Our State #1: Neal's Deli – Carrboro

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Here we go. This will be a journey. I picked up Our State – the edition with 100 counties and 100 restaurants you must eat in this wonderful state of North Carolina.
This quaint, slightly too small for everyone for eats there, deli is in the little town of Carrboro. If you still think you will be in Chapel Hill, you may be right. The two are so closely connected. When you cross through a red light you are in a new city.
Bill Neal, now deceased, who started such restaurants as Crook’s Corner (man, I wish they were open for lunch), is the father of Matt Neal, the man running the show. Their pretzel (brezel) rolls are fabulous and soft with just enough salt to make any sandwich better.
The sandwich that got my attention on the website was the local grilled zucchini and mozzarella sandwich. Tomatoes, basil, local mozz cheese, and fresh grilled thin slices of summer goodness of zucchini. With an olive tapenade. This such was great. I could have done without the green olive tapenade – too salty when mixed with the brezel roll. Still good – that basil. The fresh mozz cheese. The perfect tomato – fresh from a summer garden.
The other sandwich we decided to try was the egg salad on rye. I love egg salad but not a huge fan of rye. The two together – amazing. That was the best egg salad ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot). The perfect crunch of the lettuce added that toothy bite. The rye was not overwhelming which was very nice. No need to overpower perfectly good egg salad.
The only thing I would change would be the price. They are a little steep when you only get a sandwich and a pickle. I know you are paying for freshness, locavore food. That’s why I like – wish it was just a bit easier on the debit card.
Go, enjoy this local deli. Much better than the standard Panera or Bear Rock. Support your local growers!

Taste of Durham: Cuban Revolution

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I’m a little behind on my restaurant reviews – but here goes.

The American Tobacco district in Durham is home to some great night life, the Durham Bulls, and fabulous restaurants.  Parking is not fun, especially when there is a football game, but it is a great way to spend a Friday night with friends.

Cuban Revolution is one of those places.  The atmosphere is fun, eclectic, historical, cultural.  The wait staff are wonderful and engaging and knowledgeable.  The food – I really did love what I ordered. 

We started with sweet potato fries.  Good – but not the best I’ve had.

I ordered the Cuban salad – black beans and maduros – I fell in love.  So good.  Dressing on the side.  Who knew maduros on a salad would be so good?

We went on a night with a baseball game across thestreet, so we had a pretty lengthy wait – but it was worth it, fun nightlife atmosphere, would be fun for some dancing if they ever had any times to do that, price was reasonable, and once the game started it cleared out and ended up as a quiet evening (until the game got out).

Taste of Pizza: Brixx

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I love thin crust pizza.  I love whole wheat crust.  I love non-greasy pizza and ones with delicious toppings.  And I love salads.

The Brixx salad was simple and delicious: greens, goat cheese (I could eat this by the log), pistachios and croutons.  Their housemade balsamic – man I would love the recipe for that.  Fresh cracked pepper – fococcia (didn’t like that bc it was cold).  Hmmm.

We shared a 10 inch whole wheat crust 1/2 pizza.  The crust was perfectly thin and not too crispy so that it busted in your hands.  BBQ chicken was the waitress’s favorite recommendation and is usually a favorite of mine.  It was good – just nothing special.  The other half was pear and gorgonzola.  Subtle, slightly sweet, love the walnuts on it.  Sauteed onions were simply delicious.  Good choice.

Brixx.  Would go again.  Not the world’s best pizza.  But, good for a chain.  Salad was good.  Can I honestly get a recipe for that dressing?

Taste of Raleigh: Neomonde's Bakery and Deli

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I left behind TWO great falafel places in Louisville. It was sad. Grape Leaf and Shiraz were delicious and relatively inexpensive, Shiraz being the cheaper of the two. Before 2007, when I lived in RDU – I didn’t really care that much about Persian/Mediterranean food (not like I do now).

Friday I was introduced to a place out by NCSU and Meredith called Neomonde. For those of you in Louisville – a Mediterranean Lotsa Pasta. Market, deli, refillable drinks, samples. Neomonde’s is cheaper than Lotsa Pasta. There are so many wonderful things to choose from.

