Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dock St. Oyster Bar: Wilmington, NC

Someone headed to Wilmington, NC for a day, weekend, or few days of fun might be looking for something like this:
...the perfect place to kill a couple of hours in the evening eating steamed shellfish (crab, oysters, shrimp, mussels, etc.) and drinking beer. Seafood must be fresh and beer must be cold (microbrews are a plus). I tend to enjoy dives over fancy joints, but as long as the food is good, I'm happy. A place by the water/beach would also be a bonus, but again, not a requirement...
Dock St. Oyster Bar definitely fits this bill.

Located a few hundred yards from the dock on the intracoastal waterway, this restaurant serves up incredibly fresh fish, steamed oysters and mussels. The best part: the beer. They have my #1 favorite, Yuengling. And any establishment that carries Yuengling is on the top of my list. It's the same as marking which restaurants serve Pepsi or Coke.

My first time here was about 5 years ago. I was a soon-to-be senior in college, enjoying my last summer of freedom before adulthood was to set in. A giggly group of my closest friends drove down to the coast to catch fireworks and tanned men with no shirts on.

The fireworks were beautiful and so were the men. We danced, laughed, caroused on the beach, our eyes open to the world and the possibilities that lay ahead of us.

But before I get too wistful here, we ate great food.

For restaurant menu, click here.

Crabcake sandwich with roasted potatoes and a remoulade sauce

So you know what to look for when you're walking down the street...

A mural on one of the walls. Click to see larger image.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brasserie Perrier: Philadelphia, PA

UPDATE: As Of Jan 2009, The Brasserie Perrier is CLOSED. A casualty of the economic breakdown of America. Oh well...more good eats will be found in Philly. And many have yet to be discovered.

Brasserie Perrier 1619 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere where great French classics are prepared alongside surprising favorites.

In the city of brotherly love, this restaurant deserves every bit of love that I am able to bestow upon it. Brasserie Perrier serves up Asian and Italian inspired French food for the well-heeled masses of Philadelphia. Here is where Georges Perrier decided to let his hair down and let us get comfortable with French cuisine. Le Bec-Fin, the Brasserie’s older brother and Perrier’s first brainchild, sits a mere block away tucked as not to seem to be looking over little brother’s shoulder.

There is a new menu now with emphasis on the brasserie. It’s less café and more of a bistro with printed menus. The prix fixe menu is still making leaps and bounds into diners’ hearts. If the BP burger, ground prime sirloin, shredded beef short ribs, seared foie gras, black truffle cheese, pomme frites (more than a mouthful, dare I say) for $29 seems like a stretch, it is. Most other menu items aren’t nearly as elaborate or come with much fanfare.

My favorite dining partner and I skipped lunch and went straight for the old-fashioned Sunday dinner to see if dinner was as much fun as lunch. We started with the charcuterie platter. Man cannot live by bread alone, but the bread, alone, was the best part of the platter: Boucheron, country pate with sherry-soaked pistachios, proscuitto, and all the usual suspects of accompaniments. But the bread: crusty, buttery French bread slices…

I had boeuf bourguignon with gnocci, he the Appellenzer, proscuitto, and pesto stuffed chicken breast. My gnocci were dense nuggets more akin to floured dumplings than ethereal potato pasta. The beef melted away into the stew’s gravy. Sadly, no mushrooms or pearl onions were seen or tasted. The glorified chicken cordon bleu, did deserve a blue ribbon. The skin was crispy and the meat, oh-so juicy; the pan sauce surrounding the breast was full of round meaty flavors accented with crisp lemon and a perfunctory rosemary sprig. Disappointed was I, that the boeuf’s pork belly was not crispy or delightfully tender and juicy. This was the daily special and I assumed it would have been the best item on the menu. Delighted to find that my partner really dug his chicken, I overlooked the pork belly faux pas. One hundred percent spot on, however, were the sides. Lobster macaroni gratin. My favorite. Nodules of lobster nestled in a pot of macaroni made my heart melt. Molten pieces of buttery, creamy sea fare. The haricot verts, jumbo asparagus, and garlic spinach seemed to have been picked right before service and were very delicious.

I’m not a dessert fan, but I will indulge to “settle” my food. The dining partner and I shared the chocolate caramel crème brulee. I prefer my crème infused with vanilla but it was ok as far as brulees go. It tasted of burnt chocolate pudding with paltry berries laid on top. I should have tried the trio of ice creams or sorbets but this diner is cautious of allergens, and frozen confections are usually full of them.

