Category Archives: Beyond the Triad

Chai Pani in Asheville is a “Can’t Miss”

Chai Pani should be on your not-to-be-missed list when traveling to/by/through Asheville. It will be so worth it.

If you’re a regular reader, you know my kidlets love Indian food. So when an opportunity to be in the Asheville area presented itself, we planned dinner accordingly and made our way to Meherwan Irani’s much celebrated Indian street food restaurant. Think all the fun staples—chaat, bhel puri, pakoras…all shareable and fun. There are a few larger plates too, like the butter chicken. My kids were a bit disappointed not to see Chicken Tikka Masala on the menu but the Butter Chicken was a hit (it’s a close enough compromise). Chicken Tikka is a feature on the menu at times.

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Chai Pani is super cute and a bit retro inside. I’d say it’s on the small side but you don’t feel crammed at all.  We were there on a Monday and halfway through our meal, it was already filled up inside.  It’s been two months since our visit and now that the homeschool year is pretty much wrapped up, I finally have time to share some of the delights we enjoyed. Annnnnd that being said, I simply have no idea what the featured dish was that night as it changes often and my brain has no recollection other than I know it was wonderful. It may have been a vadouvan with a protein like lamb or goat, savory, aromatic, with a bit of a kick.

Green Mango Chaat

Green Mango Chaat

This wonderful chaat, considered a street food snack, was deliciously sweet and salty, cool and crisp and no wonder it’s the perfect snack because it has everything you want in something munchy.

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Aldo Tikki Chaat

Now heading to the more savory side, we really loved these crispy Indian potato fritters  “served on spiced garbanzo bean stew topped with tamarind & green chutneys, sweetened yogurt, and crunchy chickpea noodles (sev).” This was a warm, spicy appetizer that had all those aromatics and flavor you love in a classic Indian dish.

Kale Fritters

Kale Pakoras

Indian style savory kale fritters made with curried chickpea batter. Served with green chutney & sweet yogurt.  So unexpected, Chai Pani sent out these kale fritters that were A-MAZE-ING. Get them get them get them!  My mouth waters thinking about them. They’re like kale chips taken up 1000 notches. Super crunchy perfection.

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Butter Chicken Thali

I mean you just cannot go wrong with Butter Chicken. Marinated and seared Joyce Farms chicken in an aromatic tomato cream sauce with butter and jaggery. It’s described on the menu as a North Indian favorite and one of Chai Pani’s signature dishes. You might need two. We didn’t because of all of the above, lol.

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Vadouvan

While the Butter Chicken was mainly for the kiddos, this spicy dish was for Mr. foodie and myself. I will say that the rice at Chai Pani is perfection, but basmati done right usually is as traditionally it’s made in a large amount of water and drained off so that you get beautiful individual grains of rice. See them?

The dishes were just the perfect balance of savory and a touch of sweet with the appropriate tangy requirements from yogurt, citrus. You just can’t get any better.

The kitchen actually sent out a couple of desserts for us to try. My daughter really enjoyed the “mango ice cream sandwich” on a wafer cookie and I absolutely loved gulab jamun, which is deep fried dumplings made of milk, flour, butter and cream, soaked in cardamom & rose syrup. There’s just something about the texture of those little dumplings in the syrup. And they’re just the prettiest little things. If you’re a fan of Indian rice pudding, it’s also an option.

The Chai Pani restaurant group has locations in Atlanta and Decatur, GA and you may have also heard of Buxton Hall Barbecue, also in Asheville. Another can’t miss eatery if visiting the area. For cocktails, you’d love Asheville’s MG Road and now Irani, who must not be busy enough, has launched his own spice company, Spicewalla.

So if you’re traveling in Western NC and you see fit to make some time in Asheville. I just cannot recommend Chai Pani enough. Service is wonderful. Drinks are great. Food is incredible.  And even if you think you don’t like Indian food, Chai Pani may convert you with their fun, shareable plates.

