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 Last of the Luv Luv with Much Love

-Timothy G. Beeman II

On Saturday, Stephanie and myself were invited to accompany friends of ours to the Annual Luv Luv Festival, the brainchild of Tim Grandinetti, the co-owner/head chef of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen and Bar. The Luv Luv Festival is a culinary showcase of chefs from all over with great live music. We hadn’t, unfortunately, ever attended the Luv Luv Festival but we had wanted to. This was our first time ever and let’s just say we loved it. Let’s make clear, too that it’s not the last ever festival but the last day of this year’s festival.

Group

The Beer Dads and Their Pilots

Menu

The Menu

First of all, we have to start with the company we kept during this festival. Paul & Susan Jones along with Jon & Celeste Lowder were our tablemates and we’re no strangers to each other. In fact, Paul, Jon and I do a podcast called The Beer Dads which is part of The Less Desirables Podcast Network. So we hang out, talk about being dads and drink, you guessed it, beer every week. Our wives have become good friends so we had a very, very fun table. Also, former local DJ personality and Master of Ceremonies of the event, Bob Campbell (who also happens to be the voice over talent for The Beer Dads) sat with us as did our guest of honor, the wife of this evening’s guest chef (Tim Recher), Alicia Recher. We were guests of the Lowders and can’t thank them enough for having us. Good wine, liquor and beer as “the beer dad” ladies had more than a few glasses of white wine and the guys a mixture of cocktails and beer. I believe Paul and Jon preferred the Sisters of the Moon IPA from Mother Earth Brewing while I had one of those and then switched to the Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge. But, as much as we like to think that it is sometimes, the alcohol wasn’t the star attraction of the night. It was the food.

Starting off the whole night was a plate of hummus with pita triangles alongside of tomatoes straight from the garden of Chef Grandinetti. This was followed by a large plate of oysters and cocktail shrimp from Rappahannock Oyster Company. The oysters 11891148_10153437332285490_984877909746256410_nwere raw and delicious. Also served with them were some hot peppers with a sweet glaze of hoisin and sesame seeds. Jon and a few of the ladies mentioned they thought they were hot. I ate several of them and got nothing more than great flavor. I found them to be very mild and almost no heat. Perhaps one of us got lucky, you decide.

Course 1

Course #1 Chicken & Dumplings

The first course “Chicken & Dumplings” was quail, black summer truffle mousse, gnocchi, chive velouté and herb biscuit. This was a fantastic course. The “chicken” seemed to be a combo of quail and other meats that were served sausage style and while I’m generally not one for quail, not only did I eat all of this, I picked it up and ate the bones like they were a chicken leg. Of course, I was nibbling, but it was so good and the velouté sauce was like gravy and light enough to not overpower but perfect for accentuation. It was easy to sop up the extra velouté sauce with the biscuit and the gnocchi were tender. Let’s say that my plate (with the exception of the bones of the quail) had nothing left on it. It was clean. Wonderful course.

Course 2

Course #2 English Pea Soup with Sea Bass

Course #2 was “Chilled English Pea Soup and Seared Sea Bass.” Described as coriander, Fresno chili, warm mushroom-shallot-pea salad, Arbequine olive oil, fennel pollen. When you cut into the fish, it fell apart being a wonderful flaky morsel of flavor. Seasoning wasn’t anything to mask the fish, you got full “sea bass” (or Patagonian Tooth Fish) flavor and that’s a good thing. The peas under the fish were quite fresh and even had Susan Jones, who doesn’t eat peas cleaning her plate of them. As simple as it is, the cress on top, really set a freshness that I can’t explain in words to the entire plate. The pea soup had the distinctive coriander and chili flavor as it was a tad savory and I loved it. It was topped with the fennel pollen. I had to drink it like a shot because there really was no way to get a spoon in there. But, I think that was the point. I had no problem shooting that soup. Delicious.

Course 3

Course #3 Beet Salad

Course #3 was “Roasted Baby Heirloom Beet Salad.” Belgium endive, frisée (another kind of endive, which along with Belgium endive can be called chicory here in the US, at least from my research), upland cress, pickle apple, curried cashews, beet vinaigrette, aerated coriander yogurt. I’ll have to be honest, was my least favorite course, but when you don’t like beets, or many other like-vegetables (I’m adapting as I get older), then that’s understandable; at least in my mind. I did enjoy the pickled apple and curried cashews. I did eat all the leaves but left some of the endives and most of the beets. Again, the cashews and pickled apple were good.

Course 4

Course #4 Back Yard BBQ

Course #4 was, to me, the pièce de résistance. It was “Back Yard Steak.” Coffee rubbed bison. Vidalia onion ash inlay. Sous vide smoked brisket & potato croquette. Seasonal vegetables, sweet corn puree, bbq jus lie and smoked black garlic.This cut of bison meat was so tender and juicy that a regular table knife could cut right through it with no problem. It was medium rare and the outsides were perfectly charred and seasoned with the coffee rub. The baby carrot and corn was a nice addition as was the jus lie (pronounced zhoo lee-AY) and vidalia onion inlay. That coffee rub and the meat itself was such a flood of flavor that I ate it with my eyes closed most of the time, enjoying each individual bite. Generally, I’ll tear through food like I’m being graded on it but I took my time and every single chew was documented by my brain. Let’s just say that it was so good that not only did I eat all of mine, I also had the bonus of half of Stephanie’s. She loved it as well, but was filling up. This was a definite 5 on a 5 scale.

Course 5

Course #5 S’Mores

Course #5 was the dessert course which was “S’mores.” Dark chocolate crémeux, molasses spice graham cracker cookie, toasted marshmallows, salted caramel gelato, toasted caramel. Stephanie got her second wind enough to eat this. I thought the crémeux was the absolute best thing about it. It was like eating a very soft, but still firm, piece of fudge. The tiny toasted marshmallow squares were a nice accompaniment for the crémeux. The gelato was a bit melted away by the time I got to it but what I got of it was delicious. I love caramel, so this was a nice finish.

Chef Tim Recher, of the Army/Navy Country Club in DC, really brought a wonderful menu and Chef Tim Grandinetti and his team both in the kitchen and the outside wait staff were fantastic support, making this event a true 5 star dinner treat to anyone who was privileged enough to be there. Spring House is always a class act and this was no different. Many thanks to Chef Grandinetti for hosting. Spring House can be found at 450 North Spring Street in downtown Winston-Salem. They’re on the web at springhousenc.com.