Les Secrets de Fromage Revealed

I had the distinct honor of attending the Winston-Salem Open yesterday with my good pal, Jim Young. However, our journey there was not for tennis. While that is thrilling, I am sure, for some people, I was there for one reason only. Cheese!

What do they have in common, cheese and tennis? I have no clue. However, being at an event like the WSO, and seeing the cheeses in the environment — all the pomp, circumstance, grandeur and so on — it made perfect sense. 

I have long said that cheese is nature’s perfect food. Yes, I understand that while things with cheese making happen naturally, it is really a man-made thing. You get the picture, though. So, when I received an invitation from the representatives of Cheeses of Europe to attend this expo of cheese, I couldn’t, and wouldn’t turn that offer down.

Jim and I were treated to the finest of French cow’s milk cheese and were guided by Richard Clarke of 15° Marketing who represents the Cheeses of Europe and is also an admitted, avid cheese connoisseur.

We tried the Emmental, which is a Swiss-style cheese that is mild and easy to eat, but it is savory as well. It was creamy. That was one thing that we found with most of these cheeses: creamy.

Mimolette

Brie

Next up was a strange and unique cheese to me, the Mimolette. The Mimolette is a bright orange cheese, at least this one was, which comes from the addition of the seasoning annatto. The taste was a flavor punch at first, pungent but pleasant and then hints of butterscotch and nuttiness came through.  This cheese was a 12-month aged cheese. The 24-month aged was banned by the USDA because the cheese mites could cause allergic reactions if consumed in large quantities. It surpassed the “mite-per-inch” rule. The 12-month, however, is perfectly fine and it is perfectly delicious. It was a bit denser in texture.

We then moved to the creamier brie styles of cheese. There were two brands of the regular brie and I wish I had written down (or had them write them down) the names. The first was good and creamy but the second was even creamier and it had hints of that “ammonia” that I actually like in brie cheeses. Do not read that and be turned off. The mold that is added to make that beautiful white rind is what causes that smell. As Richard, Jim and I talked about, the smellier the cheese, the more potent the flavor. The rind gave the cheese a good texture as well.

Triple-Crème Brie

After those “ordinary” brie we moved on to the Triple Crème Brie. Again, two different brands and each with its own qualities. The first was creamier and had a milder flavor. The one thing I did not care for was the bread they put the cheeses on. It is my understanding that they were given the bread. I think even they liked it better plain. In and reality, I like cheese on its own. I do not need a lot of pairings to make me happy. Then again, I do not turn down a good wine or beer when the opportunity arises. I believe of the two and possibly the entire selection, this was Jim’s favorite cheese.

Comté

The second Triple Crème was my favorite of the two. It was a little cakier and more pungent, which is how I like my brie. Again, the stronger the cheese the more flavor, at least by the general rule. I have come to really enjoy brie more and more. When I first tried it some 15 years ago, I could not get past that ammonia flavor but, I persevered and here we are and it is one of my favorite styles. I think that cheese would be great on a grilled cheese sandwich. Add some balsamic or even bourbon braised stonefruit and dark chocolate to it, put it on a nice Italian or French bread and grill it up. Now my mouth is watering.

Next up was the Comté. Comté is traditionally a little denser and is smoky or nutty. This that we tried had those qualities, but also a little fruity and silky in texture. I have always enjoyed comté cheese.

But, the best, in my opinion, was yet to come. I have to say bleu cheese is my favorite kind of cheese and that’s saying a lot as I really like all cheese, at least that I have tried. The Roquefort almost made my eyes roll back in my head it was so pungent and acidic, salty and tangy, dreamy and creamy. This stuff was everything a cheese lover could want in a cheese. There are not enough words in the English language to describe how delicious this cheese was. Again, it was better without the bread. The color was bright and the texture silky and crumbly. It fell all over the place as I was eating it. My evening was made right then.

Delicious Bleu

And, while not cheese, I have to say if you have never had Président® French butter, you’ve never had butter. It is like eating flavorful velvet and there is an ever-so-soft hit of nutty in there. That was on the table as well. Try it. Thank me later.

