. With that, we got the manchego cheese. So, let me explain something. When you take the manchego cheese and have that with the Ibérico ham and the chase it with the tomato bread… magnífico!

Gambas al Ajillo

Then came the fantastic Spanish Experience.

First, we had the gambas al ajillo which was sautéed shrimp with sliced garlic, sherry, and a chili. To me, the one thing that made this one of my favorite dishes of the night was that broth! The broth was spiced just right, the right consistency, garlicky, and when they bring you sliced bread, you sop that broth up – greedily. I was moaning and laughing I was so giddy and the table laughed at me for it. I deserved the laugh but it was so good. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, not overcooked and it was tender. The garlic slices were sautéeed with the shrimp in the sherry and I just shuddered writing this. This dish was so darned good.

Berenjenas con Miel

Berenjenas con Miel
One of the surprises of the night! This was fried eggplant drizzled with wild mountain bees honey and garnished with rosemary. I’m not the biggest fan of eggplant but ¡Dios mío! this was great stuff. The eggplant, fried, wasn’t watery but it wasn’t chewy, either. It was easy to cut through with a knife but firm. The wild bees honey was so sweet but savory as well. Add the rosemary and those flavors burst in your mouth. It was one of the dishes that we all talked about the rest of the night and some of the next day. Stephanie is a huge fan of eggplant so it was definitely one of her faves.

Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo a la Gallega
Galician-style octopus served warm with sea salt, olive oil, Spanish paprika, and Yukon Gold potato purée. This was the oddest dish of the evening. I enjoy octopus. It’s a little chewy but usually flavorful. This was indeed that. It had a warmth from the Spanish paprika and it was prominent. That spicy was a little offset by the sea salt and olive oil. The meat itself was chewy but it wasn’t overly so. It was near-perfect consistency. The potato purée was very smooth. Almost too smooth to know it was even potatoes. Almost. They were buttery and were a nice compliment to the octopus. I believe it was the least favorite of the table. It was my least favorite but I also didn’t mind it.

Pimientos de Piquillo Rellenos

Pimientos de Piquillo Rellenos
This was one of my favorite dishes, as well. Roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with Spanish goat cheese. The peppers were sweet and powerful while the goat cheese was creamy, earthy and only subtlely tart. It was a perfect marriage of those flavor profiles. I have mentioned many times about how I’m a sucker for microgreens and there were some nice earthy microgreens on this dish. I couldn’t believe the deep red color of the peppers. Their texture was fleshy as you’d want a pepper but so very tender. I can’t write enough adjectives to describe how good this was.

Pincho Moruno

Pincho Moruno
Moorish spice marinated lamb skewers carry a little of its marinating juices on a plate with housemade pickled cucumbers. The lamb was good bite-sized morsels that were cooked to a medium rare temperature. It was so succulent and juicy. I could taste hints of cumin, cilantro (or coriander), cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg in there among others. The meat wasn’t at all chewy. In fact, when I held it in my mouth, it melted. Of course, I sopped up some of the spice marinade, too. The pickles reminded me of Niki’s Pickles but they were made there. A briny concoction that wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t too heavy on the dill. I like pickles that are a good balance of the in-between of those profiles. There was none of this left.

Migas con Verduras

Migas con Verduras
Another odd dish for me and one of my least favorites, but others around the table were oohing and aahing over it. Still, I did like what I had, I just didn’t want a lot of it. It was fried breadcrumbs with roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and raisins finished with a celery root/yogurt mousse. The meal was crunchy and you didn’t taste the oil, you tasted the bread, the veggies, and the fruit. Sometimes fried things leave too much of the oily taste from its cooking. The mousse was creamy and earthy, but the lemon zest on top of it gave it a fresh and vibrant kick. Like I said it wasn’t my fave but I did think it was done well. The next three items came out about the same time.

Migas con Verduras

Setas al Jerez
Sautéed mushrooms with a splash of sherry. I’m not the biggest fan of mushrooms but I have really started to get into the oyster mushrooms from our own local Gnomestead Hollow and these had both oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. There was a third variety in there and I don’t remember what that was. The sherry made a sort of umami-flavored sauce that coated the mushrooms, adding to their earthy flavor. The mushrooms were very tender and had a slight hint of saltiness.