On Friday when I went we shared the Large Kabaob platter. 1 chicken kabob, 1 beef kabob, 2 salads (veggie salad and hummus). They give you tons of pita when you check out. And we got 4 falafels – good (although green inside) and topped with sesame seeds (could have done without the sesame seeds. I personally like the pitas better in the ville, but these are good.

Saturday when I went I got a 1/2 falafel wrap and hummus/pita – 4 kalamata olives, evoo, hummus, 3 whole wheat pitas) = all for 6.50. I call that a pretty good deal.

So – this will definitely be a favorite. Anyone wanna go with? More pictures will come later.

Taste of Raleigh: Hot Point Cafe

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If you want a nice change from Panera – go here. (Picture taken with my phone – sorry for the quality.)
I really wasn’t planning on eating out today for lunch, but I wanted a quiet(er) place for lunch and didn’t want to sit in my apt by myself. So, I had looked at this place online and went hunting in North Hills. Found it.
This is a trendier Panera. Same price (about) for what you get. I actually think you get more on the salads. The soups were smaller and not a wide variety. Sandwiches looked good, but Panera’s are bigger. They also had meals for dinner – but they were definitely higher (to fit the North Hills market) and they also served a wknd brunch.
I enjoyed the quiet – slightly busy and I was there from 1130-145. Not bad at all. I just enjoyed the warmth and breeze as I sat outside.
I had the small Greek salad and a refillable unsweet tea for $7.22. As you can see from the picture, they don’t skimp on the small. There was TONS of feta, black olives, artichokes, greens, roasted red peppers, cuks, and raw mashrooms. It also came with a triangle of their sun dried tomato focaccia bread (good flavor, but a little dry). I asked for the balsamic vinegar on the side – so good. It was sweeter than most.
So – if you are looking for a place that isn’t as busy (maybe a place to meet with a girlfriend and sit for hours) – there you go…

Taste of Durham: Watts Grocery

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I love LOCAL. I wish Raleigh had more eat local restaurants – but alas, will have to keep making the drive to Durham and Chapel Hill.
Watts Grocery is on Broad Street – near the 9th Street district and one of Duke’s campuses. This wasn’t here when I lived in Durham and worked near the spot of the restaurant. My friend Kristin recommended this place and it was a winner.
They are only open for brunch for a few hours on Saturday. We got there about 25 minutes after they opened and we had a 20 minute wait. But, the line kept building, so this place has earned quite a reputation.
All local farms provide the food for this restaurant.
I had Little Red Wagon Farms granola (from Chapel Hill) – but Louisville people – you can buy it too! Yogurt was delicious – a vanilla kind maybe from Chapel Hill Creamery, or another local farm. Topped with blueberries, raisins, and strawberries and pecans. Very good. House made english muffin with fresh butter and blueberry preserves. Good local eats.
Kristin had the huevos rancheros – made with red beans for a slight change. She said hers was great too!
Will be making another trip: the blood orange mimosa sounds good and the toasted pimiento cheese sandwich or the strawberry caramel filled french toast. How can you go wrong?

Taste of Raleigh: Bella Monica Flatbread Company

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Italian food. Comfort food.

There is a small, local Italian place within a 1/2 mile of home and I finally had a chance to go tonight. Definitely had to make reservations and had great company.

I tried to be a little on the healthy side – so I didn’t have any ooey gooey cheese – will have to go back and try something that has cheese!

1. The hospitality. Like an Italian family dinner table. They were excited we were there, people in white chef’s coats brought out our food, and they were very welcoming even when we were leaving. They weren’t shoving us out of there and couldn’t care less about how long we stayed and talked.
2. The meatballs. Perfectly seasoned and not dry at all – that’s what I like. Maybe I need to go back and get a huge meatball sub!
3. Option for whole wheat pasta. I went for the whole wheat penne – I could be a little healthy.
4. The tomato sauce. Not too spicy, not too chunky. Perfect for a pasta sauce. Right on!
5. My friends enjoyed their meal: chicken parm and stuffed shells. They both said they were great.

The Wish Was Better:
1, The bread. Definitely dig any other Italian place’s bread better than here. Dry and not too flavorful.
2. The bruschetta. They were cheap (which was good for an appetizer) but neither were really that good: blue crab on one and chicken liver pate on the other. I could have passed on both.
3. The non-descript salad. Yes it was good. But there was nothing special about it.

