The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For

In May, I announced that I was embarking on a quest for the “best burger in Winston-Salem.” I declared it the “Summer of Burgers” and said I was looking for my top 10 burgers in town and would formulate a list from there. My wife and my doctor both grimaced when I said I was going to do this and I had to make promises as to the practice.

So, let’s review. I could only have three burgers a week with some green/healthier things in between. Toward the end of the summer, I had to have a few more to get the ones in that I needed to get in. I went to places that my readers, listeners and friends recommended. I tried to get every recommendation in but I didn’t achieve that, either by lack of funds available or just timing. A few of the burgers on the tour was sponsored by said listeners, readers and friends.

So, before I go any further, I want to thank those who did sponsor burgers for me. Daniel Butner, owner of Carrabba’s and our sponsor on this blog and podcast sponsored the Blarney Burger at Finnigan’s Wake and the burger at King’s Crab Shack. “Street Team” member, Steven McDowall sponsored the Boone Doggies trip and Thunder Road Grill burger. Steven Gallo sponsored the Krankie’s burger. My pal Jeff Davids sponsored both the Small Batch “Morning After” burger and Zesto’s “Chubby Decker” burger. Jason Cobb and Yamas! Mediterranean Street Food donated $50 for gas on the “tour.” Brandon Cassidy of Food Freaks, Chef Travis Myers of Willows Bistro, Chef David Swing of Sir Winston, Chef Antwan Hairston of Mac & Nelli’s, and my friend Dawn McDaniel with Bad Daddy’s did sponsor their own burgers. None of the sponsorship consideration influenced the correlating establishment’s standing in this list. No advantage was given for me not having to pay for them. That being said, thank you all so very much for your help and consideration in this very fun and delicious project.

Now, let’s get to the “housekeeping” stuff. I didn’t get to everyone. I just couldn’t. There is a burger in almost every restaurant, it seems. In some, those are the focus and in others, it’s just a menu placeholder. I tried to get to the ones that people were the most adamant about. I think I got most of them but just couldn’t get to all of them.

To be on this list the burgers had to be on the menu or at least mostly available. Specialty “off-menu” items or things that were made just to “wow” me are much appreciated but I couldn’t count that here. The biggest of these was Chef Travis’ first entry at Willows. Had I accepted that burger, it would have probably been top 3, but it was made for me, special, and not available all the time. Chef Swing at Sir Winston had a “special” burger that couldn’t be counted, as well, but it was darn good. In all, I had 34 burgers from 30 restaurants.

I kept a “journal” of the burgers that I had. It was a spreadsheet that I kept track of the name of the establishment, the name of the burger (if applicable), the amount of seasoning, the “doneness,” the juiciness of the burger, the type of bun and my thoughts on the burger itself.

I thought about breaking it down into “diner burgers” and “gourmet burgers.” Some have said it would be unfair to put a diner burger against a gourmet burger. I don’t see that as the case. I think it’s more unfair to impose some kind of “affirmative action” on burgers. Categorization is more of a problem than letting the burgers stand on their own, in my opinion. And that brings me to what I see as an important aspect of this list. This is my list. It’s not meant as a “readers’ choice” or a popularity contest. I respect the lists made in local publications but I feel it is just a popularity contest more than a true top list. I can’t compete with those lists and I don’t want to. I did take recommendations from others to get a broader knowledge of what is available to us. Burgers I either didn’t know or wouldn’t expect showed up and I am a better burger eater because of it. There were a lot of fantastic burgers on this list and some of your favorites will not make the top list. That doesn’t mean that those burgers that do not show up on the top list aren’t worth having. That’s not what this is about.

And it comes down to this, the list is about how I felt while eating these burgers. I love burgers and this list is representative of much joy.

So, to quote Marty DiBergi, “But hey, enough of my yakkin’; whaddya say? Let’s boogie!”

