Enjoy this course by course recap of a marvelous recent dinner at The Hackney, followed by a recipe from Chef Jamie Davis’ appearance at the 2023 NC State Fair GotToBeNC cooking stage.
Lots of photos are included in this post – for the best viewing experience, click on the post to read it directly on my website at HeidiBillottoFood.com
Sometimes travel takes you to places unexpected. Such was the case for us in January when a three-day getaway to New Bern NC led us to a delicious stop on the way back to Charlotte. An unexpected overnight in Washington NC to enjoy drinks and dinner at The Hackney.
Last month, a shoulder season getaway to the coast found us in Beaufort NC. On the way home our overnight stop in Washington and dinner at the Hackney was no accident. It’s one of our favorite places – if we lived in the area, we’d be in for dinner and drinks more often than just once a year. I’d like to suggest you make plans to eat there now. You can thank me later!
Drinking Local at The Hackney
Drinking local is incredible easy at The Hackney. As it happens, the historic building that once housed the Bank of Washington back in 1922, is not only home to the Hackney Restaurant; but to the Hackney Distillery, as well.
Open in 2019, the Hackney Distillery is well-known for it’s award-winning 1000 Piers Gin. Owned by Nick Sanders and Susanne Hackney, the restaurant and distillery are named after Susanne’s family. The Hackney family has been residents of Washington NC for generations.
When Nick and Susanne lived in London, the two perfected the recipe for 1000 Piers Coastal Carolina Gin, a London-style ideration. When they came back to the states, they chose to leave the international corporate world and settle in Washington, opening a restaurant and distillery to give back and add to the coastal community Susanne had once called home.
The 1000 Piers label depicts all of Susanne’s memories of her home at the Carolina Coast – the osprey, the wooden piers lined up along the river, and the full moon over the water. It was all years in the making.
The Hackney and the Hackney Distillery Today
Today, Susanne greets restaurant customers nightly and manages that side of the operation while Nick continues to work with the gin operation. Nick is proud to source fresh locally-grown botanicals that make the recipe all it is. The flavor is fine tuned and makes for a fabulous cocktail.
Over the past couple of years, Nick has also developed a marvelous Blackberry version of the original gin and a perfect-for-the-holidays Creme de Fruits Noirs liqueur.
New this year, keep your eyes out for a Cranberry & Orange version of 1000 Piers. Like the Creme de Fruits Noirs, the new cranberry orange gin will, for a time at least, only be available at the distillery. Take it from me, it will be worth the trip.
The evening of our most recent Hackney dinner, we sat at the bar and started with a round of cocktails from the list. In the coupe glass, I enjoyed the most delightful Beaufort Bees cocktail. It’s made with 1000 Piers, a delicious local Washington area honey liquor called Hive Phantom, honey water and lemon. Yes please, I’ll have another.
Tom opted for the Field of Dreams served on the rocks with a wedge of lemon. This cocktail also started with 1000 Piers Gin, this time, blended with fresh ginger, honey and lemon. Very different from the first but equally delicious.
Eating Locally with Chef Jamie Davis
Under the leadership of Chef Jamie Davis, the menu at The Hackney is as local as it gets, with a strong emphasis on local seafood. As such the offerings change from day to day.
As I mentioned, the building that is now The Hackney and Hackney Distillery was originally the Bank of Washington. The pantry is in what was originally the bank’s safe. You have to walk through it to get from the dining room to the kitchen. In this photo, Jamie and I are standing by the “kitchen door” which Jamie says has never been closed – for fear it might lock – since the building became a restaurant. Talk about keeping kitchen secrets safe and secure!
On The Hackney Menu – I Think We Ate It All
Jamie is and always has been a huge proponent of supporting fishermen and women in the area. Much of the seafood Jamie offers comes from Captain John Mallette at Southern Breeze Seafood located in Jacksonville NC. You can read more about Southern Breeze here and then scroll to the bottom of this post to see what Jamie and John did together in a presentation with me and my good friend Chef Chad Blackwelder on the GotToBeNC Cooking Stage at the 2023 NC State Fair.
But first, back to our dinner at The Hackney.
Oysters, Oysters, Oysters
When it comes to local shellfish Jamie almost exclusively carries Lighthouse Shoals’ Grace Point Oysters grown in the southwestern corner of the Pamlico Sound in Merritt NC.
Tom and I are big oyster fans in general and, having been to see the Lighthouse Shoals’ operation in person, we are huge fans of these Grace Point beauties, in particular. So much so that we enjoyed them this night three different ways. Nothing like starting the evening with three individual courses of local oysters.
First, a half dozen Grace Points breaded in Tidewater Grain Company’s heirloom rice flour, fried and served atop a tartare hollandaise. The oysters were hot, with the nicest crunch to the outside but still warm and tender inside. And, a quick dip into the creative tartare made for just the right bite. Amazing!
