Includes: The Angus Barn, Raleigh, NC; Escazu, Raleigh, NC; and more
Well, this post’s title is a bit deceptive. But I like the way it sounds.
Sit down, take a deep breath — I’m preparing to blaspheme a Raleigh institution.
The Angus Barn is known across the U.S. for its steaks and service. The chef even recently beat one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs. Since I’ve lived in Raleigh — coming on 30 years now — about every five years or so I give “The Barn” another chance to win my affection as it has so many others’.
So here I go again.
I recently went to an event at the Angus Barn Pavilions. Wow. What a gorgeous facility. A friend of mine called it elegantly rustic, and that’s a perfect description. It’s absolutely beautiful, and literally built with pieces of Raleigh’s history, which is an added bonus. Far superior to the interior of the restaurant itself.
The company was good, the service was gracious and the staff were wonderful hosts, so it was a lovely evening in a gorgeous facility. But, as it is every time I’ve dined at this establishment, the food was just good. Serviceable.
I did not have a steak — but I did have a bite of one of my dining companion’s pieces of tenderloin. It was tasty, and tender, but certainly not outstanding. And it should be, based on the very high prices of the fare and The Angus Barn’s description of its meats: “… corn-fed Midwestern beef, aged and cut to perfection in our own in-house aging facility to secure ultimate tenderness and flavor.”
I had salmon — a huge portion, far more than I could eat in one sitting. And again, it was fine. Nothing special, pretty plain. Same with the accompaniments. Same with the famous crocks of cheese and house-made crackers we nibbled on before dinner. (Now the wines were another story — especially the delicious, not-as-sweet-as-most Adler Fels Gewurtztraminer. Ummm.)
I guess I just don’t get the Angus Barn. It seems to me to enjoy its lofty status based primarily on longstanding reputation. I’m sure way back when it was deservedly the place to eat in town. But these days there are so many other restaurants throughout the Triangle area to dine on inventive, flavorful food that I think it will be at least another five years before I give The Barn another try.
Tonight I was drinking in the luscious food photos on spoonfedraleigh.com when I glimpsed an irresistible piece of cake. The web site said it was made by Crumb bakery with Hogwash hickory smoked porter, Escazu chocolate and cherries. What?! The porter I so enjoyed just last week at the beer dinner? Baked into chocolate? And I’ve been wanting to try something from Crumb. (Isn’t this what I said about Bittycakes, too? So many baked goods from so many places, yet so little time to taste them all!)
Crumb’s blog said their cakes with Escazu chocolate are only available at the chocolate maker’s shop on Thursdays, and only until the supply runs out. It also said tonight was the night for the cake I saw pictured. (At least that’s what one page said.) I had to have a piece.
The person who answered the phone laughed when I asked if there was still cake left. I hopped in my car and made it to the shop 25 minutes before closing time.
I could smell that cake all the way to my house, even though it was closed up in its little pastry box. I’m not kidding. Sniffing that chocolate and listening to (loud) opera music was quite the sensory experience. I was ravenous by the time I got to my condo.
I poured a glass of milk, opened the box and … it wasn’t the Hogwash cherry chocolate cake!! What?!
I called Escazu again. It seems Crumb had supplied their Moonpie cake instead. I nearly cried.
But the tears would have been wasted. The Moonpie was also made with a Fullsteam brew — Working Man’s Lunch stout. Between the dense, chocolatey layers of cake was white chocolate ganache. Covering it all was a thick coating of 65% Escazu chocolate ganache that melted on my tongue like velvet.
Was it a humongous piece of cake? Yes. Did I eat every single crumb? Yes. Do I feel kinda sick? You got it. Was it worth it? You know what my answer is. (I almost couldn’t do the very last bite. Thank god for the milk.)
P.S. Escazu’s handmade chocolates were so beautiful I couldn’t resist buying a couple. Pictured here are Tamarind Habanero (how exciting!), which is the colorful piece, and Chai Tea Molasses (two of my favorite flavors). They’ll just have to wait ‘til tomorrow.