Bradford Family Watermelon Tasting Menu is Oh So Sweet

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Chef Travis Myers, Nat Bradford, Chef Brent Andruzzi and the star of the show, the Bradford Watermelon

This past Sunday, Stephanie and I were invited to Willow’s Bistro to be part of (and to document via video) the Bradford Family Watermelon tasting event. Bradford Watermelons are an heirloom watermelon that has a lineage of around 170 years or so. The were once thought to be extinct but, according to Nat Bradford, they’re reintroducing the lovely melons to chefs, restaurants and foodie folk everywhere. I’ve always just been passive about watermelon; just had it if it was there, not really indulging for myself. Why?

Watermelon has just always been something that is messy (I don’t like messy food, at least when it makes a mess on me) with minimal flavor and you have to spit out a lot of seeds. I never minded that part if I was outside, I spit for distance. Let me tell you, though, there was nothing plain about this watermelon. It was very juicy, not messy, and very sweet and flavorful with a great color and not an abundance of seeds. Chef Travis Myers made sure to let us know they didn’t allow any salt on the table, it wasn’t needed. You could actually eat the rind, too. They’re related to cucumbers and for that, I think a little salt would have been good, but for the flesh of the melon, not salt.

2016-09-18-18-12-57Bradford Watermelons aren’t just about the melons, however. They have molasses, okra, toasted watermelon seed oil (that was some fine smelling and tasting stuff), ground nuts and so on. A plethora of food offerings. I couldn’t really hear much about what Nat was saying about the ground nuts, the music was a bit loud on our end, but Mr. Carroll Leggett said they reminded him of a cross between a turnip and yucca plant. I can see that, although, admittedly, I have limited exposure to either.

When we first arrived, Kelly, the fantastic bar keeper served us delicious cocktails of watermelon juice (from Bradford, of course) and Topo gin with purple basil and grated ginger. It was sweet but not too. The gin leveled that out nicely. It was bright pink and very drinkable.

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Bradford Watermelon

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Pickled watermelon rind and fresh okra

Nat Bradford then demonstrated the proper way to slice a watermelon, which one may think is rudimentary but there is a wrong way to do it. It’s all about the grain. Don’t go against the grain. Each melon has chambers, 5 of them, that you should cut along the chamber wall and always into wedges, then cut perpendicular to the wedge to create slices. Why that much thought? You’re not cutting into the seeds that way; you’re grazing the seeds and making a smoother cut. Science is great, n’est-ce pas? He then passed those wedge slices around for us to try. The best I’ve ever had, I’d say. With the wedge slices they also passed around pickled rinds made from a Bradford watermelon and fresh okra grown on the family farm. Stephanie told me that she wanted my okra if I didn’t like it. I didn’t, but she 2016-09-18-20-08-32loved it. So, it’s still a win. That was the warm up, the real courses then started.

First Course: Compressed Bradford watermelon with Tajín, micro cilantro from Fair Share Farm, ginger from Shore Farms Organics and Olinda Olives olive oil. This little morsel packed a punch. The Tajín, which is a seasoning powder made of chilies, lime juice and sea salt makes this baby pop! Overall, it’s bright and flavorful goodness packed into a 1″ cube. Delicious.

Second Course: Molasses haystack potatoes with Bradford’s light molasses, Fair Share Farm’s micro saltwort and Sea Love Sea Salt, with a load of Calavander cheese sprinkled all over it. Willow’s used to have molasses fries on the menu but it was hard for them to 2016-09-18-20-09-35keep the molasses in stock because the fries were a hit and Bradford can only make so much molasses at a time. I love the Calavander cheese, it’s tangy and light. It makes the molasses sweeter, at least to me. You can never go wrong with Sea Love Sea Salt, either. To hear Chef Travis tell the over-exaggerated story of how they extract the sea salt is always fun. He has it down, though. I like the haystacks over the sweet potato fries that Willows used to serve. I’m not a big fan of sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries.

Third Course: Bradford watermelon and seared ahi tuna with Bradford toasted watermelon seed oil, Bradford crispy okra, shungiku (an Asian green) from Fair Share Farm, garlic flower from Plum Granny Farm, rosé gastrique and Sea Love Sea Salt smoked salt. I think this was my favorite dish? Why? Because 2016-09-18-20-10-44there there was animal flesh on it. I love ahi tuna as it is and to have it next to the Bradford watermelon, well, it was heavenly. The okra seemed to be baby and it was crispy. There was a great seasoning on the tuna, too. The toasted seed oil gave a slightly roasted/smokey flavor to the whole dish and the melding of the sweet, savory and smokey flavors was enough to make me audibly say “mmmmm.”

