SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
20 years of Undercurrent Restaurant Curated By:
Also featured in this monthâ€™s Issue: What to do with your spinach
Flash in the pan
Fine dining: A lamentation
really do not like eating with my fingers. I have many conversations with principals in the WinstonSalem culinary community as well as others who have notions that they would like to own their own eateries. They talk about “fast casual ” as the key to fame and fortune — and perhaps even riches — but rarely mention a white-tablecloth restaurant as a possibility. It’s as if we have hit a glass ceiling in Winston-Salem by Carroll Leggett when it comes to what we used to call “fine dining.” I keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best when a new restaurant opens. I want them all to succeed while knowing the business is high risk and the odds are iffy. I am particularly prayerful — that’s a figure of speech, mind you — on the rare occasion that someone ventures into the realm of upscale dining that requires excellent food, presentation and service, flatware that feels right in the hand and, God forbid, a tablecloth and napkin that won’t be thrown away afterward. My fear is that if a venture into fine dining fails, the voices on the street will not blame faulty vision and mission, the menu, the chef or whatever other genuine pitfalls a new place will face, but conclude simply that, as is often said, Winston-Salem in the 21st Century will not support a restaurant that provides an upscale dining experience. The implication is that we are solely devoted to spots that provide quick eats while customers dawdle on their cell phones with sticky, taco- or burger-soiled fingers. I grieved over the untimely demise of Honey Pot on Fourth which was a welcome change in Winston-Salem culinary direction: a chef-driven downtown restaurant with excellent food, in an intimate bistro-style environment. And I was all for the Katharine. Ah. There was my great hope. It defied the odds — a beautiful dining venue in a hotel, of all places, that sought to attract a devoted following of local gourmands with disposable income. In my mind, I envisioned a chef-driven restaurant where one could enjoy the company of friends with total assurance of a perfect evening out. However, enthusiasm waned for the “French with a Southern twist” concept, while corporate minders afar failed to correct course. My friends say they simply don’t like the food. The last successful venture into fine dining in Winston-Salem, unless I am overlooking someone, is Spring House. Its impressive real estate and all else required to get it up and running required deep pockets beyond the capacity of a young chef full of vim, vigor and creative talent who is looking for a modest spot to generate a following and make a mark. We have a robust dining scene here and have every reason to be proud of this fact. I applaud risk-takers and eateries of whatever stripe that make money for investors and create jobs. Pardon me if this sounds like gastronomic snobbery from one who does not enjoy eating with his fingers, but in my opinion things are a bit out of kilter. Fast casual is fine, but serious chefs will emerge and amaze us only if we have more serious dining spots to nurture them. Until then, remember to lick fingers before using cell phones. Carroll Leggett is a retired attorney who can often be found at the liveliest tables in any number of Triad restaurants.
Triad City Bites
1618: Cocktail Culture $$-$$$ 1618 Seafood Grille — 1618seafoodgrille.com 1618 Midtown — 1618midtown.com 1618 Downtown — 1618downtown.com
1618’s dedication to beer, wine, spirits and cocktails is evident in its staff at all three restaurants — skilled people passionate about their craft, working, studying and creating. Bar Manager Evans Nowlin at 1618 Seafood Grille just got her CSS (certified specialist of spirits) and Level 1 Sommelier rating. Emma Smith, of 1618 Downtown, also has her CSS, and she just competed in a cocktail competition in Raleigh this month. Max Barwick of 1618 Midtown just passed to the final round of a cocktail competition in Brooklyn, NY and will be headed to New Orleans in August for Tales of the Cocktail to compete in the final round. His winning cocktail, Bitter, Party of one, is available at all 1618 Midtown locations. Together they bring a creative force to 1618s cocktail program, leadership style and overall focus on being the best at every aspect of hospitality.
