Tag Archives: chef’s table

Quiet Genius at Bernardin’s Restaurant

Chef Freddy Lee has been stealthily creating extraordinary cuisine for nearly three decades as the chef for his restaurant, Bernardin’s.  The restaurant celebrates 27 years this year, no small feat for a restaurant these days.

Quiet and a bit shy, with a complete lack of bravado that you might expect from some chefs, Lee and his brother, Terry, are a stronghold in the Winston-Salem dining scene. Before there was a popular downtown, Bernardin’s, at its unassuming shopping center location on Jonestown Road, was the go-to for that “special night out” for anniversaries, prom’s, romantic dates. Back in the day, a restaurant in a shopping center was the thing to do, Freddy told me. 

And then it wasn’t the thing to do. 

Then, nine years ago, the 200-year-old Zevely House, which had enjoyed its own iconic status as restaurant in the Historic West End, became available. The Lee brothers adapted and moved the restaurant into the 200-year-old Moravian style house nine years ago and it was as if Bernardin’s at the Zevely House was always meant to be. 

“Downtown was starting to really happen back then and we thought the West End would be a perfect location, it was more central and nearer to everything.”  More businesses, bakeries, the ballpark and condos added to the happening little neighborhood vibe.

The romantic atmosphere of the purported “oldest home in Winston-Salem” adds to the already elevated masterful dishes coming out of the Lee kitchen. White linen tablecloths and a full place setting in dining rooms make for intimate feels. Service is always top-notch.

Freddy was born in India and raised in New York. As a teenager he started working in fine dining restaurants in the city and after high school and graduated from Culinary Institute of America.  Although he learned a great deal about French culinary techniques in school, it’s on-the-job training that he’s found invaluable. “You learn some basic skills from school, but it’s working at different restaurants and with different chefs that you get the most experience.” Freddy worked in New York City in restaurants like Tribeca Grill and in California for a bit before he and Terry followed family members to Winston-Salem with the intent to open Bernardin’s, and they’ve considered themselves North Carolinians ever since.

 

Bernardin’s was the location of a Chef’s Table which was so popular that it sold out in a matter of hours.  Thirty-two guests were welcomed on the beautiful Bernardin’s patio where Freddy embarked on an adventurous, culinary tour of flavors from around the globe with local ingredients.

Course One
Roasted Tri-Color Cauliflower Salad
With Granny Smith Apple, almond walnut crunch, grilled corn,  feta cheese, grated salt cured fermented egg yolk. anchovies. micro greens, sherry vinaigrette

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Listening to Freddy talk about this dish was fun and made me want to replicate it. The intricate flavors of the lightly roasted cauliflower along with a sweet crunch of roasted nuts was a fun take on a salad.

Course Two Tandoori
Kangaroo
With raised savoy cabbage, lentil curry potato cake, papadam,
mint yogurt, tandoori sauce

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Did you say “kangaroo?” Yes, I did. Bernardin’s is kind of famous for their kangaroo dish. What does it taste like, you may ask. It’s slightly stronger in flavor than beef but not as gamey as venison. It’s very lean and very clean and you should have it at least once.  Freddy’s preparation of this classic Bernardin’s dish is lovely and let’s the flavor of the meat shine.

Course Three
Roasted Sea Bream
With sunchoke, asparagus, rainbow carrots, lobster chorizo broth
The light and flaky fish was pan-seared with a crispy skin in a simple, earthy smoky broth. 

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Course Four
Pork Belly Ramen Tonkotsu
With half boiled egg., enoki mushrooms, nori, green onion, black garlic, chili oil, pork broth 

Course 4

  A true crowd-pleaser, this dish was light and flavorful with the jammy egg.

Course Five
Cheesecake Parfait
Blackberry, raspberry. white chocolate, caramel. coconut pistachio crisp, oreo cookies
Grand Marnier, creme anglaise

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This little dessert had it all… Creamy layers of fluffy whipped sweetened cream cheese layered with chocolate and coconut, berries with hints of orange. Dive straight down and pull it up for the perfect bite, Freddy told us. And perfect it was. I’d go back for that anytime.

