Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mission Pizza

Fact: pizza is good. Another fact: there can never be "too many" pizza establishments in a city. Mission Pizza has done a tremendous job garnering cult followers since they opened in downtown Winston-Salem on Trade Street in January. On my visit, I got to order from their recently updated menu - which was mostly awesome - but everyone I've spoken to is totally gaga over this joint. Mission is Winston's premiere Neapolitan pizza place, and as I approach the one year anniversary of my trip to Italy, it sure made for a nostalgic dining experience!

Pork Belly and Corn Puree
Enjoy a Summer Basil Beer from Fullsteam Brewery in Durham while it's still in season. It's garnished with a Basil leaf the size of your face. The description of the Pork Belly appetizer sounded scrumptious - three chunks of the savory meat on a bed of Sweet Corn Puree, with Salsa Verde and Pickled Onions. It's best to not try and undertake Pork Belly unless you are absolutely positive you're not going to overcook it. The accompaniments were a treat on their own, but unfortunately, the Pork Belly was impossibly chewy, and I had to get caveman style with my knife and fork to try and cut it. I appreciate the vision here, though.

Head Chef Reggie and me!

As far as appetizers go, you'd be crazy to not try the Shrimp Arrabiata, a bowlful of 8 or so tender shrimp in a not-too-spicy, tomato-based sauce, with notes of Bacon and Parmesan. It's utterly delicious. Save some of the sauce (if you can!) to dip your pizza crust in! If Head Chef Reggie is working, he might hook you up with this dish as a treat. He knows it's a hit and surprise(!) a good way to ensure repeat customers is to give them free food.

Speck Pizza
Pizzas are about 12 inches round, and cut into 4 large wedges. The Speck Pizza was suggested to us by our server, mainly because of the Smoked Prosciutto, which tasted like an extra salty bacon. Burrata, Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes are modest toppings, but the lack of tomato sauce was kind of a disappointment for me. I'm definitely a red-sauce based pizza kind of gal. Luckily we had saved some of the Arrabiata sauce!

You must - absolutely MUST - order the Red Clam Pizza, a tip of the hat to the famous New Haven-style pie. I could have never imagined these flavors together! Fresh Clams, Basil and Lemon on a tomato-based crust is bright, mouth-watering and has great texture. Every pizza place on the planet needs to have a rendition of this.

Red Clam Pizza
Mission Pizza is in a perfect location to continue expanding the Arts District (right next to District Rooftop Bar and Grille, in fact!). I'm really happy with the success they're having.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Porch

I've always had a crush on the West End in Winston-Salem. The quaintness of the neighborhood, artsy local shops and handful of dining spots - which has recently increased by a few - has long been an infatuation of mine. Hoots Roller Bar and The Porch have nestled into an unassuming, less than enticing corner off Northwest Boulevard - both are in the same building as The Olio glassblowing studio! What started as a blog, "Dinners on The Porch," is now a full-fledged restaurant. It's casual, family-friendly, and the Tex-Mex offerings are something Winston has been needing for a while. After my trip to Houston this spring, I was desperate to find something that resembled that delicious fare! The Porch nailed it.

Orders are placed at the counter, but servers are consistently checking in with tables on the floor. The Cantina Turner is a tasty sip. Served in a champagne flute, Bacardi Rum, Habanero Tabasco, Grapefruit Juice, Ginger Syrup, Cointreau and Champagne comes with a warning label: "Hot Stuff!" It warmed the back of my throat nicely, but wasn't too hot to enjoy by any means. Chips and Salsa are $3, but refills are free. And you'll want several of the spicy, fresh salsa.

I'm in love!
Easily one of the best things I've eaten all year, the Spicy Tropical Quesadilla was a special that evening. It's packed full of plump, pink Shrimp, Pineapple, Caramelized Onions and Monterrey Jack Cheese. The sweetness of the shrimp, pineapple and caramelized onions is absolute perfection. The richness of the cheese makes it extra indulgent. I'm so impressed with how well the shrimp was cooked - it's usually cooked to a rubbery death when it's served IN something, but this was so fresh! It wouldn't surprise me if it was from Sea Products down the street! The Quesadilla is served with chunky Guacamole - one of the best restaurant varieties I've had. Pico de Gallo is bursting with fresh ingredients. Sour Cream, Pickled Jalapenos and Shredded Lettuce round out this plate of heaven. Seriously, this needs to be added onto the daily menu or I'll have a fit.