Burger Batch $-$$
burgerbatch.com 2760 NC 68 HP 336.875.4082 237 W. 5th Street WS 336.893.6395
Mission Pizza $-$$
missionpizzanapoletana.com 707 Trade St. WS, 336.893.8217
Known for Instagram-worthy milkshakes and towering burgers, Tim Walker’s corner joint Burger Batch is now offering a brunch menu tailormade for a Funday Sunday with last night’s crew, with live music every weekend designed to kick the day into gear. The cocktail menu is straightforward — mimosas, Bloody Marys and two special shots — but never shies away from decadent adornments like the leaning tower of chicken and waffles atop the drinkably spicy Breakfast Bloody. A champagne flight includes a range of refreshing juices from classic orange to smooth, sweet pineapple, all presented on wooden board shaped like the Old North State. Aside from boozy concoctions, Burger Batch’s newest menu is packed with playful touches like the complementary can of PBR with a cheeky-titled “Hangover” entrée. Small Batch takes presentation and portion size seriously; no one will go home hungry and bacon adorns cocktails and entrees alike. And that’s part of what’s so enjoyable about the Small Batch enterprise and Burger Batch’s newest menu — light-hearted and unapologetic indulgence.
Natty Greene’s Kitchen + Market $$-$$$ nattygreeneskitchenandmarket.com 2003 Yanceyville St. GSO 336.656.2410
The Kitchen + Market makes everything on the menu from the beginning, right down to the cuts of meat. Their in-house Butcher, Taylor Armstrong, spends his days cutting steaks of Braveheart Farms Aged Black Angus Prime Beef, stuffing sausage and grinding chops for the hand-pattied burgers. Half of the items go to the kitchen, to be cooked to order for diners, the rest goes into the Market and, eventually, to backyard grills or kitchen broilers. Guests can also find local cheeses, veggies, Homeland Creamery milk, candy, Natty Greene’s beers, wine, everyday sundries, apparel and local gifts in the Market where Market Manager Andrew Dudek stands ready to arm guests with everything they’ll need for a memorable meal. He knows about cook times and temps, wine pairings and the secret to the perfect cut, so the handcrafted experience can be enjoyed at home.
Founded by Peyton Smith, Mission Pizza Napoletana is the Carolina’s first Neapolitan pizzeria, a pioneer in the style regionally and beyond. Mission Pizza aims to combine outstanding food and warm hospitality in a convivial atmosphere. Fresh salads, seasonal vegetables and traditional pastas share top billing with the highly acclaimed pizzas emerging from the 1,000-degree, wood-fired oven. An extensive list of Italian wine and NC beer pair perfectly with the food. No buzzwords, no gimmicks, no pretense. Just thoughtful food made with the best ingredients that can be sourced, by people who give a shit. Eureka!
Triad City Bites
Celebrating twenty y
Undercurrent Restaurant is still at the If Ben Roberts had his way all those years ago, he would have opened a 90-seat restaurant in Clemmons instead of creating one of the most influential culinary brands in the Triad, one that has lasted for 20 years and flowed from one end of downtown Greensboro to the other. And while fortunes have risen and fallen all over downtown, Undercurrent has always stayed true to its original purpose. “What I really wanted to do was open a small, neighborhood restaurant,” Roberts remembers. “About 40-50 patrons, an open kitchen so I could keep my hands in the kitchen and my eye on the dining room.” Instead of the Clemmons space, Roberts was persuaded to take over an existing concern, Su Peterson’s Undercurrent, a restaurant half the size and in a downtown district just awakening from a decades-long slumber. This was before the ballpark. Before Triad Stage. Before the Green Bean. Besides the Broach Theatre and Two Art Chicks, South Elm was a wasteland, the wrong side of the tracks. But it had a small kitchen with a cutout looking onto the dining room, big picture windows to the street and a quaint bar area. It was big enough, at the time, to accommodate everyone in town interested in a seasonal menu prepared by an actual chef, using local, fresh ingredients with the touch of artistry. It was a bistro in the truest sense. And while downtown Greensboro grew in fits and starts, seeds were planted at Undercurrent that would bear fruit for years to come. In 2006, it came time to move when the demand for Undercurrent’s brand of approachable elegance outgrew the small space on South Elm. The bar was too small, and private events shut down the entire place, alienating regulars. Catering was an impossibility in that tiny kitchen. And there was no outdoor seating. The new space, Undercurrent’s current location on Battleground Avenue on the north end of downtown Greensboro, has more seats in the dining room, a private event space named after former patron and
THROUGH THE YEARS
Ben Roberts leaves his job at the Twin City Club in Winston-Salem and with his wife Susie, purchases Undercurrent Restaurant at the corner of South Elm and Lewis streets in downtown Greensboro, which had been suffering from a decades-long slump.
