Sunday, April 28, 2013


I have fond memories of hanging out at what used to be Rock-Ola Café Winston-Salem in high school. Cast parties, first dates, birthdays – it crushed my heart when the restaurant closed its doors. Milner’s now occupies the space, with a swankier atmosphere, gorgeous hardwood floors and a spacious bar. John Milner, a personal friend, and his brother are challenging Southern cuisine meccas like Charleston and Savannah, with outstanding quality food and reasonable prices.

Though we dined on one of the warmest days we’ve had this year, the restaurant seemed a bit air conditioner-happy. A request to turn down the air volume was thankfully met. Mojitos are refreshing, a delicious combination of mint, simple syrup, rum and lime. I feel a true test to a restaurant is how well they prepare a mojito. Flavorful potato bread is presented with whipped butter, and replenished as often as you like, which was pretty often. This is an excellent alternative to white bread.

As a self-proclaimed Pimento Cheese aficionado, I was eager to try the Dip Trio, consisting of three Pimento Cheese varieties: Traditional Baked, Sausage and Goat Cheese, and Roasted Garlic Blue Cheese, served with house made tortilla chips. I would have eaten the Baked Pimento Cheese with a spoon – cheesy, salty, rich – this is everything you could possibly want in a pimento cheese. The Sausage and Goat Cheese and Roasted Garlic Blue Cheese are tied for second place – you can’t go wrong with any of these. Especially when you run out of crackers and use the potato bread as a dipper. Yowza.

North Carolina Mountain Trout is served skin-on with Cinnamon Apples and Salted Candy Pecans, doused in a Parsley Brown Butter Sauce, accented with lemon zest. This is one of the best sauces I’ve ever consumed. The richness of the brown butter paired with the acidity of the apples produces a pleasantly bitter vinegar-like flavor, yet remains light and sweet due to the notes of cinnamon and lemon. A Parmesan Grit Cake and Haricot Verts are fine as sides, but the fish and sauce are the reason to order this dish.

Grilled Mahi Mahi is cut thick, with gorgeous grill marks and char flavor, topped with a tangy Roasted Tomato-Herb Relish, and drizzled with Beurre Blanc, served alongside a Boursin-Chive Potato Cake and Sautéed Spinach. The Potato Cake takes the “cake,” if you will, when up against the Parmesan Grit Cake. Sauces are Milner’s thing – the combination of flavors is spot-on.

Angus Filet Mignon and Crab Cake “Benedict” is a delicious play on breakfast, served with that delicious Potato Cake and Asparagus, topped with a Poached Egg with Demi-Glace and Béarnaise. The tender filet is covered with the beautiful yolk, making for an indulgent dish. Butt and Belly features Eastern Carolina-Style Pulled Pork and Pork Butt, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Collard Greens, with a Smoked Jalapeño Peach Chutney and Green Tomato Chow Chow. I could have used a bit more vinegar in the pulled pork, but I tend to prefer more vinegar than most people. This is quintessential Southern cuisine.

Dining at Milner’s makes for a fabulous evening. It rivals your grandmother’s kitchen. No doubt the Milners' new joint, Brothers Restaurant, will do wonders when it opens in Clemmons. I don’t miss Rock-Ola too much anymore.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Afternoon Tea at the O.Henry Hotel

I’ve felt truly posh on just a few occasions in my life. Clinking champagne flutes (albeit plastic ones) during the intermission of “Swan Lake” at the Met, and taking a riverboat cruise down the River Thames are two that stand out, but now I can feel like a cast member of Downton Abbey any day of the week from 2-5pm at the O. Henry Hotel. My friends have been encouraging me to try this since I arrived in Greensboro last summer, and they were right: Afternoon Tea is one of the best ways to spend your day, and it’s a wonderful excuse to wear that dress or those cufflinks you’ve been saving.

My tea party partner and I chose the Wedding White Tea, with notes of lemon and vanilla. A delicate tea kettle arrived, and we each got about 4 cups in our petite mugs. Dishes with lemon wedges, brown sugar cubes and cream are wonderful compliments, but my American palate didn't find any additions necessary. There are several nibble options, but the O.Henry Tea Selection gives you the best bang for your buck, and a little taste of everything you could ever want at a tea party. My absolute favorite was the Vanilla Scone, served warm with Clotted Cream and Lemon Curd. Absolutely scrumptious. This beats the one time I had "real" tea and scones in London.

Savory items don’t disappoint. Cucumber Sandwich with Dill Cream Cheese on White Bread is light and enjoyable, for someone who doesn't consider herself a "sandwich person." The Rosemary and Cheddar Madeleine is perfectly salty, and could have been larger for my sake. Other savory options include a Truffled Mushroom Quiche, which I enjoyed at brunch a few months ago, a Ham and Brie Croissant with Fig Mayonnaise and a Spicy Cheddar Wafer.

