Last January John Currence of City Grocery hosted a series of pop up restaurants and we were able to go down for one of them. It ended up being one of the best meals of the year. When I heard he was doing a similar concept again this year I knew we had to go to one if not all. Sadly with January being a busy travel month we were only able to attend one, this past Monday.
This year's pop-ups were to raise money for Rodney Scott of Hemingway, SC who lost his BBQ restaurant in a fire last fall. There's actually a bunch of pop-ups all over the South to benefit Rodney. More information here. We chose to go to the pop up cooked by Ashley Christensen of Raleigh, NC. I've heard good things about her restaurants, but North Carolina is not an area we get to often. That's one of the aspects of these pop-ups that I love, being able to taste the work of a chef from an area you might not be able to visit.
This year was a pre-fix 4 course meal with an optional wine pairing. I like this concept because with this caliber of chef I don't want to second guess on my choices. Just bring me what the chef wants!
Please excuse the iPhone photos. The restaurant lighting was dim and I didn't want to bring the big camera.
Course 1: O'Henry White Sweet Potato Soup with Red-Eye Duck Butter and Pickled Greens
Holy moly, this soup blew us away. The soup was a fine puree and so smooth and mellow tasting. What really threw it over the top was the pickled greens. I do not like greens. But pickled? Why aren't we pickling more greens and putting them in things?! They were great. They added a nice zing and complexity to the soup.
Course 2: Coal Roasted Beets with smoked sunburst trout roe, charred kumquat marmalade vinaigrette, our yogurt
Beets! Since we went to Andrew Michael's No Menu Monday in December I've pretty much been obsessed with beets. We had them in New Orleans at Peche and when I saw them on the menu I was super excited. Beets! These were tasty, but this was our least favorite dish. It was still incredible.
Course 3: Low Country Cassoulet with sea island red peas, cider-braised winter salad, crispy pickled okra
Or as Bryan called it, The South in a Dish. There was also some pulled pork and shrimp in there as well and topped with chow chow. I told Bryan that all it needed was some toasted crushed pecans and then it would be the south in a dish. This was Bryan's favorite dish. It was hearty and delicious. At first it looked a little small, but I took half of mine home. Also of note: fried pickled okra. Why haven't we been doing this more often?! Southern chefs take note!
Course 4: Vardaman Sweet Potato Chess Pie with sorghum sweet cream and spiced nuts
Yum. I don't eat enough chess pie. The sorghum whipped cream was amazing. I vowed to only put sorghum in my whipped cream from now on. We lingered over this course as I had not caught up to my wine pairing yet and I was savoring every last bite.
Overall it was a wonderful meal and I'm so thankful that we are close enough to Oxford to be able to drive down for the event. I wish that we had been able to attend more, but it's probably for the best not to eat four course meals on a weekly basis. But it sure would be nice...