Date nights seem to be fewer and farther between for Brian and me lately, but we did manage to get out two weeks ago on a Sunday evening. We decided we’d head down to Pitman to Carolina Blue. I’d been there once before for a Stoudts Brewery tasting dinner sponsored by Beer for Babes, and I knew it would be the kind of place Brian would like.
Sitting across the table from Brian, having an uninterrupted conversation, is such a treat that I forgot to take photos of the food. A good thing for date night, not so good for blogging. I’m thinking I was right to put date night first, though.
We had the option of sitting in the more formal dining room, the casual bar, or the outside deck with a live band. Since we wanted to talk, we ruled out the deck and chose to sit in the bar. It was a little loud, but not too loud that we couldn’t carry on our conversation.
I was impressed that Carolina Blue has local wine on their permanent menu. I’ve never seen that at any of our independent restaurants before. They offer three different varietals from Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill. I didn’t even check out the rest of the wines on the menu. If there’s a local choice, I’m going to order it. I chose Heritage’s Syrah, and I chose wisely.
We started with the crab fritters. When we realized there were only three small fritters to an order, we ended up choosing a second appetizer, the New Orleans Shrimp Dip. I would recommend the crab fritters (though perhaps two orders). They were flavorful and the crab stood out.
For dinner, I ordered the Bistro Filet sandwich from the carvery menu. We need to talk a little bit about Carolina’s Blue unique smokehouse. They smoke right on site, and they smoke using peach wood they get from Heritage Vineyards. It gives all their smoked meat a pleasant sweetness that’s unlike other smoked meat you’ve probably tasted. Very good.
Are you aware that one of the rules of thumb for pairing food and wine is to pair foods & wines from the same region? They usually go well together. Now, imagine pairing beef that’s been smoked with wood that’s been grown on the same exact farm that grew the grapes for the red wine you’re drinking. It’s a seamless pairing. Absolutely wonderful.
The sandwich was topped with a blue cheese sauce and arugula. I’m a sucker for beef and blue cheese anything, but pair them with the right wine, and I’m likely to make a few inappropriate noises while eating.
Brian ordered a half rack of the smoked ribs (not as good as my ribs, he said, but still good), and a side of asparagus that he’d been jonesing for. Sadly, I do not like asparagus and I never prepare it at home (bad locavore, I know).
I unapologetically always order creme brulee if it’s on the menu for dessert, as long as it’s vanilla creme brulee. It’s one dessert that I believe should never be adulterated. I’m happy to say that Carolina Blue does creme brulee right. Not only was the flavor good, but they do it in a shallow, larger circumfrenced ramekin as opposed to the deeper, lesser circumfrenced ramekin. This increases the crispy brulee portion of the dessert and allows for the proper ratio of brulee to creme.
Our service was great. The waitress, Nicole, was attentive but not hovering. Our courses didn’t all come out on top of each other, and we felt comfortable the entire evening.
Carolina Blue’s website says their “dishes are prepared with Jersey Fresh vegetables and ingredients whenever possible.” In addition to the wine from South Jersey on the menu, they also have several regional brews on the menu, including some from Cherry Hill’s Flying Fish. Add the local peach wood, and this restaurant is definitely on my list of local producer supporters.
Have you visited Carolina Blue? What was your favorite dish on their menu?