Pittsboro, NC 27312
After our lunch at The Pig, we took a little tour of UNC's campus, stopped by the bookstore to get a few souvenirs and did a little shopping at some southern cooking store. It was a lot of activity to pile into just a few hours so we practically had to go straight to dinner and showed up in clothes that were probably too casual for the place. When I asked our waiter, who turned out to be a really witty and funny guy, if we were undressed, his only answer was, "well, it has been one of the hottest weekends of the year so I can understand why you would wear short sleeves and no jacket". Ouch. I generally don't ever dress up for restaurants as most restaurants in NYC (and probably DC) have a more casual dress code these days but I don't think that's trickled down to the South just yet.
Volt (which is the best presented food I've ever experienced). From the canapes to "the little treats they gave us at the end whose name I do not know", everything looked pretty amazing and sometimes so good, you almost didn't want to eat them. The unfortunate part about this is that another freak thunderstorm rolled in so it got dark awful quick and my pics may not be doing the desserts justice.
The menu was divided up into four courses and you could choose from just taking three courses or participating in all four. Also, you could order from multiple courses except when it came from the entrees. For example, for a four course meal, you could take three starters and an entree. My parents decided to go with the three course option (Mom skipped the second course and Dad skipped dessert) while the niece and I went with the four course option. Like with Volt, it's too long to list our whole meal so I'll talk about each individual course.
Um, but first we ordered wine. We ordered off their list and asked the sommelier, who was an attractive women with Asian features, about the three Italian reds off the menu. We settled on the third choice which was a wonderful little wine from Piedmont that was light and fruity with a slight aftertaste that reminded you of a blueberry liquer. It was an absolutely spot on recommendation from the sommelier after we described what we were looking for.
While we were choosing wine, the sommelier asked us where we were from and we told her Maryland and she said she was about to go to DC in the next week. Somehow, with my parents talking to her, we went from that she went to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) to the fact that she was born in the Philippines and went to school in a bunch of places my parents were familiar with. Then she went to get our wine. When she got back, my parents switched to tagalog (our native tongue) and asked her if she was married. She said no. My Dad then proceeds to tell her that I'm single. At the point I said something like, "Christ, are you kidding me?"
That just happened. My parents just tried to pick up the sommelier for their son. For f*ck's sake. Anyway, her response was fantastic. She said that when she gets together with a bunch of filipinos, she wears a ring on her left hand ring finger so that question never gets asked. I replied with (under my breath of course), "that's f*cking fantastic". She was a good sport for the rest of the night and handled the situation gracefully but I want to apologize here for all the awkward awkwardness.
I've decided to blog about the meal course-by-course. What? You're probably thinking of course you are you idiot. What I mean is that I'm going to talk about the dishes we got from a particular course (1-4). Shush. I'm not finished. My slick matchmaking father chose two dishes off the second course so his meal was two second courses and a main course but his first second course was served with the first courses. So, only my mom, my niece and myself got a first course. I think that cleared it up. That wasn't a question. Let's move on.
The three first courses we ordered were the Royal Red Shrimp Ceviche with Tomato & Horseradish, Chilled Watermelon & Cucumber Gazpacho with Lemon & Basil Sorbet, and Kombu Cured Escolar with Seaweed Salad & Lemon Dressing. My niece had the gazpacho and I had one little taste of the sorbet before she inhaled the rest. It looked good and the lemon & basil together in the sorbet was refreshingly cool and smoother than I expected. My escolar (to me, very similar to albacore) was a very meaty white fish surrounded by seaweed, edamame, and reductions of squid ink and avocado. Since the fish was so mild, it changed flavor when paired with something different on the plate. There was the strong flavor of the ink, the sweetness of the avocado, the saltiness of the edamame. It all played very well together. The ceviche and cherry tomato pairing made a great acidic, sweet, and tangy combo as one bite.
For the main course, we got the Seared Beef Tenderloin with King Oyster Mushrooms & Smoked Madeira, the Seared Bass with Confit Cuttlefish, Tomato and Lomo Vinaigrette, the Roasted Scallops with Buttermilk Nage & Caviar, and the Cornish Hen with Truffled Creamed Corn & Local Speck Ham. My order was the Cornish Hen which came as a round ball of white meat covered with crispy skin. I think I would have preferred if it resembled a bird in any way but nonetheless, the hen came out moist and creamy very much like the creamed corn did except sweeter. The speck was a bit lost in all of this though which was disappointing. The scallops had a nice browning on them and the quinoa provided a nice crunch with all the soft elements. The beef tenderloin was probably the most tender (yes I see) piece of beef I've ever had and was perfectly cooked to medium rare. The sea bass was my niece's. See: my cousin at Lantern.
There were a ton of other post-desserts, canapes, and amuse bouches thrown in to make it a truly wonderful meal. I don't know if we fully appreciated it since we gorged ourselves at The Pig just a few hours earlier which I don't regret for one bit. I can tell you though, that the meal that was served us at Fearrington House was one of the more visually stunning meals I've had in a long time and probably rivals Volt. And while good food is nice to look at, it should always be about the flavor and this meal definitely had that in spades. I went down to North Carolina to visit some family and had lowered my expectations on what kind of culinary adventure I would find down there. Not only were my expectations blown away, I think I had some of the best meals ever during my stay. Thanks for your hospitality North Carolina, I hope to come back soon.