Patatas Bravas
These crispy fried potatoes were topped with a slightly spicy tomato and garlic sauce. They were a bit red and its color was beautiful. Unfortunately, my picture for these didn’t come out very well, so I left that out. The potatoes were indeed crispy but not too hard. I don’t like my potatoes nuggets of rocks, I like them to be firm on the outside and soft on the inside. These were that, just with a bit of a bite on the back end. The potatoes weren’t spicy hot but were spicy “warm.” You could still taste the potatoes through the sauce. That’s a plus.

Cerdo Ibérico a las Finas Hierbas

Cerdo Ibérico a las Finas Hierbas
Another of my personal faves of the evening. Grilled Fermin pure Ibérico pork “skirt steak” with fresh rosemary and thyme. Oh. My…! This was great stuff. The pork steaks were perfectly medium/medium rare and there was this crust around the tips. Wow. The herbs were so prevalent in the flavor, too. Thin slices but, oh so juicy. I fell in love the first time I had Ibérico pork at Spring House. This made me fall in love all over again. There is nothing like Ibérico pigs from Salamanca. Now, the trick here was to have a piece of the potato, a bit of the mushroom mixture and this at the same time. Luckily, everyone was getting full and they were keeping back a bit. That left room for me (the fat guy) to have a little bit extra. Man…

Flan de Huevo

 

Flan de Huevo
Orange-saffron egg flan with smoked caramel and sherry poached raisins. This delightful, sweet custard was warm but cool at the same time and the whipped cream made it extra fluffy. The sherry poached raisins were thick and saucy, too. Great addition.

Tarta de Manzana
Apple tart with roasted apple butter, goat milk pastry cream, hazelnut praline and crème fraîche. The glaze of the roasted apple butter was amazing. It was tart and the goat milk pastry cream, tangy. If this was had earlier in the evening, it would have been even better but we were all getting stuffed by this point.

Tarta de Manzana

So, our one pitcher of sangria turned into two. Susan had a couple of beers and then I had to do something silly (but fun). I tried the Spanish porrón, which is a drinking vessel that is a lot like a watering can for your indoor plants. Some call it a wine bong and that’s pretty much what it is. A filling shaft, a belly, and a pouring spout. It’s meant to be used communally so the idea is to pour it into your mouth, extend your arm, still pouring and then bring it back. Well, all that is well and good except the bringing it back. That was kind of difficult. I was really the only one to pull it away from my face. I ended up with shandy (Estrella lager mixed with lemonade) all in my beard, up my nose, in my lap and so on. The table close to us was having a ball watching me.

Tim doing the Porrón

So, the night came to a close and we did a communal check divided three ways. We were all bracing for the worst because we didn’t hold back. It was a celebration, it was meant to be a blowout and we expected it to be really bad. Divided three ways, it came down to (pre-tip) about $118 per couple. I was expecting $120 per person with all that, but it wasn’t. The food was really reasonably priced and so very good. We were all in shock.

Michael took such good care of us, never letting our water glasses get empty, pouring the sangria when someone was low, choosing our food, expediting that food (with the help of his friends) and entertaining us. He also helped me keep track of what we were having on the giant menus I got to bring home.

I have dined in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, London, Edinburgh, Walt Disney World, Costa Rica, Charlotte, Wilmington, and so on. I’ve been a few places. This was a Top FIVE dining experience for me. The food, the service, the ambiance, the experience. Five stars over here. I think we were all taken aback by the amazing time they provided for us.

#BeerDadsDoAsheville

I will say that I believe you should experience this restaurant in a larger group, say six or more people. I believe if you’re just two people your choices will be more limited because you’ll eat more at once and not spread it out. It’s a great time with your friends. It was a great time with mine! Memories we won’t soon forget. I told the assistant manager that.

Cúrate is located at 13 Biltmore Ave, in Asheville. Find more about them on their website and on Facebook. We are already talking about our next Beer Dads trip there and taking even more friends!

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.

Amuse-Bouche

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

Amuse-Bouche
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.

Porchetta

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.

Macaroon

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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 62

In Episode #61, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

  • Wise Man Brewing and Willows Bistro Beer Dinner coming Feb 25.
  • Tim and Kelly sample food from the new Dynasty Asian Fusion restaurant.
  • Camino Bakery has two new co-owners.
  • Super Bowl and party food recap.
  • Food Holidays

Don’t forget our sponsors:

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

The Humble Bee Shoppe is challenging your perception of scratch made and leaving you with an experience you couldn’t possibly forget! With inventive flavor combos and a sense of artistry, The Humble Bee Shoppe isn’t your average bakery.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon Appetit!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 59

Kelly Bone

In Episode #59, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

  • Kelly Bone returns as a guest and now, co-host of the podcast.
  • Tim and Kelly talk about their plans for the show moving forward, what it will be, what they’ll talk about.
  • Willows re-opens after kitchen renovations.
  • Alma Mexicana to open this week.
  • Food Holidays and History.

