Sep 24, 2009

Foodshare Challenge this SATURDAY at the Carrboro Farmer's Market

Carrboro Farmer's Market from CarrboroWeb



Please join the Carrboro Farmers’ Market farmers in challenging local residents to come out to the Carrboro Farmers Market on Saturday, September 26th between 8a and noon to raise 1000 pounds of food to feed the hungry. The CFM farmers have donated over 7,500 pounds of marketable food since June to organizations that feed the hungry in Orange, Chatham and Durham Counties.

On Saturday, we will give shoppers the opportunity to follow our farmers' example. They can buy their groceries at the market and while they are there, donate a bag of food for the hungry.

According to the USDA, NC is the second highest state in the country for childhood hunger. One in four children in North Carolina do not have adequate access to food. The FoodShare Challenge is a great opportunity for local residents to come to the market, support the farmers and learn more about what we can all do to help feed the hungry in our community.

The event will feature photos from nationally recognized photographer Donn Young, of The North Carolina Hunger Project, and educational information from hunger relief organizations from Raleigh, Durham, Chatham, Orange and Wake Counties. The event will have art activities for children, a donation station and lots of good food -- all for a good cause.

In addition to volunteers, participating community organizations include: The Inter-Faith Council for Social Services, The Society of St. Andrews, Durham Branch of the central and eastern NC Food Bank, Fair Local Organic student organization from UNC, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and the Chatham County Outreach Alliance. Eastern Carolina Organics (E.C.O.) and Weaver Street Market of Southern Village are donating the boxes and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle of Raleigh will be doing the deliveries with their refrigerated trucks.

Please call or email Margaret Gifford at 919.967.6464 or, or Sarah Blacklin at 919.280.3326 or for more information, or to volunteer or donate.


Photo: CarrboroWeb

More info on: Carrboro's Farmer Foodshare

09:39 AM in Food, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jul 27, 2009

Carrboro Farmers' Market Farmer Foodshare -- Unsold Food Goes to Poor

My friend Margaret recently started a food gleaning program at the Carrboro Farmer's Market.  Her low-tech, common sense "why didn't someone think of this already?" effort reminds me that there are so many "obvious" opportunities for good that still need someone to notice, step up to, and do. In this case, talk about your "low hanging fruit" :-).  No diss to the good farmers and organizers at Carrboro Farmer's Market for not doing this until now -- they've been doing many great things for years.  Now they're doing one more.

Excerpt from yesterday's News & Observer:

Margaret Gifford makes her rounds on a recent Wednesday evening near closing time at the Carrboro Farmers' Market. With a cardboard box in hand, she reminds farmers that she's there to collect any produce they can't sell and won't keep until the next market day.

...The idea came to Gifford, a market regular and former public relations executive, when she heard farmer Ken Dawson of Maple Spring Gardens talking about composting unsold tomatoes. "I noticed farmers taking some unbelievable produce home," she says. "We need to get the food from the people who have the food to the people who need the food."

...On that recent Wednesday night as the farmers start breaking down their stations, the collection begins. John Ferguson of Ferguson Farm donates two large boxes of ripe peaches, which were just selling for $4 to $7 a basket. Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm brings over a box of tomatoes worth more than $60. Basil comes from Cane Creek Farm. Cucumbers come from Turtle Run farm. Elise Margoles of Elysian Fields Farm drops off a grocery bag filled with eggplant.

"Thanks for taking care of this," Leah Cook of Wild Hare Farm tells Gifford. "It's so nice that someone will take it from here."

-- Collecting Unsold Produce for the Hungry (<-click for full text).  Andrea Weigl, News & Observer, Sunday July 26, 2009.


For my Durham friends: the article mentions that the Durham Farmer's Market has been donating to Urban Ministries of Durham for years :-)

08:29 AM in Food, News, Urban Ministries of Durham | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 08, 2009

The Tip Calculator

IPhoneTipScreen Back when 15% was an appropriate tip, I used to calculate the amount by dividing the bill by seven then rounding up slightly (because 1/7 = 14.3%, not 15%). Then someone mentioned their method: divide the total by ten (i.e., just slide the decimal over) then add half again. Much easier, dang.

Now that a 20% tip seems to be the norm, I try to do the smart thing -- divide by ten and then double. But I often catch myself dividing by seven (old habit) then correcting myself by dividing by five.

Two links:

1.  Seinfeld's The Wizard.  Tip calculator at 9:40.  ("It does other things!")  I'm still amazed at how many stories Seinfeld crams into 28 minutes.  Tip calculator.  Interracial couple.  House in the Hamptons.  Kramer for Condo Board President.

2.  Excerpt from the Washington Post Style Invitational Week 523, in which readers submit ways to make modern life harder than necessary.  I think that one of the WP's examples was "Change 911 emergency number to 134599671A".


Photo yoinked from Carlos Perez.  It's his first app!

12:10 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mar 29, 2009

Mint and Mimosas -- Indian in Chapel Hill

Mint Indian Chapel Hill

Randy asked, "is that the right proportion?"

I dunno -- isn't 60% sparkling the normal amount for a mimosa?

The kind folks at Mint Indian in Chapel Hill had suggested we start with drinks while we waited for the running-a-little-late buffet to open up.  The ten minute shot-clock differential between free-access-to-drinks and an open buffet line struck me as dangerous.  But we did alright.

Randomalia on Mint, Indian mimosas, and other Indian buffets:

  • I'm no expert but thought that the food at Mint was fine.  I particularly enjoyed their gajar halva (carrot pudding dessert) which I'd never seen before.  I also appreciated the food had less salt than I expect in any buffet.  (Cleverness bonus: they split our change into two equal piles of seven singles, two nickels and two pennies each.)
  • Note that the newly-opened Mint is at 504 W. Franklin Street.  The longstanding India Palace is two doors down at 508.

10:34 PM in Food, Reviews, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feb 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to Carpe Durham


Congratulations to Carpe Durham on their first birthday!  At tonight's celebration at Pinhook, it was great to meet many of their contributors -- who are younger, slimmer, and better looking than you might have guessed for people who write so well and eat as much as they do.

In a September 2008 interview with Claire Cusick at the Independent, Carpe's Andrew Prins said:

"People in Durham seem to spend a lot of time discussing how we can build a closer community, yet often what it seems like they need to do is stop thinking about it and actually just live in it like a community. There are so many fantastic places and parts of Durham that most residents have probably never seen, and that we certainly wouldn't have seen without the blog."

Right said, Andrew.  The saddest thing about Carpe Durham is that their writers are graduating from Duke Law in May and will move on to far flung places for federal clerkships and more.  One writer said that friends may take on the mantle after May -- but I will not dare hope until I see it.  For now, I'll just be glad we've got the original team for as long as we do.