Tex-Mex take on Bahn Mi!
The Texas Bahn Mi differs from the traditional Vietnamese Sandwich, being that it's served on Spanish Torta bread as opposed to the usual French baguette. Shredded, smoked Pork practically falls out of the bread (also available with Tofu!), a Cilantro Garlic Mayo cools you down, and Pickled Vegetables are a nice crunch. A side salad and fruit cup accompany this plate. Burrito Bowls are served with your choice of protein - Avocado being one of them! - and is filled with Jasmine Rice, Pinto Beans, Salsa Verde (which is more like if traditional Salsa Verde and Sour Cream had a baby), Queso, Pickled Jalapenos and Roasted Veggies. There's not much you can disagree with here.

So many menu items at The Porch caught my eye. It was nearly impossible to decide what to get. People are looking for this place to succeed, and so am I. Based on my evening here, I'll be driving to Winston much more frequently to come back.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Honey Pot

Tate's Craft Cocktails has a sister. I couldn't wait to try The Honey Pot, one of downtown Winston's new "all the rage" spots. I had heard mixed reviews, but this one is all positive. (That could quite possibly be, because I was dining with a fellow food writer, one more well known than myself, so we may have received some special attention...but I'm pretty sure it's also because this place rocks.) The interior is minimally decorated - sleek, clean and modern. Almost every table was full. I knew the name "Tate's" attached to it would draw crowds, but I was very pleased when the bite matched its bark. Each morsel I had was innovative and delicious.

I was slightly disappointed when I couldn't order a drink off the Tate's menu, being that it's right next door. I thought there might be a secret door or window between the two establishments, so those famous craft cocktails could be enjoyed at the Honey Pot too. Instead, the bartender whipped up a tasty impromptu Strawberry Mint Julep for me. They even sprinkled Powdered Sugar on top - this Southern gal was awfully pleased!

I had never tried the Canadian favorite Poutine, so the Rabbit Poutine was an obvious choice. Just thinking about the Cheddar Cheese Curds, Rabbit Sausage, freshly cut French Fries and Texas Pete Tomato Gravy makes my mouth water all over again. It's spicy, it's satiating, it's a very special dish. The Risotto is also not to be missed. English Peas, Pecorino Cheese, Pea Tendrils (the stem and leaves of the pea plant) and shaved Black Truffles make it exceptionally flavorful and fresh.

The Honey Pot is still finding its footing, namely, what's in a name? I'm not quite sure I get the "honey" connection, unless it's hinting at a place where people will flock to. But the food and service is outstanding, so it comes with high recommendations from me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

22 Jump Street

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes 
Rating: R

If you saw "21 Jump Street" and loved it like I did, the sequel makes for a very fun 112 minutes. "22 Jump Street" is exactly what you expect it to be: over the top, full of crude, laugh out loud humor, and it's basically the same premise as "21." Like, literally, scene by scene the same. But it works. Surprise cameos and Hill's improvised comedy keep you guessing what stunts these guys will pull next.

Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) are back as undercover cops, posing as college students. While Jenko makes it in with the popular kids, with Zook (Wyatt Russell) at the top of the totem pole, Schmidt gets lucky in love with Maya (Amber Stevens from "Greek".) It's worth noting that Wyatt Russell is the lovechild of the gorgeous Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and he's as talented and easy on the eyes as his half-sister Kate Hudson. This time around, the drug "WhyPhy," short for "Work Hard Yes, Play Hard Yes," is circulating campus and it's up to Beauty and the Geek to find the perps.

The film's surprise standout star is Jillian Bell, a former SNL writer who plays Maya's roommate. Her cracks about Schmidt's questionable age are quick-witted, and she steals every scene she's in, as does the hilarious Rob Riggle in his too-short 3 minutes of screen time. Jonah Hill may supposedly be an unpleasant person in real life, but he is one of the best comedic improv actors of our time. It's hard not to love him in this. Channing on the other hand, proves that he is just a pretty face.

Be sure and stay through the credits for hilarious spoofs of "23 Jump Street: Medical School," Culinary School, Military Academy and my favorite - Magic School. I really think they're onto something there, because when Tatum and Hill are onscreen together, it's definitely magic.