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TEAMED UP

by Britt Chester

Graze is not selfish with its shellfish

@awfullybrittish

Graze teamed up with Small Batch Beer Company to present a four-course meal paired with some of the brewery’s finest beverages, as well as a seasonal release. For $60 (with alcohol) or $50 (sans alcohol), attendees were treated to a southern meal as Chef de cuisine Richard A. Miller saw fit.

“I like comfort food,” he said, “Food that fills you up and makes you ready for bed.”

While speaking with Chef Miller in the kitchen of Graze, he calmly, albeit hurriedly, dressed roughly 26 plates for each course of the meal.

The first course, paired with Small Batch’s Hefe-Vice Hefeweizen brew, took us to the coast with cornmeal-fried oysters. Now, if you’re somewhat opposed to the aphrodisiac bivalve shellfish, let Chef Miller change your mind.

“We fry it in a simple dough, but the cornmeal really makes it southern,” he said. Sitting on the plate next to a dollop of deviled egg crema “” which I mistakenly thought was some sort of chipotle mayonnaise at first “” and a conservative dab of hefeweizen beer mustard, the fried oysters were the ideal way to start off the meal. Although fried, they didn’t sit heavy, and seeing as there were only six, the portion provided an ideal mattress for the upcoming course of P.E.I mussels. Oh! The pickles also danced nicely with the beer mustard, whose kick made it a perfect partner for the crema.

Limonhead IPA, which Small Batch’s head brewer Jamie Mingia described as “definitely one of our more popular beers,” came out before the next course.

(Author note: I am currently abstaining from imbibing for personal reasons, and though these beverages looked delicious and offered a delightful, colorful aroma, I will not be reviewing the pairing choice for the meals. The people I was sitting with, however, offered wonderful descriptions of the alcohol pairings, so thank you George, Anne, Linda and Butch.) Mussels, much like raw oysters, offer the opportunity to feel accomplished at dinner without the pressure of joining the clean plate club. Holding the shells, tearing out the two-bite sampling of seafood and topping it on the charred bread is as much a tasty sensation as it is a rapturous action. The white beans and tasso (smoked pork of some kind) that laid under the mussels came with a little spice, but toast and the lemon zest of the mussels cancelled that out, for me.

Percolator Stout came out before the entrée “” a heavier, coffee scented beer. A red-eye gravy was on the menu, apparently to top the fingerling potato and collard green hash, but it might have been a very conservative helping because I didn’t catch much of that flavor. The tenderloin cooked by Chef Miller, however, will certainly be my final meal request should I find myself on death row for holding him hostage as my private chef. Although knives were present in the place setting, this cut of meat, and whatever way he cooked it, allowed for each bite to tear perfectly with just a fork. Throw a little hash hat on top of the dapper pork, and you’ve got yourself a meal fit for a gentleman or queen.

Mingia introduced the Pumpkin Ale, a debut for the brewery. Not being much of a flavored beer kind of guy, I am in no position to review.

The fourth and final course was the apple tart tatin. Tart tatin is an upside down desert, sort of, in which the fruit is caramelized prior to baking. Did Chef Miller surprise us yet again? Yes, yes he did. The serving came with shattered bits of brittle, apple caviar, and a small scoop of pumpkin maple bacon ice cream. There are no errors in that list of contents: Maple bacon might as well read as “heaven” and when mixed with ice cream, is certainly a glimpse of the blissful afterlife. The ice cream must have sat for a moment too long as it was slightly melted, but the flavor remained intact and the softness actually allowed for the cream to blanket the entire tart. The apple caviar is just as it sounds: Small bubbles of cider that, through some scientific kitchen process I witnessed sous chef Timothy Gallione finishing earlier in the evening, added subtle crispness to each bite of the dessert. !

WANNA go?

Graze is located at 425 N. Cherry St. in Winston Salem. Breakfast is served from 6:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. with the dining menu available until 11 p.m. The lounge is open until 1 a.m.

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