Above is the Sabor Latino truck they got to park outside Pinhook for their birthday party.  When the west-stretching queue reached around twenty people long, the MarVell Club folks next door politely asked if we could shift the line's direction so it wouldn't block their entrance.  But soon enough, the line grew beyond thirty and started threatening the entrance to Revolution several doors to the east.

The truck people looked pretty happy with the 3 tacos for $5 crowd, despite occasional struggles with language* and despite the early so-many-customers-we're-out-of-cheese (or some other important ingredient) crisis.  Still, downtown Durham has never smelled so good.  And that's counting the weekdays when Ninth Street Bakery is cooking up the cinnamon rolls, and the olden days when Liggett and Myers was processing their sweetest of leaves.  Carpe's SPL interviewed many diners on video.  All had greasy smiles and talked with their mouths full; some expressed their joy via dance.  I burned my fingers on food and did not care.


*near as I can tell from the line: one person in seven spoke Spanish but one person in five had trouble placing an order.  Everybody pitched in.

Photo yoinked from Carpe Durham, of course.  If you're very very clever, you can recognize the boxes of Premium Saltine Crackers on the front dash.  My fellow blogging Carpe-fans did not know what recipe those go into.  Do you?

12:08 AM in Destination Durham, Food, Links of Note | Permalink | Comments (4)

Feb 13, 2009

Greg Cox, Triangle Food Critic -- on the radio next Wed (18 Feb)

Cox_greg Local eaters take note:

Restaurant critic spills the beans on the radio

Tune your radio to 100.7 The River next Wednesday, February 18 from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., when I’ll be the guest on the Mornings with Kitty Kinnin Show. Excerpts of my recorded conversation with Kitty about the local food scene will be scattered throughout the program. For a more complete sampling (or if you miss the broadast), you can catch the podcast at whenever you like.

posted by Greg Cox at the N&O blog.

Hey, why didn't Shooting the Bull get him first?! :-)


Image yoinked from N&O, duh.

12:22 PM in Destination Durham, Food, News, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dec 01, 2008

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich x2

My friends Mike and Sel had some folks over to their place after the Carrboro Film Festival last Sunday.  Sel worried that there wasn't enough food and asked if anyone would like her to make some P, B & J's.  Replied Kyle, "You had me at 'P'."


Above, a PB&J at a Flying J Travel Stop somewhere around Nebraska.  At the center of each sandwich, the peanut butter and the jelly were around two-thirds of an inch thick.  That would put me into a coma so fast, but I guess it works for truckers. 

I enjoyed sleeping at several Flying J's while I drove around the US in my Pontiac Vibe with the fold flat seats.  The parking lots seemed safe and the morning showers were big and clean for ~$8.00.  My only problem was on my first Flying J night in Ohio or thereabouts, when the 4 a.m. lawn sprinklers shot through my windows that I'd cracked open for air.  It was a confusing way to wake up.

12:14 AM in Food, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (2)

Oct 13, 2008

Fasting in California

Last week in Claremont I attended not one but two Break Fasts at the end of Yom Kippur.  I hadn't fasted for the ~24 hours beforehand, though I might have, had I known more and given it some thought.  At the first Break Fast, three items came from the host's favorite deli at home in New York.  There was smoked whitefish, pickled herring in sour cream, and smoked salmon.  Oh. My. G-d.  So good.

Meanwhile (or sort of -- if you go back to July), six hours to the north in Salinas, Mayor Dennis Donohue took a week-long one-meal-a-day Fast for Peace.  The mayor was looking for a new method to create change in his gang-troubled town, and he was joined by a city council member and the chief of police, and an untold number of others.  See here for the July fast coverage and here for the mayor's call to take the Fast for Peace statewide.

11:50 PM in Food, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shopsin Style and Style-Guide

from The Way We Eat -- Flipping the Bird by Christine Muhlke, NYTimes, 9 October 2008

...after 28 years behind the stove, Shopsin wants only to cook for people he likes. “I’m not a very mature person,” he says after a lunch shift, his white hair kept at bay by an appropriately McEnroesque headband.

“Sometimes my mind works a bit too fast, and I come to the conclusion of a relationship with customers faster than they get there. The abruptness of my understanding the essence of what’s happening is really upsetting to them and makes them vindictive and angry.” (One man, refused service at the original Bedford Street grocery-turned-restaurant, ripped a toilet out of the floor.)

I love this article for several reasons.  Muhlke manages to tell two of Shopsin's stories (the restaurant and the book) and one of her own in a few sharp paragraphs.  And I do so like the way she writes.  Add to that, the article employs two different means of showing a quotation where part of the quote is deleted or changed.


“We kick [expletive] out. Regularly.” Up to three times a day.

And second:

I waited weeks to tell Shopsin, who softened and got borderline misty for a second before bellowing: “I’m glad you didn’t tell me. I would’ve kicked the” you-know-what “out.”

I've never seen the second option done before, at least not in an instance where it seems that few words were being changed.  Interesting. 

More of my struggle -- I wasn't sure of a best (or even very good) way to "quotate" those two items, above.  I think I should buy a journalism textbook.  Even if it doesn't explicitly explain how to quote quotes from other texts, I suspect it would have examples of just that.

BTW, I've just remembered to follow up to one of Valerie's comments on quotes within quotes, at this old post.

03:21 PM in Food, Words | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sep 17, 2008

"Does 'ten' sound about right?" Dave's answer to, "How many cookies are in a serving?"


Mmmm... Ginger snaps.

Some of my Denver pals made a fine batch while I was visiting, so I snagged a copy of their recipe:


Missing, though, is one magic ingredient: "the help of a sweet little boy".  I assure you it makes a big difference.

In Dave's San Francisco kitchen, I could find neither the sweet little boy nor the molasses, nor a full bin of sugar when I was making the dough, nor the attention to notice about salt.  Thus the light and dark cookies were made with a few substitutes:

Light cookies: 3/4 to 1 replacement of brown sugar for molasses, no salt

Dark cookies: 1 to 1 replacement of honey for molasses, 1/2 and 1/2 white sugar and turbinado instead of all white, no salt.

And a couple more minutes cooking time on both.

In case you're wondering, both recipes turned out yummy. (I mean, they're cookies, for goodness' sake.)

Nota bene: I know that no one reading this blog needed all the detailed cooking notes, but it was a nice excuse to (a) talk about sweet little boys and (b) show how some people are pigs.  Thank you for your patronage.

