Monthly Archives: April 2016

foodie b’eat: A Community Surrounds Skippy’s

The story “A Grand Finale for Skippy’s” was originally published in YES! Weekly on April 20th. This blog post has the story in full and will be continually updated with participating restaurants and contributors as they become known.

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There’s a feeling of community within the culinary circles in Winston-Salem that is unmatched in just about any area city I’ve encountered. There’s just something about it. And it’s very, very evident this week as a group of restaurant owners, chefs, purveyors, and even artisans are coming together to help one of their very own.

Skippy’s Hot Dogs has been a downtown Winston-Salem institution for 14 years. No one else does a dog like Skippy’s. The hot dogs are delicious and what sets them apart is that signature pretzel bun. Growing up in Pennsylvania, twisted pretzels were kind of a normal thing. But owner Mike Rothman wanted to bring those pretzels, which were missing, to Winston-Salem, and he did just that. After a few years of selling pretzels and refining his concept, the hot dog on the twisted pretzel roll became Mike’s thing. And he’s enjoyed success since doing so. Winston-Salem is a hot dog city. And Skippy’s helped put it on the map.

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A couple of months ago, Mike had to close a few times due to health reasons. Then abruptly, the sign said “Closed Until Further Notice.” Now, if you’re a fan of Skippy’s, you know (being selfish) that this is awful news. But it got people wondering, what on earth has happened to our beloved Mike Rothman? And then came the sad announcement that Mike had been diagnosed with brain cancer and would have to close to undergo treatment for glioblastoma. And even if you have insurance, this type of treatment is extensive and expensive and when you run a restaurant and it’s your sole source of income? Disastrous.

Restaurant owners from the downtown area visited Mike during the early stages of his recovery and got the idea to run his restaurant for him while he recuperates. Will Kingery, who own’s King’s Crab Shack, Willow’s Bistro, and Silo said, “ We wanted to manage Skippy’s for him and there were folks actually volunteering to run the business for him while he gets better so he could have an income. We all put ourselves in his shoes. If we lost our income and had huge medical bills, we’d be done. But that’s just not what he wanted. He didn’t want the stress of keeping the business open. And we understand where he’s coming from. … he just wanted to focus on healing. ”

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Photo from the Skippy’s FB page when the fundraiser was just announced

So the group came up with an alternate plan.

“We decided, ‘well, let’s just open it for one more week.’ Kingery added. “As a way to raise some money for him. And Mike got really excited about that idea and jumped on board with it.”

All the proceeds from “Mike’s Week” will go to pay his medical bills, while he fights the good fight.

All kinds of folks, professional and amateur, from the community have stepped in to help. Numerous downtown establishments like Jeff and Adam from Jeffrey Adams on 4th/4th Street Filling Station, Opie Kirby from Finnigans, The Moody’s from West End Coffeehouse, Mozelle’s, DiLisio’s, Rooster’s A Noble Grille, Graze, The Tavern in Old Salem, Spring House Restaurant, Quanto Basta, Camino Bakery, The Porch Kitchen & Cantina, Bib’s, Atelier on Trade, Harrison Littell of Five Loaves Catering, Chef Stuart Ford of Pintxos Pour House and Wild Willie’s Wiener Wagon, Tart Sweets, Kabobs on 4th, and countless others, including Kingery’s eateries. Mary Haglund from Mary’s Gourmet Diner is cooking and handling the catering side of things for the week, while Vivian Joiner from Sweet Potatoes is scheduling the volunteers.

Joiner says, “At least 20 restaurants have said they will step up. It’s such an extraordinary outpouring from all sides of the community from the hospitality industry to just regular people off the street.”

Each day Skippy’s will offer the same menu you’ve been familiar with, though minus the famous pretzel buns. Kingery says, “That was Mike’s thing…he was an expert at that, so we’ll just have some really great split-roll buns.” And each day the chef leading the kitchen will feature a special hot dog of his or her own creation. “It’ll be a different twist on a hot dog…very creative ideas are being thrown out there,” Kingery says. Joiner adds that though their will be a chef leading the kitchen each day, dozens more from other restaurants will be there as line cooks, taking orders or just selling t-shirts.

