The House of Great Ideas

On breaks, The Kid brought all kind of things home from college.

There were the mountains of dirty laundry.   Binders full of bills.  Sometimes, exotic Vermont ailments, which were then introduced into the Matthews family petri dish.  Occasionally books I “absolutely had to read”, or movies and TV shows that I “absolutely had to see”.

Yeah, there’s cake.

But, The Kid was attending culinary school up there.

So, a lot of the stuff brought south had to do with food—new recipes, new ideas. The first one was simple.  Almost too simple.

Salads.  Before, whenever I’d made a dinner salad, it was a huge, hairy production.  Special trips to the grocery for bags of greens, vegetables sliced just so, eggs or another protein I needed to prepare, and freshly made dressing, usually ranch.As a consequence, we only had salads every couple of months, and in between there would usually be a couple of times where I purchased greens and mushrooms for salad but then something would come up and a week later I’d end up face to face with slimy malodorous lettuces and ‘shrooms that had a decidedly gangrenous quality.The Kid, however, advocated a much more casual, spontaneous approach.  This included buying a row boat-sized container of mixed greens from Costco or BJ’s, a log of goat cheese, and some ready-to-go protein to toss into the mix (I butter-toast and salt a couple pounds of pecans every few months and mix them with dried fruit.  It keeps in the fridge for weeks).  It’s dressed with a bottle of ready-made dressing; I love Trader Joe’s balsamic.

No stress, no prepping,  a salad at a moment’s notice.  It increased my salad consumption ten-fold.Then there was the time my very own shine-hauling mini Richard Petty pulled into our driveway with six or seven cases of homemade pomegranate mead.  Transporting this quantity happens to be a felony in most of the states driven through on the way home.

But it was burrata to which The Kid introduced me that brings us back around to my visit to Raleigh’s Whiskey Kitchen.

Burrata is basically a mozzarella balloon, filled with whole milk ricotta cheese.  This ricotta in no way resembles cottage cheese.  It’s luscious, luxurious, and when spilling out of a sack made from cheese, miraculous. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mad scientists at Whiskey Kitchen serve it on sliced heirloom tomatoes speckled with crispy-fried okra, all resting on a shallow pool of their homemade pesto aioli.  But before any of this happens, they lightly cold smoke the burrata, which gives it a flavor that compels one to just.keep.eating. Their pesto is delicious, with a sauce-like consistency.  This makes it much more versatile, and a silky coating for pasta, unlike most, which can be greasy and is prone to separate.

Here is the Kitchen’s recipe, sized for home cooks.

Whiskey Kitchen Pesto

1QT packed parsley

1QT packed cilantro

1QT packed basil

1QT packed mintWhiskey pesto

1Pnt Canola or salad oil

1Pnt Sunflower seeds

4 cloves garlic

1 C lemon juice

2 Tbl lemon zest

3 tsp salt

2.25tsp black pepper

Blend ingredients in blender just until mixed and smooth.

 To make the aioli, the same 2:1 ratio is used with your favorite brand of mayo (we use Duke’s)If you haven’t been to downtown Raleigh in a while, very interesting things are happening.  There’s unique shopping, museums, and NC legend and lore.  I strongly suggest a trip in the near future that includes a stop at Whiskey Kitchen.

One more tip; I’ve recently discovered their buttermilk pound cake with cream cheese frosting.  Just one slice could make angels sing.  Even angels on strict diets.

Very rare photographic evidence of Victoria’s Secret Angel, Alessandra Ambrosio, near cake. 

It’s totally worth the calories.

Thanks for your time.


The House of Good Ideas

There’s this story I heard years ago.A woman was making brisket for dinner.  And, like always, she cut two inches off before putting it into the oven.  Her daughter asked why.

“Because that’s what my mom does.”

Her daughter asked, “Why does Gramma do it?”

“I have no idea.”

Soon, they got Gramma and the phone, who confessed she’d done it that way because her mother had done it that way.

Finally, the three generations of curious females contacted the original cook and asked her why she cut off the end of every brisket.

“Because,” she answered, “My roasting pan was two inches short!”Life is full of things we do that make little to no sense, but we do it because nobody thinks to ask Gramma, “Why?”

Last Monday I spent the day in Raleigh, at a restaurant called Whiskey Kitchen.  I was there observing the filming of a TV show.  The restaurant wasn’t open yet, so it was quiet, which enabled me to poke around and ask lots of questions.

And I had some questions.The first one was about the lady’s room.

Most women carry a purse.  When washing one’s hands in a public lav, there is a conundrum.  Do I set my bag on the floor, which doesn’t even bear thinking about, or next to the sink that’s knuckle deep in questionable ‘water’.Ah, but at Whiskey Kitchen there is no bathroom Gordian knot.  There is a giant hook hanging next to the sink in the lady’s room.  It should become federal law that every public restroom must have a giant hook hanging next to every sink—it just should.

Pesto is an Italian condiment/sauce that traditionally is a mixture of basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and usually pine nuts, or pistachios, walnuts, or another tree nut.But those nuts bring more issues than a Batman comic.  Not only are there lots of people with nut allergies, these allergies are nothing to mess around with.  Allergic people have died from kissing someone who had recently eaten nuts.  Even eating food prepared in kitchens with nuts can cause adverse reactions.

But the Whiskey Kitchen genius chefs have an answer: sunflower seeds.  It elevates and invigorates the classic pesto flavor, which sometimes can seem tired from over familiarity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFried okra’s delicious.  But, if you’re a fork user, you chase the little nuggets around your plate.  If you go commando and use your fingers, you get covered in ranch.

But, not at Whiskey Kitchen.  They cut the okra…length-wise.  So you have a little stick of crispy goodness to dunk into their Green Goddess Ranch.

Whiskey Kitchen Green Goddess Ranch

(This recipe was sized down from a restaurant sized amount.  The herbs are approximate and can be adjusted according to taste)1 tablespoon Basil

1 tablespoon Parsley

1 tablespoon cut chive

2 teaspoons dill

2 teaspoons mint

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cups buttermilk

2 cups mayo

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black peppergreen goddessCut all herbs finely, by hand. Combine half in the blender.

Mix Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, salt. Reserve for later along with half the herbs.

Blend all other ingredients in blender. Add the acid, salt & pepper and reserved herbs by hand.

Next week I’ll give you their pesto recipe and tell you about another crazy idea of theirs which turns out to be one of the most original and tasty bites I’ve ever put into my mouth.


Mmmmm…mozzarella balloon… 

Thanks for your time.