03:00 AM in Food, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sep 13, 2008

Carrots in Coconut Milk with Turmeric


Some twenty years ago, my Auntie Tini made an appealing salad that included carrots and turmeric.  It was served cold and had a bit of acid zing to it but I remember almost nothing else.*  From that inexact inspiration comes this completely different recipe for carrots in coconut milk with turmeric.  I've made it twice now and hope you might try:

Carrots in Coconut Milk with Turmeric

Ingredients (more or less)

2 lbs. carrots
2/3 lb. green zucchini (yes, I know it's yellow squash in the photo)
1 lb. firm tomatoes (like romas) or else cherry or grape tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1-1/2 tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt to taste

And optionally

1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. ground cardamom

Preparation and cooking

Cut carrots and zucchini into sticks, and cut tomatoes into manageable chunks, erring on the larger side.

Place all ingredients except the zucchini and tomatoes into a pot and bring to a simmer, and let carrots cook for a few minutes.

Add zucchini and let simmer for a few minutes more, until the zucchini begins to soften.

Add tomatoes and let simmer until warmed through.

Serve with rice (or naan or a similar moist eastern bread).

Note: the hope is that when you're done, the zucchini is cooked through, the carrots are firm (neither soft nor crunchy), and the tomatoes have not fallen apart.  The first time I made this, I used the full complement of ingredients listed.  The second time, I didn't use any of the optionals.  I suggest you try the simpler recipe first, then taste.


*When my Indonesian-restaurant-owning Auntie Tini (not related by blood, but the wife of my godfather Nurdjaman) made this for my family back in ~'88, I really liked it and asked what was in it.  But I didn't understand half of what she said, nor did I remember half of what I understood. All that stuck with me was that turmeric plus carrots = good, an idea that sat for twenty years before I got around to doing anything with it.

Repeated story
: I meet something yummy in a restaurant (or in someone's home, or in a magazine), I don't know (or have access to) half the ingredients, so when I get home I make something inspired by the original but fairly much different.  Tell me this hasn't happened to you.

02:14 AM in Food, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sep 11, 2008

Alice Apple Pie

Apple_pie_from_clipsahoy_2 Sorry no photo.  Ate it all.

Back in college I used to make a lot of apple pies.  I forgot about them for about twenty years but now they're back.  Two weeks ago I kicked off the re-start with a pie for my young friend Alice, for whom I put a nicely cut "A" on the crust.

Having been out of the baking world for a while, I had to look up some basic recipes online for both crust and filling.  I got two good ones from, and then tweaked to my tastes.  Here's what I've been cooking with reasonably consistent success:


Alice Apple Pies (recipe for two):

Apple Filling Ingredients

3.5 to 4 lbs. Granny Smith apples
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch salt

Pie Crust Ingredients

4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbs. sugar
12 tbs. butter
10 tbs. vegetable shortening
2 tsp. salt
12-16 tbs. ice water


In one big bowl, blend all ingredients except the water with a pastry knife.  Add water bit by bit, stirring until you've got everything nicely mixed.  Finally blend all together by hand into a ball of even consistency.  Remove ball from big bowl and place in refrigerator to chill.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel, core, and slice apples.  Blend with remaining filling ingredients in the big bowl (you know, the one that you just did the pie crust dough in).

Remove dough from refrigerator, cut into quarters, roll two bottom crusts, fill pies, and roll top crusts, reserving a little bit of dough for decorations.  Pinch edges appropriately.  Use the reserved dough to make a nice initial for the person you love most at that moment, or maybe some hearts or whatever.  Wet with a bit of the filling juice (still in the bottom of the big bowl, of course) before laying onto the top crust.  Punch many fork holes in an attractive pattern.  Ring the edge of your pie crust with a bit of tin foil.

Place on center rack (or on a tray on the center rack -- I'm told that different trays yield different results for the bottom crust, but I don't know what they are) and bake for ~50-55 minutes, removing the tin foil edging ten minutes before it's done.

If you like, throw on a quick glaze with five minutes to go: a 50/50 wash of corn syrup and hot water, dusted with coarse sugar.


Serve with a bit of cheddar or Wensleydale and a bit of whiskey if you'd like to be from Yorkshire.  Else tea.  I think that ice cream with pie is overkill.

Confession: tonight's pie was a bit more moist than I had expected.  I realized while typing this recipe that I had forgotten to poke holes in the crust.  D'oh!



03:35 AM in Food, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sep 08, 2008

Meat as Footprint -- Transport, Production, and Sales


According to a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, foregoing red meat and dairy just one day a week achieves more greenhouse gas reductions than eating an entire week’s worth of locally sourced foods. That’s because the carbon footprint of food miles is dwarfed by that of food production. In fact, 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food consumption comes from production; transportation represents only 11 percent; wholesaling and retailing account for 5 percent. Source: Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42(10):3508–3513.

-from Conservation Magazine, which has a fantastic graph in The Problem of What to Eat -- Organic farming and eating locally make intuitive sense. But does conventional wisdom about eating sustainably hold up to the science?  I was surprised to see that grains, fruit, and vegetables have a modestly higher carbon impact than fish, eggs, and poultry. 

I know there are many ways to debate what people choose to eat and why, but the one consistent thing is that people need good data if they want to make philosophically meaningful decisions.  Hooray for data!

05:19 PM in Food | Permalink | Comments (3)

Aug 22, 2008

Roasted Vegetables with Cous Cous


If you Google cous cous with roasted vegetables you'll get a good few recipes.  Skim them and add your own intuition and you'll do fine.

Above, a just-into-the-oven tray of vegetables that J, P and I had over cous cous tonight.  I was just darned tickled at how well it turned out, this being the first time I've tried to make such a thing.  Here's what we had:

Cous Cous with Roasted Vegetables, v. 21 August 08

Ingredients for 3 servings

  • 1 medium-large eggplant
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • l medium-large eggplant
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 head garlic
  • handful of grapes
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata and olives-with-garlic (findable in your local grocer's olive cart)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • ground thyme
  • dried rosemary


  • Cut and then lightly salt the eggplant to draw out the bitter.  Let sit for a while.  Rinse.  Pat dry.
  • Cut all the other "food" ingredients (except the olives) to what size you like.
  • Place on roasting pan
  • Dress with a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and rosemary (fresh is probably better but we didn't have any so nyaah).
  • Roast at 450F for 45 minutes.


over cous cous and top with chopped olives and maybe some red pepper.

Notes and Observations

Any number of other ingredients could be added.  The nice thing to remember is to make sure you have some sweet (like from the grapes, or raisins, or whatever) and some acid (from the olives and/or capers and/or more balsamic vinegar).  We also had some green split peas that were meant as a plain side item, but everyone just stirred them in with the roasted veggies.

There are better and worse sizes and shapes for chopping the vegetables.

We meant to serve halvah for dessert, but forgot it in the cupboard.  Instead we had yummy white peaches from California.  I have been told that white peaches and nectarines are an abomination, but we enjoyed ours.

Hey, this meal was vegan!

Tomorrow, something Indonesian.

02:27 AM in Food, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (1)

Aug 18, 2008

Gravlax a la Denver


Above, the last bits of Gravlax a la Denver, served at the 7th birthday party of my delightful young friend A., daughter of my friend-since-childhood L.

