Egos and Icons

September 14, 2010

I received an email the other day that included a press release about a “celebrity chef” event in Charlotte.  I looked at the list of chefs participating and didn’t recognize a single one.  Now I have to admit that I don’t watch the Food Network all that much, and I couldn’t name a lot of the personalities that they on their programs, but it’s clear that television, and the Food Network in particular, has changed the public’s perception of all chefs.  No longer does a chef have to have a big TV deal, or even a cookbook, to be a celebrity.  The only requirement, it appears from this Charlotte event, is that the chef be, well, a chef.  Now I’m as caught up in chef worship as much as the next person, but we really need to remember that these chefs are just hard-working folks.  Hell, most of the chefs who are on television regularly and can truly be considered CELEBRITIES (Bayless, Batali, Keller, Pepin) are not that much different than you, me or anyone else.  And when we talk about the local chefs who might be considered “stars,” well, once again, they’re for the most part just plain folk.  Ben and Karen Barker of Durham’s Magnolia Grill have each won a James Beard Award, but they’re as humble and nice as can be.  Sure they have egos, but the manifestation of that ego is what’s on the plate.  They bust their butt to make sure that what we eat is top-notch, night after night. Read the rest of this entry »

Restaurant Review Roulette: Flights

August 25, 2010

This week’s review is of Flights, the restaurant in the Marriott-owned North Hills-based Renaissance Hotel.  So, it’s a Marriott, eh?  They’re not really known for putting top notch restaurants in their hotels.  But what’s this on the menu?  Pork from Cane Creek Farms?  Locally sourced produce?  Goat cheese from Elodie Farms?  So, what you’re saying is that this Marriott doesn’t get all their stuff from US Foods???  Hmmm, maybe this restaurant won’t suck.

I have an inherent bias against hotel restaurants, but I suspect this place just might be better than it needs to be, and decent enough to hold its own versus the other places in North Hills.  With that, I’m thinking this is a 3.5 to 4 star restaurant, and my hunch is that it’s going to be the higher rating.  We shall see on Friday.  Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 35 to 1

4.5 stars – 7 to 1

4 stars — 2 to 1

3.5 stars — 5 to 2

3 stars — 5 to 1

2.5 stars —  6 to 1

2 stars — 9 to 1

1.5 stars — 15 to 1

1 star — 25 to 1

Do I have a single reader who has made it to Flights?  And, be honest, how many of you never even heard of this place?


Edit: Flights soared to a 4 star rating, with Greg Cox using every airplane metaphor possible in his review.  As I would have done, too.

Restaurant Review Roulette: Market Restaurant

August 4, 2010

Did you miss me?  Sorry, but I’ve been on vacation and really haven’t even thought about writing.  My timing was pretty good, however, as the N&O didn’t have a review last week, with it being the fifth Friday of the month.

This week’s contestant is Market Restaurant, the hip place in Raleigh’s Mordecai neighborhood that focuses on local, organic fare.  This place has  been favorably reviewed by Urbanspoon reviewers and the omnipresent Yelpsters.  It has a chef who is committed to things that foodies (and food critics) like: flavorful, local ingredients, simply prepared, well-presented.  It’s in a cool neighborhood.  And the prices are reasonable, with the most expensive thing on the menu (except for the fish of the day) will run you 16 bucks.

Based on these considerations, I expect Market to get a decent review from Greg Cox.  It’s his type of place, and the on-line reviews have been pretty favorable.  Once again, this is a place I haven’t visited yet (do you get the sense that I really don’t get out all that much?), but I’m feeling that Market will garner 4 stars.

Here are the odds:

5 stars — 25 to 1

4.5 stars –  2 to 1

4 stars — 1 to 1

3.5 stars — 5 to 2

3 stars — 4 to 1

2.5 stars —  7 to 1

2 stars — 13 to 1

1.5 stars — 27 to 1

1 star — 75 to 1

How many stars would you give Market?  And how many stars will Greg Cox give it?


Edit, August 6, 2010 – Nailed this one!  Market got 4 stars from Greg Cox in today’s N&O, with Cox praising the seafood options in particular.

