February, 2018

Hello Friends,
February is short but it has 3 important events; Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day and Louis St. Lewis's annual art show already up on our walls, transporting the Chapel Hill dining room into a New Orleans state of mind.. 
Maybe you noticed, too, this trending-thing suggesting winter is a good time to cultivate what the Danish call Hygge ("hoo-ga") and the Scottish call Cossagach, which translates to the feeling of being snug, sheltered, or cozy. Comfort food sure does this for everyone; making one happy as a pig in mud and Crook's can give this to you in the form of a delicious cocktail and/or a casual, tasty supper this time of year.

So here are 8 things to help us get Hygge, Cossagach or Southern Comfort. 

1/ OrderBill Smith's Fried Oysters for yourself or to share. Squeeze on some lemon or hot sauce or go full-into the luscious garlic mayonnaise.

2/ Let us make you a Chapel Hill or Frozen Mint Julep. 

3 Have a plate of our signature Shrimp & Grits.

4/ Let the Madeira Sauce cover your first bite of CheesePork!, the Southern Schnitzel made with a pork cutlet dredged in Swiss cheese and pan fried - only served at Crook's. 

5/ Savor the Bourbon Brown Sauce covering your first bite of steak and fries, knowing that many satisfying bites are to follow. 

6/ Hang out at the bar for good conversation, satisfying beverages and delicious food. It's also a good place to watch the game. 

7/ Say yes to dessert: Mt. Airy Chocolate Souffle Cake, with freshly whipped cream. Or warm Persimmon Pudding. Soon to arrive is Bill Smith's favorite Banana's Foster and Whiskey Milk Punch Ice Cream. 

8/ Linger a while and enjoy a Hot Chocolate or Espresso with a side car of whatever you like; a nice bourbon always goes well with both.

Housekeeping note: We are still taking reservations by phone, and always will, but have added an on-line option linked to the front of our website. If there are no OpenTable reservations available, please do call us, as we do save space for walk-ins and often have last-minute cancellations as well. If you're seeking Valentine's Day ressies, call or click quick, they're filling up fast! www.crookscorner.com

So you know, what's on for Valentine's is, by tradition, and by customer request, our full, Crook's Corner menu. Though we do dress-up the desserts with extra cream and candies. 

MARDI GRAS MENU begins February 13. This Louisiana  menu is Bill Smith's and many of you all's favorite. On this exciting menu is both Red Gumbo and Gumbo Z-Herbs. That means, for the red, Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp and okra. For the green, it means, seven greens/ herbs for good luck and pork and is inspired by Bill Smith's friend the late revered chef Leah Chase of New Orleans. Bill Smith also has Lolis Elie's recipe (Lolis from Treme's) Shrimp Callas. And the Chicken Livers get a special spice-Crook's Cajun Salt. For dessert, we will have Whiskey Milk Punch Ice Cream and possibly, Bill Smith is pondering, Banana's Foster, which is great because when the fire-whiskey-banana-sugary mix hits the pan - it makes the restaurant smell so good. And for all you super adventurous eaters, the ones who showed up for Guts and Glory Week, Bill Smith has what he thinks is his best dish, Ray's Best'O Best Turtle Soup, which we learned was once presidential fare, Jack Hitt told us in Saveur Magazine. I'll post that article on Facebook. Here's the photo, too, that they made with Bill Smith's recipe: 

Thursday, February 22 is the Orange Literacy benefit. Check out their website for this cool event hosted by Randall Kenan, with lots of food writers, including Bill Smith, Andrea Reusing, Kim Sunee, and Jessica Harris. The event is cocktails and a talk from 6-8 p.m. You should go and have dinner with us afterwards. 
Hope to see you soon and thank you for your friendship and patronage,

