Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coconut Macaroons

I had to make dessert for a Halloween party at work tomorrow, so I decided to make my old standby. People literally beg me to make these, so it feels as if am constantly churning these out. They are extremely easy to make for something that tastes this good. Those of you who are nosey enough to look at the book will find that it was not a cookbook that I was reading while making these. My mom gave me the recipe and she has no idea where she found it over fifty years ago.

2 extra large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 package (14 oz) sweetened shredded coconut (I recommend Baker's brand.)

If you make substitutions, may your dog help you.

Beat eggs *slighty*
Add other ingredients.
Drop heaping teaspoonfuls on a well-greased (but not too greasy) baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Don't beat the eggs for half an hour in an electric mixer unless you want to make glue. From my experience baking these the first time, the glue tastes pretty darn good anyway, even if it looks funny and it scares people at parties. Don't burn your finger taking them off the baking sheet, like I just did. I can't even blame my weird potholders, damn it. Ok, so my finger isn't even pink.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Return to Sender, Address Unknown

This afternoon I was working from home, because fumes from roofing adhesive had been allowed to get into the ventilation system at work and it smelled awful, to say the least. I had been working several hours when suddenly my network connection went dead. Usually either my flaky router or the DSL is the culprit. Rebooting both didn't fix the problem and neither did rebooting my laptop. My phone even had a dial tone. Eventually, I decided to go out to dinner. That's the quick fix for any difficult situation, after all.

When we got back, my dad decided to try a direct wired connection from the router to the laptop. Then he tried connecting directly to the DSL. Nothing worked.

Finally, he suggested I try calling my cell phone number from my home phone. An automated recording said that I was being automatically redirected to Embarq. I was on hold for almost ten minutes and then the woman who answered took all my personal information. She read me my balance and said it wasn't due yet. I told her about the symptoms and she said they had put a hold on my account, because one of their mailings had been returned to them. She said that it could take up to four hours to restore my service, but thankfully it only took a few minutes, or I wouldn't have been writing this tonight.

A couple of months ago, I did get an answering machine message from an Embarq representative saying that they had received a piece of returned mail and asked me to call them back. I didn't, because I had continued to receive mail from them and my bill is drafted anyway. Why should they care as long as they get their money? It's not as if my address has changed in over three years.

So, without warning, without a follow-up call or an e-mail, they just cut off my phone service. Why don't they just sign me up for Time Warner services while I'm at it, to save me the trouble? Has Time Warner found this out and begun doctoring people's mail? If not, they might want to consider it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shopping for Necessities in Boston

I'm sure my regular readers thought that I had finished writing about my summer trip to Boston. They were wrong, but this is the last one until I actually go there again. I promise. What and why am I going to write more about a trip that took place several months ago? I'm going to write about fun I had shopping at three stores in Boston, in part because the places where I shopped have some sort of web presence.

I loathe shopping for clothing. It is the most boring and potentially the most frustrating thing that one can do with one' s time. As a kid, I would always dread tagging along when my relatives or friends of relatives would go shopping in Burlington, NC, when that town was filled to the brim with outlet stores. I do, however, enjoy shopping for other things. I particularly like shopping for things on-line, because that completely avoids most of the annoyances of shopping in person. On the other hand, if you're using a Mac, as I was earlier tonight, and you're ordering from somewhere that completely clears out your shopping cart every time you try to checkout (after you enter in all your information), it's debatable which is the least annoying experience.

