Last night my friend, fellow foodie and TEDxSpartanburg Curator Ximena and I met up to go to the TEDx Salon in Greenville and then to have dinner at American Grocery in downtown.
I’ve been dying to go back to American Grocery since my visit back in October. You know that feeling you get when you step into a warm bath? That all over happy, relaxed feeling where everything is right in the world? That’s what a really great meal does for me. That’s what Joe’s food…any great chef’s food… does to me. It’s been a while since I’ve had that high, but last night. Oh, last night.
For SC Restaurant Week, participating Upstate Restaurants make up special menus for customers. Usually you get three courses for $30 and some restaurants include a wine pairing for an additional $15 or $20. I drooled over their regular menu, but decided on the special menu just to make my life easier. Too many choices can be a bad thing!
I started with the Roasted Wild Mushrooms which came with a crispy farm egg, sourdough toast and arugula. I’m new to eggs. I mean, I’ve eaten then scrambled and fried to a pulp, but I always turned up my nose when my husband dipped his toast into the runny yolk. My first runny egg experience was at The Admiral. Boy did I get broken in. A quail egg and a duck egg in one night. During the Wild Girls Weekend last week, I had a fried egg for breakfast for the first time. Runny yolk and all thanks to peer pressure. Not too bad… but last night…
This egg came to the table that was slightly crunchy on the outside and then I cut into the silky white and rich yellow spilled out into my plate. The egg yolk combined with the greens, the truffle oil and the mushrooms was absolutely marvelous.
We chose to have the wine pairing option with our meal. I checked out the wine list, but their by-the-glass list is quite sparse and they were out of Malbec, so we opted for Darlene’s pairings. The first glass was a nice Big Fire Pinot Gris from R. Stuart & Co. Winery in Oregon. It was fruity, and almost bubbly, but just enough spicy notes to balance well with the mushroom dish perfectly. I asked the waiter if it would be rude to lick my glass… he didn’t find my humor amusing.
For my main course, I settled on the Seared Duck Breast with red wine braised cabbage, black rice, and sweet potato puree with a swoosh of sherry gastrique and in-house picked mustard seeds. Was that bacon on the outside of the duck? It was cooked to perfection, and with a little of each on my fork, I dove in. My eyes rolled back in my head…several times.
I’ve never heard of pickled mustard seeds. It must be a new thing, because I found them again in a mag when I got home. They were sweet… almost like a fruit seed. I enjoyed them on the duck! That’s what I love about Joe’s food. It surprises me. I can’t say that often.
The wine selection for this course was really disappointing. A Merlot. A nice merlot, but still. To me, Merlot is what I call a beginner wine. Okay, I’m a snob. I’m sorry! It has it’s good qualities and occasionally I’ll buy a bottle, but I was sort of shocked that it was being substituted for the Malbec that they ran out of earlier in the evening, originally meant for the pairing. I didn’t feel it went seamlessly with the duck. Ximena ordered the Potato Crusted Trout and loved her meal, but also tisked at the wine choice.
Dessert was fine. That’s about all I can say about it. I ordered Tangerine Pot de Creme with a pistacio shortbread. It was a light ending to the meal, but even as I saw the other desserts pass by, I wasn’t blown away. The Chef’s Selection of Artisan Cheeses in front of my dinner guest also left her wanting.
Another note about American Grocery, and something we discussed over dinner. A problem with several of Greenville’s downtown restaurants are that they are really loud! Soby’s for instance and Trio are both very, very loud. Same for here. It is very loud during their peak hours. Being that Ximena is an engineer, I asked her what they could do to solve the issue and she had solutions like dropping the ceiling, but the difference between the crowded 8pm noise level and the half-full 10pm noise level was crazy.
Over all, it was an amazing dinner. The first two course were enough to leave me smiling all the way home. I flipped the pages of the new Southern Living and Bon Appetit before bed and my head hit the pillow happy, full and content. Thank you Joe for another amazing meal. I can’t wait to come back.