It is just dinner. Or, is it just dinner? Can a meal change a diner’s perspective? Does the combination of foods a chef chooses to put on a plate have the capacity to surprise, excite and delight the guest, or is food just sustenance? Does where you sit and who you sit with make a difference?
The culinary artisans at the Dogwood Southern Table in Charlotte, North Carolina surprised and delighted my party while we sat at the Chef’s Table. We were presented with daring combinations we could not have anticipated while enjoying the entertaining company of the talented kitchen staff.
Bacon jam served with country bread, grilled shrimp served with pickled red onion and jalapeño aioli, choices of peach or bourbon bbq sauce, and fig and goat cheese gelato are just a few examples of the unique offerings that warm hearts and put smiles on the faces of Dogwood Southern Table patrons.
Grilled NC Shrimp with fried zucchini, pickled red onion and jalapeno aioli
“We don’t have a set menu,” says Executive Chef Scott Hollingsworth.” We create a relationship with our farmers and ask them to bring us what they have. We work with what they bring us.” This philosophy insures the diners get the freshest food available. “The flavors of fresh foods stand on their own,” Chef Scott believes. Good quality food doesn’t need much help from us to enhance it.” This is quite a modest statement from a Chef who runs an amazingly creative kitchen.
Roasting a whole hog, provided by Heritage Farms is an option for a party of 8-14
The kitchen team rotates roles nightly, which means each individual knows how to do everything. No one has time to get bored. Everyone has opportunities to constantly challenge their artistry and creativity with flavors and combinations that add diversity to the menu. Not weighed down by an impressive list of credentials, the kitchen staff, which has been working together since the restaurant opened in November 2014, is mostly locally trained, although a few have experience from other parts of the country.
The local experience of the chefs may influence the comfort level the kitchen has with working with local pork and duck, Carolina coastal shrimp and oysters, South Carolina peaches and figs, and a variety of squashes, peas, beans and greens.
It is not just what is served, but how it is served that also makes this place special. Traditional style dining is available, but for special occasions, calling ahead to reserve a place for up to eight guests at the Chef’s table is a memorable experience. The regular menu is available at the Chef’s table, or a unique Chef’s menu can be created with a week’s notice.
Sitting at the Chef’s Table is a unique way to celebrate a special occasion
Think birthday, anniversary, or any celebration for the person who has everything. An evening at the Chef’s Table will always be unique and will not easily be forgotten. For a set price of $75 per person for a five course dinner, or $125 per person which includes drink pairings with each course, tell the chef what your favorites are. . . meat, seafood, vegetarian, etc., and the chef will create a meal just for your party, with the best of what is available that day. The night I was there, Sous Chef Ryan Dougherty and his crew were roasting a whole hog for a party of 14.
If the food at Dogwood Southern Table isn’t amazing enough on its own, there are the cocktails. Bar Manager Brian Lorusso, aka “The Chemist” has created a menu of cocktails so unique and dynamic it is presented on a tablet. Scrolling through the tablet allows patrons to not only read the enticing descriptions of the cocktails, but to see photos of them as well.
The Dark and Stormy caught my eye, a combination of house made ginger beer blended with Cruzan black strap rum. It turns out the ginger beer isn’t really beer at all, but a blend of pureed fresh ginger, fresh lemon juice, and carbonation. Since ginger is one of the best holistic digestion aids, this was a refreshing way to start a large meal. The Barkeep’s Call allows you to choose your liquor base and style of drink, letting the barkeeper do the rest to create a special concoction.
Barkeeper Brian Larusso prepares the Barkeep’s Call
Brian “The Chemist” showed up at our table with a plate of three little piles of cinnamon bark, which he lit, then covered with glasses, to infuse the cinnamon smoke into the glass. One ice cube and a whisky concoction later, and we were all enjoying his creation. I asked him several times what was in it, and he told me. But, the cocktail was so effective, I can’t remember, so I will have to return for another. Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the cocktail, the presentation was a worthwhile show.
Do you want to meet new people who share your love for Farm to Table dining? Every other Monday night the restaurant hosts Community Suppers, by reservation only. Currently at $50 per person, the four course dinner with drink pairings offers themed dinners highlighting local beers, bourbons, whisky or wines.
Outdoor dining is one of the options at The Dogwood Southern Table
Information about the dinners is available on the website, with most dinners being sold out the Wednesday before. Guests are seated at tables of 10-12, making it a great place to go if you are dining alone and want to make new friends, are dining with a small party and want to mingle with others, or want to gather your own large group for a special evening.
In an America filled with chain restaurants and a lot of sameness, finding a restaurant that highlights what is truly local and lovely about Charlotte in particular, and the Carolinas in a broader sense, made dining at the Dogwood Southern Table a worthwhile stop on my journey. The next diner’s experience will not be the same, but I am sure it will be equally as enjoyable.