An art and crafts supply store is something you simply have to wander around in person, if you have the opportunity. The Pearl, in Cambridge, has a tremendous selection, with two huge floors of every imaginable pigment, paper and pen. I could have spent many more hours, if not days, wandering around. Fortunately for my wallet, we were scheduled to have dinner across the street after an hour or so.As many of you know, I have an unfortunate problem with earrings. Earrings are my primary vice, which costs me more money than any other. It's worse than dining out, because I need to eat. I do not need earrings. ...and yet, I do. The only good thing is that they don't take up much space at all.Over ten years ago, I discovered Geoclassics, in Faneuil Hall, in Boston, and I've gone back to the store every time I've been to the city since then. They have a marvelous selection of gemstone jewelry and also have a lot of nice mineral carvings. Unfortunately, their website doesn't have much of a selection compared to their stores. So, if you're in the Boston area and you either have a similar vice or need to buy a gift for someone who does, then I highly recommend that you stop by.Another store I knew I had to hit while I was in Boston was Levenger's, in Copley Place. Levenger's originated in Del Ray Beach, Florida, and I'd always wanted to go to one of their stores. I've been getting their catalogs for years and have coveted so many of their high-end office supplies. I like shopping for office supplies, regardless of their caliber, but there's something wonderful about shopping for nifty blank configurable notebooks and wallets. I've been particularly enamored of their Circa system for seven years or so. My dad, when he wasn't falling asleep in one of their chairs, followed me around asking incredulously, "Tell me again just how much you're paying per sheet of paper?" I explained that I didn't mind paying a little more to support their innovation. Shopping for things you don't really need on a regular basis requires dynamic rationalization skills.Immediately following my leaving the store, I bought myself a cute stuffed lobster. That made all of my purchases at Levenger's seem so much more reasonable.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tantalized at Tosca

Last night, after guitar practice, we went to Tosca Ristorante Italiano, which is owned by the same people as Blue Corn. It had actually been years since I'd been there. I'm pretty sure that it was the last time I was there that I hadn't been driving long and on the way home I made several wrong turns. When I started seeing signs indicating which lane was heading to Virginia, I was certain I was going the wrong way. Obviously, I did make it back that night and I don't get lost nearly as often anymore. That's good, because now I have more time to go out to eat.

I ordered the ravioli special, which was a combination of prosciutto and asparagus in a pink tomato sauce. It was good, but not actually exciting. The pink tomato sauce, while good, was much stronger than anything else. It was hard to detect the prosciutto or the asparagus, other than observing the appropriately colored flecks within the cheese filling. Several years ago I had veal ravioli with a pureed mushroom sauce, which was absolutely wonderful. Even though I dislike mushrooms intensely, it's their texture that I find offensive. The flavor is fine. Again, my entree was good, but it would have been better in isolation from memories of fine food ordered in the past and of other food ordered at our table.

A good example is the carbonara. I love carbonara and Tosca does a fine job with this dish. I need to try making it at home, because from what I've heard, it's pretty easy. It's basically spaghetti with egg, cheese and bacon. It's hard to go wrong with that combination.

Our waiter, who was very attentive, told us that the gelato, sorbetto, tartufo and their bread are all shipped there directly from Italy. I was surprised to hear this of the bread, in particular, because it was so warm, soft and delicious. For dessert, I had a scoop of lemon and a scoop of coconut sorbetto, which were both quite enjoyable.

So, as usual, I want to have what someone else ordered and want to go back soon. It's the story of my life.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Blu Desserts!

This evening, my parents and I went to Blu. I'd gotten the impression that my mom had been drooling over my last blog post about Blu Seafood & Bar for most of the afternoon in preparation. I would have probably been doing the same thing, had I not been at work.

We sat in the new sun room for the first time, which was very pleasant. They have updated the menu with the change of seasons and the new offerings reflect the availability of autumn fruit and vegetables. The salad that I enjoyed so much has been replaced by one with salad greens, crumbled blue cheese, apples, bacon and caramelized onions. As much as I liked their summer salad, this one is really good.

My dad ordered the shrimp and grits and this entree was way better than when my mom ordered it before. At that point, the dish was extremely lemony, which I liked quite a bit, but this time it had only light lemon flavor and was superb. Some of you will remember from my review of Watts Grocery's brunch that I dislike grits. Well, Blu's grits are creamy and fantastic and I am really eager to go back soon and order a plate of the shrimp and grits for myself.