Food distributors across the area are donating thousands of dollars worth of food, like Southern Foods, US Foods, Sysco, IFH. Pepsi is donating drink products. Tom’s Glass Works is donating a commemorative glass that will be for sale. Hanes Brands has a new spin on a Skippy’s T-shirt that will be available for purchase. Zoom! did all the printing. Dewey’s Bakery has offered to donate cookies to sell. The Winston-Salem Dash donated all the Nathan’s Hot Dogs and its staff has volunteered to pitch in. TW Garner’s Texas Pete and staff members will be there slinging hot dogs as well. And Skippy’s will also be featuring Birch Root Beer from Mike’s home state of Pennsylvania. When the kitchen equipment needed a bit of repair, Carolina Kitchen Repair volunteered to do it. Local advertising agency, Mullen-Lowe is even working on a video to highlight the event. And the list goes on…

Kingery says the group has been overwhelmed by all the support, yet at the same time, he’s not at all surprised. “It’s just Winston-Salem. We work together. If you need help, we are there for you. If you need product, we can call each other and help each other out. That’s just how the Winston-Salem culinary community is. We’re neighbors…really, a team.”

And it’s true. The chefs in Winston-Salem know what collaboration is. And there’s a brotherhood and yes, that includes the women, that is beyond compare. Joiner says, “It’s just a testament to how cool the city we live in really is.”

Chefs/restaurants on the line and featuring a special hot dog will be (subject to change):
Willow’s Bistro/Kings Crab Shack
DiLisio’s along with John Bobby from Rooster’s A Noble Grille
Bib’s Downtown
Mary’s Gourmet Diner
Sweet Potatoes
Finnigan’s Wake
Jeffrey Adams on 4th/4th Street Filling Station
Foothills Brewing
Graze

Kingery adds, “We just want to give a huge thank you to everyone involved. It’s going to be very busy and kind of terrifying at times,” he laughs. “But it will all be worth it in the end. We are just so grateful to everyone who’s involved and continuing to come forward.”

Kingery says after Mike’s Week, sadly, the doors will close on Skippy’s for good…yet….only maybe. “After it’s all over, we’re going to clean the restaurant and all the equipment up. And Skippy’s will be for sale. It’s a great space. It is already set up to be a pretzel factory. It has everything it needs to be a successful business. We don’t expect it to be vacant for long. It really is a diamond.”

As for Mike, who’s 53, family members say they’re taking his recovery one day at a time, but that he’s making great strides and becoming more independent.

I had a chance to speak with Mike’s mom, Harriett, and she was just so sweet and she says she’s very touched.  “He’s a warrior. It’s been an adjustment being here, not only because he has to be in this rehab facility but also because he had to leave his friends.” Mrs. Rothman says that Mike is being positive throughout it all and has been following all the activity on social media. “He misses everyone. He’s starting to reach out to his friends which makes him feel better. He’s just overwhelmed and touched by all the support he’s getting from the community and he tells us, ‘I might not have made a ton of money, but I made wealth in a much more special way…just knowing that people want to do this for me.”

Here’s a picture of a recovering Mike from Skippy’s Facebook page. Be sure to check out the page regularly for updates on Mike and #mikesweek.

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Mike Rothman, owner of Skippy’s

Mrs. Rothman says she’s incredibly proud of her son. “We’re so proud of what he’s accomplished. What’s happening in Winston-Salem is awesome and unbelievable and heartwarming and there aren’t enough words to describe.”

In addition to the benefit of a huge amount of local press, volunteers have taken to social media to help get the word out. Be sure to follow Skippy’s Hot Dogs Facebook page for the latest updates. Mike’s family members have also set up a GoFundMe page. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the restaurant community, volunteers, and people who are going to come out and show support for Mike. I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen a community pull together to support one person quite like this before. This tells me that not only is Mike incredibly special, but so is the Winston-Salem community,” announced his niece, Marissa Goldman, via GoFundMe.

The GoFundMe campaign has so far raised over $15k. Mike’s rehabilitation facility is in PA so that he could be near his parents. If you feel compelled to send a card or note of encouragement, mail to:

Michael Rothman
c/o The Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg
4000 Linglestown Rd.
Room 117
Harrisburg, PA. 17112

Volunteers are still appreciated to help set up, cook, assist and clean up during the week of the fundraiser and the week following as they prepare the restaurant for sale. If you’d like to get on the schedule, contact Vivian Joiner at Sweet Potatoes at (336) 727-4844.

