There’s a bit of a Brussels sprouts epidemic on the Charlotte food scene. Which strikes me as odd because I grew up thinking of Brussels sprouts as toxic green stuff that parents made their kids eat before they could have dessert.
But some of Charlotte’s newest restaurants are rolling out Brussels sprouts dishes that make me forget about dessert. It’s all about the embellishments.
Kid Cashew, which opened on East Boulevard early this year, whips up Brussels sprouts with lemon and toasted almonds on its Mediterranean-style menu.
Frank Scibelli’s Mediterranean/Middle Eastern concept YAFO Kitchen in SouthPark also opened this year and offers roasted Brussels sprouts with dates for a smoky-sweet twist. Perfect for a build-your-own salad bowl.
The menu at the new Fern (the vegetarian place just opened its new location on East Boulevard at the end of September) boasts roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in peanut sauce, with lime salt and cilantro.
And the list goes on — Crepe Cellar lists sprouts on their menu, as does Foxcroft Wine Co., Earl’s Grocery (in shaved Brussels sprouts salad form), Customshop, Pint Central and Futo Buta.
Let’s talk about Futo Buta in South End. This ramen place’s Brussels sprouts are fried, with sweet soy, sesame, bonito and sea salt. The idea of featuring this vegetable is nothing new to chef Michael Shortino.
“I’ve been serving Brussels sprouts on my menus consistently for about five to six years now,” he wrote in an email. “I’ve always loved them since I was a child. I felt and do feel they get a bad rap as vegetables go and it’s completely undeserved.”
He continued: “My thoughts for the recipe are based on my interpretation of what umami is. While scientists concluded it comes from glutamate or MSG as laymen would understand it, it happens naturally in all foods. I don’t use MSG in my recipes. I feel the same effect happens when you perfectly align the basic tastes all together.
“I try to balance all the ‘basic’ tastes that we all know, in most recipes I develop. Sour, sweet, bitter, salt. I feel with the proper balance of these flavors it creates a unique flavor when they are combined properly. Giving an almost euphoric experience. A ‘food high’ if you will.”
That would accurately describe my overall feeling circa 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Over at Foxcroft Wine Co., chef Justin Solomon considers Brussels sprouts to be a versatile, amazing comfort food.
“I like to use flavors usually associated with cabbage and cabbage dishes, then fancy them up for the Brussels,” he wrote in an email. “The real secret is to slowly caramelize them first, then crisp them up to finish them.”
Conrad Hunter, wine connoisseur and owner of Foxcroft Wine Co., added, “Typically vegetables like asparagus and Brussels sprouts are difficult for wine pairing. A crisp Austrian white like Gruner Veltliner is a perfect foil to these.”
Whether or not you find the right wine to pair them with, and whether or not parents are actually able to get their kids to eat them, Charlotte restaurants are celebrating the Brussels sprout.
“Brussels can hold their own on any table and sometimes will steal the show,” Solomon said.