The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #30

In Episode #30, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

Don’t forget my sponsor, 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 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).

Slàinte mhath!

Happy 25th Rooster’s: A Noble Grille

This past weekend, Stephanie and I attended the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Rooster’s: A Noble Grille.

Guafrette (top), Lamb liver (bottom)

It was a pretty big day for them. I’d say around 200-300 people were in attendance throughout the day. Draft beer and a fine selection of wines were there and flowing freely, both in the physical and financial senses of the word. Fantastic appetizers and hors d’oeuvres like NC Oyster salad bites wrapped in a spinach leaf. Great crunch to the oyster while leaving it soft on the inside. Stauber Farms lamb liver mousse crostini with an onion jam. The liver was creamy and smooth with just that hint of tang that you’d expect plus the onion jam was added, too. Wow. And the Sunburst Farms smoked trout dip with roe on guafrettes. I think this was my favorite because of the saltiness the waffle chip brought to the savory trout and eggs.

Oyster salad bite

When the time came for the main attraction food, they had a large outdoor buffet setup next to a cooker that was almost as large as my en suite bathroom in my house. It was massive. There were cold and hot items on the buffets.

On the cold side they had a kale, farro, pickled apples, chevre, almonds, champagne honey and rye salad. They also had a spinach, roasted beets, walnuts, candied shallots, basil, balsamic vinaigrette salad. And, to finish it off, a purple sweet potatoes, pea shoots, pickled ramps salad with a collard pesto and toasted seeds. I steered clear of that one because I don’t like sweet potatoes. I ate my way around the walnuts and beets in the spinach salad. All that I had was very crisp and flavorful. Tangy dressings and lush greens. Very nice.

Plate of goodness

The hot buffet was the attraction, though. There was prime brisket done Texas bbq style and pork butt done Lexington style. There was an Eastern and a Western slaw. Housemade pickled jalapeno hushpuppies (they were really good), a very creamy and cheesy mac-n-cheese and pan-fried corn were also some faves of mine. There was wood fired beets with sherry and sea salt (again, I don’t eat beets), fried pickled cauliflower with amaranth, chilies and yogurt that I also stayed away from. One thing that I really did like was the toasted curry, basil, potato nest and ginger oil gnocchi. The curry was spicy but not hot. I’d actually say it was spiced to more accurate.

For dessert there was Moravian sugar cake bread pudding, currant Courvoisier caramel and vanilla gelato. The currant Courvoisier caramel was divine! Thick, warm and saucy, it started to melt the gelato just a tad so it was perfect with the pudding.

Moravian sugar cake bread pudding

I really want to thank Chef John Bobby, Chef Jim Noble and their staff for the invitation and for having this restaurant available for the community. Here’s hoping they’re here for another 25 years, at least. Cheers!

You can find more about Rooster’s: A Noble Grille on their website and select the Winston-Salem location or one of the other locations, if you’re so inclined. Roosters in Winston-Salem is located at 380 Knollwood Street. Go have some deliciousness and tell them that I sent you!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #26

©Competition Dining

In Episode #26, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • Chef John Bobby stops in to talk about Roosters: A Noble Grille.
  • Skippy’s Set to Reopen.
  • Crafted: The Art of the Taco as well as Murphy’s Lunch have new hours.
  • Food holidays and history.

Don’t forget my sponsor, 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 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).

Slàinte mhath!

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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 Willow’s Wine Dinner Part II

When we last left off, we had imbibed three good wines and some delicious oysters, goat cheese truffles and tilefish with lamb belly at Chef Travis Myers‘ wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. This time we’ll start off from the second course and on through to dessert. Let’s do it.

Second Course: Crispy Skin

Harmony Ridge Farms Duck Confit Leg with Chef John Bobby‘s (Rooster’s: A Noble Grille) andouille & gnocchi hash, Shore Farm Organic‘s bok choy, more of Fair Share Farms delicious mircogreens, an apricot & cherry mostarda with Lusty Monk Mustard. This was paired with Hartford ‘Russian River’ Pinot Noir.

