Tag Archives: the traveler

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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The Raleigh International Festival – 2014

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mary_smThis past week was the Raleigh International Festival. This was my first time going. I was concerned that the traffic would be bad and there would not be parking. I arrived a few minutes before the 11 o’clock start time, and easily found a parking spot in the garage next to the event. It was a short walk across the street and I was in the venue. I had pre-purchased my ticket and was pleased that there was a short line for us.

I started talking to the woman in front of me. She was from Romania. She stated she had been to the festival yesterday and had returned today. She began telling me about the food. She said her favorite thing from the day before was the Columbia arepas, which are corn cakes made from pre-cooked corn flour, salt and water, cooled then cooked on a griddle. A sandwich is made with chicken or beef. She said there was a great tomato sauce. She said it was the most popular food booth yesterday and that they ran out of food. I knew that I must try it.

Inside there were many booths, some selling items made in their country, while others were informational. Tee shirts were for sale and of course I had to get one. I also purchased a cookbook, which vendors from the previous year had contributed their recipes.

It was time to start looking about what I wanted for lunch. There was so much to choose from. The first booth was an African booth, they had samosas stuffed with either beef or peas. Since I hate peas, I selected the beef and it was wonderful. A soft flakey crust with delicately seasoned beef inside cooked to perfection. Nearby was a Filipino booth. They had a vegetable pancit, made with rice noodles, carrots, onion, cabbage and bell peppers. I was somewhat disappointed because I wanted pancit with beef, pork, shrimp and chicken, like I had when I lived in New Jersey and had many Filipino friends. I have never been able to make it myself, and was hopeful I would get a good sampling. The vegetable was okay, but the other is spectacular. I also wanted a beef lumpia roll which is a Filipino egg roll, this is better than the traditional egg rolls, however all they had was chicken, so I passed.

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There was Thai food, Greek food, French pastries, Iranian food, Japanese food – then I came to the Lebanese booth. I saw they had Kibi on the menu. There are several types of kibi and was happy to find that they had the stuffed shell kibi. The outter shell is made with bulgar wheat and finely ground lamb along with some spices. A ball is formed, then hollowed out in the center to allow for the placement of ground or chopped lamb, onion, pine nuts and seasoning. It is then fried to a nice golden brown. I ordered it, and it looked great. I tasted it with some tzatziki sauce made from cucumber, garlic and yogurt and I felt transported back to one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson, Arizona called the Shish Kabob.   I could taste and smell the humus, baba ganoush a wonderful dip made from egg plants and sesame paste and the meat stuffed grape leaves. I looked for these items, but came away empty handed, but the wonderful kibi was enough.

My next stop was the Columbia booth. I had to try the arepas. However it was not meant to be because, they had to make everything from scratch and would not have the beef ones ready for nearly 1-2 hours. I went away empty handed. The vendor, stated he sold these items out of his home to order, however he did not have any business card to give me.

Next door was a Polish booth who was selling pierogies. I asked what kind he was selling and he stated he had only made the potato and cheese, since they were the most popular. I had gone to a Polish restaurant in New York City, close to Macy’s that had both savory and sweet pierogies, ranging from prunes, to cherry to mushroom to sauerkraut, that were fried with butter and onions.

My final stop was to the Vietnamese booth, to get some bubble tea. This was not the bubble tea that I was accustomed to. This was a strawberry sorbet with some large tapioca at the bottom. It was not too sweet and made a great end to the food sampling.

There were food demonstrations; the one at this time was for Pad Thai. There were also dancing from the various countries and people dressed in their traditional costumes. I was glad that I had stumbled on to this festival and will definitely plan on returning next year.

The Traveler

 

 

 

Jack-the-Cat Visits the Vet

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mary_smThe day for Jack’s surgery arrived on September 4th. Since the Vet’s office did not open early enough for me to drop him off before work, I had to drop him off the night before. It was raining so hard at times I could hardly see the road. Jack was crying and trying to get out of his soft carrier. He hates been locked up. He is happy to ride in the car, if I allow him to roam freely. The problem is he likes to get down by my feet which make it difficult to use the brake and the accelerator.

Suddenly the rain stopped and there was a large rainbow, which was relatively close to the ground. It was still there when I pulled into the Vet’s parking lot. As usual, there was a long wait. I have never gone there without having to wait. They tell me the Vet wants to explain the surgery to me. I told the clerk behind the counter, that it was not necessary, because I understood the procedure. Jack was being neutered. She went back to the Vet and told me I did not have to wait and I was on my way.