Triad City Bites
After eight years on the South End, Roberts moves the restaurant to the north side of downtown, on Battleground Avenue, upping the dining space from 50 to 78 seats, and adding a bar/lounge, larger kitchen, and private dining room.
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e top of the list for farm-to-table elegant dining
felong Downtown Greensboro resident Jack Wagner, as well as a lush private patio and triple the bar space. “You can get married here, or come for a drink on Thursday night,” Wes Wheeler says. Once in the new location, Roberts began to harvest the crop he plantd so long ago. Chef Michael Harkenreader, who started in the kitchen on South Elm, was elevated to Chef de Cuisine. And after six years as mployees, brothers Chris and Wesley Wheeler took over the operations s managing partners while Ben and Susie started their next business enture: a medical clinic in Fancy Gap, Va. Wes, who started as a bartender in 2009, handles the front of the ouse while Chris, who came on that same year, handles the back end. Together the team carries on the traditions set on South Elm Street, ontinuing relationships with local farmers like Massey Creek Farms, Goat Lady Dairy, Rudd Farm and other hyperlocal and regional purveyors, as well as with the hundreds of regular customers that have gathered over the years — some of the original patrons on Ben’s opening night are till coming in for dinner. Undercurrent Restaurant, traditionally known for exceptional service nd seasonal menus, continues to thrive with the recent addition of the ollinator Garden adding to the ambiance of their private patio dining. he 40-seat Wagner Room, named after lifelong downtown Greensboro esident Jack Wagner, is perfect for meetings and private events. The bar nd lounge area has a life of its own not only in the early evenings and ate nights but during Sunday brunch service when friends and family ome together. Twenty years on, Undercurrent Restaurant is still a favore foodie destination in downtown Greensboro. Even now, as the neighborhood around it sees fortunes rise and fall, Undercurrent Restaurant brings an oasis of culinary stability to downown. Just like it always has.
Roberts steps down as chef de cuisine and elevates Michael Harkenreader to the position, beginning his reign in the kitchen that continues to this day.
Undercurrent Restaurant undercurrentrestaurant.com 327 Battleground Ave. GSO
Call 336.370.1266 to make a reservation at these are limited seating reservation only events: June 1: Rosé Tasting and Garden Party — 6:30 p.m. June 8: Sutler’s Gin Tasting Dinner w/Mark Weddle — 6:30 p.m. June 12: Chehalem Wine Tasting Dinner — 6:30 p.m. Make your reservation for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch via Open Table or at undercurrentrestaurant.com
Brothers Wes and Chris Wheeler, both longtime employees, buy ownership stake in the restaurant. Wes works the front of the house, Chris handles the back end. If you’re lucky, you may occasionally spot Ben and Susie enjoying lunch in the bar or a candlelit dinner.
Triad City Bites
Flash in the Pan:
Harnessing the spinach matrix
by Ari LeVaux
ast week at the first outdoor farmers market, I scored spinach in many forms. I collected a sack of baby spinach at one stand, sturdy and juicy tiny leaves that were painstakingly harvested from young plants. Elsewhere, I acquired a bundle of spinach plants, bunched together like at the supermarket but with no broken stems, ripped leaves or festering pieces of slime stuck between. I also got some beefy leaves from a crop that was seeded last fall and got an early start this spring. Big leaves, crammed into a bag. Every leaf would go in service of an extra-puffy, inside-out spinach omelet. This omelet. As I’m writing, I’m literally cooking another one, because it’s impossible to think about it, let alone describe it, and not want it. The spinach is carefully arranged on the pan so that, when the time comes, it will do what nori does to a sushi roll. Eggs, separated, beaten, and recombined, are applied to the spinach matrix, along with flavorful toppings. It puffs up like a souffle, and is somehow folded in half.
