Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Day of Indulgence - Part One

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Saturday provided the perfect spring afternoon for GWG to visit Elodie Farms in Rougemont for Family Farm Day, an event sponsored by Durham Central Market, that welcomed guests to explore the 21-acre farm and show support for several local products.

Owner Dave Artigues opened his home and land to families, fans and their four-legged friends creating an event that felt like a big neighborhood picnic. Visitors toured the farm, got an insider's look at making goat cheese (as well as samples!), and enjoyed a meet-and-greet with the goats and the newest kids in the flock (check out the slideshow for cute farm pictures). Also on hand were tasty treats from Locopops, Dolly Mama handmade chocolates, and wine from Benjamin Vineyards.

Elodie Farms raises both meat and dairy goats, and is probably best known for their farmstead cheeses sold at the Durham Farmers' Market and served at many well-known restaurants in the Triangle. Products include traditional French goat cheese (Chevre) rolled in or flavored with a variety of fresh ingredients, as well as feta, Camembert, Queso Fresco, and a variety of hard cheeses.

Family Farm Day gave us the chance to sample several of these cheeses, including the traditional log and flavored Chevres. We tried three flavors--strawberry, fig with North Carolina sourwood honey, and roasted garlic. The savory garlic was bold without overpowering the flavor of the milk. The sweeter flavors were delicious and could easily be served as a light summer dessert.

Also local to the Triangle, sweet frozen treats from Locopops were available in three beloved flavors--Cookies and Cream, Mexican Chocolate and Cherry-Lime. We tried the first two, both dairy based flavors (paletas de crema), and had a hard time picking a favorite. Cookies and Cream is a classic but the Locopops version comes loaded with chocolate cookie chunks (finding a whole cookie appears to be standard practice). Mexican Chocolate seemed a bit more adventurous but the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors are right at home in the chocolate cream. We look forward to the warm weather for a good excuse to try more of their funky flavors.

Durham-based Dolly Mama Chocolates hit the nail on the head when it comes to quality, presentation and flavor! The beautiful chocolates were almost too perfect to eat but boy were we glad we did. Although we were not able to sample everything, the three we tried have made us Dolly Mama Believers.

First, the hazelnut cone--this beautiful cone shape was a combination of freshly toasted hazelnut butter and milk chocolate inside a chocolate shell. There was even a surprise whole toasted hazelnut in the center to add a nutty crunch. Next, the Golden Buddha--a chocolate ganache inside a dark chocolate shell and finished with a beautiful gold tint. Lastly, a chocolate peanut butter egg that was so rich and creamy it was out of this world. A thin coating of white chocolate covered a milk chocolate peanut butter combination.

The afternoon on the farm was a pleasant beginning to a day of indulgence and only began to wet our taste buds. Stay tuned for part two later this week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Taste of Ireland in Downtown Durham

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day…tomorrow! The GWG wanted an authentic Irish meal right here in Durham so we visited one of our local favorites, Bull McCabes Irish Pub.
Located on Main Street in the heart of downtown, Bull McCabes is a quaint pub that plays good music on the stereo and soccer (or other sports) on the TV to enjoy along with your meal. Watch the street scene from the outdoor seating or step inside to an intimate bar that is full of character—repurposed vintage pews and tavern-style lighting create an old world feel, with tables lined-up against shelves of books to spark curiosity and conversation.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, we ordered our dishes from the "Traditional Irish Fare" section of the menu—one order of Fish & Chips and one dish of Shepherd’s Pie seemed to fit the bill. McCabe's Fish & Chips includes several pieces of beer-battered cod served with French fries, coleslaw and house-made tartar sauce for dipping—no surprises here—a very classic and filling take on this dish from the mainland. The hearty Shepherd’s Pie comes piping-hot in a boat-dish full of minced lamb, peas, carrots, and onions all topped with a heap of browned mashed potatoes—this one will fill your inner Irish requirement for meat and potatoes.

Ordinarily the Irish menu is only available for dinner, but the pub includes these options on the lunch menu on March 17th—extend your enjoyment with a few rounds of beer from a nice selection including many imported IPAs, ales and lagers available on draft.

