Category Archives: Chronicles

Picnic in Durham

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I have been waiting for Ben Adams, Wyatt Dickson and Green Button Farm’s Ryan Butler to announce the opening of their new Restaurant, Picnic, with great anticipation.  I have hounded them to tell when they would start serving.  This past week I received an email inviting me to their soft opening for friends and family.  I made sure I could bring Bruce and Linda and we made our plans to meet in Durham.

The atmosphere is lively and casual.  The tables are sized nicely and the chairs are comfortable. The enticing smells coming from the kitchen fill the air. We perused through the limited menu and select three appetizers to start.  Bruce selected the “Picnic” wings with a spicy pepper jelly glaze.  We found the wings to be sweet and tangy, well-seasoned and tasty but for Non-Carolinians did not find the wings to be spicy, but enjoyed them just the same.

The fried green tomatoes were delicious.  Linda and I are true connoisseurs of fried green tomatoes and were quite pleased.  The sauce; a creamy Cajun dressing was outstanding and we asked for more! Even Bruce, who is not a fan of fried green tomatoes thought they were good.  Hats off to the Chef.

I ordered fried oysters.  I love oysters and these did not disappoint.  They were succulent and well prepared.  The Cajun dressing complemented the oysters as it did the tomatoes.  I would definitely order them again.

Bruce ordered the Smoked Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  I had eaten the fried chicken at a pop up dinner at Green Buttons Farm and knew how good it was.  It was moist and tender with a crunchy crust.  It was paired with Creamy Mac & Cheese and slaw, made with red cabbage, green onion and a vinegar based dressing.

Linda ordered the Pulled Pork Plate with Brussel sprouts and French Fries thrice cooked.  The pork was tender.  The Brussel sprouts were excellent.  The fries were crisp on the outside and not greasy.  I ordered the Pulled Pork Plate with Creamy Mac & Cheese and slaw, made with red cabbage, green onion and a vinegar based dressing.

Linda wanted to try the chocolate Chess Pie so asked for a piece to go.  I am sure it tasted as wonderful as it looked.

Our waitress, Christine, was able to keep with the crowd and demands of her customers.  For a soft opening, Picnic did well.  As with any new restaurant there will be growing pains and I am sure Picnic’s staff and owners are up to the challenge.

As we were enjoying our meal, other customers were lined up outside of the door.  Friends and family were excited to try the excellent offerings of Ben and Wyatt.  The bar was stacked three deep with patrons.  Thursday night, Picnic was the place to be.  No doubt under the guidance of Ben and Wyatt; their well-chosen location at 1647 Cole Mill Road, Durham, NC; this will be a nightly occurrence.  Congratulations!

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Farina Neighborhood Italian – Raleigh, NC

farina-logoThe Friends had been hearing the buzz about the new Italian restaurant, Farina, by chef-owner Nunzio Scardo, who also owns the Driftwood Southern Kitchen. Both are located in the Lafayette Village, off Falls of Neuse Road.  We loved the food, service and ambiance of the Driftwood and had high expectations for Farina.

We loved their mission statement:  Farina is a casual, neighborhood spot serving up delicious, handmade American-Italian fare. We want you to feel right at home dining with us. Don’t worry, we’ll even clean up and do the dishes. Enjoy a sampling of our small plates, a wood fired pizza, fresh handmade pasta or a glass of vino from our eclectic list. Dining with us should bring you right back to those Sunday family dinners at Nana’s.

pizza-kitchenSaturday at 7pm, the restaurant had many open tables, which surprised us.  We always like speaking with the staff, and quickly learned the wait staff were employees of the previous Italian restaurant at this site.  In fact, the Hostess referred to the restaurant by its previous name Paparazzi.  She was not familiar with the menu and told us to speak with the waitress.  This was a new menu, but management needs to train the wait staff appropriately.

The waitress let us know that she had worked at Paparazzi as well.  She had some familiarity to the menu and gave suggestions on what she had eaten.  But through the course of the evening we learned the reason Farina charges $2.00 for their bread is that they wanted to save money.  They had originally charged $3.00 but lowered the price.  If they offered complimentary bread, they would have to charge more for the entrees.

The room was very dark and there were no candles on the tables.  I pulled out my handy IPhone flashlight in order to read the menu.

octipiI started with the Octopus salad.   It was expertly prepared and tastedgoatcheese lovely! Belle ordered the Baked Goat Cheese.  The goat cheese was ample and well prepared, but there were only two crostini’s on the plate.  The ratio to the crostini to the goat cheese was unbalanced.  We like to share our food, so Belle asked for more crostini.  The waitress brought only one.  She later told us that we should have requested a specific number of how many was wanted.  I assumed they wanted us to pay the $2.00 and order bread.

