The King’s Tavern: A new restaurant brings life back to Natchez’s oldest building

EDM Feb 2014

eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
February / March 2014

Drive through the picturesque streets of Natchez is like stepping into a time machine. It’s not everywhere that you can catch glimpses of grand antebellum estates through the magnolia trees. However, turn down Jefferson Street and you are sure to find one structure that catches your eye. It’s an imposing wood and brick structure that predates anything else still standing in Natchez.

The King’s Tavern has a long and colorful history. It was originally constructed in the late 1700’s from the wood of scrapped ships as part of Fort Panmure, which housed a large detachment of British troops that occupied Natchez at the time. Eventually an entrepreneur named Richard King purchased the building and set up a tavern and inn for weary travelers. The tavern also housed Natchez’s first post office and soon became a popular gathering spot for the town.

As the rise of steamboat travel began to hurt Mr. King’s profits, the tavern eventually fell into the hands of the Postlethwaite family. The Postlethwaite’s would live in the structure for nearly 150 years, until 1973 when it was purchased by an investor and was once again reopened as a restaurant.

The King’s Tavern sat abandoned for almost a year until 2013, when Doug and Regina Charboneau purchased the property. Regina Charboneau is no stranger to the restaurant business, having owned and worked in restaurants from Alaska, to San Francisco, to New York. When the couple returned to Natchez in 2000, Regina thought she was through with the restaurant business. However, all that changed when Doug decided he needed a “project.”

“I really had no intention of getting back into the restaurant business,” Regina reveals. “But Doug wanted to open a rum distillery, the King’s Tavern was available, and it seemed like the perfect place.”

Regina had just ordered a wood-fired pizza oven for her home. When a concept for the new restaurant began to take shape, she decided to construct the oven at the restaurant instead. Several months of renovations were needed before The King’s Tavern could open for business. Finally, in September 2013, the historic restaurant welcomed the general public once again.

The restaurant’s specialty, under the direction of Executive Chef Allison Richard, is handcrafted, wood-fired flatbreads topped with an array of mouthwatering toppings such as brisket and horseradish cream, smoked bacon and shaved Brussels sprouts, or shrimp and smoked tomatoes.

Like many chefs, Regina is enthusiastically embracing the farm-to-table movement. Her menu items are seasonal and she is even making her own mozzarella for the flatbreads. The bar features craft beer and cocktails, unique Italian sodas, and craft bottled sodas. Bar manager Ricky Woolfolk frequently offers mixology classes on weekends.

In Spring 2014, Doug and the Charboneau’s son Jean Luc plan to open Charboneau Rum Distillery in the restaurant’s former bar. The pair plan to sell white rum and eventually aged rum in small quantities. It will also have a tasting room and provide tours.

Rum may not be the only spirit residing in the King’s Tavern. The restaurant is notorious for ghost sightings, the most famous named Madeline, a young girl who was supposedly murdered and then buried within the building’s walls. Regardless of whether the story is true, the lore has earned Madeline her own dish on the menu. However, staff and visitors over the years have reported seeing apparitions walking throughout the tavern, including Regina herself.

“I don’t believe in that kind of thing, but there was one instance during renovations when I was meeting with the construction crews and we all saw a shadow move across the room and block out the light. Whether it was Madeline, I don’t know.”

Maybe there is a reason the tavern’s tagline reads, “Spirits of All Kinds.”

From Alaska to Natchez and Everywhere In Between: Chef Regina Charboneau lives life to the fullest and loves every minute.

EDM Feb 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
February / March 2014
Article and photos

Imagine being the mother of a daughter in her early twenties and one day receiving a collect phone call from –of all places – Alaska. Your daughter informs you that she’s taking a job as a cook for eight men at a construction camp in the middle of nowhere. Thirty-five years ago, chef and Natchez  native Regina Charboneau made such a call to her own mother.

“This was before email and cell phones. There was really nothing she could do about it,” she says.

Charboneau grew up in a family that loved to entertain and always felt a draw towards cooking. After high school, she attended a few different colleges across the South, but never really found her niche. That is, until one summer when she and a group of friends decided to take a trip to Alaska.

