Last Friday night, due in large part to the fact that we both had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks, I decided to treat Kate to a very indulgent and decadent dinner at Milner’s, a new(ish) restaurant in the Dash.
Ok, to be fair, this wasn’t a truly random outing. I purchased last Thursday’s piedmont/triad livingsocial deal, and it was $20 for $40 worth of food and drink at Milner’s. Kate and I ate at Milner’s in the winter and absolutely loved it, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to pragmatically study all the aspects of a Milner’s dining experience. Or at least be very critical of the food presentation.
Milner’s specializes in New Southern (Southeastern) cuisine. I’ve encountered a number of non-Southerners who think classy Soul food is impossible, but this is absolutely not the case. Many staple Southern foods (grits, macaroni and cheese, barbeque, even chicken cum waffles) can be served and prepared in a highly dignified fashion. That being said, I’ve eaten at a number of ‘upscale’ Southern eateries, and more than a few of them fail to recognize that the beauty of Southeastern American cookery is not in its flair or technical mastery, but in the love you can taste in every bite.
Above all else, Milner’s is a steakhouse. In fact, the first recommendation I ever received for this particular restaurant was crafted entirely around a steak. The last time my girlfriend and I dined at Milner’s I chose the pulled pork- a delicious option, but this time I prepared myself in advance to order a steak.
(STOP– Some of you might be raising your eyebrows and giving me disdainful looks because I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I rarely talk about the preparation of meat when it comes to my own personal recipes. However, I have very specific reasons for not labeling myself a vegetarian- reasons which are being gradually deepened by my internalization of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. However, if you’re curious about why I still eat meat, check out my ‘Why I’m Not A Vegetarian’ post. Now, what I was saying? OH RIGHT…)
Anyway, Kate and I both ordered the red wine and herb marinated hanger steak, but with different sides- she chose succotash and sauteed spinach. I chose collard greens and whipped potatoes. Oh, and of course we both ordered macaroni and cheese (because, yes, we’re equally too greedy to share. Our love of food is what brings us together .)
I’m not a steak aficionado, but believe me when I say that Milner’s hanger steak is a force to be reckoned with. It is too tender for words, and literally falls apart on cue. It’s almost as though the steak quivers when it sees the knife approaching. Kate and I ordered two different sauces- she ordered the house steak sauce, and I ordered the cremini mushroom sauce. My sauce was chock full of mushroom chunks and paired with the steak herbs very nicely. However, as nice as the steaks proved to be, I found some of the sides to be lackluster.
Ok, here’s the deal- I love collard greens. If I’m ever on death row, I want my last meal to be my mom’s macaroni and cheese, saffron basmati rice, and the largest helping of day long cooked collard greens ever created. Collards have a very strong flavor (similar to mustard greens), which can be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the taste. They are especially good when infused with vinegars, or very salty pork pieces. In my opinion, the perfect collard greens have been carefully looked over (one grain of sand can ruin a bowl of collards), rinsed thoroughly, and cooked for multiple hours. I can usually tell when my collards have been cooked in an unorthodox fashion, or have been cooked for a shorter period. I believe the Milner’s collard greens are steamed heavily and then allowed to steep in their own juices for X number of hours. However, I could be wrong- it could be possible that the greens are slow cooked for a number of hours. It’s hard to tell when they are NOT CHOPPED. I’m sure the chef has a perfectly good aesthetic reason for serving whole collard leaves. I just don’t agree with this reasoning. I think the best collards are given a rough chop prior to being cooked. I think it makes every part of the green cook evenly, and it makes them significantly more tender. I am ready to accept that this could be a Jessamyn preference, and it’s possible that no one else on this planet feels the same way. But all in all, I was not a fan of these particular collard greens.
(Look, I’m very passionate about breeds of wild cabbage, ok? )
Also, while I love macaroni and cheese, I hate when people get too fancy with it. First of all, I don’t like crunchy breadcrumbs on top of my pasta– I mean, I’ll eat it, but it’s certainly not my preference. Also, I’m not totally against using sharp white cheddar in mac and cheese, but it should be used in moderation. Sharp white cheddar has a much more pungent flavor than regular cheddar, and it can be a bit much to handle. Sometimes a chef will try to balance out this flavor by adding in other spices, like nutmeg or even cinnamon. Again, I’m not against this (in general), but it can be VERY off-putting and make the dish taste almost dessert-like. Milner’s appears to do all three of these things (white cheddar, nutmeg, cinnamon), with the result being that I’m not in love with their macaroni. Of course, because I’m me, this was the second time I’ve ordered it and I thought the exact same thing last time. I think the addition of more aromatics (white onion and garlic, primarily) might balance out the sweetness from the spice choices.
The mashed potatoes were ok- nothing to write home about, but not worth panning. Even I have to admit that Kate’s succotash was pretty delicious (and I’m not a fan of succotash), and the spinach was quite tasty (though, in all fairness, sauteed spinach is pretty difficult to mess up).
All in all, regardless of my criticism, I really enjoyed my meal at Milner’s. It was quite pricey (this is not a bargain restaurant and will remain a special occasion spot), but it was worth the money to spend time with the woman I love, eating food that we both enjoy.
On an unrelated note, my name (and this blog) have been thrown into the ring for Yes! Weekly’s Triad’s Best Blogger Award. Even if you’re not a triad resident, I would be absolutely thrilled to have you go to their website and vote for me. There are tons of categories, but you don’t have to vote in every category. It’s very simple to cast your vote:
1. Click this Link.
2. Type in your name and e-mail address, then click ‘Save’
3. Click ‘Media’, scroll down to ‘Best Blogger’ and select ‘Jessamyn Not Jasmine’ from the list of options.
4. Click ‘Save’. You’re done!
Of course I’ve found out about this at the very last minute, so I’m sure my last ditch effort to win probably won’t be enough to shoulder out some of the frontrunners. However, it’s really wonderful to be recognized and I hope this leads to more Triad residents checking out Jessamyn Not Jasmine.
Happy Hump Day! (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.)