Restaurant Week is Back

The Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership’s Restaurant Week is almost here! The new restaurant weekannual event is running this year from Monday, February 22 through Sunday, February 28. The event is to highlight the restaurants as well as our beloved downtown and its fantastic aesthetic and diverse nightlife. Each location will offer specials intended to entice you to try their wares as well as that of their colleagues.

The list of restaurants in the downtown Winston-Salem area is out and available for your perusing. You can see the full details of the event here. To highlight just a few of the establishments and a sample of their specials to whet your whistle:

DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant$30 Special – 1 shared Appetizer, 2 Baked Dishes, 1 Shared Canoli.

Willow’s Bistro & Bar:
$20 Special – 
1st Course: cup of soup or salad
2nd Course: Grilled Scottish Salmon: over wild mushroom risotto, asparagus coins, shaved manchego.
3rd Course: Makers Mark creme brulee with fresh berries

$30 Special –
1st Course: roasted veggies or grilled romaine
2nd Course: Grilled 8oz. Cafe Steak: over gouda mac n cheese, grilled asparagus, & fried onion rings
3rd Course: Sous Vide Banana Pudding

King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar:
$20 Special – Full Bucket – Dreamy Steamy Bucket: steamed mix of spiced up snow crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters

$30 Special – Bucket for Two – Dreamy Steamy Bucket: steamed mix of spiced up snow crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters

$30 Per Person –
Choice of Starters:
Soup du Jour
Little Gem Artisan Lettuce Salad: with roasted tomato, English cucumber, house made crouton & aged red wine vinaigrette

Choice of Entree:
House Made Pasta of the day(eg. Ravioli, Lasagna, Manicotti)
Pan Seared NC Mountain Trout: with starch, vegetable & sauce
Grass Fed Bistro Steak Lyonnaise: with pommes frites, dressed artisan lettuce & Meridian steak sauce

Choice of Housse Made Dessert:
Bread Pudding: with caramel & creme chantilly
Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Dark Chocolate Torte with ganache & creme chantilly

Mellow Mushroom:
$20 Dinner for Two –
Choice of 2 lil’ salads (tossed or caesar)
1 medium 1-topping pizza to share
1 brownie sundae to share

$30 Dinner for Two –
Choice of Hummus or Bruschetta appetizer to share
1 large specialty pizza to share
1 brownie sundae to share

Mission Pizza:
$20 Special –
1 pizza of your choice, green salad, and daily dessert

$30 Special –
2 pizzas of your choice OR 1 pizza of your choice and 1 plate of your choice, and dessert

Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar:
Classic Spring House: $20 –
Choice of seasonal soup or HOUSE salad
The Colonel 2.0.16: crispy buttermilk fried chicken atop corn waffle with brown sugar smoked apple infused maple drizzle
Warm Bread Pudding
**please no substitutions

Winter’s Bounty: $30 –
Shrimp and Crab Beignets with Red Beet and Horseradish Remoulade
Choice of seasonal soup or HOUSE salad
Fred Flintstone’s Pork Shank: Savannah inspired red rice with lemon, parsley and dijon bread crumbs and HOUSE pepper jelly
**please no substitutions

Camino Bakery:
$20 Special –
Bag of Krankies whole coffee beans and a loaf of bread of your choice

$30 Special –
Bag of Krankies whole coffee beans, loaf of bread of your choice, and a bottle of Honoro Vera Garnacha

There are plenty more wonderful restaurants participating. Again, see the full list on the DWSP website.

A few disclaimers that are very important here:

*Restaurant Week Specials are dine-in only so, no take outs.
*Restaurant Specials are subject to change and that’s a possibilty. The prices exclude tax and tip. Take care of those who take care of you.
*If you’ve a food allergy, questions about ingredients or any other special restrictions, please check with individual restaurants.
*Restaurant Week Specials are subject to availability; they may, and often do, run out of the Special.
*Please check with restaurants prior to dining if you have questions about the Specials; don’t call the DWSP about it, they’re not in control of that info.
*If they run out of the Special, the restaurant is not obligated to provided a replacement dish.
*Coupons are not accepted in conjunction with these specials. Check with restaurants for coupon policies.

If there is an error on this page, the official restaurant special at the Restaurant is correct; I’m but a guide through the awesome food land and I have been known to almost make a mistake a time or two.