Don’t forget my sponsors:

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

The Humble Bee Shoppe is challenging your perception of scratch made and leaving you with an experience you couldn’t possibly forget! With inventive flavor combos and a sense of artistry, The Humble Bee Shoppe isn’t your average bakery.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon Appetit!

Oui, Oui, Oui! The Katharine C’est Magnifique!

Stephanie and I had the distinct pleasure of dining at The Katharine Brasserie and Bar last night, as guests of Chef Adam Barnett. This was a makeup date for me since I had missed the official blogger/media night to introduce him to the town due to another commitment. We met with Chef Adam and he was one of the most genuine, sweetest guys you’ll meet. Humble and passionate about his work, he was the consummate host for the night.

Sweet Corn Soup

Chef Adam Barnett (©Katharine)

I had mentioned in an earlier podcast/blog post that I felt a little dread when it came to his comments about “southern twist.” He even commented to me about that when we talked last night. I have to tell you, he set my mind at ease. First off, there was no pimento cheese to be found. That’s a major plus. I mean, I love pimento cheese but it has no place in French-influenced food, as far as I am concerned. The bottom line on Chef Adam is he’s a “good one.” Let’s talk food.

Chef Adam, Stephanie and I discussed what we would be doing as far as food and we decided that he would just bring us what he wanted us to try. I wanted him to showcase his talents and I am quite confident they were sufficiently demonstrated and abundantly so.

First off was the sweet corn soup. This bowl arrived with a brilliant, thick, yellow liquid with specks of red in the middle. It was this amazing Espelette pepper and heirloom tomato salpicón (“medley” in Spanish) resting in the center of the creamy soup. The soup tasted just like someone took corn from a cob, added some cream to it, pureed it and added a little touch of acidity to make it pop. It was creamy and delicious. It tasted as if the corn had been shucked a mere five minutes ago. I don’t know for sure but it could have been?

Steak Tartare

I had mentioned to Chef Adam that one of my favorite dishes ever was steak tartare. Then, we had to try his, he said. Chef Adam uses flat iron steak with an avocado mousse on top with a bit of pickled mustard seed on top to give an intermittent flavor burst of earthiness. It was a little strange with the first bite; a little bitter, actually, but it certainly came through with a pop of acid once you knew what you were getting. The beef was tender and seasoned well. The avocado mousse was light and delicious. The components combined were like a chopped-meat masterpiece. I will go on record to say that this rivals at least one of the tartare dishes I had in Paris on our honeymoon, possibly two.

Shrimp & Grits

Up next was the shrimp and grits. The grits were creamy and light (no hard bits) with large chunks of shrimp, spicy sausage, a perfect mix of herbs and spices and soft, but brilliantly flavored red bell pepper. All of these flavors and textures rested beautifully together in a bowl. I will say that the shrimp and grits dish at Katharine Brasserie and Bar is probably the best I’ve ever had. I used to say that about a food truck. Now, it’s here. This is a must try for any fan of shrimp and grits or anyone who is a fan of good food.

Lobster Gnocchi

Chef Adam wanted us to try the Lobster Gnocchi and that’s what we got next. A mixture of Maitake mushrooms, chunks of lobster meat, sweet corn, swiss chard and a creamy, tangy lemon hollandaise sauce. The Maitakes were scored and chewy. I’m not usually a mushroom fan, but these were really good. The gnocchi was large and fluffy and it all worked together in a light, yet succulent dish. A lot of flavor in that dish, that’s for sure.

Cotelette de Porc

Next came a very large and generous slab of pork, seasoned and grilled to perfection on a bed of Pomme Purée (basically, whipped potatoes) with a large fried onion ring, broccoli rabe (which I mistook for broccolini, something that I feel is a common occurrence) and a moat of smoked ham hock jus. If it were just the pork and not all the accouterments, this would have still been perfect. The tomatoey sauce, the broccoli rabe and those potatoes and it jumped from “all business” to a straight “food party.” But, the pork was delicious enough to stand on its own. It was cooked to a great medium temperature and it was still a bit tender (somewhat floppy or flimsy – not a bad thing) and not stiff like a lot of overcooked pork chops tend to be. This Cotelette De Porc was really delicious.