After the wonderful tasting tour, we sat down with Richard Clarke and had a nice conversation with him. I asked him about his history with cheese. “I think it was probably more happenstance, but my father used to bring home different things on Friday night and he and I enjoyed it together. That was our thing,” he said. “He would bring home some ‘stinky cheese’ and I would try those with him. I didn’t always like it but it was always fun to try things and spend time with him. There was one time he made a bleu cheese, diced onion and butter mixture and we put it on our steak. And, from that point on, I could never eat steak without it.”

Tim (me): “So that stinky cheese that you didn’t like so much, at the time, do you like them now?”
R: “Absolutely, I do. That’s the bleu cheese we talked about, and I eat it a lot.”
T: “What is your favorite kind of cheese?”
R: “I kind of like the hard, nutty, textured cheese like Parmesan, Comté, even the Mimolette. But, the Bleus are the ones that put me over the top.”

I asked him about the perfect cheese board with a wine pairing. He said, “If you’re going to a party and you really want to impress people, bring a bottle of rosé, bring a creamy cheese like a Triple Crème, bring a hard cheese like the Mimolette or Comté, and bring some bleu just to round out the flavors. Bring about 5 cheeses. Also, bring a little story about them.”

The cheeses that Richard promotes can be found in just about any major grocer’s cheese section. Richard is from New York, but is traveling with the US Open series and said he likes to visit the local grocery stores and check out their selections. The three that he mentioned by name were Harris Teeter, Publix, and Whole Foods, but I can guarantee you that most of the chains around town and including specialty shops and stores will have these cheeses. If not, Richard said to absolutely ask the cheesemonger about getting it for you.

Richard Clarke (Photo ©15°)

Jim asked about the public’s aversion to stinky cheese and Richard’s argument was spot on. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the stinkier the cheese the more flavorful the cheese, you just have to make it past the smell. He says, “with cheese, you want to see it, smell it, feel it. The smell of it is so important to how it tastes. A lot of people at our sampling today who say they don’t want to try it because it may smell a little bit. But, after I convince them to just try it, it becomes their favorite cheese.”

I mentioned in the interview that people are looking for something to “wow” them and while the tamer cheeses are certainly delicious, you need the stronger aromatics of “stinky cheese” to get that “Wow Factor.” Richard agreed.

Richard asked how many times we have gone to a party and tried a cheese we had never had before and found that you really loved it? Well, because I am a “foodie” and a self-proclaimed “cheese lover,” that happens a good bit. Cheeses of Europe now have an amazing app that acts as an amazing resource for trying, tracking and pairing your favorite, or new favorite cheeses. You can get it for both iPhone and Android devices. I equate it to Untappd, except for cheese.

Richard and his crew did a phenomenal job at presenting one of my favorite things, cheese. They are quite knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to these creamy, pungent and yes, sometimes stinky treats. They will be in the USTA tent through this Saturday, August 25. So grab your tickets, talk with them about fromage (that is French for cheese) and enjoy some tennis. If you don’t make it out to that, download the app and start your own cheese journey. It is the cheesiest! Bon appétit! Oh, and tell them I sent you!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 74

Chef Jay Pierce (©Triad City Beat)

In Episode #74, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

  • Chef Jay Pierce is the new executive chef at Mozelle’s.
  • Texas Pete Spirits of Summer is this weekend, June 2.
  • Chef Travis Myers to host Chef Cynthia Graubart in a Sunday Supper on June 10.
  • Dave and Buster’s coming to Hanes Mall
  • Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream opens in East Winston.
  • Food Holidays.

Don’t forget our sponsors:

DiLisio’s Italian Family Restaurant Italian food like you’re sitting, eating in Naples. Wonderful Italian dishes from traditional spaghetti and lasagna to contemporary delights. Rich, flavorful sauces, a variety of pasta options, seafood, meat and more. Just south of Downtown and Business 40 (SOB40).