The tray of sweets was a dream come true. Lemon Squares are tart, and fill a buttery shortbread crust that’s so good, in fact, that you're also served a separate wedge of it. Slightly salty and rich – this is proof that simple, good ingredients can create perfection. Yellow cake is dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut - reminiscent of, but better than what your mom used to pack in your school lunchbox. The sweet that takes the cake, if you will, is – drumroll, please – the Strawberry Almond Macaron filled with a luscious buttercream frosting. The meringue cookie had notes of Marzipan, which added to the chewy and slight nuttiness of the treat. I would eat these every day.

Upon leaving, we were offered a fresh to-go cup, each with our own teabag. I’m telling you, this is royal treatment. Get your pinkies up and head to the O.Henry for tea. They even offer a split of Prosecco for an additional $8. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver
Director: Chan-wook Park
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Rating: R

Christian Bale set the bar high for smoking hot psychopaths in “American Psycho,” and Matthew Goode almost reaches it in Chan-wook Park’s English-language film debut “Stoker.” This sexy cat and mouse game quickly turns into a thriller, though your imagination gives you almost a better story before we find out this twisted family’s dark secret. Mia Wasikowska is one-noted and difficult to read as India, a troubled teen whose father has just died. However, Mia’s roles don’t usually disappoint. Nicole Kidman is ice cold as India’s mother Evie. Nicole, I love you, but please lay off the Botox.

Wentworth Miller of "Prison Break's" first screenplay has nothing to do with Bram Stoker or “Dracula.” Unless you consider the dysfunctional and disturbed family that lives in a Gothic mansion, and the pale protagonist with jet black hair. The introduction is inventive – credits are knocked over by tennis balls and wisp away with the wind. The film is saturated with beautiful and startling imagery, like hair turning into long blades of grass. Not only is it visually stunning, the story keeps you on your toes.

We meet India on the day of her father’s funeral. We have to wonder if his death caused her depression, or if she was always a bit dark. Probably the latter. Her Uncle Charlie moves in and seduces Evie, who is not a good mother, though we should consider the distant daughter she had to deal with. There are layers of emotion in Evie’s scenes with India, and a few times, the film is taken to a whole new level of disturbing.

Family bonds are tested in flashbacks with Dermot Mulroney as India’s father, and Jacki Weaver as India’s Great Aunt. As Uncle Charlie, Matthew Goode lures you in, though we immediately know something is off. The ending is ambiguous – we’re left wanting closure and an explanation; instead, it just leaves you with a furrowed brow and several questions.

The monumental house, drab costumes and eerie music give you a weird feeling in your stomach the entire time. Ending credits roll in reverse, representative of the backwardness of the movie. Wentworth Miller has come a long way since Prison Break. He has definitely tapped into a new calling. Go see this if you’re into dark films, but you might be a bit creeped out if you watch it alone.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jeffrey Adams on Fourth

What used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem is now Jeffrey Adams on Fourth. Noma held the coveted spot at the corner of Marshall and 4th Streets for 3 years until a dwindling business came to a halt. Adams brings pretty good food to the still-cool atmosphere, and it has proven to be the right place to go if you want a killer steak for a reasonable price. It’s run by expert management and an experienced chef, though the too-frequent checkbacks brings down service points.

Co-owner Jeffrey Bassett and General Manager Adam Andrews partnered together for Winston-Salem's beloved Fourth Street Filling Station. The pair swooped up Christopher Fulk, Executive Chef of what used to be Christopher’s Global Cuisine - a wise decision. Fulk's knowledge of ingredients and time in the kitchen is evident. The extensive wine list impressed me, but I was sold on the Cranberry Mojito. Pops of tartness from real cranberries balance out the sweetness of the cranberry juice, simple syrup and fresh mint. I appreciated this inventive take on a classic. Warm yeast rolls are served with herb butter, and it's difficult to have just one.

Pumpkin Ravioli is coated in a Goat Cheese Cream Sauce, with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Dried Cranberries and a sprinkling of Nutmeg. I added Grilled Shrimp to the dish, to add a bit of sustenance - delicious, but not entirely necessary. The nutmeg is just enough to complement but not overpower the pumpkin. The tanginess of the goat cheese is mirrored in the cranberries, and this is a wonderful combination of seasonal flavors.

The steaks here are money, as in, they ROCK. But ironically, don’t cost a lot. New York Strip, Cowboy Rib Eye, Filets (4 or 8 ounces) and something fun called a Candy Bar Sirloin are your selections. (For those of you keeping tabs, the Candy Bar Sirloin is named that for its shape.) With my 4 ounce filet, perfectly seasoned, I had my choice of two sides. Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese leaves a little something to be desired, but perhaps that’s just because I’m partial to my mom’s recipe. (Seriously, it’s the best.) I searched for the smokiness, and I’m not a fan of macaroni and cheese that feature breadcrumbs on top. Green Beans are a boring side, so go with the Garlic Spinach instead. The kicker for the steaks are the sauces and toppings. Sauteed Port Mushrooms and Onions are outstanding. The saltiness enhances the flavor of the meat, and the glaze drips down the sides.

Jeffrey Adams is on the right track. They definitely have the best location in downtown; now it’s just a matter of keeping consistently good food coming out of the kitchen.