Friday, March 27, 2015

Quanto Basta

Quanto Basta is the place to see and be seen in Winston-Salem. During my 90 minutes of being at QB, I had spotted 7 friends. People are clearly clamoring to get in here and see what Winston's beloved Chef Tim Grandinetti has whipped up this time (the first time it was Spring House Restaurant). I was also dying to try QB, but I honestly think I should have waited another few weeks for this place to get its sea legs. My expectations might have been a bit too high, as a few things were lackluster, but I'm eagerly looking forward to a return visit because this place has "success" written all over it.
The wooden double doors and flame-lit wall lights are incredibly chic and inviting. The scene inside is stylish and modern, however, there's not nearly enough seating. The side dining room and a few tables against the wall in the main dining room just mean a longer wait to the mobs of people lingering around the open kitchen and the bar. A request to turn down the heat was promptly acknowledged, and the replacement of a dirty fork was also immediate. I had been thirsting for a Filthy Dirty Ketel One Martini with Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives (the "Pryor," if you will), however QB didn't have its liquor license yet. I was brought 2 different wine tastings before deciding on the Pinot Noir and later the Beaujolais, aptly described as "Black Cherry Jello" on the menu.

All price points are incredibly reasonable. The Arancini di Riso is outstanding, the best appetizer you could possibly want. Three crunchy Risotto Balls are filled with Mozzarella and Prosciutto and are delicately placed on a pool of tangy, slightly creamy San Marzano Tomato Sauce. I was thankful that the inside temperature wasn't scalding - typically you find yourself waiting 10 minutes to bite into Arancini, or dealing with a burnt tongue the next day. But not here. The crunchy exterior is reminiscent of a hush puppy, and the gooeyness of the cheese reminds you of a fried mozzarella stick. Add a touch of meat, and freaking YUM.
Arancini di Riso! Love these wine glasses!
Just look at that. Are you kidding me? YUM.

Beef Short Ribs Barbaresco
Meat lovers, you'll fall hard for the Beef Short Ribs Barbaresco. This is a huge serving of incredibly tender meat - no bone, and certainly no knife required. It's succulent, it's juicy, it stands alone. It doesn't really need the slightly sweet Tomato Jam - if anything, it distracts from the unctuousness of the meat. Gnocchi Fontina are soft pillows of goodness but could definitely use a little more salt and a more flavored sauce, while Charred Carrots make you feel less guilty for being an indulgent carnivore. (I'll never complain about eating carrots in any form though.)

Eggplant Parmesan
Not strictly for vegetarians, Eggplant Parmesan with Cavatelli Pasta is a satisfying dish that you won't realize is meatless. The same crust on the Arancini surrounds thick cut slices of eggplant. More of that fabulous tomato sauce and you've got a well-rounded dish.
The disappointment.
I truly don't know what is going on with the Tagliatelle. Surely an ingredient was left out of this dish by mistake? (Salt? Cheese? Anything to give it flavor?) The thick ribbons of Tagliatelle themselves are tasty and clearly homemade, but it's as if the "Signature Ragu Bolognese" was plain ground beef or pork. There was no sauce, and unfortunately no flavor. This dish was disappointing and should be re-examined. I'd be curious to see if others have ordered it and were satisfied. The only saving grace is the yummy, warm Focaccia.

Overall, I enjoyed my evening at QB, and I enjoyed most of what I tasted. Will I return? Absolutely! But probably in a few weeks, once things have quieted down and they can focus more on the food than calming the chaotic mob of people that can't wait to get in here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Penny Path Cafe & Crepe Shop

Penny Path Cafe & Crepe Shop can take credit for some of the revitalization of downtown High Point. What appeared to be a ghost town one Sunday morning quickly transported me to Portland or Brooklyn, a funky city with a hip neighborhood coffee shop and cafe scene. The art, the vibe, the service - this is such a fun and welcoming spot. The chef/owner will talk to you over the counter to make sure you like your food - or perhaps he'll suggest that "Feta would be really tasty in your crepe, want me to add some?" This is my kind of place.

