Comfort me with gnocchi and eggs

jalapeno popper amuse bouche

To take advantage of Triangle Restaurant Week, some friends and I went to Flights — a highly rated, but pricey, restaurant located inside the North Hills Renaissance Hotel.

Restaurant weeks in their many guises are a great way to try new places. Our area seems to offer them several times each year. Some are restricted to downtown Raleigh restaurants, but this current version includes a number of Triangle-wide restaurants. For this particular version, the restaurants were offering three-course menus for $20-30.

I like the Renaissance Hotel. It feels very big city-ish right here in little ol’ Raleigh. Also, during an event my company held there the facilities, service and food were impressive.

But I must say I’m not wild about the restaurant’s setting. It feels like it was added onto one side of the lobby almost as an afterthought. Everyone entering the hotel’s front doors and coming into the lobby can see several tables beyond the hostess stand, including the one we sat at last night. There doesn’t feel like enough separation from the lobby and bar. And for the type of menu and price points they’re serving up, such a set up is a disadvantage. The restaurant also does not have a website, nor any online menus that I could find. If they want to attract and retain regular local diners these are a couple of things I hope they’ll address.

Flights’ special menu was $30, and offered a choice of three apps, four entrees and three desserts. We got off to a great start. The amuse bouche — shown up top — was a layering of mascarpone cheese, roasted jalapeno, jalapeno “fluid,” tomato jam and parmesan and butter crumbs. A pretty complexly textured, spicy bite in a single spoon. Great taste and after-burn. Delectable.

I wish the apps had lived up to the standard set by the amuse.

The three of us decided to order and share all three starters. The Red Oak Salad featured greens, halved grapes, strawberries, maple pecans, blue cheese, 12-year-old balsamic and a champagne vinaigrette. It was perfectly tasty, but nothing extraordinary. The Calamari and Pickled Jalapenos were nicely presented and paired with anchovy aioli and spicy marinara for dipping. (I much preferred the aioli.) The item I was most excited about ended up being the most disappointing. The Fried Mac and Cheese was oh-so-cute. Perfectly formed little croquettes, nicely fried. But inside was just plain ol’ mac and cheese. No special, flavorful cheese, no interesting pasta. Just elbows and run-of-the-mill cheddar base.

Thank goodness my entree made up for the lackluster starters. The menu listed it as Chicken N Dumplings: pulled chicken, potato gnocchi, sage, truffle and shaved parmesan. The chef graciously excluded the chicken and increased the portion of gnocchi per my request. The dish was lovely to look at and to eat. The gnocchi were  some of the most delicate I’ve ever had. They literally melted in my mouth. Bits of truffle dotted the dish, but the fresh sage was the dominant flavor punctuation, and was very nice. (One of my favorite herbs.)

Dessert was nothing fancy, but delicious all the same. Brownie Sundae with Vanilla Bean Gelato and Cherries Jubilee. I only wish I could have finished it.

I’ll return to Flights. Some of the regular menu items sounded fantastic (especially the scallops), and I’d like to try them. Perhaps by then they will have improved the ambience.

Incredible edible eggs

Remember that slogan? It’s still out there — just not as prevalent. Well, I had some truly incredible eggs this a.m.

For years I’ve been in search of local eggs that behave and look like those that Nigella Lawson and other European celebrity chefs show off to us Yanks on television: richly colored yolks that stand up nice and firm, non-runny whites. I’ve tried friends’ chickens’ eggs, eggs from other local backyard chickens that get plenty of TLC from their owners and eggs from free-roaming, naturally fed chickens from area farms. But I’ve not found a Nigella egg.

Until this morning, when I cracked open two eggs kindly supplied by business acquaintance and photographer extraordinaire Charles Gupton. Charles and his wife Linda (whom I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting) own Shiloh Farm, where they practice sustainable agriculture on a small scale. At a business event he shot for my company last week Charles gave me a dozen of their eggs. Weekday mornings are rushed, so I didn’t have a chance to enjoy some until today.

Every time I got in close enough to try to take a photo that did these eggs justice (in an attempt to show the yolks’ incredible height) my lens kept fogging up, so this one will have to do. They were absolutely gorgeous, and seemed to be smiling up at me from the pan. I adore eggs over easy, but most yolks tend to break immediately upon flipping. Not these lovelies!

I ate them with a dusting of my wonderful truffle salt from Savory Spice Shop and freshly cracked pepper accompanied by a buttered slice of crusty wheat bread, coffee and some pomegranate seeds. A perfect way to ease into the day.

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About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
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One Response to Comfort me with gnocchi and eggs

  1. Terry,
    Thanks for the hat-tip on the eggs. Your photo of them is quite beautiful! I’ve enjoyed your food descriptions as well.

    ’til soon,
    Charles

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