Specialty of the House

Flights puts respectful spin on she-crab soup

CORRESPONDENTAugust 28, 2011 

  • Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your name and city, to Specialty of the House, c/o The News & Observer or e-mail ggcox@bellsouth.net.

  • Flights

    4100 Main at North Hills St., Raleigh

    278-1478

We recently had a wonderful dinner at Flights, the restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel, where I had the most wonderful, perfect she-crab soup I have ever tasted - and I have tasted a lot! I would have taken home a tub of it if it were available. Any chance the chef would share his recipe? - Amy Smith, Durham

The Renaissance Raleigh Hotel opened in 2009 in North Hills, and its restaurant quickly won a reputation as one of the area's premier dining destinations. Much of the credit goes to executive chef Dean Wendel, whose inventive updates of American and American regional classics raise the bar far above the hotel restaurant norm.

The son of a career chef, Wendel graduated near the top of his class at Johnson & Wales School of Culinary Arts in 1984 and went on to work in luxury hotels, including the Caneel Bay resort in the Virgin Islands and a number of Ritz-Carlton properties. He was recently initiated into the Châine des Rôtisseurs, an ancient and prestigious gastronomic society based in Paris.

Wendel's take on she-crab soup is at once refreshingly different and respectful of culinary tradition.

He uses jumbo lump crabmeat exclusively, which he gently sautés with a little cream "just to heat it up" before placing it in a warm serving bowl. At the restaurant, the bisque-like soup is then poured over the crabmeat at the table. The finishing flourish is a cruet of amontillado sherry, which is served alongside the soup in traditional manner.

The presentation makes for a memorable experience, but the soup stands on its own as a richly rewarding chapter in the edible travelogue of a well-traveled and talented chef.

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