Downtown’s popular Southern eatery, Preux & Proper, made a big impression on us when they first arrived, and chef Sammy Monsour has been one of our favorite familiar faces to spot at food events around town ever since. They’re now offering a new Thursday Night Cookout menu, which we recently got to take an advance peek at. Somewhat more informal and family-style in service than their usual fine dining experience, Monsour and owner/ operator Joshua Kopel laid out a memorable and funky table.
It’s not a complete left turn from Preux’s normal fare. Fried seafood – we got the rock shrimp – is crisp and delicate. Traditional sides like mac and cheese and collard greens, which are also on the standard menu, are in some ways just like mother used to make, but the best parts – massive amounts of acid and fat competing against each other in a bite of collard greens, the cheesy aftertaste – are just a little more pronounced. There’s a melon and cucumber salad that that I want delivered to my house in buckets on the next 100 degree day in the Valley.
A starter of fried Spam sticks with a sweet dipping sauce was surprising, but popular, and Chef Monsour has transformed pimento cheese spread into an art. The Colorado lamb ribs with a Jamaican jerk rub and sweet heat wing sauce, topped with pickled watermelon rind, pleased even people who thought that they didn’t like lamb.
But one thing does stand out on this menu, which I don’t believe they have offered before, and that is the 18-hour pork shoulder. This is one of those dishes that I predict will cause lines to start forming out the door once people know what it is. It’s as good a piece of meat as I’ve had all year.
The pork occupies a state that seems somewhere between solid and liquid, sometimes both simultaneously. It’s like a high-grade, top-secret American meat design that we need to keep secret from the Russians. The delicate, smoky flavor makes it work well with all five of the different regional sauces provided – Carolina vinegar was our table’s favorite. It’s made to feed eight to twelve, so think of some people who appreciate the finer things as much as you do, and make a reservation for the cookout while this pork shoulder can be had.
Desserts we sampled included the cookout-appropriate banana pudding, served in a Mason jar, and a plate of light, airy beignets topping a dulce de leche sauce, the most appropriate Southeast-Southwest American fusion you can imagine. It’s another good idea from a chef who seems to have a lot of them.