Hello and welcome to the first post in my newly established food blog entitled First Seating. There is no better place to start off my blog than my favorite restaurant and in my opinion the best restaurant in Raleigh, Poole’s Diner.
Poole’s is Raleigh-based, superstar chef and owner, Ashley Christensen’s premier restaurant. For those that don’t know Ashley Christensen, she is the biggest and best thing to ever emerge from the Raleigh food scene. Poole’s in particular is a 2014 winner of a James Beard Award and the award is proudly displayed as you walk into the inconspicuous looking restaurant in downtown Raleigh. I could go on about my love for Ashley Christensen restaurants, but maybe I’ll save that for a later date. I do recommend purchasing her newly released cookbook about Poole’s Diner. I have personally cooked several of the recipes in her book and they are all winners.
First off when eating at Poole’s they do not have any reservations. Best bet, if you don’t want to wait for an hour to get a seat, is to show up right before opening at 5:00 PM. Once giving your name upon entering you take a seat at the diner style bar and enjoy one of the many great drink options. My favorite cocktail at Poole’s is the Cucumber Rickey, a blend of gin, muddled cucumber, lime, sugar, and soda water. I am not a huge fan of cucumbers, but this cocktail really does it for me. Once you are done enjoying a drink at the bar it is time to be seated starting at 5:30 PM.
Once seated, all the menus are located on two chalkboards at the front and rear of the restaurant. On this particular evening I ordered the Bibb Lettuces, which is a simple three ingredient salad consisting of Bibb lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, and vinaigrette. The best part of this salad is its simplicity and freshness. Besides having a great cocktail list, Poole’s also has a respectable wine list. I am in no means a wine expert or connoisseur and rely heavily on my more knowledgeable and experienced wine drinker, my wife, for selections. My choice tonight for wine with dinner was the Bacchus Cabernet Sauvignon.
Next comes the “Mains” that we have all been waiting for. My choice tonight was a special entrée, Porchett’d Pork Belly with Rice Beans, Charred Radicchio, and Marinated Peppers. The pork belly was cooked sous-vide and then flash fried for a tender and flavorful taste, and crispy crust. The vinegar flavor of the marinated peppers and the texture of the rice beans really came out in the dish. The main event of the entire meal though is a shared dish that my wife and I always order and share. Poole’s Macaroni Au Gratin is the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had in my life hands-down. The recipe is not an overly complex one and my wife has made it before in her kitchen. The three cheeses in the recipe are grana padano, jarlsberg, and white cheddar. The interesting thing about the macaroni au gratin is that it is best right after cooking because the oils in the cheese have not separated yet. In opinion leftovers of the macaroni au gratin are not as good as the original serving because a lot of the oils sink to the bottom. I recommend always getting the macaroni au gratin as a side to share with a friend and expect to have leftovers to take home because of how filling it is.
Stay tuned for another special place on my next blog post.