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Jun 11, 2009 07:24 PM

Herons, Cary, NC - New chef Scott Crawford introducing $20 3-course prix fixe lunches

For those of you who haven't been following Herons in the Umstead Hotel in Cary, NC, they recently brought on Chef Scott Crawford, who in my opinion has been one of the best chefs in the Southeast for years. He previously led the helm at Woodlands Inn in Summerville, SC (which earned Mobil 5-star ratings) and then moved to Sea Island, GA, where he earned the Georgian Room a Mobil 5-star rating after his arrival. The Atlanta newspaper called him the best chef in Georgia while he was there (including Atlanta), and Morteon Neal recently said he could turn out to be the best chef in NC.

I've previously experienced his cuisine at Woodlands, and he is a treasure for this area to have. He does cutting-edge work with Southern-influenced elements, and also is very committed to establishing relationships with local farms and products.

Building Herons up to his caliber of operation is a time-intensive process, so I haven't yet been because I want to make sure he's implemented all the changes he intends to make. However, early reviews have been extremely positive. It seems that as a part of this transition, he's introducing a prix fixe experience similar to that which Woodlands had while he was there - and it was one of Charleston metro. area's most popular lunch options. I have pasted below some of the wording of the e-mail I've gotten on this:

"Beginning June 29th, Chef Scoot Crawford will offer a $20 3-course Prix Fixe Market Menu at lunch, in addition to his a la carte menu, featuring the best of what's in season and available locally. ... The Prix Fixe Market Menu will feature items from local farms such as Elodie Farm and Cane Creek Farm. Chef Crawford will also be sourcing from the vendors [of the new Western Wake Farmers Market] for this very special summer menu."

11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., starting June 29th.

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  1. I've had his vegetarian menu at Woodlands, and it really was fantastic. Any reason given for his leaving the Cloister?

    1. Thanks! Now I know where to go for a work lunch meeting I'm hosting next month.

      1. Lunch today was neither prix fixe nor terribly promising. Far too many staff tripping over one another and guests, hovering; reciting a menu and adhering to a script rather than engaging out of a more complex and deep understanding, appreciation of food, wine and service that are the basic but unexceptional hallmarks of a good restaurant. The server introduced himself by name and volunteered his recommendations about what to order the better to 'fill [us] up' and countless others stopped by to check on this or that, but my dropped napkin went unnoticed and unaddressed throughout the meal. The overall impression is one of a restaurant too deeply in awe of itself and its patrons (and perhaps too wedded to a business formula?) to be able to comprehend and serve either effectively. One wonders what family meal looks like here. On two occasions in the past 6 months I've had 'tuna tartare' (actually poke) that tasted of refrigerator. Today I tried the 'southport salad' and the snapper was very well prepared but in need of salt which was undistinguished, and the vegetables pretty but inedible-- pickled and al dente to the point of participating exclusively in the attractive presentation of the dish.

        Tea is served in a sachet and coffee is suburban gourmet.

        Overall it's just a weird place without a functional ethos to unify sourcing, preparation, service etc in a coherent identity. Or maybe I am just so far outside of their target audience that I cannot perceive it. In any event it's a pity as we need decent places for business lunches (not a one on in Durham or between Durham and Cary) and overall for good chefs and restaurants to help raise the bar.

        Heron's lapses are the more egregious for its evidently lofty aspirations coupled with resources to support them.

        5 Replies
        1. re: dbird

          OP says "beginning June 29th" - so you're a week early for the prix fixe. we're going to check it out next week. hope it isn't as disappointing.

          1. re: dbird

            Your review reads like an attorney at a poetry slam. I read it jaw agape at the verbosity yet nodding at its talk-turkey-ness.

            1. re: dbird

              What is "suburban gourmet" coffee?

              1. re: dbird

                the prix fixe menu consists of melon/goat cheese medallions, cane creek short ribs, and peach tartin. (sorry, i don't remember the sides/garnishes, etc!!) wine pairing available for additional $12 - white, red and dessert wine (la yunta from argentina).

                we were told that they would change the prix fixe menu according to what is available, maybe every two weeks. we enjoyed our meal - the short ribs were, as expected, fall off the bone tender, but an interesting choice of a 'cold weather' dish for a hot summer lunch. plating/food presentation was nice. of course, perhaps the service is a bit formal, but we tend to go to very casual places anyway. if you are pressed to keep lunch under an hour, definitely let your server know at the start of the meal, as it progressed with a leisurely (albeit welcome) pace.

                1. re: cervisiam

                  The current menu: melon soup with country ham, creme fraiche, prosecco and mint; triggerfish with heirloom tomatoes and arugula (a butter-based sauce as well); blueberry buckle with lime soaked blueberries and whipped cream. For $20, this cannot be beat. The portions were more than generous and everything was well conceived and executed. I'm looking forward to trying more of Chef Crawford's cuisine at Elodie Farms on August 1. Anyone else going?