The Tobeluk Consent Decree of 1976, also known as the Molly Hootch Act, had gone into effect a few years earlier. The act required the State of Alaska to build high schools in Alaskan native villages, meaning construction jobs in the area were plentiful at the time. Regina took a job as a waitress in a café in Anchorage.  However, she didn’t work there long before a customer came in and offered her a job cooking at one of the construction camps.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“It was a great time to be in Alaska,” Charboneau recalls. “Anchorage was only 50 years old at the time. There was so much going on. I really wasn’t qualified to do the job, but there was so much need for help in those days, that they really didn’t care.”

Despite the understandable concern of Charboneau’s mother, that trip would change Charboneau’s life forever. The work was hard, but she learned a lot about cooking. Working in the bush of Alaska meant there weren’t any supermarkets nearby. Fresh food was dropped every 2-3 weeks and had to last until the next drop. Fresh salmon and caribou were usually among the supplies. Charboneau says she became more of a game cook while living in Alaska than she ever did growing up in Mississippi.

“That experience gave me my travel lust,” she explains. “I was in my early 20’s. I felt like the whole world was open and I could do anything.”

While in Alaska, Regina also met her husband Doug. She jokes, “His girlfriend was sweet enough to introduce us.”

Eventually, Charboneau managed to save enough money to put herself through cooking school. She attended Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France, one of the first accredited professional cooking schools in France to offer instruction in both French and English. Afterwards, she returned to Alaska and accepted the position of executive chef at the Tower Club in Anchorage.

In the mid-1980’s Charboneau and her husband decided they were ready to move back to the mainland. The couple was torn between moving to New York or San Francisco, but during a visit to The City by the Bay one clear February night, they knew they had found their new home.

“It was a beautiful night and I told Doug, ‘This is the place,’” she says. “The food scene was just getting going and the timing was perfect.”

Her career in San Francisco began as a cook at the Golden Gate Grille. The restaurant was a popular hangout for singers and had great reviews, but it wasn’t what Charboneau wanted to do. Once again, fate intervened when she was introduced to a group of people opening a restaurant in San Francisco’s Regis Hotel. The opportunity was a huge leap for the young chef.

“People ask me, ‘Weren’t you scared?’ I didn’t know any better. I just dove in feet first.”

Regina’s at the Regis opened in 1985. Because of its proximity to San Francisco’s theatre district, it quickly became a favorite among theatre goers, actors, musicians, and celebrities. Charboneau would go on to open a total of four restaurants in San Francisco, including the famous Burger and Blues, which won the WC Handy award in 1999 as the “Best Blues Club in America.”

Despite her wanderlust, the call to return home to Natchez finally won her over when Charboneau’s father passed away. In 2000, she and her husband returned to Natchez with their two sons, Jean-Luc and Martin.  The couple purchased Twin Oaks, a beautiful 1830’s-era home in the heart of Natchez.

Even though life moves slower in the South, that hasn’t stopped Charboneau. She serves as the culinary director for the American Queen Steamboat Company, where she oversees menu and recipe development; runs a six-bedroom guest house on the Twin Oaks property; and frequently gives tours of her home during the Natchez pilgrimage.

In early 2013, Charboneau and her husband purchased The King’s Tavern, a restaurant housed in the oldest building in Natchez. After several months of renovations, The King’s Tavern reopened in September 2013. The restaurant specializes in hand crafted, wood fired flat breads made in a wood-fired pizza oven on site. A rum distillery is scheduled is open in the spring of 2014.

Looking back, Charboneau is the first to admit that her life has been nothing short of amazing.

“I can honestly say I have loved my life,” she admits. “I have met so many people along the way. People that I cherish and still have life-long friendships with.”

Easy Weeknight Meals

Town and Gown February 2014Town & Gown
February 2014
Recipes, pictures, and cover photo

Sample recipe below.  Spread also included oven Braised Beef Short Ribs and Meyer Lemon Pesto and Feta Penne with Shrimp.  To view the entire issue online, visit the Town & Gown website.

 
 
 
 

Clementine Baked Chicken
● ⅓ cup chicken broth
● 1/4 cup olive oil
● 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed clementine juice
● 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
● 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
● 3 tablespoons maple syrup
● 2 teaspoons kosher salt
● freshly ground black pepper
● 8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
● 2 fennel bulbs, cut into quarters
● 4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced thin
● 2-3 few sprigs of fresh thyme

In a large mixing bowl or resealable plastic bag, whisk together chicken broth, olive oil, clementine and lemon juices, mustard, maple syrup and salt. Season with pepper, to taste.