IMG_2031The waitress had raved about the braised short ribs, so I ordered IMG_2033it.  I received one piece of meat that looked like a chunk of roast beef.  I counted 10 undercooked gnocchi with little sauce.  I could not find the Gorgonzola cheese in the sauce.  I also order ordered heirloom tomatoes with Barrata and vegetable pesto.  This was my favorite part of the meal.

rigitonniBelle ordered Rigatoni with grilled chicken, rosemary, goat cheese andraviolli parmesan cream.  She felt it was too heavy and under season.  Badboy ordered Melina’s lemon cheese ravioli, topped with crab and heirloom tomatoes.  Badboy found it delightful, although skimpy on the crab.  He also ordered the chocolate and Nutella Tiramisu.   He thought it was awesome.

The manager was not circulating among the diners.  Typically in a new restaurant you want to make your diners feel welcomed and appreciated so you chat with everyone, looking for input, feedback and critiques. The owner needs to look at what makes the Driftwood so successful and apply it to Farina.  We support local businesses and wish Farina luck, but they have a lot of work to do to live up to the standards set by the Driftwood.

mary_smUntil Next Time…Traveler

Rye Bother!

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rye-bar-and-southern-kitchen-north-carolina-logoRestaurant Week in the Triangle is the opportunity for local restaurants to showcase their food and what they have to offer perspective customers and their faithful followers.   WRONG! The three- friends made the mistake of selecting the Rye Bar and Southern Kitchen at the Marriott in Raleigh.

We Ubered to Rye’s for our reservation. We were immediately seated and our waitress Katie was outstanding. She was polite, attentive and knowledgeable about the food on the menu. She told us they were trying new selections for the summer menu. The lightening over the table was wonderful.

We decided, after studying the menu, to order the Sweet and Spicy Calamari and the NC Nachos to start. We typically share and sample the various dishes to make sure we are not biased on our review.

Sweet and Spicy Calamari described as fried and tossed with house pickles and sweet chili aioli. It was definitely not what we expected. We were not sure the calamari was fried, because it was hard to identify in the serving vessel. After one bite it was placed to the side. We informed the waitress we did not like the dish.

The Carolina Nachos were edible, but nothing special.

Belle selected the BBQ Corn Waffle, described as smoked pork with honey-braised kale. It was difficult to eat due to being served on a single corn waffle, and because of the cloying sweetness. The ingredients did not marry well. The dish was also not eaten.

For her entry, Belle chose the Heritage Farms Pork Skirt Steak with smoked pimento cheese grits, mustard glazed collards and jalapeno marmalade. The kitchen was accommodating by substituting chard carrots with honey and goat cheese for the collards. However there was no goat cheese to be seen and the carrots had no flavor. The pork was sweet and developed a bitter after taste. This entrée was not eaten as well.

IMG_2456For dessert, Belle chose the chocolate jar, consisting of various layers of sweet chocolate, whipped cream and dark chocolate. It tasted good and was the only dish that was completely eaten.

Badboy chose the Zucchini Fritter with Red Pepper jam. The fritter was raw in the center. It was inedible, and was left like so many samplings of the evening – to be taken away untouched.

Badboy selected Honey BBQ chicken with dirty rice and green beans. He liked the flavor of the chicken and the green beans but felt the Dirty Rice was lacking in seasoning. He ate the chicken, leaving the rice.

IMG_2455For dessert he chose the Lemon Ice Box pie. It was definitely the best dish of the evening. The lemon flavor was perfect!

I selected the Fried Okra with Mustard Aioli. The fried okra lacked seasoning but since I was hungry, I ate, leaving the over powered Aioli behind.

I chose the Heritage Farms Pork Skirt Steak with smoked pimento cheese grits, mustard glazed collards and jalapeno marmalade. The pork was sweet, but developed a bitter after taste – same as Belle’s. The collards were bitter as well. The pimento cheese grits were bland and tasteless. I did not eat the entrée.

The waitress told the Supervisor, Caitlyn Walker, we had not been pleased with our meals. She was polite, listened to what we had to say. The waitress had checked with her to see if the Chef/General Manager would speak to us. Ms Walker told us that Chef Michael Rigot had gone home for the evening. Imagine our surprise when the Chef came to the nearby table to meet an employee’s family. After some prompting, we determined that he refused to talk to us.

