North Carolina Puts Fall Colors on the Menu
North Carolina’s famed fall colors occur on more than just trees. Just ask some of the state’s top chefs.
The fall season presents so many colorful possibilities for chefs to do their magic in restaurant kitchens. Seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs, fresh meats and seafood, and even beverages are all part of a chef’s colorful palate come fall. Here’s a taste of what might be found on North Carolina restaurant menus.
Up in Asheville, vegetarians and vegans will love the various - and colorful - 100 percent veggie options like: Laughing Seed Café (look for the truly unique “Raw Spinach-Pesto Manicotti”); Rosetta’s Kitchen (“The Mountain” features locally made tempeh); the unique VegHeads Vegetarian Drivethru (ask about their colorful soups); and the new plant, recently opened by long-time Laughing Seed chef, Jason Sellers (look for his “jerk,” which is charbroiled seitan with smashed sweet potatoes, braised collards, serrano crudo, and plantain).
Though they also have some seriously tasty and picture-perfect vegetarian options (like the “Vegan Bean Burger”), those who like some meat with their veggie will want to head to Early Girl Eatery for chef John Stehling’s tasty “Meat & Two” offerings - creative and colorful meat- and fish-driven dishes served with two sides and a biscuit. Having just won the “Beer City USA” title for the third straight year, Asheville is also known as “Brewtopia.” Many breweries create fall seasonals (look for Clawhammer Oktoberfest from Highland Brewing, among many), with the Downtown Asheville Oktoberfest and Asheville Brews Cruise creating convenient ways to taste them and many more. For dessert, it’s hard to beat Asheville’s French Broad Chocolates, where they feature always-creative and often-colorful chocolate truffles and more!
Old Edwards Inn
To the northeast of Asheville, Blowing Rock is another mountain town with a thriving restaurant scene. Crippen’s Inn & Restaurant has been at the forefront for many years, thanks to seasonally driven dishes from chef Stan Chamberlain like “Cornmeal-Dusted North Carolina Trout” (served with creamed cauliflower, collard greens and creamy red eye gravy) and “Apple-Braised NC Rabbit Pot Pie” (paired with parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and baby carrots). Those who want to spend the night will find varied accommodations options just upstairs or in a private cottage at this true North Carolina dining destination.
Many bustling wineries feature their own restaurants. For instance, fall visitors to Biltmore will want to look for the “Short Rib “Pot Roast’ with Parsnip Potato Puree, Fall Vegetables, Crispy Onion Rings and Coffee BBQ” from chef Michael Gonzales at Bistro.
Famed Charlotte chef Jim Noble is well-known for coloring outside the lines when it comes to creative and colorful cooking. This fall at The King’s Kitchen, Noble is using fresh North Carolina grouper for his “NC Seared Grouper with Housemade Lemon & Thyme Ricotta” - plus a pretty sweet potato and beet hash. Over at Noble’s Rooster’s Wood Fired Kitchen, executive chef and managing partner Joe Kindred is plating a colorful fall salad that includes roasted Fisher Farms kabocha squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, pickled red onions, housemade lemon ricotta, Ritter Farms honey, and hard cider vinaigrette.
Over in Winston-Salem, how could a restaurant with a name like Sweet Potatoes not feature colorful sweet potatoes and more on their menu? Just out with a new cookbook called well, shut my mouth, Stephanie Tyson and Vivián Joiner oblige with dishes like the “Build Your Own Sweet Potato” (with a ton of interesting toppings from which to choose) and - of course - sweet potato pie, cheesecake, or bread pudding for dessert. Winston-Salem’s Tate’s Craft Cocktails is also putting fall colors and tastes in the glass with their new fall menu featuring the likes of “Harvest Moon” (a rye whiskey concoction full of fruity fall flavor) and “The Cider Route” (muddled cranberries and much more). For the morning after, breakfast at Mary’s, Of Course! Café currently includes lots of fall touches - like pumpkin or sweet potato biscuits and the use of fresh pumpkin or sweet potato in their famed “New Mexican Brunch” specials.
Jay Pierce at Lucky 32 in Greensboro and Cary loves using tasty Anna Mae Southern Bread Co. rolls - which are produced in Greensboro and are also available widely throughout the state and nation in the frozen section. You have to go to the restaurant, though, to fall for Jay’s “Madison Sliders,” featuring local turkey and housemade cranberry chutney on Anna Mae’s Sweet Potato & Molasses Rolls.