This platter was carried around the party by our friend Jn. who requested a name for the dish so she could introduce it properly.  Gravlax a la Denver was the best I could do on short notice while assembling a second batch, but a proper description would be "first-timer gravlax served on cream cheese and toast, with fresh dill and (most importantly) incredible grape tomatoes picked this afternoon from the garden of friends J., P. and M."

Believe what they tell you: it's easy to convert raw salmon into something extra fun with a handful of salt and sugar, a sprinkle of pepper, and a few sprigs of dill.

Here's what I ended up with after checking out a few recipes*:



  • Two salmon fillets (~.7 lbs each), skin-on.
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt [way too much! see notes below]
  • 1 tsp. black pepper [way too little!  I got tired of grinding]
  • 5 bunches dill


  • Coat the flesh side of the salmon fillets in the sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Sandwich the fillets with the dill in between.
  • Insert in a Ziploc bag
  • Throw in any remaining sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Squeeze out any air.
  • Weight down with something modestly heavy (e.g., a bag of rice)
  • Cure for 48 hours in refrigerator, turning every 12 hours
  • Remove from bag, rinse.
  • Place fillet skin-side down on a cutting board, and cut thin slices on a diagonal, with your knife blade perhaps 30 degrees from horizontal.
  • Slice thinly and on the diagonal (knife blade ~30 degrees from horizontal)

Things I noticed about today's gravlax:

  • This recipe was saltier than I would have liked because I mis-read the recipes. I will try with less salt next time, at least if I plan to eat it plain or just with capers.  However, with toast, cream cheese, dill and tomato, the saltiness was perfectly fine.
  • The thicker parts of the salmon definitely cured less than the thin parts -- the flesh was less salty and less firm.  Closer to (but still more firm than) nova lox.
  • Judging from what kids kept coming back for while I was prepping the snacks: (1) all kids love plain white bread, (2) almost all kids love plain white bread with cream cheese, (3) many kids like Gravlax a la Denver if they can pick off the raw tomato.
  • Clever Jn. pointed out that snipping the dill with scissors is a much faster way to distribute it over gravlax than trying to pluck bits off with my fingers.  Go Clever Jn.!  Even better than Clever Hans!
  • If the platter comes back with a bunch of empty toothpicks, it is kosher to reuse the toothpicks when making the next serving.**

Here's how it looks, mid-prep.  Mmm, pile o' salmon:



*If you Google gravlax and recipe***,  the first two recipes come from Cooking for Engineers (click for great photos) and Mark Bittman.  These recipes and others disagree on many points.  For example: Bittman says "It is imperative that the fish be as absolutely fresh as possible," while Cooking for Engineers says, "for safety [in killing parasites] use salmon that has been commercially frozen or freeze the salmon yourself to at least -10°F (-23°C) for at least 7 days."  While reviewing these and other recipes just now, I realize that I used way more salt than anyone would recommend for 1.5 lbs. of fish.  I'm not sure why I did that, but I'm glad I didn't ruin the product.

**Lookit, if the guests think it's OK to put their used toothpicks back on the serving platter...  What do they think, we've got nothing better to do than wash plates all day?  One platter, four batches of canapes, then wash: that's my game plan.  I seem to remember an etiquette expert advising "use your pants cuffs" to a gentleman who didn't know where to put his used toothpicks.

***How do you indicate Google search terms while clearly distinguishing whether you want the terms to be in quotes or not?  For my search, I inserted the words gravlax and recipe, but I didn't join them in quotes.  Normally, I'd be inclined to say, "Google "gravlax recipe" (no quotes)" but that seems annoying and/or longwinded ****.  How about if I wrote "Google gravlax recipe".  Would that be clear?  And if I wanted to search for something in quotes, I could say, "Google "Penny Marshall is my friend"

UPDATE, 3/09: Google uses square brackets to describe what goes in the search field.  Thus:

     Google [gravlax recipe]

is different from

     Google ["gravlax recipe"]


BTW, "Penny Marshall is my friend" (in quotes) is a Googlenope.  Unfortunately for fun, Google no longer returns a nearly blank page for a Googlenope.  Instead, they return a "no result for phrase in quotes" message followed by results for the words not searched as a phrase.  Ah well.

****I know, I know, so do I. On a regular basis.  But at least here in blogland you can skim.  Or skip.  Or skip to my lou.

01:38 AM in Food, Recipes, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 24, 2008

Chickenbutts! That's What!!!

Do you remember the chapter in Little House in the Big Woods where Laura and Mary share the roasted pig tail -- crispy skin and shiny fat on a bit of bone?  (Just before they play ball with the inflated bladder?)

Filipinos are that way with chicken butts (aka buldits in Pampanga).

Last weekend I had lunch at the home of one of Durham's absolutely most generous Filipina hosts.  She'll invite ten people for dinner on a moment's notice, and never accept help with the dishes.  But I've found she's not a complete angel.  She at least reserves the chicken butts for her own snacking joy.*  I spotted these on her kitchen counter, well away from the buffet.  Couldn't resist teasing her about it :-)

Speaking of chickenbutt.


*Thank goodness she does something for herself.  And though it shouldn't make a difference, this somehow makes me feel less bad about breaking one of her ceramic collectibles when I smacked it with my umbrella on my way out the door.

01:08 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vit Goal - Boiling Korean. Plus Triangle Bailliage


The tofu soup at bottom is boiling.  Yummy lunch at Vit Goal -- the 2nd Korean restaurant near the corner of Highways 55 and 54 by RTP.  (The first is Chosun OK in the northeast corner.  Vit Goal is on Allendown Dr., a block south of the southeast corner.)  You should go.  And afterward, buy some make-your-own-Korean-meal ingredients next door at Shilla Oriental Food and Gifts.

Update: Jason Perlow (founder of eGullet) has a great blog about both Vit Goal and Chosun OK here at

Looking for Vit Goal map, I stumbled across Vit Goal photos and an article from the Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina. According to their website:

"The Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina is a local chapter of the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.  La Chaîne is a unique gastronomic society, headquartered in Paris,  with more than 20,000 members in over 100 countries."

I remember reading about La Chaîne some years ago (I probably wanted to join), and I think it's fair to say that the Triangle Bailliage -- founded in 1987 -- was one of the earlier Triangle foodie groups.  Their website hasn't been updated since November, so I'm not sure if they're still cranking, but you can take a tour around several years of their restaurant visits. 

You'll see that they are clearly "traditional".  As part of their custom, officers and some members wear ribbons and medallions.  Professional members include prominent restaurateurs such as Van Eure, Giorgios Bakatsias and Scott Howell, representing several of the Triangle's longstanding well-regarded restaurants.

