Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dinner at Tessa

Went to dinner in response to the following email from Tessa (3929 Battleground Ave, Greensboro, 336-763-1256, tessagreensboro.com): “Stop in and save!!! Join us Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and receive 10% off your meal. Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Offer Expires 03/31/2017.” But when I got home and looked at the bill, no discount had been applied. I called the manager. She replied that you have to ask for the discount, otherwise, “How would we know?” Well, management could have instructed servers to ask, “Are you on our mailing list?” when the check is presented. Or, the email could have told the recipient to clip a coupon or to be sure to mention this message to your server.

Initial impressions were positive. They had a featured farmer as guest, with a handout about his produce. He visited tables- a nice touch. But the rest of the experience was problematic. First, I had difficulty finding anything on the menu that I wanted to order. A Fish Taco appetizer for $15? Chicken Skewers ($11) and Scallop and Pork Belly ($14) also seemed too expensive, the latter not particularly appetizing either, at least not to me. So we skipped a first course.

Entrée Bowls are priced $14-$17 if you include a protein. Burger costs $14. Other entrees $20 and above. I ordered the cheapest menu offering, Chicken and Collard Red Curry. It contained one collard stalk with just a hint of leaf attached. I asked our very pleasant server to have the kitchen add collards, since that was what the menu promised. I received four more stalks with the barest of leaves intact. I ate it all and it tasted good, but not something I would return to get. My wife got a Jerk Pork off menu special- pulled pork in a butternut squash. A lot of food, and more enjoyable. The bill totaled $75, for two entrees and two drinks each, two of which were $5 specials. Just too expensive for a place this casual.

Failing to provide the promised discount added insult to injury, proverbially speaking. The manager offered to provide a voucher for the discount on my next visit, but on my next visit, according to their email, they already owe the discount unless I go on a weekend.

Tessa will probably do just fine, but without my business.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wine Dinner at Mark's

As an economy measure, my wife and I resolved not to attend any wine dinners in 2016. We were just spending too much money, and often as not, the food was not as good as menu orders in the restaurants when they were not serving a large group all at once, the way they have to do in wine dinners. When we saw an announcement for a Stags Leap Winery dinner at Mark's (616 Dolley Madison Rd, Greensboro, NC 27410, (336) 387-0410, marksgreensboro.com), however, we started 2017 by going back to our old bad habits.

First course: crab macaroni and cheese with herb bousin. The mellow flavor of the cheese blended beautifully with the crab, and both primary flavors matched up well with chardonnay- mild oak, just a little edge- a really good rendition of this perennial favorite.

Second course: rack of lamb with port wine demi-glace and roasted root vegetables. This was paired with 2013 Investor, a red blend of Petite Sirah, Merlot, and Cabernet Savignon. My wife and I both thought the assertiveness of the petite sirah made this especially attractive. It was a little bold for some at the table, though.

Third course: Kobe beef tenderloin, wrapped in bacon, plated on a brioche crouton, surrounded by caramelized onions and truffle reduction. The 2013 Napa Cabernet Savignon stood up to the solid depth of beef flavor from the steak. This struck us as a fairly soft cabernet, ready to drink now, that nevertheless exhibited the unique characteristic of the Stags Leap district terroir. Our host called it "minty." I think "eucalyptus" is closer to the taste I get. Really good, no matter how you term it.

Dessert: blackberry-chocolate bread pudding with cinnamon creme anglaise. This came with a pure 2013 Petite Sirah, for which this winery is especially known. The reputation is justified. This was my favorite wine of the evening- first among other first class wines- and my wife agreed.

We ordered all the wines. So much for starting off the new year economically. This is why we don't go to wine dinners. But we have no regrets this time!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Most Enjoyable Meals of 2016

My wife, Dale, and I enjoyed our meals at Salvino more than anywhere else all year. I have always appreciated the menu items from Chef-owner Sal Bruno, especially the seafoods, but whenever he runs a special, somebody at the table ought to order it. Recent examples, probably repeated in 2017: steak, Italian style, topped with melted cheese; pork tenderloin with walnuts and pears in cream sauce; and Veal Cuscinetto- wrapped around a "cushion" of cheese, with a lush sauce of veal stock and cream. Host Debbie Bruno and staff are natually friendly and gracious. I love this place! 2917 Battleground Ave Greensboro, NC 27408 336-540-8663 www.salvino-restaurant.com

Thanksgiving Dinner at Bistro by the Sea

Thanksgiving dinner in Morehead City, at Bistro by the Sea, is becoming sort of a family and friends tradition with us. Chef/proprietor Tim Coyne provides a set menu- fresh turkey, ham, greens, mashed potatoes, and a choice of cornbread or oysters and cornbread dressing. Host Libby Eaton welcomes regulars and friends.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sweet Potatoes

No, not the ones you bake and eat, the name of the restaurant in Winston-Salem (529 North Trade Street, 27101, 336-727-4844). They cook real Southern, all fresh ingredients, the way your grandmother would have cooked if she had been really skilled. Recently had Fried Chicken Livers, Fried Okra, Shrimp and Grits, Baked Chicken. This became a personal favorite when I was reviewing for the Winston-Salem Journal.

25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants by Steven Wells Hicks

This is a book that I wish I could have written. Hicks is intimately familiar with all the restaurants he writes about. Reading his commentaries are a lot like going to dinner with a friend who knows the food, even knows the staff, will probably see friends there. I wish I had read it before my last trip to New Orleans. In a city known for its food, New Orleans has joined most other big cities as hit or miss, at least in my experiences. I've had mediocre meals in some of the most illustrious restaurants. Hicks' book could have saved me some culinary disappointments! Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Competition Dining State Championship

State championship for chefs in Competition Dining will be held in Raleigh at NC State’s Park Alumni Center November 11,12,13 18 & 20. In previous years, tickets have sold out in a few minutes! This year, an e-mail will go out at 3 p.m. on October 7. Go to http://www.competitiondining.com/events/battle-of-champions to register.