Category Archives: Beyond the Triad

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?

Beyond the Triad: Tastes of Charlotte…get them here.

You probably know that one of our favorite places to visit and eat beyond the Triad is the Queen City. There are so many talented chefs and delicious restaurants in Charlotte. Remember my blog post about The Cow Fish?  That awesome place is not alone. Here’s a look at some places Mr. foodie and I have tasted that definitely deserve a visit:

Halcyon Restaurant - Flavors from the Earth

Halcyon Flavors From The Earth

Located inside Charlotte’s Mint Museum, Halcyon is modern and quiet with an open kitchen and wonderful, unique cuisine. Full of farm to table wonderfulness, yet very global.

I had a cocktail before dinner and one during…they were both pink, ha! The Pink Heel Splitter and  Mr. foodie got Some Pig with its bacon fat-washed Maker’s; orange bitters, maple syrup, kosher salt. Like a Manhattan but with some pig.

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One of the top suggested items for a starter was the Squash Blossoms. Stuffed tempura blossoms filled with ricotta…delicious. Mr. foodie ordered the Rabbit Saddle…AWESOME and I got the Scallop & Belly…like surf and turf but the turf is pork belly! Wonderful.  

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Nan and Byron’s

On another trip, we enjoyed Nan and Byron’s (it was a New Year’s Day brunch). I love the atmosphere of Nan and Byron’s. The space looks like a converted garage with cool decor. The vibe at brunch was casual and lively.

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Deviled eggs…love!!

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I got the meatloaf and eggs (left) and the Mr. got the Boston Brawler which was roasted pork, baked beans, eggs, and a side of your choice of meat (his choice was sausage). Nothing fancy here…just a tasty, simple brunch with great flavors. I’d like to go back to Nan and Byron’s for lunch or dinner. Definitely worth another visit.

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5 Church

Also suggested for brunch/lunch, Nan and Byron’s sister restaurant, located Uptown, 5 Church. I heard their dinner was fab but we went for daytime eats. I enjoyed a terrific Sunny Side pizza with prosciutto, mushroom and a dippy egg on top. Mr. ordered the highly touted lamb burger, which did not disappoint. It was huge and messy and oh so tasty.

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Bubble Champagne Lounge

One of the most recent additions to Uptown and what’s called The Epicentre is Bubble Champagne Lounge. It looks just as it sounds. Kind of Vegas-y, sexy with thumping, clubby music, but not too loud. Apparently Bubble gets clubby much later in the evening but Mr. and I just needed eats so we had to give it a try. Reviews have been mixed about Bubble but trust me, we had tremendous service and great small plates. Check it out…

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Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with Imported Scottish Smoked Salmon  red onions, and lemon aioli. You putthem on waffle cut potato crisps. Washed down with some champagne…perfect. I could eat and eat and eat…there is something about fries or chips with champagne…have you ever tried it??

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Calamari. Pretty simple, dusted and flash-fried with wasabi cream and some sriracha…

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Tuna Tartare with wonton crisps. Beautifully light with that delicate wasabi cream and sweet chili drizzle…again, so terrific accompanied by the bubbly.

I had to add a picture of my Mr. here so you can see him enjoying martini but also you get an idea of decor.

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Bubble is definitely a place for a special celebration but from the looks of the place, fun with friends or on a date.

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The Wooden Vine

This is absolutely our kind of place. A bit smaller, quiet, casual, rustic, local ingredients, delicious soul-soothing small plates, eclectic…need I go on? You can be dressy or you can be in jeans. We were dressy because it was Valentine’s Day. We passed on the Aphrodisiac Prix Fix menu because we don’t need it and ordered from the normal menu. We especially love small plates because you get to try a few tastes without killing your gut or wallet.

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By far our favorite was the Short and Corny. A braised short rib with this incredible cast iron corn casserole and bone marrow butter. Lick the skillet delicious. I swear I’m making it my mission to contact the chef to get the recipe for that corn casserole. It’s a humanitarian thing. Sticking with the bone marrow theme, we also ordered the Bone Marrow Ramen…I’ve never had ramen except the $1 bag variety. The fresh noodles were paired with rye whiskey and bone marrow broth, spicy pork dumplings, a 60-minute egg and veggies. A little splashy for me because I’m a klutz with noodles but marvelous.

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We also ordered the Belly-kopida…a spin on spanakopita with braised pork belly, roasted apples, brie all wrapped in phyllo and drizzled with truffle honey. Yes it tastes as good as it looks.

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Being Valentine’s Day, we allowed ourselves a splurge of something sweet and ordered the Turtle S’mores. A brownie with roasted marshmallow ice cream. Just give me the ice cream. I usually never say that, but that fluffy goodness was like eating the inside of a Three Musketeer’s bar.

Mr. foodie and I voted that The Wooden Vine has to be one of our favorite places in Charlotte so far.

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Bistro La Bon

Lastly, we hit you with a much-loved restaurant that you absolutely MUST try on a Sunday. Why Sunday? Because that’s when Bistro La Bon has their brunch smorgasbord. It is not like anything you’ve ever seen. Not because of size…it’s actually not overwhelming. It’s because of the deliciousness that presents itself on this buffet. You may find smoked sausage. You will find Swedish meatballs and the fixins. Grits…check. Salad…check. Pastries…check. Lox…you betcha. It’s a different kind of brunch and it’s so up my alley.  Our last time there, the owner/chef added biscuits and gravy and we strongly encourage it to be a regular buffet item…holy smokes were they good. But…but! Also included in this smorgasbord is made-to-order eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles and/or french toast…all brought to your table fresh and piping hot…not stale on a buffet for a half hour. The chocolate waffle at Bistro La Bon is dessert, I tell you. So rich and chocolatey topped with some cream. Food coma is waiting to happen. But it’s so worth it.

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Use the links provided at each restaurant mention for details about each delightful place. Of course, we can’t wait to go back and try more restaurants and report our findings. We do it for you, foodies! And we reserve the right to use a meal to re-visit some place great.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Charlotte?

Beyond the Triad: The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar-Southpark

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You know, sometimes you get to  visit a hip and happening place that simply lives up to the hype…don’t you just LOVE when that happens? There’s nothing worse than getting (or giving) a recommendation to a restaurant that has raves and then you get (or the recipient of the rec gets) less than stellar service or food. Happy to say that wasn’t the case at the super popular The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar in Charlotte.

My foodie friend, Ashli, told me The Cowfish was one of her favorite places to eat in Charlotte and a few of my blogger friends also recommended it. I can see why…I mean it’s like my two favorite concepts in one place…Sushi or Burger?…at The Cowfish, it’s YES, PLEASE! I’ve been following their growth the past few months after their appearance in Fire in the City so when an occasion to head to Charlotte for an evening of fun presented itself, we excitedly headed to South Park.

It’s definitely a busy place…no need for super passionate food bloggers to encourage folks to eat there. They are there. And for good reason. It’s inviting, invigorating and well…let’s go ahead and talk about food and service.

The menu is huge…you could get overwhelmed…but you have these Cowfish “experts” there that want to “present” the menu. Sarah, our server, shared with us the various sections of the menu, what they meant, what she liked, what was popular and then we were left with the still somewhat daunting task of deciding what to order. We got a cocktail each (me the 1/2 price Itsy Bitsy Tini-Weenie Fresh and Berry Great Martini and Mr. the Bacon Maple Manhattan). We were starving and ordered a fresh and tasty appetizer that hit the spot.

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The Blackened Ahi Tuna Nachos with 5 crispy wonton chips topped with our famous Crab Rangoon Dip, spring mix, housemade guacamole, diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, sliced seared rare blackened Ahi tuna and microgreens. Awesome…so fresh, the crab rangoon dip was marvelous on top, given it a creamy contrast.

Next we decided on two items The Cowfish is known for…a sushi roll and something called Burgushi…which is a sushi roll using beef and burger ingredients in interesting ways. We were intrigued by “The Prime Time” Filet & Lobster Roll which features Filet Mignon, portabella mushrooms, asparagus inside, topped with lump crabcake, baked and drizzed with a spicy cream sauce. Heaven. I’m craving. Typing this is somewhat painful!

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Sometimes the iPhone just doesn’t do the beauty of a dish justice does it? Well we had a very dimly lit room which was fabulous and it’s better to not use the flash…but here it is with the flash 🙂
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The other roll we ordered was the Tropical Storm Roll, from the regular sushi menu. California roll topped with 3 layers of fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon and yellowtail), then topped with Japanese cream sauce, sweet brown sauce and sriracha. Each pieces is then covered with multi-colored tobiko (flying fish egg) for a fantastic presentation. Served with a side of wasabi yuzu dipping sauce.
That’s The Cowfish’s own descrip from the actual menu. I can’t mess with perfection. It was a terrific presentation and the flavors were bam!
What a great place to spend lunch or dinner. Really great service and food. Top-notch all they way. Locally-owned and they just opened a location in Raleigh. Now if I can just convince them not to let those cities have all the fun and drop a spot right here in the Triad….hmmmm….
For now, when you get Beyond the Triad, you definitely have a sure bet at The Cowfish.
The Cowfish–South Park Charlotte
4310 Sharon Road
Charlotte, NC
704.365.1922
The Cowfish–North Hills Raleigh
North Hills- CAPTRUST Tower
4208 Six Forks Rd, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC
919.784.0400

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

beyond the triad: Cincinnati–Sharonville Depot Deli

One of the cool things mr. foodie gets to do is eat at cool places BEYOND the Triad…recently he was in Cincinnati and talked about his experience at a little place called Sharonville Depot Deli. Here’s is review from Yelp:

What a charming little deli! The ladies who run this joint are super sweet. I can’t believe this is their first Yelp review! The atmosphere of the deli is warm and inviting with a cozy dining room and a patio that is probably fantastic in warmer months. The deli is nestled in a village like area where other shops are easy to walk to.