The service was the subtle highlight of the meal. My water glass was refilled without me having to think about it. Our plates came at the same time, were taken away at just the right moment. Every time I stepped away from the table I came back to a folded napkin at my place setting. Our waiter was knowledgeable, attentive, and unseen unless we needed him. Then he appeared out of thin air to answer our silent beck and call.

Brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles should all know the joy that is the Brasserie Perrier.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ganache Invitation

Sent to my email today:
Please. Please stop trying so hard. If you want to go, dear reader, by all means...go.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Printworks Bistro: Greensboro, NC

It takes 30 minutes or less to get most anywhere in the Piedmont Triad via I-40 or I-85. Many residents of Winston-Salem and Greensboro don’t travel to the other climes unless something spectacular, historical, or truly wonderful is at stake. Printworks Bistro at Proximity Hotel is definitely worth the trip.

This restaurant is part of the Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotel family which also runs Green Valley Grill, Lucky 32, and O. Henry Hotel. The restaurant is part of the sustainable movement, using fresh local ingredients, reusable energy from solar panels on the hotel’s roof which heats the water, provides light, and efficiently runs the entire property. The name Printworks is from a mill that was run in downtown Greensboro until 1912. A throwback to this time period, the menu offers bistro-friendly food prepared simply with wholesome ingredients. Traditional and modern versions of classics pepper the menu.

As per usual, this diner and her favorite dining companions attacked the menu, dissecting each course. A bread basket wrapped with a napkin closed with a clothespin and fridge-cold butter arrived at the table. We started with an amuse bouche of a cheese gougère, assorted crackers and spreadable cheese. A smoked salmon mousse upon another gougère arrived at our table during another visit. Restaurants don’t dole out amuses like they once did. It is a good measure of a chef who wants to whet your appetite before you open the menu.

The appetizer list is a bit short, only offering few hot items and a sample of hearty salads. Everyone’s favorite was a toss-up between the salad frisee ($8) and the roasted beet ($7) The salads were served on chilled plates, with fresh, crunchy, seasonal vegetables. The best of hot list include mussels ($10), steamed nicely with fresh crusty bread with which to dip in the sauce, flatbreads, and the lobster gratin ($11). I am a sucker for lobster and I was hoping for melt-in-your-mouth nodules nestled in a plume of cheeses, and it was just that.

Mussels and pommes frites

The entrees did not disappoint with the steak frites ($22), grilled tuna provençal ($21), and grilled lamb loin ($22) leading the pack. Unfortunately on one visit, a server dropped our table’s entrees and we had to wait an additional 15 minutes to be served. Our server failed to mention this, even though we were suspiciously peeking beyond the floor-to-ceiling curtains to see what the commotion was about. The hangar steak was grilled and rested appropriately and the frites are served in a paper cone decorated with another charming clothespin. The tuna was silky-smooth, yet firm to the bite and wonderfully accented atop a bed of arugula, fennel, and olive tapenade. The lamb was the best I’ve tasted in years accented with a tangy charmoula sauce. I am always wary of lentils because they seem to come undercooked or overly mushy. These were just right and the perfect accompaniment.

At only $3 each, a modest portion and an economical meal can be made out of Printworks’ side dishes. The potatoes dauphinois were buttery, soft, crispy, and steaming hot all at the same time. The Brussels sprouts were the best I have eaten. On a rainy night, you might find me there ordering a sack to go, to enjoy the crispy, yet juicy morsels on my way home from work. They are that delicious.

The desserts were modest, at best. The profiteroles (essentially gougeres without cheese) were a bit stale and the tri-flavored pot de crèmes were palatable. Printworks offers a cheese platter and a chocolate mousse to round out the after dinner sweet selections.

Printworks does quite a few things well. Knowing the fare is locally produced and incredibly fresh, is reason enough to patronize the bistro. I look forward to receiving many delicious dishes from here in the future.

Print Works Bistro
702 Green Valley Road
Greensboro, NC 27408

photo courtesy of

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ganache: Greensboro, NC

Ganache in Greensboro is known for its decadent cakes, wide selection pastries, and breads. Many a Triad bride has scheduled a wedding appointment to view and taste samples of confectionery bliss. Many a prom date has stood in front of the bakery counter salivating over the ornate displays in the front entryway of the restaurant. After all the fanfare and flourish has subsided, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty of this Greensboro restaurant.

Ganache has a new sheriff in town, executive chef, Andy Furness. Furness brings a new outlook and a book full of menu ideas with him. This chef has only been seated for a short time and his overhaul of the menu is apparent with the advent of some new menu items. Overall, the dinner menu is small and has few stand-out dishes.

