WILMINGTON — Top Chef contestant Micah Edelstein has traveled the world, building a repertoire of what she calls “eclectic global comfort food.” Now Edelstein is setting up shop at Rolled and Baked, a new Castle Street restaurant in downtown Wilmington where she’s marrying her globe-trotting experience to firmly rooted southern classics.
Located in the former Prestige Brewing location on Castle Street, the restaurant is based around the sacrosanct southern staple, the biscuit. Except these are no ordinary biscuits; they are, as Edelstein calls them, “biscuits for the bold.”
“The idea is to take the great loves of southern food, and keep what is so essential with them, while also playing with them,” Edelstein said.
That “play,” comes from over two decades in the kitchen, in a career that has taken Edelstein to 12 countries and two very different restaurants: Nemesis, in Miami, and more recently The Feisty Lamb, in Portland.
At her Portland restaurant, Edelstein got to indulge a no-holds-barred approach to cooking: the restaurant had no menu, instead diners had to arrive open to her experimental spirit. The boundary-pushing approach certainly worked on Rolled and Baked owners Anna and Bill Ward. After the couple dined at The Fiesty Lamb, they decided Edelstein was the perfect choice to helm Rolled and Baked; they hired her as executive chef and convinced her to move to Wilmington (just in time for the ice-storm of the decade).
“We basically put her in a suitcase to take her home,” Anna Ward said. “We said Micah brought the weather with her, she’s a person of extremes, in a good way.”
Though Edelstein’s cooking may be bold, her recipes for Rolled and Baked will still be rooted in southern tradition.
“I spent a lot of time consulting with a dear friend of mine, who lives in South Carolina,” Edelstein said. “He gave me his grandmother’s recipe book, and that’s where a lot of the classic comfort ideas came from.”
Edelstein said she hopes her respect for southern classics will shine through, though she doesn’t intend to compete with the original – instead she hopes to introduce fans of the classics to new variations.
“There are plenty of places around here that do classic biscuits, and I can’t compete with that, and I don’t intend to,” Edelstein said. “What I’m after is that moment when you try something you’ve never had before, and you say, ‘where has this been all my life?’”
While Edelstein and the Wards are keeping much of Rolled and Baked’s menu under wraps, Edelstein offered one example of her particular kind of culinary fusion, a biscuit dish she calls “Stop Kvetching.”
The dish is inspired by Edelstein’s Jewish heritage and fond memories of her childhood in South Africa.
“I remember my father would go out in the morning,” Edelstein said. “And when he came back, he would bring bagels, and all the fixings, cream cheese and tomato, and of course this wonderful Lox.”
Edelstein’s homage to these memories is an “everything biscuit” – that, like its bagel relative features seeds, onion, garlic, and salt toppings – along with a fried green tomato, pimento cheese and cured salmon. In this way, Edelstein said, her eclectic, world-traveling culinary tastes find their way into a “harmonious relationship with southern classics.”
This approach is perhaps a bit more gentle than The Fiesty Lamb’s full frontal culinary assault.
“This way, I can respectfully approach the food that is so loved and revered down here, and also introduce people to the flavors I love,” Edelstein said. “I can kind of ease them into it, because it’s part of the food they’re comfortable with.”
Of course, when it comes to southern food, ingredients are key. Edelstein said she has been at work for months securing relationships with local farmers and fishermen, “to make sure I’m using the best of what’s local and sustainable and organic, because after all the further the ingredients travel, the less you taste on the plate.”
According to Anna and Bill Ward, Rolled and Baked is aiming at a Spring opening. Bill Ward said the restaurant will initial go with 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours, but added that they are opening to longer evening hours on the weekend if the demand is there.
And then, of course, there’s the mysterious “Biscuit Hour.” The Wards and Edelstein were tight lipped about what Biscuit Hour will be, exactly, but Edelstein – with a coy wink – said it would be “a great deal of fun, and a little bit like a biscuit happy hour. I suppose you’ll have to stay tuned.”
Rolled and Baked will offer craft beers and wines – “erring on the side of fun,” Edelstein said – as well as “fun signature cocktails.”
Rolled and Baked is located at 509 Castle St. in downtown Wilmington. You can get updates on the upcoming opening on Rolled and Baked’s Facebook page.
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at email@example.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.