 

We really didn’t need more food, but you can’t turn down dessert, right? Right. Stephanie had the apple tart and I had the Plum Clafoutis. I was pretty food drunk by that time and can only say that the desserts were tasty. I could taste the plums in the clafoutis and Stephanie let me taste the tart. Both were good, but being I’m not a big dessert person, I can, again, only say that they were good and tasty. If you’re a dessert person, then you will enjoy their offerings. 

Apple Tart

Our server, John, was good with the drink recommendations. Actually, it was “bring me something” instead of picking something out myself. I picked the first one, the “Bacon-Maple Old Fashioned.” From there, he picked the subsequent “Viceroy,” “Gin Rickey” and “Smoked Manhattan” for me. Their bar staff knows their drinks. So, yes, John was great with the drinks but also as a server. 

Plum Clafoutis

I asked Chef Adam about his thoughts on the “farm to table” program that the area restaurants are lucky enough to enjoy. He said that he is big into that and anything he can get from local farmers, reasonably, he does. I told him that we’re all “slave to the truck” to some degree and he agreed. But, local ingredients are what goes into the food at The Katharine. Chef Adam said, also, that he was working on some modifications and tweaks to the menu, but doesn’t want to get too far out there. People get used to a certain menu and want their favorites, but he has room to maneuver some rotating items, as well. Makes me excited for that.

So, the bottom line for me on the Katharine Brasserie and Bar is that I think Winston-Salem got its groove back. We had a gem, almost lost it and have found it again. The French-inspired food that Chef Adam brings to the table is worthy of the hype that the restaurant once had after it opened. The difference is now they have much promise to be great and much potential to grow as an establishment. I’m not going to knock the previous EC, but Chef Adam is the real deal. His kitchen staff, his sous and line cooks are amazing and they listen. Not a single piece of food that came to us was anything short of delicious. Chef Adam added to and modified an already elegant idea and location. Only it is better now that it has ever been.  Kudos Chef and merci beaucoup!

If there was any one thing that I would change it would be that it is still quite loud in there. We actually witnessed a party move because of the noise factor. I admit my hearing isn’t the best but, sitting right beside Stephanie, I could barely hear her talking, but could hear all the other folks in the restaurant. But, that’s neither here nor there, just an observation.

You can try The Katharine Brasserie and Bar for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. They are located in the old RJR building, what is now the Residences at RJR and Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, all located at 401 N. Main Street in Winston-Salem. I’d rate it a solid A.

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 53

In Episode #53, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

  • Dogwood Hops & Crops to start delivery service, via an app, on November 1.
  • Tim reviews his Katharine Brasserie and Bar experience and its new Chef, Adam Barnett.
  • Food Holidays and History.

Don’t forget my sponsors:

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

The Humble Bee Shoppe is challenging your perception of scratch made and leaving you with an experience you couldn’t possibly forget! With inventive flavor combos and a sense of artistry, The Humble Bee Shoppe isn’t your average bakery.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon Appetit!

Trade Street Diner is a Great Lunch Option

©Trade Street Diner

I walked down to the brand new Trade Street Diner today. It was just a short walk from the studio where I record The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast and the other shows on The Less Desirables Network. The location is where Sweet Potatoes used to be, at 529 N. Trade Street. It is lunch time so all I can really review is their lunch offerings.

First, it was very refreshing to see that of their six beer taps, all of them were NC-brewed beer. I didn’t have any, but when a place has New Sarum and Sweet Josie from Lonerider, that’s always a plus. The wine list consists of 14 whites/sparkling and 16 reds. Not bad at all, the spread seemed pretty open with most popular styles represented. Is this a place that you’re going to go look for 123 different varieties of Chardonnay? No, and I’m quite sure they’re not looking to be. They have an extensive craft cocktail and martini list as well. I was greeted at the door by a nice gentleman who is on loan from Bleu Restaurant until the restaurant is more established. I chose to sit at the bar as I feel I get more personal service that way over just sitting at a table. I like to get a feel for the servers and see how they deal with other customers. The manager/bartender for the day was named Sarah and she was very good with the customers. Very nice and asked about my likes/dislikes when it comes to the brews and food choices.

