Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MJ's Steak and Seafood

MJ's Steak and Seafood is a hidden gem. High recommendations from my neighbor solidified our decision to make this the spot where we should celebrate my mom's birthday, and we couldn't have been more pleased with our experience. A peach-colored house-turned restaurant on Dolley Madison Road in Greensboro was bustling with Furniture Marketers as we walked in, with an intimate but eye-catching bar to our left. We were seated in the nearly private enclosed back patio. Outdoor and upstairs seating is also available. Servers are knowledgeable and friendly. Let's get to the cocktails.

The Harvey combines Hendrick's Gin and Ketel One Vodka, and is served with Blue Cheese-stuffed Olives. Add some olive juice to make it dirty, and they may as well have just named it The Amanda. Locally baked Asiago Cheese bread is warm and crusty and comes with a dry spice blend that you can add oil to, to make it as potent and flavorful as you like! This was the first time I had seen this done in a restaurant and it's pretty genius. It's also genius that they offer Foie Gras as a side dish.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimiento Cheese
Fried Green Tomatoes are a perfect starter to share. Three thick green tomato slices are fried, and stacked atop homemade Pimiento Cheese and drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar, surrounded by Arugula. This is how Southern comfort food gets taken to the next level. I am a pimiento cheese afficionado, and this was close to perfect (my grandmother's recipe is the best of all time, though). The balsamic adds necessary acid, and the arugula is some nice green, to make you feel less guilty for indulging.

I've been on a Fried Oyster kick lately (it all started at One Eared Stag in Atlanta - their chef's breakfast is to die for). When I saw Fried Oysters & Grits on the menu, a play on Shrimp & Grits, I knew it was my destiny to have this dish. And not just any grits - Pimiento Cheese grits! I thought it only appropriate to echo my start with even more pimiento cheese. While the flavor wasn't as strong in the grits, they were still buttery and creamy and a nice bed for the crunchy oysters - nearly 15 of them, no joke! It's all drizzled with a tangy Chipotle Aioli. I would have preferred the slightly sweet Collard Greens to be slightly spicy, but they still rounded out the dish nicely. Bravo to this whimsical and inventive idea.

Sea Scallops, Sundried Tomato Grit Cake
It's rare for me to turn down Sea Scallops when I see them on a menu. I've decided they're my favorite food. Along with cookie dough. (Not necessarily together, but maybe.) MJ's scallops are fantastic. They're cooked perfectly with a hint of smokiness, or perhaps that's the Maple Bacon Creme. A Sundried Tomato Grit Cake is perfectly crisp and brightly flavored. Asparagus is a solid side.

The fish of the day was a thick-cut Mahi Mahi, perfectly cooked, topped with Crab Salad and a bright Lemon Dill Hollandaise. This dish is a 10 on its own, but the Lobster Mashed Potatoes totally steal the show. They are utterly sinful. Asparagus stars in a supporting role once again. Always welcome, but your pee is going to smell.
Mahi Mahi with Lobster Mashed Potatoes
Major thanks to my neighbor who stressed that I needed to visit MJ's. I will be returning very soon, for what I know will be another wonderful experience and meal. If you haven't been yet, it needs to be added to your list immediately.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Back in February, I got a sneak peek into LaRue, the new French-inspired restaurant in downtown Greensboro. I couldn't wait for it to open. Several visits later, I continue to be thoroughly impressed. Chef Trey Bell and his team are doing a fabulous job of making French food accessible, not allowing their customers to be intimidated by their menu. And of course, not to mention the professional, knowledgeable and courteous servers, and their wiz of a mixologist, whipping up dueling cocktails each night.

Following the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, Chef Bell invited a few blogger friends and me over to LaRue to sample some items from their new menu (running through November 2) and I cannot stress enough how quickly you need to get there. Though their wine list is a winner, their mixologst is so fab that you can suggest he make you something spicy with gin, or combine ginger and tequila and he'll hook you up.