The important thing here? Go enjoy delicious food and support local establishments. You never know who you may see out there!


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.

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!

A Krispy Kreme Barista? You Better Believe It

Think that only that coffee company from Seattle and the local café are the only places that have “baristas” to guide your craft coffee needs to new heights? That may be the way that it has always been but the times, they are a-changin’ and that change is being spearheaded by a local original, Krispy Kreme.

What? Krispy Kreme has coffee? Surprise! Krispy Kreme has always had coffee. Since 1937, when the company started in Old Salem, they’ve had coffee to go with those doughnuts. It’s just never been the focus, at least not from the customers’ point of view. Krispy 12642774_1016210518439851_9082411962573681754_nKreme is hoping to change that perception and change it in a big way; unlike anything this area knows of its favorite yeast-based, hometown treat and shops.

There are several Krispy Kreme locations in the Triad, NC area but there’s only one in the region that has baristas and that shop is in Clemmons, NC. In fact, according to Kelley O’Brien (Interactive Media), it’s the only place, at all, company- (and world) wide, other than the Philippines and Korea that has baristas. These baristas are trained how to make the coffee drinks and how to pair them with the various styles of doughnuts and other treats that Krispy Kreme offers. It was at this Clemmons location that I, along with several other food bloggers and media representatives enjoyed a sampling and tasting of the new coffee offerings, along with a pairing of the roasted liquid deliciousness and doughy delights the company has to offer.

Two of the baristas in this shop, Ulanda and Demarcus, came from the big coffee company that is located in the Pacific Northwest and are showing their talents off at Krispy Kreme. This isn’t just plain coffee, either, it’s cappuccino, lattes, mocha, Americano, espresso drinks and so on. It’s like other cafés, except, this café has awesome Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme understands that to compete with the big boys of coffeedom, they have to bring in some big boys of their own. In this case, they brought in S&D Coffee and Tea out of Concord to roast, condition and supply them with their coffee products. S&D Coffee and Tea are the largest custom roaster in the country, so they know coffee. Sustainability and 12645224_1016211241773112_3385366472348831281_nfair trade are becoming a more and more prominent concern with a wide breadth of commodities. When asked about sustainability, Toby Foreman (Director of Manufacturing for S&D) said that this is part of the ever-evolving focus of the environmental awareness of the company. According to S&D’s website, the company is working very hard eliminating unnecessary waste of energy, water and resources, establishing sustainable supply chains and engaging in the innovation and development of long-range solutions. Another representative (Glen, although I didn’t get his last name) also said that they are working with many growers in various harvesting locations to ensure better fair trade practices.

The head of Global Marketing, Amy Harp, explained that the reason this store was chosen as the “sandbox” or testing grounds. Simply put, it was already being built. And, since the location is merely minutes away from the Krispy Kreme worldwide, corporate headquarters, it’s easy to keep tabs on the progress, trends and circumstances as they happen. It was a matter of halting the plan, adjusting the layout, implementing the changes and voila, a new vision realized. This is the laboratory for what Krispy Kreme sees as the future of their business; not just the coffee but the store model.

So, next time you’re wanting a treat of a different flavor, with coffee that is beyond plain and ordinary, or if you’re looking for that big coffee shop experience with a delicious treat that is unlike any other, you should check out Krispy Kreme, not only in Clemmons but coming soon to your own local shop. The Clemmons shop is located at 2442 Lewisville-Clemmons Rd.

DiLisio’s Wine Dinner, January 2016 Edition

by Timothy G. Beeman II20160117_180828

On Sunday, January 17, 2016, Stephanie and I, along with our dear friends, Paul and Susan Jones, attended the January Edition of DiLisio’s Wine Dinner Series. It was a Five-Course event complete with French and Californian wines. The restaurant was completely packed full of lovers of delicious foods and beverages. There was plenty of time to converse with the new friends that were seated around you in this “family style” dinner format. I’m going to include a description and pictures of the event.

First Course: Roasted Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Bacon accompanied by Fennel Blood Oranges


1st Course

I’ve never really been a fan of figs, but this was delicious. The figs were earthy and creamy but still firm. The flavors of fennel and blood oranges, along with the figs were brought to the front with the salty bacon. I have to admit, though, I didn’t taste a lot of the Gorgonzola, which I really hoped to catch more of. However, it was a good mix of sweet and savory. It was paired with a Bouvel Brut from Loire Valley. Nice bubbly with plenty of fruit flavor.