But Wait, There’s More…
The next round of Grace Points came cold with a fresh local pear mignonette. These might have been our favorite. I love that the oysters were served on the halfshell atop a bed of seeds and spices. Given a glass or two of bubbles, I could have made several orders of these my entire meal. They were marvelous.
Our third round of oysters came hot baked with Parmesan. The saltiness of the Parm paired with the brine of the oysters was perfection. These babies were rich and warm and of melt in your mouth proportions. I would order them again and again
And then, it was time for the cheese course.
It’s the Cheesiest, and with Tiny Pickled Grapes!
The story of our cheese course for the evening actual begins in Charlotte. Siano mozzarella cheese is made in the Queen City and enjoyed by chefs and home cooks across the state. Burrata is a variation of mozzarella. A soft fresh cheese made with a skin of mozzarella but filled with a cheesy cream, that spreads over toast even when its cold or a room temp.
For this dish Jamie took the fresh burrata to new heights by pickling a small bunch of tiny NC Razzmatazz Grapes in pickle juice from Carolina Pickle Company. And, as if that wasn’t enough, a fig vincotto ( sort of a second cousin to a rich balsamic vinegar), candied walnuts and baked in house toasted focaccia rounded out the plate. oh my!
“It’s a Food Writer’s Life” or “When Two People Eat Three Entrees”
It was just so hard to decide where to go with entrees. We knew we wanted seafood as that has always been Jamie’s signature item. When we came to dine last year, there was a this tuna dish topped with carrots that we have both still talk about to this day.
Decisions, decisions. Here was the hiccup. Just a week before our visit, I was the victim of a bit of social media influencing when I saw the photo that follows: Chicken Fried Steak on Jamie’s instagram feed.
When we arrived for dinner, I’ll admit I still had that chicken fried steak on my mind. I was happy to see it was still on the menu. It was, I might add, as delicious as it looked on the ‘gram.
Then, we saw a Fried Softshell Crab on the menu. What’s a food writer to do? It was a no-brainer. The two of us ordered three entrees and enjoyed every bite!
Seafood is Synonymous with Dinner at the Hackney
Like the tuna we so enjoyed months before, this Rockfish entree blew us away. The fish was perfectly cooked and as is Chef Jamie’s style, there was just enough on the plate to make it interesting but not so much to cover up the natural flavors. Here the light flaky fillet was pan seared and placed over roasted potatoes and green beans lightly sauced with a sweetpotato jus. The flavors on the plate were rich and warm, with the subtle addition of black cardamom.
Next up: This jumbo softy, fried crispy without any breading, served with a slightly salty tobiko sauce. We loved the medley of crab and caviar. Its a winning combination for sure. A smooth and creamy cauliflower puree and a saute of local greens helped to dress the plate. Yes, yes, yes.
The menu at The Hackney changes from day to day, but you will always find a trio of desserts to offer a sweet end to the evening. Jamie and his talented team keep it interesting and seasonal.
Honestly – after several cocktails, everything I mentioned here plus an amuse of creamy squash soup and warm foccacia – and this pork belly appetizer with fried jalapenos that I neglected to mention earlier – we were hitting our limit.
With owners Nick and Susanne’s British roots, The Hackney Original Sticky Toffee Pudding is always on the menu. It sounded more than tempting and we thought about it long and hard. Same goes for the poached pear with ice cream, honeycomb and candied walnuts. It sounded divine. But, in the end, we opted to share the seasonal roasted pumpkin and vanilla creme brulee. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.
Want to Know More?
First, remember that the menu at The Hackney changes daily. So all we enjoyed and talked about here, may not be an option for your dinner. But, the menu will be full of wonderful choices, leaving you your own delicious story to tell. Tag me on instagram at @HeidiBillotto or on Facebook at @Heidi Billotto Cooks when you post the pics – I can’t wait to see!
Learn all about Saturday lunches, High Tea for the Holidays, purchasing 1000 Piers at the distillery and booking private parties or distillery tours at the Hackney’s website here.
At this writing, the restaurant is open for dinner TUES – THURS 5:15 – 9:30 PM; FRI & SAT, 5:15 – 10:30PM and Noon – 2 pm on Saturdays for lunch. But things change – always call to confirm the hours before you go.
The distillery is open for tours, tastings and bottle sales. Please call to confirm specific times or make arrangement for private tours or tastings.
Make reservations and confirm times by calling 252-623-2368 or email at email@example.com #TellThemHeidiSentYou
Where to Stay in Washington NC?
We booked our lodging for both trips via AirBnB sites. Our first trip we stayed at The Ell Hotel, a veteran-owned, pet-friendly beautiful bed and bath hotel.
Located a half mile or so from Washington’s Waterfront, at 1040 N. Market Street. Parking was easy and the accommodations were just lovely.
This most recent trip we opted to stay closer to the waterfront so we could easily walk to the restaurant for dinner. We booked with When Pigs Fly, just a couple of blocks from The Hackney and it, too, couldn’t have been nicer.
We enjoyed the cozy room, the coffee and tea service available to guests and hung out the afternoon of our arrival on the charming porch and patio.