Chicken Liver Canoli, Foie Bread Pudding, Frog Legs
The Chicken Liver Canoli is one of the most inventive dishes I've ever seen. Not to mention one of the tastiest. A perfectly crisp shell encases buttery, velvety Chicken Liver Mousse. This would taste good on tree bark. Literally, feed me anything covered in this mousse. A whimsical green herb gelee brings a nice tartness to cut through some of the richness of this dish. LaRue's Bread Pudding is decadence at its finest, combining Foie Gras, Pear and Maple. This should be on their brunch menu, as it combines that sweetness you get in a French Toast and the savory richness of the Foie. It's sensational.

My first Frog Legs ever remind me of - you guessed it - chicken! Except they're tender, and pack much more meat on the bones than I expected. What they're paired with though, makes the dish. A Black Garlic and Parsnip Puree is a beautiful dark gray, while a bright green Parsley Chip sticks out, bringing a fresh, salty bite. I'll have a basket of these, please.

Thai Noodles with Quail
The Surfs and Turfs on the dinner menu is a spin on what Chef Bell presented at the March of Dimes dinner event. Sweet Potato Risotto is a bed for Uni, Frog Legs, and shaved Black Truffles. It's a perfect winter dish - the meat is tender, the sweet potato paired with uni is creamy and the risotto perfectly al dente. Anything with truffles is a winner in my book, too.

Be sure and check out their late night offerings Thursday-Saturday, starting at 10:30pm. The Thai Noodles are to die for. Thin noodles are coated with a salty, spicy peanut sauce, and combined with a fried egg, veggies and a protein of your choice (I chose quail over pork belly and beef). It's a remarkable bowl. The Pho is topped with a Sunny Side Up Egg and the broth is robust with flavor, as good Pho is.

Visit LaRue for their lunch specials, too. The day I went, I had the option of adding one of their daily proteins to a salad, totaling a reasonable $14. The Beets+Berries+Citrus Salad is fresh, and a perfect portion size. Chevre Cheese and Pistachios add creaminess and crunch. This one has been a menu staple for a while, with good reason.

LaRue is a perfect date spot, pre or post-Triad Stage show spot, bring your parents here, hit it for happy hour, grub on some Thai Noodles after few drinks out - they even have brunch on Sundays! This is everything Greensboro has been needing for a while. I'm so thrilled that it's ours!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction

Attending the Signature Chefs Auction to benefit the March of Dimes was one of the most enjoyable evenings I've had since I moved to Greensboro three years ago. It was my first auction ever, which proved to be highly entertaining as well as beneficial for the March of Dimes, raising thousands of money for the organization. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, permature birth and infant mortality. Dining for a cause, any cause, is a terrific way to spend your evening, but this one was especially memorable.
With two of my favorite bloggers, Nikki (NikSnacks) and Jennifer (The Onyx Plate)
LaRue: Sweet Potatoes for days.
10 of Greensboro's most beloved and popular chefs presented small plates as the silent auction got underway. Autumn Creek Vineyards sponsored the wine - the Cabarnet Franc was light and easy to sip! My favorite plate of the night was from LaRue, the new French-inspired restaurant in downtown Greensboro. Chef Trey Bell did justice to the Sweet Potato, presenting a Sweet Potato Bisque, Sweet Potato Risotto with tender Quail Confit and Chocolate Shell candies with a Sweet Potato Mousse filling. This plate was perfection and certainly appropriate for the incoming fall weather. (The after party continued at LaRue following the event - post coming soon!)