Second Course: Macco di Fave with Cauliflower Crostini


2nd Course

Less of a soup but more of a puree. Two different kinds of fave beans with crushed cauliflower and crunchy bread. It was warm throughout and while I generally don’t eat crunchy bread but when left in the warmth it softened and was flavored quite well. A great dish. It was paired with the Terra d’Oro Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend from Clarksburg.

Third Course: Scottish Salmon served with a Carrot Mint Puree, Brussels Sprout Petals and White Chocolate drizzle


3rd Course

This is by far the most beautiful of the dishes on the night’s menu. Also included is nuts and raisins. The white chocolate really set the flavor of the salmon alight and the carrot mint puree was exquisite. A nice touch was the edible orchids, which, on my plate, were gone immediately as I am a fan. The Brussels Sprouts petals were very light and not popping with flavor, which I think was the point. The raisins and nuts brought a chewy and crunchy aspect to the dish that, while I normally am not a fan of nuts in softer foods, I thought were a welcome unexpectedness. It was asked of Tony DiLisio at least twice for that to be on the regular menu. It was paired with Row 11 Vinas 3 Pinot Noir from California. And contrary to the commercial Pinot Noir does not mean “peanut of the night.” A tasty fruit-forward red that polished the salmon and white chocolate, perfectly.

Fourth Course: Lamb Chop over Wild Mushrooms, Grilled Polenta and Spinach with a Pomegranate Balsamic Glaze


4th Course

This. This was the dish of the evening. The lamb chop was a fantastic and luscious piece of meat and the pomegranate balsamic glaze was a magnificent marriage of the sweet and savory. Perfectly prepared meat over a polenta cake which was crisp on the outside and creamy inside. This with the spinach and mushroom medley, the flavors were immaculate. This was being asked, more than any other dish, about its potential for being a permanent fixture. Tony explained to me that the lamb takes so long to make that it would probably be best as a special and not as much a full-time entree. This wonderful dish was paired with Domaine Galevan “Le Puy Saint Martin” from Vaucluse. Another red, which made the pomegranate sauce pop and the flavorful juices from the meat even more intense. Deliciously so.

Fifth Course: Espresso Mousse with Pistachio Shavings


5th Course

Served in a coffee cup, this foamy, whipped wonder was topped with a collection of crushed pistachio and two coffee beans. A dessert that was rich and creamy that was plenty on the java essence and abundant. This finisher was the brilliant conclusion of a most excellent evening. Paired with Beran Zinfandel from California, a which, to me, had a slight vanilla hint made the chocolate and coffee hints of the mousse stand out even more. Other than the absolute-must of lemon sorbet, this would be the second best dessert that I’ve ever had at DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant. If you see it on the menu, you must try it.

As always, my wife and I left happy, satisfied and a belly full of wine.  DiLisio’s Restaurant and their kitchen staff as well as (and especially) their wait staff did a superb job of keeping our drinks full and our plates fresh or freshly removed. They were always good with a quick poke or rib with me and seemed to do a good job with everyone else as well. Taking care of forty plus ingesting and imbibing customers isn’t always easy but Jillian, Stacy, Caroline, Debra and Hailey did a fantastic job keeping us all in perfect order.


Maria and her “girls.”

Tony and Maria DiLisio, as always bring some the best and freshest Italian food you’re going to have in our fair city. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you never try DiLisio’s Restaurant. They’re open every day but Monday and you can find them at 301 Brookstown Ave., Suite 100 and on the web. Thank you Tony and Maria for throwing a heck of a soiree.

Tasting the Fresh, New Willow’s

by Timothy G. Beeman II

This weekend I wrote of news that Chef Travis Myers had made the move to Willow’s Bistro. I also wrote a promise that I would discuss the tasting that Stephanie and I were privy to thanks to Chef Myers. I’m here to fulfill this promise. This was no ordinary course menu tasting, but we’ll talk in courses, anyway.

We had two requests: no onions (me) and no beans (Stephanie).

Course 1: Panko crusted fried scallops with Herb Milk Gravy and Pancetta.

