Tag Archive for chapel hill creamery

Pizzeria Toro

Pizzeria Toro
105 E. Chapel Hill St.
Five Points, Durham
Website
$12 to 1$16
11 am to 11 pm daily

Pizzeria Toro 01

Pizzeria Toro is an alluring and exciting gourmet pizza restaurant. I am jealous of downtown Durham residents who have this gem down the block.  At first look, the main dining room appears to be an office conference room with light brown, wooden, spinning chairs and a long, central table, which may be off-putting for some. But the cavernous, open-air pizza oven and kitchen dominate and bring a warm, casual vibe to the space. It’s a big city restaurant that successfully fosters a neighborhood feel. I want to spend whole nights there. I really do.

Pizzeria Toro 03

Pizzeria Toro 02

Even the dish towels used as napkins contribute to that relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. And any restaurant playing independent rock instead of contemporary anything gets bonus points. There is a darker bar adjacent to the dining room space, but I never went in.

There are a few more cocktail combinations at Pizzeria Toro than there are appetizer or salad choices, which is a plus in my book. I decided on the Horsefeather made with rye whiskey, Blenheim’s “Old #3 Hot” ginger ale, and orange bitters served on the rocks in a tall glass.

Pizzeria Toro 04

Going down like cinnamon candy, the drink had plenty of heat, great complexity from the bitters, and a touch of sweetness from the ale that made for a fabulous concoction. I nursed it throughout the meal, and it was good to the last drop, which is rare for an iced drink.

My husband and I shared a salad, pizza, and dessert. The salad was shaved chicory, fennel, Chapel Hill Creamery’s Calvander cheese, and truffle.

Pizzeria Toro 05

This is when I again remark that I have no idea what truffle contributes to a dish. I have no idea if I tasted it at all. But the rest of the salad was crisp, intriguing, and fun to eat if too bitter overall. The Calvander gave the dish a fair bit of creaminess to dilute the bitter vegetables’ flavors, but it wasn’t entirely successful. I blame that on the tangy vinaigrette. Add a little cream to that, and this dish would soar.

I had no such concerns with the pizza.

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We chose the spicy lamb meatball pizza with rapini and Cacia di Roma sheep’s cheese. The thin crust was coated in something like semolina to give it grit, attractively bubbly all around, and charred on the edges. The whole pizza was shiny with that appetizing grease sheen. You know what I mean, when it’s enough to pull you in but not enough to gross you out. In other words, probably brushed with olive oil before baking. The meatballs fall apart at the slightest jostling and melt away fast in your mouth. Perhaps the roasted whole garlic cloves are a bit much, but that’s me pulling critique out of my ass. It’s a great pizza.

Dessert was just as satisfying. We had a pear crostada with clobber and caramel.

Pizzeria Toro 07

Clobber, based on our devouring of the dessert, is that lemon curd and clotted cream hybrid dolloped on the side. The pastry was baked perfectly, and all the ingredients were top-notch. I especially liked the note of savoriness the basil sprinkle added.

Other than finding the salad a touch too bitter, our meal at Pizzeria Toro was amazing and I didn’t even try the antipasti or special ham charcuterie. I am now accepting invitations to be anyone’s dinner companion there in the future. I can’t think of a better way to while away the evening in Durham.

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Pizzeria Toro on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 6 Feb 13.

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The Carolina Table: East Meets West Dinner

The Carolina Table: East Meets West Dinner

Table settings for the dinner.

We have finally made it, dear eaters. It’s the last of my posts on TerraVITA 2012, which you may find funny because I passed up the Grand Tasting on the Square, which is TerraVITA’s main event. It did not take place until the day after this meal, and there are several nice write ups for it. But this blogger knows herself, and she knew she would need a tasting bud sabbatical after the mad rush of the Media Farm Tour and the Sustainable Classroom. So I chose to end my TerraVITA experience with the East Meets West Dinner, a new addition to TerraVITA. Once again, my meal ticket was complimentary.

The idea behind the dinner, according to the event website,

is showcasing chefs from different parts of the state and having them collaborate to create a fabulous 6-course meal, centered on top-quality, local ingredients.

I would say that was achieved by this year’s participating chefs who came from all corners of the state. Wine was provided by Sour Grapes, beer by Fullsteam, and the Carrboro Coffee Roaster coffee was brewed by award-winning barista Michael Harwood who also led the Chocolate and Coffee Sustainable Classroom session earlier that day.

The dinner took place at the Chatham Mills in Pittsboro, which I had been to before to taste at and tour Starrlight Meadery, but I had never been in the main complex. It was quite attractive with rich red wood, exposed brick, and lots of windows.

Before we claimed our spots, we were treated to a cocktail and appetizer hour. Chef Adam Rose of il Palio in Chapel Hill supplied arancini with NC truffles and Carolina Gold rice and guafrette potato chips with Elodie Farm goat cheese, Atlantic sturgeon caviar, and Lucky Leaf Garden micro herbs.

Chef Adam Rose

Chef Vivian Howard of the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston offered collard dolmades with pork, pecan, cranberry, and sweet potato yogurt.

Chef Vivian Howard

Both the mushrooms and dolmades stand out in my mind because I normally don’t like either, but they pleased me this evening.

My closest dining companions were Laura of Carolina Epicurean and a brassy and opinionated couple from Brooklyn who pretty much made my evening. Colleen Minton, the mastermind behind TerraVITA, introduced herself to all the patrons and explained that she wanted the meal to feel like dinner with friends and family, and thus we would be served platters of food for sharing.

Then she introduced Lionel Vainet of La Farm Bakery, who provided fresh bread for the meal.

We learned from him that you should squeeze your bread to smell it! I would never have thought of that, and unfortunately, I never got to try the bread at all. But I speak from experience when I say La Farm Bakery is one of the best around.

Then the first course began.

There was a confit of carrots, beets, and apples with charred scallion vinaigrette and sunburst trout fritters from Chef Howard.

The beets were amazing in this dish, and the fritters were phenomenal. The smokiness of the trout broke through the fried coating beautifully. The whole dish was excellent, creating a salty, sweet, and earthy balance among the elements. The other dish, from Chef Rose, was cannelloni stuffed with spinach and Chapel Hill Creamery mozzarella and calavander. It was served with a sauce of sherry, cream, thyme, and mushroom ragout.

The cannelloni were too cheesy for me, but the sauce was rich and savory.

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