Last summer, the husband and I moved away from the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina after spending eight years watching the cities expand and their food scenes skyrocket off the heat-charts. Seriously, the New York Times is obsessed with the place! So I was excited to head back for the weekend in mid-September—my head’s still spinning from the other side of the country over all the new foodie destinations that have sprung up just this past year.
While my husband gave a presentation at NC DevCon, I decided to spend my weekend exploring as many of downtown Raleigh’s newly opened spots as possible. Why Raleigh and not the rest of the Triangle? I had no car and was staying downtown. It’s that simple. I needed to focus on places I could walk to.
After our flight in, my first stop was Jose and Sons (327 W. Davie St.) for dinner. It’s the newest incarnation of one of my favorite Triangle restaurants, Jibarra, located in the fast-redeveloping Warehouse District right by the train depot.
Jose and Sons is now more Southern-Mexican fusion, whereas it had been pure upscale Mexican food in the past. While I remain skeptical about the value of $8 guacamole—
–and the shrimps and grits didn’t have nearly enough heat for me—
–I have to give solid props to the Booze and Mango cocktail.
That’s dessert in a glass, and it’s a beautifully balanced one, too. Vanilla rum, Grand Marnier, cream, and what Jose and Son’s calls a mango popsicle and I’d call a mango-flavored ice cube make for a worthy night cap.
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The fishing lake at Oak Farm Vineyard. Click twice for the full view.
Oak Farm Vineyards Winery (23627 Devries Road) is on its way to becoming the first of its kind in the Lodi, CA, appellation: a family-owned estate that offers the full experience of a large-scale destination winery, minus the glitzy hotel and pretension. I took part in a media preview of their new expansion, which will help them achieve that goal. The Wine and Hospitality Facility is scheduled for a public grand opening on October 25 and 26 of this year, and if you’re a local wine lover, it’s an event you shouldn’t miss.
That beautiful wood-covered tasting room is the centerpiece of the expansion. By now, the landscaping is likely all filled in along the terraced stone wall. Inside, the tasting room is covered in more gorgeous wood and decorated with an inviting modern aesthetic.
That geode picture is really for my sister, who collects them.
Attached to the tasting room is a bonus room that is intended for the use of Oak Farm Vineyards wine club members. Dorothy Panella, mother of Managing Partner Dan Panella and Business Manager Nicole Panella, is officially in charge “of stuff,” which included decorating the room before us bloggers rolled in with our cameras. She assured us that the final version of the room would look much better, but frankly, I think she did a great job with the stuff.
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I stayed over in San Luis Obispo for a day after the end of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference—I needed the time just to decompress and organize my thoughts before heading all the way back home. And I apparently needed to take a tour of Mission San Luis Obispo for some inspiration.
Click twice for the panorama.
I love discovering treasures in the everyday, and as someone who grew up on the Central Coast, I’d seen plenty of this mission. But I’d never gone inside, and as I walked by, I happened to notice a crowd gathering for the next free docent tour. Why not join, I thought. So I did.
The docent gave us a brief history of the mission’s timeline, starting with its founding in 1772 by Father Serra.
Statue of Father Serra outside the mission.
During the 1800s, the West became more of a lawless place, which is the very reason those doors have an extra couple of feet on top—to stop outlaws from riding in on horseback. Also interesting is that the mission was made over after being returned to the church’s care once California became a state. As was the fashion at the time, it was redone to resemble typical New England clapboard churches with a steeple and all. Thankfully, it was returned to its roots in the early 1900s.
Inside the building, I was fascinated by the colorful vines and birds on the walls.
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