Ingredients 2 eggs Fresh spinach, in bunches or bags Bacon, cheese, garlic, mushrooms, herbs, greens...stuff to fry separately for a stuffing 2 T Butter (at least) 1/4 cup Cream (or half-n-half or milk) 2 T Olive oil (or more) Salt, garlic powder, pepper, other spices We begin by preparing the stuffing, which doubles as pan crusting: browned bits of goodness that stick to the outside of the omelet. This is the one spot in the recipe where I won’t be micromanaging you, so now is your chance to get creative. Bacon, chopped into little pieces, is a classic thing to include here, as it contributes its wonderful fat. If I can get good stuff, I use it. Otherwise, butter and mushrooms and some kind of cheese. I like cheese curds because they fry nicely, as do chunks of semi-hard cheese. Chèvre or similar soft goat cheese is amazing in this dish. If using soft cheese though, it gets added later. Fry the browned bits slowly, never burning, adding oil if necessary. Add chunks of garlic if you wish, and if you like garlic. It will sweeten if cooked slowly. When the browned bits of goodness are nearly done, consider adding greens here. I had some watercress, gathered in the mountains by a morel picker at the market. (Of course I bought morels too, are you crazy?) The watercress added a nice spice to the filling. Another time I used baby bok choi from the market. So small they were basically overgrown sprouts. (“Infanticide,” remarked a friend.) While that is going, work on the eggs. The fresher the eggs are, the better. Separate the yolks from whites of two eggs, storing them in separate bowls. Don’t let any yolk or water get into the whites. And if you wash your hands after separating the eggs, make sure they are very dry before proceeding. Using an eggbeater or similar tool, beat the whites until they are stiff, with no liquid whites in the bowl. Pour cream into the yolks and beat them with a fork until fully combined. Put both egg bowls in the fridge until it’s time for the magic. When the pan goodies are done, add a little soy sauce and garlic powder, and stir it around to mix and absorb. Remove half from the pan and set aside. Spread around the portion that remains in the pan so it’s evenly dispersed. Add butter and/or oil if the pan isn’t very oily, then begin arranging the spinach leaves. All of the stems should be parallel, with about half of the leaf tips facing one direction, and half the other. Those stems will be like rings around the rolled omelet, holding it together. Atop that matrix you can can toss in more leaves haphazardly, filling in any gaps, covering
pan and crustings. Set the heat on low-ish, and remove the egg bowls. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold the egg yolk into the stiff whites. Don’t mix it completely. Leave areas of pure white, and let the yolks run around and gather at the bottom a little. Carefully spoon the egg mixture onto the spinach, in a line across the middle of the pan, directly perpendicular to the orientation of the stems. The runny yolk will find it’s way through the cracks between the leaves and grab onto the pan crustings. Carefully arrange the goodies in the middle, letting them sink into the eggs. Now is the time to add chèvre or other soft cheese, also atop the egg foam. As it heats, it will puff, and soon will get so big you will wonder how to wrangle it. Two spatulas is the way to go. Let it cook about five minutes, during which the spinach will steam the egg from the bottom, go around the pan with a knife to loosen any egg on the side, and slide a spatula under the omelet to free it from the pan. Grab the other spatula and use them both on the side of the omelet closest to you, folding it in half over the egg. As you try to lift from under with the spatulas it will try to slide away from you. Keep it up, gently, until it hits the side of the pan and is trapped. Turn off the heat and let it sit there, puffy, and serve. If you suspect the egg is underdone, add 1/4 cup water to the pan and cook with the lid on until the water steams off. Serve it with a nice cup of coffee, and some hot sauce. The same basic trick can be used with other greens as well, including wild ones like nettles, or other tender greens that can be cooked, like pea sprouts, baby kale, basil branches and, of course, those itty-bitty baby bok choi. These alternatives will be good, but they will always be compared to spinach, which has the strength to hold the omelet together, but isn’t tougher than it has to be when it’s time to chew. Spinach won’t get spicy like a lot of cooking greens, and has plenty of water, which steams the souffle from underneath, adding puffiness and preventing the egg from burning.
Ari LeVaux is a food writer based in Missoula, Mont. His work has appeared in hundreds of national and regional publications, including Outside magazine, Grist, Slate, TheAtlantic.com, NationalGeographic.com, High Country News and the Weather Channel.
