At Raleigh’s Mandolin restaurant, a roasted root vegetable-watercress salad is served with roasted apples, while the bar offers a smoked maple old-fashioned. And a sampling of local spots, including Carolina Ale House, have Bloody Mary cocktails that feature a smoked element such as smoky vodka or smoked salt.
Raleigh Magazine ventured to Standard Foods and Grocery for toasty desserts. Pastry chef Krystle Swensen was inspired by her love of coffee when she created the smoked cocoa nib panna cotta. It features Escazu chocolate with floral, fruity notes and meringue, which Swensen makes in small batches throughout the day, and then pipes out and toasts with a blow torch just before serving. On top: crumbles of speculoos cookies and edible cocoa nibs, which is chocolate in its rawest form.
“It’s these silky textures along with crunchy and toasted marshmallow,” Swensen says, adding that it’s not overtly sweet but instead balances smoky and sweet. The rounded flavor combination is often enjoyed by people who don’t necessarily have a penchant for dessert.
In the grocery portion of Standard Foods, smoked cocoa nib ice cream is sold in pints and sandwiches. “I like to do similar flavors with the menu that are in retail. So, if somebody really likes something, it’s also available for them to take home,” she adds.
At home, Swensen suggests pairing the ice cream with amaretto cherries or serving it with an after-dinner drink such as sherry.