I know I mostly focus on Winston-Salem establishments but I feel this is worth driving past the Sandy Ridge Line to be part of…
Last week, I was invited to attend a social media/blogger event at the newly named WP Kitchen + Bar in Greensboro. Starting as Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar about four years ago, the restaurant started serving more traditional restaurant fare and Chef Puck and company decided to make a change. One of only three WP Kitchen + Bar locations in the world (the others being in Palm Desert, California and Charlotte, North Carolina), the Greensboro location is an elegant, yet casual place to eat. And, I’ll go ahead and spoil it… delicious.
I’ve been to a few blogger events, a few “get to know us” events, if you will, but this was a top-notch tour of food, drink and friendly ambiance. I, along with fellow food bloggers Kristi Maier, also known as Triad Foodies and food writer for Yes! Weekly, Kristen Daukas, Nikki Miller-Ka of NikSnacks and Amanda Clark of Cuisine and Screen, were given a cocktail demonstration that included a pomegranate bellini, and an eggnog martini (made with a raw egg, simple syrup, Myers Rum and Hennessey). We then took a tour of the kitchen with Chef Matt Culpepper, where he demonstrated their 750° pizza oven and made a pizza for us to have and share between us. After that we returned to the bar and were served a Cherry Sour, it’s made with bourbon, Campari and amaretto, and you can’t go wrong with that, right?
We were then seated and were served a plethora of fantastic food. I don’t know that I’ve eaten this much food, even on Thanksgiving.
First up, the Crispy Calamari. Rings and tentacles are marinated in buttermilk then dusted in flour and deep fried until golden-light brown. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley. It’s tossed, then, with pickled pepperoncini peppers and served with a pepperoncini aioli and WP’s TBG (which is tomato, basil and garlic). The peppers that were tossed with the calamari gave it a heated tang and I thought the seasoning along with that made it near perfect. I tried both sauces, which were both good, but the calamari was so flavorful, I didn’t need a lot of the sauce.
Served at the same time was the Truffle Potato Chips. Yukon Gold chips topped with a blue cheese fondue, truffle oil, chives and buttermilk blue cheese crumbles. I am a huge fan of blue cheese and to get a double dose of it with the crumbles and the fondue? Holy smokes. You could really taste the truffle oil, too. After most of the other stuff had been taken away, we asked them to leave the chips, we all liked it that well.
Next up was the “Pizza Course.” First was the Goat Lady Goat Cheese Pizza with pesto, Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese, overnight tomatoes and picked basil. Overnight tomatoes are roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I love Goat Lady Dairy and I loved this pizza. Great tang from the cheese and the tomatoes were caramelized nicely being roasted.
The next pizza was Giacomo’s Pepperoni Pizza. Giacomo’s is a local salami and sausage company in Greensboro that makes great sausages, salamis and other meat products. I have tried their products in several other Triad restaurants and love their stuff. The fact that WP takes the local ingredients and puts them in their culinary creations is a wonderful thing and when it’s delicious? That’s even better. The pizza had a red sauce, mozzarella, oven roasted tomatoes, red onion (yes, I ate that), oregano and, of course, Giacomo’s pepperoni. Great combination of the meat and sauce. Sauce and tomatoes was an acidic dream. Good stuff, that.
We were then served the Squash Soup. I’m not a fan of butternut and other orange squash, so much. But, I must say that this soup was heavenly. Kabocha and butternut squash was braised with water, oranges, cinnamon, cardamom, maple syrup, sage and rosemary and then cooked with yellow onions, butter, a braising liquid and heavy cream. The soup was thick and creamy. I prefer my soup and sauces to be a little thicker and this was great. It was garnished with a cardamom cream, which is cardamom infused cream whipped with honey, roasted kabocha squash, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. The soup is vegetarian and served at lunch in either a cup or bowl and by the bowl for dinner, although you can request a cup. I get the feeling you can request a whole lot at WP Kitchen + Bar. They are very accommodating.
Up next, the Baby Kale Salad. Baby kale, cherry tomatoes, radish, marinated cukes, toasted quinoa and goat cheese, all tossed in a citrus vinaigrette on top of a fantastically creamy green goddess puree and garnished with more goat cheese. Crunchy and refreshing, I’m not usually one to eat kale but I will say this was perfectly matched with the tomatoes and cukes, where the radish added a little spice and we all remarked how good the toasted quinoa tasted. Before we were informed as to what it was, we all made guesses. I guessed quinoa. I guess I won. What? Well, to eat more of the salad. All that with the creamy green goddess? Tang all around. And dang it was good.
