Willows Bistro and Wise Man Brewing Making Wonderful Tastes Together

On Sunday, February 25, Willows Bistro‘s Chef Travis Myers and his fantastic crew and staff provided guests an opportunity to pair their culinary delights with the liquid gold that is Wise Man Brewing‘s beer.


Chef Travis wanted to showcase the quality of beer that is made here in Winston-Salem and what better way to do that than with one of the top chefs in the area? And, he delivered. He delivered big. What diners were treated with was a ten-course (which turned into around 12 courses) pairing with five Wise Man brews.

There was no one who left out of there not satisfied. I know of no one complaining they didn’t get enough food.

Let’s talk about the courses.

Mountain Calling Beer Cheese

Starting off the shindig was the pork rinds from Harmony Ridge Farms. Willows do them in-house but the skins come from the hog that they butcher. It’s deep-fried and spiced with scallion ash and micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. When you bite into it, it’s crispy but then it melts in your mouth – and I mean melts. Delicious.

NC Coconut Shrimp and Beer Battered Onion Rings

Mountain Calling ‘Beer Cheese’ Chowder
Beautiful pancetta, monkfish from Low Country Shellfish, fingerling potatoes, micro ruby streaks and scallion ash from Fair Share Farms and this was paired with the Wise Man Dance in the Sun Kölsch and the Mountain Calling West Coast IPA. The idea was to have both beers and see which one you thought paired better with the dish. The beer cheese chowder was creamy and delicious. The monkfish, which Chef Travis calls the “poor man’s lobster,” was tender and perfectly cooked, it also nicely complemented the salty pancetta. And, since it has been a while since I have written a pairing review, let me state, right off the bat that I love any micro-green that comes from Fair Share Farms. Eliot and Em create tiny green miracles in their greenhouses. I am not the world’s biggest IPA fan so the Dance in the Sun Kölsch wins that contest.

Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings
Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings, Dance in the Sun-wasabi aïoli, Plum Granny Farm‘s ginger glaze, NC shrimp powder mad in-house by the Willows folk from all the leftover shells that don’t get used for stocks and other cooking needs (I think that’s clever), topped with orange zest. This too was paired with both the Dance in the Sun and Mountain Calling IPA. Again, the Kölsh wins that battle. I love when chefs take beer and incorporate it into other things like batter for the onion rings (and possibly the shrimp) and creating a wasabi aïoli. I especially like it when it’s done with the beer that you’re tasting. That’s keeping the theme. The shrimp wasn’t overcooked. Chef Travis told the secret to great shrimp during his introductions. He knows what he’s doing.

Crispy Duck

Pork Belly Croquette

Harmony Ridge Farms Crispy Duck
Crispy Duck from Isaac at Harmony Ridge Farms with Alt Acquaintance fermented mustard seeds, Fair Share Farms’ ruby streaks, fermented green tomato from Gnomestead Hollow – pickled and jus vinaigrette, pickled seed powder. This was paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier from Wise Man. I could have eaten a whole plate of the duck. That was delicious. Duck sometimes can be gamey but these ducks are exercised and allowed to roam the property at Harmony Ridge, it was tender and not at all gamey with a nice crispy shell, done to the perfect temperature. This matched perfectly with the malty Alt Acquaintance. More on that beer later. One of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Harmony Ridge Farms Pork Belly Croquette 
Ever since Stephanie and I spent time in Europe and fell in love with croquettes, we have wanted to try to make our own and we try to eat them anywhere we can find them. This pork belly and smoked risotto version of it was amazing. The risotto was creamy and the pork belly rich in flavor. The pickled mustard seed, confit pearl onion, pot likker, as well as the nasturtium & micro chard from Fair Share Farms were an ideal accompaniment. It was creamy and savory and the onions were very tender, too. This was once again paired w/ Mountain Calling IPA and that made for a fine dish. Another of my faves.

Pickled Okra

Plum Granny Farm Cajun Jewel Pickled Okra
The Cajun Jewel from the great folks at Plum Granny Farms pickled in brine, with extra virgin olive oil from Olinda Olives with micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. I don’t like okra and I ate every bit of it. So that is telling you something, right?

