Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guglhupf Pre-Wedding Lunch

Before the wedding on Saturday, there was a lunch at Guglhupf that was just wonderful. The party was on the second floor and they don't have an elevator, so keep that in mind if you are attending an event and stairs aren't an option. Fortunately, they have a grand covered patio and we just stayed downstairs. Here you can see a plate of food from the buffet, which I thought was just gorgeous. I was really impressed. The turkey sandwich was made with their house-baked bread and was very tasty.

This mango mousse cake was very good, indeed.

Their fruit tarts are simply amazing. Overall, sitting outside and talking with my friend while eating all this glorious food was extremely pleasant. I'd been to Guglhupf for brunch only once before, but I clearly need to make it a habit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Papas Grille for a Rehearsal Dinner

...and I'm back! I've been on vacation for the last several days. I didn't go anywhere, but I had 1 1/2 house guests. I accompanied one of my visitors to a wedding and the rehearsal dinner was at Papas Grille, about which I'd heard wonderful things ever since they opened, in 1994, but I'd never been there. They serve Greek and Mediterranean dishes, but most of them start just at the high edge of my typical price range. We sat in the more spacious of their private rooms, which was nice and quiet. The entree I choose was chicken breast "crepinette" stuffed with spinach and feta, with a port wine reduction sauce and served with creamed potatoes and mixed vegetables.
Cheesecake is wasted on me, since I'm not terribly fond of it, but this was beautiful and the fruit was perfect. The cake contained slivers of macadamia nuts, which generated lively conversation at our table as we attempted to identify the flavor and texture.

I really enjoyed the chicken and would love to go back to try out other items on their menu soon. At least, I certainly don't want to wait another 14 years to try it again!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

CIT Showcase With Video

I had a blast working at this year's CIT Instructional Technology Showcase today. This is the third showcase since I started working for CIT and I think it was definitely the best so far. Everyone was encouraged to take photos and video and tag them with dukecitshowcase2008. We also handed out flip video cameras during the conference, so you can really get a sense of what it was like to talk with people throughout the day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Surrealistic Sustainability

The last time I was at Shade Tree Coffee, I found out that their plastic cups are 100% compostable, because they are made from corn. I'd never noticed. This morning, I decided to look at Saladelia's cups at the Perk, because that's where I felt guilty about ordering beverages in plastic cups most frequently. By golly, it was the very same kind of NatureWorks corn polymer cup. I haven't checked yet, but I'm betting the ones from Twinnie's are made from corn, too.
I also noticed that it said on the bottom that it should only be used for cold beverages. I guess that didn't register.

This afternoon, I decided to refill my cup with water from our water cooler. I prefer drinking water if it it's lukewarm, rather than cold. Our water cooler has buttons for both hot and cold water, so I usually add some hot water and it's fairly random which I put in the cup first. This afternoon, I added the hot first and the cup instantly melted and deformed. It was really cool, as you can see. You couldn't set it on a flat surface anymore and I wasn't about to drink the water afterwards, but my plants were happy.

Now, I haven't done enough research to determine whether or not the corn being grown to create the NatureWorks polymers are displacing other food crops or trees in the rain forest are being cut down in order to grow it, as is apparently the case for corn destined for bio-fuels, but there is no doubt in my mind that we have to find some solution for all of the plastics that are being created that aren't being recycled and are left to accumulate in the oceans, landfills or worse. I also now know that melting your cup is very entertaining.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black and Blue

I can't resist sharing some of the photos that I took in the last day and a half or so. This German Iris is ready to be planted in my yard.

A Georgia O'Keefe version was simply required.

This is a double columbine, Aquilegia 'Black Barlow', in my garden.

For reference, this is a single columbine, which is in a gorgeous arrangement in the Technical Services area of the library. I think columbines are one of the most wonderful and interesting species of flowers that I've ever seen (or painted).

Sunday, April 20, 2008


As most of you know, I try to avoid chain restaurants, but I do make a few exceptions. I like Rockfish, at Southpoint. It has just over a dozen locations in Texas and the one restaurant in Durham. That's comparatively small compared to almost two thousand Applebee's locations.
One reason that I'm willing to tolerate such a restaurant is because the food is actually pretty good.