I’d go back for any of it. Guest, John McPherson, who’s attended a number of Chef’s Table said, “I love how the chef has taken us all over the globe with this meal.”

Every course was exquisite. And that’s true for anything I’ve ever had at Bernardin’s. 

Some versions of the dishes served at A Chef’s Table are dishes that have made or will make an appearance at Bernardin’s at any given time. Lee says he loves to work with different game and changes his more adventurous offerings based on what quality ingredients he can get. “I like to work with emu and bison and different kinds of seafood,’ he says.

Lee encourages taking the leap when dining out. “Many people order off the menu but sometimes they’ll want to be surprised. That’s the best way to eat, really. Order different entrees and share them.”

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The Lee brothers also own Bernardin’s Charlotte and Blue Fin in Columbia.  And Freddy has partnerships in other restaurants as well, Trade Street Diner, Bleu Restaurant & Bar, and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse.  How he has time to cook in addition to looking after all these restaurants is a wonder. But now with his children grown, he enjoys quick trips with his wife, even out of the country, but never for very long. “I like to get out of the restaurant and travel and eat fast food,”  he laughs. “Opening restaurants is stressful but to me, I love to cook and it comes easy.  I will always be cooking.”

A Look Back at Our Chef’s Table at Blue Denim

When you visit Blue Denim, it might be a good idea to wear your stretchy jeans.

Located in the heart of Downtown Greensboro (217 S. Elm Street), lovingly nicknamed “Jeansboro,” as an ode to the city’s textile heritage, particularly to Cone Denim, Blue Denim has established itself as a cozy, modern eatery with a focus on creole and cajun fare. Owner Jody Morphis, came to Greensboro by way of New Orleans in 2000. His first job in the Gate City was at the former Restaurant Pastiche. Five years later, Morphis opened Fincastles Downtown, a beloved burger-centric diner that became a part of Greensboro’s locally-owned burger boom. After enjoying 10 years at Fincastles, Morphis sold the diner and stepped away from the kitchen for a brief while. But the proverbial phrase, “I could not stay away” rings true here. So in 2015, Morphis and his wife opened Blue Denim, right next door to the former Fincastles (now White and Wood Wine Lounge).       

Opening a cajun restaurant wasn’t too far a stretch, as Morphis often featured a Mardi Gras menu at Fincastles that was quite popular. Morphis grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and after college went to culinary school in New Orleans. There he stayed as a chef in New Orleans at Cafe Giovanni,and then at House of Blues. “I always loved gumbo and étouffées. Growing up in Mississippi, we grew up on that too,” Morphis told me. An eclectic globally-inspired menu with a cajun and creole focus takes special attention and Morphis says he enjoys playing around with flavors and local ingredients.

While many of the featured chefs “surprise” the guests with the multiple courses, some like to present a menu and Chef Morphis’s menu was presented beautifully with a custom printed napkin tie to mark the occasion. Each course was detailed in such a way to highlight a region or event that is meaningful to Morphis and we noted that here with each course.

Mobile (Course 1)
Rock Shrimp Zabuton

“Mobile is where the first recorded Mardi Gras took place in the United States”

Marscarpone, rock shrimp, chives, raspberry & mango puree, roasted ginger pepper demi, pea shoot pesto.

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This little crepe like “pillow” was beautifully presented. The creamy filling worked beautifully with  the sauces and demi. You know how it’s so yummy to take the last bite and dredge it through all the beautiful glazes? Every bite was like that. Guest Scott Fancett declared, “This sauce is so good, it should’v come with a spoon.”

Chabaud (Course 2)
Holy Trinity & Friends

“Chabaud is the last name of the family that kind of took care of me when I lived in New Orleans,” Morphis described of this course. “They have been family friends since the late eighties. I have had many memorable meals and experiences with the Chabaud family, and just wanted to honor them.”

