Saturday, February 9, 2013

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth

I'm gradually working my way through a rather lengthy list of Charlotte restaurants that I have deemed to be highlights of the local culinary scene.  Dad and Mom planned a business trip that just so happened to pass through Charlotte last week, and in exchange for a night's rent, I negotiated for a nice dinner out.  Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth is located in the Mint Museum in Uptown and opened not long after I moved to Charlotte.  They specialize in a meal that "celebrates the bounty of artisinal farms, cheese makers & wineries from our local community and beyond".  

The initial experience as you enter the restaurant is quite captivating.  It's a rather small and cozy location, with a view of the kitchen from nearly every table.  Chandeliers crafted from tree branches provide the lighting.  The tables are made from tree trunks and combine nicely with the bird seed filled candles and artsy silverware to create an upscale rustic appearance.  

After perusing the menu and being educated on the chef's specials and vegetarian options, we selected an mix of tapas style dishes to split among the three of us.

Chef's Vegetable Plate
Bok choy, mushrooms, greens, butternut squash, beet puree, and grains

The mixture of vegetables was good, but the dish seemed to lack cohesiveness and a punch of flavor 

Duck Confit Ravioli
The was the star dish for the night.  The combination of savory duck and sweet beet reduction was incredible.  The portion itself was small, and I could certainly have eaten a bowl full.

Kimchi-Fried Rice Grits with Seasonal Farm Vegetables 
The savory broth was perfectly flavorful.
Also consumed, yet not captured on film:

Buckwheat Crêpes
Roasted Mushrooms. Local Chevre. Smoked Honey.Served with Dressed Greens.
You really can't go wrong with the combination of goat cheese and honey!

Truffle Cauliflower Gratin
Truffled and smoked gouda creme and buttered crumbs
I was really looking forward to this indulgent sounding dish, but ultimately I was disappointed that it lacked depth of flavor.  It was certainly creamy, but needed a hit of garlic or spice to kick it up a notch.

Smores Brulee
Warm, gooey, marshmallow goodness.  

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Blondie
Served with banana ice cream and salted caramel

As you can imagine, this was all of my favorite flavors wrapped together into a single dessert.
All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and the company was excellent as always..  Some of the vegetarian dishes could use a major flavor upgrade and the portion sizes are certainly on the very small side.  It's tough for me to return frequently to a single restaurant, given the extensive Charlotte restaurant scene. If I do go back, though, it would be to enjoy a drink and tapas on their patio overlooking Uptown.

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