12250093_10153635819235490_4054663421084498305_nWhat came first was this fantastic seafood masterpiece. Willow’s always has a scallops special and this was not exactly the special of the day. The special was beer battered but this was what Chef Myers wanted it to be, instead. He wanted it as panko crusted and I think that while it would have been spectacular either way, I appreciated the panko fried version because that was the vision the chef wanted. The scallops were perfectly cooked, tender yet firm, not slimy at all. The flavors in the panko mixed with the herb milk gravy and the salty pancetta were bursting. Exploding even. This was a great start.

Course 2: Salad of artichokes, olives, sun dried tomatoes, aged balsamic and olive oil with traditional bruschetta rubbed with Garlic and olive oil.11223801_10153635840630490_3557084744670625411_n

Stephanie has never been a fan of olives but she took several bites of the kalamata olives that were scattered through. This was partly the preparation and partly because she doesn’t like the traditional green olives enough that she was surprised that there is a meatier taste to the kalamata than the green. I love all olives so that was a no-brainer for me. The sun-dried tomatoes were sweet and candy-like, as they should be. Chef Myers did come out to ask if shallots were okay instead of onions. I gave the go ahead. They were soft and had lost their oniony threat. The aged balsamic and olive oil drizzled about the salad brought all the veggies’ flavors out of hiding and this was a delicious salad. The bruschetta that you find in most restaurants around here throw a tomato salad on top of their charred bread, but according to Chef Myers, traditional bruschetta really only consists of charred bread that is brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. I had a couple of those and I am not a hard bread fan.

Course 3: Seared tuna with an orange soy shiitake mushroom sauce.

12295291_10153635873460490_8751473894985248251_nOne of my favorites of the day, which is saying something because the whole tasting was amazing. The tuna was seared and rare on the inside. The most perfect way to eat tuna, in this author’s opinion, is seared. The sauce was a perfect blend of orange and soy. I will never say that mushrooms are my favorite food; not a fan of them other than on pizza, usually. Shiitakes tend to be a little more delicate, in my opinion, than the regular fungus and these were both delicate and delicious. I ate several of them and I cannot decide if it was that I liked the mushrooms so much or I was trying to get all that orange soy sauce that I could. Not only were the mushrooms better with that sauce, the seared tuna was juicier and more flavorful with it. You could still taste the tuna, to be sure, but the sauce brought that forward and accentuated the flavor.

Course 4: Pear chicken salad with house smoked peanuts, Goat Lady Dairy feta and shallot vinaigrette.12310572_10153635876655490_1494372863990475476_n

Salads are usually not my first choice when there are other choices on the menu. This salad however, would be one that I actually order from the menu, eat and probably order another. The seasoned chicken breast, peppery and bright, was an adept companion to the pear. Pears have a toned down, yet distinctive flavor that allows the chicken to breathe and come to the forefront of the flavor bar. The in-house smoked peanuts created the understated, yet very appropriate, crunch that salads sometimes beg for. The Goat Lady Dairy feta which, while definitely having the feta flavor, was more along the creamy-textured lines of chevre. Add all of this and the shallot vinaigrette and you have a smokey, tangy and salty treat that compliments the light meat and fruit flavors. The field greens were the right choice as bedding for this fantastic dish.

Course 5: Roasted shallot crab cake with orange caper crème fraîche.

12311145_10153635889480490_7501431373814945953_nYou’ll hear this a lot from me in this article but “I don’t usually” eat crab cakes. I think they are usually too gamey and heavy when, to me, crab meat should be lighter in flavor and texture. I think it could be that there is too much breading and not enough crab or just no balance. This, though, was balanced and tasty with the shallot keeping the crab meat honest. Flaky while keeping its cohesiveness. It was also a great size: not too large and not too small, just right. The orange caper crème fraîche was a creamy embellishment to the seafood profile. Orange, to me, is a natural partner with seafood selections. It was light and fluffy with salty undertone from the capers. Then, topping it with the arugula salad brings the peppery green addition to enhance the orange caper flavors and adds an additional, soft-punch crunch to the crusted crab cake. While I don’t usually eat crab cakes, this was a fantastic course.

Course 6: Deep fried alligator with honey chipotle red cabbage slaw and honey drizzle.