On the way into the deli, I asked a guy, who was obviously heading to the deli as well, if it was any good. His reply… “Awesome!”. It’s one of those places where everyone seems to know each other on a first name basis and the friendships are obviously genuine. If I heard correctly, the fish that I’m eating today was caught and cleaned by one of the husbands, and by the taste of things, everything is fresh and local.

Speaking of my meal today, besides fresh-tasting, the fried fish is perfectly flakey and moist. The hush puppies are light and crisp. The smoked Mac n cheese is a savory adult variety but I’m pretty sure that kids would like it too. I’m not a huge cole slaw guy, but it seems to strike a great balance between a little sweetness and the savoriness that is expected. Overall, it’s a great deli that supersedes what you would expect from a deli. And the combination of people, atmosphere and menu would be welcome in any city or town in the country. Cincinnati should be proud to have Sharonville Depot Deli!
(Mark M.—aka mr. foodie)

So now you know of at least one place you can go that’s not all about the chili in Cincinnati.

Sharonville Depot Deli
3327 Creek Rd
Sharonville, OH 45241
Neighborhood: Evendale
(513) 769-1718

The New Public House & Hotel

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When we recently vacationed in the High Country, we were so delighted to see the former Crippens, which was sold earlier this year, open as a brand new restaurant. The adventurous owners behind Gideon Ridge and Bistro Roca (a triadfoodies fave) just that week opened The New Public House & Hotel as a casual and inviting tapas restaurant, with a boutique hotel following close behind. And these tapas all feature farm-to-table ingredients by the talented, award-winning, chef Michael Foreman.

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The restaurant had literally been open a day, so they didn’t officially consider themselves up and running until the very night we arrived! I don’t usually hit a restaurant so early on…give them a few weeks to get all the kinks out. But I figured with Michael Foreman heading the kitchen…well, this ain’t his first rodeo.

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Management says the place has been totally redone and I noticed a good bit of freshening up, new paint, art and fixtures, but it still has the same homey comfy-ness of its predecessor, which had a higher price-point.  There’s nothing on the menu at The New Public House more than $13. And the tapas are all shareable. You can select from Bites (slightly smaller), Garden (veggie selections), Sea, Pasture, and Mountain (a selection of mountain fare like Wild Mushrooms, etc and a few items that look like they’d belong in the Pasture category, but I’m not picking on them) :). There’s also a lovely wine bar in the center of the dining room where a wine steward expedites orders from the wait staff, which alleviates pressure from the bar. If you haven’t been to Blowing Rock, the folks who live there and travel there love their wine and cocktails, so this is a good call. It keeps the wine flowing.

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Manager Will provided us with a nice sample of his Rose to get us started along with Chef Michael’s delicious house-made bread that looked like pumpernickel but was really a rye with hints of cocoa and molasses. It’s served alongside butter and black-eyed pea hummus. And those kidlets ate that bread!

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Chef Michael sent out a gorgeous Sweet Corn Grits Tamale with local corn, grits, wrapped in corn husk. It was beautifully presented with perfectly cooked grits and sween corn and red onion. My little girl ate that! Thanks, Chef…for sure delicious and gorgeous.

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We ordered the Southern Fried Chicken wrapped in bacon (!), Fried Green Tomatoes and the Trout Cakes. If you ever get chance to order trout IN the mountains, please do. Unless they are literally driving that trout from the water to you, it won’t be nearly as fresh as you can get it there.  Simply fabulous trout. These trout cakes were no exception.

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The fried green tomatoes were fresh, firm with a coating that stay on it (important to me) and a bacon horseradish mayo which was a nice departure from the typical aioli. It was like a spicy BLT when you included them with the accompanying greens.

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I must say something about that chicken though. The little drumsticks were frenched..so you just had that adorable skinny little leg and the meat itself had been wrapped in…yes…BACON. Hello! Total satisfaction. Served with watermelon and greens.

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Finally for dessert we ordered the ice cream which featured these adorable little sugar cones ON TOP of a tiny scoop of bourbon brown sugar ice cream, all accented with fresh berries. It looked like a sweet, neat little circus.

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All in all, I’d say the kinks were no issue on the first weekend night of The New Public Ale House. The place was already pretty full by the time we left so I think the folks in the area have been looking to return to this beloved address. I’d like to go back and try a few more interesting things on the menu. And take note, it’s all very seasonal so the menu will likely change a good bit, which makes farm to table cuisine all the more exciting, especially on the Rock.

The New Public House
239 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock, NC
828-295-3487
The New Public House & Hotel on Urbanspoon