Gate City Harvest spring onions, roasted sweet peppers, celery, pork, toasted gorgonzola, Blue Denim Sauce

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This dish was deemed a favorite by guest Bill Norman, who owns Fainting Goat Spirits. This deconstructed “holy trinity” had the components separately presented, but the magic happened when you combined the flavors getting a little bit of everything. The toasted gorgonzola added a beautiful cheese straw like texture and flavor.

Bacchus (Course 3)
Duck, Duck, Gumbo

“Bacchus is another Krewe in New Orleans,” Morphis explained of this dish. “Bacchus was formed in order to include people from outside of New Orleans to revitalize carnival in NOLA. Duck gumbo is revitalizing and a very inclusive dish in itself.”

Smoked Joyce Farms duck, andouille sausage, lemon-grass scented filé gumbo, Louisiana popcorn rice

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The gumbo has been a featured item in the past few weeks at Blue Denim, the warmth and spiciness is everything you love in a gumbo. It was a bit heartier thanks to the duck with a great kick of heat.

Zulu (Course 4)
Grits & Daube

“Zulu is the first parade to roll on Fat Tuesday, which to me is the meat and potatoes of carnival season.”

Old Mill of Guilford Grits, USDA Prime Denver Steak, Cabernet beef jus reduction, parsley oil

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A riff on shrimp and grits, brings us steak and grits. It was a hearty entree to cap the evening’s savory courses. 

Endymion (Course 5)
Oh My Darlin’ Lemon-Thyme

Endymion is one of the super Krewes and largest parades that roll during Mardi Gras,” says Morphis, “When I lived in NOLA, the Chabaud family lived on the Endymion parade route. I had some sweet times there, so dessert was named for Endymion.”

Lemon Thyme Cheesecake,bourbon rosemary blueberry sauce, lemon curd, mint

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The dessert, with its golden, purple and green, which I’m sure was a hat tip to Mardi Gras, was sweet, tart and herbaceous. I absolutely love a lemon dessert with some component of berry. It was absolute perfection for me.

Morphis says when considering what the city needed, he saw a place in the market for great cajun cuisine. “I make a concerted effort to do it the right way and with the right ingredients. The bread for our Po’ Boys come from New Orleans.“

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“We work closely with Gate City Harvest and get with Aubrey to find out what he’s growing and it’s getting easier to build our menus earlier now and utilize as much locally grown produce as possible.”  He adds, “I also love to read a whole lot and study cookbooks to see what other people are doing…and study what other cultures are doing too so that we might be able to do that here at Blue Denim.”

Morphis says he’s happy he has been able to discover a passion and deliver what he loves to do in Greensboro and now he has regulars that dine at Blue Denim that keeps the drive alive. “I don’t take loving what I do for granted. I knew I wasn’t going to get rich, but we make a nice living. We also found good people that work with us that share that desire to create a great experience for our guest. I don’t take that lightly.”

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A Lao Chef’s Table

Hi, foodies…

I want to make sure you get our recaps of our Chef’s Table when they happen…and …um…I might be a bit behind. But here’s a look at our event from May 6, with Lao Restaurant + Bar. It was an amazing evening of courses shared family style, as is the Lao tradition.  This story ran in YES! Weekly!  but of course I’m gonna lay it all out for you here too.

Fresh off YES! Weekly’s Triad’s Best, Lao Restaurant + Bar is basking in the glory of being named Best Restaurant in Guilford County. The Laotian restaurant opened with much anticipation and excitement last summer and they’ve feeling the love. What’s interesting is that for YEARS I’ve been saying a restaurant like Lao would kill it in Winston-Salem. Well, Greensboro beat WS to the punch and the city still remains the place to be for great Asian cuisine. 

Fifty guests of a recent sold out Chef’s Table at Lao prove that even further.  Here’s a little of how it went down (paraphrasing):

Me: I’d love to feature you at a Chef’s Table in the future.

Vonne: But I’m not a chef.

Me: It matters, not. This is about you, your restaurant and your delicious food.