The waitress brought our bill and we paid. I asked to speak with the supervisor again. Instead the Restaurant Manager, John Herbert, came to our table. He referred to us as foodies, implying we were trying to get a free meal. He asked if he compted our meal, would this buy him a good review. I quickly informed him no, that we would write up the dining experience as it happened. He then told us that dining was a hit-or-miss experience and tonight for us it was a miss and to have a good evening.

I have stayed at Marriott hotels, eaten in Marriott restaurants and stayed in Marriott resorts and have never experienced such rude and condescending behavior or the poor quality of food and customer service. We three friends will not be returning to Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen. I have contacted the Marriott Corporation notifying them of our horrible dining experience and have agreed to send a copy of the blog.

While cooperate Marriott cares, Rye management has no concept of good customer service or satisfaction.

King’s Authentic Philly at Nickelpoint Brewing

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UnknownIn my continuing series of pairing food trucks with local breweries, I have chosen to sample King’s Authentic Philly with Nickelpoint Brewing Company. As random as some of these pairings might seem, I selected this one because the Traveler had met Nicklepoint’s co-owner, Shaluka Perera, at a recent Competition Dining Event the previous week, where Nicklepoint Brewing exhibited several of its crafted beers for those fortunate enough to attend. Shaluka seemed eager to grant us at Triangle Street Eats, unadulterated access to his establishment, for the purposes of this informative write-up.

The name ‘Nickelpoint’ loans itself for the nearby neighborhood of Five Points, to which it is located at 506 Pershing Rd, Raleigh. This location provided Nickelpoint with a convenient location for nearby residents, as well as opportunity to grow and expand. They are currently a 20-barrel microbrewery. Bruce Corregan, Nickelpoint’s other co-owner and brew master, told us about how they plan on developing a canning operation in the foreseeable future. He also express that he would be developing new and original brews for thirsty patrons to enjoy – pushing the envelope of creativity and diversity as it relates to brewing.

One of the more interesting aspects I found of Nickelpoint was that Bruce’s son, Braeden, was working to develop soft drinks – currently root beer and an orange-cream soda – to offer to patrons as well. Belle and I sampled these, and found them to be unique and outstanding. I hope that young Braeden continues to develop original flavors for Nickelpoint’s growing fans and followers.

Unknown-1After looking over the food trucks that frequent Nickelpoint, I had decided that King’s Authentic Philly would be my choice of fare for this pairing. Especially when you consider that I had yet to experience their spin on this remarkable sandwich, which is a Philly staple. Once I had made my pairing, and tweeted-out about my next adventure, I got an immediate response from King’s Authentic Philly to pair Nickelpoint’s Vienna Lager, with their Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The pairing of a hearty, handcrafted lager and a rendition of a classic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich with jalapeño peppers and Pepper Jack Cheese? It was like they knew me – how perceptive! We met the owners of King’s Authentic Philly, John and Barbra Kingston, and found them to be dedicated and friendly, with a passion for food in general, and obsessed with all things Philly…especially cheesesteak!

Belle sampled the ‘Philly’ a more traditional version of the classic Philly, with Provolone cheese. The sandwiches were outstanding, with ample heat from the jalapeño peppers and pepper jack cheese for my Caribbean-based palate, which I extinguished between bites with the Vienna Lager. This experience was warm and friendly. You can enjoy Kings Authentic Philly for every first and third Wednesday at Nickelpoint Brewing for yourself.

I feel that I should mention that there are a few events scheduled for Nickelpoint Brewery that involve beer pairing. The first, celebrating NC Beer Month, will be hosted by Manna, another food truck that frequents Nickelpoint’s establishment. This event will be held on April 6th, from 7 to 9pm. Go here to get more information and tickets. Also, Nickelpoint has bruce_smplanned a beer pairing with Midtown Grille for sometime in April as well, but as of posting, the details have not been made available. Stay Hungry My Friends…Badboy.

Relay Foods – A Different Kind of Food Truck

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Operations.TrucksRelay Foods is an innovative online grocery company with a mission to bring the best in local produce, sustainable foods and everyday groceries directly to their customers. Relay offers about 8,000 products in their catalog; 30% of the catalog is sourced locally to the markets they serve. With simple online ordering and convenient home delivery or free pick up, Relay Foods is changing the way people get their groceries, simplifying the process and raising the standards for local quality. Launched in Charlottesville, VA in 2009, Relay Foods has quickly grown to serve much of Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metro areas. Now they are growing their market in the Triangle Area with pick-up sites in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville and Cary.

