Where is a place that you can feel cozy and intimate in a 25 foot ceiling grand room? Oakleaf Restaurant in Pittsboro, North Carolina, provides this great atmosphere along with quality cuisine. Oakleaf focuses on seasonal dishes inspired by French and Italian cuisine. Chef Cox produces dishes that are directly sourced from growers and fishermen from the Carolinas. In addition to the great resources Chef Cox uses, they have ingredients from the chef’s garden which populate the entire menu at Oakleaf. I was able to talk to Chef Cox about his menu and the seasonal changes they are making.
AH: Have you created any special menu items that highlight the local produce?
CC: Yes. One that we are currently featuring is Braised Auvergne Lentils with Bobby’s Dirt Candy. This is a gorgeous dish of braised green lentils garnished with baby carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, baby beets, brussel sprouts and mushrooms sourced from a local farmer.
AH: As you include seasonal produce in your menu, how often do you change your regular or special menu items?
CC: Daily, or every couple of days. Our farmers call us in the morning and tell us what they’ll be picking that day and will deliver it in the afternoon. We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of local farms here in Chatham County.
AH: Do you work with any farms in particular?
CC: Okfuskee, Braeburn, Dutch Buffalo, Granite Springs, Ayrshire, Dunlap Farms, Lily Den Farm are ones we source from on a regular basis. These farms are all in Chatham county. We work with many other farms on a less than daily basis – Rising Meadow Farm for Lamb, The Farm Chick for Rabbit, etc.
AH: What ingredients are you able to source from your own chef’s garden?
CC: Tomatoes, lemon verbena, four varieties of basil, sage, arugula, beets, figs, lemon thyme, dill, bronze fennel, mint, tarragon, lavender, breakfast radishes, rosemary, and peppers this summer (we scaled back our garden this summer because we were awfully busy with the opening of the restaurant). We will ramp up production of a greater variety again next spring. We also have Scuppernong Grapes, persimmons, Keffir Pears, and pecans.
AH: How many dishes are new to your menu?
CC: We generally change more than 50% of the menu throughout the week. Each day, there are generally one or two changes to the menu. The entire menu changes over the course of every two to two and a half weeks.
AH: What makes your restaurant unique?
CC: Commitment to constantly changing the menu on a daily basis, our ability to adapt to whatever the season brings in our door and our commitment to our guests. Rather than asking if dishes are alright, our servers tend to ask our guests if they are happy and having a good time. We’re very confident in the quality of our food, so we make sure to focus on making the experience at Oakleaf fun and enjoyable!