Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Secular Winter Holiday 2009!

I hope you are all snuggled up this evening, drunk on the merriment of exchanging gifts, good food and being with family. We decorated yet another tree and I think this one is really spectacular. Of course, I think that every year, but you can compare several previous trees from posts of Christmas Past and see if you agree.

We always like to think about what it would have looked like a hundred years ago by turning out the lights. This was particularly beautiful this year, I thought.

My blog also turns six years old today! I feel as if I've neglected it this year, but I assure you that I have been eating regularly and haven't wasted away. I won't make any promises about how much I'll write in the next year, but I'll do my best to continue to share some of my experiences at some of the new (or new to me) restaurants in the area, at least sometime before they go out of business.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Only Play A Socialite On Social Media

I don't normally flit about from one social gathering to the next, stopping for cheese at one place on to wine at another. I did last Friday, though, when I went to two different artists' receptions on the same night. First I went to Bull City Art and Frame Company, in Brightleaf Square, and saw the work of Charles Lallier, a Durham pediatrician, who demonstrated his versatility by exhibiting a series of beautiful landscapes as well as more abstract works. His skill is tremendous and I would be happy to hang any number of his pieces in my home, if I hadn't planned out all spare wall surfaces for my own work.

Here you can see Lallier on the left with the co-owner of Bull City Art and Frame Company, Lewis Bowles. on the right. The exhibit, "ECLECTIC - Landscapes and other random acts of art," will be on display through December 31st.

Next I went to Peter Armenia's Reception at Through This Lens, in downtown Durham. Peter's photography exhibit, "Sacred Light - Asia," depicts sacred places and the people that consider them so. Peter has an amazing eye and I marveled at his compositions. His exhibit will also continue through December 31st.

Peter's other profession is technical writing and he is the only person who has worked with me at both of the two jobs I've held since I graduated from college. Poor guy.

I can't ignore the fact that it's Thanksgiving! In addition to the traditional feeling of thanks for family, friends and food, I'm also thankful that we live in an area that has such talented artists and a community that appreciates them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Spectator Zombie Lurching

Taverna Nikos was highly decorated tonight, on Halloween eve. I had great crab cakes and my favorite bougotsa dessert, puffed pastry filled with banana, caramel and cheese, was awesome.

Just as we were finishing dessert, the zombies started lurching by!

This was the view from the top of the ramp outside Nikos. The zombies started at Piedmont earlier in the evening and staggered all the way to the Federal. It was quite a crowd and they didn't seem to mind standing in the middle of the street once they got there, since they were already dead. It was around this time that I heard one man say to his family as they were walking by, "I don't know what this is...but get a picture!"

This zombie spotted me and headed toward me saying, "Brains....BRAAAIINZZ!" What was my reaction? "Hold still, so this will be in focus." Then, in a brief moment of lucidity, the zombie thanked me for helping out with a conference a few weeks ago.

We went back into Nikos to pay our bill, but more zombies followed.

This upstanding young gentleman looked well prepared for anything.

I had dinner with this woman on Tuesday night, but she seemed to have...changed.

I wasn't up for lurching the distance, so it was great to be able to see so many zombies up close and personal.

Taverna Nikos has free drink specials! Of course, you might not want to actually drink them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dos Perros

I've been very eager to try out Dos Perros, in downtown Durham. Dos Perros is owned by Charlie Deal, who also owns Jujube, in Chapel Hill. While I've only been to Jujube once, it was certainly a memorable meal and I wasn't even using a decent camera yet.

Wednesday night, I tried out Dos Perros with a bunch of friends. I started out by getting Platanos Rellenos as an appetizer. While I had some help with these, I was already planning on taking part of my entree home, in order to try more dishes. The plantain fritters were, by far, my favorite of everything I tried. They were stuffed with cheese and jalapenos and served with excellent salsas and cream. The subtle sweetness of the plantains was perfect with the jalapenos, but they still weren't very hot, by my standards. I have a much higher tolerance for Asian spiciness than Mexican, too.

One of my friends tried the spinach salad, which was quite good. The dressing was good without being overpowering. They also have a salad with cactus paddles, which I want to try sometime.

She also had this beautiful tomato, kale and meatball soup, a.k.a. Sopa de Albondigas.