Fourth Course: Bradford groundnut slivers, Goat Lady Dairy whipped cheese, Gnomestead Hollow crispy lion’s mane mushroom, crispy prosciutto, Harmony Ridge Farms sun gold tomatoes and tomato water with Fair Share Farm micro beets. The prosciutto was extra crispy and fell apart at the touch. The groundnut slivers were firm and sliced extra thin. I adore Goat Lady Dairy’s cheese products; 2016-09-18-20-12-01everything I’ve had is fantastic and tangy. I’m not much on mushrooms but Gnomestead’s wares are always spot on and they’re pretty. I enjoyed the sun gold tomatoes, too. They’re sweet and acidic and compliments the cheese perfectly. I know I’ve mentioned how much I love good microgreens and this is certainly it.

Fifth Course: Bradford okra and pickled rind syrup, Fair Share Farm collards and pot likker (pot liquor, the liquid leftover from cooking collards), Heritage Cheshire pork rind and Plum Granny Farm garlic ash. I love the things that Chef Travis does with pork skin. Be it cracklin’ or rinds, he always does it right with them. The pot likker makes it a little soft in this case and, while they already do, it makes them melt directly in your mouth. I ate the okra in this dish and I have really grown to love collards. These 2016-09-18-20-13-08were perfectly wilted and cooked, still retained all their flavor and created a wonderful jus. Good seasoning from the garlic ash made the dish delicious.

What I noticed about all the dishes was the vibrancy of the colors, the pinkish red watermelon, the emerald green okra, the deep green of the collards, the deep red of the tuna, the brilliant yellow and orange of the sun gold tomatoes. Each held their own merits on their own, but Chef Travis and his Chef de Cuisine, Chef Brent Andruzzi, made spectacularly large dishes in such remarkably smaller packages. I love what Chef Travis does in the kitchen and that’s why I call him “Wonderboy.” Taking a food like watermelon and turning it into these works of art, that’s talent.

There was a star-studded audience for this event, as well. Mary Haglund of Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Jennifer Smith, owner of Mozelle’s Southern Bistro, Curtis Hackaday, head chef of 1703 Restaurant, Margaret Norfleet Neff, Mary Lacklin of Triad Local First, Michael Hastings of the Winston-Salem Journal hosted and the list goes on. 2016-09-18-18-27-12

You can find more about Bradford Watermelons by visiting their website (HERE). Click on the links to any of the vendors mentioned above and try their products, you won’t be disappointed. Willow’s Bistro is located at 300 S Liberty St, Suite 100 in Winston-Salem.

Farm 2 Fourth Harvest Dinner a Success for Downtown WSNC

I recorded a podcast of this this past Tuesday (see previous post). 14095926_10154296661620490_1926267465363315423_nThis past Sunday, Stephanie and I were lucky enough to get tickets to the very first “Farm 2 Fourth Harvest Dinner” event hosted by the Winston-Salem Journal’s own, food editor, Michael Hastings. The event was a highlighting of local chefs using only local ingredients from local farms and making basically, a seven course feast for 140 diners to enjoy. Before I talk about the food, I do want to say that there were RayLen and Childress wines and port and, of course, the official “liquid reward” of The Man Who Walked the Town, as well as Presenting Sponsor of The Beer Dads, Hoots Roller Bar and Beer Company brews on hand. We had plenty of that, too. Now, on to the food!

The hors d’oeuvres were from Chef Lucas McGill, of Hutch & Harris. It was crostini with country ham, farmers’ cheese and radish sprouts. I had two of them and Stephanie one, at the insistence of one of the service captains; they had two left they needed rid of. Very good, not overly salty and the microgreens were right on spot. Good stuff. 14079830_10154302032545490_2702548163340851777_nQuaint but delicious. Chef McGill does great stuff over at Hutch & Harris.

Next came a very colorful and flavor-packed morsel of cherry bomb compressed watermelon with balsamic-basil syrup prepared by Chef Jeff Bacon of Providence Restaurant and Catering. The color was vibrant red, almost glowingly so and the bright greens on top with the darker balsamic-basil syrup created an almost mind-blowingly beautiful square of wonderful. The flavor of the greens disappeared mostly but the crunch they left behind was what the melon needed to balance the soft texture and spiced vinegar glaze. If I’m not mistaken there were tiny chunks of walnuts and feta or some other soft cheese to accompany the dish. Chef Bacon loves his watermelons and this was his pièce de résistance.