They have good fried oysters (even though I don't believe they are on the menu any longer, you can still order them) and very good calamari. As you may have noticed, I've been on a fish and chips kick recently, so I ordered the Alaskan fish and chips for lunch yesterday. The fish was quite good and crispy, as were their fries. I like their apple cider slaw, too. All in all, I was very satisfied with my meal. It was way more than I could possibly eat, which accommodated a scavenger across the table from me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ACME Blogging : Crab Cakes and More

I recently went to ACME Food & Beverage Co. and had yet another delicious and beautiful meal. My Most Faithful Reader had their fantastic crab cakes, which were served with citrus beurre blanc over Swiss chard, butternut squash and sweet corn.

I had spaghetti squash, with roasted beets, goat cheese and corn. It was incredibly good and surprisingly filling. The goat cheese was very rich, so I didn't have room for dessert.

ACME has started getting in soft shell crabs for the weekends, so I'm looking forward to having some of them soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shade Tree Coffee : Crepes!

I finally got my wish and managed to get over to Shade Tree Coffee to try their crepes. I highly recommend wishes that are exclusively food related. Here is what my Most Faithful Reader's crepe looked like. It was filled with roasted chicken and provolone. It was very good and the chicken was extremely tender.

This was my Second Most Faithful Reader's crepe, revealing the ham and provolone contents. This was great, too. I had spinach and artichoke hearts with gruyere in mine and it was wonderful. Since it was lighter, I was able help myself to samples of my FR's crepes. All of our crepes also contained the parmesan bechamel sauce.

Finally, we shared a dessert crepe, which was quite a finale. I picked the sugar, butter and cinnamon filling and it was just amazing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Random Wednesday Dog Blogging

"Oh, God. She has her camera out again. Remind me why it was that I wanted her to visit?"

"Wait! Does she have something in her hand? Does she? Does she? Is it hamburger?"


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Orange Blossom White Iced Tea and Fake Meatballs

I went to the Refectory yesterday and I decided to try one of their bottled teas made by the Republic of Tea. It was an Orange Blossom White Iced Tea, which was very good. It made me think, "Now *this* is what flavored water should taste like!" Seriously. The beauty of it is that it contains caffieine, too. It had a subtle tea flavor and wasn't at all bitter and it had a lovely orange smell. The only problem is that it's prohibitively expensive, retailing for $2.50 per 12 ounce bottle. I may have paid a little less there, but it was on the order of that amount. My idea of what beverages should cost has not caught up with inflation, but maybe that's a good thing.

The Refectory also had fake (meatless) meatballs in a Polynesian sauce over rice. It reminded me a lot of their meatless meatloaf, which means I liked it a lot.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shade Tree Coffee - I Want Crepes!

I've been excited about the prospect of crepes at Shade Tree Coffee for months, but I hadn't gotten over there to check them out. Carpe Durham reviewed them not too long ago and that made me even more eager. Now that I've seen their expanded menu I just can't wait. I was there on Saturday night, around 8pm, and they serve their crepes between 9am and 7pm, Monday through Saturday. I'd missed the window, but I was also full from pizza anyway. Soon they will start serving Sunday brunch and that will be truly awesome.

Yes, I know that I often make crepe pancakes at home, but I don't make savory buckwheat pancakes and I don't keep all the sweet fillings on hand. It's just different.

Shade Tree Coffee just has the nicest of atmosphere of any coffee shop I've ever been in. Granted, I haven't been to that many, but I just have such a pleasant feeling when I go in there. Part of it is that the owners are extremely nice and always make sure we're happy if they happen to be around and they've always been talented at hiring competent and pleasant staff. I've always liked the way the cafe was decorated as well as the rotating art exhibits. Another nice aspect is the coffee itself, because it's just so good. I had a decaf skim mocha latte and I'd forgotten just how delicious they are. Of course, I also have lots of fond memories of laughter and card games, too.

To have all those things and crepes, too, is pretty spiffy, indeed.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pizza Palace of Durham

Last night was my second trip to the Pizza Palace of Durham. Considering that they been open since 1965 and that's ten years longer than I've been alive and living in or near Durham, it's surprising that my first trip was only a few months ago. The quality of their pizza makes it even more astounding. The restaurant was originally located on Hillsborough Road, where Blu Seafood & Bar is now. Now they have a much larger location and are able to host live bands. One was setting up most of the time that we were eating and the band had quite a lot of gear.