There are lots of other options in the area, two on our radar for future trips include The Elmwood 1820 Bed and Breakfast and The Little Inn at Washington. Honestly not a bad choice in the bunch.
Chef Jamie Davis of the Hackney
Cooking with NC Seafood at the NC State Fair
The ten day stretch of the NC State Fair this year consisted of three chef demos each day. At each demo I worked hard to pair each chef with a local NC farmer, fisherman or producer.
Six guests were invited from the audience at each demo to join us onstage to taste the dish each chef prepared. Not only did these guests eat locally but they were able to drink locally as well, as The NC Department of Agriculture’s Brianna Burns helped us to pair an award winning NC wine with each of our demo dishes. And then at the end, we took a group photo like this one.
For the first demo that Jamie Davis did for us onstage, he teamed up with NC Fisherman John Mallette from Southern Breeze Seafood. John brought in a 40 lb. just caught tuna and showed our chefs’ table guests and the crowd how to break it down into steaks and fillets. It was an amazing demo that began like this:
Cooking with North Carolina Seafood
After John showed how to work with the fish, Jamie Davis took one of the loins, cut it into steaks and prepared the recipe which follows.
For more on where to buy the local ingredients Jamie featured in the recipe here, simply click on the links in the paragraph below.
Shopping Local – Where to Buy
Of course, Jamie featured lots of local on the plate, in addition to the tuna that John had caught just the night before ( available when in season at Southern Breeze Seafood).
Pro Tip: When you go to Southern Breeze in Jacksonville NC bring a cooler. You’ll find a lot of local proteins in this seafood market that you’ll want to bring back home.
In the recipe you’ll find Tidewater Grain Company Carolina Gold Rice, iLéwa Foods Suya Spice from Chef Adé Carrena, Carolina Pickle Company Pickle Juice and Ran Lew Dairy Cream Top Milk. You can order product from each of the first three company’s online – simply follow the links included here.; to find Ran Lew Milk, look under the “Where to Buy” tab on their site or ask a chef to order some for you.
Let’s Make This Dish a Meal with a NC Wine Pairing
On our cooking stage, Brianna Burns, Wine Marketing Specialist for the NC Wine & Grape Council selected the Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards 2015 Vidal Blanc to pair with the spicy tuna dish Jamie made at the fair.
This wine is aged in aged in stainless steel, and offers aromas of mandarin orange and Meyer lemon. It was a perfect pairing with the rich tuna, the Suya Spice and the slightly sweet carrot caramel.
For more info on the wines at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, visit their website and shop for their wines and ciders here; and for more on the NC Wine & Grape Council, click here.
iLewa Spiced Seared Tuna
Local NC Tuna steaks, seasoned with iLewa Suya Spice, served over a Cilantro Tidewater Grain Rice with Carolina Pickled Company pickled vegetables and finished with a Carrot Caramel
For the Tidewater Grain Company Rice
- 1/2 cup Ran Lew Dairy Cream Top Whole Milk
- 1/2 cup water or stock
- 1/2 cup Tidewater Grain Company Caroilina Gold Rice
- 1 Bay leaf
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Pickled Vegetables
- 1 Bell Pepper red, yellow or green
- 1 red onion
- 1 NC sweetpotato
- 2 oz Fish Sauce
- 2 oz Soy Sauce
- 1 oz Dark Sesame Oil
- Pickle Juice from Carolina Pickle Company enough to cover the julienned vegetables
For the Caramel Carrot Puree
- 1 quart Carrot Juice
- 1 quart White Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/2 Quart White Sugar
- pinch of salt
For the tuna
- 4-6 Fresh NC Tuna Steaks
- iLewa Foods Suya Spice
- unflavored oil for the saute
For the Tidewater Grain Company Rice
Add the rice to a covered sauce pan with the milk and water or stock. season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf.
Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat.
Simmer for 12-15 mins.
Remove lid, fluff rice, remove bay leaf and keep warm to ready to serve. Adjust seasonings to taste.
For the Pickled Vegetables
Cut each of the vegetables into Julienne Strips
Place in a glass or stainless steel bowl
Top with pickle jiuce and allow to sit for at least an hour
For the Caramel Carrot Puree
Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and reduce over medium heat until the mixture takes on a thick consistency.
To Sear the Tuna Steaks
Season the steaks on both sides with a generous amount of iLewa Foods Suya Spice
Preheat your favorite skillet, on hot burner till the pan is very hot. It's ok if it is smoking, that just means you'll get a great sear.
Use your choice of oil to coat the bottom of the skillet and immediately place the seasoned tuna steaks in the hot pan
Sear on both sides until tuna reaches your desired doneness.
Remove from heat and let rest a minute or two before you plate and serve.
To Plate and Serve:
Place the carrot caramet puree in the center of the plate.
Top with rice, just slighted off center of the round of puree
Top with the seared tuna
Finish with the pickled julienne vegetables directly on top of the seared tuna steak