I ordered two diver scallops, each wrapped in bacon. They were so smooth and delicious, it was almost as if they were made of butter and the bacon was nice and tender. This appetizer is too small to replace an entree, but ideal if you plan to mooch off your fellow diners' plates and then eat dessert. I recommend limiting the mooching to your own table.

Dessert was delightful. Some, including Greg Cox of the News and Observer, have complained that Blu's desserts didn't match the fine quality of their savory offerings, which has surprised me, but I'd only had the chocolate fondue previously and that was wonderful. Tonight we tried two of Tim Lyons's brand new desserts and they were by no means ordinary. One dessert was peach cobbler, topped with vanilla ice cream. My mom, who has over sixty years of peach cobbler eating experience, described this as, "the best peach cobbler I've ever eaten in a restaurant". It was that good. It's not heavily spiced, which I think is a failing of many peach cobblers that one finds. Good peaches are flavorful enough on their own such that they don't need to be overwhelmed by adulterating spices.

We also shared an ample slice of Blu's new key lime pie, which is perfectly tart and difficult to stop eating even after the last crumb is gone. There might be one molecule left, after all. It was served over fresh tasting raspberry sauce and with just the right amount of very good whipped cream.

I want more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meeting a Bevy of Bloggers

Last night, I attended my first local blogger meetup and met the authors of many of the local blogs that I read. I've been reading most of their blog posts (approximately an average of 84% of all of their posts combined, judging from the statistics provided by Google Reader Trends) since April, when they were first recommended to me. Meeting the people behind the blogs that I've enjoyed so much was nothing less than exhilarating, for I liked them just as much in person as I do their blogs, if not more so. I felt a bit star-struck at first, because it is similar to meeting famous authors, except I've invested even more of my life in getting to know them, bit by bit, each day. Here I was meeting a whole bunch of them all at once, which could be overwhelming, but it quickly became comfortable. Soon I was laughing with them, just as if I'd known them in person for months, if not longer.

It reminded me so much of going to my first weekly meeting of Durham bulletin board systems (bbses) users, twenty years ago. I had been debating and conversing with my fellow users for months and finally had the opportunity to meet them face to face. It amuses me that I was so much more sure of myself at the young age of eleven than I am now, even though I knew so much less. Actually, perhaps that's not so unusual. Back in 1987, everything was text based and no one distributed thumbnails of their portraits with every post or comment, so, unlike last night, I had no idea what people would look like. In the long run, that really doesn't matter, but it can take a few minutes to adjust one's mental pointers. I remember that it was that same exhilarating experience of almost instantly being plopped into a community in which one has only existed virtually, a community where people like to think and communicate.

The truly ironic thing is that my meeting twenty years ago took place at what was once Temptee Bagels, literally across the street, just a few hundred feet away, from the blogger meetup last night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hey, What's That Sound?

Everybody look what's coming down...

I just got home a few minutes ago and I heard this muted roaring sound as I came in from the garage. After a few moments, I looked out the window and it was pouring rain. I had actually forgotten what rain sounded like. That's scary.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Making Jewelry and Trying New Tools

One of the mistakes I made when I was having my house built was not putting sufficient lighting in my art studio. This weekend, my dad installed a giant fluorescent fixture with "sunshine" bulbs, which is fantastic and extraordinarily bright. From the living room, it reminds me of the trunk of the car in Repoman. He also switched the table I make jewelry on with the one on which I was organizing photos, which is lower. A few weeks ago, I ordered some more tools for making jewelry, including a steel block, a few hammers and some jigs for bending wire.

Tonight I decided I had to try all these things out. I find making jewelry very satisfying, especially when I'm trying out new techniques. These aren't perfect, by any means, but I hadn't done any hammering in approximately fourteen years, since I took a metal smithing class at the now defunct Duke Crafts Center, so I'm pleased. When I had my jewelry making business, I didn't do any hammering at all and it's certainly nice to be able to work harden the sterling silver. I'm looking forward to making a lot more.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beautiful Sunset in Carrboro

I was in Carrboro this evening and saw the most gorgeous sunset that I've seen in ages.

