Monday, September 28, 2015

Scrambled Southern Diner

Being a huge fan of Josephine's Kitchen in Greensboro, my heart broke a little when I heard it was closing earlier this summer. I should have had more faith in owners Chef Chris Blackburn and Sarah Keith, as they re-branded and re-opened as something exceptional: Scrambled Southern Diner. It was a brilliant concept and a strategic move, being that the establishment is surrounded by more divey spots like Hops and Fat Dog's, that UNC-G students flock to. And who doesn't love breakfast? But, who is ever actually able to have it at a restaurant from 6-9am? At Scrambled, you can get it anytime of day (or at least until 3pm.) Like I said, brilliant.

At 12 noon on a Friday, my party just had to wait momentarily for a table to get cleared off. Needless to say, business was booming. My eyes feasted on the menu, darting all over the place. Did I want a Waffle with Caramel Sauce? Perhaps Pancakes with Butterscotch Chips? Or the house-made Corned Beef Hash? Maybe The Forester, featuring Brie, Mushrooms and Truffle Oil. I could have even dug into the lunch menu - The Maine Roll would have been quite satisfying. But I stuck with breakfast and I'm so glad I did.

Green Eggs and Ham!
I literally played eenie meenie minie whilst perusing the "Scrambles" section of the menu. My server was very patient with me, answering questions about several, as I tried to nail down my decision. I chose the whimsically named "Green Eggs and Ham" Scramble, which combines a mildly spiced Chorizo, Scallions, Queso Fresco, fresh Salsa Verde, tangy Chili Lime Crema and eggs any way - I chose scrambled - atop your choice of Grits or Shredded Hash Browns (which I opted for), served in a monster-sized skillet. The balance of the savory Chorizo and acid from the salsa and lime crema is perfect. Everything kind of oozes onto the hash browns, which are an ideal base for a dish like this. I loved how the salsa verde even tented the eggs green! I chose a large, fluffy biscuit over toast, and was delighted with it.

Care for a swim in this gravy ocean?

A dining companion chose the "Country Style" Scramble, combining Sausage, Cheddar Cheese, Mushrooms and Sausage Gravy over grits or hash browns. That gravy is sensational. I find that most gravies are too heavily seasoned with sage, or the gravy to sausage ratio is way off - but not this gravy. I was offered a spoonful to taste and it nearly killed me to not dive face first into her dish. Red Eye and Vegetarian Mushroom Gravies are also available, but stick with the original sausage and you will be quite pleased.

Waffle with Bananas and Caramel!
I face several questions when I have brunch. Coffee or cocktails? Bloodies or Mimosas? Sweet or savory? I felt it my responsibility to try something from both departments - I owed it to you, dear readers, to explore both sweet and savory. Scrambled's Waffles err more on the side of Belgian style-thickness, which is more exciting than their flatter counterparts. They're incredibly light and would be tasty on their own, until I looked at the toppings list which included everything from a Banana, Rum and Almond Compote to Apple Butter. I thought house-made Caramel and Bananas would make fabulous toppings, and they did. I can't imagine a better brunch than alternating between bites of savory sausage gravy and chorizo, and these fluffy, caramel-drenched waffles.

I'm so excited for Scrambled. It's incredibly accessible for the people and students that frequent that part of town, and Greensboro doesn't have enough places that serve breakfast during the week, all day long. I do look forward to returning on a weekend to explore the Saturday and Sunday only specials!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

Starring: O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti
Director: F. Gary Gray
Running Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Rating: R

If you don't think you want to see this movie, think again. You'll bop your head, cringe and even tear up during this biopic of the first gangster rap group, N.W.A. The 5 members hailed from Compton, CA during the late 1980's, when being an African American male in Los Angeles was not the easiest thing to be, to put it lightly. I had no idea how horribly these men were treated, and the discrimination they faced. It's very timely that this film came out now, with all the disturbing racial turmoil we've been hearing about in the news. Besides the harsh realities the film reveals, their's is an incredibly engaging story. For a rap fan, I was in it every single minute. Non rap fans will still appreciate the history and drama. It's not to be missed.
MC Ren, DJ Yella, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre
Photo Courtesy Jaimie Trueblood, Universal Pictures
You've likely heard of 1 or 2 of the artists that comprise N.W.A: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. From the moment we meet each of these men, we're introduced to the problems and roadblocks that stand in their way of making it out of the streets: drug dealing, guns, thugs - these are just a few of the daily occurances. As Ice Cube put it, "our art is a reflection of our reality." O'Shea Jackson, Jr. is Ice Cube's son in real life and brings a calmness and grace to the screen in portraying his father.

