Jeff and Cameron’s excellent culinary adventure
Down in PBO we’ve been mourning the departure of Jeff Barney and Cameron Ratliff from the Chatham Marketplace. Jeff had won me over when he began offering up gourmet dinners for the café hot bar. The ‘pork loin roast with mango chutney reduction’ got my attention, even before Chef Jeff magically appeared to personally ladle the gravy so I wouldn’t miss a drop.
Then there was the macaroni and cheese. I haven’t swallowed mac ‘n’ cheese since the kids got grown, but there wasn’t anything else tempting me on the bar spread that one night so I dipped into the creamy noodle bin. Oh – my – god. Jeff casually explained that he had used Brie instead of velveeta.
I was hooked. Sure didn’t taste or feel like no K & W. I stopped cooking altogether for awhile, picking up entrees and sometimes whole dinners to go, until I started realizing we couldn’t really afford to have Chef Jeff’s carry-out every night. Meanwhile, Cameron was doing a whizz-bang job promoting the stories behind our locavore co-op and the people who make it special.
We cried when they left but wished them well in their new venture up the road in Saxapahaw, population 1500, where they’ve been working their magic on a BP station/convenience store of all things.
Already their Saxapahaw General Store seems to have something for everyone. It’s the only food mart or eatery for miles around so they’ve kept the locals’ necessities, integrating cigarettes, Gatorade and toilet paper with an array of organic goodies and drink. The motor oil is at one end of the store and the wines from Benjamin Vineyards just up the road, are at the other.
They’ve also started serving up food on the week-ends (yes!), so it was time for a field trip. We finally made it up there on Sunday for brunch. Chef Jeff made my Swiss-sausage omelet, homefries and whole-grain toast taste extra special, probably cause it was served up by Cameron and cooked with local ingredients. Can you say “sustainable Saxapahaw” three times fast?
It ain’t perfect… yet. During cold weather you have to make do with the funky convenience store seating – you know those laminated booths. Ours had a view of the cola cooler and the motor oil shelf. But on warm days there’s a nice patio and you could even have a pic nic on the river. Or make a day of it by visiting on a summer Saturday afternoon for the farmer’s market across the street with live music.
The setting is the Rivermill Marketplace, the renovated mill featuring chic condos with dramatic views high over the Haw. As the Burlington Times-News said recently of the eatery and the setting: “Small-town atmosphere, big-city feel.”
One of these days we’ll make it up there for dinner. How could we not with a recent menu that boasted: duck breast salad, steelhead trout, Wagyu sirloin steak with sautéed spinach and duck-fat-fried potatoes (maybe that’s why those homefries were so good) and wild-caught sea scallops with risotto cakes and asparagus (the latter two ingredients favorites of mine from Chef Jeff’s Chatham Marketplace menu).
Check out their blog for menu news.
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