Restaurant Review Roulette: Zayka Indian Cuisine

June 16, 2010

This week’s review is an Indian restaurant about which I know nothing: Zayka Indian Cuisine.  Might be good, might be not so good.  The teaser in today’s N&O talked about “hits and misses.”  That’s usually a bad sign.  So I’m just going to cut to the chase and say this will be a 2 to 2.5 star review.  How do I know that?  I don’t.  And I have not done one bit of research.  I’m just guessing now.

5 stars — 500 to 1

4.5 stars –450 to 1

4 stars — 40 to 1

3.5 stars — 7 to 1

3 stars — 5 to 1

2.5 stars — 2 to 1

2 stars — 7 to 2

1.5 stars — 8 to 1

1 star — 19 to 1

Tell me about Zayka, please.  Tell me that I’m wrong and it’s great.  Please!


(June 18, 2010 Edit) — He liked it.  He really, really liked it.  OK, so Greg Cox gave it 3 stars, but that’s more than what I thought he’d do, so congratulations to Zayka!

Helios to Become a “Real Café”

May 4, 2010

I got to know Chef Rob Bland back when he was opening Coquette, Urban Food Group’s French brasserie in North Hills.  I learned that Chef Bland was passionate about his food — almost to a fault, occasionally losing sight of the fact that sometimes the customer may not always be right, but the customer is always paying.  His passion also created tension in the kitchen, too, but that’s not to be unexpected for a new, high volume restaurant with perfectionist owners.  But the thing is, Bland could flat out cook, and he was completely committed to his craft.  Stocks were made from scratch, ingredients were top notch, and sauces were classics.

Bland left Coquette a few months ago, and I was wondering what he was doing.  Turns out he decided to help out at Cafe Helios, which I thought was a bit odd, as it was my impression that Helios was just a coffee shop with some sandwiches.  Well, things are about to change, as Helios is getting its own commercial range and proper ventilation, and Bland is rolling out a full menu of new offerings — including real dinner items.  The spring menu is filled with very reasonably priced small plate offerings, and the flavor combinations look quite impressive, such as an English pea ragout with bacon, white wine, oregano and mint or piquillo peppers stuffed with a salt cod and potato puree.

Bland has also started doing First Friday barbecues outside of Helios, which is going to be a hit over the summer.  Unfortunately, with the change in the kitchen, there’s no barbecue this week, so we’ll have to wait until June.  But we won’t have to wait for the new menu, which should go live some time next week.

Spring Menu

‘Cuegrass Festival in Downtown Raleigh on Saturday

April 13, 2010

If there were ever a match made in heaven, it would be whole hog North Carolina barbecue with local swamp-trash rockers,  Southern Culture on the Skids.  But it ain’t heaven, it’s Davie Street in downtown Raleigh this Saturday at the second annual North Carolina ‘Cuegrass Festival.  I love how they state that the festival features the “bluegrass music by Southern Culture on the Skids.”  Er, SCOTS is not a bluegrass band.  SCOTS is not anywhere close to a bluegrass band.  But SCOTS is a perfect band to play at a festival featuring Southern food, and particularly barbecue (fried chicken and banana pudding would be great, too).   Now there are some legit bluegrass bands playing at ‘Cuegrass, so fans of banjo picking and fiddle playing need not worry about getting your fill of tunes.

The festival is put on by the folks at The Pit restaurant in Raleigh, and it’s a huge fundraiser to support the W.C. Breeze Family Farm, a 270-acre educational farm near Hillsborough devoted to sustainable agriculture, and the North Carolina Future Farmers of America , a student farmers’ education group.  Barbecue sandwich plates, beef brisket sandwich plates, and beer (great local stuff) each will sell for $5.  Pretty simple, and pretty reasonable (where’s that nanner puddin’??).  And who knows, maybe Greg Hatem, Ed Mitchell and the other folks at Empire Eats will expand this festival to bring in other pitmasters from across the country, as is the case with the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.  We need that type of party here in North Carolina!

