High-end egg salad makes for a heavenly revelation
By Jason Frye
The first time I had egg salad, I was disgusted. I was also 8, and the very thought of mayonnaise and chopped-up pickles and egg yolk all mashed up and mixed in with little chunks of boiled egg whites was enough to make me want to throw a glass of punch in someone’s face (I watched Dynasty and Falcon Crest with my grandmother and thought throwing a drink in someone’s face was a perfectly reasonable response to many situations) and storm out of the Crooked Creek Church of Christ’s Fellowship Hall. I did not. Instead, I took a scoop of egg salad (because my mom told me to) and ate a tentative bite (because my mom told me to) and immediately said what I thought it tasted like (my mom told me that was not a polite word to say in church, or in public, for that matter).
Flash forward to the present day. My wife and I are sitting in PinPoint with guests from out of town. We look over the menu and pick out the appetizers we want and one catches my eye: egg salad.
Curious. Egg salad. A restaurant of this caliber serving egg salad.
I mean, PinPoint is a Southern restaurant, and egg salad has been a staple at every church dinner, wedding or funeral I’ve ever attended from West Virginia (arguably not the South, but arguably Southern, a topic for another day) to North Carolina (most definitely Southern). Chef Dean Neff has a pedigree steeped in Southern cooking. And it was just enough of a curve ball from our other appetizers — oysters, a cheese plate, pickled things — to make things interesting. So I ordered it.
When it came, I was delighted to see the heightened economy of Chef Neff on display even on such a simple dish. The knife-work on the egg was perfect, almost like it was milled on some computer-controlled machine. The ratio of pickle to egg to seasoning was spot on. The cornichon so delicately sliced and splayed across the top with a smattering of fresh herbs was the ideal garnish. The ratio of egg salad to toastlettes was exactly right. And the dish presented beautifully with the egg salad not in a scoop or mound (or gloppy spoonful thwacked onto a paper plate like my first egg salad experience), but a proud, squat cylinder in the right proportion to the plate, surrounded by the tiny toast and topped with that cute little cornichon.
I hated to break up the scene and eat it, but it had to be done.
A swipe of the knife and I had enough to top one of the miniature toasts. (Even that was beautiful and all I did was wipe egg salad on toasted bread.) When I popped it in my mouth, it was everything that first church dinner egg salad was not.
It was moist; the seasoning was there but not forcefully so; the pickle lent crunch, sourness, a bit of sweet to the bite. You could taste every element and they were all in the exact right proportion.
I wanted to hop in a time machine, bring the dish to that church dinner and hand it to my 8-year-old self and the whole congregation even though I knew that was a bad use of a time machine. But I wanted to do it anyway because PinPoint’s egg salad is the egg salad by which I will forevermore measure all other egg salads against.
Jason Frye is a regular Salt contributor and convert to the Church of Egg Salad; keep track of where and what he eats by following him on Instagram : @beardedwriter.