10. Small Batch

My pal, Jeff Davids sponsored this burger, which was us having a good lunch together in a place where burgers were prominent. I chose the “Morning After” burger. Yes, it’s a gourmet burger and was what I was in the mood for that day. This burger was a big patty with a fried egg, bacon, fries, pepper jack cheese and grilled onions on what I believe is a brioche bun. In addition to “Done” for doneness and “Very Good” for flavor/seasoning, my notes state: “Some of the juiciness comes from the egg, but still a very flavorful burger. Once you bite into it, you aren’t putting it down until it’s done because of that egg and the mess, but also because it’s a darned good burger.”

The Morning After from Small Batch

9. Maxburger

This was a late entry and I didn’t know much about it because it is kind of down in the boondocks (Old Salisbury/Hickory Tree Rd area). This was also my first “Juicy Lucy” even though I had heard that term a good bit. I had it with both Pepper Jack and American cheese, onion, tomato and while I usually leave off the lettuce on burgers, I forgot to order it that way, and really on a “diner burger,” that’s not a problem. I think it adds to the flavor. This was on a brioche bun.  It was a fantastic diner burger at that. Under the doneness and flavor/seasoning categories, both were listed as “perfect.” And, as the name states, it was juicy. Notes: “A really great burger which I had no expectations of. A surprise. The cheeses and fixings made this a delicious entry.”

Juicy Lucy from Maxburger

8. West End Cafe

Full disclosure, when I had the first burger from WEC just before the start of the burger tour, I was set to let that be the first one but it was a little disappointing. I talked with John, the GM of WEC and he said they had been having a bit of trouble with their grill. I told him that I was going to give him a “mulligan.” This was the only mulligan on this tour and only because I had it before the “tour” started. Now, also in full disclosure, I gave John a heads up that I was coming and he gave me recommendations, as I welcomed from all establishments (after all it is their entry). I paid for the burger and it wasn’t comped. Now, this was certainly a different burger. This was, for all intents and purposes, a burger and a half. This burger was a Hamburger Grinder with habanero jack/provolone cheeses, spinach, 1000 island and pickles. I forgot to add onions, but they weren’t needed. The cheesy/1000 island combo is one thing that made this burger a winner. It was a bit messy but delicious. “Perfect” for the doneness, and “very good” for the seasoning, the majority of the flavor came from the accouterments. Per John, “the most underrated sandwich on the menu.” Per me: “Basically 1.5 burgers, great flavors and great unique sandwich.”

Hamburger Grinder from West End Cafe

7. Cin-Cin Burger Bar

Another full disclosure moment: Cin Cin is owned by the Michael family who also owns Yamas! who did sponsor me in gas. Again, that has nothing to do with this burger’s merit which is what this is about. I had the “Speakeasy Deluxe” burger which is their “classic” burger. This is a gourmet burger that tastes like a diner burger. There is a great underlying onion flavor that I enjoy in diner burgers, this I counted in the “flavor/seasoning.” It was a very juicy burger, too. I do kind of wish that restaurants would get away from the brioche bun as the end-all-be-all of gourmet burgers, though. My notes: “A gourmet burger that tasted like a diner burger, onions-on-the-grill quality. A very good burger.”

The Speakeasy Deluxe from Cin-Cin

6. Canteen Market & Bistro

I will be honest and say that I had little expectations for this burger. I can’t explain why, either. This is a “Smashburger” with American cheese, grilled onions, tomato and 1000 Island on a bun. The burger was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The grilled onions made it more like a diner burger and I love that. The burger wasn’t a thing of aesthetic beauty but it was delicious. “Perfect” in both doneness and seasoning. My notes: “A fantastic burger. Pricey but the flavors were top notch with the grilled onions.” My only knock on Canteen isn’t a knock because I try to stay clear of opining on the prices of restaurants’ wares. That’s their business but my business what I pay. It was more than I’d expect to pay for a burger usually, but the flavors made it worth it.

“Smashburger” from Canteen Market & Bistro

 

SO! That’s 10-6. Now, for the Top 5 Burgers of Winston-Salem (ish).