Roasted Carrots

Roasted Local Carrot Variations
As the name implies, this is a group of roasted local carrot variations. I saw them peeling and prepping them earlier in the day. Take those carrots, roast them and top them with Fair Share Farms’ micro carrot tops, Bertie County Peanuts, red curry, seed oil and Sea Love Sea Salt‘s garlic salt, then shave a bit of Goat Lady Dairy‘s Providence cheese and you have some flavor bursts here.  If you’ve not had Goat Lady Dairy’s Providence, it’s earthy, nutty, creamy and a little bit umami. I can eat that on its own. This course was paired with the Alt Acquaintance and the malty altbier mixed fabulously with that Providence cheese.

Hen Roulade

Joyce Farms Hen Roulade
Hen from Joyce Farms with a Shiitake soubise from Myers Mushroom with Harmony Ridge Farms celery root and Fair Share Farms pea shoots all in a broth made from Miso Master miso and Plum Granny Farms’ ginger. This is paired with Noble Alchemy, Farmhouse/Saison. Rolled and filled hen was earthy and meaty. Doused in the miso-ginger broth, the savory saltiness lends a good dichotomy to the earthiness of the mushrooms and micro greens.

Bone Marrow

Bone Marrow
Southern Food’s bone marrow (in-bone) with Myers Mushrooms’ shiitake mushrooms fried in pork fat from Yellow Wolf Farm, creole-miso aïoli from Miso Master, ponzu, zest, Fair Share Farm’s micro cilantro and Sea Love’s citrus salt. This, too, was paired with Noble Alchemy Farmhouse/Saison. Perhaps the scariest plate of the night. Really, it was just imposing. It was a half bone with the marrow right in there. Chef Travis had us scoop it out with a spoon. This was a bit pasty but that was just how you wanted it. Chef Travis loves charred bread and he highly recommended that you put the marrow on the bread. When you spread it and tasted it, it was kind of like butter. Earthy, umami-like which was very nice with the shiitake. I heard some people around me moaning; that’s how well it was liked. I preferred it without the bread because I don’t like hard bread. It tears up the roof of my mouth. The high malt/low hop profile of the Noble Alchemy was good with the buttery umami of the marrow. I also know that several folks took the bones home to their dogs.


Yellow Wolf Farms Porchetta
Kune Kune Porchetta from Yellow Wolf Farms with Moss Farms‘ Mutsu apple mostarda, Lusty Munk Mustard‘s Original Sin, Mountain Foods‘ butternut squash, golden beet from Harmony Ridge Farms, Fair Share Farms’ micro beet, seed & pancetta powder, apple cider and 3-day pork demi. This was paired with Dancing Problems English Brown from Wise Man. Absolutely my favorite dish of the night. I love porchetta. I love the top cut with the belly rolled up into a delicious bundle just waiting for me to bite into it. And, what goes better with pork but apples and mustard, right? Man, this was the pièce de résistance. The English Brown and its chocolatey maltiness also lent to this dish being so fantastic. That porchetta, though…

Beer Float

Satisfy My Soul Beer Float
Wise Man’s Satisfy My Soul Stout with salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, nuts turtle style! Scott from Wise Man said, “just stir it all up and drink it!” The salted caramel with the salty nuts and this chocolatey stout, well, that’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You needed a spoon and then you just chugged it, nuts and all. Rich and creamy but delicious.


The Humblebee German Chocolate Macaroon
The Man Who Ate the Town official sponsor, The Humblebee Shoppe, and our dear friend Brittany McGee, created a magical cookie sandwich with a ganache that makes you say “oh my gosh.” Yeah, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. I can’t tell you or describe in words how good this was. This is paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier and Satisfy My Soul Stout. Macaroons aren’t easy to make and Brittany is a macaroon maven. I loved both the altbier and the stout but the stout won the contest.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart
In probably the absolute most perfect beer pairing of the night, in my opinion, this apple tart, made with custard, spiced crumb, a variety of apples from Moss Farms and cheddar cheese-laced crust, was paired with the Mountain Calling – West Coast IPA. I know I talk that I don’t really care for IPAs but, wow. In this case, however, the spices and the cheddar cheese were made to marry the flavors in this IPA. I was darn-near stuffed when I had this put in front of me. I am not a fan of apples, either, but the flavors in this dessert popped and popped hard. The porchetta was my favorite dish but this was my favorite pairing. 

