First off, I'm getting a little ahead of things, this is a week away, but all you BBQ aficionados please mark your calendar for Carolina 'Cue Wednesdays at Crook's. Inspired by Our State magazine's monthly BBQ explorations and education, I'm taking off from Chapel Hill each week on a road trip-to pick up BBQ from one of our state's tastiest BBQ joints. Next Wednesday, October 30, we're kicking off the Carolina 'Cue Wednesdays Series with The Skylight Inn BBQ from Ayden. Come to Crook's to taste, for the first time or revisit, Sam Jones' family's unmistakably great hand-chopped BBQ-and the Skylight signature sauce. Choose cornbread or buns, our slaw. Bill Smith has great additional sides & desserts to go with (think collards, seasonal veggies, unusual things too like fried beet pies, and banana pudding for after). If you love all sorts of NC Barbecue, mark your Wednesday nights for Crook's. You can think: Gene's doing the driving, so you don't have to. Please call for reservations.
Autumn is on this week with the distinct taste of fermented fall leaves (just kidding!). Seriously, we have oysters up from the Virginia coast, just-picked local Muscadine grapes, Carolina Gold rice, apples, Green Tabasco, and an amazing pairing list of natural wines imported from small vineyards in Italy (more on this later as first we need to talk about Bill Smith's favorite beverage).
Oyster lovers take note: Also on Wednesdays(maybe Thursdays)we have Oysters-on-the-Half Shell from Shooting Point Oyster Company in Virginia. Bill Smith is ordering just one box per week so there is a limited quantity. Bill suggests pairing the 8-to-a-plate, just-shucked oysters he loves- because they are "just pure salt, delicious, as salty as they can be"-with a PBR.
"Fried Oysters are great with a PRB too," says Bill Smith. We serve our lightly fried delicacies with a roasted garlic mayonnaise.
If you know Bill Smith, this beer pairing will not surprise you. When he was guest-chef on tour in Arkansas a really nice hotel in Little Rock, the Capitol Hotel, welcomed him with a gigantic silver punch bowl filled with ice and cans of PBR.
Bill Smith's recipe testing for the Savor the South Crab and Oyster book for UNC Press means we are all involved in the recipe tasting to some extent. We have lots of shellfish on the menu, coming and going, changing every few days. Some of these dishes will stay around, most notably the Shrimp & Crab Calas, a New Orleans fritter made with rice, inspired by Lolis Elie's Treme cookbook we discovered when Lolis visited Crook's last month for a book signing.
On the savory side, Bill Smith suggests, "Two Sauces (Bourbon Brown Sauce & a Mustard-Butter) on the Grilled Denver-Cut Sirloins. "People are loving the Green Tabasco Chicken these first weeks it's back on." said Bill Smith. These smell so good roasting in the kitchen, as do the Country Hams baked with Coca Cola that are only on for Sunday Brunch. We're not serving it for dinner, but little bits of the ham make it's way into the collards, which is why they are so good.
Featured wines and wine pairings this fall are from Jay Murrie of Piedmont Wine Importers. All are handcrafted wines produced without chemicals, on farms with horse-pulled plows, very small-scale producers in Piedmont Italy, who make organic, natural wines, Jay tells us. And everyone is saying how wonderful these wines are and outstanding not just for the pairings but the great price for the exceptional quality.
For example, with the Virginia Bay Scallops (with spinach, Mexican hominy & Sishito peppers), the pairing for the adventurous would be Alla Costiera, Friulano, from Veneto, Italy, a bio-dynamic wine aged longer and bottled unfiltered, softer rounder and downright funkier than most. "If you love wine, this wine doubles the Bay Scallop experience," says Kyle Y. "Also a lighter, brighter of the Piedmont wines that pairs with our shellfish, seafood, and salads is the Visintini, Friulano, from Colli Orientali, Italy."
And for dessert, a word of warning: Persimmon Pudding season is the most fickle in memory. "The weather did not cooperate with wild persimmons. So every batch I get I expect to be the last for the year so call ahead for availability," says Bill Smith. If you are making this at home from Bill Smith or Bill Neal's cookbook, take note it just doesn't work with the imported asian ones you buy in the store. Here's to a drier season next year.
Today Bill Smith had a huge bowl of Muscadines for the sorbet. Golden globes of sweetness.
Though the next old-fashioned layer cake Bill Smith is inspired to make is likely to be Marcelle Bienvenu orange cake and a grated-apple frosting from Moreton Neal. "The more unusual the frosting, the more I love the cake," says Bill Smith. I say Yum!
The garden is going into Fall mode so we're moving in kale, cabbages, snapdragons, heucheras & pansies. Yes, we are "junking it up with pansies" once again. I'm liking the bright colors. Thanks Seth Hand of Handson Landscaping (919-428-6816) for all the great work.
On the walls: Denise Landi's beautiful paintings. Up next is Lori White.
Hope to see you soon, and as always, thank you for your friendship & patronage -