5. Food Freaks of NC Food Truck

Brandon Cassidy sponsored this burger, but again, there was no bearing on the outcome for that. This was the only “actual” food truck that I got to, although there were a few that were on my “to do” list. This was also the first “official” burger of the tour on May 29. As I said in the Instagram post, “This is perhaps the messiest thing I’ve ever eaten but goodness! This is phenomenal.” It is the Wild Mexi burger which is andouille sausage stuffed into a double burger with jalapeno peppers, Muenster cheese and topped with a Sriracha chili mayo on Martin’s potato bun. This burger is huge and if you put it down, it would be all over everything. So, I recommend keeping a roll of paper towels near and don’t put it down until you’ve downed it. The flavors in this burger burst in your mouth and it’s juicy as all get out. Perfect in doneness. My notes (being my first entry): “What a burger should be.”

Wild Mexi from Food Freaks of NC

4. Zito Pizzeria and Grill

The biggest “didn’t see that coming” moment on this tour was when I ate the burger at Zito. It came as a recommendation and I was like, okay, let’s give it a shot. I had only eaten at Zito once and that was right after they re-opened. That was a pizza-kind of day. I sat down and looked over the menu. I decided I wanted a double burger and got it with cheese, onion, mayo and tomato. The flavors in this burger were amazing. It was juicy, seasoned perfectly and worthy of the #4 spot on my list. Doneness and flavor/seasoning was “perfect.” My notes: “Was pleasantly surprised at how good this burger was. Better once it cooled off a bit. Lots of flavor with no fluff.”

Double Cheeseburger from Zito Pizzeria and Grill

3. Social. Southern Kitchen & Cocktails

A beautiful chunk of filet, NY strip, ribeye and ground beef ground together into a delicious patty of perfection. “All that wonderful beef with mayo, American cheese, housemade pickled onions and housemade pickle chips on a brioche bun. Woot… and BAM!” I said on Instagram. The pickled onions were amazing. The pickle chips were also unlike I’ve had anywhere else. This could have easily been #1 on the list. “Perfect” in flavor and doneness. My notes: “A darn fine burger. Great seasoning and temperature. Made with filet, strip, ribeye and ground beef.” It is in a location far from where I usually go, but it was worth that “drive.”

Burger from Social. Southern Kitchen

2. Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream

Of course, this had to be on the top 10 list, right? You were probably looking for it earlier, huh? Well, there is undoubtedly no burger that gets as much public love from me than that of the “Chubby Decker” from Zesto. There is something about having this double burger with its 8-minute char, the mayo, ketchup, onion, tomato and melty American cheese that puts me in a great mood. It makes me happy. I love eating at Zesto, too. Algenon and his staff make it a great place to eat a delicious, always flavorful and juicy burger. Zesto is much more than its burgers but for this, the burger reigns supreme. At least at the #2 spot.

The Chubby Decker from Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream

And, then there’s #1…

1. Boone Doggies

If you notice throughout my writing of this post, I have mentioned Winston-Salem (ish) a time or two. Boone Doggies is not in Winston-Salem. Luckily for us all, it’s also not in Boone. It located in Yadkinville. Named for the fact that Drew Ausley, who started the Boone Doggies food truck graduated from Appalachian State University in, you guessed it, Boone. The truck focused on hot dogs, mainly. But, the time came to do something different and he opened a restaurant. The location is a true “greasy spoon”-type building and the dining room can get quite crowded. All that being said, you are completely remiss if you don’t make the drive there to have the burgers from this heavenly place. So, about the burger. Steven McDowall alerted me to this restaurant and took me there, and sponsored the tasting. It was an overall win-win for me. I was honored to taste not one. Not two. But three different burgers from Drew and company. I will say that these burgers were probably the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. Ever. First, we had the “Grandfather” which is their classic burger, named after Grandfather Mountain (a Boone reference). It’s a double burger with chopped onion, tomatoes, mayo and American cheese. Next was “The Rock” (another Boone reference): mayo, grilled onions they char in their homemade bbq sauce, bacon, and cheddar cheese. They even char the patty in the bbq sauce for a little something extra! Was it ever. The third is “The Peacock,” named after a chancellor at ASU that Drew had. It’s made with Papa Ausley’s homemade pimento, perfect bacon, tomato and mayo! Seared (and smashed) on the flattop and placed on a buttered toasted bun. I couldn’t pick a favorite of the three but why should I? I got to have all three at the same time. Thank you, Drew and thank you, Steven!

