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Get Your Foodie Self to Roots!

UPDATE: Earlier in October, Roots Restaurant announced it has closed. We are so sorry to see them go. I’m leaving this post up a bit longer to share the vision and what a good time we had at our Chef’s Table.  

Behold, quality casual fine dining. In Yadkin County. WHERE I GREW UP! It’s not a chain or seafood or a steakhouse or hot dogs and ice cream, which is basically YC. Roots Restaurant at Sanders Ridge Winery opened its doors in April with two young, eager superstar chefs at the helm. And the YC should be thrilled about this. And you should drive to the YC to be thrilled about this too! O

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Hailed as a hidden gem, Roots is located at the vineyard’s grounds in Boonville. Within the gorgeous timber-framed tasting room, Roots is at least the fourth incarnation of the restaurant space in recent years. For whatever reason, previous tenants of the kitchen space haven’t been able to make a go of it. It’s not the easiest place in the world to get to even though it’s only about 25 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem. But folks from Guilford County and beyond have said Roots is well worth the drive. And what a scenic drive it is, with the Yadkin County pasteur land and beautiful rows of corn and tobacco.  It is quite best to make a day of it, tour the wine country and let your final stop be at Roots. In the winter months, a stone hearth fire located in the center of the room will welcome you. A perfect a bite or for a larger function, as it’s available for private events such as weddings receptions and celebrations.

You have seen the work of Chefs Ben Hurst and Brent Andruzzi if you follow your favorite eateries on any social media. Hurst trained Andruzzi at River Birch Lodge and Andruzzi left Willow’s Bistro to take on this new venture. Hurst says he actually was going to open a food truck and use the kitchen as a commissary when owner Cindy Shore approached him about running a full-fledged restaurant there. “I wasn’t sure about it. I hadn’t even managed a business much less started one. And then I asked Brent to come on board.”

Andruzzi said, “no.” 

Andruzzi clarifies it was a kind, apologetic no. But an entire month later, Andruzzi had a change of heart and the no became an enthusiastic, “yes.”

Hurst graduated with two non-culinary degrees but his first job was at River Birch and that’s where he met Andruzzi.  After a few stints in other kitchens, Hurst went to culinary school at Guilford Tech and finally at Johnson and Wales. After searching for his place in the kitchen, Hurst took some time and worked at Harmony Ridge Farm, where he learned the other side of food. “That’s worked out really well. because I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned with me.  Now we have a greenhouse on the hill where we grow a lot of our own vegetables.” Andruzzi grew up cooking with his parents encouraging his creativity in the kitchen by buying him whatever ingredients he wanted. After some time working at Lowes Foods, he also found himself at River Birch under Chef Travis Myers. “Like Ben, I worked at all the different stations.  We learned a lot there. A good foundation was built there.” Andruzzi eventually joined Myers at Willow’s Bistro where his creativity was truly allowed to shine. “When you have that kind of freedom, you learn what works and especially what doesn’t.”

Andruzzi says he’s been gardening too and the fact that Hurst has been farming, that there’s a  greenhouse and farm and the opportunity that exists here was a strong factor in his decision to take a chance and exit his place at Willow’s. “We have freedom to grow whatever we want as well as cook whatever we want, so that’s a bonus.” Roots also sources other local farms when they can.

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Hurst says his goal at Roots is to create dishes that people can’t get at home. “Even as a chef, I when I eat out, I don’t want my experience to be something I can create at home. I want it to be surprising, full of flavor, creative…something you can’t quite replicate in your own kitchen.”

Course One
Duck Two Way Tostadas with duck sauce, radish, scallion, house made pork rinds

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Out of the gate, the chefs immediately showcased their ability to take an upscale protein and make it attainable tapas-style.

Course Two
Pimento cheese stuffed poblano with bacon jam and cilantro scallion cream

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This course may have been close to my favorite dish of the evening simply because it was so different than anything I’ve ever had before. The spicy poblano filled with Sanders Ridge now famous pimento cheese AND bacon jam. Both. Together. Some of us had to clear our throat but the scallion cream cut the heat of the slightly devilish kick from that pepper.. And the people, said “wow.”  The pimento cheese and bacon jam are available for purchase at the winery as well as Cobblestone Farmer’s Market in Winston-Salem.

Palette cleanser
Lemon basil freeze pops

Before the courses emerged, Chef Hurst gave the guests a teaser of what was to come and simply said there would be a surprise in between two of the courses. So these platters full of freezer pops that looked like smaller grown-up versions of the colorful pops we all grew up with were met with delight from each table. The basil complemented the fresh slightly sweet lemony-ness. I kind of felt myself wanting another pop later.  A freezer full of those on a summer day would not be the worst thing.

