Saturday, March 19, 2011

Outer Banks Taste Of The Beach. A Taste Of Eastern North Carolina Cuisine At Kelly's Restaurant.

Welcome to Kelly's Outer Banks Restaurant and Tavern. Mike Kelly is one of the hardest working gentlemen I've had the pleasure of meeting and his restaurant is run like a well-oiled machine. His wait staff is hard-working, attentive, and knowledgeable. It's always a pleasure to dine here because of the professionalism.
Our party of three was the first to arrive. Little past 5:00. Oh gosh. I just realized I'm now in that demographic where I eat dinner while it's still light outside. I see many early bird specials in my future. So sad. We were promptly seated, our drink orders taken, and we were presented with the extensive wine list. Sorry about the picture quality, but it's dark in here. I just wanted to give you an idea of the wines offered and the prices.
Click to enlarge. I wanted the Harlan Estate, either the '96, the '97, the '98, or the '99. Mr. Hawthorne said no. He can be such a killjoy at times.
I'm glad they're offering wine pairings with the courses, since I'm not ordering wine off this menu. We started with a basket of fresh baked bread and sweet potato rolls. Very nice.
Here's our menu for tonight. Instead of a 4 course meal with pairings, we're getting a 6 course meal. No complaints here.
Here's our first course. We could have raw or steamed oysters. I chose raw. When you are serving raw oysters, the oysters should be plump and juicy and relatively the same size. These were dry corpses. Mr. Hawthorne's oysters varied wildly in size. One should pick select oysters when serving raw. And I wish restaurants would offer a side of horseradish so's I can doctor up their cocktail sauce. It's never hot enough for me.
Here's my point: If you have bottles of wine in house that cost up to $700 a bottle, (I've bought 2-Buck Chuck which I enjoyed.) then you should NOT skimp on OYSTERS. You should pick out the plumpest, juiciest oysters you can possibly find.
Our second course - Oyster Stew. I would not have known this was oyster stew had I not seen the oysters in it. Mine had an overwhelming nutmeg flavor to it and no oyster flavor, except when I actually bit into an oyster. It was too thick and heavy for my tastes and I thought it rather bland. I've never had to add salt to my dishes at restaurants, but I found this stew needed salt. Still didn't help it.
Other diners are slowly trickling in.
Our third course - topped oysters. Cajun Grilled - with garlic and Cajun seasonings. Casino - with bacon and pimiento seasoned breadcrumbs Rockefeller - with creamed spinach and tasso ham, seasoned with anisette and bacon/ pimiento seasoned breadcrumbs. Remick - I'm not sure what all was in this, but when I looked up recipes for Oysters Remick, they called for mayonnaise, chili sauce, tabasco sauce, bacon, breadcrumbs, and parsley. I don't know how Kelly's prepared them.
Again, I would have preferred plumper, juicier oysters. The toppings overwhelmed the delicate oyster. The presentation was lacking also. I think they were sitting on a lettuce leaf, for some reason. And part of my Cajun topping had fallen off. Haphazard.
Our dining room is filling up.
Our fourth course - spinach salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette with cornmeal fried oysters, mushrooms, red onions, and a mild bleu cheese. The oysters were good, but again, the presentation was lacking. The dressing was kind of plopped in one spot over the greens and I had to dress the salad myself.
Our fifth course - and this one pushed me over the edge. I don't know why, after four courses, one would serve a heavy fifth course like this - sliced pork tenderloin with a Dijon cream sauce, oyster fritters, butternut squash, and mashed red potatoes. I would have gone with something lighter, like shrimp and vegetables - maybe some steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green peas. If Mr. Hawthorne ever reads that last sentence, he would be choking right now.
I asked the waitress to bring me a doggie bag, and I took all this home with me, but not before tasting it. The pork was overcooked, which I expected. The mashed potatoes were dry. Oyster fritters too bready. And the butternut squash. What can I say about the squash? The squash sucked. Sorry. There was a flavor in the squash that I just could not for the life of me place. I was not the only diner who was questioning the squash. The couple at the table next to us turned and said that they couldn't help overhearing my comments, and they hated the squash too. And they couldn't place the flavor either. The lady asked me what that spice flavor was and she suggested thyme. No ma'am. I've tasted thyme and this ain't it.
You know that flavor when you bite into a grape that's been sitting around too long? That's the flavor in this squash. Mr. Hawthorne said it tasted "moldy." And that's the best description I have of the squash.
I liked this picture of the heron and the waitresses.
Our 6th course. Mr. Hawthorne chose the chocolate pecan pie. No complaints here.
I chose the creme brulee. It was a sweet potato creme brulee. I would have preferred a vanilla creme brulee. That's just me. I like simple.
For $38 for 6 courses paired with wines, I'm not complaining. I got to eat, drink, and someone else cleaned up. And we had fun. That's worth it to me. Oh. Look at the picture. I certainly got my lemons. Thank you Mike Kelly, restaurateur extraordinaire, and Holly, our most excellent waitress.

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