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Lobster & Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Lobster & Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Side Dish Best of Winner

  • Creekside Oyster House & Grill | Sylva, N.C.
  • Knoxville Division

the Dish:

A true menu star for Creekside Oyster House & Grill is Chef and Owner George Neslen’s newest side dish, lobster and truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. “You had me at truffle” exclaimed one guest when Neslen once recommended the dish. While the truffle captured his attention, it’s actually the entire offering guaranteed to make any legit seafood fan do a double take.

“You had me at truffle” exclaimed one guest when Neslen once recommended the dish.

It’s certainly as decadent and rich as it sounds, and the classically trained chef/owner makes everything from scratch at his family-friendly restaurant. He starts with a thick Alfredo sauce of cream, garlic, cheddar and Parmesan. Added to that is a house-made lobster salad of juicy lobster meat, sautéed onions, celery, and juice and zest from lemons and an orange.

Then he folds in a little bit of cream cheese and mayonnaise. For additional flair and flavor, a fresh herb blend of thyme, dill, chives and parsley is added into the mix. Once he blends the pasta with all of the ingredients, he finishes it off with truffle oil and toasted panko breadcrumbs. Then it’s baked to perfection.

Overall, Neslen says, he’s received very positive response to the lobster and truffle mac ‘n’ cheese since he added it to the permanent menu a few months ago. That’s inspired him to do a complete overhaul to Creekside’s entire menu, with lobster as a main ingredient.

“It’s very popular here,” observes the first-time restaurant owner. “There’s lobster bisque, surf ‘n’ turf served with lobster, and every time I offer any lobster special it sells out.”

the Restaurant:

Originally opened in 2013 and nestled in the North Caroline mountains, the Creekside Oyster House is a true gem for diners in search of great food and a fun atmosphere. The casual seafood eatery is called Creekside because the restaurant’s outdoor deck is 15 feet above the bank of Scott Creek, which is one of the creeks that runs through Sylva.

The restaurant had mostly focused on its oyster program until George Neslen took over the reins in the fall of 2015. Oysters, of course, are still big sellers, with the bivalve mollusks originating from the Gulf Coast (Louisiana, Texas), Virginia and Alabama. Specials such as half-off on oysters on the half shell every Tuesday help drive in customers and introduces them to new dishes and other offerings.

“We’ve been running a lot of specials since I took over the restaurant,” he explains. “I’m just trying to get a feel for what customers want.” Some of those specials include sourcing awesome local ingredients such as fresh mountain trout, which can be found 20 miles from the restaurant. He’s also doing a “drunken” duck dish that’s made with bourbon and red cherry butter sauce. Neslen says it’s his rendition of duck à l'orange, and something he learned to make during a brief training program in France.

But one of his biggest projects to date is a collaboration with Innovation Brewing Co., a local brewery where his sister is the head of sales and distribution. They’re working to produce Creekside Oyster Stout, a signature craft beer that will only be sold at the restaurant and brewery. To make it, five gallons of freshly shucked oyster shells from Creekside were boiled down to get the calcium out of them, and the calcium was used to make the oyster stout beer. It’s set to be released this spring.

A Piece of the Essay:

This dish combines all the hearty, comforting feeling of homemade Carolina mac & cheese with the richness and aromatics of lobster and white truffle oil. The strong perfume of the truffle oil makes the first impression to guests as the dish is brought to the table before the first bite is even taken. Once a diner gets the first bite, the truffle oil flavor is at the forefront with the decadent lobster flavor that melts away into the creamy mac and cheese foundation the side dish is built around. Texture contrast is provided by the crunch element that the panko bread crumbs add to the dish to create an all-around delicious bite that will have you craving more.

Judge Comments:

  • Texture was killer (in a good way!)
  • Combination of flavors was great
  • Really liked the citrus taste mixed in
  • Good blend of cheeses
  • Great creamy texture
  • The light lemon flavor was tasty
  • Very good truffle flavor
  • Nice lobster garnish
  • Good acid taste
  • I could eat this every day

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