I was, of course, on the way to ACME Food & Beverage Co. for another excellent meal. I took this shot from their parking lot.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Taverna Nikos Update III

This evening, I decided to check out the Food and Wine Festival at Brightleaf Square. It was similar to any other Friday or Saturday evening there, as of late, in that there was a stage with band and lots of people were milling about. There were also small tents for the vendors, which included most of the restaurants in Brightleaf and a few nearby.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go was because I'd seen in Duke's student newspaper, the Chronicle, an advertisement for the event indicating that Taverna Nikos would be represented at the festival. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get the latest information on when they would be re-opening.

I spoke with Georgios Kastanias who is going to be the co-owner of the Taverna Nikos, along with Bill Bakis. Kastanias, who was very friendly, will also be the executive chef, but he assured me that Bill would be there running the restaurant. He said that they are still trying to get the paperwork straightened out and they've been working on renovations, but he believes they will be opening in two or three weeks. I got the impression that hoards of people had been asking him when they would re-open, which is not surprising to me given how eager I am to dine there again.

Now Easy to Subscribe To Comments

Many thanks to those of you who have submitted comments to the Glob recently! It's been very exciting to get more feedback on what I've written. I know I'm the only one who has the luxury of getting notified via e-mail when new comments have been added and I'm sure some of my readers are like me in that they have trouble keeping up with things that aren't delivered via RSS. I have, therefore, added a link for subscribing to comments, just above the "Recent Comments" section in the right-hand column.

See ya later aggregator.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flying Caveman on Campus

Yesterday afternoon, I was eating my lunch outside between Engineering buildings while talking to PM, when we noticed that there was a small plane flying overhead with an advertisement.

It was a GEICO caveman ad. It is very unusual to see aerial advertising in Durham or over Duke's campus, so it almost made us feel as if we were at the beach. The weather was particularly nice, so that probably contributed to the effect.

I'm interested in marketing strategies (in what am I not interested?), so it got me thinking about why they chose to fly over campus during a weekday as opposed to an outdoor shopping mall or a football stadium. I couldn't find any statistics, but I would guess that Duke's campus has an unusually low percentage of adults who own cars, since many undergraduates don't have them. On the other hand, it probably has an unusually high percentage of people who have driver's licenses since there are very few children on campus. Those without cars may be about to get them and would need insurance. I have a hard time believing Duke students, staff and students have fewer accidents, though. I even saw one at a four-way stop on campus as I was leaving work this evening.

Bull's Eye covered this as well. Cavemen banners have actually been sighted all over North Carolina. They flew over Chapel Hill, just a couple of weeks ago, and in Boone after Appalachian beat Michigan in football.

I guess flying a plane is so easy...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vosges Haut-Chocolat: Mo's Bacon Bars!

Some of you may remember that I wrote, earlier in the summer, that Vosges Haut-Chocolat was offering a new line of bacon chocolate bars and that an employee of the company, PW, had read my blog post and was going to send me a sample.

Fortunately, she waited until this week to send me some, because it would have melted in the in the horribly hot weather that we had all summer. I was expecting a small sample. I would have been thrilled with half a bar, just to get a taste of what Mo's Bacon Bar was like. What I received was a treasure trove of exotic chocolates. She sent me four Mo's Bacon Bars, a box of exotic caramels and half a pound of Sweet Bapchi's Caramel Toffee! Wow!

The Mo's Bacon Bars are really quite good. They are a "deep milk chocolate" and are 41% cacao. The bacon flavor and lightly crunchy texture is not subtle, but it's not so strong to the point of being overwhelming. I really like it. I'm afraid I've already had several pieces. This is definitely the chocolate for those of you who like the combination of sweet and savory.

I took a nibble of the caramel toffee and that was excellent. I have to watch my teeth on those, though, because they are pretty hard. They are good sized pieces of sweet butter toffee, with pecans, walnuts, milk chocolate and pink Himalayan sea salt.