Chai Pani
22 Battery Park Ave (58.67 mi)
Asheville, North Carolina 28801

 

 

 

Eating our way through Hendersonville, Don’t Miss Hendersonville Restaurant Week!

I was honored to be invited with other food bloggers to attend a Sneak Peek of Hendersonville Restaurant Week. Meals and accommodations were provided gratis. All opinions are my own. 

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I just got back from a quick little trip to Hendersonville, NC to catch a sneak peek of the upcoming Hendersonville Restaurant Week which is happening  March 15-24. I’m telling you about it now because it’ll give you plenty of time to plan. And let me tell you, you’re gonna want to take a little jaunt to the mountains of North Carolina to check out this foodie town and get you some delicious eats.

I had heard that Hendersonville had a happening food scene, while enjoying being a touch “away” from the tourist vibe in nearby Asheville (about 20 minutes away). It was my first time and I immediately fell in love with its charming downtown as well as the neighboring village of Flat Rock.  A half dozen or so food bloggers from all over the state and South Carolina were invited by my friend, Laura Huff the Carolina Epicurean, to taste what is to come for their first ever restaurant week. We tried eight restaurants in 2 1/2 days …it’s a tough life, foodies. We call it R & D and I haven’t quite recovered from so many tastes of foods. Plus I got spoiled a little, I ain’t gonna lie.

The 10-day event encourages locals and visitors to explore restaurants via prix fixe multi-course menus. You’ll find all varieties of restaurants participating, from taverns to fine dining and even food trucks. Lunch menus range from $10-15 and dinner menus from $25-35 (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). And if you want to turn your foodie adventure into a bonafide getaway, there are lodging partners that are offering special rates and packages, such as buying a two night stay, get a third for free. Reservations are recommended as this inaugural event is generating quite the buzz.  Please be sure to visit the Hendersonville Restaurant Week website for the latest menu updates. Below is just a smidge of what you’ll taste and see during HRW. We just glazed the surface baby. And we ate a ton!

Flat Rock Wood Room  1501 Greenville Hwy, Hendersonville
This cute BBQ restaurant meets pizza joint draws you in the moment you get our of your car. The smell of the smoke and the casual ambiance invite you to just hang for a while. Be sure to get some stock for your pantry with Jamie Guay’s Championship rubs and sauces. You’ll have trouble deciding. There’s a lot to choose on the menu and we tried some tasty bites, but I really loved those wings and you must try the cornbread. It rocks.

Old Orchard Tavern201 Sugarloaf Rd, Hendersonville

Located in the Cascades Mountain Resort, this little restaurant is not your typical hotel restaurant. Very chef-driven with locally-sourced ingredients, I look forward to dining here again. The hotel is quaint and you can enjoy some family time in the indoor pool with a slide that kids of all ages would love. As for the food? Delicious is all I can tell you. Highly recommend any of the dishes. I also loved this beer-brined game hen, which didn’t make the cut. So just be sure to check the website for any menu changes.

Brooks Tavern142 3rd Ave W, Hendersonville

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If tavern fare is more you speed, you’ll love this cute little happening bar-meets-restaurant for drinks and specials and pub food. It’s just so fun and pretty too. Don’t miss the jar of candied bacon and if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy the fried (yes, fried) cheesecake. Think cheesecake made like an egg roll served with a side of preserves. Big enough to share. 

Postero401 N Main St, Hendersonville

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You. Guys. Postero is gorgeous and Postero put so much food in front of us that we ate ourselves into a tizzy.  And Postero has great lighting for food photography and I felt very comfortable there with my fellow food bloggers just taking snaps. I’m sure people were aghast but we didn’t care because we were with our people. There were several highlights but I have to say that the whipped goat cheese mousse with house-made waffle fries kept me going back for more. As did the salmon tartare. As did the polenta fries. And the banana ice box pie. I’ll stop now.

Season’s at Highland Lake86 Lily Pad Ln, Flat Rock
A great vacation spot whether you’re vacationing solo, as a twosome or as a family. Highland Lake enjoys hosting receptions, weddings, parties and business luncheons. Quite too many tastes that we tried to list here. We had a table full of plates and we passed and tasted in a flurry. What you see here may change and here are some of my faves.

