Includes: Gravy, Mitchell’s Catering, Market and Remedy Diner in Raleigh, NC and Vintage Tavern in Suffolk, Va.
I’ve been very lazy about blogging lately. (Is anybody still out there? Sorry for the wait.) So today I’m going to try to catch up with a not-too-detailed recap of some worthy things I’ve been eating lately.
First up is Gravy, which opened in downtown Raleigh several years ago. I tried, fell in love with and latched on to a fantastic pasta dish on my first visit to Gravy. But then it disappeared off the menu, and I started hearing stories of the restaurant’s quality slipping. Those incidents, plus the growing number of new restaurants downtown, resulted in my not dining at Gravy in a l-o-n-g time.
So I decided to revisit during the recent downtown restaurant week.
I was happy to see that my former favorite dish was back — Fettuccine Nero, which is squid ink pasta, mussels, bright red chilies, mint and scallions. What eye-popping color and bright flavors! I’ll have to return again soon to reacquaint myself with the dish.
But it was restaurant week, so I wanted to try things from the special fixed-price menu.
My main was Salmon con Peppernato with a scallion butter risotto. The salmon was simply seasoned and perfectly cooked (if a server asks you how you’d like a salmon dish cooked and you’re not sure, defer to how the chef thinks it’s best) — completely done on the exterior, but a tad rare in the middle. I love that beautiful jeweled grapefruit-pink interior! While the risotto had a nice flavor, it was too dry, as if a big batch had been cooked earlier and then kept warm. Still, I’ll be back for that Fettuccine Nero soon.
My workplace has been using Mitchell’s Catering for decades. For a long time, I was only exposed to the good-but-standard lunches they catered for our corporate board and my former boss’s annual holiday party edibles (same every year — beef tenderloin sammies, hot clam dip, etc.) So I used to think that’s the only kind of stuff they were capable of.
In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy the exciting fare they dish up for special events. And I’ve learned how renowned they are in North Carolina and beyond.
And not just with companies and organizations, but also with many, many bridal couples, as I experienced first-hand when I attended one of Mitchell’s by-invitation-only “in houses” — a kind of open-house tasting event where they feature a variety of wines, table settings and dishes savory and sweet.
I stood out among the starry-eyed, engaged couples as an older single woman — but who cares, when that kind of food is on offer!
I didn’t try everything you see pictured here, and a few things I tasted aren’t shown thanks to my arch rival, dim lighting. But my favorites included:
A grilled peach salad with baby lettuce, dried blueberries, white balsamic and goat cheese truffles. Mainly because of the truffle. Holy moly. The grilled peaches were delicious too. (Peaches and watermelon are big salad trends this summer, in case you hadn’t noticed.) Grilling fruits introduces a whole new perspective.
The dry ice-seared tuna was one of those interesting, impressive, molecular gastronomy dishes. The fellow manning the station explained the science behind the sear and texture the ice imparted, but it didn’t stick in my unscientific brain. My taste buds, however, appreciated it. The accompanying sauce and seaweed salad made for a beautiful and yummy bite.
Even among the wonderfully rich wedding cake samples, the French-style chocolate macarons were my favorite sweet. (Alas, no photo.) Pastry Chef Casey explained that chocolate is one of the more challenging macaron flavors — again, for a complicated reason I can’t recall.
The in-house was my favorite kind of evening — full of fantastic little tastes. I wish I could dine that way every night.
Thanks for the invite, David!
Several years ago, my friend Tobi invited me to a tasting by an aspiring young chef and his business partner. The food was good but kind of all over the place, theme-wise, and the execution and service a bit slow. And when they opened Market, they were still working out some of the same kinds of bugs.
I always root for mom-and-pop restaurants that choose to use quality local ingredients, so every once in awhile I revisited Market. Most recently, it was on a quiet evening after the outer bands of Hurricane Irene had brushed Raleigh. I was tired from leading a Triangle Food Tour and craved something fresh and light. Market’s Stuffed Tomato — an item among the salad listings — was just the ticket.
Tomato slices were layered with an orzo salad featuring crunchy almond slivers and a nice dressing. But the standout were little cubes of pickled daikon that reminded me of summer kimchee. Really interesting.
Dessert was a mole cake made with Escazu artisan chocolate from just next door and drizzled with orange caramel. The texture and flavor were awesome, and it wasn’t overly sweet. It made me think of pumpkin pie spices. Again, interesting and nice.
I feel that Chef Chad has now really hit his groove with Market. Good fresh food, a mellow vibe, great background music and a nice patio. Check it out. (But be forewarned: It’s small and can get really crowded most weekend nights.)
The Remedy is one of my go-to places for vegetarian diner food — things like a made-from-scratch “meatball” sub, a veggie dog that sometimes makes an appearance on the changing menu, mock BBQ. Yum.
For brunch yesterday I selected a breakfast burrito stuffed with egg, black beans and pepperjack cheese and topped with the usual Mexi-suspects like guac and sour cream. Both delicious.
Whew, finally! (I didn’t stick too well to my planned short post.)
Mom and I celebrated her birthday recently at the Vintage Tavern in Suffolk. We almost always eat in the bar as opposed to the main dining room since it’s much more casual, doesn’t require reservations and has a nearly identical menu.
My entree — some of the best crabcakes ever. Almost all restaurant menus boast mostly-crab-and-not-much-filler, but not many fulfill that promise. Vintage Tavern did. Check out the huge lumps of crab in the photo depicting a cross-section of one sumptuous, fat cake. Yum. The accompanying succotash — complete with Sun Gold topper — was perfect.
Thanks for staying to the end of this missive. I promise to get back to my normal, more-frequent blogging schedule.