That said, a visit to their website will also make you wonder if their "model" is a bit out of date for 21st century US eating.  The first thing I noticed was that their trip to Vit Goal last year was billed as their "annual ethnic dinner".  In the previous year, their "annual ethnic dinner" was a trip to Jibarra.  Oh well -- just visit and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Different generations.  Different approaches to food and culture and writing.  (And yes, I remember that everything we have today is built on what people did before.)  Someone let me know if they've moved their website to a new address, or if they've shut down, or anything else about them.  I'm curious.*


*Not that I'm claiming credit for any of his skills -- but throughout that last paragraph, I felt like I was channeling the spirit of Eat at Joe's :-)

12:48 AM in Destination Durham, Food, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 23, 2008

Filipino Grocer in Durham - Phil Asia on Highway 54

A very cool person recently told me about this place, and I'm sorry I can't remember who it was.  If it was you, holler!

Phil Asia Market opened four months ago near RTP and has a bunch of cool stuff you might not find elsewhere.  Among them, the Magnolia brand ube and monggo bean ice milk pops which are currently calling to me from the freezer.


Ube is a purple yam used in the Philippines as a sweet, starch, and coloring ingredient.  Monggo beans are widely used throughout Asia and are also known as  the same thing as mong beans or green soy that you might have seen in other dishes. 

Western palates (especially Southern ones) are used to sweet potatoes serving in a dessert role.  But it's rare for us to see beans as a sweet dish ingredient and I'm suspect that these ube and monggo bean treats wouldn't be everyone's fave.  I guess that just means there's more for me.  In fact, I'll be surprised if I can write this whole blog without interrupting myself with a trip to the freezer.  But I digress...

So what should you try at the Phil Asia Market?  For sure I recommend the Magnolia brand ice creams of any flavor.  Phil Asia has several of the standard Magnolia flavors including ube, macapuno (a special coconut), and probably some others like mango.  Sausage fans should try to the Filipino-style longanisa.  I spotted several cooked/smoked/preserved bangus (milkfish) items on the shelves and in the freezers.  And if you like light, sweet breads, try the pan de coco: rolls with a bit of sugar and shredded coconut thrown in.

For more of the Filipino-American experience, click over to rapper NUMP on MySpace.  NUMP is a Filipino-American rapper out of the Bay who's done a Magnolia Ice Cream commercial

Phil Asia Market
1708 E. Highway 54
Durham (next door to the wacky True Value Hardware store, just west of the Highway 54/55 "Indigestion Intersection".)  This True Value has both a pharmacy and a wacky, ever-changing sign.  See one courtesy of Southern Kind of Life, a six-month-old blog from southern Durham (happy half birthday, SKoL!)


Magnolia Ice milk photo from Ramar Foods in California. Magnolia has been the longtime "best of the major producers" ice cream brand in the Philippines, sort of like Breyer's was in the US until the early 80s when we got our first explosion of more premium ice creams. The US-distributed ice cream uses Filipino flavor ingredients plus US cream.

11:01 PM in Destination Durham, Food | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 22, 2008

Vampiro at El Trapiche - Fun With Beets and Celery


I've already pointed to this pic at Emaya's blog, but I wanted to share it again for a different reason: the vampiro, shown above (the drink in the glass, not the woman at the table) at El Trapiche in Mérida, MX.

At El Trapiche, the vampiro is a straight-up juice made from freshly pressed oranges, carrots, beets, and celery. No sugar, ice, or alcohol -- just health and yumminess.  Drink one and you won't need your daily vitamin.

I'm not sure what proportions go into the mix.  On its best days (for me) the beetiness was noticeable but not dominant (i.e., you got the flavor but not the mouthfeel) and there was just enough celery to add some green sharpness, spiciness and "breadth" to the flavor.* 

As served, the vampiro was always too rich for me, so I'd order a bottle of sparkling mineral water and a glass for cutting each vampiro in two, which is why the bit of vampiro pictured above is a bright red instead of its naturally deep blood red.**

A few more things about El Trapiche.  First: the staff are nice and will take you dancing.  Second: do you notice how the chair in the foreground is opened out from the table just a little?  That's a nice touch at many Mexican restaurants: the chairs are all angled out as if to say, "please, have a seat."  Lastly: you can see the street view over here at Flickr.  The two women pictured are standing on the sidewalk just outside where Emaya was sitting. 


*OK, so you describe what celery tastes like.  I dare you.  I love celery in almost anything but I can't stand celery soda.

**blood red.  Thus the name "vampiro."  I didn't catch on until I'd had two or three.  As much as I like words and languages, I'm slow at noticing some things.  Didn't realize until reading Xta's blog four years ago that "Colorado" was named after "colored" in Spanish.  Didn't realize until my dad mentioned it that "Sanka" was derived from the French "sans caféine".  Didn't notice that the Singapore/Malaysian restaurant wasn't pronounced "MARE-lee-on" but was rather "Mer-lion" as in "sea lion" as in the mascot of Singapore.  Of course I sometimes go the other way.  At a steakhouse in ~1981, I thought "Dieter's delight" was some German dish, probably with bratwurst, instead of the low-calorie cottage cheese and lettuce thing that ended up on my plate.

12:14 AM in Food, Mexico, Recipes, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 16, 2008

Mez -- Mmmodern Mexican


So what came first -- queso fundido (aka queso flameado) or raclette?  Beats me, but the new Mez Restaurant in Durham does the Mexican version, pictured above (with a tortilla chip for scale):

Queso Flameado - Melted chihuahua cheese and goat cheese with roasted poblano. Served with fresh flour tortillas and your choice of chorizo sausage or all vegetarian with tomatillo salsa...7.45.

I've had two meals at Mez and enjoyed both.  The crab tampico cakes (Mexican crabcakes, no breadcrumbs)  are yummy, especially for the mango-jicama slaw that comes with. 

So what's the spin at Mez?  Their website says:


MEZ is the newest venture from the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, the owners of 518 West, 411 West, Squid’s, and Spanky’s, all award-winning local restaurants. We  MEZ also offers a beautiful private room that can accommodate 80 to 100 people for business lunches, rehearsal dinners, or any other occasion. MEZ is North Carolina's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designed restaurant.

As for me: I appreciated the wide variety of items, fresh ingredients, low grease levels, and innovative salsas.  Of the eight or nine dishes I've tried, I've loved the heck out of a couple, liked most, and disliked only one or two, mostly because they were too salty for my tastes (which run on the sensitive side when it comes to salt).  My lunch for two went for $50 (including a healthy tip, because I think I was accidentally rough with our newbie server.  He kept trying to take away my plates which still had some of the mango-jicama slaw and the Yucatan slaw.  I threatened to break his hands.).  Dinner for three was $95 (including one drink per person). 