The box of exotic caramels contains each of the following:

  • Argentine dulce de leche with cashews and milk chocolate caramel
  • Canadian maple sugar, walnuts and dark chocolate caramel
  • Blood orange, Campari, dark chocolate and hibiscus powder caramel
  • Tupelo honey, milk chocolate and bee pollen caramel
So far, I tried a bite of the blood orange caramel. The citrus flavor is very mild, but caramel is wonderful. The hibiscus powder on top adds just a hint of tartness, which is a nice touch.

I definitely appreciate PW's sending this to me. Vosges's Red Fire bar may still be my favorite, but these new flavors are awesome. Yes, as I know some of you are wondering, I will be taking some to the office...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grass Wastes Water and Energy

It's Blog Action Day! Locally, many are concentrating on water conservation, because we are enduring a drought in North Carolina and many areas are under water restrictions. I wasn't sure that I would participate, but then I realized that this was the perfect excuse to rant about grass. I, personally, am against it. No, I'm not talking about smoking it, I'm talking about growing it, watering it, reseeding it and using gas or electricity to mow it. So much water, time, and energy is wasted taking care of lawns when there are alternative ground covers. When I moved into my house, I had the area mulched and tried to eradicate the grass. Unfortunately, it does fight back. Grass is useful for fighting erosion, but it prevents erosion if it's dead, too. Appreciate its dead beauty. Use all your water resources to keep your trees and plants alive instead. Keeping a large tree happy will do a lot more for saving energy by shading your home than any patch of grass ever will.

Here's an example of how I have been incensed by grass. Look above at how gorgeous this one area on Duke's campus used to be.

Over the late spring and summer, they added added an extensive irrigation system and put in sod and liriope. The perennials didn't require an irrigation system and they didn't require mowing. They weren't boring and they shouldn't have been ripped up and thrown away.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice

I was going to write about a restaurant, but I wanted to take the time to add an important link to the main page, so that will have to wait for another night.

In the meantime, I do have time to tell you about my new discovery. Those of you who drink vodka gimlets with your breakfast may already know about Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice, but JJ and JA introduced me to it a little over a week ago. I'm sure if you use freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar, you can get even better results, but if you add a splash of this to club soda/sparkling water/seltzer, you get a really awesome lime soda. It's quick, easy and so good, if you like limes as much as I do. Unlikely. I used to eat whole limes with sugar sprinkled on top when I was a kid. Despite the fact that it contains corn syrup, it's way healthier than most sodas, because it only has 10 calories per teaspoon and you don't need more than two or three, at most. I even tried adding it to plain filtered water and ice yesterday and that was good, too.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shade Tree Coffee Fix

I finally got a chance to go to Shade Tree Coffee again. I'd planned to go a couple of weeks ago, but that's when I was sick. I've definitely been experiencing withdrawal symptoms for some time now. In my opinion, they make the best cafe mocha of any coffee shop I've been to in the Triangle. The mochas are even more satisfying when there starts to be a chill in the air.

Shade Tree is just such a pleasant place to sit and talk, too. Tonight it was filled with students, all of whom were studying or reading quietly. The owners of Shade Tree are such nice people, too. Hopefully, I'll be able to get back there a little bit more often and I hope they'll be able to start serving crepes in a few months.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Report on Best of Enemies Event

Last night, my parents and I were waiting patiently in the back row of the Griffith Film Theater for the Best of Enemies program to start. The author of the book, Osha Gray Davidson and activist, Ann Atwater, were about to speak. Ten to fifteen minutes after six, a well-dressed man walked up to me and said, "This auditorium really isn't wheelchair accessible, is it?" I explained that this was as good as it gets. He replied, "Well, Ann Atwater is in a wheelchair." That wasn't good. I didn't think it was possible to get down to the stage. We briefly talked about the back lower entrances and the steps leading to them. Finally, it looked as if people were coming though the doors below. They must have carried her or rolled her down the steps somehow. The man thanked us and walked down toward the stage, where he greeted them and sat down in one of the two chairs set aside for the speakers. The man I'd been talking to was Osha Gray Davidson.

