Also in this front kitchen, Julie Petrakis and the pastry team use a prep area that includes a six-foot-long stainless steel worktable, a convection oven beneath, two refrigerators, a cooler and rolling table to make yeast rolls, cornbread and other breads and biscuits, which they bake in the convection oven or the stone hearth oven that looks like a fireplace. The oven also cooks rock shrimp, blue crab fingers and other crab dishes.
In addition, staff in this area use a slicer to carve local country hams, the featured charcuterie item, which staff serve with beer mustard, pepper jelly and biscuits.
The Full Bar
The main drinking bar sits on the east side of the building and contains the opening for the chase and the draft beer system. Nearly 100 bourbons also sit on display along with wines.
At the main bar, customers can stand or sit at bar-height or pub-height tables. Industrial, stainless steel brew tanks are showcased behind glass curtain walls to the left. A custom draft system sits against an antique mirror with the Cask & Larder logo. “We reused the existing bar counter and put on a new top with small flecks of copper,” says Bade-Stevenson. “In the entire restaurant space, we used the original floors and just resanded and refurbished them. Ceilings were painted black; so to brighten the space, we painted them white.”
Main Dining Room and Kitchen
In the main dining room a 25-foot ceiling and a white and teal color palette stand out against rich woods, custom-made barstools and millwork embellishments. To minimize the sound bouncing off the hard surfaces, the Petrakises and Schmidt Design Studio hired a sound engineer to install linen-wrapped acoustic panels on the ceiling.
Guests may sit at traditional tables or at a custom-made 12-seat community table near a large window; the window is divided into sections of antique bubble glass that provide a direct view into the main kitchen. “This feature gives guests a sneak peek into the culinary expertise of the Cask & Larder kitchen,” says Bade-Stevenson.
“I like the look of being able to see action in the kitchen and watch the shadows moving, but I don’t like seeing everything that’s done in the kitchen,” says James Petrakis. “Some of what we do in the kitchen isn’t romantic. So this partial view keeps the sense of mystery with food production.” Petrakis believes in keeping the kitchen as quiet as possible and eliminating as much cross-conversation as possible; so the cooks speak to the middle expediter who speaks with the chef, and the servers speak only with the chef.
In the kitchen, cooks pick up food they need for their stations from the walk-in cooler and freezer that sit near the loading dock. The back kitchen line contains a hot apps station, which includes two fryers to make crawfish beignets, fish fry, cheese fritters and pickles. At the adjoining garde manger station, staff make all the salads, featuring ingredients such as kale. A flattop range supports production of charred okra with tomato sauce, crispy Brussels sprouts and pimiento cheese.
The adjacent sauté station features a six-burner range and an oven beneath. The sauté cook makes blackened porgie with Carolina pilaf and a shrimp and hominy relish, sunburst North Carolina trout with pickled pumpkin salad and sweetbreads and smoked chicken.
The sous chef stands next to the sauté station, calling orders and plating dishes. To the right of the sous chef is the grill cook, who uses a char grill to make or plate short ribs, quail, duck, octopus and crab.
The chef stands across the equipment from the sous chef, who expedites all the meals and passes them off to servers. The bubble glass wall separates the line from the dining room.
Smoker’s Constantly at Work
Attached to the back of the building, the electric eight-rack wood smoker is one of the restaurant’s key production features. “This is an old barbecue-style smoker that stands about six-feet-four-inches tall with eight carousel racks that rotate continuously,” says James Petrakis. “We can put in 8 pigs at 8 a.m. and cook them at 180 degrees F. until 5 p.m. The whole pigs appear on menus in the brewery, which serves as a private dining room for up to 10 people.”
“We didn’t necessarily want to do just traditional barbecue, though we do have a wonderful chicken with white barbecue sauce on the menu,” James Petrakis says. “I wanted to use smoking to differentiate our menu, so we smoke grouper fish, rib eye steaks, oysters, tomatoes placed under okra, other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and sauerkraut, bacon, and butter that mixologists use in cocktails.” Pork prepared at Cask & Larder is also served at The Ravenous Pig. The cooks at The Ravenous Pig marinate meat that they are serving, bring it to Cask & Larder to be cooked at night, and pick it up in the morning.
After taking over the restaurant, Petrakis made a few adjustments to the existing facility’s design. “I like all foods to funnel through the chef or the chef de cuisine,” he says. “The old kitchen had a five-foot wall in front of the line, so I cut it down to about three feet by four feet long so all the food that is cooked is plated in that path and checked by the chef before it is taken out to guests.”
Petrakis also added a circular flow to production and service. “In the former restaurant, there was only one way in and out of the kitchen, which created a lot of congestion,” James Petrakis says. “So, we worked with Anna Schmidt and her group to create a half-moon shape so there is one way in and one way out of the kitchen. Dishwashing takes place in an area separated from food preparation. This works pretty well, with fewer people bumping into one another, at least in theory.”
Sustainability and energy-saving features do not significantly factor into Cask & Larder. “Because we had a pre-existing building to work with, we accepted what was here,” James Petrakis explains.
If James Petrakis could make a change to the existing restaurant, he would cut down the size of the kitchen. “We could work efficiently in about half the space, which would cut back on the number of staff working here,” he says. He would also add a combi oven and wood-burning grill, which would require a stronger industrial hood and a large capital investment.
As one might expect, the Petrakises have made changes since they opened. “We simplified our flavors and made sure everything is cooked properly,” James Petrakis says. “We were trying to be a little too chefy when we started. We take dishes that are familiar to guests and put our take on these. It’s working.” The Petrakises also are finding that customers are becoming more adventurous by trying out new microbrews. No doubt the culinary duo’s dream is turning into a successful reality.