Hail to the chef-Part the second

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The newly renovated dining room at the Crossroads Chapel Hill.

When you sit down at your table at the Crossroads Chapel Hill restaurant at the Carolina Inn, a member of the wait staff will bring you the ubiquitous bread product and something to smear upon it.

And right away, you’ll recognize that this is no run-of-the-mill fancy greasy spoon.

This place has personality.

And this is where I celebrated my birthday.  The opening salvo of the meal to come is delivered by our warm and attentive waiter, Zuber.  He brings us a white vessel lined with parchment paper.  Nestled within is the Crossroads’ take on bread and butter.

Maestra Chef Sara Thomas

The baker of this bounty, pastry chef Sara Thomas at the Crossroads Chapel Hill, is the sweet counterpoint to executive chef James Clark in skill and imagination.

I first met Chef Sara at the reception welcoming Chef Clark to the inn.  She’d filled a table with cookies, truffles, French macarons, coconut macaroons, tarts, and various dainties.  But towering over the entire sugar-scape was the architectural achievement of a gravity-defying chocolate showpiece.

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Oh yeah, that’s the chocolatey stuff.

She’s in charge of the culinary first impression at the restaurant and her answer to this responsibility are black pepper biscuits; a pastry that truly threatens to make you ignore the admonition “Don’t fill up on the bread!”.  One of these days I’m going to do just that.

Here is the recipe, directly from the files of the Crossroads Chapel Hill.

Carolina Inn Black Pepper Biscuits

black pepper biscuits

AP Flour –2 cups                     

Baking Powder –1tablespoon                         

Black Pepper–2 teaspoons roughly ground peppercorns                

Kosher Salt –1 teaspoon                     

Sugar – 1 teaspoon                  

Cold Butter –3.6 ounces                      

_______

Greek Yogurt –¾ cup              

Buttermilk –4 tablespoons                               

_________

Optional:

optional

Fresh Garlic – 2 cloves

Green Onions –4 stalks- about ¼ cup

Cheddar Cheese -½ cup

  1. Mix AP flour, baking powder, black pepper, sugar, and kosher salt together in a large bowl
  2. Cut in the cold butter
  3. Add buttermilk and yogurt, mix until the dough comes together
  4. Turn dough onto a well- floured surface and knead gently. Add flour as needed in small amounts until dough is no longer sticky
  5. Roll out the dough to 1” thick, cutting biscuit dough with a squares or rounds biscuit cutter
  6. Bake @ 350’F for about 15 minutes in the convection oven

They’re served with a disk of butter—and if desired, the waiter will hold a wooden wand over the dairy, drizzling honey onto it.

But because you are in the hands of Chef James and staff, this is no ordinary honey.  Oh no, this is honey made by the hotel’s own bees.  It’s collected and bottled in nearby Chatham County.

Bee keeper Marty Hanks and the Carolina Inn bees.

In addition to its use in the kitchen they also sell it in the Carolina Inn gift shop and at Pittsboro Street Provisions.

Chefs James and Sara ended this incredible dinner with the kind of desserts you’re lucky to enjoy once in a lifetime.  We were presented with eight of these works of art.

Chef Sara deeply understands chocolate.  Her trio uses product from French Broad Chocolates in Ashville (my very favorite; pot de crème & crushed peanut brittle), Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh (chocolate marquise, raspberry & Chambord), Escazu Artisan Chocolates (chocolate mousse & flur de sel), also from Raleigh.

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Another chocolate gift from Chef Sara.

It was a magical evening.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take a look at the menu posted on their website.  It’s as good a read as most New York Time’s bestsellers.  And if you have a special occasion coming up, well…

Thanks for your time.

 

 

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