Hannah Flanagan’s300 N Main St, Hendersonville
A traditional, no frills, super casual Irish pub. Their claim to fame is the Shepherd’s Pie Eggroll. Dipped in a little brown gravy, it’s a super tasty crispy on the outside soul-soothing favorite.

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Never Blue119 S Main St, Hendersonville
Ya’ll. My bucket list spot. I’ve been trying to get to Never Blue for a few years now since hearing the praises of superstar Chef Jesse Roque. She’s so hip and gorgeous and super sweet. And heck yeah, can she cook. Tried a lot here too. My favorites were the Gypsy Cheese (think a tex-mex style pimento cheese, but with jalapenos) topped with Cowboy Candy (think candied jalapenos…and yum). The gnocchi was also mmmm…mmmm good. Be prepared to get FED at Never Blue. The portions at dinner are no joke, but Jesse says she wants you full and happy and you will be! 

 

The Dugout Taproom & Grill430 N Main St, Hendersonville
This is the only spot I didn’t get to try since I had to get back to the kiddos, but from the photos I saw, you might want to get you some fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese because, cheesy goodness. 

Where I stayed:

1898 Wavery Inn

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1898 Waverly Inn is the oldest surviving inn in Hendersonville. This inn used to be a boarding house before being turned into a charming bed and breakfast. Mike and Tracey made us feel so welcome.  Breakfasts were delicious and not just for guests. You’re welcome to just come in the morning to eat. It’s very convenient and just a block from downtown. Be sure to enjoy their social hour and if the weather is warm, you’ll love taking a seat in a rocking chair a swing on the charming front porch.  

If there’s time between eats, don’t miss…

Appalachian Pinball Museum, 538 N Main St, Hendersonville

Pinball machines, Pac-Man, Tetris, Frogger. All in a historic theater. It will take you back for sure.

Also try not to miss:

The Poe House 

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Named in honor of author Edgar Allan Poe, The Poe House is located in historic downtown Hendersonville. Coming off somewhere between English Pub and trendy wine bar. The Poe House is a hangout for locals and visitors alike. A cozy place to enjoy live music, a craft cocktail, beer from their ever changing draft list, or a flight of hand selected wines.

What I loved about Hendersonville is that the downtown is very walkable with wide streets and ample parking. And the nearby town of Flat Rock has cute little shops and eateries, a wonderful park, Flat Rock Playhouse and the Carl Sandburg home.

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A portion of Restaurant Week’s proceeds will benefit Dandelion, a job-training cafe in downtown Hendersonville for Safelight, a nonprofit that assists victims of domestic violence.

Check out the restaurant week menus here. For more information about Hendersonville, click here.

Happy eating and traveling foodies. Let me know where you go and what you loved. Tag us while you’re there on FB or Insta, we love seeing you on your adventures!

Website: http://hendersonvillerw.com
Social:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HendersonvilleRestaurantWeek/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hendersonvillerestaurantweek/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HendoRestWeek

For Lodging Specials: http://hendersonvillerw.com/lodging-partners/

foodie b’eat: Competition Dining Dates Announced…Get Your Pre-Sale Tix!!

Greetings, foodies!

Here’s the latest from our friends at the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Competition with schedule details for all the cities plus a link to PRE-SALE tickets!  The chefs are building their teams and we should know soon who’s on the Dream Teams. There will be teams this year in Winston-Salem AND in Greensboro, along with Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and Wilmington and the winners of those cities will go to the battle of champions in the fall. And guess what? Once again, this year, I’ll be in WS and GSO for all the action so be sure to follow along at @compdiningnc on Twitter for photos and descriptions as well as chatter!  Below is a photo of last year’s winners. Winston-Salem’s own, Chef Richard Miller, of Graze, was our local winner and  Chef Ryan Conklin (second to left) of Rex Healthcare was state champ (that’s right…a HOSPITAL chef won…but Chef Ryan is no ordinary hospital chef.) Tickets are on sale beginning in April for the Durham event. Be sure to check out their webpage for PRE-SALE tickets . Many events sell out, so you might want to get a jump on it before tickets go on sale for the masses.