Place chicken in the mixing bowl or bag. Toss gently until chicken is evenly coated with the sauce. Allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place marinated chicken skin side up in a 9 x 12 x 2-inch baking dish. Reserve the marinade. Arrange fennel slices in between the chicken, layer clementine slices and thyme over the top. Pour the reserved marinade over the entire dish.

Bake chicken for 30 minutes. If the skin is browning too quickly, turn the oven down to 400ºF and continue roasting until the skin is brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes. Arrange everything in a serving platter and drizzle the pan juices over the top.

Serves 8

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Game Day Grub

e861292_589765237737570_1936952674_oat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
December / January 2013
Recipes and photos

Superbowl munchies are almost as exciting as cheering on your favorite team and watching the commercials.  Here are a few easy to assemble recipe ideas to curb your appetite and gameday excitement builds.

Recipes included Burger and Fries Bites, Individual Mexican Layered Dip, Cookie Dough Truffles, and tablescape ideas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Cut (of Beef) Above the Rest: Kathryn’s serves up steakhouse favorites for more than 20 years

Portico Jackson
December 2013

It’s rare that a restaurant stands the test of time for almost a quarter of a century.  Founded in 1989, Kathryn’s Steakhouse has seen generations of hungry metro-area patrons pass through its doors.  Every time they come back, they know they’ll get the same quality food and the same level of service.

Kathryn’s was founded in 1979 under the name Brandi’s Steakhouse.  In 1989, the restaurant moved to its current location and reopened under the name Kathryn’s, after the founder’s daughter. Current owner Kerry Brashear worked under the original owner during the early days of his carrer in the food industry. However, at the young age of 26, Brashear found himself the owner of his own restaurant when he purchased Kathryn’s in 1991.

Brashear attributes several factors to his continued success.  Most importantly, is the food.  Many of the original steakhouse recipes and cooking techniques first developed by longtime chef George Philips back in 1979 are still served today. Phillips passed away in 2000, and the restaurant’s Redfish by George is named in his honor. Kathryn’s is one of the few restaurants in the area to serve prime rib, along with filets, New York strips, and rib eyes.

It was Brashear’s decision to add seafood to the menu.  In addition to redfish, the selection includes shrimp, scallops, halibut, and yellowfin tuna, which won best entrée at Taste of Mississippi in 2012 and 1st place at Blues by Starlight for the last two years. The restaurant’s kitchen was recently remodeled, doubling its size and allowing Brashear to add even more variety to the menu.

Second, Brashear keeps the menu affordable from food to the wine list.  The restaurant has specials every night of the week, including the $15 prime rib entrée on Sunday, which has become a big hit with the after church crowd.

“I want someone to be able to afford to come in, have a good meal, a glass of wine, and have a good time,” Brashear explains. “You get a better value for your money when you eat here.”

Third, the restaurant features live entertainment seven nights a week. Brashear tries to appeal to everyone, so he has featured everything from one-piece solo acts to five-piece bands. He also renovated his bar area to incorporate several flat panel televisions and created a bar and grill menu for patrons who want to grab a bite to eat while watching the game.

Among some of Kathryn’s more popular steakhouse dishes include their green gradoo spinach casserole, Chef Phillips original bleu cheese dressing, broiled tomatoes with cheese, and potatoes au gratin.  As for popular entrees, Brashear says it’s a tie between the filet and the award-winning yellowfin tuna.

Because they have been such a mainstay in the community, Brashear has taken strides to support several local charities.  They frequently participate in events such as Taste of Mississippi, benefiting Stewpot Community Services, and Battle of the Bartenders, which supports The Mississippi Burn Foundation.

“I like to be involved in the community and support charities that keep the money here in our own backyard,” he says.

Over the last two decades, Brashear has watched as his restaurant has grown from steakhouse into the popular bar and grill it has become today. While other eateries come and go, he is confident that Kathryn’s will still be around for the next generation of foodies.

“Our food is better than most, and that is why we have stayed in business for 22 years,” he adds.  “We have something for everybody, whether its steaks, burgers, soup or salad.  People like our staff, so we have a lot of regulars.  We are kind of like the local hangout for this area. Once people come, they are likely to come back because they had a good meal and a good time.”