When I got home, Bob was so happy. He came up to me and wanted to be picked up, which he has not done for ages. He hopped on the bed and roamed over it, lying in various places. It was if he was telling me he was happy that Jack was gone. I think he hoped it was forever.

September 4th was D-Day for the surgery. I received a phone call around 3pm telling me Jack had done well and was ready to go home. I had some concerns because I was afraid that Bob might lick the incision site. I had them keep him an additional night. Once again I arrive home and Bob seemed like a different cat. He was very affectionate and seemed to be making up for the lost affection, since Jack’s arrival. Bob would run every time Jack came near him. I told Bob that Jack was coming back and he would look up at me with sad eyes as if to say “Why”.

Friday evening, Jack returned. He was full of energy and very happy to be home. He kissed and started kneading me. In the cat world it is referred to as paddling, not sure why. But Bob got on the bed, lay on the other side and held his own. He did not run. I think Bob finally realized that Jack is not leaving and he needs to show him who is boss.

It has been nearly a week, the incision area has scabbed over, Jack shows no ill effects and Bob seems like his old self. He is anxious to get back to trying different foods. I got tickets for the Raleigh International Festival and the “Boys” are ready.

The Traveler.

photo 1Bob

When Mom put Jack in the crate and took him out of the house, I am ecstatic. It is not that I hate him, but there is such a large age difference between us. Jack wants to play and wrestle, because he is seven-months old.   I am 10 years old and I don’t like to play as rough. Sometimes I will really go at him, but he keeps coming back. He has taken over Mom’s bed and that really bothers me. She tries to give me extra attention, but all I can think of is why did you have to get Jack and bring him into my home.

After he returned from the Vet, he had not changed, still full of energy. But I had decided I was no longer going to allow him to rule the roost. Now, I will get on the bed and get affection from Mom whenever I want. At first Jack seemed surprised, now he sits back and leaves me alone when I tell him to bug off.

Jack_smJack

I fought Mom when she tried to put me in Bob’s carrier. But she was too quick and too strong for me. I hate being in a carrier. Bob’s carrier is soft and padded. My carrier is hard. It was raining as she took me to the car. She put me in the front seat so I could see her. I tried to scratch through the mesh on the front of the carrier, but my claws did not cut through. I used my head and feet to push. This got me nowhere. I began to cry and yowl because I was angry.

Mom ignored me, and we continued on our way. She told me we were going to the Vet and I would be spending the night. I think, “What”, why would you make me stay here in this strange smelling place in a hard metal cage? I could not believe she was doing it. At 8 pm, the people took away my food. I love to eat and now I had nothing. It was difficult to sleep.

The next morning, someone comes to my cage. I think they are going to feed me, but they take me out and into a cold room in back. An IV is placed in my left front leg. The next think I remember is being back in my cage. I don’t feel much because they gave me a large shot of pain medication. Now I know what neutering is. They removed my balls. I go back to sleep. I thought Mom was going to pick me up that night, but I had to stay there for another day. I feel well, no pain but I miss the sensation of my balls. I don’t know why She did this to me.

Movie Review for ‘A 100 Foot Journey’

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Since I was not reviewing or eating at food trucks, I went to see the movie, The 100 Feet Journey. While not about food trucks, it a movie about food, change, memories and adaptation. The Kadam family was tragically displaced from their home in India; first moving to England, the settling in France. The father, played by Om Puri, decides to open an Indian restaurant that is located across the street from a well-established French restaurant operated by Madame Mallory played by Hellen Mirren.

Hassan Kadam played by Manish Daval, a young aspiring cook, taught by his mother and self-taught wants to learn to cook French food, while still keeping true to his India roots. His mother had told him scent and taste of food contains the memories of his dead family and friends.

It depicts how change is hard, yet people are adaptable. It made me nostalgic, bringing back memories of the smells of Grandma’s kitchen, my Mom cooking holiday meals and my Dad making coffee and cooking his breakfast after Mom died. I can still smell it all.

While not the best movie I have ever seen, I enjoyed, as did Jack and Bob whom I smuggled into the theatre, since they were bored staying at home. I gave the movie ‘three tires.’ Bob and Jack agreed.

mary_smThe Traveler

Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo – 3rd Edition

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Walking or driving through downtown Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street, you will pass through the business district. Fayetteville Street is tree lined with many benches and tables, giving you an opportunity to relax and enjoy the diversity that has attracted many businesses and residents to call Raleigh, North Carolina their headquarters and home. If, by chance, you are a resident of the greater Triangle Area, you are aware of a myriad of festivals and events that use the Raleigh Downtown district as their backdrop. These events attract thousands of participants from around the state, as well as from around the country. There are several activities to participate in on any given weekend. Once you decide what peaks your interest you can avoid the parking hassles by taking Uber.

