You could have knocked me over with a fish bone. It was the kind of shock that you get when you come downstairs in the morning, and your dog is doing your taxes. Or, your mom calls, and tells you she’s leaving your father, and running off to become a roadie for Metallica. Or, the CDC has declared that the exercise which burns the most calories is napping.
That kind of shock.
A few years ago at the Crossroads Chapel Hill at the Carolina Inn, I met executive chef James Clark and his partner in culinary crime, sous chef Bill Hartley. At each visit they treated me like family and filled me full of their delicious Southern vittles. To me, those guys were the historic hotel.
A few weeks ago came the surprise.
I got a note from Chef—he and Bill had left the Carolina. We made plans to grab some breakfast and talk about it.
We met at Duck Donuts in Cary. It’s a made-to-order shop which has hundreds of possible combinations with which to dress up fresh cake donuts. They’re delicious—almost as good as a fresh, hot Krispy Kreme honey-glazed.
The boys informed me that for years they’d wanted to open their own eatery. And until the chefs had exited Crossroads, it could be nothing but a daydream.
Planning and opening a new restaurant requires loads of blood, sweat, and tears. And there was no way the boys could in good conscious continue working for, and getting paid by the Carolina Inn, and give it less than their best.
The location they’ve chosen is Pittsboro. A mid-century modern building is their site. The space used to house the town post office. Because of this, the name they chose for their restaurant is Postal Fish Company.
Their vision is a fish house serving the very freshest seafood. Twice a week one or the other chef will make the trip to the beach to procure product. They have sourcing relationships with the boat, Miss Kenyon, owned and captained by Wayne Marshon, and Renee Perry and Steve Goodwin’s Salty Catch, a supplier who fishes with pound nets, a humane procedure which allows the fishermen sort the fish, leaving the unneeded catch to be thrown back alive.
While discussing the type of fish available, Chef James mentioned dolphin fish. This isn’t Flipper we’re talking about, it’s an actual fish that some folks call mahi-mahi. We used to eat it on the beach in Puerto Rico. They would pull it in, cut it into steaks, and throw it on the grill. Even for a fish-o-phobe like me, it was a highly anticipated, crazy delicious meal.
I asked Chef James for a recipe, and like always, he said yes.
Chef James’ Grilled Dolphin Fish
4ea 6oz Portions of Fresh Dolphin
2ea. Banana Peppers Diced
3 tab. Chopped Cilantro
2 tab. Minced Garlic
2 Tab. Minced Shallots
1/4 cup Grape Seed Oil
Juice of 4 Limes
1/2 Cup Cane Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Excluding the fish filets, mix all ingredients together in a nonreactive bowl.
Once all mixed submerge Dolphin filets in marinated and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but no longer than 2 hours.
Get your grill cherry-red hot. Get a rag dipped in oil and clean the grill very good.
Pull the filets from the marinade and place on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
Take the remaining marinade and put it in a small sauce pot and place it on the grill to heat up.
Place the dolphin on the grill skin side up and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 min. Once the fillets began to turn color and brown on the edges flip over and cook for additional 2 min.
When you’re ready to serve, spoon some of the heated marinade over the top.
Chef James is very familiar with my toddler-like fish palate. So he’s promised to have fish sticks on his menu—of course, coming from him, they’ll be fish sticks in name only. You know they’ll be fresh, sustainable, and expertly cooked.
Chef and company are looking to a Fall 2017 opening.
Thanks for your time.