Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Raleigh Roadfood Trip, Feb-20-2010, Part 2: Crook's Corner

Mama Dip's is close to the UNC campus, and The Traveling Man is a big UNC fan, so we wandered over there for a bit of shopping while we digested. The most dramatic moment of that shopping: Traveling Man trying on the UNC blue wig.

From there, we went to Crook's Corner, whose jalapeno-cheddar hush puppies had been mentioned in 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late. Crook's Corner is perhaps the most elegant restaurant decorated with hubcaps that I've ever visited. The expectations I formed from the outside did not match the art and wine rack inside.

ChiTownDiner, buffetbuster, and Mariton decided that they needed to pass on this meal in order to get Mariton to the airport in time for her flight home. It seemed like the right decision at the time, and even now it's hard to call it a mistake - but Mariton's flight was delayed, and this meal was my favorite meal of the whole weekend.

Traveling Man ordered iced tea, and it came with a pitcher of simple syrup. This was a very nice presentation - this allows the consumer to adjust the sweetness to taste, and the simple syrup mixes with the iced tea much more smoothly than granulated sugar.

I ordered the North Carolina-local Blenheim ginger ale, because the menu said "Blenheim spicy ginger ale". It was pretty potent, but Chris's judgment was that it was the milder of Blenheim's two non-diet varieties. Chris ordered the New Orleans-based Abita root beer, which was a very fine root beer.

For an appetizer, we ordered the jalapeno-cheddar hush puppies. I believe Chris didn't think that much of them, but I felt that the jalapeno really made the flavor much bolder and brighter; I'm not sure that I'd consider them a favorite hush puppy of mine, but I could understand how they might be someone else's favorite hush puppies.

Lori and I shared the Eggs New Bern, a chimera with the lower half of a country ham biscuit and the upper half of eggs Benedict. It was superb. The biscuit was light and fluffy. The country ham was very savory and flavorful, much richer in flavor than the very salty country ham I'd had elsewhere on this trip. The eggs were poached splendidly, just to the point that the yolks did not run when broken, but they were still bright orange. (I was actually pleasantly surprised that we got poached eggs. The waitress had led me to expect scrambled eggs, because apparently an overenthusiastic egg-cracker had cracked all the eggs that the restaurant had in stock. But the chef dashed out to buy more.)
This is one of the best Benedict-like dishes I've ever had.
The cheese grits that came with our eggs New Bern were also very rich and flavorful.

Chris got the fried oysters, and they too were excellent. They were extremely light and tasty. They had none of the dark heaviness that had characterized Paul's fried oysters the previous night, but they still tasted oystery.
Even Lori and Steve, both oyster frowners, agreed that these fried oysters were a dish that they could enjoy enough to eat more than a minimum. (That's near the top of Lori's scale for fried oysters.)

Steve started to order the French toast, but was checked by a slight moue from the waitress. She explained that she thought that the pancakes were much better, and mentioned as an afterthought that they were out of the French toast. The pancakes were excellent, also: buttery, light, and fluffy. Lori declared them the best pancakes ever, but clarified that she meant this in a way that didn't exclude the Camellia Grill from the same title.

For dessert, we were half-hoping, half-fearing that they would have pie - it seemed likely that they would have good pie, but it would be a shame for buffetbuster to miss great pie (and though we would bring him a piece, it wouldn't be the same). They did not have pie, though; instead, we four shared a dish of grapefruit sorbet. The sorbet was good, but sweeter than the grapefruit sorbet I had in my mind, so I didn't judge it as great. I discovered, though, that if I crushed the mint leaves from the garnish a little with my spoon as I took a bite, the trace of mint woke up the flavors and really made it taste splendidly fresh and lively.

I also need to put in a special word for Allison, our waitress. I tend not to notice service in restaurants unless it's distinctively bad; in general, as long as my food arrives in a reasonable time and my water glass is refilled often, I'm satisfied. But Allison's service was so good that I noticed it. She was very vivacious and very engaged with us; she joined in our discussion of the food and shared in our jokes. She definitely added a point or two out of ten to the overall quality of the meal, and it's very rare for me to judge a server so.

Crook's Corner was an outstanding meal, and I would be eager to return.
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