For Triangle Street Eats, our vice happens to be food trucks. We have found the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo with its energetic atmosphere and numerous food trucks offering diverse flavors to be an event worth attending, again and again.

Attendees are often left to navigate a labyrinth of food trucks and crowds, in order to sample the wonderful fare offered by nearly 50 venders. There are locally crafted beers that can be sampled as well. When you see how the Downtown District is used as a backdrop for this event, you will understand why this event is so popular. If you haven’t had an opportunity to participate in a Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, and have been meaning to, you have one more opportunity to do so this year on Sunday, October 12, from 1pm – 6pm.

As is typical for larger events, The Friends started to form a plan-of-action a week or so in advance. Since we have sampled fare from many of the food truck participants, we tried very diligently to sample from those we hadn’t tried yet, as well as from a few tried and true. Below you will find the results of our effort, as well as their links. It is important to appreciate some of what we sampled was specifically offered for the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo attendees, as is not necessarily part of their regular menu.


 

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Food Trucks We Visited:

From Virgil’s Jamaica, the Belle and I had sampled the Jerked Chicken before. I enjoyed this flavorful island dish, and asked the Traveler to try it for herself. She said that it was moist and to her liking, but could have used more heat.

From King Creole, we had the blackened pork chop, which again the Belle and myself had sampled at the 2nd Food Truck Rodeo, but the Traveler had not. She commented that it was wonderful in both taste and portion size. She will definitely repeat.

From Hanu Food Truck we sampled the B.S. (Brussel sprouts). They were incredible with a creative medley of flavors. Look forward to having these again, since none of us eat enough greens. We also sampled their duck dumplings, which were delight flavorful, and the dipping sauce was sweet and tangy.

From Parlezvous Crepe, we had a savory special, which is not a regular menu item. It consisted of a delicate crepe, wrapped around smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and onion. Highly recommended by the friends

Dank Burrito Truck offered jerk chicken tacos, which was one of my favorites of the event. The Traveler commented that it was spicy and great tasting. She loved the moistness of the chicken and would definitely eat it again. A glowing review if ever there was one.

We sampled the truffle mac bites from Olio & Aceto before, and had them again at the Raleigh Downtown Food Truck Rodeo. As they were previously, they were to our collective liking and would recommend them to anyone looking for gooey goodness.

From Mama Dukes, we sampled their breaded shrimp. They were tasty but would have preferred more shrimp and less fries and salad. $10 for only 5 shrimp is over-priced.

From Barone Meatball we sampled the crab balls. We collectively determined that they had too much filler, and seemed slightly undercooked.

From American Meltdown, one of most popular food truck in the Triangle, we sampled their Pigs & Figs. It is no wonder that this is one of their more popular sandwiches – very sweet, smooth and moist.

From Gussy’s Greeks, we sampled Greek Lasagna and gyro. The lasagna was not spicy enough. The béchamel sauce was light and fluffy, but lacked flavor. The gyro, on the other hand was very good, loved the meat and sauce.

The sheer amount of food that can be sampled at one of these events can be overwhelming. Try as we did, it was impossible to taste more than we did, even when we paced ourselves. One thing is certain, to experience one of these events first-hand is a must if you want to get a feel for the extraordinary phenomena culture surrounding food trucks, and all things related, like this blog. Stay hungry my friends!

The Traveler, Southern Belle and Bad Boy

 

 

 

Halal Brothers at Park-It in the Market

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mary_smThe Traveler:

During my travels, I have had the opportunity to experience many different types of food. While living in the UP of Michigan, I became friends with a wonderful woman from Pakistan, named Aisha. She was happy to share her culture with me. We would take trips to Milwaukee so she could obtain Halal food items to cook for her family and fortunately for me. I was introduced to wonders of Halal Pakistani cuisine.

When I looked at the list of food trucks that would be at the Holly Springs Food Truck rodeo, I was both surprised and pleased. I knew immediately I wanted to sample and review the Halal Brothers Food Truck and took the lead on deciding what we should order. I could not access the Halal menu from their website so I emailed and received the items which would be served. The truck is operated by, Sameer Cheema, Nabeel Cheema and Dominick Stellato, who have relocated to the Raleigh area from Woodstock New York.