Furness classifies the revamped menu as American regional seasonal cuisine. It includes Southern classics such as Low Country Crab Cakes ($23) and Charleston Whitefish ($22), along with new favorites such as a Newcastle Bread Bowl ($8). “Farm To Fork” is another idea that is new at the restaurant. It boasts of using local produce, products, and regional agricultural centers to feed guests. Rudd and Goat Lady Dairy farms are just two of the local vendors featured on the menu.

Proscuitto wrapped pork tenderloin ($23)

The menu and the ideas behind it are lofty and ill-executed. The food is often served cold, without garnishes, or overcooked. This diner believed in the menu and everything it stood for, but time and time again, disappointment arrives on a ceramic plate.

The popular and highly lauded whiskey switch ribs ($12) were dry, over-smoked, and a pitiful excuse for meat on a bone. Risotto, which appears in no less than three dishes is indeed a little rice, but Uncle Ben would be disappointed if he knew what was passing as al dente in this restaurant.

The best dishes are the salads. The Brutus ($9), a deconstructed Caesar salad topped with a luscious, goat's milk and Parmesan custard not only embodies the creativity the rest of the menu tries to capture, but it's executed well. The caprese salad ($8) is simple, yet classic. It's fresh and electrified by a generous pouring of balsamic vinegar by your own hand.

The best part of any meal at Ganache should be the dessert, but the bakery fails here as well. The precision and care that is taken into consideration when designing and assembling the cakes is not applied to the taste and fillings of them. The words "soaked" and "layered" appear far too often on the dessert menu. The application of these descriptions has yet to be seen (or tasted). Every cake tested, tasted of, well...nothing. If more time were spent on the wholesomeness of the desserts instead of the outside, this diner would be more apt to stay after an obligatory coffee.

Attempting to tout itself as an after-work hot spot, Ganache does employ crafty and skilled bartenders. The wine lists and beer menu are unmatched in the area. With half-priced wine on Thursdays and a lower-priced Lassez Faire bar menu, these might be the restaurants only redeeming qualities.

The decor and atmosphere lend helping hands to make every diner feel welcome, appreciated, and wrapped with hospitality. Since the food is not at its greatest, your view can help ease that pain.

Butterscotch wood-paneled walls take you around the rotunda that is the seating area, and up to a scenic rooftop patio. The restaurant is festooned with local art from the Marshall Gallery in downtown Greensboro. Behind the black granite bar, and more cushioned seating, there are open-tinted windows revealing the kitchen and bakery. To watch the bakery artisans and chefs at work makes one wonder what is really going on in the kitchen.

Ganache may only be known as a chocolate couverture for desserts but Ganache should be known as a restaurant and bakery with far to go for top-notch billing.

Ganache Bakery
403 North Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mary's Of Course: Winston-Salem

Mary’s Of Course has become a Camel City favorite over the past 8 years. Tucked in a small business complex, Mary’s is unassuming and hard to miss if you aren’t sure of where you’re going. Don’t fret. The parking lot full of cars and the perpetual line snaking out of the door will be a dead giveaway.

Borderline avant-garde/kitschy local art covers the walls and chalkboards of the restaurant. A resident collection of toys and trinkets line walls, sills, and countertops, too.

The food? Well, Mary’s is unbelievably vegetarian friendly with plenty of tofu, tempeh and seitan to go around. Breakfast is served all of the time and there is a reason for that.
Every meal is just like eating at home. Large, fluffy omelets chock-full of ingredients of your choosing or house specials (like this Sunday, spinach, mushrooms, smoked cheddar and pecans in butter; Heavy, hot biscuits that take up half your plate and local stone-ground grits served in teacups. Mix-matched plates, utensils, and glasses add to Mary’s appeal. As a matter of fact, Mary herself, might be the one taking your name at the door.

At lunch time, don’t miss the grilled cheese sandwiches! Or any sandwich for that matter. Mine came on wheat bread with smoked cheddar, granny smith apples, and crispy bacon. Divine. The jalepeno pimiento cheese is one of the best. It comes as an appetizer with chips, and salsa, if you so choose. Or on a sandwich. Or in an omelet.

Whichever item you choose, it will be just like eating at grandma’s house. Or Uncle Billy’s. Or Auntie Jane's.

Mary's Of Course
301 Brookstown Avenue
Winston Salem, NC 27101

A Starter

Greetings and salutations! This is Nik Snacks little corner of the world (wide web) devoted to restaurant reviews and travel views.

I am based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and most of my reviews will be straight from this barbeque pit of a town, chronicling hits and misses in the Triad area.

I do travel a bit and whenever something fantastic runs across my desk, I’ll do my best to chase it, beat it senseless, and live to tell you about it.

So let’s raise a glass to good eats, good finds, and hopefully a little insight into the local scene of the Piedmont Triad.