North Carolina ‘Cuegrass Festival
Saturday, April 17
11 AM to 4 PM (Rain or Shine)
328 W. Davie St., Raleigh, NC
Free entry

Restaurant Review Roulette: Sawasdee

March 31, 2010

I’ve done a pretty good job predicting the number of stars that Greg Cox hands out for the restaurants he’s reviewed since I started this silly little mindless game of prognostication (again, this is for entertainment purposes only — no wagering!).  But this week’s review of Sawasdee Thai Restaurant is one where I really don’t know what he’ll do.  I know Greg likes Asian restaurants.  He also has a pretty good grasp of Thai cuisine.

The problem with Sawasdee (the review, not the restaurant) is that he last reviewed it 11 years ago (3-1/2 stars), and it’s changed a lot since that time.  Moreover, they’ve opened a second larger location in the Pleasant Valley Promenade, so I don’t know if he went to that location, the original off Capital Blvd., or both.  And I must say I haven’t been to Sawasdee (either location) in several years.

Doing a quick search on Chowhound, Sawasdee does not appear to generate the “foodie buzz” that a lot of other Asian restaurants get (see Gourmet Kingdom), so I’m guessing that the food hasn’t really changed.  Frankly, Thai food in Raleigh is similar to Chinese from 10-20 years ago, as every place caters to American tastes, and no one (as far as I know) offers solid, authentic Thai fare.  With that, I’m guessing Sawasdee stays at 3-1/2 stars.  Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 5,000 to 1

4.5 stars — 75 to 1

4 stars — 4 to 1

3.5 stars — 3 to 2

3 stars — 2 to 1

2.5 stars — 5 to 1

2 stars — 10 to 1

1 to 1.5 stars — 75 to 1

This is really difficult, and my uncertainty is reflected in the odds above.  Have you been to the new location of Sawasdee?  How many stars will Greg Cox give it???


(Edit) Three and one-half stars it is!

What I Want In Raleigh

March 29, 2010

Raleigh is my home, and I love it here.  It’s a perfect place to raise a family — big enough that we even have a pro sports team, but not so big that we have all the hassles.  We even have a pretty good food scene, but, unfortunately, not as good as our neighbors in Durham and Chapel Hill.  It’s getting better, and I’m confident that it will improve even more over the next several years.

But there are three types of restaurants I’m dying for in Raleigh.

Number 1.  A top-notch, kick-ass pizzeria.  I’m talking Pizzeria Bianco good.  Or Grimaldi’s/Patsy’s/Pick Your Coal Oven NYC favorite good.  Where the crust, the sauce and the toppings rock.  Where the oven is so damn hot that it only takes them a couple minutes to bake the pie.  Where there’s good char on the bottom and the pizza isn’t loaded down with canned pineapple or barbecued chicken or other atrocities.  And if the sauce would never even think of having a granule of sugar in it.

Number 2.  A GREAT burger joint.  No, not a Five Guys.  No, not a Mojo’s and their overcooked patties.  No, not a full-service restaurant that happens to have good burgers on their menu.  I want a place that grinds their own beef (a mix of tasty cuts would be good), bakes their own buns, and yes, even makes their own condiments.  The burgers should be cooked over a wood fire, but if not, over an open flame.  I want beer.  I want fries.  I don’t want much more than that.  No, my friends, Char Grill ain’t all that.  Their burgers aren’t all that flavorful, but they do try (and I do enjoy them just fine).  I don’t want to pay 11 bucks for a burger, either.  Eight is just about right, if it comes with fries.  And not shoestrings, either.  Slightly thicker than those.  From fresh potatoes, cooked twice until brown and crispy.

Third, a really, truly great taqueria.  We’ve actually got some decent ones, but I want meat that’s been smoked, along with some chili peppers.  I want house made tortillas, preferably hand made.  The al pastor should be truly slow cooked with fresh pineapple.  The carnitas need a tender middle, with just a touch of external crunch.  And the salsas should be fresh and impeccable.

These places reside in my fantasy world.  But I think they’ll be coming, soon enough.  And I’ll be there.

More Restaurants Doing Good Things

March 24, 2010

Whenever restaurants and chefs give back to the community, by participating in fundraisers, I like to toot their horns.  When it’s my friends who are doing this, I really  let the world (well, the world that is the Triangle) know.  Here are two great examples.

Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner is very passionate about giving back to the community.  I’ve asked her to donate her time for fundraisers, and she’s always come through.  She’s particularly devoted to the Frankie Lemmon School and Foundation, but this time around, she’s not cooking for a cause, she’s going to sit her butt on a fitness cycle and spin away, trying to raise TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS to support the building of a children’s playground.  She’s less than a thousand dollars from her goal, so please go to this site and make a donation.

Another good friend is Parker Kennedy, the owner of downtown Raleigh’s Caffe Luna.  I first met Parker in the weeks before he first opened, over 10 years ago.  Caffe Luna was opening in a location that was cursed, many said, as multiple restaurants opened and quickly closed in that spot.  Caffe Luna is now one of the most successful restaurants in Raleigh, and many restaurants subsequently opened in the area, and thrived.  I think Caffe Luna’s success laid the ground work for many of these other places.

What you may not know about Caffe Luna is that they also give back to the community.  They have raised untold thousands of dollars for Shaw University.  They’re big supporters of the Raleigh Arts community.  And now they’re doing a big fundraiser for the people of Haiti.  Next Tuesday, March 30th, Caffe Luna will feed all comers at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh from 6 to 8 PM.  Dinner includes pasta, salad, wine, beer, tea and dessert.  Caffe Luna is donating 100% of the food and beverages and is not keeping one penny.  Marbles is donating the space.  The cost is $30 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.  All proceeds will go to the Hope for Haiti Foundation, a non-profit based in Cary. Tickets can be purchased online at  Heck, even Firstgiving isn’t taking a cut from this.  Right now, they haven’t sold many tickets, and maybe that’s because people think that Haiti has raised plenty of money, but that’s not the case.  They need help, and this is an easy way to provide it.

So let’s help these establishments, when they’re giving back to the community.  We’re the beneficiaries of their food, and we need to help them when they’re doing the right thing.

Frazier’s To Close and Reopen as Food-Centric Wine Bar

February 6, 2010

Frazier’s, the crown jewel of Hillsborough Street dining and the original restaurant of the Urban Food Group, will be closing after Valentine’s Day.  After suffering through some recent chef changes, compounded by the double whammy of the bad economy and the Hillsborough Street construction project, Kevin and Stacey Jennings have decided to close Frazier’s and re-open as a wine bar with a substantial food focus.

The wine bar, which does not yet have a name (let’s have a contest!), will serve many small plates with a menu that changes frequently.  The wines on the list will drive what’s on the menu, rather than vice-versa.  Urban Food Group will have an enomatic or cruvinet, with the hope to pour 20 wines by the glass.  The atmosphere of the place will be very casual.  With wines and craft beers selected by Scott Luetgenau, I’m confident that there will be many offerings here that are not available anywhere else.

Although many foodies claim that the small plate concept is passe, it is actually thriving, especially for the younger diners that enjoy going out in crowds.  The inspiration for this new wine bar is New York’s The Ten Bells, which has been quite successful since opening in May of 2008.

Personally, I’m sad to see Frazier’s go, and I wish I could get over there one final time before it closes.  I always felt as if it were the poor stepchild in Raleigh’s fine dining scene, which is completely undeserved, as it’s been a great restaurant.  The space is awkward, however, and I sense it sort of got lost in the Hillsborough Street scene.  I suspect the wine bar will be a bit of a place to be seen, which Hillsborough Street is lacking.  Many a wine bar has come to the area, and many have failed.  Fortunately, for us, I suspect this new Urban Food Group venture will do just fine.

bu•ku to Open Today

February 3, 2010

bu•ku, the new “global street food” concept of Chef William D’Auvray, will open today. The menu is an eclectic assortment of exotic soups, breads, and other street foods, focusing primarily on Asia, but with a great mix of other regions including Eastern Europe (pierogi), South America (empanada), and Mexico (cochinita). Everything is made in-house, including the fantastic cha siu bao, the steamed barbecued pork buns from China, and the paneer, served with kale, sweet onion and cardamom. Indian chapati and papadum are also made fresh, in house.

Fortunately, for those who were fans of Fins, you can still get a lot of D’Auvray’s signature dishes, including his Indonesian style snapper and the best sashimi in town.