Eazy-E quickly rises to the front of the group, catching the eye of sleazy but seemingly good-hearted manager Jerry Heller, played expertly by Paul Giamatti. We are under the impression that his intentions are true, only to wrongly fall for him like the members of N.W.A. All but one, that is - Ice Cube's skepticism leads him to a solo career, followed shortly after by Dr. Dre. These two ultimately have the most mainstream success. Corey Hawkins brings a charm and quiet strength to Dre, while Jason Mitchell's Eazy walks and talks bigger than he is, and seems to have the most street smarts and strongest backbone, while also showing vulnerability.

We see the rise and ultimate fall of N.W.A, and get a look into what the future held for these men. Ice begins his first draft of "Friday," while Dre heads to Death Row Records to work with Snoop Dogg, Tupac and Suge Knight. We also see Eazy's tragic battle with AIDS, and a reconciliation between these formerly feuding men. I would have continued watching all night to see Dre's discovery of Eminem and ultimately 50 Cent (and even to see Ice's work on TBS's "Are We There Yet"!)

What these men brought out of Compton and into the world is remarkable. What they went through to be able to write and rap about such extreme and violent topics is also outrageous. "Straight Outta Compton" does their story justice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series: the Battle of Champions

The champs are ready. They've waited all year for this. The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series culminates on October 28-31 in Raleigh, featuring the winners from battles throughout the year. Tickets go on sale in just 9 days - Thursday, September 24!

Don't miss what will undoubtedly be some fantastic dinners, featuring Chef Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh; Joseph Cornett of The Flipside Café in Fort Mill, SC; Todd Warden of The Cliffs Valley in Greenville, SC; Brent Martin of The Summit Room in Charlotte; and Winston-Salem's own Richard Miller from the fabulous Graze!

An official press release is below! Don't wait to get your tickets - they will FLY!

Raleigh, North Carolina – The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the Carolina’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, is gearing up for its Battle of Champions series in which five top regional chefs will battle it out to take home the coveted annual championship title. Foodies from the Carolinas and beyond are invited to attend the four live dinner events Oct. 28 to 31 in Raleigh, savoring the full-service, six-course meals and serving as judges. Tickets to these interactive battles go on sale Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7pm at and are guaranteed to sell out quickly.

The five chefs competing in the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Battle of Champions, who each won their regional series to earn a place in the championship, randomly drew knives to determine the bracket and the schedule is as follows:

·       Wednesday, Oct. 28: Ryan Conklin, Rex Healthcare (Raleigh) vs. Joseph Cornett, The Flipside Café (Fort Mill, South Carolina)

·       Thursday, Oct. 29: Richard Miller, Graze (Winston-Salem) vs. Oct. 28 winner

·       Friday, Oct. 30: Todd Warden, The Cliffs Valley (Greenville, South Carolina) vs. Brent Martin, The Summit Room (Charlotte)

·       Saturday, Oct. 31Oct. 29 winner vs. Oct. 30 winner

Each of the Battle of Champions dinner events, just as at all dinners throughout the year-long series, includes two chef teams battling it out preparing three courses centered on a featured ingredient that comes from a regional farmer or artisan producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs the morning of the dinner event and must be used in each course.

“This is going to be an extremely competitive championship series,” said Jimmy Crippen, Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series founder and host. “The level of culinary talent this year has exceeded all expectations and we’re confident the four Battle of Champions dinner events will be an impressive culmination of the fun and creativity we’ve seen and tasted throughout 2015.”

The first-ever South Carolina series recently culminated with Chef Warden of The Cliffs Valley restaurant winning the title after rising to the top of the 14-chef Greenville tournament.In front of a sold out crowd of more than 160 people, Chef Warden earned the final spot in the Battle of Champions cooking with the night’s featured ingredient, Greenbrier Farms​ pork loins and jowls. Also, for the first time in competition history, the chefs started their final battle day shopping. The two teams were each allotted $300 to spend at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery and they had to use at least one local produce item in every course.