The Friends discovered Relay Foods at Pop-Up Sunday Market and signed up for their promotional offer. We were very pleased with our first experience and found Relay Foods to be a dynamic online grocery company. First we “shopped” at Relay Foods online from our home computer (you can also use you mobile device). After our cart was filled, our order was hand bagged, making sure of freshness, cleanliness and accuracy. It was then placed on one of the Relay trucks to be delivered at one of the many pick up spots.

Recently Relay Foods has added a new meal planning service that takes the ease of shopping with Relay one step further. With the meal planning, you can shop by meals rather than individual ingredients. There are several different meal plans with 3-4 meals in each plan. You can pick and chose meals from different plans, making menu planning a snap! For now, this service is still in beta mode; that means Relay is giving customers access to it in small groups. Relay Foods reached out to The Friends to see if we would like to participate in the beta testing. We were excited and happy to take part in this.

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“The Meal Plan Beta Test”

IMG_2010We planned to do this for one of our Saturday at-home-dinners. Last weekend, Traveler and I tried out one of the meals from “Flavors to Fall in Love With” meal plans. Traveler selected the Simple Strip Steak with Mushroom Bacon Risotto meal. Relay Foods home delivery service brought our order right to the door late Friday afternoon. I could hardly wait to unpack our order see what we had to work with. I unpacked our groceries to take an inventory making sure we had everything called for in the recipes. After verifying we had everything needed, I put it away.

IMG_2027When Traveler arrived Saturday afternoon, we reviewed the recipes from the Relay meal plan and made our game plan for the Simple Strip Steak with Mushroom Bacon Risotto dinner from Relay Foods. Since the steak needed to marinate for at least 2 hours, we made the simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, rubbed it on the steak and set it aside to rest for two hours. Using simple seasonings enhanced the rich pure flavor of this great steak.

IMG_1487According to our game plan, Traveler would take pictures and tweet out our prepping and cooking of the meal. Since the Mushroom Bacon Risotto would take longer, I would prep for and cook the risotto so Traveler would have time to do plenty of tweeting. As I finished up the risotto, Traveler would prepare the Strip Steak. Our planning and timing of meal prep and cooking was spot on. Both the steak and risotto came off at the same time and we plated a very eye-pleasing meal. We found the meal to be as tasty as it looked.

IMG_2034Traveler and I enjoyed our experience with Relay’s Meal Plan. Shopping by meals rather than individual ingredients is very convenient. You don’t have to worry about finding out you have forgotten something when you begin to prepare the meal because Relay’s Meal Planning has taken care of this. We found the recipes easy to follow using simple cooking techniques to complete a delicious meal.   Traveler and I recommend giving Relay Foods Meal Planning a try. It’s great for busy people on the go.

s_belle_smBelle

 

Restaurant Week – The Piedmont, Durham, NC

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  • Executive Chef: Ben Adams
  • Location: 401-B2 Foster St. Durham, NC 27701
  • Phone: 919-683-1213

Emblem_Triangle2015v4Piedmont Restaurant in Durham was the last designation for The Friends during their Triangle Restaurant Week adventure. Piedmont is known for using local, organic and sustainable NC products. According to their Facebook page Piedmont states, “Our food is inspired by seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors.”

Ben Adams is the chef at Piedmont. By chance earlier in the week, Traveler had attended one of the Trial-by-Fire events in the Triangle NC Competition Dining Events where Chef Adams was one of the competing chefs. In his bio for this event, Chef Adams says, “My cooking style is modern American, refined comfort, seasonally driven and local.” The dishes Chef Adams creates are innovative and exemplify the farm to table concept done right.

logo-smallWe took a few minutes to look over the menu and make our selections. Piedmont’s Restaurant Week menu was varied and large enough to allow us each to select something different and share tastings around the table. During the NC Competition Dining event Traveler met Jennifer Noble Kelly, the publicist for Piedmont Restaurant, and shared that Piedmont was one of our choices for Restaurant Week. Jennifer told Traveler to let her know when we would be dining at Piedmont. Traveler made sure Jennifer knew we were on our way. To our surprise we were treated to additional appetizers Pan-seared scallops and house-made fettuccini with NC blue crab, trout roe with a smokey crème fraiche off the regular menu. The scallops were seared to perfection and locked in the tender juices. The fettuccini had the most delicate sauce that tasted fantastic.

