Monday, June 20, 2011

knife & fork, a couple, a restaurant, a mission

According to the knife & fork website it “is a restaurant that minimizes its impact on the environment and maximizes its impact on local economy by sourcing nearly all ingredients and materials from extremely local growers and suppliers.

The menu offers only seasonal and sustainable dishes that reflect the traditions and culture of the mountains or North Carolina.”

Chef Nathan and Wendy Allen
The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team, Chef Nathan Allen and his spouse Wendy. They opened knife & fork restaurant in July of 2009 after both leaving careers in Los Angles. Chef Nate studied at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He was on the opening culinary team of the James Beard Award winning Chef, Suzanne Goin, in her restaurant AOC (achieving “Most Popular Restaurant” – Los Angles/Zagat 2005-2006). He followed that up by working as a chef to many elite patrons for about five years. Wendy worked as a restaurant manager at high profile restaurants learning the ins and outs of the administrative side of managing a dining room.

Half of the dining room in knife & fork
Together they make an incredible team that covers all the bases. Both consistently refer to what they think the guest is looking for when they come to the restaurant. The guests don’t even have to come in the door to get a sense of a different style of restaurant. Wendy leaves several tables set without table cloth for those customers that feel more comfortable going without. Anticipating the guests’ needs and how they will dine doesn’t just happen. It comes with experience, knowledge, forethought and the willingness to work hard to make it happen for the guest. This team does it.

Daily menu board
The two dishes I tried were fascinating studies in the use of local ingredients with a very few exceptions. Starting with a prosciutto wrapped rabbit livers skewered atop chili popcorn and pralines drizzled with reduced balsamic. The farmer who provides the rabbit provides all that he raises for knife & fork. I’m not the fondest of liver to begin with but the ingredients melded together to raise the bar for me. I could still taste the rich earthiness of the rabbit liver but it was rounded out by the prosciutto and balsamic. The pralines and chili popcorn added a sweet and spicy element to the dish to make it even more fascinating. When Chef was asked why he added a drizzle of olive oil to the plate. He said that he anticipated the diner to get just a little of the olive oil on each bite as we negotiate the bite and ingredients on the fork adding another hint of flavor.

The second dish was the crispy pulled pork with corn shoots and sautéed mustard greens and red Russian kale. This appeared more like a salad when it arrived with the pulled pork under the greens. The first item I tried was a corn shoot and it offered that sweet light corn profile that is so refreshing. The pork was prepared so that it was all crispy adding a nice texture to each bite. The greens added a bit of spice and the corn shoots gave their touch of sweetness giving the dish a more complete appeal for the senses.

In the two dishes the following ingredients were not from around these parts: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chili spice and prosciutto. Chef Nate almost seemed apologetic that he acquired the pork from about an hour away and the popcorn from South Carolina. There is a true farm to table mentality at knife & fork that is hard to come by even in this local food haven of Western North Carolina. Nate and Wendy take their business serious and their passion is obvious.

Table setting at knife & fork
I highly recommend taking the time to visit knife & fork. There are just over 40 seats, they do take reservations and walk-ins and they are closed on Mondays. I understand the Sunday Brunch is wonderful but also very busy. It is much easier to get in during the week.

Contact Information
61 Locust Street
Spruce Pine, North Carolina 28777
knife & fork

Knife & Fork on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. My favorite restaurant in WNC? Yes! My favorite in USA?....Yes! seriously, go with an open mind, and let these fine folks blow your mind. They love what they do, and it shows!