Next door to the historic Gem Theatre in Kannapolis, NC is a restaurant that I've been dying to try out. There, on West 1st Street, nestled between the old-school Cannon Village retail strip and the quite new North Carolina Research Campus, lies Forty Six (www.restaurantfortysix.com), an upscale establishment focused on promoting a "culture of healthy food". Thanks to Amy's parents offering their childsitting services tonight, we were finally able to try this place out. For you impatient readers who interpret "healthy food" to mean "nasty food" — as might our four-year-old son — let me simply summarize our experience by saying that your interpretation would be completely wrong.
Forty Six presents a visual theme consistent with the research angle of the NCRC. As the first of what will hopefully be many new restaurants there near the campus, the establishment — which takes its name from the number of chromosomes in the human genome — is decorated with science-y things: beakers serve as vases on the tables; molecular diagrams of edible atoms (caffeine, chocolate, etc.) line the walls; the ceiling is crowned by famous quotes about knowledge and its pursuit; and (my personal favorite) the bathrooms are labeled "XY" and "XX". This is all done tastefully, of course. The first impression of a trendy big-city restaurant gives way only gradually and never completely to the geeky stuff, the theme providing fodder for discussion without distracting from the all-too-rare experience (for us, anyway) of feeling like you're at least a thousand miles away from fast food.
Amy and I had reservations for the first time slot (Forty Six opens at 5:30pm on Saturdays), and were promptly greeted and seated upon our arrival. This was just the beginning of over an hour of quality service from the staff of this restaurant. Our server, Mallory, maintained the ideal distance: we never had to wait for her to visit, and we never found ourselves waiting for her to go away. Keeping my water glass filled without my even noticing? That's the target, folks, and Mallory nailed it.
We began by ordering a "safe" glass of red wine — a Mondavi Cabernet — and the Duck Quesadilla appetizer. We enjoyed prompt delivery of both, plus a basket of bread with accompanying bean-and-tomato-based dipping sauce. The quesadilla — which was served with a black bean tapenade and a salsa featuring cucumbers and pineapple — was tasty, but unfortunately didn't last long between the two of us.
Salads were next. Amy ordered a half portion of the Warm Walnut Encrusted Goat Cheese Salad. She's a huge fan of apples in salads, and was not disappointed by the Granny Smith slivers in her selection. We hadn't really studied the menu with an intent to memorize it, so it was cute to watch her uncover tasteful surprises as she navigated the Balsamic-dressed greens. ("Ooh! Is that bacon?!") Only a chunk of goat cheese survived her appetite. I had a half portion of the considerably simpler Forty Six Salad: mixed greens, mandarin oranges, and chickpeas with a green goddess dressing. There was no exciting progression through my salad, but its taste and presentation made it worthwhile.
Forty Six offers several seafood dishes, but that's not really Amy's thing. She was eying the lamb, instead. Upon consultation regarding entree portion sizes, Mallory reminded us of Forty Six's healthy dining focus. However, she was confident that we could happily split an entree if we so desired. As it turns out, we so desired. Now, in our marriage, the proper cooking temperature of meat is always a point of contention. Amy's a "medium-to-medium-well" kinda girl; I'm a "rare-to-medium-rare" kinda guy; and there's not much overlap there. But this presented no problems for us tonight: the chef was cool enough to divide the chop prior to preparation and cook each half to order. Our bone-in New Zealand lamb chops arrived cooked to perfection, wading in a pool of Balsamic Demi Glaze, with roasted red potatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash cheering from the sidelines. The lamb was simply divine. Amy is a sucker for a good potato, and was thoroughly pleased by hers. I was looking forward to those squash sides, which I found good but perhaps a little more al dente than preferred. As we wrapped up the entree course, we were glad we had decided to share one. Apparently, the term "moderate portion sizes" as employed by Forty Six is open to some varying interpretations.
As any decent, God-fearing woman will attest, a delicious meal such as we were enjoying cannot be considered complete without dessert. Mallory presented the options: triple-layer chocolate cake; red velvet cake; banana pudding; and some others, all of which had much more interesting descriptions than what I can recall now. Amy rightly noted that "we always go for the chocolate-y stuff", and encouraged a different tack tonight: the red velvet cake (and a pair of cappuccinos). Mallory delivered all of this promptly (she was aware that we were trying to make the 7:00pm movie next door at the Gem). This cake was the absolute reddest red velvet cake I've ever seen; multi-layered, with a cream cheese icing between the layers, and a dollop of whipped cream on the top. Unfortunately, it was also considerably less moist than I'd hoped. The cake's components were all good, but those components shouldn't require me to hit my cappuccino as often as they did. (Alas, the cappuccino itself was unremarkable.) Overall, not the best finish to the meal.
Despite not being wowed by the dessert, Amy and I both left Restaurant Forty Six tonight feeling comfortably full yet immeasurably happier having shared this experience. I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to return there in the future.