The Quick Bite:
The Restaurant: Restaurant Tyler
The Executive Chef: Tyler Thames
The Chef de Cuisine: John Fitzgerald
The Pastry Chef: Claudia “Bery” Gordon
Soup — Beet Bisque with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction
Appetizers — Duck Boudin
Brunch — Omelet Sandwich
French Toast Sandwich
Entree — Ribeye Steak with Cave-Aged Blue Cheese
Desserts — Stuffed Pancake
Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Sweet Potato Glaze
Chocolate Layer Cake
I think brunch must be one of the greatest ideas of the millennium. I love breakfast foods, but I don’t like to get up early. Brunch solves that problem. I also love a breakfast buffet because of it’s legion of choices. Brunch has dishes from both the breakfast and lunch menus; therefore, the choices double. It’s unfortunate that most employers do not give daily brunch breaks. Let’s start a petition.
For Starkville Restaurant Week I took The Wife and Daughter to Restaurant Tyler to explore some of their brunch options. That we did, and much more – just like brunch should be.
We began with a cup of Beet Bisque topped with a little goat cheese and a swirl of balsamic reduction. I had my doubts about this, I’ve got to be honest. I generally avoid beets if possible. Before this meal there was only one time in all my forty-eight years that I actually enjoyed them. Now there are two. Yes, it was earthy – beets are earthy. The goat cheese brought its own unique flavor as well. Chef Ty described the combination this way: the sharp taste of the goat cheese cut through the earthiness of the beets. And I think the balsamic reduction helped to bring it all together. Beet bisque: unexpected deliciousness.
A month or two ago a friend approached me and asked, “Have you tried the Duck Boudin at Restaurant Tyler? You have got to try it!” So I have been looking for my opportunity, and I finally had it. This was a plump juicy sausage of duck and rice, with braised cabbage, bacon, coarse ground mustard, and some French bread from DeRego’s bakery across the way. On my first bite, I knew the reason my friend was so excited to tell me about it. I also knew this was not Boudreaux from South Louisiana’s typical boudin. At the very least the spices were very different – they were warm and wintery, like allspice and nutmeg. Chef Ty described it as Northern European style. When the server came to whisk our dishes away, I wouldn’t let her take that last bite. I was pacing myself, but it was too special to send back.
They also brought us a plate of BBQ okra. Whole okra, deep fried and dusted with BBQ seasoning, served with remoulade sauce.This one has been on the menu for a while, and when we order food from Restaurant Tyler at work we usually polish off two or three orders of this. Enough said.
A couple of semi-classic brunch items came to the table next. I say “semi-classic” because they are certainly recognizable as breakfast items with a lunch-like flair, but at the same time express the originality of Restaurant Tyler. One was what they call the Omelet Egg Sandwich. Because of the bread it came on, one could almost call it an Omelet Po-boy. The omelet was so big, however, that the bread could hardly contain it. The bacon in it was cured and smoked in-house, and locally procured from Sansing Meats in Maben. The cheese is from Mississippi State University, either Edam or Vallagret depending on what is available. Using local products whenever possible has long been a practice for Chef Tyler and his crew.
The French Toast Sandwich was a dish I had enjoyed before, and was happy to see again. The bread for this one was a potato bun with ground (and uber-healthy) hemp seeds sprinkled on top. A cheddar and bacon frittata makes up the middle, with a generous pour of syrup on top that soaks into the bread.
Another classic synthesis of breakfast and lunch foods is steak and eggs. We’d already had the eggs, so they brought us a steak. It was a ribeye, cooked just how we like it, topped with Shakerag blue cheese from Sequatchie Cove Creamery near Chattanooga, Tennessee. This cheese is wrapped in Chattanooga Whiskey-soaked fig leaves and aged for six months in old moonshine caves. These folks are serious about their cheese, and as Chef John said, “This cheese is not for the faint of heart.” I guess that makes me strong-hearted.
A word here about one of the sides. They brought us some mashed potatoes, which I generally don’t order. In fact, at Restaurant Tyler I am usually looking for any opportunity to order the cheese grits. But I took a bite because I wanted to try everything on the table. Then I took another bite, and another. There was something extra special about these potatoes, but when I quizzed Chef Ty about it, it sounded so simple: Yukon Gold potatoes (a thinner skin than some) blended with cream and butter from MSU. Apparently the MSU butter has a higher butterfat content than most other butters, and it brought such a rich depth to the finished product, I might be converted.
I’m not sure that desserts are considered brunch foods, but generally there are sweet muffins and pastries available, right? So why not cheesecake and chocolate?
Actually, one of the desserts did have a breakfast feel to it. The Stuffed Pancakes were thin, crepe-like buttermilk pancakes, stuffed with a cheesecake filling and Duke pecans, with a sorghum custard, more roasted and glazed pecans on top, and a drizzle of local berry coulis. This plate spent most of its time in front of The Wife.
The chocolate “cake” (for lack of a better word) had layers of chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. And for those who needed an occasional departure from the richness of the chocolate, there was another swirl of that sorghum custard to drag one’s bite through.
My favorite was the goat cheese cheesecake with sweet potato glaze, whipped cream and thin sugar-coated sweet potato crisps. Once again, I dove into a dish that I had silently predicted I wouldn’t like. I usually take goat cheese in very small doses. But I am also fascinated by all things made with sweet potatoes, so I gave it a fair shot. Good thing, too – I just about finished this one off. I even got a bite of the graham cracker crust sans filling of any kind, and even that was amazing – I could have eaten just the crust and been delighted with my dessert. They are unlikely to put “Cheesecake Crust” on the menu, but I thought you would like to know.
Once the table was clear, I realized something. Any chef that can take my tastebuds, spin them around, and send me home wanting more beets and goat cheese is a chef to be reckoned with. Chef Tyler and Chef John have both impressed me before, but this meal put another star in their culinary crowns.
Starkville native, Jay Reed, is pharmacist by day and inquisitive eater by