I selected Nihari. Nihari is a Pakistani stew consisting of slow cooked beef or lamb garnished to taste and served with rice and naan. The word Nihar originated from the Arabic word “Nahar” which means “morning” after sunrise Fajr prayers. This dish was usually eaten in the early morning.

Halal’s beef stew was fork tender and very flavorful. It was served with rice, lettuce and tomato. The menu stated it was garnished with ginger, jalapenos and ginger, but I did not find those items in our dish. Never the less it was a great dish, that I will be asking my friend Aisha to share her recipe with me to make at home.

The second dish was going to be Biryani, but regretfully it was not available. This is a delicious Pakistani/Indian rice dish, which is often reserved for very special occasions such as weddings, parties, or holidays such as Ramadan. It has a lengthy preparation, but the work is definitely worth it.

Our next selection was a Seekh kabob made with beef and lamb, served with lettuce, rice tomatoes, pita and sauce. A Seekh kabob is a Pakistani and Indian dish, somewhat similar to a shish kebob, which consist of ground meat and spices pressed on to a skewer and cooked on charcoal stove. These kebabs are traditionally cooked using a tandoor, which is a type of oven popular throughout Pakistan, India and the Middle East. There are other types of ovens and grills can work just as well.

I found the Seekh kabob to be tough and slightly dry. I prefer the kabob made with lamb, they are more tender and flavorful. I prefer a heavier hand on the traditional spices, but I will give the chefs the benefit of the doubt assuming they have been modified for the North Carolina palate.

The Falafel was not available so was given Baingan which is a unique yet tasty way of making eggplants and Saag. Saag can be made from spinach, mustard leaves, finely chopped broccoli, or other greens along with added spices. The dishes tasted very good. The only suggestion I would make, would be to use some type of garnish to make the dish more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A majority of the North Carolinians who attend food truck rodeos are not familiar with the dish.

The Bad Boy and the Belle wanted to sample the beef gyro, the Tawa chicken sandwich and Hummus. The beef gyro needed more sauce. It was an average gyro to my palate. I did not care for the Tawa chicken sandwich. I felt both sandwiches needed more seasoning.

Tawa Chicken is a spicy and succulent quick fix boneless chicken dish that can be prepared in just minutes. Tawa stands for flat-pan or a saucepan. So the literal translation of the name is saucepan chicken. It goes beautifully with fries or potato wedges and some sauce/ketchup or a dip, but can also be served with a simple salad for a healthier twist. This chicken can also be shredded and used as a sandwich filler or a pizza topping. I would suggest adding the salad to their menu. I would also like to see other types of kabobs and roti.

The Hummus was average, once again lacking in seasoning and slightly thick in texture. It was just okay.

I hope the Halal truck will add special items to their menu, since there are so many great Pakistani dishes to sample. I look forward to periodically following this food truck to see if they have followed any of my suggestions

bruce_smBad Boy:

Admittedly, this was my first experience with Halal Pakistani cuisine. I knew beforehand that because of similar spice pallets I had been introduced to, I would find it enjoyable. It could be argued I am always up for a challenge when it comes to cuisine. Reading through the menu, I was both confused, as well as intimidated by what I was getting into. Once I saw the food, I realized there was little about it that was unfamiliar.

The Nihari, a Pakistani stew consisting of slow cooked beef or lamb, reminded me immediately of one of my favorite Cuban dishes, Ropa Vieja, with a similar spice flavoring. I found this dish delightful, and would feel comfortable recommending it to someone familiar with Cuban style food.

The Seekh kabob, which is made with beef and lamb, as in the above dish, resembles more a sausage, than what those of us familiar with kabobs would expect. Though the meat seemed dry, I found it flavorful and distinctive to anything I have had before. I will look forward to sampling Seekh kabob again soon.

The Tawa Chicken, served like a gyro, was one of my favorites. The chunky styled, hearty seasoned chicken went well with a pita wrap, along with a creamy sauce, lettuce and tomato. It was very satisfying, especially if you are a fan of gyros, as I am.

The beef gyro was typical of most gyros, except the meat was spicier and chunky, instead of sliced. The gyro is a very popular food found among food trucks. I suggest you try the beef gyro from Halal Brothers for a culinary comparison. You will not be disappointed.

Side Dishes

The Baingan, a spicy stewed eggplant was surprisingly tasty.

The Saag was not unlike collard or other greens that are popular among residents in North Carolina. I found these a little too mushy for my taste.

The Hummus was uneventful, which is how I feel about Hummus in general anyways.

