McCrady’s tasting room, Sean Brock’s intimate set-menu dining experience tucked illusively behind the back staircase of McCrady’s Tavern is exploding with romance and style. Brock is an unassuming character, in television interviews he does not extrude the elegance that is otherwise such a telling and obvious component of his persona. If David Chang is diplomat to the amalgamation of rock n roll, fine dining, and Asian influenced cuisine, Sean Brock is his counterpart Southern fare mastermind.
Sapelo Clams, Kohlrabi, Almond
When I was a child, fine dining seemed boring, uncomfortable, and unattainable. I remember sitting at my Great Grandmothers 80th birthday in a stuffy white tablecloth setting. I had a little suit, unkempt sideways tie, I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable and wondered why anyone would ever want to eat at a place like that.
All these years later, I’m not sure if it was my perspective that changed, or if these chefs grew up feeling the same way and wanting the same things from what they saw as their answer to fine dining.
Mahi, Asparagus, Chamomile
And this certainly is fine dining. The restaurant is exquisite and stylish. It’s as romantic and classic as can be, but it’s decidedly comfortable and welcoming. There is no talking down, no pretension. You are a guest here, an appreciated one. You don’t have to speak French and be a Sommelier to enjoy your evening.
The menu focuses on exceptionally technical interpretations of inherently Southern ingredients. I have no idea if Brock is trying to make a statement about southern food, what it is, what it should be, what it can be… or if he’s just putting his best foot forward because he can. It doesn’t matter, the statement is made despite any intent. Southern food is often mislabeled, misunderstood, and mistreated. Here, it is elevated and respected. Basic, inexpensive ingredients transformed luxuriously into exquisite offerings. Craft is front and center. Passion is apparent. Love is not an option in this kitchen.
"Foiechamacallit" (Foie Gras Chocolates)
It’s past time we throw away our pre-conceived notions of what a meal can be. The days of tall hats and screaming madmen are transforming into explorative, collaborative efforts by artists, artisans, creators, and technicians. McCrady’s is pioneering into new territory, pushing southern cuisine into uncharted waters while showing immense respect for our long, complicated and often uncomfortable history. The American south is taking its place at the worlds culinary table. Brock and his culinary team are front and center. And I’m happy and humbled to even eat the scraps.