My favorite dish of the day, this. I believe it to be the most unique, as well. Only once had I ever had alligator and 12294721_10153635896350490_2675521069815636165_nthat was close to twenty years ago, in Florida. Stephanie had never had it. The texture of the alligator was something different. It was like a mix of chicken and fish. It was stiff meat (a la the chicken consistency) that still flaked like a piece of cod or flounder. And based on that description you would expect the flavor to be similar. You would be correct. There is no true line in the flavor, either. There is a fish flavor and a chicken flavor. But, there is much of each. You add the crunchy deep fried shell and the honey drizzle and that sweet bee nectar makes this deep fried treasure truly pop while melting in your mouth. But, wait, there is more. The honey chipotle red cabbage slaw was delicate but made a statement on the meat. Instead of canceling each other, the sweet and heat create a flavor profile that was unique and possibly understated. Without it the overall dish, while still flavorful, would have been missing a major element. An element that brought a different, softer crunch that compliments the breading of the alligator. Chef Myers told us that he wants to change the slaw to something different but this, to us, was a perfect pairing.

Course 7: Whipped pimento cheese, pepper maple bacon, fried green tomatoes and arugula salad on charred bread.

12279016_10153635922485490_2396381730461545395_nBy this time we were getting quite full. But we were still interested in all the flavors that Chef Myers was throwing at us. Southern and somewhat tame, this, the food finale of the extravaganza, was still no slouch. Mistake not that for weakness; this was a great and needed finish. First, there’s the whipped pimento cheese. Light, fluffy, cheesy, creamy. Thick-cut pepper maple bacon. Crunchy, peppery arugula salad. Fried green tomato discs. A slab of charred bread. To quote Chef Myers: “everything is better on charred bread.” I do not eat fried green tomatoes but I had one and some of another. Stephanie, who loves them, thought these were just right. The sweetness of the tomatoes jumped in and meshed wonderfully with the spicy, sweet and savory bacon to make the whipped pimento cheese shine. After cutting off a few pieces of the bread, I found myself using the bacon to scoop the cheese like a spoon and sprinkle the arugula on top to create a flavor meld that didn’t need the bread. I would have eaten the whole thing, by myself, had we not been fed so well.

Bonus: Red wine sangria with lemons, limes, oranges, blueberries, blackberries and cherries.

Really, I’m just going to say that the sangria was some of the most flavor-rich that I have ever had and I love a few12241462_10153635886335490_8398791406601996672_n other establishments’ red sangria. It is all in the intensity of the wine and the medley of fruits. I just wanted to include the picture to demonstrate yet another reason to visit Willow’s.

I mentioned in the preceding article that the word that Chef Myers stated more than any other in the conversation we had was “passion.” He demonstrated this passion in every dish – possibly every bite we took. He accompanied every single dish we were given and explained the dish, the flavors he was looking for, the reason he chose it and the passion he had for it. Each dish was a tour of flavors and Chef Myers is an experienced and passionate tour guide. Even after the food was on the table he made sure it was plated correctly (and picture worthy) after transport and before we ate any of it.

The bottom line is that Chef Will Kingery and Norb Cooper have unearthed a beast in Chef Travis Myers. Their risk-taking faith in Chef Myers is going to prove to themselves and the culinary community that he is a true diamond in the rough. The customers of Willow’s, those faithful many, will continue to come, they will begin spreading the word that The New Kid is making waves, new culinary seekers will come. You should be one of those. Salute Chef Myers and thank you for hosting us.

Beautiful BBQ, Bourbon and Bluegrass

by Timothy G. Beeman II

Friday night, October 23, 2015, Old Salem’s Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (known as MESDA) celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary, the completion of a six-year renovation, and the opening of two new self-guided galleries. To commemorate this, they put on a party that included BBQ, bourbon and bluegrass. The event, held in the Horton Meadow, just below, and even under the bridge and walkway of the wooden bridge that crosses Old Salem Road from the Visitor Center to the museum entrance, boasted a showcase of fourteen master distillers from sixteen distilleries, as well as two of the areas’ popular breweries. While all of the distilleries brought some good products, some really stood above the rest of the field.


