During the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this past May, Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen was part of an interesting panel of chefs talking about recipe development and experimentation. She was fresh from researching fried chicken preparation methods for her new restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. After testing all kinds of brines and coatings, she found that simplest was best — just a salt water solution and a bit of seasoned flour.
I spent a few days in Raleigh this past week and got nice and up close with the fruits of Christensen’s chicken labor. Man. This biscuit became a close friend of my face.
If you look closely, you’ll see the chicken had been painted with a bit of pure honey then topped with thin slices of pickled green tomato. The Dijon honey mustard on the other half of the biscuit was not overkill (and not depressing in that way that honey mustard can be). I loved the way the flavors built, with sweetness, tang and salt mirrored in different ingredients. This is one carefully constructed chicken biscuit, let me tell you.
The sides at Beasley’s looked so good that I went back the following day to fill up on finely chopped collard greens braised in cider (great) and stewed tomatoes.
I got a good taste of Christensen’s work when I was in Raleigh. Her flagship, Poole’s Diner, strikes such a warm tone in design (a casually rehabbed downtown diner with a blackboard menu) and cooking. It reminds me of a grown-up, dinner-and-cocktails version of Home Grown GA in that it respects the architecture, expectations and vibe of a neighborhood diner, but then presents a sophisticated menu without any pretension. The dishes came together with a lot of care — simple, but seasoned in a way that let the ingredients communicate with each other. Christensen and her crew seem to have the cook’s version of perfect pitch. I’m still thinking about a salad of watermelon, creamy cheese and avocado — and the way temperature, (smallish) plate size, cut and and a few sprinkles of salt made it work.
Beasley’s is one of three establishments Christensen opened last year right next to each other on a downtown street corner. She also has Fox Liquor Bar, a speakeasy-style joint where tattooed bartenders serve creative cocktails to a seriously yuppie crowd. I’m guessing there are a lot of hard-working lawyers and lobbyists in the North Carolina capital city. The third restaurant is Chuck’s, a Farm Burger-style burger joint that I did not have the chance to visit.
Anyone else been? If so, should I have gotten the fried chicken plate? Next time…
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog