Monday, January 2, 2012

Dear Em,
Your daddy & I don't watch a whole lot of reality TV shows, but we do love Top Chef. We love watching them cook & describe the most amazing foods. One year, I got your daddy a Top Chef cookbook filled with their 5 star recipes. It took him 45 minutes to make the grilled cheese.

At the end of each season, we've talked about how fun it would be to go to the winner's restaurant & try some of the amazing food we've only been able to gawk at through the television screen. So, when one of this season's contestants was from Wilmington, NC, the same city your Nonnie & Papi live, we were excited. Chef Keith Rhodes immediately became our favorite. We rooted him on from the our comfy couch, & were wicked sad when he was asked to "pack his knives & go."

We knew we had to fit in a visit to his restaurant, Catch, while we were down for the holidays. Since your palette is not exactly adventurous, we let you stay with Nonnie & Papi while Daddy & I went on a date night (we're lucky to have babysitters available to us while we are in NC).

We were surprised to find that Catch was a small store front restaurant. We actually almost passed it as were were driving. With all of the awards the chef & the restaurant have won, I think we expected something large & fancy. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't & dress was casual. Your daddy & I always feel kind of awkward in really fancy restaurants. We just don't feel like we can really be ourselves & relax. With its calm blue walls & pictures of waves & surf, Catch was the perfect atmosphere for us.

We had made a 5:30 reservation, & 5:30 was when the restaurant opened for dinner. So, the wait staff was trying to memorize the specials & recite them to the chef before they presented them to us. Your daddy & I started off with some drinks, ordered an appetizer, & had time to quietly talk just the two of us. Being the beer connoisseur your daddy is, he loved that the beer menu was full of local craft beers he had yet to try. 

It was just so nice to unwind while we perused the amazing options on the menu. Everything sounded so yummy, we wanted to taste everything. So, we decided to pick 3 appetizers, 1 salad, & share an entree.

We started with the calamari. Being Rhode Islanders, your daddy & I like some spice in our calamari, & this calamari did not disappoint. The sauce had a little kick to it & the sliced jalapeno peppers hit the spot. Though the calamari was fried, it still felt light as we ate it. We finished the whole plate & couldn't wait for what came next.

Next came the Seafood Ceviche (they always talk about ceviche on Top Chef so I was super excited to order it) & Firecracker Shrimp.

We kind of devoured most of the ceviche before I could remember to take a picture. Luckily, there are photos of the food on the Catch website that were taken by better photographers with self restraint.

The Firecracker Shrimp were pieces of heaven in my mouth. I wish I had the recipe for the congnac cream that covered the shrimp, & the sesame seeds gave them just the right amount of crunch. The Seafood Ceviche was light & tangy.

Next came the NC Sweet Potato Salad. I don't typically like sweet salads. I've never been a big fan of cranberries or other sweet things in my leafy salads. Your daddy, on the other hand, is not a fan of goat cheese (which I love love love). This salad was both sweet & had goat cheese...& we loved every bite. Seriously, we ate the whole thing & scraped the plate dry.  We're so glad we tried & loved something new.

Our last plate was our entree, the Cast Iron Blackend Local Mahi Filet. It tasted so good, I don't think your daddy & I spoke a word until we had completely finished our plates. The fish was blackened but moist & not too fishy. We were excited to have true Southern grits (which were surprisingly light & amazingly cheesy).

I really wanted to hear the dessert menu but I a) knew I wouldn't have any self restraint b) was worried your daddy would have to roll me out of the restaurant. So, we said "Merry Christmas" to our sweet waitress & left the restaurant with every intention of going back the next time we're in the Wilmington area.

We went home & voted for Chef Keith as our Top Chef Fan Favorite. Chef Keith, thank you for an amazing dinner & an amazing date night. Your Asian & Southern influenced food greatly surpassed all of our expectations.

You know what your daddy & I talked about most during our date night (other than how much we wished Chef Keith could come & live at our house & cook for us each night)? You, of course. 

I love you so,

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