Joiner says that on Saturday evening, the organizers and volunteers will re-convene for a grand finale. And when I talked with her aboutthat last day….

“We’re being asked what we are going to do….and for me, I’m not going to think about it until it happens. It’s a very touching thing….to close a restaurant. To serve your final plate and lock the doors behind that final guest. It is not an easy thing. So I’ll let that moment play out as it happens.”

Here are the details, foodies!
Mike’s Week at Skippy’s will be Saturday, April 23 to Saturday, April 30. Hours will be 10am to 8pm each day.
Skippy’s Hot Dogs
624 West Fourth Street, Winston-Salem.
Phone: (336) 722-3442.

Be sure to let us know that you are going! Take photos of when you are there. Tweet and Facebook with the hashtag #mikesweek.

Prayers for you, Mike!

 

 

foodie b’eat: The Triad’s FAVE Pimento Cheese(s)

From 4/13’s CHOW in YES Weekly

Pimento cheese. Food of the Southern Gods. Known as Pate of the South or Caviar of the South. It can be a lot of things. Delicious. Spicy. Sweet.….Polarizing.

There’s always ONE troublemaker who hates it. And more than a few cooks who put way to much mayonnaise or sugar in it. If there’s one thing we got going for us here in the South, it’s a plethora of pimento cheese. Heck, here in the Triad, we have no less than 7 common (but uncommonly good) choices at our local markets and that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. Then there are those who say, “I can make it much more cheaply myself.” Face it. The good stuff ain’t cheap— but at the same time, making it yourself really isn’t either, what with all the cheese and roasted/pimento peppers and accoutrements.

You’ll almost always find it on the menu at any of the American Southern style restaurants and at the local potluck or family reunion We even enjoy a little friendly local competition that coincides with National Pimento Cheese Day (April 9) and it seems like every year there’s a different winner. More on the Muddy Creek Cafe Pimento Cheese Throwdown at the end of this story.

We did a little research on some locally produced Pimento Cheese, the kind that’s pretty easy to access…not the kind only available at one market (or restaurant) and asked some of our readers/fans about their favorite pimento cheese and we found some stand outs. There’s plenty more pimento cheese to go around, but it’s a start.

Musten & Crutchfield: When asked, most respondents said their local favorite was none other than Kernersville’s market for home-grown deliciousness. It’s been around for a long time. With two varieties, Regular and Hot, you can find Musten & Crutchfield’s pimento cheese at their own store on Main Street plus local supermarkets, independent stores and even Walmart. It is very traditional in flavor, maybe a bit creamier than some of its counterparts. If you want to try something really fun, add it to some cooked breakfast sausage for a really tasty dip and enjoy with tortillas or pita chips. The creaminess with the sausage really works. On lucky days you may find the pimento cheese in their homemade ravioli! mustenandcrutchfield.com

Uncle Chris’: A personal favorite. With Uncle Chris’, first came the pickles, then came the pimento cheese. I first learned of Uncle Chris’ Pimento Cheese when perusing the menu of the Camel City Grill food truck. Owner Ben Devar said he liked it because it was the perfect blend of pimento cheese and not too mayonnaise-y. Chris Russell even makes pimento cheese to order for the food truck in flavors like Gouda & Bacon and Carolina Reaper. You’ll definitely find Uncle Chris at Lowes foods across the state. The Original and Fire Roasted Jalapeño are sure to please, but if you can take the heat, we recommend hooking yourself up with the Smokin’ Habanero. It is righteous. And so yummy on a cracker with a bread and butter pickle–particularly a Miss Jenny’s Habanero Bread & Butter. Oh yes…all day.

