Crook's signCrook's Corner  


September & October, 2014

~Fresh-Shelled Butterbean Succotash & Warm Persimmon Pudding~

Hello Friends -


As gusts of cool breeze begin to chill the pig on the roof, the Crook's garden is going a tinge towards fall, and there's suddenly a lot of people enjoying nights out on the Patio. I like these transitional times when one season blends into the next. We still have with us the Summertime: fresh corn, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, fresh-shelled lima beans. And Fall is beginning to show up on the Menu with some surprise-early Persimmons, here and there. 


With the bounty coming in through the kitchen door, Bill Smith has been making some delicious & hearty soups: Cream of Fresh Corn Soup (sometimes w/ chestnuts) and also a Chicken and Lima Bean Creole Soup (sometimes w/ sausage).


As Sylvester the cat says, we are "Sufferin' Succotash" too but in a very good way. We are serving a reinterpretation of much of the traditional hot side dish, Succotash, but in a crisp, cold plate: Fresh Succotash Salad. Fresh-shelled butter beans, fresh corn cut from the cob, slices of juicy homegrown tomatoes, aromatic herbs and a lemon vinaigrette. This app, I think, is good to order and share as it complements a lot of the savory entrees, like the Pan-Seared Tuna and the Pork Shank.

Braised Pork Shank (falling off the bone) with Mississippi-style fried corn is being perfected, tinkered with nightly, to get ready for the Southern Foodways Alliance kick-off dinner in Oxford, MS, which Bill Smith is really honored to have been asked to chef.


It's for 300 people (served almost all at once) and so that's going to be an adventure
for everyone. Bill is taking Hector Gonzales and Israel Martinez from our kitchen and Crook's alumn John Currence who established City Grocery and so many other restaurants in Faulkner's hometown, has people to help. Bill's sisters, Debbi Edwards and Julie Mitchell are going too. So Bill has a cornucopia of great help. Author Randall Kenan, who many of you know is a large-hearted, brilliant writer, has been asked by John T. Edge to give a talk about Crook's at the SFA meeting. Randall is from Eastern NC, like Bill Smith, and has been doing some research, talking with me and others, and last week hung out in the kitchen, watching Bill in action in the cookroom. We hope to get a video or transcript of his talk and share it.


Also on the cool-weather savory side we have our classics: Grilled Steaks w/ Wine Merchant Butter, Pan-Fried Cajun Chicken Livers w/ onions and as always, Shrimp & Grits. Sides now are grilled fresh corn-on-the-cob and grilled fresh okra.

From the coast: We have Onslow Bay Scallops with Mexican Hominy, locally grown Shishito peppers (locally grown by Bracken Brae Farms), and spinach. Also Pan-Seared Tuna with our traditional presentation of lemon juice, capers & browned butter. 

Good news on the dessert front: Early Persimmons, here & there, means we have
Persimmon Pudding, warm with fresh whipped cream. And of course the Atlantic Beach Pie which Southern Living called the Pie of the Summer. And Genius 52 Recipes put on their favorite Labor Day Weekend desserts and Instagram promotion. This pie just keeps on going.

Thanks to Katherine's Garden, Bracken Brae, Tracy Cooper, family of Mrs. Mary Andrews, Walter Atwater, Adrian Thorn, Billy Mason of Deep Chatham Gardens and our own Betsey Elliott for the bounty you brought to our kitchen door this season.

Heads up Bourbon fans, on Friday, October 10, Bill Smith (whose favorite Bourbon is Pappy Van Winkle) joins Gary Crunkleton of The Crunkleton Bar, Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer (also the author of Savor the South: Bourbon), Asheville chef William Disson and Local Palate Magazine's Maggie White for a "class" during the kick-off day at Terra Vita (Chapel Hill's Food & Drink Festival). The class is at 1:15 at Topo Distillery, just across the street from Crook's. The menu includes Frozen Mint Juleps, Chicken Liver Terrine (of course flavored w/ Bourbon), Cast-Iron Vegetables, Apple Bourbon Skillet Cake (the one we are serving at Crook's now) and more... If you want tickets, sign up here.


Q Wednesday: Pig Whistle of Chapel Hill is scheduled for 10/01. Check the schedule on our website,, for future Wednesday Q's.

Bar Notes: Along with the slight chill in the air this week comes a shift in the wine offerings at Crook's.  New to the wines-by-the-glass menu is the Domaine Galévan  Paroles de Femme Côtes du Rhône.  "It's a lovely fall wine laced with flavors of chocolate, figs, plums & a mild hint of pink pepper," says manager Kyle Y. "Also from the same winemaker we have an excellent Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but available by-the-bottle only."  Santé!

On the Walls: through September: a ceramic fantastical menagerie of birds, rabbits, moths, owls, foxes and imaginary animals coupled with botanical themes by Cathy Kiffney juxtaposes and is complementary with her husband Mark Brown's paintings of open books. Next up is Tola Oguntoyinbo.

Eleven books were just announced to the Longlist of Best Debut Novels set in the South. I'll try to write about each of these books like I did last year. We'll be posting details on each book on the Book Prize Facebook Page while we promote this good reading from now through the holidays. So please like the page if you want to follow what's going on:

The Resurrectionist, by Matthew Guinn

Remember Me Like This, by Bret Anthony Johnston

I Shall Be Near To You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Heart of Palm, by Laura Lee Smith

In the Garden of Stone, by Susan Tekulve

Saint Monkey, by Jacinda Townsend

The Ways of the Dead, by Neely Tucker

Mother of Rain, by Karen Spears Zacharias

Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile

Byrd, by Kim Church

Flying Shoes, by Lisa Howorth

This is a interesting list to read too: Southern Living's 100 Best Restaurants in the South. They honored us by including Crook's. Here's their roundup of the magazine's favorite 100 places to eat (from Washington, DC to Texas.)

Check our website for our complete Menus;


Hope to see you soon, and as always, thank you for your friendship & patronage -

Gene Hamer



As always, our menu is posted daily at:
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610 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC

 Open Tuesday - Sunday at 5:30pm
Sunday Brunch from 10:30am until 2:00pm
Patio is covered, heated, & enjoyable on mild Winter nights











As always, our menu is posted daily at:
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

610 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC

  (919) 929-7643
 Open Tuesday - Sunday at 5:30pm
Sunday Brunch from 10:30am until 2:00pm
Patio is covered, heated, & enjoyable on mild Winter nights










Contact Information
phone: 919-929-7643