Course Three
Shortbread herb crusted scallop, greenhouse salad, strawberry vinaigrette, pickled onions

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I’d heard accolades from the scallop dishes so I am glad the chefs decided to feature these on their menu this evening.  If I’m coming back to eat in the future (and I will), I’m getting scallops.

Course Four
Ribeye over basil bread pudding, local mushrooms, fig jam, Fair Share Farm micros

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A very close #2 to my favorite, a beef course will always be a winner in my book and for most carnivores.  The steak was perfectly cooked and the savory bread pudding was so delicious with it.  Note: Roots has a menu item that is called “Deconstructed Beef Wellington”. I imagined the flavor profile is not so different though the execution might be. I’ve been told it’s incredible.  After tasting this dish, I have no doubt.

Course Five
Strawberry and blueberry Shortcake and sugar cookie with homemade ice cream

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A beautiful summery dish with sweet berries, perfect cake and richly textured ice cream rounded out our evening. A great ending.

And then the chefs re-emerged from the kitchen to applause and a standing ovation. Chef’s Tables are always stellar but these young chefs received such praise that it was truly heartwarming.  Hannah Waggoner, of Rural Hall, has been to a number of Chef Table events and she even got the proverbial ball rolling on getting the Roots event off the ground. “My first visit to Roots made my foodie heart happy,” she said.  “All the dishes my table ordered were loaded with flavor, finesse, and beautifully plated! The staff were friendly and accommodating. I knew that Roots would be an excellent location for a Chef’s Table.” Waggoner says she knew it would pay off.  “The guests were not disappointed. Each of the five courses was unique and delicious! It was great to get a taste of some of Roots’ specialty dishes with a few surprises!”

By the way, I’d suggest you follow Roots on Facebook and any other social media and perhaps get on their email list because on Thursday nights, the chefs do a little something different by having a Thursday Supper. And it’s amazing. And if you can get in there for the fried chicken, you’ll send me a thank you letter and maybe, if you really love me and are super thankful, you’ll send me gifts. That’s a how delicious that fried chicken is. Super crispy every inch. See?

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And how’s this for making a name for oneself?  In a reader’s poll,  USA Today’s 10 Best just announced that Roots Restaurant was just named in the top 10 of the best winery restaurants in America. Roots placed 6th. Way to go!  Read about that here. 

If there’s anything I’d say at this point it’s this: Yadkin County, this is your moment. Finally there’s a restaurant in the area that celebrates not only the wine country but the wonderful bounty that the area brings forth. I grew up in Yadkin County and having to go to Winston-Salem for a great meal was a top complaint.  If a restaurant of this caliber can succeed with Yadkin’s and its big city neighbors’ support, it will pave the way for other restaurants like it. Napa wasn’t built in a day. It’s taken 170 years, plus it survived Prohibition and the Great Depression. You might consider the Yadkin Valley winemakers pioneers here. And the restaurant owners want to blaze a trail much like their West Coast counterparts. The talent and deliciousness is there and Roots Restaurant is digging deep and taking a chance on the area’s support.

Wanna go? Roots Restaurant at Sanders Ridge located at 3200 Round Hill Road, Boonville.   Open for dinner Thursday from 5:30-9:00 for Family style supper (check website or Facebook for features). Full service menu Friday & Saturday 5:00-9:00. Full service lunch is available in the tasting room Friday-Sunday 11:00-3:00. The wine bar also has a full menu available from 12:00-5:00. Visit sandersridge.com for info.

foodie b’eat: Village Juice + + +

As seen in YES! Weekly Aug. 10, 2016 with a bit more chatter and photos here!

WARNING!
Goodness and healthy eating await in Winston-Salem….

… it’s quite the departure from what we’re used to. Where you once would just grab and go, now you can order and sit. Village Juice Company has gone from a juice truck to a tiny storefront, to a full-fledged counter service restaurant now at 205 South Stratford Road in the Towers Shopping Center. The shop literally all happened hiding in plain sight.

Village Juice Co. was founded by Lonnie Atkinson. She started selling her juice out of the food truck while using Beta Verde’s commercial kitchen. “My passion was always health and wellness…and was always to have something bigger than just the truck. I have worked in larger cities, where something like this is readily available. I knew there was a need for it here, so I decided to build the brand, with the juice first.”

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Photo courtesy of Village Juice Company

About a year ago, business partner, Elizabeth Lucas-Averett joined the mix, “We are both super passionate about the concept, but we both have different skill sets. Lonnie is the one with the food background who can come up with the creations and make them amazing. I come from a business background. I wanted to do this concept before I met Lonnie, but the timing wasn’t right, so I just waited for the universe to connect me with an expert at all things that I am not.”

Then came the tiny little juice shop with just juices in a refrigerator, but magic was happening behind the temporary wall they set up. Atkinson says, “We were building our kitchen and upfitting the entire space while continuing to produce elsewhere. Then, we moved into our kitchen, the wall came down and people were amazed to see what we were up to.”