B. Christopher's: Surf and Turf
Another favorite of the evening, and winner of the People's Choice Award, was Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher's Surf and Turf - tender braised beef with a Red Wine reduction, creamy Lobster Bisque and the best Horseradish Mashed Potatoes I've ever had in my life. Chef Anders Benton from Gia was another highlight, with his Pulled Pork and Caramlized Pears on Naan, alongside smoked Caramel Corn.
Gia: Pulled Pork and Pears on Naan
Mark's: Duck Liver Pate and Duck Confit Cassoulet
Chef Bruno Catuhe of Mark's Restaurant gave me my first ever sampling of Duck Confit Cassoulet. I'd like this every night during the winter, please. Unfortunately, their Duck Liver Pate had a pink peppercorn flavoring that was too overwhelming, and ruined what could have been a perfectly good pate. Starmount Country Club's Chef Todd Jones smoked Beef Brisket for 6 hours, resulting in a flavorful BBQ sandwich, topped with Mustard Onions and spicy White Slaw. These flavors made me miss summer, bad.
Starmount CC: Smoked BBQ Brisket Sandwiches

I haven't been to Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, but after sampling Chef Robert Holden's Bruschetta and Chicken Saltimbocca, I can't wait to go! The freshness of the tomatoes and herbs in the bruschetta, with the acid from the Balsamic Vinegar is a wonderful balance to the richness of the White Wine, Proscuitto and Mozzarella Cheese in the Saltimbocca. Chef Michael Harkenreader's reputation at Undercurrent goes almost unmatched, but his Sticky Rice Cake with Hoisin Bacon was a departure from what I typically see from him. I applaud the risk though, and it worked in my favor because I love anything with an Asian flare.

Painted Plate: Banh Mi and Crab Fried Rice

Chef Brad Semon of The Painted Plate took a chance presenting a Banh Mi sandwich - Pork Belly is pretty unforgiving, and if it's overcooked, you can kiss it goodbye. Luckily, their Crab Fried Rice was the bomb and made up for a pretty tough piece of Belly. Southern Lights Bistro's Chef Matthew Adams presented beautifully pink Duck Breast atop a Cornmeal Cake with pickled Red Onions, resulting in one of the prettier presentations.

Sedgefield CC: Sweet Potato Waffle

Sedgefield Country Club's Chef James Patterson went all out, presenting a 5-star dish of a Braised Chicken Leg with Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Chanterelle Mushrooms and a nice jus, but a sprinkling more of salt would have made this exceptional. Their Sweet Potato Waffle with Spiced Candied Pecans is among one of the best I've ever had, but I could have done without the Smoked Whipped Cream. It was supposed to be reminiscient of a toasted marshmallow, but it took away all the delightful sweetness of the waffle.

Sedgefield CC: Braised Chicken Leg
Angel Konfections
Photo Courtesy The Onyx Plate
A box of truffles from Angel Konfections by Krecek Kakes in High Point was at each of our seats, a lovely way to cap off the evening. They were more of a cross between a cookie bar and a candy bar than an actual truffle, which I appreciated. My favorite were the Smores and Chocolate Caramel with Sea Salt, but the Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Caramel Apple were decadent too. A trip to High Point is in the works, specifically for more of those truffles.

Tons of tasty bites, raising awareness as well as money, and time with friends made for such a special evening. I'm honored and thrilled that I got to be part of it. And if you're feeling generous, make a donation to support the March of Dimes!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

WFAEats: Pumpkin Perfection: A Showstopper Recipe

It's not often that I post recipes on my blog, but when my lunch club dish is such a hit, it's hard for me to not share it!

The lunch club members blindly chose a color to be the prominent one in our dishes. I got orange. Being a pumpkin fanatic, you can imagine my thrill when I started thinking of all the pumpkin recipes I could possibly do. I wanted to do a showstopper dish and do the pumpkin justice, so I decided to go with a challenging savory option - baking something inside a pumpkin!

What resulted was an absolutely divine, decadently rich and flavorful Baked Pumpkin Cheese Bread Pudding Souffle. It looked candied, even fake, as I pulled it out of the oven.

My friends "oohed" and "ahhed" as I set it on the table. I might be telling the turkey to take a hike during the holiday season so this pumpkin can get all the love from the oven.

Thanks to WFAEats for posting this article for me! You can read it here!