Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Big Night at the Magnolia Grill

Last nite my wife and I went to our favorite local restaurant, the Magnolia Grill, which is located in Durham, NC. My sis and her husband worked there as line chefs back in 1986 when it first opened. While many very good restaurants have opened here since 1986, it is still considered by many to be the best restaurant in the area. The owner/chefs, Ben and Karen Barker, have also been our next door neighbors for many years, so I have to admit that we have some major bias about them and the Grill.

We started with a 1/2 bottle of R. H. Coutier champagne to celebrate early my wife's birthday since I will be back on the west coast on the actual date in September. She had a perfect starter dish of fresh carolina shrimp marinated in oil and surrounded by baby butter beans, slaw and feta cheese. I had some hamachi that was smoked at the Grill with its own accompaniment of "green goodies".

It was one of those nights where there were so many tantalizing main courses that you felt like you needed to eat twice. My wife settled on a fine rabbit confit that she found most delightful. I went back and forth trying to pick an entree, and finally settled on a grilled veal scallopini dish because I could not remember ever seeing scallopini on the Grill's menu. It had a salad mix nestled on top of the veal. I was happy with my decision. We had brought in a bottle of 2000 Raphet Clos Vougeot red burgundy that was at its peak--elegant with a beautiful nose and still very good fruit even though it was 10 years old.

I had meant to take photos of all the courses, but in our desire to dig into the food, I forgot until the dessert course arrived. And with the low light in the room, the above photo taken with my cell phone is also a bit grainy. But the desserts--a chocolate chili cake with chocolate ice cream, and a brown sugar sour cream cheesecake with fresh peaches--certainly were not grainy. As always, they were a scrumptious end to our meal.

I am still checking all the bird boards for any rarities that may have arrived. A lesser sand plover was found in Washington St. on the 26th, was seen again on the 27th, but yesterday could not be relocated. This was the 1st documented sighting of the plover in Washington--4 others over the years have been reported but no photos were obtained. Normally this bird is only seen up in Alaska during spring or fall migration. This is the kind of rarity that I hope will show up on the west coast this coming week. Stay tuned!

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