Red Clay Gourmet: Another personal favorite, made in Winston-Salem and served up on the burgers at First Street Draught House. Lance and Michelle Sawyer realized customers were quickly becoming super fans of the pimento cheese. They set out to make it more readily available and one that is “out of the norm” pimento cheese. Now Red Clay Gourmet is available at local markets, some Lowes Foods and Whole Foods in traditional flavors like Classic Sharp and Flame Roasted Jalapeño, but be sure to check out Hickory Smoked Cheddar and for a more refined elevated variety, the Goat Cheese & Sun-dried Tomato (which is really good in grits or with fried green tomatoes or on burgers or… just about anything). You can also buy online at redclaygourmet.com

Conrad & Hinkle: (not pictured) Based out of Lexington, Conrad & Hinkle Market has been around for 97 years. And the pimento cheese since 1940. They have an original and spicy version. I’ve found Conrad & Hinkle mostly at meat markets and many charming country stores across the Triad. It’s really great and an overall pleasant combination of and is probably more reminiscent of pimento cheese you grew up with. Sort of “unfooled around with.” C & H has actually shipped their pimento cheese as far as Germany. conrad-hinkle.com

Vantastic!: The pimento cheese that found a home at The Porch Kitchen & Cantina, this very sharp and cheesy pimento cheese has no mayo in it!  It gets its creaminess from the cheese itself and milk and some vinegar…which gives it a bit of a pickle juice flavor that has made it a local favorite for some time.  It comes in Original and Jalapeno. You can find Vantastic! at Lowe’s Foods and select markets.

My Three Sons: From Greensboro with flavors of Emmy’s Original, Fire Roasted Jalapeño and a Spicy White Cheddar. One of the things that sets MTS apart is that they like to leave the pimentos and peppers a bit chunky so you can see them. Found at The Fresh Market, Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Foods and Whole Foods. mtsgourmet.com

Honorable mention goes to Burlington-based Stan’s, another PC that a lot of folks grew up with around here.

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And for the record, there were plenty of respondents who said, “mine!” or “hers!” But sorry, homemade wasn’t in the running in this case.

Tip to those who want to try a homemade version: Use FRESHLY grated cheese not the kind that’s pre—grated AND this I learned recently, please try not to buy chopped pimentos. If you don’t plan on roasting your red peppers yourself, buy jarred roasted red peppers and take a minute to chop them. I promise you, it’s worth it. Here’s a great recipe by Charleston Chef Sean Brock. I LOVE his recipe. The adapted version is pictured in the image at the top of the post. I just subbed the pickled ramps for Miss Jenny’s B & B Habañero. And Texas Pete for Tabasco (naturally).

Finally, most of the makers of the above mentioned pimento cheese have recipe ideas on their websites and we encourage you to check it out. But very quickly, here are some tasty uses for the pate of the south:

On sandwiches with bacon, tomato, fried green tomato; shrimp & grits, scrambled eggs, salad, egg salad, nachos, burger toppings (go crazy and put it with chili and jalapenos), tomato pie. Providence Restaurant in WS makes an ice cream with it! For a great snack, enjoy with a sweet pickle and crackers, or warm it up and serve with pork rinds.

Really, the possibilities are endless for the treat that’s as Southern as sweet tea.

Mentioned earlier, back on National Pimento Cheese Day, April 9, Muddy River Cafe held its annual Pimento Cheese Throwdown and 5k Run. Proceeds benefit the Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center in Tobaccoville. Muddy Creek owner and event organizer, Shana Whitehead, says she launched the event three years ago as a way to celebrate the trails around her Bethania cafe. “The run is getting bigger every year…this year we had 100 participants.” As for the pimento cheese throw down? “Our customers always tell us that our pimento cheese is the best. It’s really good on a sandwich with tomato and bacon. But we knew a lot of people make really great pimento cheese in different ways, so this throw down is a way to celebrate the creativity that goes into pimento cheese.” There’s also a category for the home cook. As for the pros….here’s a list of winners:

Best Classic-Wolf Daddy
Most Creative-Wolf Daddy
BEST Overall-The Living Room Coffee House & Wine Bar, Pilot Mountain
People’s Choice-Wolf Daddy

For more information on the Pimento Cheese Throw Down and 5K run, visit muddycreekcafeandmusichall.com The event is held every year around this time.

Miami Restaurant & Bar

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From Yes! Weekly….

Miami Restaurant & Bar, 712 Brookstown Avenue, Winston-Salem

When Miami Cafe closed its doors two and a half years ago on Old Salisbury Road in search of bigger digs, we all waited anxiously for the new location announcement, which came…and the opening (on Healy Drive) ….which never did. Problems, problems, problems….and if it was torture for you waiting, well it had to have been unimaginable for owners, Jose and Jacqueline Rodriguez and their daughter Tatiana Marquez. But a glorious light emerged at the end of that dark tunnel and late last year the Rodriguezes re-opened under a new name, Miami Restaurant & Bar.