One of the things that surprised me about the Halal Brothers food truck was the size of it. The thing is huge! The size allows them to provide one of the most diversified menus among other food trucks I have seen. Please take an opportunity to widen your own culinary horizons by visiting Halal Brothers food truck and sampling one or more of the unique fares they offer – I recommend the Nihari. Stay hungry my friends…Bad Boy.

s_belle_smSouthern Belle:

I am familiar with gyros and humus from the Halal Bros Food Truck but I had no idea about other choices available on their menu. I was glad The Traveler made the selections for my introduction to Pakistani cuisine. Nihari and Tawa Chicken were my favorite choices from Halal Bros. The Nihari was served over yellow rice. The meat was very tender and had a pleasant blend of spices that made it very flavorful. The Tawa chicken was spicy and juicy and served as a gyro. Seekh kabob was a combination of beef and lamb flavored with nice spices that I wasn’t used to but liked. Like The Traveler, the kabobs were on the dry side. The beef gyro and humus were average. I feel a little more sauce on both the Tawa chicken and beef gyro would have made them tastier. Since you eat with your eyes first, imagine my surprise when I tasted the unappealing, mush looking Baingan. It had a unique flavor and was very good. Overall, I really enjoyed our choices from the Halal Bros. Food Truck.

bobcat_smBob:

This food made me feel like I was once again living in Michigan. I liked the beef gyro and the Seekh kabob. They were very tasty. I loved the stewed beef and nearly managed to eat it all before Jack ran me off. I did not bother trying the chicken, humus or vegetables. Jack does not know it, but he is scheduled for neutering on September 4. Hehehe!

Jack_smJack:

I ate everything, but did not really care for the eggplant, spinach or hummus. I loved the chicken, beef and the kabob. I ate part of Bobs. I am a growing boy and need lots of food. Bob is old, fat and grumpy. I think Mom likes me best.


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Park-it in the Market Food Truck Rodeo at Holly Springs

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Food truck rodeo events are springing up everywhere, every weekend. It is amazing how this concept has become such a phenomenon throughout the Triangle area. What seems to be just as amazing is the diversity of food that can be found at each one. Belle as usual discovered the food truck rodeo, Park-It in the Market Food Truck Rodeo, to be held at the Holly Springs Farmer’s Market. What was unique about this one was that it combined a food trucks with their Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market. The market was filled with venders selling homegrown fruits, vegetables, flowers, mushrooms, soaps, food and more for visitors. It is also interesting to note that this will be an annual event, yet another first!

At first, it seemed that the attendance was hampered by a light drizzled that lingered in the morning. As the weather improved, a crowd started to form. Since the rodeo started at 9 am, we headed straight to the food trucks to check out our choices for breakfast. Belle and the Bad Boy got in line for waffles. Having waiting for some for the opportunity to sample the waffles prepared by Belgian Waffology, the Belle and Bad Boy ordered the sweet strawberry waffles. This food truck has one of the best following in the Triangle, and it is no wonder. Golden, crispy and delicate, they provide a delectable medium for strawberries and whipped cream. The Traveler on the other hand wanted something more savory. At Big Mike’s BBQ, she found Big Mike grilling a homemade sausage for himself and asked him to fix one for her too.

While dining, Belle, The Traveler and Bad Boy shared a table with Tamara Ward, the Communications Specialist for the Town of Holly Springs, and one of her young sons. They were enjoying the ‘choco waffle,’ another one of Belgin Waffology’s specialties that infuses chocolate right into the waffle itself. We took a minute to share our thoughts on our choices. Like Belle and Bad Boy, Tamara and her son enjoyed the hearty sweetness of their waffle choices. The Traveler shared that the sausage was seasoned well, with the right amount of heat and she was enjoying her breakfast sausage biscuit. The friends also used this time to finalize plans for the rest of the day. The Traveler headed off for an appointment and would be joining Belle and Bad Boy later for lunch. We collectively had planned on enjoying breakfast, then get a modest sampling from Halal Bros, a Pakistani inspired food truck to have for lunch and to use in our next review, coming out later in the week.


 

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Belle and Bad Boy decided to take time to stroll through the market before placing orders for lunch. They took home handmade soaps, award winning baklava and cinnamon buns to have with Sunday morning coffee. After making these purchases, Belle and Bad Boy headed over to put in the orders for The Friends’ lunch at Halal Bros and Valentino’s for pale ale poppers as appetizers. These poppers definitely lived up to their reputation of being hot and flavorful.

The morning was a great way to spend a Saturday morning in a quaint town talking with people and appreciating small town life.

The Traveler, Belle and Bad Boy.