When visiting a creperie, it's imperative that you get both a sweet and savory option. I've had crepes on my mind since I dined at Sweet Paris Creperie in Houston, so I was delighted to hop over to High Point for this mouthwatering brunch. My savory option was a "Create Your Own," with Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Red Peppers, Feta Cheese, Spinach, Diced Tomatoes and a Red Pepper Spread. The griddle nicely charred up the edge of my crepe, which I loved, giving just a little extra crispy bite of saltiness. The Red Pepper Spread is not unlike Marinara sauce, a little reminscient of a pizza, but the lightness of the crepe is the star here. Put whatever you want in it, you'll love it. It's not paper-thin, a bit more toothsome, which is a good thing. Half of one is plenty to fill you up.

So pretty!

It took me 2 seconds to decide on the sweet option: the Sweet Surprise features White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookie Dough - I nearly passed out upon reading the description. It's store bought, but who cares? Throw in some syrupy sliced Almonds, Coconut and Nutella, dust it with a little Powdered Sugar and drizzle it with Chocolate Sauce - I would have eaten 15 of these. Cookie Dough on anything is amazing, but when enveloped in this delicate crepe blanket, I was speechless (probably because I was stuffing my face.) How could your day be bad after having this?

Hello gorgeous!

The owner and his family are incredibly personable and kind. Penny Path has been open for 2 years, and they're planning to expand to the next building for additional seating room and more kitchen space. The owner hopes to invite guest chefs to feature brunch options! I'm very excited to have found this place, although it doesn't appear to be a secret - no more than 5 minutes after I left, I found out a friend had just arrived to enjoy some crepes himself! I think this spot is still a hidden gem to most people, so I'm taking names of those who'd like to return with me promptly.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chef & the Farmer

Fans of the PBS documentary show "A Chef's Life" have been flocking to Kinston in recent months to visit Chef & the Farmer, a legit farm-to-table restaurant. A little background for you: Deep Run, NC-born Vivian Howard got her training from famed NYC chefs like Wylie Dufresne and Jean-Georges Vongericten, and then returned home to open "Chef & the Farmer" in 2006 with her husband, Ben Knight. PBS sought her out and premiered a 30-minute documentary show in 2013. Howard was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2014 (the Oscars of the food world), for Best Chef Southeast. Life seems pretty sweet in Kinston.
Friends & me with the Chef herself! (Vivian is in the middle, in the blue top).
My friends and I drove 80 miles east of Raleigh to redeem our dinner reservation that we had made over Christmas (you read me right.) After stopping at The Boiler Room (a partnership between Howard/Knight and the guys at Mother Earth Brewing), we walked around the corner and spotted it - Chef & the Farmer. I'm not exaggerating when I say we had the best seat in the house, peering right into the kitchen, so we could see everything being beautifully plated. We perused the drink list, consulted the awesome sommelier, Tyler, and placed our order 45 minutes after being seated. Their graciousness and patience with us was so wonderful. We didn't feel rushed. We felt right at home.

Boiled Peanut Risotto
+ Cornbread
The menu changes weekly (sometimes daily), depending on what's available and fresh. The Boiled Peanut Risotto intrigued me from the moment I read it. Crunchy Peanuts and smooth White Beans swim in a Briny, Gravy-like sauce for a nice texture balance, with a Bacon and Rutabega Relish. Cornbread rounds out the dish and helps wipe up the gravy (we're in the South, y'all). Rutabega and Red Pea Samosas are a fantastic rendition of the Indian pastry. After letting it cool for about 10 minutes, the turnover-like dish sung of classic Indian flavors like Garam Masala and Turmeric. The Cilantro Buttermilk was essential to cool your palate.

I can't take credit for the description of the Wood-Fired Pizza. My friend claimed it to be "better than an orgasm." Naturally, I reached across the table and grabbed a slice, nearly knocking over everything in my way. The slightly sweet, thinly-sliced Sweet Potato (which looked identical to Pepperoni!) and the Talleggio, Fontina and Parmesan Cheese is truly an outrageous combination.
Sweet Potato Pizza

Braised Beef Short Rib Heaven.
I couldn't have been more thrilled with what I decided on for my entree: the Braised Beef Short Rib. It blew my freaking mind. You don't need a fork to cut it; it just melts in your mouth. Calling it tender is an understatement. It burst with a vinegary, umami flavor that I could have died for. The Parmesan Spoonbread reminded me of a corn-less Corn Pudding, and Melted Leeks rounded out the dish. The Collard Chimichurri was more like a collard leaf garnish and was too bitter for me, but it was clearly there to break up the richness of the dish.

