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,