For my entree, I had the Mole Poblano, which was effectively a chicken stew with chiles and Mexican chocolate. I liked it, but the flavor wasn't as an unusual as I had expected. Yes, I am definitely drawn to weird food or unusual combinations, but obviously this is not weird to the Mexican or South American palate. This was no bacon ice cream, but it was good. In fact, I probably even enjoyed it more as leftovers. The beans were extraordinarily good and there were probably a higher proportion left after my first attempt.

For dessert we concluded the meal with a couple of orders of churros, which I thought were very good. They were less spongy than ones I had recently eaten at Mez and that's probably a good thing, although I enjoyed both.

Overall I enjoyed the experience. The restaurant is beautiful and the food was definitely good. The general complaint that I heard from my friends dining with me was that nothing was spicy at all, but for me spiciness is not a requirement. If you need to feel feverish during your meal, you may want to consider putting on a bulky wool sweater on your way in.

Be sure to check out reviews of Dos Perros at Carpe Durham as well as Leandra's brief review.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The First Long Table Dinner

This past Sunday, I attended the first "Long Table" dinner, hosted by Anton and Erin Zuiker. I am not quick to refer to individuals as experts, but I would say that Anton is an expert at building communities and getting people, even strangers, to communicate. Sunday night, he brought approximately 35 people together, some of whom he knew and some he didn't, to dine together and share stories. It worked. All of the tables were alive with conversation and periodically someone would use a utensil and their glass as a bell to announce that they would tell a story to the whole group. Some of the stories included one man's recounting the adventurous day leading to his marriage proposal and another's opportunity to cook for Julia Child.

The dinner was held at 3Cups, in Chapel Hill. I'd never been there before, but I was told that they have an excellent selection of wine and coffee. I didn't explore much, but I'd definitely like to go back and check it out more thoroughly. They also chose the wines for the evening.

We had a Moroccan meal catered by Sandwhich. The main course consisted of stewed chicken, with onions, raisins and saffron. We also had Zaalouka (eggplant) with tomatoes and peppers and beet salad with onions, parsley, cilantro and a light vinaigrette. Additionally, there was a carrot salad with lemon, garlic, cilantro and cayenne. We also enjoyed a vegetable stew with potatoes, butternut squash, green beans and tomatoes. I was pretty stuffed after all that.

For dessert we had cardamom sugar cookies with a lemon cardamom glaze. There were also "Baghrir" pancakes with butter and honey, served with Moroccan mint tea.

Overall, it was a delightful evening and, as it drew to a close, it seemed as if everyone there were already looking forward to the gathering at the second Long Table.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meeting @Coopermays

This past weekend, I went to Papa Mojo's Roadhouse, not just to eat wonderful beignets and fresh fruit, but to meet someone from Twitter. As some of you know, when I make the effort to meet new people on Twitter, even if it's just on-line, I tend to focus on people who live in the general vicinity of the Triangle. That's mostly because I think there is a better chance of actually meeting them in person and I just can't follow everyone.

Back in June, it was, therefore, pretty wild that I started conversing via Twitter and then via e-mail, with a woman who was living in Costa Rica, @coopermays. The conversation got started by my complimenting some photos of sunsets and then I quickly learned that she was a potter, originally from the Pittsboro area, here in North Carolina. For some reason, I still never expected to meet her in person.

Fortunately, I am often wrong. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a "meet and greet" party last Sunday at Papa Mojo's. Due to a miscommunication, Martha was unfortunately a couple of hours late and missed several of her greeters. but I stayed and it was a treat to talk to her in person and see several pieces of her pottery. I wish I'd taken photos that day, but you can see the beautiful plate that I had to take home with me.

I know several of you also follow Martha on Twitter or if you missed her at Papa Mojo's, you can still meet her this weekend, September 11-13, Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday from 12pm-5pm at Lyn Morrow Pottery, in Pittsboro.

You also can check out Cooper Mays Pottery and check out Martha's blog. Brian Shrader, at WRAL, interviewed Martha on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blu Blogging: Sushi Night

Last Wednesday, I went to Sushi Night at Blu Seafood and Bar. It was four courses for $40, per person, and we each had an excellent dinner. They kicked it off with ahi tuna, with a green papaya salad. That course also had abalone with pineapple and scallions. It all tasted great, but the abalone shell was also gorgeous.

