The weather in Huntsville finally decided to take a turn for the better this weekend, highs in the low 70's today. My wife and I decided to leave the munchkin with the grandparents for a couple of hours to visit one of the finer restaurants in this area, Cotton Row. It's one of the places where you can actually go and get a "fine dining" experience in Huntsville. And this is no Ruth's Chris or Longhorn or whatever you might consider to be fine. This is REAL "sit-down-white-linen-white-plate-presentation" dining. To top it off, they have patio dining which is great this time of year and is unfortunately a rarity in Huntsville (for some reason). It really took us back to Mobile where all restaurants offer outdoor seating. Plus, it features one of the only "real chefs" in the area, James Boyce. The following was taken from his Facebook bio:
This 20-year industry veteran launched his culinary career at New York’s venerable Le Cirque, where he worked for six years under the tutelage of Daniel Boulud. While working in New York, Boyce studied at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, graduating with top honors. In 1990, Boyce made his first trip west to The Phoenician, where he worked with Mary Elaine’s former chef de cuisine, Alex Stratta. After an initial five years with The Phoenician, he went to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas as chef de cuisine at Palace Court. He joined Loews Coronado Bay Resort as executive chef in 1995. While heading culinary operations for Loews, he made a name for himself as one of Southern California’s leading chefs, earning critical acclaim and a variety of awards.
With his experienced, inventive approach to the culinary arts and dynamic leadership qualities, James Boyce was tapped to be the anchor of Studio when it opened in 2003. After earning a second Mobil Five-Star award for Studio, he relocated his family to Huntsville, AL to begin new culinary endeavors with the development of his own company, Boyce Restaurant Concepts.
In 2008 he opened Cotton Row, in Downtown Historic Huntsville, featuring fine American cuisine with strong Southern influences. He also opened Pane e Vino Pizzeria, which offers rustic-chic Italian fare in a superbly artistic setting - just below Huntsville’s own Museum of Art and overlooking Big Spring Park. In December 2010, on the opposite end of the Courthouse Square, he opened Commerce Kitchen - influenced by turn of the century style and classic cuisine.
Each restaurant within the Boyce Restaurant Concepts portfolio offers guests unique tastes and experiences which combine to make Downtown Historic Huntsville, Alabama a compelling travel and dining destination.
Jimmy is regularly featured on the cooking segment of the Today show, in Martha Stewart Weddings, and on Martha Stewart Living Radio. He and his restaurants are also featured in highly acclaimed magazines from Cooking Light, and Food & Wine, to Men’s Health.
As you can see, a foodie like me was very excited to have someone of this caliber in our area. On to the food! BUT, before that, I skipped my general Macallen with dinner for a craft beer instead. The one I picked was from a brewery in Krebs, OK called Choc. For unfiltered wheat fans, it was great. It was called Last Laugh. I'll get more into beer in another post.
For our starter my wife and I split an order of Spicy Beer Steamed Black Mussels. I decided to get a little adventurous and I have never had mussels before, nor am I a huge seafood fan. If I had the choice between eating a boiled boot and a piece of the most wonderful salmon in the world, I'll take the boot any day of the week. But these mussels man... THESE mussels! Un-frickin-real... I like oysters and they had a milder flavor than oysters, plus the sauce they were in (smoked bacon, sriracha, green onion, and cilantro according to the menu) was out of this world. The funny thing was, my wife didn't like them at all and she loves seafood! Go figure right? I would eat these dudes seven days a week. No lie.
For the "salad" portion, neither of us got salad. My wife got pan seared foie gras with braised pineapple which was great and I got a crawfish risotto which was also great. I'm not a big foie gras fan but this was really good and risotto in restaurants is always better than what I can do at home. Then to the main course! I chose the grilled Muscovy Duck Breast with fork mashed sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, french horn mushrooms, and a port-cardamom sauce. Umm... yeah, for real. It was fantastic! My wife had seared Maine diver Sea Scallops with butter beans, buttered leeks, sundried tomatoes, and a caper-white wine sauce. Again, I'm not a seafood fan, but these scallops were great. I would order them on my own.
All in all, the meal was amazing, the company was amazing, the service faltered at the end, but the guy had the entire patio by himself (about 10 tables) and I think he may have gotten his butt chewed out by someone because at the end of the meal, he didn't even thank us for coming. When you are at this caliber of restaurant dropping that kind of money, you would expect excellent food and service all the way to the end. My wife was quite upset (which reflected in the poor guys tip) but me? I think I was on a high of mussels and duck... If you're in the area, come see this guy, you won't be disappointed!
James Boyce can be found at:
Cotton Row Restaurant
100 South Side Square