The Beer
Wise Man, since arriving on the scene just over a year ago, has taken this town by storm with their flavors and their mastery of the brew. Sam Victory, the head brewer, is the Wizard of Hops if you ask me.

Mountain Calling West Coast IPA – Dry-hopped with a pound and a half per barrel of Citra, this clean and crisp IPA resonates with strong citrus and floral qualities. It’s hoppy but it’s not offensive to the tongue. It’s pretty easy to drink, especially with its pairings (and extra especially with the apple tart). 

Dance In the Sun Kölsch – The Kolsch is a delicate and elegant, crisp and quaffable brew originating in the city of Cologne. A tantalizing touch of sweet apple on the front leads into a light base of German pilsner malt, with Noble Saaz overtones. I love when I can taste “hay” in the beer. That crispness, especially with the apple notes, that’s just splendid and I preferred it with its pairings over the IPA.

Alt Acquaintance Altbier – A rich and clean malt profile is balanced with wonderful German hop character. Toast, nuttiness, and a hint of cherry mark the palate, while a smooth finish concludes this cup of kindness. The nuttiness and hints of cherry were fantastic and, again, paired perfectly with that crispy duck!

Noble Alchemy Saison / Farmhouse Ale – Dry-hopping adds a blast of orange to a rustic base of fruit, herbs, and spice. The beer transcends its roots, awash with gold and nutmeg spice, and presents a mid-palate pop of bubblegum ester, banana, and a dozen other impressions. Low impact but formidable in flavor, nonetheless. Sam and pals did a good job with this one.

Dancing Problems English Brown Ale – Get on the good foot with this Northern English brown ale. Rich mocha and brown sugar slide in with each sip, while almonds and spice linger to dance on your tongue. Put that with the porchetta and you have a dream in your mouth and in your belly!

Satisfy My Soul Stout – A less-attenuative English ale yeast allows the beer to keep a hint of residual sweetness that expresses bready, chocolatey, and lightly roasted notes from the complex malt bill. I think it was like a roasted marshmallow and was perfect with the ice cream float.

Of course, the food offerings were special but you can find culinary delights at Willows Bistro in form of daily specials or even on their everyday menu. You can find them at 300 S Liberty Street.

Wise Man produces beer year-round and their taproom is open 7 days a week.

I highly recommend you try both of them because it will certainly be worth your time.

Thank you to Chef Travis, Chef Brent, Chef Terrell, the rest of the kitchen staff, Lele, Erica, Jamie and, of course, Ryan for all you always do at Willows and thank you Scott for bring the beer to us and making us happy!

WP Kitchen + Bar: New Name, Fantastic Cuisine

I know I mostly focus on Winston-Salem establishments but I feel this is worth driving past the Sandy Ridge Line to be part of…

Last week, I was invited to attend a social media/blogger event at the newly named WP Kitchen + Bar in Greensboro. Starting as Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar about four years ago, the restaurant started serving more traditional restaurant fare and Chef Puck and company decided to make a change. One of only three WP Kitchen + Bar locations in the world (the others being in Palm Desert, California and Charlotte, North Carolina), the Greensboro location is an elegant, yet casual place to eat. And, I’ll go ahead and spoil it… delicious.