(photo © Susan Jones)

Both versions of the Limoncello (regular and jalapeno-infused) from Seventy-Eight ºC Spirits (Raleigh) were not only good, but the spicier-flavored of the two was a true standout; not hot but flavorful. From Asheville Distilling Company (Asheville), the Blonde Whiskey is one of my favorites, overall. It was smooth and full-flavored. Trey Herring’s Carolina Bourbon (Charleston, SC) had a more robust and earthy, yet still pleasant flavor and aroma. You certainly can’t forget local up-and-comers, Sutler’s Spirits from Winston-Salem. Distiller Tim Nolan was on hand to promote the brand.

The highlight of the tasting table, however, was the Krupnikas, a Lithuanian style honey liqueur from The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits (Durham). The sweet of the honey ends with a spiced flourish. Beyond the tasting table was a special Reserve from an NC distillery that I’ll not mention by name because the booze was in a hidden stash under the table. I was lucky enough to try it and it was possibly some of the most smooth tasting whiskey I’ve ever tried. The rep told me to wait until the tasting cup was empty and smell it. The aroma of tobacco swelled as the cup dried. Minutes later that aroma was even stronger. When this special reserve gets released, I’ll certainly purchase some of that.

Area celebrity bartender, Lele Nguyen, was the “guru-in-the-know” for the evening, dispensing the goodies at the tasting table and she was very detailed with the descriptions of all the various liquors, no matter the style. The true superstar of the “bourbon” part of the event was the resident mixologist and co-owner of The Tavern in Old Salem, North Carolina’s oldest tavern, Jordan Keiper. Keiper designed a bar program for this event that highlights the new generation of Southern craft distillers, creating a variety of signature cocktails featuring the four spirits that made the early South “wet:” bourbon, rum, gin, and moonshine, especially moonshine. There’s a push to show North Carolina’s distillers are more than just moonshine; so much more.

This event was also more than booze. There was Eastern style North Carolina barbecue and fried chicken from the Barbecue Lodge in Raleigh. Eastern style is my preference in the “Carolina barbecue” realm. I don’t mind Lexington style, but I prefer the strong vinegar taste over the ketchup heavy, if I have my choice. A white barbecue slaw that tastes like the “red” stuff we have here and hush puppies. The fried chicken was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of seasoning and the inside was juicy and perfect. In fact, I had two breasts. I liked it that much. And let’s not forget to mention the banana pudding. That, too, was delicious.

In addition to the liquors and delicious food, both Gibbs Hundred Brewing Company and Hoots Beer Company had two brews each available. Gibbs Hundred had The Guilty Party ESB and Blind Man’s Holiday GPA (Greensboro Pale Ale). They were both quite tasty with the ESB (one of my favorite styles of beer) being my favorite of those two. Hoots had their Oktoberfest and a wheat on tap. Stephanie had the wheat and I, the Oktoberfest. Hoots is always solid and this was no exception. These beers made fine companions to the rest of the festivities. I feel the same is to be said of the breweries. The theme of the event, a celebration of southern arts, was represented well by the brewing artists at these two breweries.

If there was anything that I can say that was less than optimal was that the bluegrass band, Carolina Tradition Bluegrass Band was set up right beside the tasting station. They were a fine band, indeed, but the music was loud under that bridge and it was hard to hear what Lele was saying about the various libations. Again, it wasn’t the band, it was the positioning. However, if that was the worst part, that just goes to show how good this event was.

To Jordan Keiper, to MESDA, to Old Salem, many kudos for putting on such a spectacular event. Keiper himself said that he’s hoping that this will put Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the map. Not only the Southern map, no. The American distillers map. Not necessarily for the distilleries themselves, although those certainly don’t hurt, but for the city as a distillers’ event location. I can’t wait for the “second annual” version of the event. It has the potential to get support and attendance numbers of a wine festival and this town knows wine festivals. This was a bold undertaking on everyone’s part, but the event was a rousing success and was a complete sell out. Great news for the city, the museum, the distillers and the attendees. An honor to attend, indeed.

The Last of the Luv Luv with Much Love

-Timothy G. Beeman II

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


The Beer Dads and Their Pilots


The Menu

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

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

Course 1

Course #1 Chicken & Dumplings

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

Course 2

Course #2 English Pea Soup with Sea Bass

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

Course 3

Course #3 Beet Salad

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

Course 4

Course #4 Back Yard BBQ

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

Course 5

Course #5 S’Mores

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

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