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FOOD & DRINK

Digging out of Downtown:

Kornerstone Bistro
8262 Market St.
910-686-2296
www.kornerstonebistro.com

KORNERED IN DELIGHT: Kornerstone Bistro’s catch of the day, grouper, was seared to perfection, locking in the juicy flavor and punctuating it against fresh spaghetti squash, pearl onions and potatoes. Photo by Shea Carver

Casual-fine dining experiences beckon foodies throughout Wilmington. As I live in the downtown area, I often default to one of the many wonderful restaurants within walking distance of my house. It’s perfect because I can grab coffee, dinner, ice cream and fudge all without setting foot in a car. The downside to downtown life is that I often miss all the other great places around Wilmington, like Kornerstone Bistro, a Mediterranean-style eatery in the Porter’s Neck area.

Kornerstone offers what I appreciate and look for in a restaurant: fresh local produce, organic meats and seafood—and homemade everything. And to think I didn’t even know the place existed until I tagged along on another lunch bunch culinary adventure a few weeks ago.

Full disclosure: Mediterranean is one of my favorite varieties of food. Needless to say, I was on board full-throttle before the lunch-bunch train even left the station.

Walking into the restaurant, I immediately noticed the décor. The wood and granite-top tables seemed to shine in the natural light beaming from the large windows aligning the walls. As I mused over the ambience, fresh baked pizza wafted from the wood-fired oven alongside the smell of fire-roasted garlic. It was intoxicating to all of my senses.

Immediately, we were relieved we wouldn’t have to choose between the many wonderful options listed on Kornerstone’s extensive menu. Chef Adam Baker took care of us by preparing courses reflecting the eclectic restaurant.

First, our kind waiter and hostess brought fresh bread with spinach pesto. I love spinach, and I have never seen it presented in pesto form at a local restaurant. It won specialty points in my book. Our appetizers continued with bruschetta, which was light and refreshing as the finely diced tomatoes tasted crisp and cool mixed with herbs and lots of garlic, all atop toasted, homemade grain bread.

Keeping up with the local and seasonal offerings, our salads arrived with a base of arugula, topped of with a grilled peach, goat cheese, pine nuts and lightly drizzled with lemon vinaigrette. Luck be on our side that day, as Chef Baker was testing the dish to be a part of his North Carolina Best Dish entry. (He’s serving the salad throughout the month of July.) A perfectly portioned course, like the appetizers before it, I ate the entire salad. It was filled with sweet flavors amped up by the peppery greens and citrusy dressing. Best of all, I did not feel overwhelmed by it when considering the thought of more food coming.

And there was more food coming…

As I’ve said before, nothing beats a crispy thin crust when it comes to pizza. Anyone can create a personalized brick-oven masterpiece at Kornerstone; however, as it were, we had a trifecta of Neapolitan-style pies delivered to our table without having the stress of trying to decide how to top them. Weighing in first was the Toscano, with pepperoni and Italian sausage, which definitely had spice and bold flavors from the meat, but without the puddle of residual oil one might expect. My personal favorite, as well as Shea’s and Bethany’s, the Santorini, came with tangy feta cheese, olives, red onion, pepperoncini and artichoke hearts. Piled high with basil pesto, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mouth-watering mozzarella, the Genoa pleased the crowd from its heartiness.

One of Kornerstone’s prized dishes—as noted not only from its staff, but also from our coworker, Jennifer, who claimed a friend’s frequent dining habit to Kornerstone just for this one dish—shrimp fra diavolo sat before us, overflowing in a pink sauce. It was creamy and spicy, punctuated by al dente penne pasta, bedded with perfectly plump local shrimp. Spicy dishes are hard ones to sell in my opinion for two reasons: Some chefs don’t go the distance and it’s like any other pasta dish, while others maliciously try to burn the taste buds off the palate. Such was not the case here. The spicy “Brother Devil” tomato cream sauce had a tasty fire without licking the sun’s surface.

Rounding out our entrées was admittedly everyone’s favorite moment of lunch: the fish of the day. Chef Baker delivered a perfectly seared piece of grouper, served over spaghetti squash, pearl onions and potatoes. Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite pasta substitutes, and it was done extremely well here, devoid of heavy sauce, which allowed all of its subtle flavors to shine. The seasoned ingredients tasted fresh, simple and perfect. It may just be the best prepared grouper I’ve had in town.

dessert

Don’t forget dessert when it involves dark chocolate bread pudding, served with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Photo by Shea Carver

Before finishing, our brilliant chef came out to greet us, explaining a bit of his culinary philosophy and then sending out a unique dark chocolate bread pudding topped with ice cream and strawberry. Using white bread, Chef Baker crafts a chocolate custard for the bread to soak in until time to bake. Warm and almost fudge cake-like, we did not consider an ounce of guilt or shame as we all shoveled forkful after forkful of the sweet confection into our mouths. Baker told us he has a white chocolate version, which he prefers, served with blueberries or berry compote. We responded: “Next time.”

And, without a doubt, there will be a next time. In fact, many of them.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. joy

    July 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    sounds delectably delightful, however, as a newbie, i offer a suggestion to improve reviews, how about an idea of price..most reviews have a series of ratings, sometimes indicated by forks or stars, as to quality, atmosphere…casual to elegant, and price range. something like that woud be most helpful.

  2. joy

    July 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    sounds delectably delightful, however, as a newbie, i offer a suggestion to improve reviews, how about an idea of price..most reviews have a series of ratings, sometimes indicated by forks or stars, as to quality, atmosphere…casual to elegant, and price range. something like that woud be most helpful.

  3. Shea

    July 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for reading, Joy! We’ll consider it!

  4. Shea

    July 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for reading, Joy! We’ll consider it!

  5. Butch

    November 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    An interesting (and obtuse) review; waste of my time and other readers’ times (except yours of course, you got a great service and a great meal).
    First, the restaurant address in wrong (it is not 262 Market St.; it is 8262 Market St. – don’t you check anything?)
    Second, the food is not so great for the average person visiting the restaurant, rather mediocre to shoddy – if you announce you are reviewing the restaurant for Encore, of course you will get preferential treatment, and best dishes will be especially prepared for you (remember that you wrote, “Chef Adam Baker took care of us by preparing courses reflecting the eclectic restaurant”. When I was there Chef Adam Baker did not take care of me; I’ll go one more time and ask Chef Adam Baker to take care of me, like he did you). As better food critics writing to better newspapers and better magazines, you should visit the restaurants, but not tell who you are and why you are there; you can also dress poorly so you see how you will be treated.
    Third, pay attention to the responses to your reviews, like joy’s review dated July 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm which is very accurate.

  6. Butch

    November 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    An interesting (and obtuse) review; waste of my time and other readers’ times (except yours of course, you got a great service and a great meal).
    First, the restaurant address in wrong (it is not 262 Market St.; it is 8262 Market St. – don’t you check anything?)
    Second, the food is not so great for the average person visiting the restaurant, rather mediocre to shoddy – if you announce you are reviewing the restaurant for Encore, of course you will get preferential treatment, and best dishes will be especially prepared for you (remember that you wrote, “Chef Adam Baker took care of us by preparing courses reflecting the eclectic restaurant”. When I was there Chef Adam Baker did not take care of me; I’ll go one more time and ask Chef Adam Baker to take care of me, like he did you). As better food critics writing to better newspapers and better magazines, you should visit the restaurants, but not tell who you are and why you are there; you can also dress poorly so you see how you will be treated.
    Third, pay attention to the responses to your reviews, like joy’s review dated July 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm which is very accurate.

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