The crust on their pizzas is nice and thin and it's crisp, but not too crispy. They have twenty-six different toppings from which to choose, including pine nuts. There was just something very exciting to me about the idea of having pine nuts on a pizza and this time I had a chance to try them out. I convinced two of my friends to share a large 16" pizza with anchovies, spinach and pine nuts. That turned out to be a great combination. The pine nuts just added a little crunch and flavor, but it wasn't excessive. I liked their tomato sauce, too, because it wasn't too sweet. The pizza wasn't overly greasy, either. Overall, it was a great pizza and as you may have gathered, I'm fairly picky about pizza. My other friends seemed to enjoy their pizzas, too.

For my previous visit, I was in a larger group and ended up eating several slices of their Syrian pizza, which has olive oil, mozzarella, onions and lots of fresh garlic. That was also very good. I look forward to trying more topping combinations and their entrees in the future.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Splendor for Reunion Weekend

This weekend is Reunion Weekened at Duke and there were loads of alums wandering around campus yesterday. I was eating a Pauly Dog for lunch and saw this bunch of balloons soar into the sky. I tried not to think of it as a future meal for wildlife and just grabbed my camera. Does anyone else remember in elementary school the big balloon launches that we used to have to see how far such bunches would go? I'm guessing they don't do that anymore.

I was thinking that the campus looked mighty fine with all the spring growth and flowers blooming. This is Hyacinthoides hispanica.
I love how beautiful and green the new leaves look. This is Kilgo Quad. The Academic Quad was full of giant white tents.
I thought the contrast of the chartreuse leaves with the bark was particularly nice.
The Dianthus was doing it's thing in front of the Divinity School.
If there were any alums coming back for their 80th reunion, they might remember the completion of the Perkins Library building in 1928. I really just liked the lighting at the moment I took this picture, though.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Restorative Spring Flowers on Campus

I'm still recovering from my cold, but I went back to work today and I thought some warm sunshine during my lunch break might help. While it didn't do much as a cough suppressant, I think it did something. While I was absorbing as much radiation as I could, I took a few photos on campus.
These tulips are planted in the library patio area.
This tulip among many planted between Duke Chapel and the new Divinity school building.
This deciduous azalea is not far from the Bryan Center.
This amazing orchid is in front of the Old Chem building, very close to Bostock.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Trader Joe's Orange Sticks

I know some of you were eagerly awaiting a polemic against dust bunnies, but I thought of something else. If you have been going to Trader Joe's and have not yet discovered these dark chocolate sticks of citrus pectin goodness, then you may want to give them a try. They are, however, a little bit too easy to gobble down. They are basically dark chocolate filled with orange jelly. Thanks (I think) to Samantha for getting me addicted to these a few months ago.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

LU Pim's Cookies

Back in the good old days, on Sunday, back when I thought that this dreadful cold was merely allergies, I saw that Kroger carried LU Pim's Cookies. I was very excited, because a friend gave me a food gift basket for Christmas and the cookies were my favorite. According to the box, it's "France's No. 1 biscuit brand." They are made in Belgium. It's great that Kroger has them for only $2.79 or 23 cents per cookie.
They have a spongey cookie on the bottom, a layer of fruit jelly and a layer of dark chocolate on top. I've never been fond of crunchy cookies, even before they started being hard on my teeth, because with every bite, I'd get a chill down my spine similar to a shovel's scraping concrete (or chalk on a blackboard for some of you). These have orange jelly in them and are very good, but not as good as...
...raspberry! This is what came in my gift basket and I think they have an edge over the orange, if you like raspberries. According to the box, they also come in "orchard pear", but they aren't listed on their website and they have chocolate mousse instead. In Canada, they have cherry instead of chocolate.

Since I'm still sick and I haven't been going out to eat or doing anything else interesting, you may soon get to hear about my favorite Rubbermaid spatula or my distaste for dust bunnies. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Nantucket Grill

This past weekend, I went to Nantucket Grill, which is a place I don't go nearly often enough, considering how often my Most Faithful Readers go. You can see here that it used to be one of my regular destinations. It's in Durham County, but close to Chapel Hill, and is a 34 mile drive round-trip from my house, but it's worth it. They also have other locations, on Fayetteville Road, in Durham, and their original cafe at Ram's Plaza, in Chapel Hill.

One of the nice things that they've been doing for the last year or so is serving puffy-light rolls that are nice and warm. It's hard to beat warm rolls.
That night, I had cod fish and chips. The fish was good and crunchy and I'm guessing there was cornmeal in the batter. The chips weren't outstanding, but they were good with ketchup. Their cole slaw has more mayonnaise than I usually like, but it's good and it has chopped granny smith apple in it, which adds a nice and unusual flavor.