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 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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 46

In Episode #46, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • Fiddlin’ Fish Brewery opens August 22. They will have a new Cuban food truck called Mojito Mobile Kitchen.
  • Village Juice to open 2nd location in Twin City Lofts building.
  • Tim judged the NC State Fair Wine Competition.
  • 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!

 

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 39

Kelly Bone of Willows Bistro

In Episode #39, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • Kelly Bone of Willows Bistro is in to talk about the new drink menu at Willows.
  • Clair Calvin of The Porch to open a new modern Mexican restaurant in the Innovation Quarter.
  • The Honey Bee Shoppe had their soft opening this week.
  • Finnigan’s Wake continues its reconstruction and should reopen on June 29.
  • Sweet Potatoes has opened its new space; Miss Ora’s Kitchen yet to come.
  • Brand new state-of-the-art Lowe’s Foods to open this week in Kernersville.
  • 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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 37

In Episode #37, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • Mo Owen, Crystal Flores and Ryan Oberle are in to talk about the new Dogwood Hops & Crops.
  • Finnigans Wake is still down and reconstructing the inside of the bar/restaurant.
  • Chef Tim Grandinetti is looking for experienced and able Garde Manger/Saute Station and other kitchen spots for both Quanto Basta locations.
  • Tim & Stephanie went to Tijuana Flats. More to come about that.
  • 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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 36

In Episode #36, proudly recorded from 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!

HakkaChow for the Win

I talked about this in this week’s The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast.

2016-11-23-16-11-16

Egg Rolls

Stephanie, along with 5 other friends and myself went out on Saturday to celebrate my birthday. The restaurant that I chose was HakkaChow. I had eaten there a few times but, I’ll admit, it’s not in my area of frequency, meaning I don’t get over that way often. I had done an interview with Jonathan Chung, owner, sous chef and business developer of HakkaChow. To be sure, this is Asian. But, don’t jump into the cliché of calling this Asian Fusion. I think they prefer Chinese with a little bit of Thai and other Asian cuisine thrown in. Jonathan came out of the kitchen to say hey to me and his mother, Caroline, made sure that everyone at the table was well taken care of. It was easy to get rezzies as I just hit Jonathan up and informed him that I was coming with a small group. He took care of the rest.

I didn’t really take inventory of what everyone else was having, just Stephanie and me, so I’ll go over that a little.

2016-11-19-21-26-44

XO Crispy Duck

We ordered the egg rolls as an appetizer and they were very good. Crispy with marinated pork and vegetables, served with a hot mustard and a vietnamese dipping sauce. That hot mustard sauce, man! It clears your sinuses, and fast. That was spicy stuff. I advise you to barely dip in unless you want to burn your septum. You’re not really burning anything but it’s potent and powerful stuff, to be sure; it’s a slow and delicious burn. Lots of flavor in those egg rolls, too. They were perfectly cooked.

Stephanie ordered the Xo Crispy Boneless Duck which is Lightly battered crispy duck on a bed of stir-fried mushroom, onions, celery, zucchini, and carrots with xo sauce. It comes served like fajitas in a Mexican restaurant: sizzling. I didn’t try it but she said it was really good. She is a fan of duck and this looked amazing. Pinkish duck in that light deep-fried shell? Yep, it looked fantastic and she said it was.

2016-11-19-21-25-17

General Tso

I ordered the General Tso Chicken. Now, I know that it’s not traditionally Chinese and was created, mostly likely, anyway, in the USA by a Chinese American chef. General Tso is battered chicken breast in a mild tangy sauce with green bell peppers, onions, broccoli. The sauce was thick and very flavorful. It was slightly spicy but, really, only slightly so. The tang was just right and I love thick sauces, I don’t like my food swimming in liquid as much as I do seeing it wade in the murk and this was just the right consistency for my taste. It comes with a side of rice (your choice white or brown – I went white).  Great dish.