Chefs Christian Froelich of The Hearth at Sanders Ridge and Richard Miller of Graze prepared a fantastic veggie 14102433_10154302082135490_840297715253272217_nbaba ghanoush with red onion and cucumber relish and homemade naan. Baba Ghanoush (or ghanouj) is generally eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. I can only suppose that was what was in there. I do believe I tasted the eggplant, so I figure they stayed true to form on it. Yes, for those of you wondering, I did eat the pickled red onion and cucumber relish. There were also beets and microgreens on top. The naan was firm but not leathery or tough, it was still soft and delicious. Michael Hastings of the Journal made sure to get a picture of me eating the onions as anyone who knows me knows that I hate onions. But, for the benefit and integrity of the dish and festivities, I ate them. Pickled, they’re not that bad. Not something I’d want all the time but in this dish, it was definitely outshined by the baba ghanoush. Chef Christian couldn’t be there because of another commitment but Chef Richard Miller handled it quite nicely. It was delicious.

14192188_10154302097210490_4766992602351391198_nNext up, Chef Jared Keiper of the Tavern in Old Salem provided us with basil marinated goat cheese, charred red onion and heirloom green tomato pie. Now, again, with the onions, I ate them because they weren’t prevalent. And, neither was the green tomatoes. I’m not a huge fan of those either. But, don’t hear me wrong; I loved this dish. I’d have this dish again and again. The Tavern in Old Salem is always a fantastic place to dine and the wit and skills of Chef Jared are what makes it so. That combined with his brother, Jordan creating some of the best craft cocktails, made from the best local and regional spirits he (or we) can find. The Tavern is tough to beat. The crust of the pie was flaky, yet firm, great tasting and when topped with the heirloom cherry/grape tomatoes and microgreens (you know I love me some microgreens) and the tangy, tangy goat cheese (I also love me some goat cheese)? Holy smokes. Another winner!

Chef Harrison Littell of Honey Pot provided the sides for the night. This was a roasted potato hash (which I didn’t get14141643_10154302122435490_3872696077436112559_n a picture of because it was already being passed around before I could get to it) and Hoots braised greens and green bean salad with feta cheese. The seasoning on the potatoes were perfect. It was salty without being overbearing. The seasoning on the bean salad was kicked up a few notches. It was some spicy stuff. Not too spicy for me, but when you’re not expecting it, it can be a surprise. The cauliflower was from my pal Niki Farrington’s Niki’s Pickles. I am quite sure that’s where the spicy came from. Chef Littell held nothing back on this dish. Vibrant colors, punchy taste, smiling faces afterward. I’d say it was a hit. The “greens” came after as well and I had it with the next dish.

The main course for the evening was a combo dish from Chef Travis Myers (my buddy) of Willow’s Bistro and Chef John Bobby of Rooster’s: A Noble Grille. 14100398_10154302174700490_353053953512636586_nChef Travis smoked a porchetta and the meat was banging. I don’t usually use that word with food, but it was. Tender with the meaty middle and the crisp skin on the outside. The flavor was right on point; hearty. Chef Bobby made smoked lamb with chimichurri. He made it both in slices and in “pulled’ style. Both were great and seasoned just right. Both Chefs Travis and John shared the smoker and it is always fun watching Chef Travis use his knife skills. It was also fun watching Michael Hastings come around getting “privilege tastes” of everything. This, of course, was my favorite dish. Why? Because this food had a mother. Kudos to both Chef Travis and Chef John Bobby.

Then it was time for dessert. Dessert was also a tag-team effort. Chef Janis Karathanas of Providence Restaurant made a mascarpone cheesecake with a port wine reduction. She told us all what she made this of and I had no time to write it down. Plus, I was too busy tasting it. Even though I don’t know exactly what was in it, I can tell you it melted 14088459_10154302224620490_649515975873410144_nin your mouth and if you have it, you won’t care what was in it. I promise. Also on the plate was a sea-salt caramel stuffed fig dipped in dark chocolate and a honey ganache truffle prepared by Chef Tirra Cowen of Black Mountain Chocolate. The sea-salt caramel was that sweet, salty deliciousness that you knew you were going to get and the honey ganache truffle was perfect. To see these two desserts on the same plate lined 140 en masse on the old Community Arts Café bar? That was a thing of beauty. And the flavors were even more beautiful than the taste. Hat tip to Chef Janis and Chef Tirra.

And hats off to Michael Hastings, Justin Gomez and all the Winston-Salem Journal staff on hand to make this a wonderful event. And to all the chef and local growers, farmers and suppliers, thank you for all that you do for us in food fandom. You make us so very happy and we can’t thank you enough. The volunteer staff and restaurateurs were fabulous, as well. This event was a first for Winston-Salem but Michael Hastings said they were definitely doing it next year. I refuse to call anything “First Annual” because how do you know, really? You don’t. So, next year can be the “second annual” edition. I loved it.