“The Grandfather” from Boone Doggies

“The Peacock” by Boone Doggies

“The Rock” from Boone Doggies

 

 

 

So, here you have it. MY Top 10 Burgers of WSNC (ish). I want to thank all the restaurants for their contributions to the tour and even if they didn’t make the top 10, they all are worth a try. You can’t know how incredibly hard it was to leave anything off this top list. Except for about three places, any of these could have made this list. Thank you to Mac & Nelli’s, Willows Bistro, Campus Gas, Sir Winston, North Point Grill, PB’s Takeout, King’s Crab Shack, Crafted, Earl’s, Allen’s Dairy Treats, Quiet Pint, Trade Street Diner, Mooney’s, Bad Daddy’s, Thunder Road Grill, Krankies, Mozelle’s, the Katharine and New Yorker Pizza Pasta and Wings for your burgers. My apologies to Burger Supreme, Jeffrey Adams, Athena Taverna, Hot Dog City and Sweet Potatoes for not getting to you.

It was a long-yet-short summer. It was a great burger summer. It was great eating great burgers with great friends. Let’s just say it was all great. I know some of yours didn’t make the list. I know some of you don’t agree with this list. But, that’s okay. Convince me otherwise. Tell me about your top list. Tell me the ones you like I left off. Tell me why you don’t agree with the list. I love the conversation and I love the interaction.

Now, I’m off to finding the next “tour” to take. What’re your recommendations on that?

As always, thank you for reading and thank you for listening!

Bon appetit!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 123

In Episode #123 proudly recorded at The Lab at Industry Hill:

Tim and Ray talk about:

  • Caitlin Weaver, former co-host on The Less Desirables podcast visits the studio and talks foodstuffs with Tim and Ray.
  • Daniel Butner and Carrabba’s is doing awesome things in the community, including the Oncology/Hematology Prom, as well as a wine dinner and this Friday, he’s feeding the road crew that’s doing the work on Old Business 40/Salem Parkway!
  • Tim will be judging a chili/stew cookoff at The Big Sip, presented by Piedmont Local Magazine/336 Events on October 5. More details including purchasing tix here.
  • Hot Dog Tasting Trolley Tour is rescheduled for October 5. You can purchase discounted tix using the code “Man5” on this link.
  • Update on Summer of Burgers Tour.
  • Food holidays and history.

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!

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 Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 53

In Episode #53, proudly recorded at Test Pattern Studios:

  • Dogwood Hops & Crops to start delivery service, via an app, on November 1.
  • Tim reviews his Katharine Brasserie and Bar experience and its new Chef, Adam Barnett.
  • 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 48

In Episode #48, 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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode 41

Chef Adam Barnett (Photo © Katharine Brasserie and Bar

In Episode #41, 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!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #19

In Episode #19, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

  • Ed Witt no longer with Katharine Brasserie & Bar.
  • Tavern in Old Salem on Winter Break.
  • Chef Kevin Reddick lands new gig.
  • Slappy’s Chicken now making deliveries.
  • The Big Eat happens tonight!
  • 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!

Twin City Hive’s New Direction

I know the title may be a little misleading. Twin City Hive isn’t exactly going in a new direction as much as repaving the road they were already Segwaying on. When TCH first opened in 2014, they were a combination of Segway tours, coffee and chocolate; the Segway tours being the big attraction and the coffee and chocolate being a residual bonus. Focus changed as the coffee and desserts took a precedence, as did the principal cast of players in the TCH’s, well, “hive.”

