Many of the restaurants I go to these days, whether in New York City, Washington, DC, or San Francisco, offer a touch of the South: hush puppies, biscuits, fried chicken. Southern restaurants often serve the ultimate examples of these dishesAmericana preserved. But some chefs are moving on. Time did not stand still with a blackened cast-iron skillet in one hand and a whisk in the other. In this issue, we check out the South's incredible new guard.
Matt Neal of Neal's Deli in Carrboro, North Carolina, is the essence of the New South. He begins with the Southern favorites and French classics that were mastered by his late father, revered chef Bill Neal; then he mixes them up, adds unexpected flavors and puts everything through a mental chinois. The result: killer pastrami biscuits, Provençal zucchini sandwiches and more.
Andrea Reusing goes even further. At her Chapel Hill restaurant Lantern, which practically doubles as a community center for the city's many musicians and writers, she combines local and Asian flavorsusing country ham for a Chinese corn soup, for instance. Her following is impressive, with loyalists like novelist Allan Gurganus and singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo.
As another example of how Southern cooks are modernizing, we collected recipes from John Currence. The Oxford, Mississippi, chef was forced to make over his diet after a brutal bout of pancreatitis. In his hospital bed, he dreamed of his favorite recipes, then figured out how to make them with less fat and sugar. His oven-fried chicken attests to his success. As he writes, "It wasn't my grandmother's fried chicken, but I know my grandmother would've been happy to eat it, anyway." And that, perhaps, remains the perfect validation for any Southern dish.
Where I'm Coming From
From My Recent New York Expeditions:
Chef Ryan Angulo reimagines gazpacho as a fantastic, spicy green-tomato soup served with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich.
Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria
I think breakfast is the best meal of the day, and Nate Appleman's pizza topped with eggs, mozzarella and spinach is among my favorites.
There's a delightful Middle Eastern lilt to the dishes here, including the entirely delicious seared trout with hummus and chickpeas.
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