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Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Announces 2016 Schedule with Battles in Six North Carolina Cities

Interactive Chef Tournament Launches Dream Team Concept for the Ultimate Dining Experience

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, is back for 2016 with a total of eight tournaments across the state, each made up of four chef teams vying for the local title. The touring competition will have dual brackets in both Raleigh and Charlotte, and one tournament in each of Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Wilmington. It all culminates in October with the Battle of Champions to name a statewide victor.

Applications for chefs interested in competing are currently being accepted for all locations. This year, the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is switching formats to allow chefs to create All-Star Dream Teams. The change allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together to create their three-person team, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

“We’re excited to introduce this new Dream Team concept that will further showcase the immense culinary talent and agriculture in North Carolina with the 2016 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “Our mission is to connect and celebrate with foodies across the state through this dynamic, entertaining culinary experience. We look forward to sharing unique chef collaborations with our diners to make for an unprecedented year of highly competitive events with innovative dishes like never before.”

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series battles include two chef teams each preparing three courses centered on a featured ingredient that comes from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs the morning of the dinner event and must be used in every course. Ticketed guests get in on the action, savoring the full-service, six-course meals without knowing which chef prepared which plate. Alongside culinary and guest judges, diners rate each dish using an interactive app, ultimately determining who moves on to the next round and who goes home.

The 2016 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series dinner battles will be held in:

Durham: April 18, 19 and 21
Winston-Salem: May 22, 23 and 25
Greensboro: June 20, 21 and 23
Raleigh (two brackets): July 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21 and a finale to name one Raleigh champion July 24
Charlotte (two brackets): Aug. 8, 9, 11, 22, 23, 25 and a finale to name one Charlotte champion Aug. 28
Wilmington: Sept. 19, 20 and 22

The six winners will move on to compete in the Battle of Champions at the end of the year. Since Raleigh and Charlotte teams must compete in an extra battle to win their local title, these chefs will receive a bye for the first round of the championship.

Tickets to attend an interactive dinner battle are $59 to $69 each and will officially go on sale for each series once that local bracket is announced. Discounted pre-sale tickets for all tournaments are available now for $10 less than standard pricing at http://www.competitiondining.com. Tickets are expected to sell out quickly, and people interested in attending are encouraged to signup for the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series e-newsletter for the most recent ticket updates and news.

All chefs are invited to apply to compete in any of the six tournaments. The application and a complete list of rules are available at www.competitiondining.com/compete.

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods,Certified Angus Beef®, and local and regional partners throughout the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate North Carolina products and agriculture, and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. For more information, visit http://www.competitiondining.com or get in on the conversation at www.facebook.com/competitiondining and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

beyond the triad: Over Yonder

We recently took a family trip to the mountains to go skiing/snow boarding. I’m not much of a skiier, more of a faller,  but I wasn’t about to waste an opportunity to cross the bridge to H’Appyness and spend the afternoon in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains with my beloveds. After an afternoon at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort where I fell ONLY ONCE (queue applause, thank you!), I suggested to mr. foodie a warm and cozy dinner at Over Yonder in historic Valle Crucis (3608 NC Hwy 194). It really didn’t take much persuasion. We’ve been there before and blogged about it, but at the time the restaurant was known as 1816 Farmhouse and just about everything about the restaurant has changed, new ownership, now under Mast Farm Inn and a new menu. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the gorgeous ambiance of the old restored farmhouse in which they are all nestled. They allowed us to choose our table next to the fireplace in the BAR and even turned the fireplace on for us.

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The first thing about the menu we noticed is that it is more casual with prices to reflect it. By the way, we were wearing ski clothes and though I’m sure you could go dressy to Over Yonder, they certainly made us feel welcome in our most laid-back attire and hat hair. Menu items range from Pork Skins to Grit Skillets, salads and sandwiches to a selection of entrees all under $17. The NC Trout special was the highest price item on the menu and it was still under $20. Really great prices with the average about $12.

