In 2004, Richard Holcomb purchased Coon Rock Farm, a sustainable family farm in Hillsborough, N.C. He also partnered with Sarig and Nancy Agasi to open Raleigh’s Zely & Ritz at 301 Glenwood Ave., #100. Nancy Agasi is the resident wine expert, and Chef Sarig Agasi, who grew up on a small collective farm on the northern coast of Israel, uses the farm’s local organic ingredients to prepare eclectic, culinary works of art. You will find organic heirloom vegetables and heritage breed pasture-raised meat and eggs in many of the beautiful, flavorful dishes. Zely & Ritz is unique because over half of the ingredients come from Coon Rock Farm. The restaurant also supports and buys from over 50 other local farmers.
I had the opportunity to dine with owners Richard Holcomb and Jamie DeMent. Jamie is an Eastern N.C. native who enjoys the simplicity of eating healthy, locally grown food. She started working at Coon Rock Farm several years ago and spends time planting, harvesting and selling farm products. Jamie and Richard were wonderful hosts and encouraged me to try Chef Sarig’s creations with them over a glass of red wine.
We shared a plate of local artisan cheeses served with pears poached in red wine. One of my favorite N.C. cheeses was featured on the plate, Chapel Hill Creamery’s New Moon. The cheese is buttery with a refreshing lemony flavor.
A crowd favorite was the pig in pajamas. Coon Rock Farm’s pasture-raised pork was wrapped in a flaky puff pastry. These bites were served with Crooked Condiment’s Gaelic Ale Mustard using Asheville’s own Highland Brewing Company’s Gaelic Ale. The mustard paired perfectly with the pork and gave the dish a touch of heat and sweet.
I also enjoyed Chef Sarig's hummus and house made pickles. This starter is a staple on the Zely & Ritz menu and was served with olives, hot sauce and pita bread.
After trying a few bites and starter plates, we ordered our main courses and side dishes. There are so many wonderful options at Zely & Ritz, which makes it hard to make a decision! Jamie let me try a bite of her pan seared N.C. flounder with butternut sage sauce. The flounder was flaky and the sauce had a sweet and savory flavor.
I ordered the kataif crusted grouper with Little Herb House sauce for my main course. I enjoyed the texture of the dish and honestly had fun eating. I loved the bright colored, flavorful sauce and the meaty fish.
We also tried two different types of risotto with our main courses. I especially enjoyed the creamy risotto with preserved lemons and butternut squash. The dish was finished with asiago cheese and had unique flavors. I highly recommend this side dish, which is perfect for the cooler winter months.
The crispy grit cake with Chinese cabbage and oyster mushrooms was absolutely delicious. I could tell that the vegetables were fresh from the farm. The dish was beautifully plated and had a wonderful aroma.
Another farm-fresh side we enjoyed was the roasted new potatoes with baby bok choy and fresh herbs. The colors were so vibrant and the side paired nicely with our fish main courses.
Just when I thought it wasn't possible to eat another bite, it was time for dessert. The Elemental Chocolate truffle cake with ginger ice cream was amazing. If you're a chocolate lover, you'll definitely be satisfied. I never wanted this dessert to end.
Zely & Ritz is a wonderful restaurant dedicated to supporting the local food economy. The restaurant would be great for a date night or for a night out with friends. I guarantee you'll enjoy a delicious meal and excellent glass of wine during your visit. Zely & Ritz often hosts special events at the restaurant. One event not to miss is their New Years Eve celebration. Enjoy a glass of bubbly, dancing and a three course meal.