The Traveler choices for the night were fried NC oysters for a starter and Smoked spiced-rubbed Green Buttons Farm’s pork chop accompanied by Shotgun Betty-braised cabbage and pine roasted fingerlings. The pork chop was juicy and flavorful and the cabbage cooked to perfection.

I decided on Lil’ Farm’s organic greens followed by spice-crusted NC flounder with pine-roasted fingerlings and braised fennel with a smokey fumet. The flounder was cooked just right – light and flaky.

Bad Boy selected marinated Heeks Farm beets with house-made ricotta and blackened NC Catfish with Carolina Gold hoppin’ john and braised collards. Bad Boy said the catfish was blackened to his liking and the sides added great flavor to the plate.

All of us felt the spices were used to arouse the palate but left plenty of room for the natural flavors of the food to come through. Also the chef’s mixings of flavors and textures added interest to each plate.

As Traveler and I were discussing the desserts, Bad Boy made the decision for us. Since there were three desserts and three of us, we would just order one of each:

  • Horchata semifreddo, avocado-coconut sorbet with sweet potato-tamarind sauce
  • Sticky Date Cake, salted caramel ice cream, dulce de leche
  • Coconut cashew cake, salted caramel-chocolate sauce with chocolate cashew ice cream

Each of the deserts was delicious but the Horchata semifreddo was our favorite.

The Piedmont is located in a refurbished 1930s Nash dealership. The environment is hip and urban complimented by a simple décor, high ceilings and soft lights. The ambiance is cozy, intimate and comfy. This can be attributed to General Manager, Crawford Leavoy’s belief in “guest-focused attention.” He wanders throughout greeting and engaging diners. When Crawford stopped by our table, he and Traveler discovered they had something in common – Traveler had worked in the town Crawford was born in Louisiana.

We had amazing service making our meal extremely enjoyable. Alexis, our server, was knowledgeable, friendly and attentive but not hovering. She could easily explain ingredients, techniques used in preparing the dishes as well as the flavorings and paring of the foods.

The Friends rated their meal and evening at Piedmont their best overall experience of Triangle Restaurant week. The fresh meal prepared with attention to detail and severed in a great restaurant environment didn’t disappoint. The three of us left with smiles on our s_belle_smfaces and looking forward to a return visit.

 

Restaurant Week 2015 – Lunch at The Big Easy, Raleigh, NC

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  • Executive Chef: Frank Ferlo
  • Location: 222 Fayetteville St. Raleigh, NC 27601
  • Phone: 1-919-832-6082
  • Date Visited: 1/31/15 at noon

Emblem_Triangle2015v4Initially, the friends had intended to have lunch at the recently opened restaurant, Bolt Bistro. When we arrived, we found it unexpectedly closed for lunch. Befuddled, we were determined to find a nearby location participating in the Triangle Restaurant Week. In dining, as in life, always have a contingency plan. Across the street we saw, The Big Easy, a restaurant that we had originally selected for our list of eatery to try, but only offered dinner samplings for restaurant week.

“Now is as good a time as any,” I remember telling Belle and Traveler, followed by “Laissez les bon temps roulez!”

dragonflymarket_1373571988_140As you could guess, their specialty is Cajun cuisine, indigenous to Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta region of the US. I must warn you, their menu,whether lunch or dinner, is vast and diverse. Since this was lunch, we selected an appetizer of fried oysters and sandwiches: shrimp Po’ Boy for Belle, oyster Po’ Boy for the Traveler and a muffuletta for me. As luck would have it, I have wanted to try a muffuletta for some time. This sandwich is served on muffuletta bread, which is round in fashion, with a hearty crust. It is filled with a variety of meats; mostly consisting of sweet soppressata, mortadella, capicola and provolone cheese, and topped with olive tapenade and giardiniera. Thank God I could order a half-a-sandwich. The size of this portion is almost disturbing to a light luncher. All of the food was well prepared, and the staff was pleasant and knowledgeable. If you enjoy, or have ever been temped to sample Cajon food, I would recommend The Big Easy.

As fate would have it, The Big Easy will be celebrating Mardi Gras in block-party fashion on February 17, from noon till 10 pm. This event will have street performers, music, as well as several food trucks from around the Triangle, including:

For more information, go here.

bruce_smLet the Good Times Roll – Badboy