The restaurant’s decor has not changed. It’s the same big space, with some additional prints added. This type of more casual dining, however, should transform the restaurant. Whereas Fins was a place you went to on a special occasion, bu•ku will be a place for a group to get together for drinks and lots of great snacks. It’s a festive place, with flavors from across the world. And if you want that special meal, you can still get it at bu•ku. We certainly know that with William D’Auvray heading up the kitchen, the food will be excellent.

bu•ku will only be open for dinner this week, but I suspect lunch service will begin next week.

110 East Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Fins to Become “bu•ku”

January 13, 2010

Chef William D’Auvray’s fantastic downtown restaurant, Fins, is no more and will soon reopen under the name bu•ku.  With its name coming from the mispronunciation of the French word, beaucoup, the restaurant will continue D’Auvray’s focus on Asian-influenced food, but will emphasize a “global street food” concept.  Small plates will be the norm at bu•ku in a manner “inspired by the pushcarts of street vendors.”  Fortunately, the restaurant will also focus on the lunch crowd.  bu•ku will have a dedicated happy hour along with a strong craft beer and artisanal cocktail program.

D’Auvray has always been one of my favorite chefs in the Triangle, but Fins struggled in its large downtown location.  With this new concept, I’m hopeful that more folks will discover this amazing chef.  More details to come after I get a chance to talk to Chef D’Auvray.

Edit:  Interestingly, D’Auvray intends at some point to have actual street carts downtown and to offer a dim sum brunch.  Now that’s very cool.   The web address is

Busy Bee Beer Dinners — Not Your Standard Bar Food

November 11, 2009

BusyBeeIf you’ve been to Raleigh’s Busy Bee Cafe, you’ll find a fairly typical menu of sandwiches and salads.  Small plates and entrees.  They’re all good, and the bar is certainly well-stocked, but once a month, the kitchen — or rather, Chef Jeremy Clayman — really lets its hair down.  These beer dinners are when Clayman gets to experiment a bit.  Show his wild — or molecular gastronomy — side.

You may remember Clayman from his stint at The Mint, just a stone’s throw away from the Busy Bee.  Things didn’t work out so great between Clayman and the Mint owners, so he found another opportunity that on its face seems quite different from the fanciful food he was putting out at The Mint.  This was simple food, simply presented, in a restaurant where the bar probably is the most important feature of the space.  Was this a step down for Clayman?  Would he forget his wild child side?

Give me a frickin’ break.

About a month ago, I had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing one of these dinners, featuring special beers from Brooklyn Brewery, all in large bottle formats, a couple of which are not generally available to the public.  The beers were fantastic, but the food really blew us away.   Here, Clayman got to use his agar and his alginate.  His lecithin and isomalt.  But more importantly, he got to experiment with flavors and textures in a way that the general public around here hasn’t fully embraced.  Except for once a month at the Busy Bee.

The dinner started out slowly, with fairly tasteless shrimp served with a muscadine gel, but from there, thinks really took off.  Monkfish was juicy and tender, served with elements of tarragon and mint, all paired with sweet potato.  Veal flank had an interesting accompaniment of eggplant, banana and avocado.  With the Sorachi Ace, a beer made with Japanese hops, Clayman served a simple salad of arugula and raw kampachi.  Local lamb was perfect with maitake mushrooms, bacon and butternut squash.  And concluding the meal with a beet cake was brilliant.

I did not take notes, so my memory of some of the details of the meal has faded a bit, nor did I shoot any pictures, which is a damn shame, as the plating of these dishes were drop-dead gorgeous.  Sometimes, this type of cooking can get too wacked out, but the only mis-fire was due to a lack of flavor with the shrimp, rather than flavor combinations being off.  At $50 a person (including the beer pairings), plus tax and tip, this is one of the best deals in town.

To learn more about these fantastic dinners, be sure to subscribe to the Busy Bee’s newsletter and follow them on Twitter.  They sell out quickly, for obvious reasons.  And hopefully, Jeremy Clayman will be able to spread his wings a little more frequently than once a month.