What you’ll find…just about your heart’s desire in a bright, chic modern setting where everything is made from scratch. There’s a large selection of the original cold-pressed juices filled with healthy fruits and vegetables. Nut milks infused with all kinds of ingredients like cocoa, coffee or matcha, sweetened only with dates. There’s even a Charcoal Lemonade made with activated charcoal called Black Magic; the activated charcoal reportedly removes toxins from the body. It looks interesting – it’s black! – and I did see a gentleman enjoying it. That’s on the “to try” list for me.  You can get locally made Caldero bone broth from the case, too.

For a quick meal to go, there’s a menu of filling whole foods-based smoothies, toasts and salads. My favorite are the smoothie bowls…which range from $9-12. I especially loved the Dragonfruit Bowl, which is made from organic pitaya, fruit, house made almond milk and topped with organic seasonal fruits, shredded coconut and bananas. I added some collagen for extra protein.  “The smoothie bowls are 22 ounces of fruit with nut butters and toppings, made with 100% raw, house made coconut milk or almond milk. There’s lots of fiber and our portions are larger than most, so your body gets that full feeling,” Atkinson said. And there are plenty of add-ons like the collagen and protein powders plus superfoods you’ll likely not find anywhere else. It is indeed filling, with incredible color. It feels downright indulgent.

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Pitaya Bowl

They also have a selection of made-to-order creative salads that you can select or “build your own.”  I had the herb and pumpkin seed salad with organic arugula, organic kale, organic parsley, cilantro, mint & basil blend, organic cucumber, organic tomato, avocado, pumpkin seed, local Gnomestead Hollow curtido,Fair Share Farms micro greens. They recommend the citrus vinaigrette as a dressing.  I’d have to agree…the kale likes a zippy, tangy dressing. Just in the past couple of weeks, new grain bowls have been added with hearty quinoa, etc. 

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And then there are the toasts  Avocado toasts, BLT with Avocado, Pear and Goat Cheese, Nut Butter and Banana – all great for someone who wants something with some chew, but not a salad. The toasts are also made to order, and even the dressings and spreads are house made. From the folks I’ve talked to the Avocado Goddess dressing is a popular one. 

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Photo courtesy of Village Juice Shop

The company also strives to find the cleanest ingredients possible, right down to the oil for their dressings, such as coconut oil and pumpkinseed oil, something quite hard to find in your typical restaurant.  Lucas-Averett adds, “Our greens are organic always. Everything that is listed on the menu as organic is always organic.  Clean, sustainably produced whole foods are very important to us. We have high personal standards for this that inspired us to start this business in the first place.”

The team says that people are driving from all over the Triad to get a taste of their healthy “treats and eats.” When I was there, there was a constant stream of customers. Some a bit curious, grabbed a juice from the case, or tried a free sample and went on their way. But many more placed their order and waited for their colorful smoothie, salad or toast to arrive. Some of the smoothie bowls and salads are large enough to share. Atkinson says reception has been terrific. “The thing we’ve seen about our customers is they love coming in trying something they’ve never tried before.”

Though the VJC team is at the helm of a very healthy ship that is very “raw” and vegan-friendly, they’re not about the labels. “We’ve tried every label on personally and we’ve thrown them all out. We’re really just whole foodies,” Lucas-Averett told me. “I’m a mostly-vegetarian who dabbles in bacon and bone broth…there’s not a label for that. We wanted to create a space where anybody could find something they could eat.” Atkinson added, “I did the raw and the vegan lifestyles, and they were great, but I feel the most balanced just eating real food. However, I think I had to go to that extreme to understand the benefits, as well as to relate to what people might go through who are eliminating specific foods from their diet.”

Atkinson says they’re interested in changing the way people view healthy food. “A lot of what’s known as health food is dry or flavorless and tastes like cardboard. We want to shift that so people know you can get something that’s very filling and tastes amazing and is really good for you. We want our customer to leave here and feel good about themselves. There’s that mental thing, and then the actual physical reaction from eating something healthy.” Lucas-Averett adds, “We’re both interested in bringing wellness to as many people as possible and showing that good healthy food isn’t for that “other” person, whomever they may be but that it’s accessible to everyone and that it tastes really, freaking good!  You don’t have to count calories. Count nutrients. It’s a huge leap of faith for us, but we really believe that people want and need this.”

I can tell you that once you go, you’ll probably find yourself craving a smoothie bowl or a toast. I can’t wait to go back. I think you’ll really enjoy it. #triadfoodiesapproved!

Oh and the truck is still available for festivals and such.13392008_843253222472777_1691650869691257378_o

Village Juice Co. Shop: 205 S. Stratford Rd, WS
Village Juice Truck: 1208 Reynolda Road, (Krankies Coffee Park)
Village Juice Box:   525@Vine Atrium, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter  villagejuicecompany.com