Triad City Bites
The Quiet Pint $$
facebook.com/quietpinttavern 1420 W. First St. WS, 336.893.6881
Cheesecakes by Alex $ cheesecakesbyalex.com 315 S. Elm St. GSO, 336.273.0970 It took months for Alex Amoroso to make the perfect cheesecake. That was in 2002, just before he opened the bakery and coffeeshop on South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro. The kitchen is prolific, turning out cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cakes and pastry — and even bread. But the menu leans heavily on Amoroso’s signature cheesecake recipe, now available in 22 flavors and three sizes. The downtown bakery has expanded into the storefront next door, becoming a regular spot for quick morning grabs and afternoon coffee meetings. And the cheesecakes are available anytime online at cheesecakesbyalex. com.
Bites & Pints Gastropub $
bitesandpintsgastropub.com 2503 Spring Garden St. GSO, 336.617.5185
Gather at the Quiet Pint for pub trivia hosted by Geeks Who Drink every Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. This is team trivia and winning teams will be awarded prizes in the form of Quiet Pint gift cards and craft-beer schwag. Follow the beer menu in real-time with the TapHunter App and receive notifications when new beers are tapped. Live music season will be starting soon — follow the Quiet Pint on Facebook to see the schedule.
Chef Kris Fuller, queen of the Crafted empire in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, joined with longtime Westerwood Tavern owner Mike Bosco to create Greensboro’s only true gastropub. Fuller’s menu takes bar food to the next level, with an eclectic slate of delectables suitable for sharing or grubbing down solo: boiled peanuts, shrimp tempura, chicken and waffles, melts, salads, a full component of burgers and hot dogs and even a kids’ menu. Bosco’s bar has all the necessary accoutrements. Open every day in the Lindley Park section of Spring Garden Street.
Triad City Bites
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Jerusalem Market $$
jerusalemmarket.com 310 S. Elm St. GSO, 336.279.7025 5002 High Point Road GSO, 336.547.0220
Mary’s Gourmet Diner $$ marysgourmetdiner.net 723 Trade St. WS, 336.723.7239
Since 1989, the Triad’s favorite Middle Eastern Grocery built a loyal following near Adams Farm with its international market and sandwich counter in the back. Jerusalem Market specializes in imported groceries and ingredients, and the most unusual soft-drink cooler in town. It’s newest location, downtown on South Elm Street, carries a full board of specialty sandwiches using ingredients like Italian mortadella and salami, Turkish dried sausage and in-house butchered lamb and beef. Fresh-made baba ghanouj, tabouleh and “the best hummos in the world” every day, with organic produce and locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Open for lunch and dinner. “You will be pleased.”
Burke Street Pizza $
burkestreetpizza.com 1140 Burke St. WS, 336.721.0011 3352 Robinhood Road WS, 336.760.4888 2223 Fleming Road GSO, 336.500.8781 Dave Hillman is from Long Island, so he knows what pizza is supposed to taste like. He took that knowledge and opened his first classic pizza joint after the turn of the century, when Burke Street was the epicenter of Winston-Salem nightlife. The Burke Street location still serves pies and slices and everything else a neighborhood pizzeria should, while a second Winston-Salem spot on Robinhood Road caters to family-style dining and takeout. A third Greensboro location, in the Cardinal neighborhood, adds a slate of pasta dishes — baked ziti, eggplant parmigiana, fettucine, lasagna and ravioli among them — to the pizzas, Stromboli, heroes and calzones. All have in-house lunch and dinner specials and delivery every night. And at all three locations the pizza stays true to the New York style, hot and fresh from the oven.
Triad City Bites
Mary Haglund owns breakfast in Winston-Salem. Her first venture, Mary’s of Course! Which opened in 2000, was the original farm-to-fork restaurant in the city. There she solidified her relationships with local purveyors and her commitment to real, local ingredients, as well as her biscuit recipe. Her egg dishes are legendary, her pancakes sublime. And the specials board always has something interesting. Open only for breakfast and lunch and the sweet spot in between, Mary’s Gourmet Diner is a Winston-Salem original.
Don’t see your business? Call Brian at 336.681.0704 to get listed.
Undercurrent Restaurant celebrates 20 years in downtown Greennsboro.