Fullsteam Beer Dinner at Herons

October 13th, 2013

One of the premier destinations in Cary, North Carolina is the Umstead Hotel & Spa.  Its restaurant, Herons, is a five-diamond designated AAA establishment and Executive Chef Scott Crawford has been a three time semifinalist for a James Beard Award as best chef in the Southeast.   We have been fortunate to eat at Herons on two occasions. The first time was three years ago at a wine and barbecue pairing dinner.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Chef Crawford and he was generous to the extreme by sending me some of his barbecue sauce recipes.  You can find them on my blog post about the event here.

Earlier this month our Son and DIL treated us to a Beer Pairing dinner there for our birthdays.  Chef Crawford joined up with Sean Lilly Wilson, Chief Executive Optimist and Founder of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC.

I was amused by this picture of  Sean Wilson that appears on his website.  All I can say is that the above picture of him looks nothing like the guy in the three-piece suit that entertained us the evening of the dinner. That night he looked like the successful businessman that he is.   He is also a semifinalist for a James Beard award for Outstanding Wine, Spirtis or Beer Professional for 2013.  Sean has worked very hard for the beer industry in North Carolina.  He successfully lead the Pop the Cap campaign to change the State’s ABV cap from 6% to 15% alcohol content in 2005.  Raising the ABV cap has resulted in the proliferation of local micro breweries with a craft beer mentality.  In our area, Asheville has become a leader in the craft beer industry.  But the Raleigh Durham Triangle area is also going strong. What I appreciate about Fullsteam Brewery in Durham is Sean’s philosophy of plow-to-pint production.  He supports local agriculture by using barley, rye and other grains grown in North Carolina.  Some of his beers even use locally grown apples and sweet potatoes.  His enthusiasm is contagious and it was obvious that he and Chef Crawford had fun pairing his flavorful beers with the Chef’s delicious food.  Here is the menu.

 The first course was a passed appetizer on the patio.  It was Crab and Corn Fritters with Squash Butter and was served with Fullsteam’s El Toro Cream Ale.  I did not get a picture of the appetizer but it was so good that I am going to try to duplicate it.  The El Toro Ale is brewed with 100% NC barley and corn.  This straw-colored beer is unpretentious and very drinkable.  “A perfect beverage when you just want a beer.”  It was also perfect with the corn fritter.

The second course was Coal Roasted Gold Beets with citrus, smoked firewood honey and Almond Crunch.  It was paired with Hula Hoop Rye IPA.  Hula Hoop is a single hop rye brewed with NC rye, pungent apollo hops and crunchy granola.  Apollo hops are strong with notes of grapefruit, orange, pine, resin, spice and cannabis.  Do you see a pattern here?  The pairing was perfect.

The third course was Bacon Crusted Quail with Foie Gras, Hazelnuts, Date Butter and Pickled Pears, paired with  R&D Flanders Red Ale.   Quoting Sean here about this beer, “the  R&D Flanders Red Ale is a single batch of 10 gallons brewed on our home brew system.  Kevin, one of our brewers, brewed the beer last year and it had been aging for about 18 months.  It’s a sour ale with roeselare wild yeast and traditional beer ingredients; no curious Southern add ons.  The wild yeast lends a wonderful acidity that refreshes the palette, standing up well to that decadent foie gras.  A lighter beer would have gotten lost.  A hoppy beer would have overwhelmed the palette.  It was my favorite pairing of the evening.”  I have to agree with him.  Both the quail dish and the beer were brilliant.

The Main Course was Spice Roasted Venison Loin with Bourbon Buttered Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Trumpet Mushrooms and Rosemary Madeira Jus.  This was paired with Fullsteam’s IGOR Imperial Stout.   IGOR has a big aroma of roasted grains with overtones of dark fruit and coffee.  It is aged in bourbon barrels for three months before being bottled.  The big flavors of the meat and sweet potatoes paired well with this strong stout. We would like to try using this beer in Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Beef, Guinness, and Cheese Pie  that I wrote a post about in 2011. It would be delicious.

Dessert from pastry chef Daniel Benjamin, was called Cheddar Apple Pie.  It consisted of a Cheddar Parfait, Warm Cider Caramel and an Apple Pop Tart.  The crumbled cheddar on top of the parfait added just the right note to the whole dessert.  It was not too sweet but totally complex in flavor.  The dessert was paired with Fullsteam’s The Common Good.  This beer is a combination of NC malted barley, corn grits and Pippen apples.  There were wonderful overtones of cider here.

