Person Street has never been better than it is now for my Oakwood area neighbors and I. The food scene was highly elevated when Crawford & Son opened its doors in late 2016. This neighborhood restaurant is no secret to many, especially since it was deemed Triangle’s Best Restaurant of 2018 by Greg Cox. I’ve had several delightful dinners there since Chef Crawford graced our neighborhood with his brainchild, and I’m delighted to share my experience from last Friday night with y’all.
I usually like to start my dinner with an apéritif when dining out– preferably a stiff one. It also just feels like good manners to order a cocktail when you sit down at a bar, which is where we dined. The vodka lemongrass gimlet was perfect on this gorgeous spring night. Refreshing, not sweet, and nice and tart. My lovely Mother, Brenda E. Weeks, joined me shortly thereafter and she followed suit with the gimlet. We started with the beef tartare. This edition of his tartare was served with horseradish aioli (if you guys haven’t figured it out by now I am obsessed with aiolis of any kind), crispy garlic, and radish. The garlic was sliced and fried like little potato chips– a perfectly crunchy complement to the tartare. This dish is easy to sum up: it tasted like sour cream & onion potato chips! Probably my favorite type of potato chip. We decided to order a bottle of wine that we thought would work with the tartare and the other things we were planning to order, and we landed on a beautiful Matthiasson Grenache/Syrah rosé. The name was ringing a bell, and it hit us both at about the same moment. We had been to this vineyard in 2007! My Mom and my Sister, Laura, came to visit me one May when I lived in Long Beach. The three of us drove up the coast to Napa for some quality time together. Laura has always had a knack for researching cool spots when we are visiting someplace new, and she had read about Matthiasson Wines, so we checked it out. This was just a couple years after winemaker, Steve Matthiasson, devoted his efforts to his family vineyard’s wine production. It was super quaint. In fact, as I look back on our visit, we pulled up to the farm to their house. There was no tasting room–we actually rang their doorbell at their backdoor to let them know we were there. His wife, Jill, who runs the business part of the vineyard, answered the door. Steve wasn’t home when we stopped by. You could tell that they weren’t very well known at that time and they didn’t get many visitors for tastings. She asked us with pleasant surprise how we found their vineyard. She led us out to a picnic table, vineyard-side, and brought out some fruit and cheese for our tasting. It was a gorgeous spring Napa day, and there were butterflies and honeybees floating around the vineyard while we tasted their wines. So beautiful. Matthiasson wines are exceptionally balanced. I am pleased to see how they have grown and the press they’ve received since our humble tasting, including being named Winemakers of the Year multiple times by Food & Wine. Well deserved. I love seeing people pursue their passions the way the Matthiassons have. We were so happy to see this wine featured on Crawford’s list. It layered on and on with acidity that makes this wine impossible to forget. On the nose, we found strawberry, cherry, and wet stones–also light smoke. On the palate, there was sour cherry, tart strawberry, and very ripe pink grapefruit. Look at that color in the photo below. This color in wine is called salmon. You don’t see that color very often. There was a flash of tannins and lush acidity. Definitely order a bottle when you go. This rosé was such a lovely and unexpected memory of that sunny day in Napa 11 years ago with my Mom and Laura. ❤
For our next course, we ordered the shaved baby turnips and the golden beet salad. I always order the featured raw veggie dish when I got to Crawford & Son. I am always so excited to see how elegantly he will feature whatever vegetable he has chosen from the season. It’s usually a root vegetable. I recall having watermelon radish once, then baby carrots another time, and the baby turnips this time. First of all, just look at the picture below. It’s the seventh one in, just to the right of the golden beet and strawberry salad. I absolutely love how he presents these raw dishes in such a way that they’re almost too pretty to eat. So delicate and ornate–it’s like a little fairy of sorts fluttered by and sprinkled flower petals on the plate just before it made it’s way to our table. I suppose that magical fairy is none other than full sleeve tattooed, motorcycle riding, Chef Crawford. I encourage you not to pass by the raw veggie dish when you go. I always look forward to seeing how he will showcase something so simple in such a dainty and colorful, insanely flavorful expression. The beet salad was life changing. It had wisteria dressing–yes, you read that right. Wisteria has been in peak bloom around here, and my neighborhood strolls with Daisy have been perfumed with the intoxicating fragrance of this lavender colored flowered vine. I love the South in the springtime–nothing smells sweeter. Honeysuckle, magnolia, jasmine, and wisteria will romance you during a nighttime drive with the windows down. Choosing wisteria for this spring salad was brilliant. Bravo, Chef. The rosé paired flawlessly with this golden beet and strawberry salad.
I saw the stuffed pappardelle pasta when I first arrived and I knew that was exactly what I needed for dinner. The pappardelle was impeccable. I think pappardelle may be my favorite pasta. Wait, maybe its tagliatelle. Then again, I love fettuccine. OK, let’s face it, any handmade fresh pasta is the most amazing thing on the planet. And since I rarely eat pasta, this was such a delicacy. Somewhere, someone’s Italian grandmother is nodding in approval at his handmade pasta skills. The fact that it was stuffed with buttered clams basically sung directly to my heart. I could have eaten two of these dishes. It was perfect. Mom ordered the olive oil poached sea bass, which is known for melting in your mouth like butter on its own, but I am fairly certain it was sous-vide’d. The sea bass was paired vibrantly with leek, fennel, tomato confit, and Meyer lemon. It was very elegantly balanced.
If you have ever dined with my Mother, then you know you are not getting out of a restaurant without dessert. She has a wicked sweet tooth, which I think she came by honest as her Dad seems to have the same sweet tooth. It seems to hit each generation…and Atticus came by it super honest. We went with the Grasshopper Brownie, which was served with matcha mint ice cream. Mom ordered sherry for us to have with dessert. Mom is a nationally certified wine judge, and one of her friends who studies wine works at Crawford & Son. Greg was kind enough to share a 1948 Solera with us. This year stuck out to me as it’s the year my Dad was born. The wine is actually an average of the year 1948, meaning it is comprised of wines from different vintages, 1948 being the average of the different years. She knew all about this super rare dessert wine. It’s actually not a sherry as sherry is made with white grapes, and this wine is made with Monastrell. It is made in Andalusia region of Southern Spain where an indigenous yeast called flor grows. This yeast grows in the barrel and forms a layer on the wine which leaves an oxidized note and delicious nutty flavors. Mom identified toasted walnuts on the nose of this Solera, pictured below. Flor is kind of a phenomenon. Winemakers have tried to take it to California and Australia to replicate what it does, but it never survives there. It is indigenous to Jerez de la Frontera, and that very exclusive coastal biome is where you have to go to find it, making these wines unlike any other of their kind.
Before I wrap up here, I should also note the decor in this place as it really gives it so much of its character. I became connected to Chef Crawford at some point on Instagram, and learned that he is also a fellow Leo. The decor kind of says Leo in a charmingly bold and masculine way, while still being low key flashy like one would expect from a Leo. haha. His glassware is smoky grey, the bathroom walls are wallpapered in old school tattoo designs. One touch I really love are the family portraits in the hallway. I learned that these people in the photos are the real family members of the restaurant’s staff. There’s that lion-heart! Thanks for another exquisite dinner, Chef Crawford. Everything we had was a gorgeous representation of springtime, and we are so thrilled to have you in the ‘hood.