Must try: a dining experience at home almost as good as in a restaurant

Finally, a take out that actually feels like a home dining experience, with all the love and hospitality you can expect from The Gray restaurant based in Savannah, GA.

The first thing that struck me when I started unpacking my Intersect by Lexus meal from its current restaurant The Gray was the thoughtfulness of it all. I order a lot for dinner these days, so I got used to the typical unpacking of food in take out containers. But it wasn’t like that. I felt like I was unwrapping a present. All the food was labeled and looked wonderful. And there were surprises: the book from Executive Chef and Gray’s partner Mashama Bailey and Managing Partner John O. Morisano, freshly made granola for breakfast the next morning, penny candy! I was so giddy and filled with joy to see all the care that went into delivering this lovely meal to my little old man.
The menu changes weekly, and this week’s menu was full of filling dishes, starting with sourdough bread and butter. The sourdough bread was crisp and chewy, the type of bread you are used to having in a restaurant before a meal. It should be noted at this point that the food is refrigerated, so you are given instructions on how to reheat it properly. Needless to say, I have a new appreciation for the timing aspect that restaurants have to manage for each meal. Sourdough bread that I was able to reheat in my oven in a matter of minutes, while my main – yardbird – took a little longer to reheat. What better time to dig into the aperitif?

The starter was absolutely delicious. Crispy rye nut crackers with a creamy smoked catfish dip. The striking difference in textures was the thing I liked the most here – the creamy with the crunchy. Plus the fish was great. The catfish was not at all fishy. It almost tasted like a smoked ham – nice and plump and filling. And the accompanying white wine (the 2017 Chablis ‘Vieilles Vignes’ from Daniel-Etienne Defaix from Burgundy, France) complimented it well, adding a bit of acidity to the mix. Together, everything was very balanced. I’ve never been to Savannah, GA where The Gray resides, but saw a lot of photos so I closed my eyes while eating this Catfish Dip, a specially curated Spotify playlist back -plan playing Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and I just imagined myself sitting in Savannah enjoying that dip with those crackers.

Pickled turnips were included in the delivery box. It was flavored with coriander seeds, which made it fragrant; it was sour, but not too strong. It was less sharp than a typical hamburger pickle. Very tasty and a very smart way to incorporate a palate cleanser into the package which was awesome when I moved on to the main course.

Garden bird

Now on the yardbird. I had never had a yardbird before, but I couldn’t have had a better introduction. The chicken was perfectly cooked, nice and tender. It was basically attached to this garlic slicer, which is actually a piece of garlic crusty bread underneath the chicken that had absorbed some of the juice from the chicken. The crunch of the bread with the tender chicken was such a nice bite, and I loved the nod to classic Southern cuisine. There is a fried chicken restaurant in my hometown of St. Louis called Hodak’s, and they put their fried chicken on white bread to soak up the fat. I’ve always loved this chicken bun, and it looked like a nod to this heart-warming, homemade type of fried chicken, despite the fact that this bird-fly looked more like roast chicken. But I loved it with all its nuances. You are asked to pour captain sauce on top of the chicken. I found this sauce a bit difficult to explain. It’s a bit jammy and there is almost a date note, but it’s salty and slightly smoky and tomato. It’s a sauce I’ve never had before, but it suited chicken and spiked it up because it was tasty. The way I stuffed this chicken in my mouth would have been embarrassing if I was in public. It was really so good, I practically ignored my wine (the Langhe Freisa ‘Bonina’ de Paitin 2018 from Piedmont, Italy) which was very enjoyable while I plowed this chicken. It was a perfect portion and so, so good.

Sitting next to my chicken was collard greens. I’m not usually a big fan of collard greens, to be honest with you, but I knew I would love them as soon as I smelled them. They smelled like smoke, so I was immediately intrigued. You are asked to sprinkle it with a chili infused apple cider vinegar, and it was incredibly delicious and cut some of that smoke. Do I prefer it to a side of potatoes? No. Was it incredibly enjoyable for what it was? Absoutely.

For dessert I was given a slice of devil’s cake with candied pecans, a sweet and sour chocolate sauce and what appeared to be cocoa infused whipped cream with a glass of jammy, sweet and syrupy Madeira (a Henriques & Henriques 2007 Verdelho Madeira from Portugal, to be precise) to be associated with it. After pretending to have fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a pastry chef and baking the cake to my liking, I gave it a go. This cake is exactly what you would expect. It’s rich, succulent, and deeply chocolatey, but I didn’t find it too sweet. It’s sweet, of course, but with the sweet and sour chocolate sauce that covers it, candied pecans and a chocolate crumb that offered a bit of salty, as well as a whipped cream that is more creamy and bitter. cocoa than the overly sweet versions you could go to the grocery store, I found it not to be cloying. Madeira makes a good pairing here as it’s so inherently sweet and fruity in a wintery way that the cake isn’t, so they fill each other up which was lovely.

It had been almost an hour and 15 minutes since the delivery had arrived at my door when I realized it had been so long. Most of the delivery dinners I eat in under half an hour. They are generally good, but they are not an event. Just when I thought I had experienced all the virtual hype and “home experiences” we could imagine, I was presented with a completely original dining experience. And this is perhaps the part that surprised me the most. I would rarely refer to a home meal in my studio in Queens as an experience. But this meal changed that.

During the hour and 15 minutes that I ate, I listened to a playlist specially curated by The Gray, I poured the wine pairings, I reheated the meal according to the instructions that came with it, I took care to prepare well (phone eats first!) – more than anything, I had dinner. I didn’t cook, I didn’t eat, I dined. In sweatpants, sure, but I was dining in a way I haven’t had in New York for a long time. And I was so thrilled all the time. It might be strange to say, but it was loving, the whole experience. The reading list, the food, the wine pairings, the packaging, the very precise instructions, the note from Bailey and Morisano, a copy of their book, the penny candy in the box, the freshly made granola to take for breakfast the next morning. It all felt so loving and hospitable in a way that delivery from Seamless or Uber Eats or whatever you have just isn’t. And for that alone it’s worth a try, not to mention the quality of the food. I would highly, highly recommend ordering this for take out, like, this week, if you can snag a spot. Run, don’t walk, to your computer to book your dinner.

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