Monday, March 7, 2011

Totally Tasty Find: Duck Fat Fries in Greenville

Wow, am I behind in my posting!  Where do I begin?  In the past few weeks, I ate my way around Greenville, S.C., feasted on Southern fare in Asheville, N.C., stopped by Athens, Ga., pigged out in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and tried a couple of new places in Tampa.

Let's start with Greenville and work back to Florida. 

Sister Foodie moved to Greenville a few months ago, so I headed up to the foothills of the Appalachians to check it out.  Greenville has gotten some good press in recent years for being a fun weekend getaway destination.  With its vibrant downtown and proximity to the mountains, I can see why. 

A mild Saturday over Presidents' Day weekend brought out winter-weary (and pale) Carolinians.

The downtown should be used as a case study in urban planning and renewal.  Modern hotels are interspersed with restored brick buildings that house art galleries, clothing boutiques, gift shops, doggie bakeries (yup!), a general store and a plethora of restaurants, many with al fresco dining.  Office buildings and a sports arena are woven into the mix that is so pedestrian friendly that the streets are crowded with people rather than cars. 

The Liberty Bridge carries foot traffic over the Reedy River.
A 355-foot-long pedestrian bridge wends across the Reedy River, where picnickers plop their blankets and coolers on the lush riverbank in Falls Park, munching away while watching their kids climb on the rocks that lie beneath a picturesque waterfall.

All of this scenic beauty works up an appetite, which leads to a multitude of fine or casual dining choices, indoors or out, in the form of ale houses, gastropubs, bistros, coffee shops and traditional restaurants. 

Upon my arrival, we headed to a hip place that had opened that same week near the Westin hotel on Main Street.  Dubbed Nose Dive, this gastropub featured some novel menu items that included a culinary tour of the globe.  French, Vietnamese, English, German, Italian, Southern, Northeastern, you name it.  Whether you're in the mood for fish and chips or pho, a lobster roll or pasta with bolognese, a bratwurst or a burger on brioche, you'll find it on this ambitious and adventurous menu.

I opted for French influence with a frisee salad topped with a poached egg and a starter of French onion soup.  The soup had the requisite floating bread covered in Gruyere cheese, nothing spectacular, and I suspect the stock contained the dreaded commercial bouillon base due to the aftertaste I later experienced.  Bouillon makes me burp.  Sorry.  The salad had an egg on it all right but it certainly wasn't poached, at least not properly since the yolk was totally cooked and, making matters worse, the egg was totally cold.  The French would be appalled, but I am a forgiving American home cook who knows this place just opened and will work out the kinks.  It's too bad about the egg because the bacon, candied pecans and a pecan vinaigrette gave the French salad a tasty Southern twist.

Menu hits at our table of four included oxtail tacos, a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich and duck confit over risotto.   Sister Foodie and friends smiled and nodded their approval of their entrees.

Although my meal wasn't memorable, the appetizer certainly was.  The table shared the Trio of Fries. 

Fries, you ask?  A highlight?  Oh yes, when they are fried in DUCK FAT! 

The trio included three cones of french fries: one sprinkled with lime and sea salt, one dusted with porcini mushrooms and herbs, and the third stuffed with sweet potato fries.  They were accompanied by dipping sauces of a citrus chipotle blend and a white truffle aioli.  I have never been a dip-your-fries-in-mayo kind of girl but the duck fat-fried herb fries dipped in that white truffle mayo ranks as a Food and Loathing Totally Tasty Find.

The other appealing features of Nose Dive were the cool vibe created by the energetic crowd of young professionals imbibing delicious craft brews, a cutiepie waitress who was all smiles as well as efficient, and the sleek atmosphere, especially the upstairs lounge, which features private dining booths and comfy chairs grouped for conversation.  

This place is incredibly reasonable with straightforward pricing:  appetizers are $6; soups $5; salads $6; sandwiches $8; mains $14; and desserts $5.   

Next visit will see a pork cheek pierogi on my plate. 

Restaurant Info:
Nose Dive
116 South Main Street
Greenville, SC 29601

Nose Dive on Urbanspoon

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