Downtown Raleigh features an array of restaurants and chefs using local ingredients. For instance, chef Chad McIntyre at Market Restaurant loves getting creative with blue fish (which he calls an underappreciated North Carolina selection); making “Sweet Potato Chip Nachos” with blue cheese sauce and corn chowchow; and creating seasonal dishes like “Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Smoked Tomato-Sage Cream Sauce” and local “Slow Roasted Goat over Spaghetti Squash with Rustic Tomato Sauce.” He also supports his serious canning habit to extend North Carolina’s seasons. For dessert, his wife Emily is a wand-wielding pastry chef whose individual pumpkin cheesecakes with homemade graham cracker crusts and honey drizzle quite simply taste like fall.
Serious foodies will enjoy seasonal dishes at Market Restaurant, Lucky 32, Sweet Potatoes, and many other gourmet hotspots on Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. They run tasty tours every Saturday year-round in Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, as well as offerings in Durham, Chapel Hill/Carrboro and Hillsborough.
Famed for barbecue and world-class wines, Lexington is home to Childress Vineyards, where winemaker Mark Friszolowski’s varied wines pair perfectly with lunchtime fare in The Bistro. This fall, executive chef David Thomas created a colorful menu that includes acorn squash soup, roasted maple pork loin with sweet potato streusel, and his family recipe pecan pie.
Over in Chapel Hill, Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at The Carolina Inn features Executive Chef Jimmy Reale’s Mediterranean- and Italian-influenced fare - with a serious southern accent on his famed season-driven menus. Chef Reale uses an incredible number of North Carolina purveyors in any season, but he really shines in fall with the likes of North Carolina shrimp, oysters and fish; delectable pork, beef and much more from Cane Creek Farm; certified biodynamic and organic Whitted Bowers Farm produce; tasty cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery and Hillsborough Cheese Company; and mushrooms and more from…Myers Mushrooms and More, of course. These producers and others are specifically highlighted on the menu, with colorful dishes like “Braised Cane Creek Farm Pork Belly, Field Pea Salad, Fried Okra, Apple Butter” or his “Grilled Sweet Tea Brined NC Chicken,” colorfully plated with boursin creamed spinach, butternut squash, oyster mushrooms, roasted red potatoes and lavender butter.
Chapel Hill’s A Southern Season is famed for selling ingredients that add color to any home cook’s plates but the North Carolina culinary Mecca is also famed for colorful menu items at Weathervane, the popular three-meals-a-day restaurant. For breakfast, it’s hard to beat “The Cackalacky,” a newly added menu item that features fried green tomatoes with cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, country ham, and Cackalacky™, a very popular zesty North Carolina born and bred sauce that’s found on menus and in stores throughout the state.
Muscadine grape and wine lovers will want to head to The Bistro at Duplin Winery, where fresh, local and seasonal soups, sandwiches and more work well with their varied wine list. This trio of bistros in North Carolina wine country provides just a taste of possibilities at winery restaurants.
Down in Wilmington at catch (two locations), Bravo’s “Top Chef: Texas” contestant Keith Rhodes works with local seafood and more to create fresh and colorful lunch and dinner dishes such as the “NC Sweet Potato Salad” and his popular “NC Shrimp Grits Remix” (using local shrimp, mushroom, chorizo and more). Of course, there’s more to catch - the restaurant - than fish, thanks to dishes like mouthwatering “Lexington BBQ Baby Back Ribs” and much more. Keith’s downtown location is on one of the tasty food and cocktail Wilmington walking tours in the Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro lineup.
Continuing up the coast, Morehead City’s popular Bistro by the Sea features creative fresh seafood that’s often from fishermen participating in the Carteret Catch local seafood movement. Chef Tim Coyne’s “Atlantic Blue Crab Bisque” is worth the trip alone on a brisk fall evening.
Last but not least and among many more colorful options being plated this fall throughout North Carolina, The Left Bank at The Sanderling features the contemporary fare of chef Travis Lee Robinson. The Left Bank’s mission is to creatively serve the bounty of local farmers and fishermen, with an emphasis on sustainable, organic, artisanal, and local. Look for Robinson’s tasty “Brown Butter Poached Local Flounder,” which may also include “62 Degree Local Fresh Farm Egg” (a creative low-and-slow way to cook fresh eggs).
By Lynn & Cele Seldon
added: October 5, 2011
updated: October 17, 2011
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