The main chocolatier of the business moved on and the two other partners in the business, Joey Burdette and Terry Miller decided to set their priority to the coffee and chocolate. This also led to a bit of a scramble to locate suppliers of artisan chocolate companies. However, it was standard or stock chocolate that were factory made. That left little room for experimentation.2016-10-04-18-02-16

Joey says, “We’ve had a couple of different artisan chocolate companies, throughout the US, that we purchased from. One is in Vermont, another is in St. Louis and another is in Minnesota. They were all delicious but what we found is that people coming in wanted to specify, ‘what about this and what about this?’ And, they were all great ideas but because we weren’t making them, we couldn’t control the process.”

TCH has already been doing its own chocolate bars, starting earlier this year. They call it the Icon Bar and it is a representation of the old RJ Reynolds building, now the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel and Katharine Brasserie & Bar Restaurant. Production for the Icon Bar had to be upped because the demand grew. So, they opted to acquire a space to do their bars in. This opened the door, also, for them to explore their very own line of chocolate truffles, a return to their roots and original concept. Which, somehow, brings this post full circle to where I began.

Joey has started the professional chocolatier program through the Ecole Chocolat out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. It’s a three month online course that will get him “Professional Chocolatier” status and enable him to work on being a “Master Chocolatier,” a renown status that he can earn from matriculating at numerous specialty schools throughout the world.

So, not only will the Twin City Hive truffles be delicious, they will be made from a (first) professional and then Master Chocolatier. Okay, great, you say, but what does that mean? Earlier I mentioned that there was demand for specialty, specific kinds of truffles. Perhaps you want chili and lavender truffles or honey and cardamom or other mind-blowing combinations of flavors? Well, with TCH making their own chocolates, they can experiment and create the chocolates that you like or can dream up. When buying from outside vendors, the buyer is bound by the vendors’ selections. These are made here, in WSNC.

I was able to try the salted caramel (with sea salt from my native state of West Virginia… yeah, it’s a long story), honey cinnamon, and Texas Pete. They were beautiful, decorative and most importantly, delicious. There will be more flavors over time. Joey says he’s having fun playing around with recipes and ideas in their Dept. of Agriculture approved kitchen. The production will continue to grow as he finishes the chocolatier program. The biggest challenge for him is managing the store, managing the cooking and managing school, its work and its schedule. It’s vigorous and is challenging. Right now, he’s just adding more in the day, which is saying a good bit because he has already been slammed. But, it’s good for the business’ future and is rewarding in the fact that he’s enjoying the learning and implementation.

There are TCH truffles available, now, at the counter of the shop and I would highly recommend having some. Joey’s a smart and innovative guy and I can’t wait to try new concoctions as they come from his imagination. You can try your own, along with proprietary blends of tea and gourmet coffees by visiting Twin City Hive at 301 Brookstown Ave. in Winston-Salem. They have a lovely coffee lounge, with couches and cozy seating, a conference room that is available for public use, many tables for working and a nice, welcoming patio. And, of course, fine chocolates.

Slàinte!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #9

In Episode #9, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:cowboy-brazilian-steakhouse-logo-400x74-31

  • Food holidays and history for the week of September 19-25.
  • Jordan Keiper of Tavern at Old Salem receives accolades.
  • Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse pursues a new location.
  • A brief mention of Katharine Brasserie.

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).

Bon appetit!

A New Jewel in the Middle of Camel City’s History

The iconic R.J. Reynolds building, that now houses the Kimpton Cardinal hotel is an historic landmark and treasure to our beloved Winston-Salem. When it was announced, publicly, in 2014 that it was going to become the newest in the Kimpton line of boutique hotels (and also an apartment complex managed by PMC Group), there was also the announcement that there would be a restaurant on the ground floor. We found out later that it would be a French brasserie that occupied the spot. Excitement erupted in the area.

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©travel-42.com

Commanding that space to a somewhat fickle community, one that takes their historic buildings and properties very seriously, was going to be a feat. How would this turn out? How would the community react? Would it be accepted or rejected? Would there be hype and then it fall on its figurative face? A lot of questions to be answered there. Add on the fact that it was going to be a French Brasserie and they were going to have an even bigger challenge. For some reason, it seems Winston-Salem has a problem with food that isn’t the “Nouveau Southern” or tried-and-true ethnic foods such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese or Japanese, etc. And even those, they’re the Americanized versions, usually. Greensboro definitely one-ups Winston-Salem on the ethnic front. One way, I suppose, to combat the naysayers is to name the restaurant after one of the most important women in our city’s fine history, Katharine Smith Reynolds. Katharine was the wife of the founder of the empire that spawned the very building in which they’re located, R.J. Reynolds. So, the brasserie was called The Katharine Brasserie and Bar. Clever name, to be sure. Still, they had to live up to that.

