Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cask & Larder Grand Opening

Last night was the grand opening to the public of Cask & Larder the new restaurant from the founders of famed Winter Park restaurant The Ravenous Pig. There has been a lot of buzz about this place since the start of construction and it was great to finally see it realized. Cask & Larder bills itself as a Southern Public House.

One of the most interesting features of Cask & Larder is that they have their own brewery inside. Master beer brewer and certified Cicerone Ron Raike(Bio) is the Brewmaster at Cask & Larder and judging from the beer menu it's something to be very excited about. I tried the Black Cyprus Brown beer which is a dark & rich ale brewed with English oats (ABV: 5.0% IBU: 19). It was mild but with just the right amount of bubbles. Some other beers that caught my eye were The Ravenous Red
brewed in partnership with Green Room from Jacksonville(link). The Ravenous Red is an American red ale brewed with ruby red grapefruit, Hamlin oranges & coriander (ABV: 4.9% IBU: 32) & The Olde Southern Wit a Belgian style wheat beer brewed with coriander, citrus zest, & other spices
(ABV: 4.8% IBU: 13). It's going to be exciting to be able to go in regularly and try Ron's newest beer creations.

The layout of Cask & Larder is pretty similar to the previous incarnation of this location when it was The Boathouse and before that O'boys, but the all new decor really makes it something special. It was nice to see the antique bottles on the beam way above the dining area survived the remodel from the previous places. The one big difference to the space is the doors that lead out to the parking lot, which were where most people used to enter from, are not longer used and you must enter through the front doors on Fairbanks. I think many patrons last night found this very confusing so I'm sure they'll add a sign.

We sat at the oyster bar which was a great spot to watch all the action. Turns out sitting at the oyster bar was perfect because our old friend Bruno was behind the bar shucking oysters and we also got to see the pastry chef perform her magic on the desserts, watch the staff work the hand cranked ham slicer and even interact with Chef & Owner James Petrakis.

Service is slightly awkward at the oyster bar because the servers come behind you and the seating is a little tight, it would make more sense to me to be served from the oyster bar itself but I can see where that would be logistically complicated for the staff because of the large glass wall that sits at eye level.

One thing that we found a bit odd was the prices on the menu when we arrived were changed, many items were at least 2 dollars higher in price than the menu we found online. I guess we can chalk it up to opening day glitches but just be aware the prices on their online menu may not be the same you will find in the restaurant. They should probably just have a general sample menu online without the prices to avoid any confusion.

We started off with some James River Smoked Oysters from the bar that were served over a bed of rock salt & topped with a Vidalia Onion Relish. They were served with an in house made Serrano hot sauce that was thick, spicy and had a great flavor.

Next up I had to order the Roasted Boudin ($9) which was served with dijon chantilly(kind of like a mayo) & fried okra. The okra pieces were very long not the short little stubs you are typically served at most places. Boudin is a rice and pork sausage which is very popular in Southwestern Louisiana and it's origins are in French cooking where they make a much milder version. Boudin blanc is one of my very favorite things and very hard to find in Orlando and so I was very excited when I saw it on the menu. From the first bite I could tell they made this in house. The pork pieces had very large long strings of meat not the typical ground pork you find in Boudin. It had a really nice medium flavor, I knew I wouldn't be getting that Cajun spice bite that I'm use to with good Boudin from Louisiana but Cask & Larder's Boudin came into it's own because it has a special flavor I can't quite nail down, it was probably the fact that it was smoked though I wouldn't use that word to describe the flavor either. I look forward to trying this again many times and I hope Chef decides to try pairing it with other things too.

Another dish I had been eying on the menu was the Smoked Oyster & Crawfish Pot Pie $12. I really love the flavor of very smokey oysters but unfortunately that flavor didn't come through in this dish. I expected more of a pot pie type of creation but what I was served was a medium sized crock pot type bowl, not unlike the ones you might be served french onion soup in. Inside was a light brown gravy with too many pieces of celery, too few chunks of crawfish and a partial cornbread crust on top. This dish didn't work for me or the others who tasted it, maybe it was my high expectations but others who sampled it had the same opinion. The flavor was just too mild and the execution wasn't there.

The minute I saw the menu I knew my fate was sealed, I had to order the Grilled Lamb Heart ($12). I've eaten beef hearts before at Peruvian restaurants where they are called Anticuchos and they can be quite good if prepared properly, I've also tried them off Tony Adams Big Wheel Food Truck(link). The hearts in this dish were cut at a nice angle so as not to reveal their previous purpose as a blood pumping organ. They were served with very small pieces of popcorn, a thin smear of grits, fresh sliced peaches, & roasted peanuts. The outside of the heart slices had a nice mildly sweet flavor though some of the parts of the pieces were a bit tough, not sure if this is just the nature of this type of heart or the preparation. The tiny pieces of popcorn sprinkled over it were a odd addition to the dish and the grits portion was just a small thin smear under the hearts, barely enough to get a taste for the flavor of them. Others who sampled the hearts really liked the flavor on the outside of them.

I did get a chance to try the waffle fries which were thin and crispy but not crunch or full of potato. They were done just right not unlike a potato chip in thickness, and they were served in a nice chicken liver gravy and the portion was generous.

After watching the lady slicing the ham and hearing Bruno rave about the Rufus Brown ham I had to order a board of it. It was served with 3 generous piles of different types of ham, 3 buttermilk biscuits, a good sized jar of pepper jelly and pot of farmers cheese. The pepper jelly spread on a slice of biscuit with a topping of ham was the way to go here.

Finally I finished it all off with a dessert of the Mud Pie in a jar it was a chocolate crème, cream custard, raspberry glaze served with a side of chocolate crisps. The crisps while good didn't work with this dish but the Mud Pie itself was magnificent. Full of rich thick tangy flavors I really enjoyed every spoonful.

I'm very excited to go back and try many of the other dishes such as the Bacon & Leek Stuffed Quail  with figs & cherry molasses or the Beef Brisket with horseradish-dill pickles, mustard, yeast rolls. I imagine the menu will have a lot of rotating and new items like Ravenous Pig so catch them while you can!

Cornbread Dressing - blackened rock shrimp & eggplant - my friend raved about this and said it was really good

witte beer doughnuts, citrus-caramel glaze

ice cream
vanilla-sorghum, crunchy peanut, olive & Sinclaire fudge


Cask & Larder on Urbanspoon

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