The Man Who Walked the Town Announces Three New Sponsors

You may be wondering why this is “food news” but I can assure you that it certainly is.

Full disclosure, I am the writer of The Man Who Walked the Town blog and host and producer of the upcoming web vlog series. It’s part of the Man About Town media “group.” So, this may be a little self-serving but it’s something that I feel is important for these sponsors and for the community.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Atelier on Trade and Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Company have all signed on to be sponsors of The Man Who Walked the Town. The Man Who Walked the Town is a lifestyle blog that is designed to not only keep the writer, Tim Beeman (yes, that’s me) active and healthier, but also focus and highlight the many fantastic neighborhoods that reside in this beautiful town we call Winston-Salem. There will be pictures and then there will be video. It will be turned into a web video series that will be on popular video channels.

When Tim and Stephanie (known collectively as The Man Who Walked the Town) start each walking day, no matter their focus neighborhood, they start at Mary’s, loading carbs to provide fuel for activity. After getting fueled up, they walk to Atelier on Trade and get caffeinated to add that boost to the walking duo. After the walk (usually around 10,000 steps) they always end up at Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Company to have a celebratory adult beverage.

So, if you see The Man Who Walked the Town out and about, please don’t be shy, especially if you see them at Mary’s, Atelier on Trade or Hoots. Walk a few steps with them and recommend your favorite Winston-Salem neighborhoods to them. Also, I don’t have to tell you this, but, all three of these restaurants/food/beverage places are worthy of your dollars and are some of the best at what they do.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner is located at 723 North Trade Street. Atelier on Trade is located at 533 North Trade Street. Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Company is located at 840 Mill Works Street.

Winston-Salem and Hot Dogs: A Love Affair

When it was announced, several weeks ago, that the local restaurateurs were going to reopen Skippy’s Hot Dogs in Winston-Salem, for just a week (actually eight days) and try to raise money for Skippy’s owner, Mike Rothman, the goal was to bring in a few, possibly a few tens of thousands of dollars to send to Pennsylvania and help Mike get back on his feet and pay some of the medical bills and incidentals he’s amassed since having surgery to remove tumors from his brain. That goal was met. That goal was met in a really, really big way.

Eight days of hard work, dedication, sweat and tears (we don’t like to think about blood with food, usually, right?) and 13,009 hot dogs later, the Winston-Salem community, its citizens and its neighbors helped to raise over $111,000.  Read that again: One Hundred Eleven THOUSAND Dollars!

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Photo ©Skippy’s

I had the pleasure of capturing each shift, albeit just seconds at time, for a private video I’m making, on behalf of the organizers, just for Mr. Rothman and I saw an awesome sight. All these different restaurants, ordinarily, all doing their own thing, in their own worlds, standing shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip behind the counter of this small venue, working together for a wonderful cause. Not only that, I watched a 5 gallon water jug (the kind that you put in an office water cooler) fill to the top with money. This was not a one-time thing. It filled to the point that they had to push it down to allow more money to go in. Then, they’d empty it and start all over again. There weren’t just singles, either. There were $5s, $10s and I saw plenty of $20s. There were also some very big orders. I don’t have solid numbers so I’ll not put that out there, but a few companies ordered sizable quantities of “dogs.” And, although, I’ve no confirmation of this, either, there’s a rumor that I’m trying to verify, that someone paid $1000 for one hot dog.

This community, all aspects of it, came together. They did good; for good, for Mike.

I love this city. I have always loved this city. I have always loved and supported the restaurants in this city, especially the downtown establishments. But, now? I am absolutely in love with my city and its citizens. In this time, when tensions are always high, over both important issues and trivial ones, we came in and showed one person – a person that many (I’d venture to say “most”) have never even met – an all-inclusive and unconditional demonstration of love and respect.

“Mike’s Week” wouldn’t have been possible without a plethora of volunteers, not only from the area restaurants, but from the community, as well. The thank you list is quite extensive and I won’t list them all here, however, their time and care made this the success that it is. My thanks, as a member of the community, especially being in there to observe not only from the front of the counter but behind it, goes especially to Dana Moody (West End Coffeehouse), Vivian Joiner (Sweet Potatoes) and Will Kingery (King’s Crab Shack, Willow’s Bistro and Silo Bistro). They were there everyday, making sure all was set and running well. This is not to diminish anyone’s time put in; everyone was immeasurably essential to the cause. I personally thank each and every one of them. And to anyone who bought a hot dog, put a bill of any kind into the water jug or purchased any of the swag, you’re awesome as well.