Next we had a North Carolina yellowfin tuna and lump crab roll with avocado, cucumbers, wakame and spicy aioli.

This hebi tataki was my favorite. It was marlin, spice-encrusted on the outside and completely tender on the inside, served with braised fennel. It was a great combination of flavors and textures.

The meal finished with a large serving of wasabi pea encrusted North Carolina dayboat wahoo with sweet soy, wasabi cucumbers and sticky rice. It was all delicious. Separate from the cost of the meal, each course had a sake or plum wine pairing, arranged by the Hope Valley Bottle Shop. We actually ordered the cold-unfiltered sake, Tozai Snow Maiden, because my Most Faithful readers had not tried it before. It's different from the brand that I'd previously tasted, but I though it was good.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Close Encounter of the Feline Kind

I'm sure most people prefer to leave work than arrive there. For me, it's also a matter of going down a steep ramp, rather than going up it. The other day, going down proved to be even more interesting than it usually is. I was turning the corner when I saw a beautiful cat on the other side of the railing. As I've blogged before, feral cats are very common on Duke's campus. When I was a student, they were almost always scrawny, but now almost every one I see is plump and has a gorgeous coat. This one was no exception.

Without the railing, he, she, but probably not it, would have quickly run away, but I was able to get a little closer and I zoomed in for this photo. I'd love to have a tabby like this someday. A few seconds later, he decided that I was getting too close for comfort and then we were both on our way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blu Blogging : Lobster Roll

I don't make it to Blu Seafood and Bar for lunch very often, but I've been eager to go have one of their new lobster rolls, since it's been added as one of their new lunch menu items. Fortunately, when I was there for dinner one evening last week, they still had a few left over from lunch. It was really very good. As you can see, it was packed with lobster and, perhaps more importantly, it didn't have too much mayonnaise. Overall, I would rate it higher than Nantucket Cafe and Grill's lobster roll and I hope I'll escape work one of these days and head back to get another one soon.

Next Wednesday, Blu is going to be having a special sushi dinner! You can check their events page for more information.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dragon in Colored Pencils

I drew and painted a tremendous amount when I was in high school. While I nominally took correspondance courses for most of my schooling, I went to the high school and stayed for three periods of art, two days a week. The last two years, I took independent studies for which I had to come up with five major projects per semester. I drew a lot of dragons and this was one of my favorites. Chrome is amazingly fun to draw.

Why am I showing you this now? I'm having it framed! I'm very excited that Bull City Art & Frame Company, at Brightleaf Square, in Durham, is taking care of this for me. I'm looking forward to having it hanging in my home and hopefully seeing it on a regular basis will inspire me to start painting and drawing again. Of course, I've been hopeful that a lot of things would do that, but we'll just have to see.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thai Cafe Blogging : Sushi

Thai Cafe has opened a sushi bar! It's in the back, in the expanded seating area that they opened last year.

The prices are comparatively low, and an order of nigiri is a single piece, so you can order a wider variety of things, even if you aren't sharing. I got snow crab, mackerel, eel, scallops, squid, octopus, yellowtail, salmon, tuna, snow crab and salmon roe. The fish was really quite good. The mackerel was more pickled than I like, but that means I can just eat more of the other things.

My Most Faithful Reader got a spider roll and a vegetable tempura roll. What I'm most interested in is combining this with the Thai food. I can imagine getting some Thai Cafe baskets, soup or fresh basil rolls and with 3 or 4 pieces of nigiri.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blu Blogging : Blu Turns Two!

Tonight Blu Seafood and Bar celebrated its second birthday by bringing out complimentary appetizers to each table. The smoked salmon crostinis, quiches and crab rolls were a real treat.

I ordered a crab spring roll, which was looking and tasting particularly lovely tonight.

We got to enjoy birthday cake, too! The chocolate cake was great and the blackberries were incredibly delicious and sweet.

I had lunch with @mistersugar on Wednesday and I know he's been anticipating seeing his lunch on my blog. It was a mahi mahi special with a mango-pecan brown butter sauce and green beans. I love taking lunch photos, because the lighting is so much better and the results are more zoomable. In fact, that day Chef Tim Lyons and Mark were photographing selections from their new lunch menu, which will be unveiled in the next couple of weeks. Tim told me that it will even include a lobster roll!