We were starving, obviously, after several hours of skiing, so we ordered the Pork Belly special appetizer with sorghum glaze, red onion slaw and some candied almonds. I actually missed the description as I wasn’t at the table at the time, but I trusted mr. foodie. The pork belly skin was crispy and the meat was silky and decadent and everything it should be. There was the smokiness to the meat and the sweetness of the sorghum that combined so wonderfully with crisp veggies and it lent a slightly Asian flavor while keeping its southern essence. And was it ever pretty.

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For my entree, I went with their custom grit skillet. There are a number of options to choose from and I chose Over Yonder’s House-made Ginger & Sage Sausage with Caramelized Onions, Peppers & Provolone, piled onto some hot and perfectly cooked Adluh grits. Just the thing after being on the slopes.

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mr. foodie ordered the Griddled Pork & Beef Meatloaf with Cheerwine BBQ Sauce with Cheesy Grits and Butterbeans.  It doesn’t get much “over yonder” than that. The meatloaf was so tender and really just melted in you mouth. No knife required.

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The boy kidlet was with us and he ordered Kid’s Grilled Cheese. It was really good and cheddar-y on my fave, Texas Toast. He also ordered the applesauce as a side. It was a chunky applesauce and he wasn’t a fan because he’s just like that, but it was delicious applesauce. He likes apples and we tried to explain, but he is who he is. :/

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And though I tried not to do it, I just had to get the Banana Pudding. The BEST banana pudding I’ve ever had was right there at 1816 Farmhouse so I was curious if this version would live up to my memory. It was every bit as good with a fresh whipped cream and a beautiful wafer toffee crumb rather than the traditional vanilla wafers. They stayed crispy in the pudding, which totally worked with these particular wafers. And was it ever pretty.

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mr. enjoyed a lovely Apple Cobbler with Buttermilk Ice Cream. Also delicious. You can pretty much count on a cobbler on the dessert menu at Over Yonder. The microfoodie got ice cream, of course.

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There were so many items on the menu I wanted to try…it wasn’t an overwhelming menu at all, just that everything looked really, really good with lots of local ingredients. And Over Yonder is open for lunch and Sunday brunch so if you are traveling they are definitely a place to check out. Be sure to make note of their hours below as it changes when it warms up. Of course, the Mast Farm Inn, their Mama Bear, is another place on my bucket list.

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What’s your favorite place to stay at and eat in our gorgeous NC Mountains?

Over Yonder
3608 North Carolina Highway 194
Historic Valle Crucis
Sugar Grove, North Carolina
(828) 963-6301
Hours
Jan-March: Wed-Sat, 11am-8pm; Sun: 11am-3pm
April-Dec: Mon, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, 11am-8pm; Sun: Noon-8pm

Beyond the Triad: A mini-Tour of the South’s “Tastiest Town”: Durham

Mr. foodie decided it’d be fun to to take a quick weekend getaway to Durham, recently dubbed by Southern Living as the south’s “Tastiest Town.” Now, some of my peeps in the Triad may disagree and we do love our restaurants here, but there’s nothing wrong with checking out the goods in other places of NC and Durham does not disappoint.

We finished our trick-or-treating ritual with the kidlets Friday and then hit the road. We decided NOT eating candy would make us plenty hungry for a craft cocktail and some bar eats. But at Alley Twenty-Six, you aren’t just getting bar food. Think meat plates, cheese boards, homemade pimento cheese, olives (of course), nuts (of course) and sliders, etc. This small, hip bar has live music, themed drinks (Friday was “Fright Night”) to celebrate the evening and great appetizers that are made to order…pretty much right in front of you. I’ve never had pimento cheese with pepper jelly, but man—I’m a fan now. As you may know, this is my and mr. foodie’s favorite way to eat…just noshing.