The building is worth visiting if only to see what a LEED certified building looks and feels like.  The upstairs dining room and patio would be perfect for a large reception.  Just watch your step on the long stairways if you're serving booze.  Straight stairs and a long way down.

And lest you be misled by the above empty-restaurant photo (taken ~2:30), the placed was packed at 1:30 in the afternoon, much as it was ~8 p.m. on a recent weekday night.  Mez has only been open a short while, but people obviously like it.  And people are getting used to the idea of eating in the Research Triangle food zone after work, not just during.  (Compare the pizza place and the Chinese place a block away -- closed after 6.)

Bonus quotes from lunch:

Me:  The one thing about this dining room is that it's pretty noisy.  If you brought a large group of friends here, you'd have a hard time hearing everyone at your table.

Pal L:  Not with my friends.

12:30 AM in Food, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (11)

Apr 21, 2008

Akashi Sushi and the Food Gulley of Durham


The Mercury Rising roll at Akashi Japanese Restaurant.  In case the phone pic isn't clear, that's two different lumps of orange/red fishiness on top.  The first layer is (very) spicy tuna.  The second is tobiko (flying fish roe).

Akashi is famed for its almost everything half price almost all the time menu.*  It's also famed for its very long menu (including a Wolfpack roll).  I can't believe I hadn't visited before this weekend. 

Quality impressions?  Hmmm... I'd give my first meal a B-.  The Spider Roll (behind the Mercury Rising) was the least inspired I've ever eaten.  But I'll try it again if someone else wants to go. [Update: I had lunch with my pal Adam last week, and we both gave our meals a solid B+ at a great BOGO price.]

Speaking of fame, Akashi is in the ought-to-be-famed Food Gulley** at 2223 Highway 54 E., one block east of Indigestion Intersection (aka intersection of Highways 55 and 54 at the edge of RTP).  The Food Gulley is cool.  It has a taqueria/carniceria, Sal's Pizza, Montas Latin dance club***, Akashi, and Bombay Grille. I have no idea how their lunchtime customers find a place to park.****


*I'm not kidding about the half-price stuff.  Everyone tells me it's always half price all the time.  If you're worried it won't be whenever you go, click here for Akashi's Citysearch listing, then scroll to the instant offer coupon.

**Food Gulley.  I made that up and if you've been, you'll know what I mean.  Below street grade, it's easy to miss if you don't know where you're looking -- so drive slowly and pay attention.  It's just east of the railroad track. While I didn't make up "Indigestion Intersection", I'm surprised to see that it doesn't seem to have currency outside of RTP.

***Hey, has Montas changed names?  I seem to recall different signage on Friday.  Amusement: one of the club's security guards had locked himself out and was knocking on the window to regain admittance.

****One time in that parking lot, I was surprised when one of the landscapers looked up and said, "Hey, Phil.  Howgozit?"  It was my friend Paula whom I'd last seen in Chicago four years earlier.  Her ex-boyfriend story is here.

01:10 AM in Destination Durham, Food, Reviews, Words | Permalink | Comments (7)

Little India in Cary, and Udupi Vegetarian


Above, one of the dinner platters at all-vegetarian Udupi Cafe in Cary.  For $18, you can order one of their three big sampler meals -- more than enough food for two people.  The platter, above, came after a plate of fried foods (see below), which came after a bowl of rich vegetable soup.*


I'm no connoisseur of South Indian food, but I can say I enjoyed everything at Udupi.  In particular, I liked the eggplant and coconut items I'd never tried before.  I'd be happy to visit Udupi again, but for my next Indian meal in Cary, I'd also be happy to try something different. 

Fortunately for Cary people, there are many options.

Apart from Udupi, the neighboring Chatham Square at 740 E. Chatham St.** has a half-dozen Indian restaurants and/or stores (Mithai Indian Desserts!), plus a few other interesting spots (Bingo, anyone?).  Fiona Morgan has nice notes in Cary -- the Charm of a fast-growing Southern Town (Independent Weekly, June 2007).


*Sorry I didn't snap photos of the menu.  I assumed that Udupi would have all that stuff on the web.  No such luck.

**Udupi is at 590 E. Chatham St., Cary NC, which is sort of next door to Chatham Square at 740 E. Chatham.  Don't ask me how the Cary numbering system can get you from the 700 block of a street to the 500 block in less than 50 feet.  Just look for the brick building with "Pizza & Wings" and "Hair Designers" facing the street, and that's where you'll find Udupi.  Oh, and shame on any of us who reflexively think "no culture and no diversity" when we think about Cary.

12:22 AM in Food, Reviews, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 15, 2008

Five Points Cafe is Open!


I had a nice lunch there with Claire from The Crone Report.*

And I asked the owner, Steven Matherly, what he'd like us to share with you:

  • We're open!
  • Breakfast opens at 7, and deli sandwiches and the like for lunch ($7 or $7.50 for a nice-sized sandwich, fancy chips plus a fountain drink.)
  • The plan for evenings: "downtown Durham's dessert destination."  Current desserts are provided by "The Cake Lady", Mrs. Lott (see pics below), who rents kitchen space at the Cafe, and also from Sweet Jane's and Guglhopf.
  • In Phases 2 and 3, the cafe will add international dry goods (chick peas, arborio rice, etc. etc.), fresh vegetables, staples like milk and such, soon followed by sliced deli meats, fresh fish on ice, and eventually...
  • ...Wine with a focus on affordable bottles, with many from South America.

Best of luck to Steven on his expansion into what I hope he'll eventually call "Five Points Cafe & Market" or some other name that suggests shopping and not just eating.  Downtown Durham would love such a spot.  A small, sustainable version of what Fowler's had hoped to be.  A place for downtown residents and workers to pick up their evening's dinner groceries.  You know, like they were living in a "City".

Here's a pic of Mrs. Lott (in hat) and other friendly folks:


Among her offers at the Cafe: pound cake, sweet potato pie, and a coconut cake of some kind.  Below, ~1/3rd of a serving her very dense and not-to-sweet bread pudding.  A monster-sized slab** goes for $2.85, which is a bargain for the amount of food and flavor you'll get.


Five Points Cafe
347 W. Main St.
Durham NC 27701


* DurhamFood of CookingEatingDurham came in just after we did, but was gracious enough to let me call blog dibs on "we were there first!"  (I'm sure he could have gotten to his computer faster than I, had he wanted to.)  And Claire was double-gracious enough to let me blog first -- extra nice since she picked up the tab. 

Related: I never knew that I had a competitive personality until ~10 years ago when a few people pointed it out.  Damn.  Oh well.  But since it's out now, I'll say it:  "We win, we win, we win!" 

02:57 PM in Destination Durham, Food, News, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Apr 10, 2008

Taqueria El Paraiso (Durham)


Yesterday's lunch.  In the foreground: a pair of gorditas.  Farther back: an "open-face burrito".

