Going Postal

“Make him your brownies!”

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.

postal fish

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

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.

I’m pretty sure that the Postal Fish Company won’t serve them with custard, and you can barely see the fish sticks, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Chef and company are looking to a Fall 2017 opening.

Thanks for your time.

Thank You Brownies

“Make him those brownies!”

I was having lunch with Chefs James Clark and Bill Hartley.  We were discussing exciting news.

I originally met the guys in their positions as executive chef and executive sous at the Crossroads Carolina.  Each time I went, they stuffed me like a Christmas goose with their expertly prepared food.

They’d recently left the Carolina Inn to open their own place, in Pittsboro.  It’s to be a fish house called Postal Fish Company.  And due to planned twice weekly trips to the coast, the freshest, most sustainable seafood this side of the ocean will be served.  The projected opening date is Fall 2017.

postal fish

We’ve sat down a couple of times, to discuss those plans.

The first time we met was for breakfast.  Since every time I visited the Carolina they fed me, I decided that turnabout is fair play.  So I baked them some treats.

It was a new version of my jacked-up brownies.  I’d come up with them when I made them for a couple of my old high school friends with whom I meet for monthly lunches.

They’d been such a big hit I thought Chefs Bill and James might enjoy them.  The funny thing is, they couldn’t be easier—it starts with a box.

Appreciation Brownies

thank you brownies

1 9X13 box fudge brownies (I usually use Duncan Hines)

2 eggs

2/3 cup + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

¼ cup hot water mixed with 1 tablespoon espresso powder

¼ cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12-ounce bag mini semisweet chocolate chips

1-1.69 ounce bag plain M & M’s


1-1.69 ounce bag plain M& M’s (two bags total)

¾ cup salted pretzel pieces

1 teaspoon large flaky sea salt (like Maldon salt)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9X13 baking pan, line with parchment paper, and grease as well.

In a large bowl, mix first 6 ingredients.  Put in mini chips, and stir vigorously, scraping the bottom of bowl to make sure they’re fully mixed.  Fold in one bag M & M’s.  Pour into pan, and spread batter with spatula so that it’s flat and level.

Sprinkle top with second bag of M & M’s and pretzel pieces.  Place in oven on middle rack and bake for 13 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle Maldon salt evenly over the top of brownies.  Return to oven and bake for 13 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on kitchen counter and/or fridge until fully cool.  Using the parchment paper, lift out brownies and cut into 12-16 pieces.

I think Chefs James and Bill liked them.

Last week we met again; this time for lunch at an amazing place in Chapel Hill called Sandwich.

Everything is homemade, with a menu loaded with sandwiches, salads, and polenta bowls.  They make potato chips from scratch.  And their freshly cut fries are as good as Al’s at the state fair.

While we were eating, I told the guys that our neighbor had repaired the AC in our jeep.  I was crazy grateful, and couldn’t even guess how much money he had saved us.  I wanted to do something to thank him, but I wasn’t sure what to do.  Did they have any ideas?

Their recommendation is where we came in.

While I was out walking the dog yesterday, I ran into my neighbor.  He, his wife, and all his in-laws loved the brownies.  So I guess they’ve become my official thank you gift.

Great suggestion, Chef James and Bill; I’m grateful.

Thanks for your time.