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Dishcrawl Secret Supper in Greensboro was a ‘snout to tail’ affair

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Dishcrawl suppers were too good to stay a secret. Now, Greensboro residents can find out why.

Dishcrawl sponsors special event evenings arranged around food themes. Sometimes, it’s a progressive dinner with an appetizer in one restaurant, an entrée in another and a dessert in a third. Or it’s a series of dishes in one location.

On Dec. 15, Sarah Keith of Josephine’s (2417 Spring Garden St.; 285-6590, www.facebook.com/JosephinesBistro, ) hosted Dishcrawl’s first Secret Supper in Greensboro, featuring multiple courses derived from a whole Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Hog, augmented by other North Carolina ingredients.

Chef Chris Blackburn, a GTCC culinary program graduate, prepared dishes from “nose to tail.” It was one of the most sophisticated, creative and overall best meals I have ever had in North Carolina.

While mingling before dinner, the crowd sampled drink creations from award-winning mixologist Mark Weddle, who created concoctions based on Covington Sweet Potato Vodka (http://covington

vodka.com), one of the co-sponsors. The North Carolina product is distilled from sweet potatoes; it has some light caramel-like flavor of its own.

Tables were set in advance with portions of pork skin and roasted black eye peas — crunchy-crisp, a down-home memory for those of us who have shared food experiences in eastern North Carolina.

Shortly after seating, servers delivered an amuse bouche of Chili Braised Tongue and Guilford College Radish sprinkled with tarragon vinegar, hosted on butter crunch lettuce decorated with micro greens. We rolled the lettuce around the main ingredient and picked it up with our fingers. My wife commented that if she had seen this on a menu or known in advance what she was eating, she would have passed it over.

But we were all delighted with a texture and flavor somewhat akin to a very tender pork roast, not fatty at all.

Surprise and delight as we encountered unfamiliar ingredients characterized the evening. There’s more to a pig than pork chops.

A pâté and charcuterie plate followed — one smooth pâté of pork liver and a coarse-textured country pâté prepared from offal (organ meats), primarily the heart and hind shank (aka “Appalachian oysters”), with cranberries and cinnamon. Imagine a really sophisticated sausage, delicately flavored. A terrine layered with ear meat was held together by gelatin, a byproduct of pressure cooking the ears in red wine with parsley, rosemary, anise and allspice. The ears generated a fairly firm texture. Condiments included pistachio maple butter, pearl onions soaked in sweet balsamic vinegar and violet honey mustard.

We encountered molecular cuisine in the next course — the first time I have seen such preparations in the Triad.

Cilantro Pearls (lime and cilantro water with algin added to a calcic bath, which gels the exterior) surrounded pulled lean trotter (pig feet) meat, mung bean sprouts and rice noodles, decorated with pho-kaffir lime leaf and Thai basil foam. Anise-flavored pork stock was served in a small pitcher. Pouring the hot stock into the bowl created a lush soup with multiple layers of texture and flavor.

A pork Bordelaise sauce enhanced Tea Smoked Loin and Belly. Pork belly is essentially thick bacon, with concomitant flavor. Loin, of course, is a conventional meat with which we are all familiar. Currant jam, simmered with Covington vodka, lent a slightly sweet dimension to the meats. Micro mizuna greens (peppery, similar to arugula in flavor), baby beets and pearl onions completed the conception.

A little “intermezzo” palate refresher of Cheerwine granita (a lightly frozen ice, a specialized sorbet) was accented with preserved lemon and thyme.

Heading into the home stretch, we received small Cuban sandwiches made with pork cheek confit. I expected a fatty effect from the cheeks but found just rich flavor emerging from tender meat.

Smoked fingerling potato wedges with beer and cheddar soup were the sides. The soup was thick and rich; I used it as a dipping sauce for the sandwich as well as a soup.

The finale was pappardelle pasta with tender meat pulled from the legs and tail. This complex assembly also included Massey Creek duck egg, melted foie gras torchon (a lengthy poaching process) flavored with Cognac and thyme, plus English peas and black winter truffles.

The truffles constituted a celebrity ingredient. Jane Morgan Smith (www.trufflesnc.com) is the only domestic producer of all-natural authentic black truffle products in the U.S. She produces all-natural truffle products in the Sauratown Mountains and markets them to customers around the world.

When Dishcrawl hostess Kristi Maier introduced her to the audience, I felt honored to meet her. (You can order truffles from her website.)

Dessert combined chocolate with cooked blood, black pepper and allspice to create a variation on Panna Cotta, enhanced with Bing cherries, a tuile (cookie) on the side, a dollop of Creme Anglaise center stage. The blood darkens the appearance and flavor, but you don’t actually get a blood taste from it. If you did not know what had been used, you would just praise the depth of chocolate flavor.

Cooking and serving the whole pig took courage as well as knowledge and skill. The outcome was well worth the risk of the adventure.

The base price for the dinner was $69. For an additional $30, guests received wine pairings with each dish, selected by Laurie Cole of Tryon Distributing and Meris Nye of Mutual Distributing.

To be candid: I have attended other events where I thought the wine selections were weak. But not this time. They chose quality wines well matched with each course.

Pate Dawson Southern Foods (http://pdco.com) was a co-sponsor. I was pleased to learn that Southern Foods is offering custom-cut, small-portion meats, not just wholesale and large deliveries.

The next Dishcrawl event is scheduled Jan. 22 in the Lindley Park neighborhood.

I look forward to attending future Dishcrawls.

Contact John Batchelor at john.e.batchelor@gmail.com.

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