What I love about Raleigh is just when you think you’ve had the best meal of your life, another new great place opens up and blows your mind.
I had my first mind-blowing experience at Standard Foods last night. I had never been to Herons when Scott Crawford was the executive chef there, but I had heard amazing things about his food. I anxiously awaited the opening of Standard Foods, with most of Raleigh, for almost a year. Finally they opened – I made my reservations and two weeks later I was able to dine there, with my lucky dinner companion. We were so fortunate as to sit at one of the family style tables RIGHT next to Chef Crawford’s neighbors. So, we had quite a meal.
As we waited for our first dish, our dinner neighbors were brought a dish of the Buttered Clams ($13 – served with preserved cream peas, ham and parmesan). The broth was rich with butter and flavored so well. The clams were perfectly cooked and that bread (from Boulted Bread in Raleigh http://www.boultedbread.com) was buttered and toasted just enough that the texture sopped up the broth perfectly.
My dinner friend and I ordered three small plates to share (and yes, that would have been a perfect amount of food,with dessert) and some sopping bread ($4) to ensure we were able to savor every bit of the delicious sauces and gravies that topped our food. Above is the Butternut Squash ($11). It was roasted and served with caramelized onions, pumpkin seed pesto and goat cheese. I’m not a pesto fan, however this was unlike anything I’d ever had. The pumpkin seeds were toasted and added a crispy texture, as did the fried sage (oh my god, what a great idea).
Our second small plate was the Rabbit and Dumplings ($14). This dish consisted of sweet potato dumplings (amazing), green apple and tarragon. Wow, the broth was fantastic. The apples were left crispy, so the texture of both the carrots and dumplings contrasted that beautifully.
The third dish we choose was the Pheasant Porridge ($14) served with mushrooms, heart gravy, rye and egg. The pumpernickel croutons on top were a great crispy flavor that went well with the gravy. I loved how the egg went with the dish, and the pheasant was so delicate and flavorful. I had never had pheasant before – it was quite a treat.
Our neighbors also shared with us the Crispy Pork Belly ($13) with carrot tortellini and mustard vinaigrette and the Swordfish (large plate – $23). The pork belly wasn’t as crispy as I expected, but the flavor was great and the tortellini was so delicious. I really liked the swordfish, served with butter beans and preserved tomato nage, but thought the tomato flavor overwhelmed the fish just a little.
For dessert (sorry about the lack of picture…we got a little excited about this one) we ordered the Caramel Rum Cake – served with goat cheese, muscadine and creme fraiche sorbet. That was by far and away the creamiest sorbet I’ve ever had. And wow, how the flavors all worked together. Not being a fan of muscadine, I was so surprised at how much I loved these.
Man, did I love this experience. Not only was the food expertly crafted, but each detail was designed well too. The dishes each meal was served in, how they brought each person’s food out at the same time, the wine and cocktail menus…all of it was just perfect. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to eat at Standard Foods again.