The menu was pretty full for a diner lunch menu. Apps included pimento cheese and garlic naan, southern crab cakes (which Sarah said were some of the best she’s ever had), tuna tartare and chicken skin, chicken and dumplings and the most interesting thing in the apps, Chicken Cigars “Ode to Winston-Salem.” I didn’t have them this time but I will eventually. They are chicken livers and chicken confit served with grain mustard aioli.

Sandwiches included fried pork chop, a patty melt, a regular diner burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo and grilled onions, a housemade pimento cheese and applewood bacon burger, the Chef’s Burger of the Day (more on that in a second), fried green tomato BLT, southern egg salad, a hickory smoked BBQ chicken panini and a braised lamb “GYRO.”

They have salads, which, I think, are a staple of lunch. A house salad, mixed green salad, Caesar, and chef salad are all available and can be embellished with grilled chicken, grilled or fried shrimp, crab cakes, or roasted salmon.

Chef’s Special Black & Bleu with Bacon Burger

They have entrees, each which comes with two sides. The choices are fried catfish, grilled meatloaf and gravy, a daily quiche which changes daily, crab cakes (presumably a larger portion than the appetizer version) and a 12oz short rib and chuck chop steak. That happens to be the most expensive thing on the menu at $15. There are daily specials as well.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a good burger and I decided to try the special burger today, the black and bleu burger with bleu cheese crumbles and a bleu cheese and tomato compote with applewood bacon. I declined the blackened part only because the spices sometimes mess with me. Instead of the standard blanched fries, I wanted to try the mac and cheese that was on the menu. Other side choices were okra, cabbage & bacon, slaw, mashed potatoes, dirty rice, pickled beets and black-eyed pea & corn salad.

I glanced around the establishment as I waited, and took some notes. The inside is bright and spacious. There’s a long bench seat against the wall where Sweet Potatoes used to have traditional four and six top tables. This opens up the floor plan a little. The walls are adorned with local art that you can purchase. I was glad to see the old bar was still in there, it’s been around for a long, long time. It wasn’t overly loud like some of the local restaurants can be. The music was a little loud, but it wasn’t off-putting.

Sarah brought me the burger and it looked great! The meat was glistening and still very warm. It stacked straight and wasn’t drooped over, although the next person that had theirs delivered was presented open-faced. I don’t know why mine was different, but it didn’t matter, you could still see what you needed to. The burger was a perfect medium and quite juicy. I left all the veggies on (including lettuce which I usually never have) and took a big bite. Very good. My take on it is that it could have used a little more bleu cheese, either crumbles or in the compote, but it didn’t take away from the burger. I just like to have a blast of bleu cheese when it’s advertised as such. Again, though, the burger certainly didn’t suffer from this. It was one of the best that I’ve had not from my own kitchen in a while. The mac and cheese was decent.The overall flavor was good but it was a little watery. There were crispy browned parts that were a little overpowering. I pour Texas Pete on my mac and cheese and that added a little extra liquid to the wateriness. Now, that being said, it wasn’t bad mac and cheese and I wasn’t disappointed with my plate. I think this is something that will probably be worked on as they go. After all, they are just a week in from opening the doors.

My overall assessment of Trade Street Diner is that it has great potential. I may have been a little skeptical when I first learned of what is going in there, but my concerns were overridden by the reality in this case. I was very pleased and can’t wait to try more of their offerings in the near future.The price points were also very good. Again, this is only for their lunch menu as I haven’t been for dinner. That will happen soon. For you, readers and listeners of the podcast, I recommend this place. You won’t be sorry. If I was rating it on the burger alone, 4.5 out of 5. Very good stuff. The Lees and their partners have a good thing on their hands.

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 52

In Episode #52, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

Don’t forget my sponsors:

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

The Humble Bee Shoppe is challenging your perception of scratch made and leaving you with an experience you couldn’t possibly forget! With inventive flavor combos and a sense of artistry, The Humble Bee Shoppe isn’t your average bakery.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon Appetit!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 47

Beef Waterfall from Bahtmobile

In Episode #47, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • A brief review of Fiddlin’ Fish Brewery.
  • A brief review of Bahtmobile Food Truck.
  • Joymongers to open a barrel hall and tasting room/bar in the West End of WSNC.
  • Tokyo Shapiro is now Charm Thai on Fourth Street.
  • New “authentic” Mexican Restaurant on Fourth to be called Xcaret (EX-cah-ret)
  • Food Holidays and History

Don’t forget my sponsors:

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

The Humble Bee Shoppe is challenging your perception of scratch made and leaving you with an experience you couldn’t possibly forget! With inventive flavor combos and a sense of artistry, The Humble Bee Shoppe isn’t your average bakery.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon Appetit!

