Honey, We're Open
One of the newest additions to Chesterfield Village, Half Crocked Chef Café & Marketplace, is the place to go for hand-blended honeys, beefy brats and fried chicken made with more than 30 ingredients.
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Bite into the delectable home cooking at Half Crocked Chef with the fried chicken plate, the Magnum Honey Flight or a local brat.
I'm not a honey connoisseur by any means. Sure, I always have some in my pantry—I keep it on hand in case I have to mix it into granola or drizzle it over cheesecake. And when I was suffering from allergies a few summers ago, I bought a jar at the farmers market and ate a spoonful a day in hopes of curing my constant sneezes. But I never really stopped and tasted it. I just swallowed it between sniffles and moved on.
Things changed when Half Crocked Chef Café & Marketplace opened in Chesterfield Village. We noticed that the restaurant offered honey flights before we ate there, and we knew it was something we had to try. Sure, we’d had beer flights, wine flights and even dessert flights before. But honey flights? Never! Learning that a new restaurant is doing something unprecedented is something magical in the lifestyle magazine world, and something as sweet as a honey flight was a welcome surprise.
Alongside Half Crocked Chef’s restaurant is a host of shelves boasting honeys and goods from local vendors, all available for purchase.
I grabbed Ancillaries Editor Rose Marthis, and we headed to Half Crocked Chef for lunch on a recent Friday. We ordered the Magnum honey flight right after we were seated. It’s the largest flight available and comes with 10 honey shots plus fresh fruit chutney, marinated olives, gourmet cheese, all-natural salami and artisan crackers for $14.
The honey accompaniments were delivered promptly, and shortly after our server stood tableside and put together our honey palate as she described each one. There was great variety in the honeys—one with lemon and lavender, one with cinnamon and vanilla, one with Hawaiian peppers and pineapple. There was a honey with rosemary, lemon and basil, and even a honey with curry, mustard and ghost peppers. Sweet, spicy, savory—there was a little of everything.
We tasted our way through each honey, picking what we thought might be an appropriate dipper and digging in. We analyzed each selection, discussing its flavors and talking about how else it might be enjoyed. The raw honey is delicious on its own, but the flavor-infused honeys, developed and hand-blended by owner Christina Hesse, are also super-tasty. The CinnFull with cinnamon and vanilla was one of my favorites—dipped with an apple it tasted just like apple pie. Both Rose and I liked the Purple Haze with lavender and lemon, which had hints of floral and citrus. I wasn’t as big of a fan of the spicy honeys, but the herb-infused honey paired perfectly with cheese. Rose really liked the honey barbecue variety, noting she’d like to try it with other meats.
Rose and I ordered our entrees after eating our way through the honey palate. A large part of the menu included local brats, steak strips and chicken breast, and there were 10 topping options to load up your meat of choice. But there were no single toppings. Brats are offered with themed toppings: things like the Greek with dill relish, onions and feta and the Mexican with salsa, sour cream and cheddar. Rose chose the beef brat with the Thai topping of peanut sauce, Sriracha and green onion plus a side of house chips. I was craving comfort food, so I ordered the daily special: fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and cornbread.
Order a honey flight at Half Crocked Chef, and expect to see this cart arrive quickly to your table.
Rose summed up her brat experience in two simple sentences: “I’m glad I stepped out of the pork-and-kraut box and went for an unexpected pairing. The peanut sauce and Sriracha was a sweet and spicy upgrade to the typical lunchtime dog.” I didn’t try it, but I did try the house chips, and I was a fan. Cooked to order, the thick-cut chips came out hot, crunchy and full of potato-y goodness.
The breading on the fried chicken was well-seasoned and added a nice crunch to each bite. I wouldn’t call it spicy or sweet—it was just a nicely blended seasoning that made each bite extra-savory. I later learned that there are more than 30 ingredients in this breading (yes, 30!) and the chicken marinates for 30 hours (yes, 30!), and then it’s fried in a cast iron skillet. That explained why the meat was so juicy. And there was something unique in the fact that the chicken wasn’t greasy—like, not at all. The mashed potatoes were a well-paired side—they’re made with the skin on, plus heavy cream, garlic, chicken broth and house-made lemon pepper seasoning. And the cornbread was probably my favorite part of the special—it was a moist, sweet cornbread served with house-made butter.
As we were paying the tab, I noticed several of the honeys jarred and for sale, as well as local meats, eggs, baking products, chocolates and other food goodies. I loved the idea of buying my favorite honeys and other treats then recreating a similar honey palate for guests the next time I play host. Thanks to Half Crocked Chef, I might just become a honey connoisseur.