My love language is oyster.
Well, according to Gary Chapman’s book, my love language is actually gifts. Oysters are a gift though, right? A gift from the marsh, if you will. And the first thing we ordered when we arrived at St. Roch were the Cedar Island Selects–straight from the marsh of my homeland in Carteret County. I like all oysters, but nothing compares to the salty oysters from home. They taste just like our beautiful ocean. My dear friend, Bill Jackson, accompanied me for dinner at St. Roch. His grandmother was originally from the area around Cedar Island, so Bill has the marsh running through his veins, too, whether he’ll admit it or not. 😉
After catching up and dusting off the raw oysters, we decided to move on to the roasted oysters. We ordered pimiento’d (smoked pimiento cheese, bread crumbs, pickled jalapeno), and BBQ’d (lemon, rosemary, cayenne, parmesan). Chef Sunny sent us out a few collar’d (smoked tomato, collards, tasso ham, tobasco) oysters to make it complete. He knows Bill from his regular status at Poole’s. Fun fact: my Sister and Josh used to live in a house on Peace St. across from Broughton years ago when I still lived in California (circa 2007ish). Sunny was new to Raleigh and became their roommate. He had just completed culinary school at Johnson and Wales and began working at Enoteca Vin, a late restaurant co-owned by Louis Cherry, famous Raleigh architect. Lots of local famous restaurateurs and chefs worked there during that time including Coleen Speaks, Josh Young, and Ashley Christensen, to name a few. Ashley took Sunny under her wing at Vin and he then went on to be her sous chef at Poole’s until he opened his own place: St. Roch, which is located in the space on Wilmington St. previously occupied by Joule.
Back to the oysters.
It was love at first bite for me with the pimiento’d oysters. First of all, I love pimiento cheese. Love it. The spicier, the better. I am from the South, so it is my duty to have an appreciation for pimiento cheese. I want to thank the genius who looked at a block of cheese and thought, “we ought to shred this and add mayonnaise and peppers to it.” Thank you. I love you. It is a perfect picnic food, or a pool or beach snack. Or dinner. You could just eat it for dinner–which is basically what we did on this night. The BBQ’d oysters were so flavorful and fresh with the rosemary and cayenne. Bravo. Bill decided at this point that the collar’d oysters were his favorite because they had tasso ham and he freaking loves tasso ham. We gobbled up the roasted oysters and then went on to analyze our wine in deeper detail.
I introduced Bill to you guys in a previously featured post when we went to Saint James in Durham. So, you may remember that he owns Westgate Wine. Bill always brings wines for us to have with dinner. Sometimes we will order something else off the menu if we feel there’s a better pairing being offered. He nailed it with this Punggl Pinot Grigio from South Tyrol, Alto Adige, an autonomous province of Northeastern Italy. I think the people are a blend of Swiss, German, and Italian, but technically located in the country of Italy, so they follow Italian viticulture and winemaking law. All the better for me–Italian wines are my favorite, followed by French and then Spanish. This is hands down the finest pinot grigio I have ever had. I do not normally fancy a pinot grigio. These 80 year old vines grow along the Dolomites, not too far from the Swiss border. These mountain ranges have limestone summits. The Italians are so smart. What else are you going to do with a limestone mountain? You ski it and grow grapes on it, that’s what. You can taste and smell the clay-based sand in this wine. It has a heavy mouthfeel for a pinot grigio, which I love. It is completely unlike any New World pinot grigio. It had pear and green apple, as well as apple blossom on the nose. Bill detected a minerality and I now realize that was the clay-based sand he picked up in this wine, as well as the limestone. Good job, Bill. We also had a Sancerre, however, I have had this pinot grigio once before, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the Sancerre with the Punggl on deck. This vineyard is situated at a mere 82 feet altitude on a hill characterized by it’s warm temps. Punggl actually means “hill”. This wine spends 8 months in a big oak barrel. You can purchase it at Westgate. Better hurry before I get to it first ;P
I will be thinking about those pimiento’d oysters for a long time.
We did decide to add some vegetables to the mix and ordered the beet salad, and a green salad titled No Bullshit Salad. The beet salad was my favorite. It had raw, roasted, and pickled beets, homemade ricotta (swoon), sherry horseradish vinaigrette and red onion. Sunny’s pickled beets tasted just like my Dad’s. There was a lingering hint of rosemary and other warming baking spices in them. The beet salad was phenomenal.
OK, who were we kidding? We needed more of those roasted oysters. We finished with a 1/2 dozen pimiento’d and 1/2 dozen collar’d. By the end, Bill decided the pimiento’d were his favorite, too.
Thank you for a beautiful dinner boasting the fruits of our homeland, Chef Sunny. We’ll be back soon and I promise to try to order something besides oysters next time. St. Roch also serves brunch on the weekends. Sunny’s menu has a strong nod to his homeland of New Orleans. If you haven’t been there, just look for the flashing neon oyster sign with a diamond in it. Visit the website beneath the pics to make a reservation. You’ll probably need one–the secret is out about this place.