2016-11-19-21-25-57

Surf n Turf Sushi

I also ordered the surf and turf sushi roll (it was created by Jonathan, by the way). It’s an inside-out roll filled with kani, asparagus, and cucumber. Topped with premium tuna, yellow tail, and Korean BBQ beef. It was drizzled with Korean hot sauce, eel sauce, and spicy aioli. I asked for the asparagus to be left off. I find that I can tolerate onions a little better now and asparagus, even the smell starts to turn my stomach. I tell you what about this roll, though… that Korean BBQ beef on the top? It was amazingly delicious! And, it’s not often that I eat sushi without soy sauce and wasabi. There was wasabi on the plate but I didn’t need it or the soy. I ate each piece as it was and it was quite a fine treat without the extra sodium.

I also had one of their signature cocktails: the spicy mango margarita. I somehow managed to not get the recipe but I can tell you that it was sweet and salty as a good margarita should be and there was a slight heat that snuck up on you, in your throat, after you drank it. I recommend that if you like sweet and spicy together.

And, they gave me a creme brulee for dessert to celebrate my birthday! Excellent experience. The only hitch was something went wrong with their draft system so we were relegated to bottled beer, no worries, we went with Tsingtao and Singha and there’s nothing wrong with that for flavor with Chinese/Asian food.

HakkaChow is located at 615 St. George Square Ct. and it is right behind the Carmax on Hanes Mall Blvd. You can find more about them, including making rezzies by visiting their website. I highly recommend it, especially if you like Chinese food, but don’t want the mainstream junk that is offered at other “chinese” restaurants. I think all at the table thought it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back. Thanks to Jonathan, Andrew, Hai-fang and Caroline for making us all feel welcome and for the great food!

Triad Local First’s Community Table: the Menu

So, here it is. The menu review for Triad Local First‘s Community Table event from October 2, 2016. Mary Lacklen called on Chef Travis Myers, of Willow’s Bistro to gather his culinary family together from both Winston-Salem and Greensboro to make this fantastic feast a reality. Here is what we had…

The Appetizers

2016-11-01-17-30-07

The appetizers were every bit as plentiful and as filling as any of the supper menu’s items.

Seafood Paella

Chef Jeff Bannister made a great seafood paella. It was prepared on an open flame in a large paella pan that had to have been 3 feet in diameter. Gorgeous pieces of shrimp, mussels and chorizo mixed with green beans, tomatoes, peas and other veggies resting on and in a bed of rice. Great flavor. I’m trying to think the last time I had paella that was this good; and I love paella. The whole thing was topped with a specially made saffron sauce. That was delicious.

Hay Roasted Oysters

2016-11-01-17-31-04

Chef Jordan Keiper, of The Tavern in Old Salem, manned the hay roasted oysters, smoke billowing from the dampened hay laying on the hot fire to roast these delicate morsels of mollusky goodness. It was fun to watch him prepare these, but it was even more fun to eat them. They were topped with a milky tomato foam, which I believe was Chef Travis’ concoction. The smells and flavors, between the hay and the oysters were a lot to take in and oh, Stephanie and I took them in.

The Supper Menu

The supper menu started with a glass of wine, either the Clos du Gaimont Vouvray 2015 chenin blanc or Mazzocco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2013.

Kettle Brunswick Stew2016-11-01-17-33-22

A large cauldron was pitched on a chain and tripod with the beautiful soupy bounty inside, stewing away. It had rabbit, pit pork, butter beans, corn and okra. The broth was think yet still very liquid-like. I like thicker stews and soups and this one was right on the money. I like rabbit and pork and the two meats with the veggies and the tangy tomato-based liquid, was a very, very hearty start, once we sat down. Delicious.

Panzanella

2016-11-01-17-34-18Soaked charred bread topped with heirloom tomatoes, shaved red onion, pea shoots, olives from Olinda Olives, what I believe were cucumbers, and a vinaigrette. If you’re wondering, yes, I ate the onions; at least a few of them. Even though it was October, the heat was still with us and traditionally panzanella is a summer salad. It fit here, for sure. I have mentioned many times how I love pea shoots and microgreens, good bright crunch and mixed well with the acidic tomatoes and olives.