Candy Cane Indulgence

TowTown and Gown December 2013n & Gown
December 2013
Cover and Recipes

Recipes included chocolate and peppermint cheesecake cupcakes, peppermint meringue cookies, and gingerbread candy cane latte.

Sample recipe below. Click here for the e-dition of this magazine.

 
 

Gingerbread Candy Cane Latte
Gingerbread Candy Cane Simple Syrup:
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
• 1 candy cane, broken into pieces
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 1 inch fresh gingerroot, thinly sliced ( or 1 tablespoon ground ginger)
• 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
• 8 whole cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Latte:
• 8 ounces strong brewed coffee
• 1 cup milk
• Gingerbread candy cane simple syrup, to taste
• Whipped cream and crushed candy canes, optional

For the simple syrup:
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes or at least until the candy is melted. Strain liquid, discarding any solids.

For the latte:
In a small saucepan, heat milk just until heated through.
Froth milk with a frother or pour milk into blender. Vent the lid and frappe just until foamy.
Pour coffee into two mugs.
Stir 1/2 cup milk into each mug.
Add simple syrup to each mug to taste.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Play with Your Food: David Leathers

eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI861292_589765237737570_1936952674_o
December / January 2013

If asked about his childhood, chef and Mississippi native David Leathers likes to joke, “I had a dad that believed in child labor.”  Beginning at eight years old, Leathers worked in the kitchen of his parent’s barbecue restaurant in Fulton, Miss.

“Even before I became interested in becoming a chef, cooking was always been a part of who I was,” he explains.  “It was our livelihood.”

Leathers attributes the work ethic his father instilled in him at a young age as a contributing factor for his success later in life.  At eighteen, Leathers left small town Mississippi to attend culinary school at the former Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts in Pittsburg.  He admits the move was a bit of a culture shock, but he would later go on to graduate at the top of his class. During his studies, an instructor gave him a bit of advice that would impact his career path.

“This particular instructor told me to find a specialty that makes you different from all the other chefs,” Leathers says.  He was inspired to take up food carving based on a book he owned by famous food sculptor Xiang Wang.  When Leathers discovered that Wang taught classes at The Andy Mannhart Academy in Luzern, Switzerland, he enrolled himself and was on a plane to Europe.

Where Pennsylvania was a culture shock, the young chef quickly fell in love with Switzerland.

“It is a beautiful country,” he adds.  “I didn’t want to leave.”  He did face one unique challenge, however, that most students don’t usually deal with on their first day of class.  Wang only spoke two languages – Mandarin Chinese and Swiss-German.  While it may seem impossible to take instruction from someone who doesn’t speak your language, Leathers discovered that the language barrier wasn’t really a barrier after all.

“It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak the same language,” Leathers recalls, “It was more important that I was able to observe him and see his instruction rather than hear it.”  His experience would later inspire him to release three instructional DVD’s on the art of food carving.

David’s talents have garnered several TV appearances, most notably on TLC’s Extreme Food Sculptures.  During the show, Leathers constructed a life-sized sculpture of a woman in a masquerade mask to serve as the centerpiece for a charity ball in Louisiana.  The entire piece took 72 hours to construct.

Leathers eventually went on to launch his own brand of merchandise through his company Food Stylin.  The product line includes T-shirts and his own line of kid-safe knives.  Today, he frequently uses his talents to teach kids about healthy eating.  He makes frequent visits to elementary schools throughout the year and hopes to combat childhood obesity by finding ways to make eating fruits and vegetables fun.

“We have become a generation of convenience.  It’s not just about eating healthy food; it’s about eating real food.  Not everything comes out of a package.” he says.  “I had a little girl ask me once what my favorite vegetable was.  When I told her asparagus, her response was, ‘Ew, yuck.  Gross!’ I could tell from her response that this little girl had never actually tried asparagus.  I decided I wanted to visit every school in that community and let every kids try asparagus. Once they have the opportunity to try it, they can make their own decision.”

Leathers believes that by allowing kids to be involved in the meal process, it will open them up to trying new foods.  He hopes to be able to share his message with a wider audience through a children’s television show titled Play with Your Food currently in the works with PBS.

“It’s a tactic I use with my own five-year-old son,” he says.  “By giving kids ownership, they take pride in what they are eating.  The most important ingredient is making things fun.”