There is a separate GoFundMe page that is still open and you can still donate to (it’s raised over $15,000 of a $10,000 goal so far) by following this link. Thank you, again, Winston-Salem. And Mike, here’s hoping for a very speedy recovery.

Food Goings On and Stuffs 4/20/16

A few things that are going on around town and, really, around the state.

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Photo©Skippy’s Facebook

Also, something that has been in the local food plane the last few months is happening next week. Many local chefs, restaurateurs and all-around foodie folk are banding together to come to the aid of a local restaurateur in need. Mike Rothman is the owner of Skippy’s Hot Dogs, famous for their pretzel buns. Mike has glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer and had some tumors removed earlier this year. Even though he has insurance, there’s only so much that it will pay and meanwhile he has a beloved (by him and the WSNC folk) restaurant that is sitting idle and unopened. Mike had to move back to Pennsylvania in order to be with family that will help with his recovery.

In what they’re calling “Mike’s Week” (#MikesWeek on social media, please), the awesome people behind some of Winston’s best downtown restaurants are coming to the rescue; at least coming to a relief. They’re going to open Skippy’s for one week starting April 23 and going through April 30. All the proceeds from this project will go to Mike. These opened days are done by volunteers of the restaurants involved, including their executive chefs, owners, bartenders, waitstaff and dishwashers. Everyone is getting involved.

The restaurants that are involved include: Spring House/Quanto Basta, Jeffrey Adams/Old Fourth Street Filling Station, Mozelle’s, West End Coffeehouse, DiLisio’s, Kabob’s on Fourth, Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Sweet Potatoes, Finnigan’s Wake and King’s Crab Shack/Silo Bistro/Willow’s Bistro. I hear there is also inquiries about more openings. Each day the restaurant(s) on duty will create their own twist on hot dogs. Unfortunately, Mike is the only one that does the pretzel buns, so that’s going to be missing, but the restaurant community is coming to his aid in a really awesome way. So, between this Saturday, April 23 and April 30th, won’t you stop by for a great dog for a great cause?

Last week on The Less Desirables, they (we) had Chef Kris Fuller (and her wife, Rachel Walker), owner of Crafted: Art of the Taco and Crafted: The Art of Street Food in Greensboro.  You probably know, that she is opening, finally, 2016-04-13 22.33.58Crafted: Art of the Taco here in Winston-Salem. It will be just south of the intersection of Sixth and Liberty on Liberty Street. She’s very excited about the opportunity and we are very happy that she’s bringing that deliciousness to our fair city.  The timeline, as of right now, is looking like late fall. We that follow restaurants and happenings realize that you take the target and add a little time to it to be realistic. That’s true with just about any business.

Without going into much details about their history, Crafted: Art of the Taco (East), Kris and her mother, Rhonda started another popular restaurant, The Bistro, in Adam’s Farm and had to close it due to road development. The success of that restaurant gave them motivation to open another. Art of the Taco wants it known that they are definitely not a Mexican restaurant, they’re a taco joint, plain and simple. Or, not really that simple. I’m sad to say that I haven’t actually eaten there, but Kris made me promise to come down and try it before Art of the Taco West opens. There’s also talk of a certain “branded” taco when they do open. We’ll see what happens with that.

In news outside Winston-Salem, even outside of the Triad, a Triangle brewing staple has announced that it is closing. In fact, the name of the brewery is Triangle Brewing Company and they’re closing their doors on April 30th. Triangle has been sold at City Beverage, at least in the past, and there are fans of that brewery here in Winston. The Less Desirables met one of their most loyal fans, we call him: Superfan Damien, at Triangle so it’s hallowed ground in TBC-Logo-blackTLD’s lore.

Their brews include: Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale, an IPA, Belgian White Ale, Imperial Amber Ale, all of which were available in cans and sold in this area. There are plenty of other styles that they produced. They will open, as I stated, for the last time at 4pm on April 30. They will stay open until the last drop of beer they have left is gone (or until 2am, whichever is sooner). So, since it’s the same day, perhaps you start with breakfast at Skippy’s and head to Durham for a beer-filled send off? Just drink responsibly and take a designated driver.

I don’t know all the details on why they’re closing but my “man on the street,” Superfan Damien is going to find out and let me know so I can report on it.

So that’s the things happening this week that I found noteworthy. There are plenty of things going on and I’ll do my best to update so you know! If you have WSNC food news and want my readers to know about it, please feel free to send me an email.

Bon appetit!