Border Springs Pit-Cooked Lamb

Very lovely lamb from Border Springs Farm that was prepared with a rosemary mop sauce on a black-eyed peas and rice combo, sometimes called “Hoppin’ John,” a natural jus and microgreens on the top. The lamb was “pulled” and was tender 2016-11-01-17-36-09and the mop sauce was great. The microgreens on top were, once again, the secret star of the dish. Mixed with the rosemary in the mop, the greens meshed and brought bright life to the Hoppin’ John. Yummy.

Heirloom Tomato and Flat Bean Salad

Chef Jeff Bacon, from Providence Restaurant and Triad Community Kitchen, and his lovely wife sat next to Stephanie and me and he was the one that portioned our end of the table’s plates for the next course. He did a fine job, like he’d done it before. It had, obviously, heirloom tomatoes, haricot vert, wax beans, micro beet greens, Olinda olive oil, and Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese with scallion ash. The bright red beet greens were 2016-11-01-17-37-26fantastic, both in presentation and in flavor; not earthy like their name would suggest. The deep colored greens and richly colored tomatoes were a great departure from the heavier lamb we had the previous course. I am and will always be a sucker for goat cheese, especially that what comes from Goad Lady Dairy. That stuff is the best goad cheese out there, in my opinion.

Heritage Farms Lexington-style Pit Cooked Hog2016-11-01-17-38-20

Heritage Farms pit cooked hog. It was served on top of Old Mill of Guilford’s yellow grits and on a kale salad with croutons and red onions (and perhaps shallots?). I’ll admit, I’m not one for kale or onions, as we know. But, I ate most of this, I believe. Honestly, it’s the dish that I remember the least about. I think the onions and kale threw me off.

Three Hour Braised Short Ribs

2016-11-01-17-39-29The meat was topped with leather britches beans and microgreens and sat on a bed of mashed potatoes with some jus spooned on. This was a huge block of beef that just fell apart when you put your fork to it; no knife required. The beans and microgreens added a brighter flavor to the savory meat. It was juicy, tender, succulent and delicious. And what is a slab of beef without potatoes to go with it? The mashed potatoes were creamy and the perfect companion to the chuck of beef. One of my favorite dishes. But, I was about full. We’d had a lot by then.

Orange Creamsicle Mousse Cake

But, that wasn’t all… Next, or finally, came the orange creamsicle mousse cake made by Chef Lucia Bobby of Greensboro Country Club. It was served with 2016-11-01-17-40-46charred citrus confit and had a small shortcake cookie on the top. This was paired with a fantastic dessert wine: Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaume-de-Venise 2012. There was a lot of sweet in that course, and that’s just fine to me. The whole thing, sweet wine, dessert, citrus, all what would top this festival off. Bring it all to a close, if you will.

A very special thank you goes out to Mary Lacklen and Chef Travis, as well as all those involved in making this a memorable evening. I don’t think anyone walked away that night, disappointed. From the start to the finish, it was classy, elegant and delicious. I mean, even the port-a-potties had mood lighting and flowers. Class act right there.

Triad Local First’s Community Table: It’s Not Just for Greensboro, Anymore

The Community Table event for Triad Local First happened last month, on October 2, and it was a very well-planned2016-11-01-17-32-14 and successful event. Committee chair, Mary Lacklen, pulled her secret weapon out for the event, too. That would be one super chef, Chef Travis Myers of Willow’s Bistro, taking the reins of Executive Chef. In doing so, he unleashed a master plan that would help take the event, held at Hidden Lane Farm in Summerfield, from a traditionally Greensboro restaurant focus to a true “Triad” event.

14590327_10209228694708242_5200499330658156392_n

Mary Lacklen (©KristiMaier)

In the past, the event featured mostly (or only) Greensboro restaurants and chefs. Chef Travis wanted to bridge that gap with this event, saying, “What I wanted to do was intertwine Greensboro and Winston. Winston restaurants have a lot of events, like John Bobby (Executive Chef of Roosters: A Noble Grille) has events that get Winston restaurants together, he’ll have a crawfish boil or something. Greensboro doesn’t do that. They’re too spread out. A lot of great restaurants but they’re stretched out. So, I wanted to leave the door open for communication. I invited them to work with me.”