Reading a book during almost every non-working moment, finishing it with just hours to spare and then hearing at least one of the people about whom the book was written and its author is an unusual experience. The closest thing I can think of is reading a book and then seeing the movie afterwards, with excellent casting. You try to fit every phrase into the context of what you've read and wonder if there are any inconsistencies. You incorporate the voices and the mannerisms into scenes that you've already imagined.

The book is, of course, told from Davidson's point of view and illustrates his conclusions. It, therefore, wasn't surprising that he didn't seem to contradict them, although he did allow that some of his criticisms of the "black elite" had been too harsh. To me, it was also interesting to hear Atwater's views. Davidson's theme of the book was that the problems are not due to race so much as class differences, but Atwater did not seem to believe that. She said it was all about race. I agree with Davidson, because while I think that while xenophobia and cultural differences are prevalent, I feel that racial distinctions are arbitrary. Discrimination based on poverty, however, is almost ubiquitous. The greater the disparity of wealth, the easier it is for the poor to be subjugated, regardless of physical attributes.

I was also struck by how much religion is an important part of Atwater's life. It's what motivates her and what she advocates as the solution to society's ills. When I encounter someone who has such profound and obviously sincere faith, it astounds me just how differently they see the world from how I do, particularly when their goals are admirable. Religion as a driving force, for either side, was not addressed in the book.

Again, the book was fascinating to me. Not only was the historical information educational, but it helped me visualize what life was like for my parents, who lived in Durham while attending college and graduate school in the 60s. C.P. Ellis, the former Klansman, worked at Duke from long before I was born until two years before I matriculated. It mentions the Duke student demonstration demanding fair staff wages in which my Dad's cousin protested. It describes the Durham fires and the violence of which I'd heard stories. Davidson even wrote of the rally where Joan Baez briefly performed on campus, which my dad attended.

I mentioned in my earlier post that some of the people mentioned in the book are active in politics today. It actually mentioned primarily the parents of individuals who are prominent in Durham today. David Stith, who, according to the book, had Atwater and fellow protestors hosed down, is the father of Durham mayoral candidate Thomas Stith. Davidson quotes Elizabeth Tornquist, a writer for the alternative publication, the Anvil, who is the mother of Amy Tornquist, chef and owner of Watts Grocery. The son of Floyd McKissick, former leader of CORE, was recently elected by the Durham Democratic Party to the North Carolina State Senate.

The event drew a good sized crowd of perhaps 250 to 300 people. The audience ranged from Duke faculty, staff and students to high school students and other members of the community. Following the question and answer session, there was a reception in Perkins Library where audience members had the opportunity to meet Davidson and Atwater and get their copies of the book autographed. I am profoundly honored to have been allowed to have my photograph taken with Ann Atwater, who has contributed so much to Durham and to all of us.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wherever You Go, There You Are

I've been too busy reading this evening to do much blogging, but I did want to mention that I made an exciting discovery earlier today. My laptop was in the custody of library desktop support, since it has been producing blue screens of death on an ever more frequent basis. I borrowed another laptop on which I didn't want to install any software. I needed to use ssh, but it wasn't installed. I decided to google "ssh from browser" and, by golly, I found several options. I ended up using an ssh applet from the University of Essex and the performance exceeded all my expectations. I just had to keep the original applet window up and could open bunches of terminal windows. Maybe this is old news to many of my readers, but I thought it was pretty cool. It means that you can do just about anything you want from any machine, wherever you go.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Best of Enemies

On Thursday night, October 11th, at 6pm, author, Osha Gray Davidson, and civil rights activist, Ann Atwater, will be speaking in the Griffith Film Theatre in the Bryan Center, on Duke's West Campus. Davidson is the author of the Best of Enemies, which is the account of the friendship between Atwater and former Exalted Cyclops of the Klu Klux Klan, C.P. Ellis.