Claret Cobbler

Claret Cobbler

Stephanie and I decided to give the restaurant a try and see how it stacks up to the Parisian restaurants that we’d eaten at both times we’d been to Paris. We used Open Table to secure the reservations, which weren’t until 9pm. They were quite busy on a Friday night, something that is good to see. We arrived at 8pm, however, because we wanted to experience the bar and the craft cocktails that were being advertised. The valet parking was a good thing. The hotel itself isn’t bountiful in the way of parking, but why do that if they’re going to do it for you, right? We checked in, stating our reservation wasn’t for a while but we were hoping to enjoy some libations. They said absolutely and they would retrieve us when our table was ready.

Waldorf

Waldorf

The bar reminded us of the hotel bar in the Hotel Chicago when we stayed there back in August, 2015. Very metropolitan and more extravagant than anything else in Winston-Salem. However, it was very welcoming and the staff behind the bar was nice, all smiling and friendly. Stephanie stated, while we were sitting sipping our beverages, that the feel and look, combined with the view out the windows (which was just the back end of One West Fourth) made it feel like we weren’t actually in Winston-Salem. What she meant by that was it made this city, that wants to be like other, larger cities seem much larger than it really is. We saw it as something with more of a big-city feel than we have really seen here before. It made us feel like we were traveling, knowing when we walked outside we were still in the comfortable arms of the city we love.

Empire State Smash

Empire State Smash

The bar area was also very spacious and resided “downstairs” from the main dining room. Proportionally, there was ample seating, with many seats around the bar itself and counters and tables, both high and short, complete with chairs throughout. The cocktail menu was full of lovely craft offerings and many were named after things, situations or places that somehow related to where the bar/brasserie is. One thing that I found funny was that Brasserie in French means “brewery.” The Katharine was sans an actual brewery. There was, however, a raw bar that offered oysters, clams and other “raw” items that you can munch on to tide you over.

 

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©Open Table

I tried the Waldorf which is like a classic rye Manhattan but with Absinthe added. It was a little heavy on the vermouth but delicious otherwise. I also had the Empire State Smash which was Appleton signature blend, muddled lemon, bitters, cinnamon and mint. This was the cocktail of the evening for me. Very smooth. Stephanie had the Claret Cobbler which was the house red wine, Black Grouse scotch whisky, lemon and rosemary. Think of a sangria but with some extra kick and spice. She was quite happy with it.  It was time for dinner.

We were seated in a large dining room at a table that we were able to sit, side-by-side, on deep-cushioned bench seats. We usually sit facing each other because it is easier to have a conversation. These seats were comfortable. Our server was a lovely, young, British lady by the name of Lucy.  Bread and butter were brought to the table while we were looking the menu over to decide what we wanted to have. I ordered a Leffe Brune, beer. Lucy asked if she could pour for me and I agreed. There was a beautiful, foamy head in the glass. She poured well.

I had an opportunity to look around at the grandeur that is the dining room. There’s an open kitchen that allows you 20160520_212830to see the action happen. You’re not close to the action but you can see the kitchen staff scuttling about. The restaurant was a lot of tile and very Art Deco, which would make sense since the building is classic Art Deco. It’s also very much French in feeling and atmosphere.  But, you’re wondering about the food, right?

Stephanie ordered with the House Smoked Salmon with eggplant, basil, oven-dried tomato and pine nuts appetizer. The eggplant was in a chutney form and the sweet from the chutney combined with the acid of the tomato, the crispiness of the sauteed basil and the nuttiness of the pine nuts paired very nicely with the smokey and savory flavor of the salmon. The portion was plentiful for an appetizer.