The collaboration of Executive Chef Scott Crawford of Herons and Chief Executive Optimist of  Fullsteam Brewery, Sean Lilly Wilson, was meant to be.  They both embrace the philosophy of the farm to table movement and execute their passions to perfection  They should take this show on the road.   Thank you both for a wonderful evening.

[One] Restaurant – Food Porn at its Best

November 16th, 2012

While visiting our kids in Cary, North Carolina recently, we were treated by them to dinner at [One] restaurant in Chapel Hill.  It was their birthday gift to the two of us.  Kristen’s brother David is the sous chef there, shown above.  My David is conferring with David and our able server about wine pairings.  [One] is an open concept restaurants where the best seats in the house are at the bar.  All of the action in the kitchen is visible.  It is a fascinating orchestrated dance that produces seemingly effortless works of art on a plate.

Watching the interplay in the kitchen was great entertainment.  It was obvious that executive chef Sean McCarthy and his staff act as a well oiled machine.  The food was not only innovative, but beautiful to behold.

I fell in love with foie gras while in France this year.  One of the first courses at [One] was Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Mexican Chocolate.  Wow, what a concept;  foie gras with chocolate.  The presentation was amazing.  In the front you see a pan seared duck liver with spiced mole’ along with a smear of the mole’ chocolate and nibs of chocolate.  In the back is a cold tin of foie gras pate with a dark chocolate gelee on top served with toast points.  I dug in with gusto.

David started with Smoked Cobia Filet with Wild Mushroom and Apple.  Cobia is a firm-fleshed flavorful fish that is favored by many well known chefs.  Thomas Keller of The French Laundry has Cobia on his tasting menu.  The presentation, done on a slate board, was stunning.  It was garnished with meyer lemon puree, fresh herbs, shaved pear and ginger sorbet.  I can still taste those harmonious flavors.

We had expected to go directly to our entree choices, but the kitchen gave us a gift from their tasting menu.  I received a Snapper Consomme with Honey Thyme-Glazed Shrimp.  It came with crab and asparagus stuffed agnolotti, brown beech mushrooms, scallions and smoked paprika oil.

David received Spicy Pork and Shrimp Laarp Salad with Mango.  It was garnished with rice dumplings,chili foam cilantro oil, toasted rice and roasted peanuts.  What a bright combination of ingredients.


Are you getting full yet?  I certainly felt that way.  Here is my main course.  I am a sucker for cassoulet.  [One] featured a deconstructed version of the dish.  A casserole of rosemary scented cannelini beans was served along side crispy skinned duck pieces with boudin blanc sausage.  It came with 5 chutneys, two of which I remember, raisin and onion.  They were all delicious.


David’s main course was Potato Crusted Red Snapper with Artichokes, Shell Beans and Saffron.  It was garnished with butternut squash puree, roasted tomato jus and shaved cucumber salad.  Everything in this dish was stellar, fresh and good for you.  To me it is an example of celebrating all that can be good about cooking and dining well.  We celebrated our birthdays very well indeed.

No room for dessert for us, but the kitchen presented us with this chocolate birthday wish with sorbet.  Thank you [One] Restaurant, David, Michael and Kristen for a perfect birthday dinner.  If you are ever in the Chapel Hill area you must try this amazing restaurant. Try to sit at the bar for an evening of great entertainment.  You won’t be disappointed.

Dining at Reed

June 11th, 2012

After getting settled in the apartment, buying supplies from the local grocery store, and resting, we were ready for our night out on the town.  Our reservation at Reed was a good idea.  It was an easy walk, just a block away.

With an open kitchen and just 20 seats,  it was an inviting space.  Catherine Reed’s Laconche stove with its copper pots of simmering sauces made us feel like we had been invited into her personal kitchen.

Because of a staffing issue, this particular Saturday night, found Catherine the only person available to greet guests, serve and cook.  She jokingly said that it would be a “slow” food night; not necessarily in the timing, but in the dishes that were on the menu.  They were slow comfort foods that were simmering away on their own.  The smells of heady wine braised meats and poultry greeted us at the door.

