Tag Archive for gourmet

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

rating_truffle1

Pizzeria Toro on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 6 Feb 13.

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Weathervane

Weathervane
201 S. Estes Drive
University Mall, Chapel Hill
Website
$11–$38

Weathervane 11

Weathervane is the restaurant portion of Southern Season, and hearty southern dishes have a definite home here. Chef Ryan Payne has had a fantastic year, winning pretty much every local cooking contest he has entered. I had previously tried his food at Fire in the Triangle and at the NC Chef’s Academy throwdown, but never at Weathervane itself. The restaurant is done in creams and browns, and there’s a swooping feel to the inviting bar on the right as you enter and the main dining room that manages to feel intimate. That may just have been because we had the back booth.

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From the onset, I felt a kinship with the waiter, because he described every detail of the dishes we’d receive so nothing would be unexpected—in other words, this man has obviously had customers complain about not having salads included or finding portions too small before. I felt for him. He was very attentive for most of the meal, but by the time the entrees arrived, he disappeared and a lengthy wait for the desserts and checks ensued. Mr. Waiter, you led me on with our earlier kinship, but you entertained me regardless.

Weathervane doesn’t dabble in mixology, but they do have an extensive list of spirits, beers, and wines. On a Wednesday, bottles of wines offered by the glass were also half off, so we split one of those. My dining companions loved that we had personal ramekins of butter, and I loved that it was so soft and warm. Restaurateurs, I highly recommend you stop serving cold, hard butter at all. Also, herb butter rocks, which Weathervane did not offer.

I think we were all famished this evening, and we dove right in by sharing an order of bacon-cheddar tater tots with slab bacon and veal gravy.

Weathervane 01

It was definitely our first sign that there would be nothing light served this evening. Subverting expectations of crunchy tots, the potato resembled croquettes in shape and outside crust and gnocchi in the inner creamy and chewy texture. My first thought was of poutine on seeing the skillet served. The gravy was so rich that the salt from the hamlike bacon was necessary to cut through it. The cheddar cheese was not sharp enough to stand up to the other ingredients and was lost in the mix. But it was good.

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TerraVITA 2012 Media Farm Tour: Stop 1, Southern Season

Hello fellow food and travel lovers, I’m back! It’s been a few weeks without updates on the Gourmez, but I’m sure you managed to entertain yourselves with all those other awesome food bloggers in the Triangle or elsewhere on the Interwebs. I had a good trip to Washington, and I do have some photo blogs coming up for you on that, but first, we must dig into the fantastic weekend I just had at TerraVITA!

I’ve introduced you to TerraVITA before. It’s a food and beverage event in Chapel Hill that’s focused on biodynamic, organic, and local products and all of that important discussion about just what biodynamic, organic, and local even mean. I was a media participant this year, and I have so much material just recapping my adventures that you may be sick of hearing the name TerraVITA by the time I’m through. First up is the Media Farm Tour that took place last Thursday, November 1. Several other members of the food media and I hit up five different stops, driven around by the fearless Keith Minton, husband of Colleen who’s the amazing organizer of TerraVITA.

The day began bright and early at 8:30 am on the morning after Halloween. This is what I was doing the night before on Franklin Street—

I'm not the mummy.

—so you can imagine I mean it when I say bright and early. Luckily, we started with breakfast and coffee at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. My twitter feed explodes whenever I mention Southern Season (@southernseason), so if you somehow don’t know it, then let me introduce you to this establishment focused on offering gourmet foods from around the world and the South. Larry Shaw, the CEO of Southern Season, gave us the 411 on the image and retail space revamping they’ve undergone in the past year since the store was sold by its original owner.

Larry Shaw

Their goal is to be at the forefront of style and taste in food and to move away from the gift baskets and catalogues that had become Southern Season’s focus in recent years. So the retail store no longer packs in as many products as possible in those old, unattractive, tall, wire shelving units and is now closer to a food experience with lots of spaces for sampling products, a renewed emphasis on fresh wares like the bakery and butcher cases, and even adding a coffee bar, ice cream parlor, and florist shop.

Debbie Suchoff led us on a tour of the store and its new additions. Debbie also happens to be mother to Sam Suchoff, owner of the Pig restaurant in Chapel Hill, which I still haven’t tried yet. This must be remedied! But onward with the tour.

This coffee shop space is all new and part of their focus on creating smaller, intimate spots to experience their products in.

Jason guided us through the display cases for baked goods, cheeses, and meats, and they looked as tantalizing as ever.

We sampled some excellent cave-aged gruyere.

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