Vonne: Let’s do it on Monday, May 6.

Me: Great!  (creates event, tickets go live, tickets sell quickly–all the while thinking “huh…they’re closed on Monday so that’s cool that she’s doing something special”)

Vonne the next morning (less than 12 hours later): Uh oh, I messed up. We’re closed on Mondays. Ooops. But maybe we can still do it, depending on ticket sales.

Me: Well, it’s sold out at 25 tickets so…now what?

Vonne: Add 25 more tickets!

And in the end the Lao Chef’s Table, with the additional 25 tickets, was sold in out 24 hours. So owner Vonne Keobouala closed her restaurant for all 53 of us as she and her team gave us an exclusive peek at some of her favorite Lao dishes. By the way, the restaurant is now open on Mondays.

Vonne Keobouala was born in Laos, which is in Southeast Asia between Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. At age seven and as a result of the Vietnam war, her family moved to California.

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photo by Wong Kim

She grew up surrounded by a community who enjoyed their culture’s food. But as time went on, they adapted to the American way of life and eating. Still, Vonne says it has always been important to her to share the culture and cuisine of Southeast Asia.  When her brother, Matt “Jit” Lothakoun, moved to North Carolina, she followed soon after and they opened Simply Thai in Elon, with a focus on Thai food and sushi.  Ten years have passed and they have since expanded to a location in Jamestown. But it was the food of Laos that Vonne says needed celebrating. “Here, there are Asian restaurants. We see Chinese and Thai, but not the food of Laos, not the food of my mother. But I think people are ready to accept our cuisine. Food brings people together and we want to introduce our culture through our food.”

What makes Lao food different is the vibrant colors and unique textures of the dishes. The freshest herbs and produce make for meal that’s pleasing to the palate while you enjoy working with your hands. And that’s mostly how the guests at Chef’s Table enjoyed their meal. Hands washed, enjoying a family-style meal of lettuce wraps and other hand-held items that were crispy, crunchy, spicy, sticky and just tantalizing in so many ways.

Guests were greeted upon arrival with platters of Shrimp Crisps. They looked like colorful pork skins with a similar crispy texture but they were made with shrimp. They were great for snacking and conversation.

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Appetizer
Vegetable Spring Rolls & Sakoo Sai Moo
Tapioca dumpling pouches filled with pork peanuts, caramelized palm sugar and fried garlic

You can’t go wrong by starting out with the quintessential spring roll and Lao’s is one of the best around.  The Sakoo Sai Moo were sticky little dumplings with a little chili kick and we wrapped them in beautiful lettuce leaves for a fresh yet sticky, sweet, salty, spicy bite.

First Course (photo by Wong Kim)
Nam Khao
Lettuce wraps, crispy rice, coconut flakes, peanuts, sour pork, with fresh cilantro, green onions

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More eating with our hands. These wraps were similar to what you might find in a great Chinese restaurant with lots of cilantro and onions. The crispy rice in this dish helps it stand out.

Second Course
Chicken Laab
Chopped roasted chicken seasoned with spicy lime sauce and fresh herbs

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This popular Laotian larb was fantastic as well.  Served with a bowl of sticky rice, which acted as your vessel from hand to mouth. You made a bowl in your hand with the rice and placed the chicken mixture inside. If you like playing with your food, this dish is for you. “Laotians use sticky rice like bread,” Vonne told us.

Third Course
Lao Sausage & Beef Seen Lod
Jeow Dipping Sauce
Sticky rice

The sausage and beef may also play nicely as an appetizer. Like a Lao charcuterie board, the spicy sausage was so full of flavor and the Beef is considered to be like jerky.  The dish was served with more sticky rice and a delicious dipping sauce.

Fourth Course
Aom
Chicken Herbal stew with fresh dill, green long beans and Lao eggplant

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The description says it all. The stew was hot and herbaceous and filled with chunky chicken and veggies. Great for a cold day.