Davidson's book was chosen as the summer reading material for Duke's class of 2011. I've been reading it over the past few days and have found it to be fascinating and extremely well written. The history is particularly interesting to me, having grown up in Durham, but I would imagine that, given the quality of the writing, it would interest those who have never even visited. Glancing at the pages left to read, I see that some of the people described in the book are still heavily involved in Durham politics today. In addition, having become an avid reader of Endangered Durham, it is easier for me to imagine the world Davidson describes in the book. I'm very grateful for Gary's incredible contribution.

I am definitely looking forward to Thursday night's program.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Watts Grocery: Brunch

This morning, I had my first opportunity to sample items from the Watts Grocery brunch menu. I ordered the eggs benedict just so I would be able to compare it to the servings of eggs benedict that I've tried for brunch at other local restaurants. It was served on a house-made English muffin, which was thicker and chewier than commercially available ones and I thought it was good. The Hollandaise sauce was probably less salty and tangy than many I've had. Overall, I liked the dish. Unfortunately, it was served with grits. While Amy Tornquist can do magic to salad ingredients of which I'm not terribly fond, these were still grits. Despite my being a native Southerner, I feel that grits and even polenta are an unfortunate fate for corn. If I had known that they would accompany my meal, I would have asked to substitute fresh fruit or hash browns.

Now I will contradict myself by saying that one of the reasons that I was so looking forward to having brunch at Watts Grocery was to sample "Bill Neal's" Shrimp and Grits. I fondly remember visiting Crook's Corner when I was just a youngster through my mid-teens, until their chef, Bill Neal, passed away. One of the dishes I enjoyed (when soft shell crabs or crab cakes with exquisite lemon sauce was not on their dynamic menu) was Shrimp and Grits. You see, grits completely overwhelmed by shrimp, bacon and cheese are perfectly acceptable. Since his death, I believe that I have only been to Crook's once or twice, in part because the entree wasn't as good anymore. I am pleased to report that, at Watts Grocery, the flavor of the bites stolen from my mom's plate matched what I remembered. Some differences include its seeming much greasier and mixed together, rather than layered. It also seemed as if the huge and heavy portion would be more appropriate for dinner than for brunch.

There are several other dishes that I want to try, such as their French toast, pancakes and huevos rancheros, so I'm eager to pay them another visit soon.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Art of Procrastination

I'm the sort of person who looks at a humongous pile of dishes in the sink, decides to order a cuecat bar code reader and start cataloging all of her books on LibraryThing.

Who knew that ISBN numbers could be so much fun?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Barbecue Pilgrimage: Bullock's

Last night, in honor of Bullock's Barbecue's winning the hushpuppy poll on Eat at Joe's, I decided it was time to pay them a visit. Actually, what really happened is that as I was passing through the library, I got a whiff of some food that must have been completely unrelated to barbecue that somehow reminded me of it and it set off pangs of withdrawal. The hushpuppies were wonderful, as always.

I still maintain that Bullock's barbecue is the best that I've eaten in the Triangle. It's not too sour, too spicy or too smokey. The meat may not be as lean as it was twenty or thirty years ago, but I like it. The coleslaw is the best that I've ever eaten in any situation. I love their barbecue sandwiches with coleslaw on them. I really do.

My dad ordered the combo plate with barbecue, slaw and a fried chicken breast. That's what he's ordered for as long as I can remember and I mean that literally. He took about half of it home, which could have easily been used to make two sandwiches. We didn't have dessert, because it wouldn't fit. The meal for the two of us cost $12 and change.

