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.

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