Tag Archive for raleigh

Poole’s Downtown Diner

Poole’s Downtown Diner
426 McDowell Street
Downtown Raleigh
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.


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.




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


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.


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.


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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My Aha Moment and a dramatic reading of “Sardines”

A few weeks back, I recorded my aha moment. How does one record an aha moment? Funny you should ask, because I didn’t know either until the aha moment team asked me to come in and do a little video session with them for their national campaign. The “they” in all this is Mutual of Omaha, and “my aha moment” is an ad campaign they’ve been running for the past couple of years. It’s a clever way to do promotions–a team of videographers tours the country and invites locals to come into their Airstream and share the aha moments that have set them down whatever path they are pursuing, whether charity work or a career.

Borrowed from the “my aha moment” Facebook page.

You can peruse all the videos and commericals they’ve produced at their website. I participated at their Raleigh, NC, stop and shared about my writing and the moment when I realized I was a writer for real…at the tender age of 9 (maybe 10). Watch my aha moment below!

I think it turned out pretty well! But what didn’t make it onto the reel was my dramatic reading of the poem I composed that day in Monterey. I can still picture the light blue paper I was finally able to jot it down on once we returned to the hotel in the evening, but alas, I no longer have the sheet of paper. I do still have the poem, however. And here I am, reading it in all it’s fourth-grade glory.

Now I hadn’t read that poem in years, and I surprisingly realized that (1) I was writing curveball horror twists in the 4th grade! Genre fiction is definitely for me; (2)  I was already concerned about sustainable food! I honed right in on how overfishing had destroyed Cannery Row’s sardine trade, no doubt having heard it from a tour guide or read it in the tourbook on the way to Monterey; and (3) I managed to capture a sense of place for Cannery Row, which is something I always try to do in my travel posts. It’s hilarious to me that my writing interests have not shifted much since that time.

I hope you enjoyed my aha moment and “Sardines.” I may make a series out of reading my elementary-school short stories and poems. Any guess as to what’s going on with this picture?

becca whale storyIf you answered the cover page for a short story that involves a haunted house under water, then you’d be right! And yes, that’s a giant blue whale with rainbows and clouds on its skin. Oh yes, it’s a winner, my friends. Think Lightspeed would be interested?

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