Chapel Hill, North Carolina, might have the most amazing fall color any of us can remember. And in the midst of November we are planning a Christmas Sweater party to celebrate the airing of Chef Bill Smith's appearance with Vivian Howard on A Chef's Life's Holiday Show. (Details for the December 15 soiree later in the letter.)
What's on right now?
Bill Smith is wild for a dish reminiscent of weekly "Pastry" or "Dumpling" nights at country restaurants:
Hen & Pastry. How this came about, says Bill Smith, is that "Cliff has all these things he calls Stewing Hens, and I found how tender they become. My Aunt Hi use to make this on Sundays. And so we're making this with diamond-cut noodles the kitchen loves to make w/ bits of chicken fat instead of butter. Updated some with lots of fresh thyme. We sold out of Hen & Pastry even the first night it was on."
Word got out on Facebook about Cheese Pork. We served the season's first order of Cheese Pork, a.k.a. I Heart Cheesepork, a.k.a too the Southern Schnitzel, November 7, 2014. Madeira Sauce started bubbling on the stove and pork cutlets were pounded, breaded, cheesed and pan-fried.
Another comfort food on now is Bill Smith's delicious Southern Risotto (Anson Mills Rice-made) with Woodfruit Mushrooms. I was scouting around online for images of Woodfruit's mushrooms to post here, when I found this great story on Woodfruit Mushrooms on a website called Southern Terrior. These articles are really good, if not better, than you'll find most anywhere. Check them out, starting with the article on all the mushrooms grown by Woodfruit.
Following the dinner the Crook's Corner team delivered (with the help hands of many SFA friends) to the 400 or more in Oxford, MS, for the
Southern Foodways Alliance Dinner, we have on the menu now a few of those Nuevo North Carolina Dishes when possible, right now it's Tamales (w/Country Ham) as well as Orange & Red Hot Sorbet.
Fish lovers, take note: "The Blues are (still) Running." Translation: Pan-seared NC Bluefish is on, served with generous amounts of bright and tart Green Tomato Relish. "It use to be no one would eat Bluefish, now it seems a lot of people most definitely do," says Bill Smith. "Bluefish comes with a grounding Slice of Grits and it also tastes great with a side of the Shelled Butterbean Salad."
Desserts: Persimmon Pudding is going to be around for another few weeks. "Remember last year we had none, too much rain, but this year we have more than I've ever seen in my life," said Bill Smith. "Plants do that they compensate-good year, to make up for a bad year."
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.
Bar Notes: Take off the chill with the autumn-spiced seasonal favorite, the Privateer. The cocktail is El Dorado dark rum, Pimm's no. 1 and a housemade masala-spice syrup. Manager Kyle tried his hand at concocting the yearly batch of masala-spiced chai syrup for the drink, originated by Shannon. "It's a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, all spice, ginger...and a few other secret spices. A true taste of fall. I think this year's stash is pretty tasty", says Kyle.
Christmas Sweater Party featuring Vivian Howard and Bill Smith. To celebrate Chef Bill Smith's appearance on A Chef's Life Special Holiday Show Tuesday the 16th, we are hosting a preview the night before. DAY: Monday the 15th of December. TIME: 6:30. TICKETS ARE $60. This is a fundraiser for the Foodbank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. At Vivian's suggestion-and all of us here are really into this too-the suggested attire: Christmas sweaters.Prizes will be awarded! Join us for food & drink & sweaters.
Crook's is a cozy space, so we have a limited tickets available for purchases online here! Tickets are available ONLY online.
Q Wednesday: Snook's of Advance is scheduled for 12/03. Check the schedule on our website, crookscorner.com, for future Wednesday Q's.
On the Walls: Paul Hrusovsky's colorful abstracts will deck the halls through the month. All proceeds from "you determine the price" will go to the IFC food bank. A great way to give and receive.
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; http://www.crookscorner.com
Hope to see you soon, and as always, thank you for your friendship & patronage -