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!

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.

Willow’s Bistro and King’s Crab Shack Get a New Sibling

By Timothy G. Beeman II

Will Kingery and Norb Cooper, Jr, the ownership team of King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar and Willow’s Bistro, have signed papers to take over Silo Deli, Wine & Cheese at Reynolda Village.

Fans of Silo needn’t worry. While things will change, they will only change for the better. Not that things weren’t already good. Chris Barnes, the establishment’s owner until now, did a first-rate service to Reynolda Village by bringing the bistro aspect in and they gathered a lot of frequent clients from it.  Will said he wants to expand on that concept.


Will Kingery

“A lot of locals love what is on the menu and they do a great job and have an amazing kitchen staff and front of house staff, too.  We’re going to add staff so we have better service and (be) faster in the kitchen. More ideas for menu items and daily specials, and have more ingredients for the chefs to play with,” Kingery said.

I asked Will if he planned to keep true to the menu that Silo has been known for. “Oh yeah, we’re gonna have fun paninis. Simple stuff like turkey and havarti sandwiches, french dips, etc.” Something I didn’t know (because I’m not a chef, I just play one in my kitchen, sometimes), there is no hood system in the kitchen. Will continues, “the challenge is there’s no hoods. So, there’s no stoves, no grills. Everything that’s created there is created in a small convection oven and a panini press. So you have to be innovative and creative to pump food out of there and the chefs that have been there have done a great job of it.”

Service has been a point of contention from those Will has asked about Silo. He went on, “It does have a good following and in talking to customers around town: they love the location and the idea of it, their biggest frustration is the service. They feel like there could have been a couple more servers on and the food could get out to them a little quicker. That’s two of the big things we’re going to focus on. Just constantly being better than yesterday.”

When I asked Will how the whole deal came about, he said that Barnes was ready to get out of the restaurant business and Reynolda Village approached them about taking over the space. They negotiated a good price, Barnes agreed and Will and Cooper then took over the space. Reynolda Village has plans for the entire area to be more creative.  In fact, Cooper is opening a beta salon in the old Ringmasters. Will also said that Wake Forest University, owner of the Reynolda Village and Reynolda House Art Museum, has allotted funds for renovation ideas and infrastructure for the area in the future.

Another “coming soon” feature is the opening of a full bar, a complete ABC license.  The interview that I conducted with Will was, indeed, on the phone whilst he and Cooper were on their way back from Raleigh, securing the license. “We have the ability to sell everything,” he said.

Confirming that Corks and Taps is not part of Silo, Will did say this: “We may look into it in the future, but with us putting a full bar in Silo, we’re going to concentrate on that and our other two businesses and we’re going to make sure that everyone is solid and taken care of. If there is a need for another bar, if the demand is there, we’ll definitely explore that option.”

Prepackaged food will be one of the things that is available. Grab-and-go type items like sandwiches and sides are going to be a benefit for both the hurried and rushing customers or those who just want to lounge around the grounds. “If you want to hop in and get a cold wrap real quick, a simple turkey wrap, some chips or a cup of fruit, it’s already ready, you don’t have to wait on the kitchen. Have a bottle of wine with a couple of glasses and go out into Reynolda Village and have a little picnic. Return your glasses please,” he says with a chuckle.

On the Willow’s and King’s Crab Shack front, they have a little shuffling of chefs. “I moved some chefs around. My old chef at Willow’s stepped down to take care of his family more and one of my other chefs, Jamie Cline (Klein?), former executive chef of Sapona Country Club and Lexington Country Club, stepped up.  I took my sous chef from Willow’s and put him in at King’s Crab Shack because they needed a strong leader and were doing good numbers. We felt that was a good move. King’s quality and service and speed will be stepped up as well, now.”

Will knows the keys to his success and he tells me why, outright. “The key is good people.  I’m only a tiny part of it.  It’s the chefs, the waitresses, the hostesses… the dishwashers. Dishwashers are the key to the restaurant. It sounds insane but if you work or own a restaurant and the dishwasher walks out, you have a whole new respect for them.”

Will gets his people and Winston-Salem gets Will and Norb Cooper. They get their expertise. They get benefit of fantastic food and fantastic eateries. I have a feeling we’re seeing more and more of the iceberg emerge, not just the tip. Silo Deli, Wine & Cheese is located at 114 D Reynolda Village, Winston-Salem. (336) 608-4359.