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Villedge Wood-Fired Kitchen & Bar unveils updated menu

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Down East Smothered Kettle Chips.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Did you know that some of the best kept culinary secrets are nestled inside hotel restaurants? Some of the best chefs, food, atmosphere and experiences can be found adjacent to gleaming front lobby just past the revolving doors. Villedge Wood-Fired Kitchen & Bar, located inside the Greenville Hilton, 207 S.W. Greenville Blvd, offers an eclectic menu of high-caliber foods including soups, salads with scratch-made dressings, appetizers and entrees. Prices range from $4-$39.

Villedge has a new executive chef, Jon Schatz, who knows his way around a kitchen, having cooked at the former Atlantic Grill and the LA Lounge. He has been cooking since the age of 16 and presents down east Southern food in unique combinations, making sure all of your senses are engaged. After you unwind with a drink or glass of wine at the bar, head over to the inviting dinner area flanked by the signature grill where the chefs prepare many of their wood-fired items.

Let’s start with a warm spinach artichoke au gratin. This vegetarian dish begins by sauteing onions and garlic in oil and adding sliced artichoke hearts, blanched flat-leaf spinach, heavy cream, cream cheese and spices. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese, bake in the wood-fired oven and serve with eastern Carolina flatbread wedges. The flatbread was crispy and flaky from the cornbread dough and the perfect “spoon” to use in this luscious dip that was creamy, rich and decadent.

Next, I tried the Down East Smothered Kettle Chips. Yukon kettle chips are topped with house-made pimento cheese, slow-roasted pork belly, sweet bourbon barbecue sauce, buttermilk ranch dressing and a dusting of chives. The kettle chips were golden brown and crispy, with not a soggy chip in sight. The pimento cheese is sharp and tangy, made from Ash County Hoop Cheese. The pork was tender and the mixture of barbecue and ranch is dynamite. I would describe this dish as a Southern flavor nacho fest that takes traditional flavors we know and love and kicking them up a notch.

For seafood lovers, make sure to try the Pan Roasted Scallops. Sea scallops from the Virginia coast are pan seared in an Alfredo cream sauce made with sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions and spices. It’s served over fettuccine noodles and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese. Welcome to flavor town where the scallops are star attraction. They are delicate, buttery and melt in your mouth. The pasta was al dente, and the sauce was sweet from the chewy sun-dried tomatoes and savory from the rich cream. The garlic spinach was the added brightness to bring this dish a gold star in my food book.

If you are craving a hearty summer dish that gives you all the flavor summer offers without the weight of meat, then select the shiitake mushroom and garden vegetable stuffed sweet pepper. This colorful dish starts with a massive red pepper that has been fire roasted and hollowed out. Add an array of sauteed vegetables including shiitake mushrooms, sauteed spinach, sweet onion, heirloom tomatoes and salt and pepper. Once it’s stuffed to the brim, it’s baked in the wood-fired oven and garnished with sliced asparagus and drizzled with a balsamic reduction sauce. It’s overflowing and drenched with flavor from the meaty mushrooms, sweet red pepper and onion, succulent spinach and bright tomatoes and asparagus. A perfect dinner choice for vegetarians or veggie lovers.

Hotel restaurant meals demand a decadent dessert finish, and pastry chef Hannah creates an array of dessert options each week to make your mouth water and sweet tooth ache for more. I sampled the vanilla cheesecake that is an airy and fluffy mile-high creamy cheesecake with a sweet, buttery cookie crust. Chocolate lovers, you have met your match with the insanely delicious and decadent mud pie with a sugar cookie crust, gooey chocolate center and topped with fresh whipped cream and warm chocolate sauce. Berry lovers, you can also try the blueberry cupcake with handmade cream cheese frosting. No matter what dessert you try, you will be satisfied to the end.

Villedge can even help you create a tailored dinner with wine pairings. If you want to bring in your own special unopened bottle of wine, you can do that, and for a $10 corkage fee, the staff will uncork and pour your wine for you. Villedge offers several private dining areas for more intimate gatherings as well. The lower terrace room can seat up to 40 people, and the Woodshed can accommodate 20 people comfortably.

Villedge Wood-Fired Kitchen and Bar is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and for dinner from 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. For more information, visit www.villedgenc.com or call 355-9500.

Barks & Brews

Pitt Street Brewing Co., 630 S. Pitt St., will host Barks & Brews, a Humane Society of Eastern Carolina fundraiser, from 5-8 p.m. June 15.

Twenty-five percent of purchases will be donated to HSEC. Leashed, well-behaved dogs are permitted on the patio. For more information, visit hsecarolina.org.

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