Saturday, February 12, 2011

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth

The Food bottom line:
  • Great spot for an uptown business lunch, absolutely worth coming back for dinner.
  • The pork belly was so amazing, I was almost embarrassed to eat it in public.
  • Truly a place where the cooking is a craft and an art, and a celebration of local farms and food.
The ladies of Food Baby recently decided to have a “working” lunch at Halcyon at the Mint Museum.  "Working" both in the sense that we knew it would be blogworthy, but I think we might have discussed some business too.  We arrived a touch after noon and the dining room was nearly full.  The hostess offered us a seat at either the community table (a long table in the middle of the dining room – love this concept), the bar or the chef’s station.  We chose the latter.  The dining room is simply breathtaking – flooded with natural light and decorated in an almost ethereal way – very chic and very sophisticated.  The crowd was a largely uptown professional crowd, conducting client meetings or noshing with colleagues. 

After we were seated, our very knowledgeable and talented server, Shannon, gave us the rundown.  The concept of the restaurant is “farmhouse chic” and the seasonal menu is inspired by the bounty of local artisinal farms.  The emphasis on freshness can be perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that the kitchen has virtually no freezer space – only what they need to store the housemade ice creams.  The restaurant features the creations of Chef Marc Jacksina, formerly of LULU and Andrew Blair’s.  I have a special place in my heart for Chef Jacksina – we moved into our Plaza Midwood home in December of 2005, about the time LULU was opening right up the street.  We were among the original crowd of dedicated patrons, and it remains a favorite today. 

The Halcyon lunch menu is simple and straightforward, and every item looks incredible.  I was immediately drawn to the “Three Little Pigs” entree and Lauren selected the Mushroom Crepes.  While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the view of the impeccably well-organized and stunning kitchen.  The most eye-catching feature to me was the giant wood-burning oven where, at the time, bone-in chicken breasts were roasting.  Shannon brought out homemade bread with a duo of butters – hazelnut truffle and honey fig.  Yum.

Bread with Duo of Butters

Lauren’s crepes had local mushrooms and chevre cheese and were accompanied by a “winter salad”.  The crepes were perfectly cooked and the filling was flavorful and well-balanced.  The earthiness of the mushrooms paired wonderfully with the creamy sharpness of the chevre.  The winter salad featured local greens and an oven roasted tomato with a tangy dressing. 

Mushroom Crepes

My pig dish literally took my breath away.  A trio of pork pleasures was artfully arranged on a narrow rectangular plate.  The first item I tried was the pork belly, which was served over a warm lentil salad.  To say the pork belly changed my life would be an understatement.  It was the best pork belly I have ever had, in fact, it was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  It was a masterpiece – perfectly crispy on the outside, falling-apart-melt-in-your-mouth tender, and not overly fatty.  Lauren and I immediately agreed that the pork belly had given us very strong emotions, and we observed a moment of silence in its honor.  The next item was a BLT on brioche.  In and of itself a delicious bite, but I must admit it paled in comparison to the pork belly.  The third item was a pork meatball over greens.  The meatball was juicy and flavorful, and the tangy greens cooked with bacon were a perfect compliment.  The meatball definitely gave the pork belly a run for its money, and came in a close second on my tasting plate. 

Three Little Pigs

Lauren and I agreed that this was a very special treat for lunch, and have already made plans to return for dinner soon.  We also plan to come for drinks after work to sample from the “Grazing” menu, which they start serving at 3PM.  I encourage everyone to check out Halcyon – come for a power lunch, make a day of it at the fabulous Mint Museum, have cocktails and partake in the grazing menu, or come for dinner.  You can easily see why The Charlotte Observer placed Halcyon at #1 on its list of the best new restaurants of 2010.  

- Brianna

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