Would I go again – yes, definitely trying something cheesy this next time.
Would I make it my go to Italian place? Not yet – and definitely the chains are better so far.
Have heard amazing things about their pizza – so may hit that up soon!

Durham Farmers' Market and Food Thoughts

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Greetings for a Saturday night. Its been a good day.
The Durham Farmers’ Market is great local find. All vendors have to be within 50 miles or so of Durham Cty. Which is very local!
I found french breakfast radishes. I have already used them all: in a stir-fry (w broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, zuks) and roasted – which they almost turn to mush. Raw – these have a peppery bite which I’m not used to with regular radishes you buy in the store. I even am going to use the green as a salad tomorrow for lunch.
I found a hybrid green: green leaf and romaine. Hearty lettuce that will stand up for the base of my couscous chicken salad this week.
I also found a winery in Graham that makes Scuppernong and Muscadine wines. So, I tasted all three and liked the Scuppernong the best. May go back and gte some more later – however I was nice and bought my brother some Muscadine wine. Let’s see if he likes it as much as Dakota Winery’s…

Here are my food thoughts:
1. I have been snacking WAY too much. Not even bad stuff – just eating too much. I don’t like that feeling and I don’t like that sin.
2. So, I think I will spend tomorrow journaling about it, getting back to God’s heart on my eating and exercising, and see if we can get a game plan going here for more obedience.
3. I will (starting tomorrow) take my friend Sarah’s advice and maybe try to eat bigger meals so I will not snack every 2 hours to so. I won’t be tempted to open that snack drawer in my office. I won’t be tempted to grab that handful of SweetTart jellybeans! And if I do snack, it has to ve veggies or fruit – plain. Or with mustard. None of these processed pretzels, or cool whip, or even granola which is higher in fat. I need healthy fruits and veggies.
4. I would rather be able to wear all my clothes than to eat more. But, that shouldn’t be more sole reason. I should do it to please my God who sent His Son to die for me. Right now, for me, that doesn’t seem to be a big enough reason. Lord…help.

Taste of Raleigh: El Rodeo

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Went to lunch with some co-workers today to really talk about children’s ministry – and you can definitely talk for a while over chips and salsa.
We went to a place across the street from the church called El Rodeo (no www). Typical mexican place – nicer ambience than some other local places.
Liked our waiter – he was very nice. The food came out in about 6 minutes – really – we were surprised at how fast it was. We went a little after 11am and were the first ones there, but by the time we left about 1240 it was more full.
I got the sincronizada – a vegetarian tortilla sandwich: mushroom, onion, pepper, jalepenos, and cheese – with sliced avocado on top. My mouth was on fire but it was absolutely wonderful! I loved it. 6.75 got me that, a huge portion of rice (which wasn’t anything to rave about and I only took a few bites), chips (again, blah chips) and salsa (I really liked their salsa).
So…good to know there is a good place close by – but I’ll still be looking for good Mexican places in the area!

Taste of Raleigh: Wildflour Boston Pizza

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For 6 months I lived within walking distance of this place and never went. Today was the first day I ventured out with a co-worker to check out a little corner restaurant in Stonehenge (N. Raleigh) for lunch: Wildflour Boston Pizza.
Ok – I don’t thnk I had even heard of Boston Pizza. Yeah, of course – Chicago, New York, CPK, homemade, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Little Caesar…we have our favorites…but Boston?
I wasn’t even planning on getting pizza…
But, I saw the price (7 for a small – 6 slices – and 1.45 for each topping) and the fact that I could get it with whole wheat crust – that sold me on it!
Tall-sided crust, medium bottom crust, crunchy, not your typical mozzerella cheese, and fresh roma tomatoes! I even had a little avocado put on top from my friend’s fiesta salad.
It was…good. The pizza and conversation was much better than the service. It wasn’t that crowded, but it seemed to take a while for us to get our order and we had to wait for straws, etc. Our server wasn’t overly friendly – just soft-spoken and matter of fact.
So…do I have to go again tomorrow because everything was fantabulous – no. But, would I go again – yes.