In the past, I’ve not been a fan of duck. I don’t like dark meat fowl as a general rule. WillowsDinner4However, I have found over the last bit, that I like duck confit (which means it’s cooked in its own fat), perhaps because of the fat. The closer to the bone the meat, the darker it is. This was a very meaty piece of bird and didn’t hold too much of the dark flavor that I don’t like. Again, a good thing. The mostarda with the Lusty Monk Mustard was a great ‘sauce’ to go with the gamy bird. I did wish there was more of the bok choy, but, again, the secret weapon of the dish was the inclusion of the microgreens. It’s amazing how much difference that itty-bitty plant can make. There’s a strong yet subtle (if that’s possible) flavor that rushes out from the microgreens. Overall, one of my favorite dishes of the night. Definitely, my favorite wine of the evening. I’ve always been a white and sweet wine kind of guy but both Stephanie and I agree that we’re becoming real fans of Pinot Noir. This one, was jammy and we really liked that.There was definite fruit flavor here and it went perfectly with the duck. I kind of wish it had been the wine for the main course.

Palate Cleanser: Moss Farms Granny Smith & Calvados Sorbet

WillowsDinner5Made with Cloister Honey‘s wildflower honey, Sea Love Sea Salt and an apple crisp garnish. This was a perfect palate cleanser. Cool, flavorful, sweet and that little sliver of crisp apple was surprisingly apple-y. I didn’t expect that to have as much flavor as thin it was, but it was great. It did its job, cleansed the palate, gave a sweet break from the savory and wine and prepared us for the main course. No alcohol was included in this course, and rightly so.

Main Course: Carolina Bison 3-hour Braised Short Ribs

The large block of tender bison was accented with a cauliflower puree and wilted Dino kale, roasted parsnips, Let It Grow Produce‘s persimmon preserves, Fair Share Farms microgreens, Sea Love Sea Salt and a savory, natural jus. This is paired with a Ferrari-Carano ‘Trésor’ Red.

The kale with this dish was unusual for me. I find kale to be somewhat offensive, usually, but with the savoriness of the jus and the cauliflower puree, it was more there for flavorful texture than anything else, at least to me. The toasted parsnips are like crunchy WillowsDinner6curly-cues. The bison fell apart as I cut it to take a bite. Its temperature was perfect. Once again, the secret weapon was the microgreens. I know you’re tired of hearing me go on about the microgreens but they are truly an amazing supercharge to the savory dishes we’ve encountered tonight. While we did like the ‘Trésor’ Red, it didn’t have the same depth of flavor as the Hartford Pinot Noir. I mentioned this, but I would have rather had that with this, but the Ferrari-Carano wasn’t a bad choice. It did bring the bison to the forefront and set its profile off. Great dish, Chef.

Dessert Course: Sticky Toffee Cake

Red molasses ice cream, Willow’s candied pecan soil, date gastrique, orange zest, vanilla & date sablès and a pickled Bradford Watermelon rind. It was paired with Gloria Ferrer‘s ‘Va de Vi.’

WillowsDinner7The watermelon rind was chewy and tart. I do think it was at odds with the overall dessert, but it didn’t offend the idea, at all. The red molasses ice cream was hard to keep on the “cookie” top as both slid from the “soil” base and the ice cream was starting to melt. I think the ice cream was the star of this dish, though. So, melting or not; sliding or not, the ice cream was fantastic. The ‘Va de Vi’ is a bubbly blend of the Pinot Noir grape and chardonnay with just a hint of moscato. It went well with the sweeter fruits in the dessert.

We have been privileged to have been involved with so many tastings lately. I don’t report on them to say, ‘hey look what we did’ as much as I am trying to  bring awareness to the beautiful and exquisitely flavored dishes that the chefs in our town are creating. Those chefs taking their visions and creating masterpieces of gastronomical proportions are the ones that stand out; the ones I highlight. As Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage said during this event: “this gives the chef’s a chance to show off,” and I think he’s absolutely correct.

These are called wine dinners but it’s more about the food, in my eyes (and mouth). I will say that Chuck did a great job in picking the right vino accompaniment, though. But, the real star is the food. I believe my two favorite dishes were the fish course (because of the lamb belly) and the duck confit. The duck may move ahead slightly just because of the Pinot Noir. Much thanks to Chef Will Kingery and Chef Myers for being the gracious hosts they are. Much thanks, too, to the talented kitchen staff, the bartenders, the dish washers and the awesome servers that were always there to make sure that our waters were filled, our silverware was always replaced and when minute errors happen, they were the ones to make things right (there was only one little snafu that’s not even worth mentioning, it was that minute). Willow’s is a class act and this was their way of showing off. So, I say show off!!

Willow’s Bistro is located at 300 South Liberty Street, Suite 125 in Downtown Winston-Salem. Keep an eye on their Facebook page, Chef Myers and Chef Will’s Twitter and/or Instagram pages and you’ll know when the next pairing dinner will be.