2016-11-01-17-28-55

Chef Travis Myers

Some of Triad Local First’s board members were kind of doubtful of Chef Travis’ ambitions and his ability to gather the chefs and restaurants he needed to pull off something this grand. He continues, “out of the twenty that I wanted to get to help me (including chefs, staff and help), twenty-six showed up. That’s six more than I wanted.” So, soon the board realized they were in good hands. Chef Travis certainly didn’t let them down, either. The event, at least to those sitting at the tables and taking in all the food involved, was nearly flawless.

One thing Chef Travis was adamant about was getting Triad Community Kitchen involved. Getting students and members of Chef Jeff Bacon’s tutelage (and watchful eye of Chef Janis Karathanis) was important because he felt it was in the scope of the organization’s goal: to create community. It was two fold, however, as it 1) served as a networking opportunity for the students to get to know some of the restaurateurs and chefs and perhaps finding work and 2) gave Chef Travis extra hands around the “kitchen.” It was a lot of work for him and having TCK there helped with the workload.

2016-11-01-17-27-54

Chef Brent Andruzzi

A lot of the prep and actual cooking was done beforehand, most of it at Willow’s Bistro, Chef Travis’ home base. Of course, the final touches were done at Hidden Lane Farm. Some of the top level chefs that were out to help Chef Travis’ cause were Chef Tim Thompson of Greensboro Country Club, Chef John Bobby, Chef Jay Pierce of Traveled Farmer in Greensboro, Chef John Jones, Chef Brent Andruzzi -the Chef de Cuisine at Willow’s Bistro, Chef Richard Miller of Graze in Winston-Salem, Chef James Patterson of Sedgefield Country Club, Chef Jared Keiper of the Tavern in Old Salem, and pastry chef, Chef Lucia Bobby of Greensboro Country Club. That list is probably truncated but it’s a good start. Chef Travis was reeling them in and dedicating a lot of time for this event, wanting to not only show that he could do it, but that he could with flair and style. That meant extra time from home, from his wife and kids, including his newborn daughter. It was, however, worth it. He threw a party. The party was good. But, no matter how good all the participation was, the event would have been nothing if the food hadn’t been extraordinary. It was, and all of it was locally sourced. To keep the posts to a minimum, I’m going to do the actual food review in another post, later this week, so keep on the lookout.

I would totally be remiss to forget to mention the awesome Esteban McMahan from TOPO Organic Spirits, who offered NC Whiskey Punch, Blood Orange Collins and Spicy Cucumber Lemonade as drink specials in addition to their special reserve that he’d give upon request. The special reserve is my favorite, but the drinks were all great, too. At one time there was one of each of the mixed drinks on my table in front of my courses.

Chef Jared Keiper

Chef Jared Keiper

Also, Pig Pounder Brewery was on hand and had four of their delicious brews on tap. And, Zero Wine and Cheese Shop were the wine curators for the event, which included Grove Vineyards’ Viognier (2015) and Malbec (2014) and Weathervane Winery’s Cirrus White and Nor’easter Chambourcin. Afterwards, The Grinder Cafe Coffee Truck was there to keep any of the diners that had gotten a little chilly warm with their lovely wares.

You can look at this menu and immediately know that Chef Travis Myers poured his heart and soul into creating a fantastic menu for Triad Local First’s annual fall spectacular. I think Mary Lacklen and her organization had a true winner here. Chef Travis said he’s already signed up for next year’s event. I, for one, cannot wait. And, from what I can tell from the (I’m guessing and this is a guesstimate) 100+ diners that sat, enjoyed and absorbed this fine feast, everyone else can’t wait for it, either. Bravo, Chef Travis Myers and Mary Lacklen; to you and all you had involved in this soiree!

Esteban McMahan of TOPO Organic Spirits

Triad Local First is a non-profit membership organization that is based out of Greensboro. They have over 280 members, including farmers, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, all the things you’d expect to be included in something that deals with community. But, it also includes dentists, realtors, retail shops, marketing firms and other industries that you may not think to remember. For more information, visit their website.