Way back when Winston-Salem was in its quirky days, lived a restaurant called Rainbow News & Cafe….ah…the memories, right Mary Haglund? If you ate there, you know what we mean. And then after that, the restaurant was Christopher’s Global Cuisine. Certainly more upscale than Rainbow, but cozy and again with amazing food. For years the house stood silent and dark…beckoning curious restaurant owners and possibly scaring them off thanks to all the levels and corners and smallish parking lot. But it didn’t scare off the owners of this new, casual Cuban and Latin eatery. Somehow, Miami Restaurant & Bar is making it work. It feels like you are visiting someone’s house…kind of? But the quirkiness remains and is still quite comforting and familiar. You’d have to see it to know what I’m talking about. There’s still a transom etched with the its name, as well as Armand’s mural that will bring back memories of the Rainbow. You pretty much can’t leave without seeing your favorite childhood characters.

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Armand’s mural, leftover from the historic Rainbow News & Cafe

We’ve been to Miami Restaurant & Bar a few times now. Once at lunch for sandwiches and empanadas and another couple of times for dinner, just to get a good idea of what’s what. It’s improving each visit. The first time, I went with my friend, Christy, who frequented the old location. She’s from Miami and happens to be Cuban so she’s a great judge of the place. We went “halvsies” on our sandwiches. Don’t you love to do that? She got the Tripleta, a three meat sandwich on Cuban bread and I ordered a traditional Cuban with that awesome ham, cheese and pickles. We each got a side of the black beans, which was her suggestion and they were amazing. Slightly smokey and a bit spicy. The empanadas were crispy and hot filled with chunks os chicken and veggies with an avocado dipping sauce on the side.

Christy suggested that we order and share one of the their milkshakes, called Trigo. It’s a shake with milk and sweetened puffed wheat cereal. Think Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. You remember Dig’em? It’s like those in a milkshake. The first time I ordered it, it literally was like iced milk. Tasted good but wasn’t a milkshake. And Christy said it wasn’t the same as she had enjoyed previously. We were assured by Jose that he would talk to his team and correct the error. And the subsequent times we went back, the Trigo was just as milkshake-like as it should be. It’s definitely a must-try. On our second visit, mr. foodie got the mango smoothie while we waited (Trigo still wins), and for the table we shared empanadas, Ropa Vieja, pulled flank with onions and peppers in a tomato sauce. It’s served with rice and those incredible black beans. The Canoa was a hit. A bed of sweet plantains stuffed with picadillo, and mozzarella cheese. My last visit, I ordered picadillo with a side of plantains and I still prefer the Canoa. There’s just something about the savory meat mixture settling into those plantains that is so good. But ordering picadillo as the entree and choosing whatever side may be your preferred way to go. We highly recommend the Lechon Asado. It’s slow roasted pork in a delicious mojito sauce that’s been simmered with onions. You choose your side. It won the table in my opinion. I’m told to try Mofongo, from the menu, which features green plantain and garlic, pork rind in a chicken broth. Also, Shrimp Mofongo, which is supposed to be incredible, but for now it’s a feature only.

Service was a bit slow the first visit, but the food was piping hot and incredibly fresh. Service was more speedy the other times. We got to visit with Jose and he’s optimistic about the space and future business there. “It has been busy. We are just trying to get the kinks out, working on timing and training new staff.And that takes some time.” The restaurant just got its liquor license within the last 10 days or so. “We have beer and now wine. And we are adding more liquor and building a menu for our bar.” There’s a bit of porch seating if you want to enjoy the outdoors. But Jose says they are working on additional patio seating which will be ideal for the type of cuisine they serve. And he says he and his wife will decide how to best utilize the upstairs for private events or meetings. “Let’s get down here working, then we can focus on upstairs.”

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Chef and owner, Jose Rodriguez

Only a few things remain…work out some of those pesky kinks, as Jose says, AND get that bar menu really going. As a Latin restaurant, I think it desperately needs cocktails and cerveza. I bet the Trigo would taste very good in “adult” version. One can hope that it is in consideration.

All in all, Winston-Salem needs Miami Restaurant & Bar as much as it needs Winston-Salem. Definitely worth a try.

What’s your favorite Latin restaurant in the area?