Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day on the Farm

Daddy and Catie
There is something deeply rewarding from having a child be so interested in cooking with you that they perch themselves on the counter and add salt in pinches or want to “mix! mix! mix!” at every opportunity.  That has now extended to the modest vegetable patch where my junior pickers keep an enthusiastic eye on what could be finished, not ripe, but finished.  Today, they helped me gather cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, rosemary, lemon verbena and banana peppers to use in our dinner.  I am a very lucky man on this Father’s day.  Big shout out to all the Big Papa’s - especially new ones, like Sammy, and ones that came out of retirement,  like Barry.                   

Daddy and Charlotte

Daddy and Evan

Leslie tells me that people want to know about the restaurant and you can count me in that group as well.  We’ve seen a few locations and talked about their pros and cons numerous times, but the right space hasn’t presented itself as of yet.  One space needs too much infrastructure another has a less desirable locale.  Another wants a ridiculous amount for the business and yet another’s rent is too high.  Heck, after starting out with the firm belief in Chapel Hill/Carrboro being the only place we would ever want to have the restaurant, our new hometown of Pittsboro seems to be becoming a frontrunner.  The restaurant needs to have a sense of place and allows us an opportunity to be a part of our own community.  However Pittsboro is a small town and how many people are going out to eat at a higher end restaurant on a regular basis?  There is definitely the population and money here.  In addition to farms, upscale commuter neighborhoods, golf club communities, and retirement hubs also surround us.   They all have to drive to Chapel Hill, Durham or Raleigh for a really good meal and don’t you think they’d rather be able to stay close to home?   The real question is whether we can get the foodies from the cities to come here for dinner? 

Locations aside, my time in NC has given me new insight into the market here. True believer farms that have exquisite products surround us, in season, there’s a market every day and it’s a long growing season.  It goes without saying that this base of farmers can buoy us as the farm ramps up production in the coming years and will be there when we need seriously good ingredients.  I found a small fishmonger in Carrboro, which is encouraging and have made some contacts along the coast for some real boutique fish and shellfish. There’s a ton of good meat to be had here as well.  The cards are stacked for “ingredient-driven”, seasonal cuisine.  Except for the fact that even Ruby Tuesday’s does the freakin’ seasonal thing now.  It’s become a hollow marketing centerpiece, an empty promise, de rigueur.  What then is the chefs to do in order to differentiate themselves?  Xantham Gum, molecular gastronomy weirdness, the foraging rage?  How about dropping all the BS pretensions and giving people some kick-ass, high-end food in a setting that doesn’t have them worrying about which stupid fork to use.

We’re going for that last one.  Our restaurant will be a small and personal expression of what we believe about food and hospitality.   No stuffiness, overly formal or elaborate service dances - just simple interactions with people and excellent food.  Some things you might see:  Halibut with Fresh Corn Polenta and Lobster Jus; Warm Chanterelle, Frisee and Bacon Salad with Our Poached Egg and Mustard; Pittsboro “Spring”, Baby Vegetables from our Garden, Raw and Cooked; Warm Fig Tree Farm Honey Madeleines with Mission Fig Compote.  We’ll have a bit of flash on the plate, but not too many bells and whistles.  I see if somebody is looking for “that” restaurant, the one that has a sense of place and delicious food and where they get treated better than anyplace else (but not coddled) we aim to be it.  Oh, and with a lot of bourbon.  We’ll let you know when we open – come see us. 

1 comment:

  1. Yep, That all sounds pretty tasty, save for the bits about Ruby's, chemical food enhancement, and silly service styles.
    Thank you for the shout out... Owen and I celebrated Dad's Day by setting a new sixty minute diaper record. Thankfully his pit crew was up to the task.
    The Cox Family is certainly missed around here, and so we intend to come on down and say hello at some point (Spring?) and lend some hands around the farm and the table.
    Cheers, now get back to work Chef, Dad, Farmer B... and keep on fighting the good fight!
    -Sam & The Fam Whitcomb