I highly recommend their crab cakes, which are served with a wonderful lemon sauce, asparagus and mashed potatoes. If you eat beef, the French onion soup is excellent. The lobster bisque and clam chowder are great, but are too rich for me. They have delicious pasta dishes and salads, too. If they have soft-shelled crabs as a special, they are splendid sauteed. My Most Faithful Reader gets a Blackened Salmon Salad almost every week (without the "blackening") and divides it into two meals each time. I am happy to report that the chicken pot pie is back on the menu, but they've replaced the puffed pastry with a biscuit, which I will have to try soon.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Vin Rouge

It may surprise some readers that one of my most frequent dining destinations is Vin Rouge, particularly on Friday nights after an hour or so of playing music. The thing that's most surprising about it is that I haven't written much about it, despite the wonderful meals that I've had there. I've taken many pictures, but I tend to get distracted by the next meal and then never get back to it. Friday night's entree was so good that I couldn't possibly forget.

I had been craving duck all day and suggested that we go to Vin Rouge so I could have the their lovely duck confit salad. I'm not usually the one to request that we go there, because my steak-loving friends usually beat me to it. I wouldn't generally recommend Vin Rouge to vegetarians, because there are so few options that would work for even those who eat seafood.
Once I got there, our waiter tempted me with a duck breast special, served over sauerkraut, potatoes, cubed bacon and onions, with an apple cider sauce. It was so good that I had a hard time saving myself some for the next day's lunch, despite the possibility of my bursting.

The last time I was there, a couple of weeks ago, I chose a much lighter meal of mussels steamed in a flavorful broth, which were very good. In the distance, you can see the oysters gratinee appetizer, which we get every single time we visit. If I recall correctly, there are seven oysters baked in gruyere with leeks, bacon and a few mushrooms. It's heavenly and I often don't even pick out the mushrooms. I thought I'd taken a photo of just this dish, but I couldn't find it and will have to rectify this for my collection.
The night I feasted on mussels, I also ordered their fries, which are great. I've also ordered them with salads, but I can never come anywhere close to putting a dent in them. The last couple of times I've ordered a side of bernaise sauce, which is, of course, a far better condiment than ketchup.

Mini-Meetup at the Town Hall Grill

Coturnix told me all about how wonderful the Town Hall Grill was at the last Durham Bloggers Meetup, so I suggested that we meet there for dinner. Thursday night, Google Earth Evangelist (GEE), Friend of GEE (FOGEE), and I drove through rush hour in the pouring rain to Southern Village, which none of us had been to before. Fortunately, the Town Hall Grill is located in a really posh building with a parking garage underneath, so we didn't even have to get out in the rain at all. Fellow bloggers dining with us included Coturnix, author of A Blog Around the Clock, Sheril Kirsehnbaum, co-author of The Intersection, and Vanessa Woods, author of the Bonobo Handshake.
Several people ordered the special of the evening, monk fish and crab cakes. The cakes were approximately 3/4 crab and 1/4 monk fish. They had a really nice flavor, too.
GEE had the Arugula Salad, with baby arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese and spiced pecans with a white balsamic vinaigrette. The star of this salad was actually the flavor of the roasted beets, which were sweet and yet earthy.
I had this order of fried oysters for $8.95 and shared a half portion of the garlic fries with FOGEE. We didn't come anywhere close to finishing them. When I was at London Fish and Chips, someone told me that Town Hall Grill's oysters were soaked in buttermilk before frying and were some of the best in the area. I have to agree that they were excellent They were big, juicy and crispy.
For dessert we all shared desserts served on two plates, each with chocolate ganache cake and cheesecake. Since I'm not a big fan of cheesecake, I chose to concentrate heavily on the chocolate. I'd also like to try their bourbon-cherry bread pudding.

Coturnix is well known at the Town Hall Grill and the restaurant hosted the pre-conference dinner for the 2008 Science Blogging Conference, which I did not attend. In hindsight, I certainly should have, just considering the food alone. Chris Burgess, the chef, stopped by to introduce himself to us. Prior to the Town Hall Grill, he was at Panzanella and the Flying Burrito. Recently the restaurant was converted from being essentially a sports bar to one with a decor that more accurately reflects Burgess's talents and his food's sophistication. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience and I hope to venture out there again.

You can see all of Coturnix's great photos from our dining extravaganza.