We talked to our waitress and one of the owners about whether organizations could hold meetings in one of their rooms. We were startled and excited to find out that yes, absolutely, they could. The reason we were startled is that even though we didn't have to wait in line for a table, it still hadn't sunk in that it was daylight and there wasn't a line waiting to get in the door. Bullock's opened in 1952 and long before I was born, the restaurant became a Durham institution. When I was little, you expected to wait in line for a table every single night of the week they were open, because you knew it would be worth the wait. You mourned their closing on Sunday, Monday and the long week or two that they were closed during the summer. That was part of growing up in Durham. The need to gobble up their chocolate pie was in your blood.

What's happened? Is it competition from places like Q-Shack and Hog Heaven? Is it just that there are so many more restaurants in Durham? Are people trying to eat healthier? Surely not. Over the last ten years or so, I've been overjoyed to see that the clientele has finally begun to reflect the demographics of the Durham population. Wouldn't that actually increase the number of customers? Or have some quit going because it's no longer exclusive?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Upcoming Durham Concerts

I'm taking part of my lunch break to briefly blog, because I wanted to mention a couple of concerts, one of which is tonight. I also have to say that gazpacho in a glass (from Saladelia, in the Duke Library's pavilion) is the ideal lunchtime blogging food.

  • Tonight, October 3rd. the Duke Symphony Orchestra will be having their fall concert at 8pm in Baldwin Auditorium. This free concert, featuring works by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann is an excellent opportunity for parents to expose their kids to live classical music (something I highly encourage).
  • The Coalition to Unchain Dogs will be hosting a benefit concert at 5pm on October 13th at Durham Central Park. Tickets are $12 at the door or $10 in advance. Unlike one abhorrent local organization that just sets dogs loose from chains and shelters, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs builds fences for dogs such that they can safely run around in a confined area. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Watts Grocery: Excellent!

Durham has a problem now. There are just way too many good restaurants and it's impractical to go to more than one at a time. Watts Grocery opened last Tuesday and I finally got a chance to check it out. I'd had chef/owner Amy Tornquist's excellent cooking at the Nasher before, so I knew that we were in for a treat.

I particularly liked the salads that I'd had at the Nasher, so I was eager to order one. I ordered one with loads of ingredients that I like, and I was halfway through with it when I realized that I'd been served the wrong one. I had attempted to order the local greens with Applewood smoked bacon, summer squash, Farmer’s Cheese, garlic croutons and Green Goddess dressing. What I was served was the local greens tossed with slow roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, spiced pecans, roasted garlic and balsamic vinaigrette. There isn't much to dampen the loud conversation noise in the restaurant, so I suspect once I said "local greens" it was easy to miss the rest. I doubt that I would have ever ordered what I was served, because I'm not fond of roasted red peppers. Did I complain? Absolutely not. It was delicious, I voraciously ate every bite and what better test of a new restaurant than to try what you don't think you'll like and be overjoyed? The roasted garlic cloves were just amazing.

My dad tried the pork and I sampled a bit. It was nice, juicy and flavorful.

My mom ordered roasted butternut squash salad. As I've mentioned before, my mom can't tolerate food in the Solanaceae family. When she asked the waitress and explained, she responded with, "ah ok, no Nightshades." I was impressed, because that's an atypical and informed reaction. The salad was apparently delicious, too.

I had a hard time deciding on a dessert, because they all sounded so tempting. The Krispy Kreme bread pudding sounded great and similar to the delightful dessert I had at Tayst, in Nashville. Unfortunately, the coffee sauce is fully caffeinated and I didn't want to stay awake all night. The root beer float is made with Stewart's, which I find way too sweet, but I'm guessing I'll still try it if stays on the menu long enough. I chose the apple and blackberry crostata and it was fantastic. It was very tart and the ginger ice cream was wonderfully strong.

My mom's chocolate pudding cake was basically a really good chocolate cake. You couldn't tell that pudding was involved.

My dad had the pound cake. I'm not a fan of pound cake, but the presentation was lovely.

Mini-Update: Taverna Nikos

I called Taverna Nikos again tonight and someone actually answered! He said that they anticipate opening in about three weeks. It's taken way longer than the first prediction I heard, but at least it's something.