St. Patrick's Day is a fitting occasion to visit Bull McCabes, but you will likely find yourself back again after the holiday is over.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nachos and Beer with a Carolina Kick

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Looking for a comfortable setting that serves up tasty comfort food? Check out Tyler's Restaurant and Taproom in the American Tobacco Campus—an industrial warehouse-styled restaurant with a bar atmosphere, serving up a full menu and a large beer selection. Due to winter weather we ate indoors, but on comfortable days you will find the outdoor patio filled with happy-hour patrons, Bulls fans, and regulars who enjoy relaxing in one of Durham's uniquely repurposed districts. GWG was there to end the day with a plate of nachos and a beer (or two)—Carolina style!
Specifically named "Tyler's Carolina Nachos" this hearty appetizer arrives as a pile of tortilla chips covered with house-smoked pulled pork, smothered in Tyler's own spicy queso dip, and topped with green onions, BBQ spice and hot sauce. We could stop writing here and let that description draw in food fans, but let us continue...

Tyler's NC-inspired twist on nachos provides a nice blend of sweet, salty and spicy flavors, with the sweet tang of the pork as the standout ingredient that makes this dish one-of-a-kind. The spicy cheese and beer queso combines with the hot sauce and BBQ spice to give every bite a kick of flavor.

To complement our bar snacks, we ordered up a couple of Carolina-brewed beers on tap from Asheville. The Highland Gaelic Ale is rich with a touch of bitterness while the French Bread Wee Heavy-er is on the sweeter side—both made nice sidekicks for our Carolina Nachos.

Fitting with the GWG mindset, we decided to make it a meal by adding an order of soft pretzels (served with spicy mustard and queso dip) and finishing with a slice of whipped peanut-butter pie. If you've got an appetite, picking a few of Tyler's appetizers will fill you on food and flavor.

Tyler's also has locations in Apex, Cary and soon in Raleigh, but the Durham location definitely creates a unique experience that sets it apart.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No Whine With This Cheese

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The South proudly claims itself as home to many hearty and soulful dishes commonly referred to as comfort food. Often fried and almost always high in calories (and pleasure!), any list of southern delights should include pimento cheese—a creamy spread or dip that gives a kick to any snack or sandwich. When we heard that several Durham restaurants serve up their own take on this traditional treat, we had to investigate.

We started our journey at Watts Grocery located in the Ninth Street District (near Duke’s East Campus). The restaurant’s colorful and comfortable setting creates an ideal location for a business lunch or meeting with friends, and a menu that is equally pleasing. Watts offers a variety of NC inspired dishes using locally grown ingredients—but we were there for one reason: “Lilybet’s Toasted Pimento Cheese Sandwich.”

We both ordered the sandwich, one with bacon and one without, and then traded halves to experience it both ways. The bread was browned with butter giving it a slight crunch to complement the rich, creamy mixture inside. Heat from the toast found its way to the center creating a melted, cheesy goodness with the taste of pimento peaking through each bite. The bacon added a salty, crispy meat flavor to the sandwich, although we both agreed the flavor of the pimento cheese stands alone.

Served on the side were fresh fruit or fresh fries—we went with fries (why go healthy at a time like this?) which came house-cut and nicely salted. Alternating between the fries and sandwich made for a pleasing and filling lunch.

Our next stop took us to Parker and Otis, a unique cafĂ©-gift shop combination in the Brightleaf District of downtown. Serving breakfast and lunch daily, this playful foodie haven offers up a new selection of gourmet sandwiches each week as well as classics like their “Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich on Sourdough.” We kept our methodology consistent and ordered up two—one plain and one with bacon.

The Parker and Otis edition comes on seared sourdough, a nice dry toast that pairs well with the creamy center, allowing the cheese to become the showcase. The cheesy mixture was filled with pimentos and served generously, allowing it to stay slightly chilled on the warm bread. Again, the bacon added a nice flavor but is definitely not required to make this sandwich work.

Here the included side is homemade slaw, but several salad and pasta selections are available with an upgrade. The slaw is tangy and full of flavor and offers a nice, light contrast to the rich sandwich.

Most basic pimento cheese recipes include a combination of fresh grated cheeses (typically cheddar), pimentos, mayonnaise, and a few seasonings. Both of these restaurants serve up a homemade version made from a similar recipe—nothing scooped out of a tub.

After cleaning our plates at both Watts & Parker and Otis, we found that each place adds its own tasty touch to this classic sandwich while staying true to its southern tradition—a testament to the fact that Durham knows how to serve up a taste of the South!