By accident this week, I'm continuing a tour of restaurants mentioned in Gourmet Magazine's "Carolina Cocina" article.*  Years ago, I used to eat frequently at this Alston Ave. -- before it was named El Paraiso, I think.  In any case, I'm happy to have returned.

Four random notes on the restaurant and food:

El Paraiso's salsa verde is reason enough to go there.  It's served in a squirt bottle, and here are the essential ingredients, as told to me (in no particular order) by the cocinera:

  • avocado
  • garlic
  • onion
  • cilantro
  • tomatillo
  • jalapeño
  • salt

The salsa roja is also plenty yummy:

Gorditas have been described as "the pita bread of Mexico".  But yummier.  Made like a very thick, moderately greasy tortilla, the outside has a little crunch, and the inside is soft.  Most often, the gordita is split open from one side, stuffed with something yummy, then topped with a bit of lettuce and tomato, a splash of media crema, and a sprinkling of what I'm guessing is grated queso fresco.  El Paraiso's variation is to pile everything on top of the gordita instead of inside.  The nice thing about this method is that you know from the beginning that you can use a fork.**

Gringos are Welcome at El Paraiso.  At 12:30 this afternoon, there were three parties in the restaurant.  One pair of white businessmen with a laptop out.  One big table of white young professionals (or maybe grad students) in their late twenties.  And me plus my (white -- you guessed it) client.  I'm used to being the only non-white person in a place.  But not in East Durham. This was a happy moment.***

El Paraiso is on Alston Ave. between E. Main St. and Angier Ave.  This is an interesting and appealing neighborhood that has been written about several times at Endangered Durham.  I can't decide which of Endangered Durham's blogs to send you to, so I'll pick two: Alston Avenue Update (a pause on the road widening) and Commonwealth/Asbury/United Methodist Church

The folks at Uplift East Durham also write about this neighborhood that they live and work in.  I enjoyed my frequent drives through here back in 2005 when I was taking care of a friend who lived out on East Angier.  It's easy to imagine the area's healthier past, and a hoped-for good future.

ALSO: Chowhound's co-founder Jim Leff has many praising words and pictures of El Paraiso in this blog: North America Dispatch #18: Great 'Cue with Bob Garner, Two Pillars of Mexican Cooking, and a Deafening Honduran Pool Hall.


**Click for a scan of the Carolina Cocina article (.pdf 2MB)

**I had my first great gorditas in Mérida, Mexico.  After I apologized for using so many napkins, the cook said, "Yucatecan food is messy."  El Paraiso is run by folks from Oaxaca, where my gringo lunchmate has traveled.  His Spanish is better than mine.  While asking for the salsa recipes, I kept trying to verify the absence of some expected ingredients, "...y no vinagre? no limón?"  He said that better choices would be "nada de vinagre? nada de limón?" or even "...sin vinagre? sin limón?"  I will try to remember for next time.

***Back in 2001, my Rhode Island friend Sheila accepted an senior executive job at Duke, and I took her to dinner here on one of her first nights in Durham.  As we seated ourselves, she said, "my colleagues are taking me to dinner tomorrow and they asked where we'd be going tonight -- just to make sure they didn't pick the same restaurant.  I don't think they needed to worry."

12:35 AM in Food, Mexico, Recipes, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 09, 2008

Urban Ministries of Durham Breakfast

Monday breakfast at Urban Ministries of Durham -- oatmeal, scrambled eggs, half a ham-and-cheese sandwich on whole grain bread, half a carrot/bran/something muffin, and a mug of coffee.

Urban Ministries of Durham provides free meals daily -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- to anyone who comes by.  No money.  No prayers.  No required participation in anything.* 

A new lead cook has just come on board, and the whole team is working to improve both appeal and nutrition, starting with breakfast.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for many UMD diners.  By my estimate, UMD serves ~125 people each morning.  And I'd guess that at least 1/4 are going off to some kind of work (construction, janitorial, whatever-they-can-get) right afterward.  Increase the fraction if you include "parenting" in the work category.

Where does the food come from?  Breakfast and lunch "groceries" come from many sources that do gleaning, collecting, or donating.  One of my favorite sources is the Interfaith Food Shuttle whose refrigerator trucks collect banquet and restaurant leftovers from places like the Durham Convention Center run by Marriott.  UMD has a longtime relationship with Whole Foods (baked goods are a high volume donation)** .  And of course  there are congregational and neighborhood food drives, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and the USDA. 

In recent years, demand for meals has grown modestly or remained steady.  However, it's getting harder to keep the food supply coming into UMD's kitchen.  I'm not sure of the exact reasons, but if I had to guess, it would be a combination of: a slower economy that makes for less "excess" at banquets and restaurants, higher gas and food costs impeding donors, etc.  Upping the quality standard won't make it any easier to have an ample supply of what's needed.


*Though it's not quite "no questions asked" because they request your name and birthday as a way of tracking service stats.   I guess there isn't really a "free lunch" in this world.  But if you're concerned about privacy, you could always give a fake name and birthday.  If you wanted to pay a favor for the usage stats data gathering, you could also be so kind as to always give the same fake name and birthday.

**Challenge/conundrum/irony:  Whole Foods donates lots of high-nutrition baked goods like the ones you see on the near tray.  But a lot of UMD's diners don't necessary like whole grains, nuts, bran, etc. in their bread.  They prefer and are used to plain white bread.  And a lot of UMD's diners don't have great teeth, either.  So... how does one serve?

11:24 PM in Food, Reviews, Urban Ministries of Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 07, 2008

Rockin' the Stove with Chef Shirlé Hale-Koslowski


When high quality comes along in blogland, I just have to share:

Rockin' the Stove -- Vegetarian and Vegan Cooking, Rockin’ The Stove with Chef Shirlé, vegetarian and vegan recipes, cooking show, songs about food and handmade crafts for the kitchen.

Above, a pic from her post:  Buying Organic Eggs for Easter?…Then What About The Dye? Easier and more fun than I would have thought.  Click it and see.

You may know Shirlé her band Gerty, or from her Four Corners Cuisine* personal chef service.  Or maybe you just know her because she and her husband David are cool.  In any case, I'm glad you know her now.


*from "a square meal and so much more".  Not from Saturday night's tragic ballgame.  And hey, what's this -- four posts (three on food related) in 24 hours at the Archer Pelican?  There must be something in the water (that has been pouring for the last two weeks)...

11:23 AM in Food, Links of Note | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 06, 2008

Sunday Brunch and Mimosas at Dale's Indian Cuisine


To imagine a spiritual connection between India and the Traditional South, consider bhindi masala -- okra with fried onions and tomatoes, served with rice.  And to put some on your plate, try the weekend brunch at Dale's Indian Cuisine on Ninth St. north in Durham.* 

It's only $12.85 for the ~12-entree buffet including the make-your-own mimosa cart pictured below (don't worry about the empty bucket -- more sparkling wine is coming).

