I try not buckle to peer pressure; yet for a couple of weeks all I heard were variations of “You have to go to Honey Salt.” “You haven’t been to Honey Salt, yet? What’re you waiting for?” “How is it possible that you haven’t eaten at Honey Salt.” I mean, it wasn’t that I was avoiding the first freestanding eatery from my pals Elizabeth Blau and her husband/partner Chef Kim Canteenwalla; it’s just that (a) I’m lazy, and (b) it opened at a particularly busy time for me.
So, after missing the pre-preview, the kids’ preview, the press preview, the friends & family preview, and the opening; I decided to go in for lunch one weekend. Furthermore, I brought my five year old nephew, Eli; telling him he was my secret food spy, to get a kid’s perspective of Cole’s Corner (named for Elizabeth and Kim’s tween progeny, it’s the section of the menu that is Cole-tested, Blau-approved).
The first thing that struck me was that I knew more than fifty percent of the patrons and quite a bit of the staff. I like places where I know the folks (or, perhaps, I just like it when they know me - like the always convivial GM and Managing Partner, Stephen Jerome, who many will recognize from his time at Postrio, CUT, and Switch). Next was the smell. Honey Salt could well be one of the most olfactorily pleasing restaurants, in town.
The menu immediately evokes images of New England summers – be they of the Nantucket, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Camp Yeshevitz Shalom B'nai Hachenblech variety. But what makes Honey Salt so unique is that – no doubt a result of that whole necessity being the mother of all invention theory – Blau and Canteenwalla recognized a dearth of restaurants that served not only farm-to-table artisanal food to upwardly mobile parents with small children, but also meals geared toward those with a more discerning palate who want a nice glass of wine (or three). To wit, in addition to a great selection of beers and wines, there’s a drinks section entitled Way Better than a Juice Box.
Executive Chef Joseph Zanelli does a great job of making everything taste yummy (even the healthy stuff). For example, I had the Honey Salt Caesar (with black garlic dressing, parmesan, and white anchovy) prepared “Elizabeth’s Way” with kale. Now, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never consumed kale. It’s just not something that ever blipped on my radar. But here it was, and it was good! And the Burrata, Rosso Bruno & Teardrop Tomatoes (with figs, basil, blood orange balsamic, and extra virgin olive oil) was decidedly grown-up (although Eli did enjoy mushing the cheese around).
The Turkey Meatballs (with alta cucina tomatoes, caramelized onions, and fresh horseradish) and the Mac and Cheese-y, Yes Please-y were met with delight by both Eli and me; while I kind of kept the Biloxi Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich (with creamy slaw, durkees dressing, chopped salad, on a brioche roll) to myself. And the Backyard Favorite Burger (with beehive cheddar, tomato jam, butter pickle, and French fries) was exactly as advertised, and took me back to the burgers my Dad would occasionally make on the barbeque (in his day, my Dad rocked on the grill).
I could devote an entire article to the baked goods at Honey Salt, but I’ve been urged to err on the side of brevity, so let’s give it a whirl. The Brown Bag Baked Apple Pie (with vanilla bean ice cream) was scrumptious; while the Triple Layer Cake (with chocolate fudge, roasted banana, cardamom, cocoa nib, brown sugar butter cream) can be described only as truly special. It is so unbelievable, in fact, that for a brief moment I envisioned Betty Crocker, sitting on her cloud, in heaven, looking at Sara Lee, asking “How’d they get that cake so damned moist?” And those cookies? They’re no joke. Especially that Brown Butter Chocolate Chip (although the Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Almond Coconut are nothing to sneeze at, either).
But what really blew my skirt up (and thrilled Eli to no end) was the Grow-Your-Own Sundae from the dessert section of Cole’s Corner. Much what one might imagine Willy Wonka would do with a Chia Pet, the GYO Sundae consists of a scoop of McConnell’s vanilla bean ice cream covered in dirt (crushed oreos) and rocks (chocolate covered), magic seeds (chocolate-covered sunflower seeds), with worms (of the Gummy variety). Then, the whole “garden” is covered in warm chocolate fudge, squeezed from an adorable little honey bear. One look at Eli’s beatific smile was enough to tell me that I had one particularly sated five year old, next to me.
Like I said, though; it’s not all for the kids. My sister-in-law went with some of her girlies for a Mommies’ Night Out, and had a blast! And you can bet your Aunt Bippie, they weren’t drinkin’ from no juice boxes, either!
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