I’ve been to a few blogger events, a few “get to know us” events, if you will, but this was a top-notch tour of food, drink and friendly ambiance. I, along with fellow food bloggers Kristi Maier, also known as Triad Foodies and food writer for Yes! Weekly, Kristen Daukas, Nikki Miller-Ka of NikSnacks and Amanda Clark of Cuisine and Screen, were given a cocktail demonstration that included a pomegranate bellini, and an eggnog martini (made with a raw egg, simple syrup, Myers Rum and Hennessey). We then took a tour of the kitchen with Chef Matt Culpepper, where he demonstrated their 750° pizza oven and made a pizza for us to have and share between us. After that we returned to the bar and were served a Cherry Sour, it’s made with bourbon, Campari and amaretto, and you can’t go wrong with that, right?

We were then seated and were served a plethora of fantastic food. I don’t know that I’ve eaten this much food, even on Thanksgiving.

First up, the Crispy Calamari. Rings and tentacles are marinated in buttermilk then dusted in flour and deep fried until golden-light brown. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley. It’s tossed, then, with pickled pepperoncini peppers and served with a pepperoncini aioli and WP’s TBG (which is tomato, basil and garlic). The peppers that were tossed with the calamari gave it a heated tang and I thought the seasoning along with that made it near perfect. I tried both sauces, which were both good, but the calamari was so flavorful, I didn’t need a lot of the sauce.

Served at the same time was the Truffle Potato Chips. Yukon Gold chips topped with a blue cheese fondue, truffle oil, chives and buttermilk blue cheese crumbles. I am a huge fan of blue cheese and to get a double dose of it with the crumbles and the fondue? Holy smokes. You could really taste the truffle oil, too. After most of the other stuff had been taken away, we asked them to leave the chips, we all liked it that well.

Next up was the “Pizza Course.” First was the Goat Lady Goat Cheese Pizza with pesto, Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese, overnight tomatoes and picked basil. Overnight tomatoes are roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I love Goat Lady Dairy and I loved this pizza. Great tang from the cheese and the tomatoes were caramelized nicely being roasted.

The next pizza was Giacomo’s Pepperoni Pizza. Giacomo’s is a local salami and sausage company in Greensboro that makes great sausages, salamis and other meat products. I have tried their products in several other Triad restaurants and love their stuff. The fact that WP takes the local ingredients and puts them in their culinary creations is a wonderful thing and when it’s delicious? That’s even better. The pizza had a red sauce, mozzarella, oven roasted tomatoes, red onion (yes, I ate that), oregano and, of course, Giacomo’s pepperoni. Great combination of the meat and sauce. Sauce and tomatoes was an acidic dream. Good stuff, that.

We were then served the Squash Soup. I’m not a fan of butternut and other orange squash, so much. But, I must say that this soup was heavenly. Kabocha and butternut squash was braised with water, oranges, cinnamon, cardamom, maple syrup, sage and rosemary and then cooked with yellow onions, butter, a braising liquid and heavy cream. The soup was thick and creamy. I prefer my soup and sauces to be a little thicker and this was great. It was garnished with a cardamom cream, which is cardamom infused cream whipped with honey, roasted kabocha squash, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. The soup is vegetarian and served at lunch in either a cup or bowl and by the bowl for dinner, although you can request a cup. I get the feeling you can request a whole lot at WP Kitchen + Bar. They are very accommodating.

Up next, the Baby Kale Salad. Baby kale, cherry tomatoes, radish, marinated cukes, toasted quinoa and goat cheese, all tossed in a citrus vinaigrette on top of a fantastically creamy green goddess puree and garnished with more goat cheese. Crunchy and refreshing, I’m not usually one to eat kale but I will say this was perfectly matched with the tomatoes and cukes, where the radish added a little spice and we all remarked how good the toasted quinoa tasted. Before we were informed as to what it was, we all made guesses. I guessed quinoa. I guess I won. What? Well, to eat more of the salad. All that with the creamy green goddess? Tang all around. And dang it was good.

