Change is in the air and summer produce is in full swing! We recently caught-up with McNinch House Restaurant’s Executive Chef, Matthew Shepard, to unearth the inspiration behind his locally-sourced cuisine.
Tucked away in Charlotte’s historic Forth Ward, the McNinch House concentrates on French Continental fare with a Southern twist.
Shepard’s menus are designed with the highest quality ingredients in mind, giving guests a selection of three a prix-fixe menus ranging from five to seven courses with optional wine pairings.
For those seeking the ultimate experience of elegance, luxury awaits at their Chef’s Table. Just steps off the kitchen, this exclusive dining den accommodates up to eight invitees and is enclosed by floor-to-ceiling cabinets filled with their collection of fine china and crystal.
Shepard, a Johnson & Whales trained culinary expert, recently celebrated his third year with the McNinch House.
Growing up in North Carolina, his family escaped to an intimate retreat at Cade’s Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee every summer. He recalls the entire household gathering into one cozy space; no cell phones, no television, no internet… just family bonding at it’s finest.
A couple of his memoirs include waking up to patio breakfasts overlooking the mountains and competitive games of UNO. However, the most predominant are the smells of freshly cut grass and hay.
“Working with our vegetation allows me to reminiscence about my childhood adventures spent outdoors and among wildlife. When I design our menus, it’s my ultimate goal to give guests the taste of that particular season and awaken memories of their own”, expressed Shepard.
Shepard’s summer selection will showcase produce gathered directly from their little greenery among the skyscrapers.
The McNinch House garden is maintained by Shepard and owner, Ellen Davis. Some of this year’s harvest includes figs, fresh tomatoes, strawberries and basil. During our menu tasting, we discussed the likelihood of an herb-focused mixed greens making an appearance this summer. Shepard plans to elevated this salad with creamy burrata that’s dressed in a basil or bacon vinaigrette.
As a special treat, we were invited to participate in one this year’s summer menu testing days.
The featured recipe was a light tortellini arrangement with pan-torched heirloom tomatoes, house-made pesto and locally-sourced micro greens. This dish was then paired with a citrus-forward Sauvignon Blanc that aligned itself perfectly with the herbal notes of the pesto.
The McNinch House will perform several assessments before making a final decision on their summer menu, though, we have high hopes that this entrée makes the cut.
We also partook in a 6-course tasting from their current spring line-up.
The menu narratives are listed below to get your taste buds in the mood. All pairings were selected by wine expert, Anthony “Wes” Wesley, who has been assisting guests at the McNinch House Restaurant for 16 years.
Spring Bounty: A delicate array of mixed greens, sliced purple asparagus, shaved white asparagus, sliced cucumber and roasted candy stripe beets tossed in a citrus-herb vinaigrette. Wine Paring: Carlos Serres, Rioja Tempranillo 2012.
English Pea Soup: A well executed spring delight that’s prepared with potato gaufrette, buttermilk crème fraiche, crab-mango salad and sprinkled with black volcano salt for flavor and color contrast. Wine Pairing: Chateau Julien, Royalty Red 2015.
Duck Confit Raviolo: A large, singular ravioli fit for a king. This magnificent masterpiece has mustard greens pureed into the pasta dough to give it a hint of green color. It’s then filled and dressed with parmesan, leeks, pickled red cabbage and truffle cream. Wine Paring: Cantine San Giorgio, Tiranno Malvasia Nera 2014.
Rosemary & Dijon Crusted Rack of New Zealand Lamb: This dish was developed by owner, Ellen Davis, when she stood as executive chef 29 years ago – and the lamb recipe remains the same today. Side dishes will change by season, ours was served with sweet corn risotto, collard greens and mint chimichurri. Wine Paring: Daou, Pessimist Red Blend.
Lemon Meringue Pie: A made-to-order dessert that’s simply a work of art. Created from sable crust, lemon custard and multi-colored Swiss meringue. Wine Pairing: Coal Miner, Robinson Run Sweet Red 2013.
Chocolate Cream Pie: To finish, we feasted on an adaption of Shepard’s grandmother’s recipe… classic and delicious. Featuring a buttery pie crust filled with chocolate custard and chantilly cream. Wine Pairing: Cap Royal, Bordeaux Sauvignon 2015.
(We’ve included a printable recipe card below for this smooth and delicate dessert)
The details and execution behind this AAA Diamond Award winning restaurant is purely magnificent.
The refined palate behind Shepard’s cooking methods allow guests to experience a polished seasonal menu sprinkled with year-round specialties.
McNinch House Restaurant is located at 511 N. Church Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- 1 pie shell (homemade or store bought), pre-baked
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1.5 cups chocolate
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. Cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
- 1 tsp. Espresso
- ⅛ tsp. Salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup cream
- 2 cups milk
- whipped cream, as needed
- Place butter and chocolate in bowl and set aside.
- Mix vanilla, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, espresso and salt together in a large bowl.
- Whisk dry ingredients into milk and cream.
- Add egg yolks.
- Place mixture over a low flame and stir until thickened. Pour over chocolate and butter.
- Whisk until smooth.
- Pour into pre-baked pie crust.
- Refrigerate. When cooled, top with whipped cream and serve chilled.
This restaurant review also appears in the August issue of Luxe Lifestyle Magazine.