My goodness, such a treat.  Especially when they stack the cart with pint glasses because they've run out of clean champagne flutes, so they stack the cart with pint glasses.  Also note the tray of pappadam on the bottom shelf.



*Dale's Indian Cuisine has three locations -- Durham, RTP, and Greenville.  Pics above from:

811 Ninth St. (corner of Ninth and Green)
Durham NC 27704
phone: (919) 286-1760
Open 7 days -- weekend brunches start at noon.

BTW: fellow diners mentioned great Indian places in Cary, including Shree Udupi Cafe, a Southern Indian restaurant that specializes in vegetarian food.  I haven't been but would appreciate links to any independent reviews.  Good vegetarian food is a gift.

Shout out to M and her son who sweetly treated me to a Dale's dinner just before I left town in January.  And shout out to J whose Full Frame visit to Durham prompted today's brunch.

06:32 PM in Food, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Crab Enchiladas at Fiesta Grill (Carrboro) of the Gourmet Magazine Mention


Today's special at the Fiesta Grill -- crab enchiladas.  A generous portion for only $10.95.  Not pictured, the also-generous tostada de ceviche for $2.95 (available Saturdays and Sundays).

As you may know, the Baja-rooted Fiesta Grill was one of six local Latino restaurants featured in Gourmet Magazine's "Carolina Cocina" article last September*. 

I've always been happy to go there for the rich and freshly made everything.  To be honest, I've never been blown away by the food -- but I've almost always been pleased. Perhaps as importantly, they have the longest menu I've seen of any local Latino restaurant**, so I never get bored with the choices.

They also have the friendliest staff ever.  Need something to tweak your meal?  They're quick to provide extra cilantro, their alternate salsa (rich flavor without much extra heat), more limes, or a bottle of hot sauce.***

Come warm weather, treat yourself to country drive with lunch or dinner at the Fiesta Grill in west-of-Carrboro followed by dessert at Maple View Farm.  If you don't mind a messy meal, you can even take your to-go order for eating at the Maple View Farm picnic tables.



*Click for a scan of the Carolina Cocina article (.pdf 2MB)

**including eight vegetarian choices. Want proof?

***Fiesta Grill uses the well-known Tapatio sauce from Guadalajara. Did you know that Northgate Mall in Durham used to have a store that just sold hot sauces and related products?  That was ~1993.  Sadly, it didn't last long.

The fellow whom I think is the owner: his jawline and voice remind me of Marlon Brandon as the Godfather -- but in a nice, friendly way.

Essential ingredient atop the enchiladas: the half-cream aka media crema. Cans of the Nestle brand should be available almost anywhere with Latino groceries.


01:27 AM in Food, Mexico, Reviews, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mar 31, 2008

Shrimp on a Stick, Peeled or Not, and Maybe in a Biscuit?

I love shrimp on a stick.

Below, two ways I've seen it as of late:


The first (above) at Carnaval in Mérida MX.  15 pesos (~$1.40) for a long stick of medium shrimp, shell on, basted in a chili dressing, and topped with salt and a squirt of lime.  You can eat the semi-crunchy shell, or you can peel it off.  I eat it for the texture and the flavor.  Makes me happy.  15 pesos was sort of pricey for the product in Mexico, but not when you consider that you're buying it in the middle of Carnival where the prices are inflated for the event.  Beer on the street was 20 pesos.  Walking down the street drinking beer and eating shrimp on a stick on a warm February night, to the sound of a dozen salsa bands: priceless.  Vocab for those interested: camarones a la parrilla ("shrimp on the grill") or brochetas de camarón ("shrimp skewers").


This second set of shrimp is available at A Southern Season for $18/lb.  Much prettier, for sure, with the big peeled shrimp nicely yin-yanged on the skewer.  I didn't try them, but I enjoyed snapping the pic.  On a later visit, the kitchen folks had fanned out ~40 skewers in a lovely pattern that looked like an upside down palm leaf hat. <-click it, it's pretty!  Of course one challenge of pretty food displays is designing them so they'll continue to look good as the supply diminishes.  I didn't hang around to watch.

Most importantly: you might notice the one dark biscuit that looks like it has a fossilized shrimp at top (imagine that the tail is at ~11 o'clock, and the body curls around clockwise.)  I know now that I was just seeing things, but Ho-lee-crap -- what an idea!  Shrimp dropped onto biscuit dough before it goes into the oven?  A most nouvelle Southern canape, don't you think?  I'll have to try this.  The shrimp might need a little cooking before it goes onto the batter, etc. etc.  Must do lots of testing, etc. etc.

05:24 PM in Food, Mexico | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mar 28, 2008

Taverna Nikos, Revived and Slightly Revised

At long last, Taverna Nikos is re-opened at Brightleaf Square.*  The calamari are as good as I remembered them.  They've redecorated just a little.  The accent colors seem to be different now -- much more blue (on the walls, in the trim, in the napkins?) than I remember.  But I'm horribly bad for remembering colors, so maybe I'm just confused.

The menu is shorter -- one big sheet, laminated.  The bread now has seeds and whatnot (instead of being plain white) but the butter is still as yummy, as is the olive oil.



*OK, so I know it's been open for a month or so now.  But after being closed for so darned long, it still feels "just" re-opened to me.

01:21 AM in Destination Durham, Food | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mar 11, 2008

Today, Instead -- the Jade City

So apparently this is "Durham bloggers go to communist countries month".  If my travels took me to the Emerald City, I guess that the Durham Foodie is off to the Jade City -- Beijing.  Yesterday Kelly had an interesting post on Chinese censorship:

The whole censorship thing really gets under my skin. Besides Google blogger, China censors the BBC Web site, parts of CNN web, and various other news outlets that do not reflect their party line. I was watching CCN on the TV this evening and there was a piece on about the alleged terrorist plot that China thwarted. About 2 minutes into the broadcast the TV went dead. A few minutes later it went live in the middle of another broadcast.

Nothing to report on food. I worked all day and am too tired to eat.

Go visit Durham Foodie this week for more from China, and for months and months of yet more food.  Be warned -- reading her blog can make you very hungry.

Two random bits on Chinese food:

1.  My new Australian friend Karen sometimes visits China where she does not speak the languages.  A paraphrase of her comment: "My best friend in China threatens me to stay on her good side.  'Don't piss me off or your next meal is dog.'  And yes, dog is on every menu."

2.  Calvin Trillin -- a big fan of Chinese food in New York and elsewhere -- supposedly carries a card in his wallet with these words: "I'll have what that guy over there is having."

I'm back in the US for a month or so, but I'll be continuing with posts on the Emerald City this week and next.

11:16 PM in Food, Links of Note, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (4)