I ordered the beef tartar with mustard seeds, jalapeño and raw quail egg. I broke the egg to
Tartar create a “sauce” for the tartar. While I would have liked it to be a slight more runny, it added grand flavor. There was a flavorful hint of sea salt and black pepper but not overpowering, at all. The jalapeño added a crunch and slight spice to the mix. However, the star of that dish was the beef itself. It’s quite the French treat. When we celebrated our honeymoon in Paris, I had beef tartar for three of the four nights we were there, all at different locations. This was a good interpretation. I could eat that over and over again. It was served with crostini and I saved it for afterward; kind of like a dessert for my appetizer.

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Bistro Filet with Bèarnaise

For her entree, Stephanie ordered the 8oz Bistro Filet, cooked medium, and she chose the Béarnaise sauce to accompany her steak. The “side” for the steak is always frites, or french fries as we call them. The frites were served with an aioli, again, as you’d find in the French bistros. The Béarnaise sauce was super buttery, sweet and delicious. The knife carved through the meat effortlessly. She did say that the kitchen sent the steak out exactly how she ordered it, however, next time she’ll order it medium rare as it was a little more done than she expected. We have found when we go to a restaurant for the first time, we have to gauge the kitchen’s ability to cook it how we want it. The flavor of the filet combined with the sauce was, in her words, “oh my gosh, it was good!” She had the Château Bonnet red with her meal.

Beef Tenderloin with Foie Gras Sauce

Beef Tenderloin with Foie Gras Sauce

My entree was the 10oz beef tenderloin, cooked rare, and I chose the foie gras sauce to go with it. Foie gras is an acquired taste to many, but it certainly is French and was good and a bit fatty. My steak, too, had the frites with aioli. To be fair, my steak was a bit thick and while the very center was rare, the outer layers were a bit more medium. So, I did, as with Stephanie, get my steak the way I wanted it, but with it being that thick it was hard to get it just right. The important part, though, is the flavor and that was perfect. There was a nice rigid crust on the outside and the seasoning was spot-on. I can’t really get less than rare but I’ll continue to ask for rare. Excellent job on it, otherwise.

After dinner, I had a pour of Grand Marnier while Stephanie and I shared the Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme which was a chocolate mousse that had whipped cream and broken dark chocolate “sprinkles” and it was served in a resealable swing-top container. It’s all for looks and not very practical because you’re not going to take that home with you. But, the mousse was creamy, velvety and delicious. And I’m not really a chocolate fan.

20160520_223341In my experience, this was the smoothest running “new” restaurant that I’ve seen. I saw no real operating kinks to work out and the food was near perfect. If I had to pick something that was a negative, it would be that the entire establishment, from the bar in the front to the dining area in the back, is very, very loud. There are a lot of hard flat surfaces as well as contours in the ceiling. Sound bounce everywhere. I sat right next to Stephanie and it was hard to hear what she was saying and Lucy, our server, had to almost get in our face for us to hear what she was saying to us. I believe they could incorporate some sound-absorbing acoustic tiles that fit the aesthetic and theming that the Katharine is trying to achieve.

The servers are dressed casually, bringing a bit of a relaxed environment while still delivering a fine dining experience. The prices are what you’d expect from a fine dining establishment. You can spend beaucoup money if you’re not paying attention. But, if you go in with a budget, you can find a good meal for yourself (or more) at a decent fine dining price point.

As I said at the beginning of this article, there was a lot of hype and hoopla about this restaurant; big hype to live up to. In my opinion, they certainly rose to that expectation. From the bar, the libations and decor to the service and food, the Katharine has gotten it right. There’s now a place with a larger metropolitan feel in Winston-Salem and I’m hoping this situation becomes a trend. The city has a true winner in The Katharine Brasserie and Bar.

The Katharine Brasserie and Bar is located at 51 4th St E #100 (the corner of 4th & Main) in downtown Winston-Salem. You can find more about the menu by looking on the “Menu” page of this blog.

Call (336) 761-0203 or visit Open Table to make your reservations.