Dessert
Nom Vaan Lorm
Mixed flavored jellies, cantaloupe and corn, served in sweetened coconut milk

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Now this little dessert might read odd. Flavored jellies? Corn? But it was fantastic to me. It tasted like a coconut infused cereal milk. You know how Sugar Smacks taste? That’s what it reminded me of…but with the freshest of real fruit  mixed in.

To say that the Chef’s Table guests were stuffed and blown away is putting it mildly. And Vonne says she loves seeing the faces of happy customers enjoying the cuisine of family’s heritage.  “Seeing people come in, meeting them and knowing they are so happy to be here and enjoy the food and then they continue to support us…that’s the biggest reward.”

I just love her.

Lao Restaurant + Bar is located at 219-A South Elm Street, Greensboro.

Click here for my podcast with Vonne on the Triad Podcast Network

 

Announcing our June Chef’s Table at Full Kee Chinese Restaurant

Hi, foodies!

We are on a roll with these Chef’s Tables. I am just little Mrs. Foodie Planner.  We just came off an incredible and delicious, mind-blowing globally influenced Creole meal with Chef Jody Morphis at Blue Denim in Greensboro (aka Jeansboro).

Fortunately for our restaurants, but unfortunately for the blog reader, some of our events have sold out before I even get to announce it on my blog. Today, I’m ahead of the game to announce our June 19 Chef’s Table will be with the one and only Full Kee Gourmet Chinese Restaurant and it is going to be epic! It’s the best Chinese in the Triad and a favorite of so many people here.

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Here are the details!  Click here to get tickets if details don’t matter .

Folks….we’re going to High Point to share with you the BEST BEST Chinese in all the Triad. Full Kee has been renowned for its “gourmet” Chinese cuisine for over 10 years.  Nope,  this isn’t your typical takeout fare. It’s elegant dining and gourmet Chinese and I promise you, you do not want to miss it.

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As former owner, George Yu, has retired to the Sunshine State, new owner Sue Chen has helped Full Kee retain and exceeed its former glory. Chef Carlos Lopez learned everything he knows from George and has further refined and enhanced his culinary talents with Cantonese cuisine.  From the handmade dumpling wrappers to delicate stir fry bass and savory boneless duck, you’ll be impressed with this family-style event at Full Kee.

Here’s how it works:

Reserve with a ticket here and you’ll join us at our table on Wednesday, June 19 at 7:00pm. A reminder of our pricing: Your ticket price of $35 INCLUDES your multi-course dinner as well as tax and gratuity associated with the meal. Beverage (and gratuity for the purchase of beverages) are not included in the ticket price. Please take care of your server on any beverage service. A reminder that seating will be limited. We’ll see you on June 19! Come early for drinks and relax for a bit. Full Kee has a full bar and a great wine program.

** It’s super fun to attend Chef’s Tables with friends! We totally get it. However if you are unable to arrive early and all at once with your party, please let us know in advance that you’d like to be seated together and we’ll make every effort to accomodate your request. This is especially helpful if your tickets were not purchased under one name.

** Follow us on Facebook for the latest details and get in on the chatter by tagging @FullKeeRestaurant #triadfoodiesChefsTable on Facebook and Instagram. Please notify me at Kristi@triadfoodies.com if you have any food sensitivity or if the chef needs to be aware of any concerns

 

 

Check out my podcast with Chef Jody Morphis of Blue Denim

Good afternoon, foodies!

My podcast with Chef Jody Morphis of Blue Denim is live. You can listen here.IMG_6490.jpeg

Jody is the featured chef of my next Chef’s Table on March 26. We can’t wait to find out what is in store.  I love talking to chefs and finding out how they got where they are.

And it sounds like, Chef Jody is doing exactly what he feels called to do.

Read more abut Blue Denim here. by visiting their website and seeing the menu!  We’ll have a complete recap of our Chef’s Table next week in YES! Weekly.

If you’ve got some time to spare (while you’re driving or cleaning), all of my podcasts are on the Triad PodcastNetwork along with a lot of great podcasts by local businesses.  Outlook-1495762201.jpg