Includes (all in Raleigh, NC): Asian Grill, 18 Seaboard, Midtowne Grille, Piebird, Sitti and a link to a tiramisu cake recipe
The only word under which I can group all the food standouts I devoured over the last week is “potluck.” What a mish-mash of comestibles! No real theme, but a prevalence of cakes and pies. (No surprise there.)
We’ll save the sweet stuff for dessert.
I enjoyed three savory dishes over the last week that all deserve a mention here and a trial by my readers. First up was scallion pancakes at Asian Grill, a tiny little hole-in-the-wall eatery in a strip center. Although a smattering of ordinary Chinese-American dishes are included on the menu for timid eaters, Asian Grill specializes in cuisine from Shanghai.
Though the flavor was a bit like a potato pancake, the texture was not. A quick online search confirmed that Shanghai-style scallion pancakes have a flour base. They arrived in pizza-shaped slices, apparently cut from a single very large pancake. Each thin piece was perfectly crispy on both sides and tender inside, with a very nice green onion flavor and a tangy, thin dipping sauce alongside.
The xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, were also tasty, though I didn’t capture a good photo. What’s a soup dumpling? Envision a typical purse-type dim-sum dumpling, filled with standard goodies but also an ultra-rich broth. Asian Grill’s owner instructed us to poke a small hole in the dumpling and suck out the broth to avoid messy chins and shirts.
18 Seaboard is a perennial favorite of mine. How I’ve never managed to have the Snead’s Ferry she crab soup until one lunch hour last week I’ll never know. Run of the mill she crab soups usually consist of a thick puree with a cloying amount of sherry, the crab nearly taking a back seat. 18 Seaboard’s version was extremely well seasoned and had a large dollop of crab meat chunks floating on the surface, just waiting to be stirred in. Some of the best I’ve had.
The next savory notable was a wonderful pasta from Midtown Grille. (Yay for Triangle Restaurant Week!) Our ingratiating server kept asking how I was enjoying the “fettucce,” which I thought was his irritating mispronunciation of fettuccine — but it turns out fettucce is a slightly wider variation of fettuccine. Learn something new every day … This one was house-made and hearty, flecked with bits of black truffle. At least two types of sauteed mushrooms, wilted arugula, olive oil, truffle oil and finely grated piave rounded out the satisfyingly rich pasta dish.
We’ll move into the pie realm, but with a savory version courtesy of Piebird. I was thrilled to see tomato pie on the specials board. I make it myself often during the summer. It’s a simple but satisfying concoction of fresh tomatoes, cheddar, basil and mayo baked into a pie shell. I like it best cold.
Piebird’s tomato pie was a much richer variation featuring goat cheese and a balsamic reduction, and far fewer tomatoes than mine. (Is there anything as heady as warm, melted goat cheese?)
Now, on to the cakes!
It’s late and I’m running out of steam, so you’ll have to satisfy yourself with brief descriptions and luscious photos.
18 Seaboard’s summery strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting and berries on top and in between layers …
Midtown’s dense, rustic Italian chocolate torte …
Piebird’s cool chocolate cream pie … (Chocolate cream is not a favorite of mine, but I was blown away the first time I tried Piebird’s. And my second piece was just as good.)
Sitti’s light-as-air yellow cake with pistachio whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and marshmallow drizzle …
And a really fantastic tiramisu cake our friend Ann made for friend Paige’s birthday dinner, complete with a try-it-yourself recipe …