Category Archives: Triangle Area Restaurants

Picnic in Durham

picnic


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!

Rye-not


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.

Restaurant Week – The Piedmont, Durham, NC

piedmont

  • 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 – Revolution, Durham, NC

reveloution


  • Executive Chef and Proprietor: Jim Anile
  • Location: 107 West Main St. Durham, North Carolina
  • Phone: 919-956-9999

Emblem_Triangle2015v4On Friday, January 30th Belle and I were going to DPAC to see 50 Shades the Musical, a parody of the Fifty Shades of Gray series by E. L. James at DPAC. Since it was Restaurant Week, we chose to go to Revolution. We were seated promptly and the two-top table had ample room, with lovely place settings instead of the usual cramped table. The bar was large and very busy. The manager, John Ray, greeted us and I let him know we would be blogging about the restaurant. Our waiter arrived to our table with an unpleasant attitude. Belle cannot eat raw meat, so had a question about the Chicken Fried New York Strip, asking about the doneness of the meat. His response was it was done when the breading was done and there was no way to adjust the cooking of the steak. It was delivered in an “I am better than you” attitude.

After this encounter our orders were taken. I chose the Charred Octopus Salad served with shaved onion, red peppers, smoked paprika and shiso gastrique. The octopus was expertly cooked and married well with the other ingredients. I loved the dish. Belle ordered the Haystack Shrimp, spicy shrimp with a nice aioli. The dish was great; the shrimp was cooked well and the other ingredients complemented and enhanced the flavor of the shrimp. I sampled the ample portion and agreed with Belle that it was a hit. I also ordered the Clams & Pork Belly with coconut in a spicy red curry sauce from the regular menu. The clams were filled with sand and the pork belly was difficult to find.

When our waiter brought our entrées he appeared to have done a 360 turn and his attitude became pleasant. Perhaps it was because we were tweeting out complementary statements regarding the food. We both chose Chicken Fried New York Strip: creamed corn succotash, smashed Yukon potatoes with onion gravy. My steak was perfect with a slight hint of pink. The breading was seasoned well with salt and pepper. I loved the mashed potatoes and gravy. I am usually not a fan of succotash, but found this to be better than the usually succotash, providing a textural element to the dish. Belle enjoyed her steak as well but felt the succotash could have been omitted. We both agreed that the entrée was large enough to be shared by two. We ended the meal by ordering a Chocolate Mousse Cake with a hazelnut almond crust, orange coulis and caramel sauce. I am not a dark chocolate fan, so after one bite I was done. Belle loved the cake and since were going to DPAC, after taking her bite, boxed up both pieces to enjoy at a later time.

Service at a restaurant definitely influences patron/customer’s impression of the meal. The food can be outstanding but if the service is bad, I probably will not return. Perhaps our waiter was having a bad evening, but his attitude did change and the food was outstanding so Belle and I would definitely return.

mary_smUntil Next Time – The Traveler

Restaurant Week 2015 – Little Hen, Apex NC

littlehen


 

  • Executive Chef: Regan Stachler.
  • Location: 5160 Sunset Lake Rd Apex, NC 27539
  • Phone: 919-363-0000
  • Visited: 1/29/15 – 6:30 PM

Emblem_Triangle2015v4My selection for Restaurant Week was the Little Hen. I had read many great reviews on Twitter so thought this would be a great time to sample what it had offer. I had some difficulty finding Little Hen because my GPS and Phone were giving me squirrely directions.

I arrived first, asked about the table and told it was not ready, as Belle and Bad Boy came through the door. The waitress appeared and took us to the table. The restaurant has a hopping bar and the dining area offers an intimate dining experience. I loved the comfortable chairs.

little hen_coolveticaThe restaurant was not crowded, yet service was very slow. Our Waitress told us about the menu and the specials for the evening: left and did not return for quite some time.

We all ordered different things; I had the Charred beets with a brown sugar cider gastrique, which were excellent. All of the ingredients married well together. They were my favorite dish of the evening. Belle ordered the grilled Romaine lettuce with bleu cheese and honey mustard dressing. Bad Boy had the potato soup with a unique flavor from the sweet & sour vanilla-apple puree.

The second course did not go as well. I ordered the NY Strip steak, (an upgrade from the Hanger steak) medium well, with crispy fingerlings, pickled local mushrooms and shallots. When it arrived to the table I received a rare steak. I called the waitress to our table since she seemed to have an aversion for us and I let her know. Later she brought over pork belly with fried Sauer Kraut and sweet and sour slaw as an apology from the Chef.

Belle ordered Grilled Shrimp and grits, with bacon-scallion portabella vinaigrette and hoop cheddar, however Chicken and dumplings were brought to the table. The mistake was corrected and Belle finally received her correct order. The hit of the evening entrees was Chicken and Dumplings consisting of potato gnocchi, braised chicken and chives. The gnocchi were cooked to perfection and chicken well-seasoned. The dish was however, skimpy on chicken.