Next was the Bolognese Rigatoni Mezze. Browned beef and pork (yum), mirepoix, tomato paste, garlic, chili flake, cayenne, red wine-picked up with garlic, basil, the TBG sauce, butter and finished with an herb ricotta, olive oil and torn basil. Now, I have to say with this dish there was a yin and yang aspect. I thought the pasta itself was a little tough; chewy, perhaps under cooked. That threw me off a little bit, however, the flavor of the bolognese was some of the best flavor of the night, and there were many great flavors that night. So, if the pasta had been more on point for me, this may have been the best course of the evening for me. The flavor was acidic, tomatoey, and spicy. There was a burn, but the herb ricotta made a great balancing agent in the descriptor base. A very good dish overall. 

Fish was up next. North Carolina Mountain Trout. The trout was split, stuffed with oregano, parsley and thyme and grilled on both sides before being finished in the oven. It was served with a creamy cauliflower puree, made with shallots, cauliflower, white wine, heavy cream and thyme, all on top of the fish, then served with bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts. It was garnished with petite greens (you know I love me some microgreens) and drizzled with olive oil. The fish was tender, well seasoned and well prepared. Sometimes, to me, trout can be rubbery but not in this case. The puree was the perfect topping for the fish.

Pan Seared Salmon. Atlantic Salmon seared in olive oil and placed in the oven. On top of the fish is an olive tapenade made from nicoise and castelvetrano olives, parsley, oregano, garlic, orange zest, red wine vinegar and olive oil. That is all served with a shaved fennel and crunchy green salad, all finished with basil oil. My two favorite fish to eat are tuna and salmon. This was cooked properly, was seasoned well and the tapenade made it even more delicious. I really liked the flavors on this.

Springer Mountain Farms Half Chicken. We got a bit of the Springer Mountain Farms chicken, which is rubbed (under the skin) with herb compound butter. It was served with crispy potatoes that were tossed in roesemary chili garlic butter and seasoned with steak salt and then covered with a bit of bourbon chicken jus, which is mirepoix, white wine, sherry vinegar, bourbon (of course), chicken demi and finished with butter. I am one of the weirdos and like white meat chicken a little better. I’m not a dark meat bird fan, all around. I thought the jus and the potatoes were fantastic and the chicken was good, but it was dark meat and not my thing. However, if you’re into dark meat chicken, add to a well-done bird the jus and potatoes and you’ve got a perfect meal right there.

Grilled Flat Iron “Steak Frites.” Medium rare prime Flat Iron steak marinated in black pepper, thyme and extra virgin olive oil. It’s seasoned with steak salt and grilled. It was topped with a garlic herb butter. A very creamy butter that wasn’t needed but well worth having. The steak was perfect, to me, on it’s own and the butter just made it decadent, which, I love. I am a fan of butter anyway, but this was bonus. It comes with WP french fries. They included their own house made steak sauce and I tasted it but I believe a good, or in this case, great steak, needs no steak sauce. If you’re a steak sauce kind of person, though, definitely try this, there’s less preservatives in the house made version than in the bottle and it’s fresh. I really loved the steak, it wasn’t gristly and the seasoning and marinating was superb. Nice outer crust, great tender inside.

Also, we had the mac n cheese, which was quite creamy and delicious, topped with truffled bread crumbs. I could have eaten more of that, but I was getting very full. In addition, we had the roasted cauliflower. The florets were tossed in brown butter and roasted in the pizza oven with pepperoncinis and seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Again, it was very good, but I was getting quite full. I do love how the restaurant infuses pepperoncini peppers in their creations. I think that pepper gets a bad rap because it’s associated with a pizza chain. They do great work with an under appreciated ingredient.

The final piece of this culinary puzzle was the dessert sampler plate we were given. It was a beignet that was delightfully sugary and moist on the inside; an espresso semifreddo which means half frozen, it was like a frozen mousse and very creamy; and the salted caramel pudding with a whipped cream topping made of creme fraiche and topped with cookie crumbles. The pudding was definitely my favorite part. I love salted caramel and here it was in all its glory in a delicious pudding form.

