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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Fork in the Road: Husk (Charleston, SC)

One of the most envied reservations in town and we were lucky enough to get one on a Monday night.  Located in downtown Charleston mansion, Husk is very inviting from the moment you walk in the door.  An enormous and extensive chalkboard with the day's ingredients, and their location,  hangs above the hostess stand.  Chef Sean Brock prides his restaurant with having fresh, Southern ingredients every single day.  Complete with soft lighting and a long, narrowed dining room, simple table settings with glass jars of what else? Husks.

We each began with appetizers and I must say it was, unfortunately, the only most gratifying part of the dining experience.  

A beautiful assembly of spring colors in the Greechie Boy lettuces, roasted beets and spring berries with Asher blue cheese and wild blackberry vinaigrette salad.

Capers Inlet blade oysters with cucumber buttermilk and spring onion mignonette.  Thin, almost razor-like, oysters in a light buttermilk-vinegar mignonette topped with a sprig of dill.

Husk's staple appetizer of Southern fried chicken skins with a hot honey and garlic sauce. 

Fried green tomatoes with TN cheddar pimento cheese and shaved country ham.  This plate could have been a meal itself.  A nice, creamy pimento cheese, but the tomatoes could have used a dash of salt in the cornmeal.

I am at a loss when nothing pops out at me from the menu.  How disappointing.  I went out on a limb (my limb) and ordered the cornmeal fried NC softshell crabs, spring courgettes and onions, FL sweet corn with Husk tomato gravy.  The elements of the dish were all versatile and tasted well separately, but I couldn't seem to integrate them. 

However, the union of Adam Musick's VA Heritage pork with smoky peas and butter beans, rapini, Charleston Gold rice and collard liquor (or the liquid left from boiling collard greens) complemented one another soundly.  Husk's menu has a heavy pork presence and pork is what you want to order.  The sugary top of the pork added yet another dimension to the smoky, bitter, creamy dish.

Please do yourself a favor and order a side skillet of Smoky Benton's bacon cornbread.  That you won't regret.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Fork in the Road: Poole's Diner (Raleigh, NC)

Few things make me more genuinely happy than a retro restaurant modernized and Ashley Christensen has done just that with Poole's Downtown Diner.  In what seems to be well thought strategy, the James Beard semifinalist's restaurants are all located smack dab in downtown Raleigh.  I mentioned Poole's to my grandmother on the way from the airport and she said, 'I went there with your grandfather years ago (had to be at least 30 years), and it took so long to bring the food.' He said, 'they better bring it out soon, or I'm getting up and walking right out.'  I told her Poole's was a little different these days and she said, 'well, how would you know?' to which I answered, 'a thing called the internet'. 

We park on McDowell Street and from the outside, it appears to have kept that retro diner look.  Christensen has kept the interior structurally the same with the double fountain bars and stools, then added roughly 20 booths and tables.  Clearly, the interior isn't nearly as drab as the original diner with its gorgeous stainless steel bar, hanging chalkboard menus and soft lighting.

Gin martini

Our bubbly waitress offers us drinks and lets us know her favorite things on the menu.  She tells me everything I've read about, so naturally, I don't order any of it.  Instead, I start with roasted beets with marinated beluga lentils, goat lady diary chevre and brange-black pepper vinaigrette.  My first thought was how distinctive this dish was.  The lentils did resemble caviar and the velvety chevre texture complemented each other nicely.  My second thought was it could be a meal in itself.

Ordered without a second thought, my 97 year old Grandmother gets the rosemary roasted chicken with whipped yukon gold potatoes since it is the most simple of all the entrees.  I didn't get any rosemary, but the skin was nicely crisped and potatoes sat in a meaty, twice-cooked chicken stock. 

I ordered the braised Berkshire pork shoulder with pappardelle, roasted tomatoes and ramps.  Again, the ramps were lost in this dish.  The pork shoulder ragu was super light, and super good.  Personally, I would have served the pork shoulder without the pasta at all and particularly since there were two pieces of pasta.  Perhaps a piece of toasted bread?


The halibut with artichoke-basil barigoule which is a traditional Provençal dish of artichokes braised with onions, garlic and carrots in a seasoned broth of wine and water.  If I could have this dish year-round, it could turn me straight pescatarian!

A 'side' (entree size) of asparagus with oyster mushrooms, dry sherry and completely delicious.  As a matter of fact, I've never had anything like it, nor enjoyed asparagus this much. 

Rhubarb-Strawberry cobbler with creme was good, but not great.  At least not great like I was hoping
for.  The ratio of flour & oats was lacking and left a pool of liquid fruit. 

Caramel Chocolate Tart with Olive Oil ice cream was a good combo, but heavy on the sea salt and olive oil.  The ice cream should have a hint of olive oil, not taste like spoonfuls of olive oil (as indicated by the color).

Poole's is a fantastic addition to the Raleigh scene and applause to Christensen for both the modernization of space and Southern food!