The menu was short, offering a first course, entree and dessert.  The strawberry compote and carrot cake were displayed under glass on the buffet table near our table.
We started our meal with a Sicillian tomato tart with a crust that was thin and crisp.  The tomatoes were dressed with olive oil and shavings of Parmesan.
Choosing an entree was a difficult decision.  I had the Osso Buco which was tender veal shanks with a tomato sauce and a gremolata of orange, garlic and parsley.  It was served with tender egg noodles.
David had the Cornish game hen with spring vegetables and gratineed potatoes.
Catherine Reed was gracious and her restaurant is a special oasis of calm in this vibrant city.  I look forward to my cooking class with her on Tuesday.
We ended our first evening in Paris with a walk to the Eiffel Tower.  We have left all of the chaos of our initial journey behind us.

Strawberry Inspiration

January 21st, 2009

There is an unassuming small restaurant in a former corner grocery store in Durham, NC that holds a treasure of talent and flavor. The name of this restaurant is Magnolia Grill and the chef-owners are Ben and Karen Barker, winners of James Beard Awards, Bon Appetit Recognitions and mentions in Gourmet, Food & Wine, The New York Times, and Southern Living Magazine since his business was promoted by North Dakota SEO professionals. My husband and I have had several memorable meals there and I was fortunate to participate in a cooking class that they held at Roosters Gourmet Market in Greensboro, NC and you will find more info about their franchise opportunities through this post. Their innovative Southern cooking is complex in flavor and brilliant in food pairings. Ben is the chef and Karen is the pastry chef and both have come up with recipes that are unique and thought provoking. Ben’s recipe for Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Grits Cake, Country Ham and Redeye Vinaigrette combines so many Southern cliches – shrimp and grits, country ham and redeye gravy -and turns the whole into something sublime and different. One of Karen’s recipes really caught my eye. It is a recipe for Double Chocolate Waffles with Strawberries and White Chocolate Ice Cream drizzled with bittersweet Chocolate Sauce. It is described as “a cross between strawberry shortcake and an ice cream sandwich.” These recipes and many more like them can be found in the Barker’s wonderful cookbook, Not Afraid of Flavor.

I made an adaptation of Karen Barker’s Double Chocolate Waffles with Strawberries and White Chocolate Ice Cream. For one thing I do not have a waffle iron here in Florida, nor do I have an ice cream maker. It is characteristic of many of the Barker’s recipes that many separate preparations are required for one final presentation. To simplify, I made a batch of chocolate pancakes instead of waffles and did them ahead of time as you would crepes, and right before serving time all I had to do was crisp them on a cookie sheet in the oven. They are supposed to be crisper than a pancake just off the griddle anyway. Also the recipe makes at least 24 4″ pancakes which is enough for 12 servings so the extras can be frozen or the recipe can be halved. Instead of ice cream, I whipped heavy cream with a little sugar and vanilla and piped onto the plate. I have included the recipe for the Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce, but you could also use a purchased chocolate sauce. The Strawberries were fresh from Plant City, Florida and required only a little sugar to bring out the juices.


For the Pancakes:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 T. unsalted butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 t. vanilla
1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda,salt and sugar into a large bowl.
2.Combine the butter and semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler. Place over low heat until melted. Cool for a few minutes and then add beaten eggs, milk and vanilla and whisk to combine.
3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and combine until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
4. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over moderate heat, add a small amount of oil. When pan is hot drop pancakes in by scant 1/4 cups each and cook until bubbles form. Turn gently and cook on other side a few minutes. Do not crowd pan. I cooked 3 at a time. Remove pancakes when they are done to large platter and continue until all batter is used. Add more oil as needed for each batch. When cool you can place in plastic bags and refrigerate until ready to assemble or place the ones you will need on a cookie sheet and crisp in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

For Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
a few grains of salt
1. In a saucepan, bring the cream to just under a boil
2. Combine the chopped chocolate, sugar and salt in a stainless bowl. While whisking, very gradually pour the hot cream over the chocolate. By the time you whisk in all the cream, the chocolate should be melted and the sugar dissolved. If necessary, you can put the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sauce is smooth.

Whip heavy cream with a little sugar and vanilla until stiff. Put in pastry bag.

Wash and halve strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to sit until juices form

For Assembly:
Place a few strawberries and chocolate sauce on plate. Top with one pancake. Add more strawberries and piped whipped cream. Place second pancake on top. Add more strawberries and whipped cream and drizzle plate with chocolate sauce.

This one is for Rachel – All of her favorite foods. Wish she were here to eat it.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.