I'm really looking forward to another one of their shellfish bakes, on July 22nd. You can read about the first and second Blu shellfish bakes and be sure to make reservations if you plan to go.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Local Yogurt

Last night, I finally made it over to Local Yogurt at Rockwood Shopping Center, in Durham. When I last visited Six Plates, Matthew Beason, mentioned that he and the head chef, Ted Domville, were two of the owners. I knew then that I had to bump up my first visit on my priority list.

They offered four flavors of yogurt with a huge array of toppings from which to choose. Someday, I really want to try the potato chips as a topping, as reviewed by Carpe Durham, but I decided to start out with something a little more traditional.

I picked the mango yogurt with local Dolly Mama chocolate, blackberries and blueberries. The chocolate was extremely good, but it was very hard and risky for my teeth. I'm going to have to go with the dark chocolate curls next time. The blackberries and blueberries were amazing combined with the yogurt. My 2nd Most Faithful Reader got plain mango yogurt and he said it was very good by itself, but he was also happy to take the chocolate off my hands.

The shop is so clean, bright and cheery. The counter and cabinets are even painted in a color of orange that I find appealing. No small feat!

Definitely go as soon as you can get over there. It's a fantastic and comparatively healthy way to wrap up the evening after dining at one of the many excellent restaurants within walking distance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Close Encounters of the Squirrel Kind

When I've been going out to feed the squirrels in the morning, they've been unusually happy to see me. If I talk to them, one of them will often bounce up and down and then head for the deck rail, where I put the seeds out.

They've been comfortable with getting very close to me. In fact, I'd say they are more comfortable than I am with the idea. I wish I could tell them apart so I could tell if I'm visiting with the same ones every morning.

I've been able to get some really sharp photos of them. Zoom in if you like fur and whiskers.

Look at those toes! Recently I sat out there for a few minutes and suddenly there were seven squirrels running around me. Somehow it's even more entertaining if they are just a few feet away than when I'm looking out the window. I just never know when they are going to decide to use me as a springboard during one of their acrobatic maneuvers.

Of course, I had to take some video, too. I'll be sure to take more if they start sitting in my lap.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Papa Mojo's Roadhouse

Yesterday my MFRs and I went to Papa Mojo's Roadhouse for the first time. Papa Mojo's is a cajun creole restaurant in Greenwood Commons, fairly near the intersection of 55 and 54. We started out with the beignets, which were excellent. I'm not sure they are quite as good as Rue Cler's, but on the other hand, I'm not positive that here was a limit to how many I could have eaten.

My Most Faithful Reader had shrimp and grits, which were apparently great. It looked good, despite all those mushrooms.

Despite my looking at the menu online beforehand, I had a hard time deciding what to order. There were just so many things I wanted to try. I ended up geting poached eggs with andouille-sweet potato hash, hollandaise sauce and fresh fruit. I chose well. Growing up, I didn't like sweet potatoes, but I've decided that they can be just fantastic in savory dishes. These were no exception. They were so tasty with the very nicely spicey andouille sausage and eggs were cooked perfectly. The fruit was excellent. All around, this was a superb meal. I took roughly half of it home and had it for lunch this morning, around 10:45am. I was eager to get back to it and it didn't need to be reheated at all.

My 2nd Most Faithful Reader had a shrimp and crab omelet. He didn't notice much of the crab, but he's much more fond of shrimp anyway, so I can't believe he minded. He seemed to be very happy with his meal.

For dessert, we had the blueberry pan dowdie, with ice cream. If you don't get the impression from the photo that it was enormous, then you need to zoom in. It was roughly the size of a large sofa. The blueberries were extremely hot, so the ice cream kept trying to get away. 20 minutes after we started eating, they were still hot. This is one amazing and delicious dessert. It's also their entry into the 2009 Best Dish in NC competition.

The service was great. Chef and Owner, Mel Melton, stopped by our table to say hello. The portions were huge and I didn't eat dinner last night at all, because it just wasn't necessary. That could be why I ate the leftovers so early this morning, but I think it's mostly because I knew they'd be good.