Big news, y’all: Cook Hall is freaking delicious. What is Cook Hall you may ask? Well it is the non-shitty restaurant that took over for Craft in the W hotel awhile back and you need to know it.
A few weeks back, I was invited in to preview their Fall menu and hot damn, it is everything you could want and the flavors seem to wrap you in a warm cashmere-like hug.
Upon arrival, I was greeted with a cold beer and a board of Roasted Butternut Squash Toast. For all of you thinking this is just another bruschetta situation, just slow your role for a minute. Topping the toasted bread is farmer’s cheese, perfectly spiced butternut squash, and as if that wasn’t delectable enough, each piece is topped with full leaf of fried sage. This is absolutely incredible and something to crave on a cold Fall day. Think they’ll deliver?
After being seated, each guest was immediately presented with a piping hot ramekin of butternut squash soup – sense a pattern here? What makes this soup so special is the toasted chestnuts that rest atop it, as well as the pleasant surprise of barley at the bottom. Now, it may not sound particularly interesting but go try it and you will be singing a different tune. In fact, I enjoyed the barley in the soup so much that I have been incorporating the idea of grains mixed in my soups at home. Don’t let these seemingly light starters fool you, we tried not one, not two, but FOUR entrees from the new fall menu. I won’t go into detail about each and every one because let’s face it, my vocabulary just isn’t that expansive, but I will give you the highlights. We had a sampling of the house-made Pappardelle with blistered tomatoes and fennel, Seared Scallops with Apple-Bacon Jam and Parsnip puree as well as Grilled Filet with Swiss Chard and Potato Confit. The hands down winner is the Corn Flake Fried Chicken served with Brussel Sprouts, Black Pepper Mashers and Gravy.
Cornflake Chicken was something my Grandmother always made while I was growing up so I am a tough critic with this one. I’ve got to say though, Chef Wagenhauser does a great job and now I can get a little taste of home without flying 1,503 miles to get it. The chicken is juicy and tender but the crusting is nice and crispy, making for the perfect balance of textures. The Brussel Sprouts were cooked perfectly as well, blanched so they stay nice and green but not overly cooked in the least. I wish I could speak on the mashers that everyone at the table raved about but they were covered and smothered with gravy and I just don’t do porky things.
We also enjoyed several side dishes including braised Collard Greens with Maple, Bacon and Beer, Mac & Cheese with Piquillo Peppers and Black-Eyed Peas with Goat Cheese and Crispy Chicken Skin. All were fabulous and if you were lucky enough to nab a ticket to the Culture Map First Birthday Party at Crow Collection last week, you surely sampled Cook Hall’s Black-Eyed Peas..you lucky dog. Wanting to end the night on a “holy-shit-my-pants-are-about-to-burst” note, two desserts were served and Good Lawd were they good. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate anything unless it has to do with Tyson Beckford so the Devil’s Food Cake with Cocoa Nibs and Raspberry Mascarpone didn’t really speak to me. With that said, the Orange Bundt Cake with Sugar Frosting and Blackberry Jam quickly lept into my Top 10 favorite desserts in town after just the first bite. Moist cake with just a hint of orange, topped with thick frosting will make even the non-dessert eaters believe that this is one of the best.
Not only is the food delicious, there is also complimentary valet parking and a killer happy hour nicknamed “5 @ 5” and with any luck, we will see some of these Fall tastes on that menu. The full Fall menu is available now so run, don’t walk and get your hands on some of these fabulous finds.