All five of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series regional winners will come together for the fist time in the October Battle of Champions to compete for bragging rights, a grand prize of $4,000 cash, two handmade chef knives by Ironman Forge and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, compliments of Kikkoman and the Pro Chef Program. All Battle of Champions events are held at Renaissance North Hills Raleigh, located at 4100 Main at North Hills Street. Tickets to attend the first three battles are $129 each excluding beverage, tax and service fee. Tickets for the final championship battle are $149 each excluding beverage, tax and service fee. Learn more and buy tickets starting Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. via

About Competition Dining Series

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series has hosted annual chef tournaments throughout North Carolina for years with the goal of celebrating local products and agriculture, and showcasing the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. It is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, NC Egg Association, Hits Technology and Joyce Farms. For the first time ever, Competition Dining expanded outside North Carolina in 2015 with a series in Greenville, South Carolina. For more information, visit or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Tavern in Old Salem

Stepping into Old Salem transports you to another world, and another time. A class field trip in middle school didn't make a huge impression on me, but returning as an adult, I found it to be pretty spectacular. You'll want to be sure and go during the daytime when Winkler's Bakery is open, for one of their fabulous warm Moravian Sugar Cakes. (My dad and I ate an entire one on the sidewalk one day.) The Tavern in Old Salem was built in 1816, serves traditional Moravian food with a modern flair, and servers even wear historic Moravian attire at lunch! After reading one of my foodie friends' articles about her recent trip to The Tavern, I realized I had never been, and that needed to change, fast.
Excited to be here!
Servers are incredibly knowledgeable about the food and beverage menus, recommending wines to pair with different entrees. But I chose to enjoy the cocktail of the day, which combined Covington Sweet Potato Vodka, Limoncello, Lemon, Lavender, Almond Extract, Poppyseed and Coconut Creme. WOW! This was coconutty, citrusy, creamy and tart. I fell head over heels for this drink. Warm yeast rolls and homemade pumpkin spice muffins arrive in a wicker basket, and the muffins can serve as a dessert, for those of you who have sweet teeth like me!

Being a sucker for Brussels Sprouts and Kale, I couldn't resist the Kalettes, a hybrid between the two. The Tavern pan fries them, with a few leaves being extra cripsy - as they should be! - served with a savory Wild Boar Reduction, melted Hoop Cheddar Cheese and smoky Debreziner Sausage. If you have your thinking cap on, you'll dip your yeast roll in the reduction. The wild boar gives a unique umami flavor to the dish. It's outstanding.

Duck 3 Ways
If Duck is listed on a menu, there's a very high chance that I'll be ordering it. (The Crispy Duck at Fabian's showed me the light and I've been in love ever since.) At the Tavern, you get it 3 ways in one dish: a roasted Duck Breast, Duck Confit in the most sensational Parmesan Spaetzle, and lastly, Duck Bacon. You read me right, bacon lovers. The tender confit just melts right in with that cheesy Spaetzle, which is a German noodle or dumpling. The duck breast is cooked to perfection and drizzled with a lovely spicy pepper jelly. I appreciate the idea of the duck bacon, but it reminded me too much of a dried smoky meat or jerky. Sauteed spinach rounds out the dish, and is a nice touch of fresh greenery.

NC Lemon Pepper Catfish
I'm a little weary of Lemon Pepper seasoning. I can take the heat, but there's a flavor in this spice and in a lot of Cajun/Creole cooking that can be offensively hot to my palate. The Grilled NC Catfish was a little heavy-handed on the Lemon Pepper, so I couldn't really taste or enjoy the fish. The accompaniment though, was wonderful: Sundried Tomato and Heirloom Bean Ragout, Brussels Sprouts, Lemon Butter and Sweet Pepper Jelly. The heat in the jelly would have been enough! But the Bean Ragout totally made up for it.

Wild Boar Shank

The Wild Boar reduction in the appetizer only whetted our appetite for more Wild Boar. This slow-roasted, Red Wine-braised shank is fall off the bone tender. You could nearly just pick up the bone and hold it upside down, and the meat would slide off. It is served on a bed of that fabulous Parmesan Spaetzle with Haricot Verts and Roasted Carrots, with a Red Wine reduction. This is what I think of when I picture old school, stick to your ribs, sitting by the fireplace, Moravian food. I dined here when it was toasty out, so I will need to return in January.

Desserts are all made in-house, but we opted for more pumpkin spice muffins. I'm so glad the current owners have upheld the reputation of The Tavern. It's certainly a favorite among locals, and is a nice way to end your evening after walking around beautiful Old Salem.