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On Saturday morning, we had plans to hit up Rise, a super-popular biscuits and doughnuts spot near Streets at Southpointe. Go there if you can get there early or during an off-peak time–I have NO idea when that is, however. Great spot for you to hit instead of a chain. But unfortunately the line, which was out the door into the parking lot, was too long for us as we were starved by 11am. But our good fortune was that Harvest 18 (also recommended and part of 18 Restaurant group which owns 18 Seaboard and Cantina 18) is across the way for a real, sit-down, farm-to-table brunch and it was amazing. I mean, the service here was top-notch. Patrick, our server, took wonderful care of us and made us think we were really funny when we cracked our lame jokes. 😀  I ordered the highly recommended Pamlico Shrimp and Grits Benedict with poached egg and Anson Mill’s bacon flecked local grits, asparagus and hollandaise. mr. ordered the Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Loin with root veggies and Guilford-Ashe Co. cheddar grits. The chef also offered these INCREDIBLE and I ain’t lying, Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Belly lettuce wraps, which were not on the menu for brunch, but they were amazing. So if you see those on the menu, you gotta get them. It’s like a gift to your precious self. You will thank me. And thank YOU, Chef Mike for the treat!

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We also tried the carrot cake for dessert. Nearly every dessert Harvest 18 has comes with their homemade caramel sauce. Totally didn’t need to any more…but maybe save room for dessert.

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I have a tendency to do two meals a day, even though I love to eat and eating so late and so much meant, no eating until dinner. We saved it up for Piedmont Restaurant. Several of my bloggie friends in the RDU area said this local spot was not to be missed.  Everything about this place I loved. The decor, the art, the music, the servers’ wardrobe…it was very casual, yet rustic and just relaxing. We ordered the Carolina Smoked Trout Dip which was served with homemade lavash crackers. Mmm..total deliciousness. And I must tell you, that we were nearly bowled over (no pun intended) by the Lil Farm’s Heirloom Pumpkin Soup, topped with NC blue crab, crème fraîche, truffle oil, fresh herbs. Absolutely one of the best soups I’ve ever had. I’m dying to know how to make that…oh, chef?  We also were surprised with a gorgeous, mouthwatering Duck-Rabbit Stout Glazed Sweetbreads, gnocchi, NC muscadines, blistered, sweet frying peppers. The sweetbreads were small, like the gnocchi and were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with the flavor of the stout hinted throughout. Wow. We even convinced our dining neighbor to try them and she officially became a “gland girl.” Ha! It’s the little achievements, foodies!

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I ordered this beautifully light, NC Tilefish with local fingerling potatoes and fennel surrounded by a fumet. Basically that’s foam. But the kind you want to eat.  And mr. ordered chicken. What?? Chicken Roulade… but it was stuffed with goat cheese with these amazing little confit and get this…Anson Mills farro..served like a savory oatmeal that was just the perfect thing with the chicken and the root vegetables. I die.

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We ordered some delightful drinks that I can’t quite remember and mr. foodie forgot to snap pics of his. I can tell you one was called Hair of the Dog which featured Topo Distillery Gin and and the other was a Honeybee, which is basically Makers Mark dropped in honeycomb then infused for a long time, then served on the rocks. And it was lovely.

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We got our extra hour of sleep and tried in vane to hit Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop (not open at 10am when we headed out) and again, Rise (line out the door and into the parking lot, again) so we decided to take on Chapel Hill and visit the Weathervane at Southern Season. Green Chile Chicken Chilaquiles with sunny side up eggs and salsa verde for me. And mr. had a delicious Wild Mushroom & Duck Hash with a sunny side up egg.  Really great. And..because we felt we needed extra calories and carbs we ordered the Banana Nut French Toast for that sweet element that positively has to go with brunch.

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Needless to say, we left Durham and Chapel Hill quite satiated and we even got a little shopping done in Durham and at Southern Season. Have you ever been there? It’s like a food lover’s and cook’s paradise. The perfect spot for filling your tummies stockings for the holidays or gift-giving. Check out all theses spots by clicking the links.

Until next time, foodies.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the Triangle?