Part 2 in a Series
Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant is a Blowing Rock institution founded by Jimmy Crippen in 1994. With fall leaf season approaching, you might want to be secure your stay or meal here soon.
We recently had another memorable Crippen’s dinner with server Scrip helping us navigate the tempting menu created by Executive Chef Stan Chamberlain and his team.
We started with a single, impressively large Tempura Shrimp bursting with flavor on a bed of sea beans and sriracha butter (see the slideshow). It had a nice little kick, too; the server said it was sourced from Wilmington.
We sampled two appetizers; first, the Cornmeal Dusted Oysters with bread and butter pickles and chipotle honey mustard. The presentation atop the pickles was not only visually appealing but a good flavor match — quite tasty.
The second appetizer was the ultra-decadent Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with crispy garlic scapes and Caldwell County blackberry coulis. The berries, which were in season, offered another great taste pairing. Fletcher declared this one of the best foie gras dishes ever and said it could easily be an entree. The Apalachicola oysters, big and very juicy, lived up to the billing from food critics and chefs that they’re among the world’s best.
Last time at Crippen’s, we tried the intriguing Bittersweet Chocolate Infused Expresso Crusted Beef Tenderloin. It’s still on the menu and still popular with diners.
This time for entrees, Kathy chose Almond Crusted Alaskan Halibut and raved when she incorporated all the components in a single bite — the fish along with goat cheese, wilted arugula and red pepper coulis. “Who knew I liked halibut so much?” she said.
Fletcher sampled Grilled Domestic Elk with roasted tomato (which on the plate masqueraded as a red pepper), juniper powder, local broccoli and cardinal gin sauce. He declared it “very lean yet tender; it looked like deer but is sweeter.”
Crippen’s features some outdoor and porch seating, plus a cozy bar off its entryway with a few tables, one beside a fireplace. The main dining room is elegant with dark leather high-back chairs in contrast to white tablecloths and mauve walls. We watched the tableside Bananas Foster presentation, but resisted one of our own; we likewise resisted the chocolate wine, Cocoa di Vine, on the dessert menu. We did, however, succumb to a Baked Alaska (see Fletcher’s meringue mustache in the slideshow.)
In addition to overseeing the inn and restaurant, Jimmy Crippen has also worked tirelessly in the community. He founded Fire on the Rock here, a cooking competition among local restaurants that benefits the local fire department. It’s now expanded to other cities: Fire in the Triangle, held for the first time this summer; Fire on the Dock in the Wilmington area; and Fire in the Triad, which is continuing through September.
Now called the “Got To Be NC” Competition Dining Series, it is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture, Southern Foods/Pate Dawson, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant, Our State magazine and local partners in each region of the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate local North Carolina products and agriculture and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the Tar Heel State. For more, visit www.competitiondining.com.
If You’re Going: Crippen’s is open seven days a week serving dinner nightly, and lunch Tuesday through Sunday at 239 Sunset Dr., Blowing Rock. For reservations, visit www.crippens.com or call 877.295.3487. Ask about special dinners coming up that feature winning chefs in the Competition Dining Series.
For what to see and do in Blowing Rock, visit www.blowingrock.com or call 828.295.9099. The town’s popular Art in the Park series runs two more Saturdays: September 8 and October 6 showcasing handcrafted jewelry, pottery, fiber, glass, photography, painting and more.