Next was the Bolognese Rigatoni Mezze. Browned beef and pork (yum), mirepoix, tomato paste, garlic, chili flake, cayenne, red wine-picked up with garlic, basil, the TBG sauce, butter and finished with an herb ricotta, olive oil and torn basil. Now, I have to say with this dish there was a yin and yang aspect. I thought the pasta itself was a little tough; chewy, perhaps under cooked. That threw me off a little bit, however, the flavor of the bolognese was some of the best flavor of the night, and there were many great flavors that night. So, if the pasta had been more on point for me, this may have been the best course of the evening for me. The flavor was acidic, tomatoey, and spicy. There was a burn, but the herb ricotta made a great balancing agent in the descriptor base. A very good dish overall.
Fish was up next. North Carolina Mountain Trout. The trout was split, stuffed with oregano, parsley and thyme and grilled on both sides before being finished in the oven. It was served with a creamy cauliflower puree, made with shallots, cauliflower, white wine, heavy cream and thyme, all on top of the fish, then served with bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts. It was garnished with petite greens (you know I love me some microgreens) and drizzled with olive oil. The fish was tender, well seasoned and well prepared. Sometimes, to me, trout can be rubbery but not in this case. The puree was the perfect topping for the fish.
Pan Seared Salmon. Atlantic Salmon seared in olive oil and placed in the oven. On top of the fish is an olive tapenade made from nicoise and castelvetrano olives, parsley, oregano, garlic, orange zest, red wine vinegar and olive oil. That is all served with a shaved fennel and crunchy green salad, all finished with basil oil. My two favorite fish to eat are tuna and salmon. This was cooked properly, was seasoned well and the tapenade made it even more delicious. I really liked the flavors on this.
Springer Mountain Farms Half Chicken. We got a bit of the Springer Mountain Farms chicken, which is rubbed (under the skin) with herb compound butter. It was served with crispy potatoes that were tossed in roesemary chili garlic butter and seasoned with steak salt and then covered with a bit of bourbon chicken jus, which is mirepoix, white wine, sherry vinegar, bourbon (of course), chicken demi and finished with butter. I am one of the weirdos and like white meat chicken a little better. I’m not a dark meat bird fan, all around. I thought the jus and the potatoes were fantastic and the chicken was good, but it was dark meat and not my thing. However, if you’re into dark meat chicken, add to a well-done bird the jus and potatoes and you’ve got a perfect meal right there.
Grilled Flat Iron “Steak Frites.” Medium rare prime Flat Iron steak marinated in black pepper, thyme and extra virgin olive oil. It’s seasoned with steak salt and grilled. It was topped with a garlic herb butter. A very creamy butter that wasn’t needed but well worth having. The steak was perfect, to me, on it’s own and the butter just made it decadent, which, I love. I am a fan of butter anyway, but this was bonus. It comes with WP french fries. They included their own house made steak sauce and I tasted it but I believe a good, or in this case, great steak, needs no steak sauce. If you’re a steak sauce kind of person, though, definitely try this, there’s less preservatives in the house made version than in the bottle and it’s fresh. I really loved the steak, it wasn’t gristly and the seasoning and marinating was superb. Nice outer crust, great tender inside.
Also, we had the mac n cheese, which was quite creamy and delicious, topped with truffled bread crumbs. I could have eaten more of that, but I was getting very full. In addition, we had the roasted cauliflower. The florets were tossed in brown butter and roasted in the pizza oven with pepperoncinis and seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Again, it was very good, but I was getting quite full. I do love how the restaurant infuses pepperoncini peppers in their creations. I think that pepper gets a bad rap because it’s associated with a pizza chain. They do great work with an under appreciated ingredient.
The final piece of this culinary puzzle was the dessert sampler plate we were given. It was a beignet that was delightfully sugary and moist on the inside; an espresso semifreddo which means half frozen, it was like a frozen mousse and very creamy; and the salted caramel pudding with a whipped cream topping made of creme fraiche and topped with cookie crumbles. The pudding was definitely my favorite part. I love salted caramel and here it was in all its glory in a delicious pudding form.
Throughout the night we sipped on WP house wines; their WP Cabernet Sauvignon and WP Chardonnay. Wolfgang Puck donates a portion of procedes from these wines (all of their line of wines) to the “Keep Memory Alive” which is committed to improving the lives of patients and their families as they navigate the extraordinary challenges of brain disorders. I had the pleasure of meeting Klaus Puck, Chef Wolfgang’s brother, and he said that their mother suffered with Alzheimer’s and they are doing this in her honor. Klaus is a fantastic guy, too. All of the staff that we dealt with from Paul Cloninger, our server, who has been at this particular location longer than anyone else, to Rick Berger the general manager to the bar staff and kitchen staff, are fantastic people.
There’s so much more to WP Kitchen + Bar than just these dishes. They have a full brunch menu, even more on their dinner menu and they are open for lunch. There are event facilities for private dining available, customizable catering options for your functions and special themed dinners that happen throughout the year. I am highly recommending that everyone take that leap across the “Sandy Ridge Line” and visit WP Kitchen + Bar. They’re located at 607 Green Valley Road in Greensboro. If you live in Greensboro, you can order online by visiting their website, wolfgangpuck.com.