Klaus Puck

Throughout the night we sipped on WP house wines; their WP Cabernet Sauvignon and WP Chardonnay. Wolfgang Puck donates a portion of procedes from these wines (all of their line of wines) to the “Keep Memory Alive” which is committed to improving the lives of patients and their families as they navigate the extraordinary challenges of brain disorders. I had the pleasure of meeting Klaus Puck, Chef Wolfgang’s brother, and he said that their mother suffered with Alzheimer’s and they are doing this in her honor. Klaus is a fantastic guy, too. All of the staff that we dealt with from Paul Cloninger, our server, who has been at this particular location longer than anyone else, to Rick Berger the general manager to the bar staff and kitchen staff, are fantastic people.
There’s so much more to WP Kitchen + Bar than just these dishes. They have a full brunch menu, even more on their dinner menu and they are open for lunch. There are event facilities for private dining available, customizable catering options for your functions and special themed dinners that happen throughout the year. I am highly recommending that everyone take that leap across the “Sandy Ridge Line” and visit WP Kitchen + Bar. They’re located at 607 Green Valley Road in Greensboro. If you live in Greensboro, you can order online by visiting their website, wolfgangpuck.com.

Bradford Family Watermelon Tasting Menu is Oh So Sweet


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.


Bradford Watermelon


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.

The Willow’s Wine Dinner Part I

On January 31, we attended a wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. An elegant dinner with delicious food, lush wines and fantastic community. Owner Will Kingery was a gracious host welcoming around fifty food enthusiasts and letting his star chef, Travis Myers, willows-logo_optshow off his culinary super skills. Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage was there to guide us through the wine adventure while Chef Myers enlightened us to his culinary treats. Some notable food names that were in attendance was Tony and Maria Dilisio, from DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant (I’m sure you’ve read about them here before), local “don’t call him a foodie” food enthusiast, Carroll Leggett and Winston-Salem Journal’s very own food editor, Michael Hastings, who we had the pleasure of having with us at the table at which we were seated.

In this two-part reflection, I’ll give you an idea of what you missed and why you should be on the lookout for the next pairing event happening at Willow’s Bistro.

Amuse Bouche: Roasted Old Salt – Rappahannock Oysters 3 Ways

This was paired with Gloria Ferrer Brut

I believe the consensus around the table was that we all enjoyed the roasted garlic, truffle butter and caviar the best. It was the most balanced. Not that flavor was an issue in any of the three, this was just the clear-cut winner. The bubbly Brut was a good pairing with the oysters.

First Course: Goat Cheese Truffles

Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese rooled in Willow’s own crushed candied pecans, port poached figs & pears, frisée, Fair Share Farm microgreens, Cloister Honey wildflower honey & lemon vinaigrette.  This was paired with Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

The goat cheese was tangy but those flavors were tamed a bit by the candied pecans, but I WillowsDinner2don’t mean that it dumbed it down. I just mean that some people don’t like the tang of goat cheese. Instead, they want their cheese to be more savory, yet not void of the creaminess that goat cheese offers. This dish preserved that tang while adding a crunch and when paired with the port poached figs and pears and the honey and vinaigrette gives a breadth of tang and savory.  The Sauvignon Blanc made the whole dish, especially the tangy cheese, sing.

Fish Course: NC Golden Tilefish

Tilefish with a puree made of Evangeline sweet potatos from Hunter Farms, “dip” beurre blanc liquid ravigote (which means reinvigorated) drops, the secret weapon, microgreens and manchego cheese shavings. The best part of the dish – something you’d not expect to WillowsDinner3go with fish – is a bit of Border Springs lamb belly prepared Lexington BBQ “style.” Lamb belly with tilefish? Well, yes, exactly BBQ’d lamb belly with tilefish. It was the fish course, to be sure, but the lamb belly stole the scene. The tilefish was quite meaty and worked with the sweet potato puree and the beurre blanc sauce. That would have stood up on its own, but once you add the lamb belly the flavors jumped into the sapor exosphere. The manchego was a somewhat odd addition and it probably wouldn’t have mattered had it been missing, but what would be missed, the microgreens and the lamb belly. This dish was paired with Stonestreet ‘Bear Point’ Chardonnay.

This was the first three of the six (with a palate cleanser) courses. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the courses in the next post. Part II will be here, soon and i promise it will be worth it!