January, 2018

Hello Friends,
Happy New Year! Of course, the cold makes us all very hungry for comfort food. So I'll start with what's on the menu now and then share word of special events in January, including the return of "Scottish Burns Night" also known as "Guts-and-Glory Week."
 Many of you seem to have seen Bill Smith on "A Chef's Life" this winter. He's taped three shows now, and in January, we've got all the dishes he's made (so far) with his friend Vivian Howard. "A Chef's Life" has kindly featured Bill's Jerusalem Artichoke Relish, Craven County-Style Corned Ham, and Warm Persimmon Pudding. 
Our Top 8 Choices For January, 2018: 
#1 The Luck Plate- Hoppin' John (black-eyed peas on rice),  rich, deep green Collards and Black Pepper Cornbread. We keep this New Year's Day traditional dish on the menu-all year. 
#2 Southern Steak Frites- This means grilled Hanger Steaks  with long-simmering Bourbon Brown Sauce and topped w/ Jerusalem Artichoke Relish. All served with awesome French fries. This is the relish Bill Smith showed Vivian Howard how to make on her show. This is the first batch of relish made this season, hitting the menu now.
# 3 Craven County-Style Corned Hams- This spectacular dish appears on the menu on Saturdays. Bill Smith starts preparing the hams almost two weeks ahead. This fallin-off-the-bone goodness is served with mashed potatoes. (Please call ahead if you're coming on Saturday, as he only makes one a week.)
# 4 Fried Oysters- Plump and delicious, served with a garlic mayonnaise. 'Nuff said.
  # 5 Cheese Pork!- Our Southern Schnitzel is glazed with a savory Madeira sauce and served with buttery mashed rutabagas and sautéed leeks & cabbage. It's inspired by German comfort food and seasoned by Bill's life in the South.
# 6 Winter Salads- Roasted Beet Salad w/ a mustard vinaigrette is a great stater or share plate; Brussels Sprouts and Blue Cheese Salad with red onion and toasted walnuts, good for a hearty start; and, as always, we have our traditional Caesar and a simple Mixed Greens Salad. 
#7 Homemade Pasta- Hand-cut fettuccine with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers. 
#8 Desserts-Warm Persimmon Pudding is still with us since Bill Smith saved a lot of the native persimmon fruit this fall. Says, Bill Smith, "Persimmons freeze well and this is the first year I've tried freezing a lot of them, because people kept bringing them by." Served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, the nutmeg-ginger-cinnamon-spiced pudding is incredible. I'd say order one of these and a Mt. Airy Chocolate Soufflé and share them!
SPECIAL EVENT NEWS: Good news for all you innards lovers: "Guts and Glory" Week a.k.a. Scottish Poet Robert Burns Week. Burns Night, a Scottish tradition is on January 25 and although the celebration involves a bonfire there, Bill Smith's version adds festive and gutsy foods to the menu all week without the pyrotechnics...to comply with the fire code, of course. At Crook's, Burns week starts Tuesday, January 23 and runs through the weekend. This means: Sweetbreads, Livers and Scotch cocktails start appearing on the menu, along with a few other surprises.
BARBECUE NEWS: Remember, Wednesday nights we have guest barbecue. On 'Cue Wednesdays road-trip worthy guest barbecue joins the full menu. We post the 'cue destination on Facebook, or you can call us at 919-929-7643. Today, I'm driving to Little Richards in Winston-Salem. 
BOOK PRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT: Behind the bar, we have a copy of the new winner of the Crook's Corner Book Prize. Announced this past Monday night, January 8: Stephen O'Connor's debut novel, Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings is the winner of the 5th Crook's Corner Book Prize, a yearly tradition modeled after the café prizes in Paris. Congratulations, Stephen O'Conner and thank you for coming to town for the party. We were glad to also see last year's winner Matthew Griffin, author of Hide, visiting from New Orleans for the announcement party. 

UNC MFA ART: This month on the walls we have something new, an eclectically curated exhibit by students of University of North Carolina MFA Art program.  Check out these burgeoning new talents.
We hope to see you all soon!

Thank you for your friendship and patronage,
Gene Hamer