A few weeks ago I was followed on Twitter by an upcoming local restaurant, Terra Mae, located at Stone Fort Inn, a bed and breakfast on East 10th Street. I need to make an effort to go to Stone Fort for breakfast one of these days, but I haven’t quite yet. Anyway…back to Terra Mae. I was invited to their Chef’s Table Premier, which was a nine-dish sampler lunch served on the day of their opening.
Upon entering the first thing that you notice is how beautiful the restaurant is; it has been completely remodeled and they did a wonderful job. The lights on the ceiling and the wall of wines in the bar line your walk to the dining area, where beautiful light pours in the large windows. Gorgeous glass vases and bright flower arrangements alternately adorned tables, and the tiny salt and pepper shakers made me smile.
They call themselves an “Appalachian Bistro” and specialize in locally sourced (indigenous is the word that Troy, the general manager used) foods. If you are a regular Chattavore reader, you probably recognize names like Link 41, Crabtree Farms, and Circle S Farm-some of my favorite farmers market vendors. Those are just a few of the names on the Terra Mae menu. Chef Robert Stockwell specializes in a unique twist on Southern cooking as well as “deconstructing” dishes (instead of my trying to explain that here….see the chicken & dumplings below). He and his crew could be seen preparing our meals in the open kitchen (unfortunately, I didn’t catch Chef Robert in this photo).
Almost immediately after being seated, guests were presented with an amuse-bouche (literally “mouth teaser” or a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre) of cucumber, lemon aioli, smoked salmon, and a sunflower shoot (boy, I love sunflower shoots!). I didn’t really consider myself a smoked salmon fan prior to this…but perhaps I’ve eaten the wrong smoked salmon in the past? This was delicious, all the way around. And beautiful to boot.
After the amuse-bouche each guest was served the house salad, Lee and Gordon greens with Crabtree tomatoes, spicy candied walnuts, blue cheese, julienned beets (don’t they look like red tortilla strips?) and chardonnay vinaigrette. I loved the tang of the blue cheese (it was so tangy it burned my tongue a little!) with the cool tomato and the spicy (yes, they were spicy!) walnuts. Next came the appetizers (all dishes from here on were served to be shared among three or four diners) starting with smoked stuffed scallop-scallops stuffed with Link 41 andouille sausage, wrapped in prosciutto, and served with sunflower shoots and red pepper coulis. I didn’t think that I liked sausage, but I guess it should be no surprise that Link 41 proved me wrong. This was a delicious combination. Truffle-infused roasted beets came next, served with smoked feta. If you think you don’t like beets, you should at least give roasted beets a try if you haven’t already…they changed my mind for sure. Served with feta cheese, they were perfect. Finally, we were served a port-wine marinated foie gras torchon (which is foie cooked molded in cheesecloth as opposed to a terrine mold), served with poached pears and a brioche slice. Now, I am pretty sure that I have discussed this here before…I am not much for organ meats, and, while my husband loves foie gras (fattened goose liver, if you didn’t know) I have never been able to bring myself to try (I’m baring my picky-eater soul here) but I did taste it. I didn’t hate it, but I do think it is probably an acquired taste, though the seasoned foie gras eaters around me seemed pretty excited, so it must have been pretty tasty. The pears were absolutely delicious.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I got pretty excited about what we were served next: a Kobe burger served on a brioche bun with Sequatchie Cove farmstead cheese, housemade jowl bacon, mushroom pesto, housemade pickles, and Lee and Gordon lettuce with triple-fried parmesan fries. Forgive me for being so unsophisticated as to get all gaga over being served a burger, but you know that I am a burger girl. This one was quite delicious, the beef cooked just right, the bun a little crisp around the edges, the pickles lending just the right amount of sour, and the parmesan fries (so thick that I find it to be a minor miracle that they were not only cooked through, they were soft and fluffy inside) a crisp, cheesy, and perfectly salty accompaniment.
Next was roasted kingfish (black from a dousing of squid ink) served over poached wild mushrooms, spinach puree, and mussel cream with sorrel. I don’t think that I have ever had kingfish before, and I found this to be a wonderful texture, cooked just right, and not overly fishy. Mushrooms are one of those foods that gets me all excited, and these were amazing swiped through the mussel cream (by the way, the flowers are edible).
Next, the chicken and dumplings, deconstructed: chicken, cooked sous-vide (vacuum sealed and cooked in a water bath) and sliced, served alongside large, round “dumplings” with asparagus, tiny diced squash, chard, and a sauce. The chicken was amazingly tender (as sous-vide meats tend to be) and seasoned perfectly. The dumplings had a great flavor but I’m not going to lie….I’m just all about the traditional Southern flat dumpling. The asparagus and chard were perfectly cooked.
Finally, dessert consisted of a sampling of everything on the dessert menu (pictured clockwise from left): a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, a flourless chocolate cake, caramelized honey panna cotta (usually served with pistachio sponge cake), and white chocolate bread pudding. The chocolate cake and the bread pudding were perfectly lovely but what I think of as “the usual suspects”-easy to find on a dessert menu. The lemon meringue pie was sooooo lemony, and if you live in my world, that is a very good thing. I love all things lemon, and this little sliver was no exception. My favorite, though, was the panna cotta. Shut your mouth. This honey-infused creamy little gem made me want to grab the plate and fight off my fellow sharers with my fork…but I didn’t. It was amazing. Coffee was served as well, and while I didn’t take any (though I wished that I had as I fought off the after-lunch energy drain!), I took a photo of the beautiful mug being enjoyed by the diner to my right.
Terra Mae officially opened for business on Wednesday night, 12.12.12. They have a unique menu, offering several items that you will not likely find in other area restaurants, and executed it very well. The staff is open to suggestions and want their menu to reflect the sorts of things that local want to eat-after all, what good is local food if you aren’t making it the way the locals want it? I wish them all the success in the world and can’t wait to return for dinner with Philip one day soon!
Terra Mae Bistro is located at 120A East 10th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. They are open Wednesday-Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. You can call them at 423-267-7866. Check out their website, www.terramae.org. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@TerraMaeBistro).