UGK: Unearthed | Raleigh, NC

The Event


On Sunday, August 14th UGK did some culinary spelunking at Cave 1912, an up-and-coming Raleigh restaurant still in its first year of operation. At UGK: Unearthed, Executive Chef Michael Pryor, and restauranteur Brian Wellman invited UGK’s guests into the restaurant for a culinary exploration of North Carolina’s natural bounty. This being the first UGK event in Raleigh, NC, we were thrilled to be able to work with such a talented group that shared our culinary and community-focused philosophy. 


The event, UGK: Unearthed was designed to showcase the best qualities of North Carolina’s farmed products, something that Chef Pryor is used to doing at Cave 1912, as the menu is changed almost daily in order to only utilize what is freshest, most readily available, locally sourced, and in season. This commitment to North Carolina’s local farms is underscored by Chef Pryor’s creative talent, and his ability to readily adjust his menu to what is seasonal and available. 

The menu that was prepared for UGK: Unearthed was likewise a demonstration of this creativity and commitment. 
Kicking off the meal, the welcoming course was kept simple in order to let the real star come forward: the craft cocktail designed specifically for our UGK guests by bar manager, Korey Battles. Accompanying the house-made bread and butter, and a delightful tuna tartare amuse bouche, was the Unearthed Bloody, a libation consisting of Fermented Tomato Water, Fair Game “Flying Pepper” Vodka, freshly squeezed Citrus, and a bit of Ground Pepper
This delicious take on a Bloody Mary was a great introduction to the first course, which also incorporated the house-made tomato water: an Heirloom Tomato Tartare with Muscadine Grape and Tomato Water, Almonds, Lemon Thyme, and Olive Oil Ice. The natural sweetness of the tomatoes shone through beautifully in this gorgeous presentation. Making tomatoes the focal point of the dish was extremely fitting given the evening’s intent to showcase local Carolina produce. 
Fun Fact: According to Dr. William Salmon, an English doctor who wrote Botanologia or The English Herbal in 1710, the first place in the Americas where tomatoes were successfully cultivated was, in fact, the Carolinas. (I can say fairly confidently, however, that Chef Pryor’s preparation of the “love apple,” as the Romans would have called it, was unique to his own culinary vision, and probably much different than the tomato preparations of 300 years ago.)
The second course the Chef Pryor and the rest of the kitchen staff put together for our UGK guests was NC Striped Bass with Country Ham Dashi, Fennel, and Sunflower Shoots. Bringing global influences to a Southern kitchen, Chef Pryor’s country ham dashi utilized a technique that is traditionally reserved for creating a fish stock in Japanese cooking. Instead of the typical flavors of fish and kelp, Chef Pryor’s dashi imparted good salt, and a slight smoke to the Striped Bass. Also, due to the meatier, firmer quality of the fish, the wine pairing for this course was a medium bodied red – Samuel Robert Vintner’s Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014. This wine brought some nice dark fruit flavors to the palate that really rounded out the savory subtleties of the fish. 
Course three brought the heat, literally. Chef Pryor set out “family style” grill plates containing Binchōtan charcoal, on top of which was a Hearth Cooked Stuffed Chicken, served alongside Jus, Desiree Potatoes, Corn Pudding, and a Green Carmen Pepper Sauce. Binchōtan charcoal is known for its long-term diffusion rate, which makes it preferable to a number of chefs. It is made of oak, and is of Japanese origin. The result was a UGK table that was almost like a meal around a campfire, with heat, aroma, presentation, and flavor all culminating in the dish. Because the chicken was cooked sous-vide (literally: under vacuum) prior to being placed above the coals, it remained incredibly juicy and pliable. 
The conclusion to the meal came in the form of a Cantaloupe Parfait, with Honeydew, Watermelon, and Lemon Grass Ice Cream. The watermelon was also briefly condensed sous-vide and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The Parfait was perfectly sweet, highlighting the natural sweetness of the melon involved, not adding other sugars. It was a delightful way to end a meal, and a great first event in Raleigh, NC. 

Keep up with Chef Michael Pryor, Brian Wellman, and the rest of the crew at Cave 1912 on Facebook!
Get behind the scenes and see what’s new and coming up next from the Cave-kitchen on Instagram!
Check out Cave 1912 on Twitter– Maybe they’ve got an event coming up soon!
And, of course, pop in and see for yourself what a commitment to staying local, a love of bringing people together around the table, and superb talent in the kitchen can do for a meal. Reservations and info can be found at 
Special thanks to Bites of Bull City for some great photos of this fantastic evening!

The Chef


Chef Michael Pryor (Cave 1912, Raleigh, NC) designed and prepared the culinary fare for UGK: Unearthed with the help of an outstanding kitchen staff at Cave 1912. Only about one year since opening its doors, Cave 1912 is already recognized as one of the “Culinary Gems” of Raleigh, NC, with Chef Pryor at its culinary helm. 

Chef Pryor attended the Culinary Institute of America for culinary school, after which he interned under Chef Michael Gettier at Antrim 1824 in Taneytown, Maryland. Following graduation, Chef Pryor moved to Frederick, Maryland (his hometown) where he worked at Volt, under the guidance of Chef Bryan Voltaggio. After this, he moved on to work with Chefs Grant Achatz – one of the pioneers of “progressive cuisine” and molecular gastronomy – and Dave Beran at Next in Chicago before heading to Raleigh.

Now at Cave 1912, Chef Pryor continues to demonstrate his creativity, modesty, and talent in a kitchen stoutly devoted to the local sourcing and clean preparation of quality ingredients. 


The Food

Amuse Bouche
Tuna Tartare

Welcoming Course
House Bread Loaves and Butter

Course One
Heirloom Tomato Tartare with Muscadine Grapes and Tomato Water, Almonds, Lemon Thyme, and Olive Oil Ice

Course Two
NC Striped Bass with Country Ham Dashi, Fennel, and Sunflower Shoots

Course Three
Hearth Cooked Stuffed Chicken with Jus, Desiree Potatoes, Corn Pudding, and a Green Carmen Pepper Sauce

Course Four
Melon – Cantaloupe Parfait, Honeydew, Watermelon, and Lemongrass Ice Cream

The Wine

Unearthed Bloody – courtesy of Korey Battles (Fermented Heirloom Tomato Water, Fair Game “Flying Pepper” Vodka, Fresh Citrus, Ground Pepper 

Course One
Les Quatre Tours Rosé
Provence, France 2015

Course Two
Samuel Robert Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, 2014

Course Three
Bodegas San Prudencio DePadre Rioja Red Blend
Spain, 2009

Course Four
Rivata Moscato d’Asti
Piedmont, Italy, 2015