Tag Archive for orange bitters

Pizzeria Toro

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

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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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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.

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Pizzeria Toro on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 6 Feb 13.

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El Capital @ Dos Perros

El Capital
Dos Perros, Durham
$10

Wow, this New Year’s Eve special cocktail takes its description as a twist on a Manhattan seriously! It’s a very strong drink—assuming Dos Perros adds it to their specials list on occasion, only order it if you like a stiff drink. Luckily, I do! It’s made with hornitos anejo tequila, molé sauce, orange bitters, and Dolin sweet vermouth.

The light brown coloring was very appealing, like a crushed velvet. The tequila definitely hits you right away, but it’s a good, rich varietal that is deepened by the endless wealth of flavors the molé brings and the fleeting dash of orange bitters. I couldn’t pick out the vermouth, but I’m no vermouth expert so I may simply not have recognized it in the mix. The tequila is absolutely prominent in this drink, as it should be, and you only remember the other ingredients are there if you think about it. They work subtlely, which is no small feat for molé. I could have easily drunk another, but I also would have needed a cab ride home.

Reviewed 12.31.10.

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So Old Fashioned @ Revolution

So Old Fashioned
Revolution, Downtown Durham
Website
$12

This drink serves mainly to remind me that I’m picking up quite the bourbon habit in the South. It’s made with Booker’s Bourbon, orange bitters, sugar, and candied orange, though I can’t vouch for there actually being candied orange in the drink—anyone else notice how easily advertised garnishes fall by the wayside and don’t make it into a drink? Moving on from that tangent, the So Old Fashioned is a great vehicle for appreciating bourbon’s appeal. I’d double the amount of bitters, but otherwise, I was quite happy with it. The cherries helped.

3 stars

Reviewed 10.29.10.

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