You can't come to a place like this and not get dessert. We were informed that the "dessert flight" basically means you get all 4 desserts for the price of 3, regularly-sized. SOLD. I dove into what I presumed would be my favorite: the Apple Crisp with Salted Caramel and Rosemary Ice Cream. The crust featured notes of Cornmeal, which I was all over. The Rosemary Ice Cream was a nice herbaceous palate cleanser, to break up the sweetness. I didn't expect the Key Lime Curd and Coconut Meringue to be my favorite, but one bite and I switched my vote. I have a new respect for what I usually find to be an overrated dessert. Tangy Key Lime Curd is topped with a fluffy Coconut Meringue and transports you to the beach. Peanuts are a nice crunch, and Graham Crackers work as a vessel for your mouth, though a spoon (or your hands) would work just fine.
          Apple Crisp with Salted Caramel & Rosemary Ice Cream

    Key Lime Curd with Coconut Meringue and Graham Crackers
If I had to pick a least favorite, the Honey and Pecan Baklava had all the potential in the world to be outstanding, but the flavor of Tangerine overpowered all notes of Honey and Nut, so you'd have to love that citrus flavor to be a fan of this dish. We had one more to dig into: the 10-Layer Chocolate Cake with Caramel and a Toffee Crunch. For a gal who doesn't love chocolate, this had me believing in chocolate again. The Toffee Crunch is like the saltine cracker candy that you make with homemade caramel and chocolate. It was sensational. I don't recall if I shared this with anyone at the table.

Honey & Pecan Baklava
10-Layer Chocolate Cake

After putting in a sly request with the sommelier, Vivian came over to our table to say hello. She is incredibly kind and beautiful, and was even sweet enough to pose for a photo, something we had seen her do over the course of the evening. She has an excellent thing going, and I'm thankful I got to experience this for a night.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Melt is Greensboro's newest addition to the restaurant scene, bringing a much needed face lift to the Golden Gate Shopping Center (with the help of the new Green Bean, too!) Melt is fancier than I imagined, like a corner bistro or cafe, as opposed to a fast casual dining spot. The menu combines some of my favorite words into incredibly inventive dishes - Curry White Bean Hummus, Duck Spring Rolls, Pesto Zucchini Noodles - making it nearly impossible to narrow down a choice. Chances are, you won't go wrong with one of their specialty Paninis, especially since they're all served with a signature dipping sauce. Talk about a step up from your average condiment!

The Duck Club features tender Duck Confit, Crispy Prosciutto, Arugula, Caramelized Onions and Gouda. Dunk a corner in the sweet and tangy Apricot Thyme Jam, and you've got a very tasty bite. An even tastier bite though, is The Granny. How can anyone resist the classic combination of Turkey, Brie and Granny Smith Apples? Add some fresh Spinach and Bacon & Onion Jam and you have a killer sandwich, in fact, one of Triad City Beat's must-try sandwiches in the Triad. A sweet and spicy Maple Dijon sets it over the top. The folks at Melt have mastered the art of pairing a sandwich and a condiment and that makes me a very happy girl.
This Granny ROCKS.
Sides are tempting. Salty Duck Fat Fries are a satisfying option, though they weren't as life-altering as I was hoping they would be. They're delicious, but not more extraordinary than any other good fries. I preferred the Pesto Zucchini Noodles, thin strips of tender zucchini tossed with incredibly fresh and flavorful pesto. Cherry Tomatoes bring a nice pop of color and acid, and nothing can be bad with a little parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Be sure and save room for the French Quarter Beignets. Being that it was the week of Mardi Gras, my dining partner and I couldn't resist the temptation of the doughnut-like dumplings. The Chai Caramel and Raspberry dipping sauces make them extra special, and note that the best way to enjoy them is to pour a little of each sauce into the middle of the Beignet! You will probably need two orders.

I'm very excited for Melt's arrival to the area. Attentive service, a strong menu and solid execution will secure many return visits for me.