On my trip to Chicago I was looking for goats.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to places like New York, Chicago, L.A., D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, but I never had a meal at a Forbes Five Star and a AAA Five Star establishment until I dined at Herons, located a few minutes away inside Cary’s highly acclaimed Umstead Hotel and Spa .
It was a celebratory day in the eatRaleigh household as I became another year older, and the day I had been anticipating for weeks (years, really) had finally arrived: the day we eat at Herons. The promise of culinary excellence was my coping mechanism while dealing with the Canes’ abysmal season.
The Triangle isn’t a hot bed for fine dining establishments, and as one former Raleigh city counselor put it, “We’re not really a white tablecloth kind of town.” But where other restaurants have failed, Herons has thrived. "There really isn't any other choice than the chef's tasting menu," one of the servers mentioned during our meal, and he was right. The chef treated us to an excellent amuse-bouche that immediately woke up our palates. The fresness and bright citrus left us anxious for our first course.
Pretzel bread and Herons signature roll
Many people feel that a bread course at a fine dining restaurant is filler, and that it adds no culinary intrigue to the meal. Those people should be slapped. A gorgeous spread of scones, pretzel bread, and Herons signature dinner rolls came to the table. All three of the bread selections were divine. The pretzel bread was uncannily similar to its high quality, twisted counterpart. The roll was top notch as well. But the scone hit the highest marks with its flaky deliciousness.
Garden Pea Custard
Our complimentary courses and wine pairings more than adequately prepared us for the first course, and the meal could have ended there because it was just that amazing. On paper garden pea custard might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but the execution of the dish was one of my favorites of the night. In a spectacular way the pea custard was strongly concentrated with savory, salty, and pea flavors. The steelhead roe were little firecrackers of flavor, adding to the symphony of the dish.
While still beaming from our first course, a plate of golden tilefish came next. Our server carefully poured spoonfuls of hot pepper vinegar over the dish, table side. The delicate fish bounced off the intense flavors of the vinegar and wheat. The octopus was tender and had no bubblegum-like chew.
Seared Foie Gras
Over the course of my culinary adventures, some of the most beloved gastronomical ingredients have alluded me, one of them being foie gras. While visiting San Francisco, Sara attended my cousin’s bachelorette party and unknowingly dined on foie gras. I’ve been jealous of her ever since. But finally, no more waiting. And while the foie gras was charred to perfection but silky in texture, it wasn’t quite on the level of the other courses we had that night. The dish was the Chris Bosh of the meal.
I have fond memories eating rabbit. As a chubby faced kid in Massachusetts, my mother breaded and deep fried rabbit a couple times for the family. Having a clear grasp of irony at even a young age, I requested rabbit for a childhood Easter dinner.
Seeing the beautiful medallions of rabbit stirred up those childhood memories. Yet, while I’ll always love my mom’s cooking, hers wasn't a five star rabbit dish. Tender, juicy, and succulent, it was one of those dishes that I didn't want to end.
Sitting happily, satisfied, and awaiting our final course, we were served a dessert amuse-bouche, complete with another glass of wine. I had never even heard of serving a dessert amuse-bouche! Another excellent tantalizing addition to our grand finale.
More like a piece of abstract art, the dessert course at Herons was stunning. Laying like a row of Swarovski crystals was the most mysterious part of the dessert. Thinking perhaps it was rock candy, we split the crystals in half to find out it was delicious sorbet. The dense jasmine cake played a perfect partner to the sorbet. The raw honeycomb was too sweet for Sara to enjoy but I loved munching down on the treat, even as it stuck to my teeth.
For a special present for my birthday Herons gave us an extra round of desserts, and Sara didn’t put them up to it either. Herons was able to take one of my tweets to staff and they matched it with my reservation. That's attention to detail. Of course I paid the most attention to the french macaroon.