It was finally time for dessert. Belle and I chose the Vanilla Bean Pannacotta with red wine gelee, an orange reduction and walnut brittle. It appeared from the texture of the Pannacotta that it had not been made that day. The Bad Boy ordered the Cheese Cake with peppercorns. He did not feel the flavors of the cheesecake and the peppercorns complemented each other.

The food, while eating from a limited menu was good, but service was an issue.

We love to promote local businesses. I do have a suggestion for the Little Hen. Work with your wait staff. Our waitress seemed to be preoccupied and we were not a priority. Friendly conversation, checking on the patrons to make sure their dining experience is living up to their expectations and providing good and accurate service will make the diner want to return. It was annoying when the table next to us received complementary dishes and wonderful service and we were ignored as first time diners as well as the others patrons in the restaurant. Restaurant Week is intended to ‘showcase’ popular restaurants in the Triangle. You may only have this one chance to make a good impression, make it work.

mary_smUntil Next Time – The Traveler.

P G Werth’s Restaurant and Market

werth's


pgwerth_logoBad Boy and I first met Chef Hamm at Rebus Works during The Saturday Market where we enjoyed Chef’s excellent omelet made with produce from the market. Chef Hamm also took time to talk with us about his plans for P G Werth’s Restaurant and Market in downtown Raleigh. The restaurant would feature Blue Ridge-inspired cuisine using locally grown foods and the market would feature artisan-baked goods, a coffee bar, gluten-free prepared foods, craft beer, wine and cocktails. We asked Chef Hamm about his choice of name for the new restaurant. He explained Patricia Guy Werth, was a culinary instructor who inspired him.

The Friends have been eagerly awaiting the opening of P G Werth’s for the past few months and we are happy to report the wait is over. The restaurant located on the ground floor of the 927 W. Morgan Street apartment building opened this past Friday night. The next night found The Friends experiencing Chef Gregory Hamm’s latest venture. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation time so we checked out the market and coffee bar as well as absorbed the atmosphere. The restaurant is beautifully done, warm, modern and inviting. P G Werth’s has floor to ceiling windows and faces Morgan Street making it a great place to enjoy your meal and watch the world go by.

After we were seated we began to look over the menu. The Traveler and I were both using the flashlight on our phones to read the menu. The hostess noticed this and turned up the lighting for our table – excellent planning to design the lighting so adjustments can be made for individual tables! We had soon made our selections and were ready to order. For starters The Friends decided to share the Calamari Cocktail and Fried Green Beans. The Traveler picked the Fair Game Apple Tipper Pork Chop, Bad Boy chose Duck, Duck Grits and I went with the Signature Rib eye.

Seeing we were ready to order our waiter, Austin, came over. I think Traveler and I made him a little nervous with all our questions and request; however he took it all in stride. First Traveler, since she is not a big sweet potato fan, wanted to know if she could substitute. Then I wanted to know if I could have the Rib eye prepared medium well not Pittsburgh style and with the pimento cheese on the side not smothering the steak. Austin assured us this could be done. Bad Boy ordered his Duck, Duck, Grits as is. As we were placing our order Chef Hamm delighted all the diners by bringing out complimentary Fried Green Bean appetizers for each table.

fried-beansWe enjoyed the appetizers. The Fried Green Beans with ranch drizzle were our favorite. If you’ve never tried fried green beans it is an experience in itself. Next our entrees arrived “just as we ordered.” Traveler had rosemary potatoes instead of sweet potatoes and my rib eye was cooked to the doneness I requested with the pimento cheese in a side dish. All our dishes were well plated.

The Traveler’s pork chop was moist and tender and the apple tipper glaze enhanced the taste. Bad Boy found the duck breast and leg confit to be moist and tasty. The grits were smooth and velvety with a great flavor. The pork belly kale was a nice compliment for the duck. My steak was cooked exactly to my liking. The lean to fat ratio indicated the high quality of the meat making it a juicy and flavorful steak. Traveler and Bad Boy tasted the pimento chees and said it was A-one.

choc-pieWhen we thought we were near the end, Austin returned to tempt us with the dessert offerings. The Friends decided we would share 3 of these: Cold Oven Almond Pound Cake, Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie and Peanut Butter Cheesecake. We enjoyed all 3 and couldn’t come to a consensus – each having their favorite.

As we were waiting for Uber to arrive for our trip home, Traveler and I meet Zsuzsa, the owner of Moonflour Bakery. Moonflour Bakery offers gluten free artisan baked goods. Zsuzsa’s breads are featured the market at P G Werth’s.

I believe Chef Hamm has hit a home run right from the start terms of concept, menu and atmosphere. I can see this delightful restaurant becoming a popular destination for triangle foodies. I encourage you to pay P G Werth’s a visit.

s_belle_smBelle