Tag Archive for raleigh

1 Weekend, 8 New Raleigh Hotspots

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.

Downtown Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh

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.

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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—

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–and the shrimps and grits didn’t have nearly enough heat for me—

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–I have to give solid props to the Booze and Mango cocktail.

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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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Poole’s Downtown Diner

Poole’s Downtown Diner
426 McDowell Street
Downtown Raleigh
Website
Entrees: $19-22

This highly praised foodie haven from Raleigh celebrity chef Ashley Christiansen was Number #1 on my must list for places to try before leaving the Triangle. And I am super glad I did. It’s a foodie haven for a reason. But I was surprised by how strongly I felt it might not be for everyone else.

Poole’s exterior is nondescript enough to walk right past if you aren’t looking, just glass walls with a simple logo engraved on the door. Inside, the atmosphere is upscale diner: lots of shiny metal, three semicircles of counter seating, and appealing blacks and reds.

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Bordering the walls are their famous chalkboards, where all menus reside. Yes, that’s all menus, including the wine list, drink list, appetizers, entrees, sides, and dessert.

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This practice of chalkboard menus is very trendy—one might say Poole’s started it in this area—but most restaurants supplement chalkboards with a paper menu. Not here. You must stand up and walk around to get a good view, which is awkward but barely a blip of inconvenience for the devoted foodie.

Order a cocktail from the bar while you’re waiting for a table. Because you will be waiting for a table unless you arrive before 6:30 on a weeknight as there are no RSVPs taken. This is another common practice for busy restaurants. It gives them one less detail to worry about and adds to their hype with a crowded storefront.

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Fire in the Triangle: Battle Market vs. New Southern Kitchen

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I was thrilled to again judge a Fire in the Triangle battle, having judged my first last year when NC Competition Dining premiered in the Research Triangle. If you love food and live in the area, then you simply must make next year’s series—it’s too late for this year’s. All the battles have been sold out for weeks!

WRAL is the local media sponsor for the competition, and they already have a great summary up of Monday’s night’s competition between Market and New Southern Kitchen, but I just have to add my own spin.

 

The competitors await the results.

The competitors await the results.

First, though, I should make clear that my meal was complimentary as one of the evening’s professional judges. Second, I was plied with wine by a fabulous group of dining companions the entire evening. That may affect my opinions. But mostly it affects my dehydration today. Thank you again, ladies, wherever you are!

Diners and judges enter their scores in six categories for each dish, including aroma, execution, flavor, presentation, accompaniments, and the creativity used with the secret ingredient. Diners’ ratings making up 70% of the total score and judges get 30%. We were blessed with two—two!—secret ingredients for this meal, heirloom tomatoes and TOPO spirits. You may recall that I visited TOPO’s distillery last month, so I was excited that their unique, organic, local gin and vodka would be highlighted in these dishes. Making them stand out in a dish was the most difficult part of the challenge, in my opinion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Onto the dishes! The first course, by Chef Sokum Slama of New Southern Kitchen, was napoleon heirloom tomatoes with couscous, lobster, and a TOPO vodka and basil beurre blanc.

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This was a strong start for Chef Slama, using beautiful colors and pulling out all the stops by starting us with lobster. The tomato had wonderful flavor, but the vodka was impossible to pick out. It was Course #2 from Chef Chad McIntyre of Market that probably did the best job of highlighting the vodka.

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It didn’t quite get my highest score of the evening, but this green tomato and crab salad with poached tilefish and a citrus “Mary” sauce was my favorite for flavor. That citrus sauce captured the spirit of a Bloody Mary effectively, garnering it high creativity scores. The peppers and greens (kale, I believe), were delicious with the sauce, and the fish was perfectly done. Pistachios for crunch are always a plus!

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