Inspired Carolina roots showcase the best of farm to table
By RAY LINVILLE » Photos by Grant Larsen
Julia Child tells us: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.”
This principle and others promoted by culinary trailblazers have inspired chef Scott Margolis and his wife Karen well before they opened Scott’s Table in Southern Pines in 2017.
“He learned from Julia Child how to be innovative and remains inspired how she made upper-level cooking accessible to all. At the Culinary Institute of America, Scott got to meet and work with her,” she says.
Even before attending the institute where he graduated first in his class, Scott’s culinary skills had been nurtured as early as age 15 when he got his first job in the restaurant business. Along the way he has gained inspiration from Child and other legends known for using local ingredients and pioneering cuisine innovations. Their quotations are selectively placed throughout Scott’s Table, and they inspire the creative choices on the menu.
Planning a creative dish takes more than inspiration. “Scott listens to what the guests are asking for, looks at what’s available, talks to the farmers and ranchers, and considers the season. Then he reflects on how a dish can be presented in an elevated way so it creates a ‘memory trigger,’” says Karen.
Among the delectable main courses, the wild mushroom ragout is a standout. It starts with N.C. wild mushrooms that are served on roasted carrot polenta cakes with roasted peppers and a balsamic vinegar reduction. It (as are all main courses) is accompanied with fresh seasonal vegetables and the choice of soup or salad.
“It’s not something you see any place else, and it shows Scott’s creativity. Its presentation is so gorgeous and colorful,” says Karen.
“Our best seller is the crab cake entrée made from North Carolina crab meat purveyed from Pamlico Sound. Scott is the only one who knows the recipe. He hand-prepares it all himself. He probably has patted 7,000 to 8,000 since we opened — all by Scott’s hands,” she adds.
Served with lemon tarragon rice and lobster sherry cream sauce, it has been pleasing guests since Scott’s Table first opened.For smaller appetites, the signature sandwich is a crab cake served on a Bianco roll with lettuce, tomato, onion and lobster sherry spread. All sandwiches come with the choice of a side (but strongly consider the homemade coleslaw or Scott’s red potato salad).
A special item on the menu that also demonstrates the restaurant’s Carolina roots and its farm-to-table approach is the Farm Burger with the meat purveyed from Brasstown Beef, a family farm in western N.C. that has received global recognition for its animal husbandry practices.
“It’s all the good stuff from the farm on one burger. Brasstown Beef has been with us since the beginning. The rancher is a veterinarian, and they have superior beef products. Everything an animal consumes is grown on the farm, and they take care of it from birth to slaughter,”
The Farm Burger is Scott’s signature blend of Brasstown beef topped with house-made pimiento cheese and Applewood smoked bacon and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.
As excellent as the crab cakes and other menu choices are, the pièce de résistance is on the dessert menu. Banana beignets, inspired by culinary traditions of New Orleans and coated with cinnamon sugar, are served with a bourbon caramel sauce. “It’s the most popular dessert and has been on the menu since the beginning,” says Karen. A close second is the frozen peppermint cheesecake with an
The Margolises describe Scott’s Table as “a Carolina Roots restaurant, bar and caterer” — check out the huge sign over the front of the restaurant, and its connection to local farms is as important as being family-run. On a side wall is a huge state map that showcases its providers and attests to its farm-to-table authenticity.
The Sandhills area on the map has so many tags, each one identifying a local farm, such as MacC’s Family Farm, Robin Lawhon Produce, R2 Apiary, Karefree Produce, and Tempus Renatus Farm. Only a drive away are other regional providers, including Matthew Hight Farm, Burch Farms, Carolina Classic Catfish, Atkinson Milling Company, Brasstown Beef, and Ridgefield Farm.
Karen explains, “We want to use as many local farmers as we can — beef, pork, poultry, vegetables — and we have a great connection to them. They call and tell us what they are going to pick, and it will be here that afternoon.
“They like to come and show me what they are growing. It’s nice to work with people who care as much as we do about the food we prepare and serve.”
In addition to an extensive wine menu and imaginative specialty drinks, the bar is also well-stocked with premium brands from local and regional craft distilleries and breweries.
The journey to operating the restaurant has been a circuitous and eclectic one. Scott’s Table is the first time that the Margolises — married for 27 years and both working in the food service business for about as long — have worked together and been the owners, and the restaurant team includes the entire Margolis family. Both sons are almost as indispensable as the parents and contribute regularly whether making salads, doing other tasks in the kitchen, or waiting tables.
“It’s most definitely a family adventure. The boys see that we really are a team. While we may disagree, we are committed to making things work,” says Karen. What a lesson in marriage and life!
“The staff is part of the family as well,” she adds, and they include several employees who helped the Margolises open the restaurant. “They’re still with us. It’s good to join with people who understand you. Now we have new folks who are filling in as well,” she says.
Scott’s Table is the culmination of the Margolis family’s dreams. “We want this to be a place people want to come to, and we care as much about the experience as we do the quality of the food. We want to create a warm, inviting experience,” she says.
It is, and they do.
311 SE Broad St., Southern Pines, NC, 910-684-8126, scottstable.com