Giving a New Taco a Try

(l to r: chorizo, tripe, barbacoa, al pastor)

My friend and fellow food writer, Eric Ginsburg of Triad City Beat had written about El Rancho Taqueria and their tacos in the last week or so. He speculated that “these might be the best tacos in the Triad” about them in that article. I’d like to think that as a good “foodie” that I take suggestions from my peers and run with them… or taste them.  So, when my son Trey said that he wanted tacos, I thought, well, now’s the time.

We went in and it was nothing remarkable. It was just a restaurant space with run-of-the-mill furniture and very plain interior. But, the ambiance isn’t the star here. That would be the food. They have tacos, burritos, gordita, ACP,  Carne Asada, quesadilla and all the usual fare you’d expect at a typical Mexican restaurant.

This isn’t your strip mall chain Mexican, though. You know the stuff. You sit down and get your free chips and salsa, order whatever it is you want and have it “piping hot” and “freshly made” within five minutes. The food is fairly decent, definitely hot, and you go home full. I’ll admit, I like that, but this…?

This is fresh stuff that is truly authentic. All of it. Lots of limes, cilantro and onions. Yes, I said onions. There’s a good bit to choose from, too. Lots of meat choices. Carne Asada (beef), Pollo (chicken) chorizo, al pastor (usually lamb), barbacoa (barbecued meat), Cabeza (usually from roasted heads of beef), Lengua (tongue) and tripa (tripe – stomach of beef). There may be a few more, but I think that covers it; you get the picture. I have had tongue before, but don’t remember if I liked it so I opted out of that tonight, only because I wanted to try some of the other stuff.

In my four taco plate, I got one each of the chorizo, barbacoa, al pastor and tripa. Yes, tripe. I had never had tripe before and definitely wanted to try it. When they brought out the plate, about 15 minutes later (meaning it was cooked fresh and they took the time to do it right), it was covered with cilantro and onions (light, as I requested), sliced radishes, five or six limes and a roasted jalapeno. In this bed of green, white and red sat four tacos. I asked which was which of the server who laughed nervously and indicated she didn’t really know. She pointed at what I thought looked like chorizo and said it was the tripe. Turns out it wasn’t. The tripe was next to it and I had already gone through that before I realized it. I asked another server about it and she brought me out a small plate with a good bit of tripe on it for Trey and me to try. It was pretty good. Lots of flavor. Kind of like chicken liver but without the foulness that comes with it and also without the grittiness that liver has. I don’t like liver, but I liked this; beef-like in its flavor.

The barbacoa had a tanginess to it that went well with the meat beneath the sauce. The chorizo was a little dry but that’s the way it is most of the places I’ve had it. I fixed that with the ranchero and Rojas sauces. Just a bit, I wanted to taste the tacos. The al pastor was probably my least favorite but was still pretty good. I liked the tripe taco and, as I said, I didn’t realize what it was until it was gone. A little crispy but beefy in flavor so I think that’s why I mistook it after being shown the chorizo one to be it. No worries, it was still delicious. The onions and cilantro were nothing more than accent. Cilantro, to me, creates a very vibrant, crisp and fresh flavor to everything. I cook with it often because of this. But, they didn’t overtake the flavor of the meat within the fluffy corn folds of the tortillas. I did sprinkle a bit of lime juice over the tacos to add that acid, but again, not too much. These are some darned fine tacos. Next time I go, I’ll try some of the other items on the list but tonight we were there, specifically, for the tacos.

The place was jam-packed with people and it was truly a very diverse crowd. All of them noshing, waiting or just enjoying the afterglow of fantastic tacos, having great conversation and loving life. I left there loving life. I think, though, my elation was mostly that I had tripe and liked it. But, the tacos were really that good. I can’t wait to take Stephanie for her first time and Trey back again.

El Rancho Taqueria is located at 613 E Sprague St in the Waughtown neighborhood of Winston-Salem.  You can find more about them on their Facebook page. I highly recommend trying this great place if you’re into more authentic Mexican food and especially if you’re not so much “Americanized” Mexican food. Just go try it. Let me know what you think.