My Life As a Line Cook

September 14, 2009


When I made the decision that I wanted to try working in a restaurant, I knew that I was not cut out for the business.  I’m too old, too fat, and too lazy.  I have some decent skills, but what works at home probably doesn’t translate to the restaurant kitchen.  Speed is king in the restaurant, so I’ve been told, but not at the expense of precision.  So, you have to go fast and still do it right, eh?  No problem.  That’s the beauty of volunteering to cook in a restaurant, as the worst thing that can happen if you fuck things up is that they’ll ask you to leave.  So really, it’s no pressure at all.


Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Hired!

August 18, 2009

Well, when I wrote a couple weeks ago that I had never worked a minute in a restaurant, I stated the following:

I’m announcing today that I’m offering up my services to work the line in a real restaurant, to flip burgers, to prep for the day’s service. I got your brunoise right here, buddy. I’ll wait tables, wash dishes, or throw together a tasty mojito. Oh, I’ll screw it up, of course, and your customers may suffer, but I want to see how incompetent I’ll be. And how stupid I’ll look, as I don’t even have the right kind of shoes to work in a kitchen.

I thought I might get one or two offers, but I ended up getting 6 that represented 15 different establishments across the Triangle.  And these didn’t include offers from chefs who have become pretty close friends over the years.  And I didn’t accept one offer, I was stupid enough to do two.

So, where will I be working?  My first adventure will be at Globe Restaurant and Bar on Glenwood Avenue.  If you want to witness a train wreck, or avoid it, I’ll be working both lunch and dinner on Friday, August 28.  Yes, that’s a Friday.  Yes, that’s Restaurant Week.  Yes, I’m completely insane.  I’ll be in the kitchen, trying to stay out of the way of chefs Heath Holloman and Gray Modlin.

That would be crazy enough if I stopped there, but, NOOOOOO, I have to completely prove that I’m not fit for this business by working at Herons Restaurant in the ultra-swank Umstead Hotel.  I’ll be plenty nervous working at Globe, but working the dinner service at Herons may make me break out the adult diapers.  I’ll be in the kitchen on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 13th and 14th.  I’ll be working the dinner service, so you’re safe for lunch.  I was informed today that the Fall menu will be in place then, and knowing how talented chef Scott Crawford is, it’ll be a blast.  And I’ll even get a uniform and apron!  I’ll also do a front of the house shift after I complete my kitchen training, but we haven’t sorted out that date yet.

Honestly, I’m not at all nervous about this, as these will be fun experiences for me.  Sure, I’ll screw up, but we’re all entering into this relationship with our eyes wide open.  And I assure you that no one will let any of my mistakes end up on your plate.

So come and heckle me at Globe or Herons on those nights.  Who knows, I just might do a decent job.

Why Do We Have Restaurant Week?

August 12, 2009

restaurant week

I’ve been a fan of Restaurant Week, where restaurants in a city come together to offer low-priced three-course lunches and dinners once or twice a year.  My history may be a little weak, but I believe Restaurant Week started in New York City in the mid-80s, where Danny Meyer and others offered special lunch prices to entice diners to try their restaurants.  In particular, over the years, Meyer’s restaurants allowed diners to order off the regular menu at dramatically discounted prices.  I remember going to lunch at Eleven Madison Park (which just got a 4th star from the NY Times), having three  incredible dishes, and paying only 20 bucks for that pleasure.  Moreover, we received some chocolates to take home and a 20 dollar gift certificate for any subsequent meal at EMP.  This was just one example of what Danny Meyer did to make a lasting impression with his guests, and that was pretty much the theme of Restaurant Week.

Well, beginning on August 24, downtown Raleigh will be having its own Restaurant Week, and after looking at the menus, my primary thought is, “How the hell is this a good value proposition?”  Let me give you an example.  For $30, you can go to the Irregardless Cafe and get a 3-course meal.  Let’s say you’re a vegetarian, so based on the Irregardless Restaurant Week menu selections, you could order hummus, the portabella polenta, and the blackberry and peach crisp.  Sounds pretty good and not entirely unreasonable for the $30.  But if you went to Irregardless tonight (see their menu here), you could get that hummus for $5 and the portabella polenta for $13.  That’s 18 bucks.  Unless their desserts typically cost more than $12, you end up spending MORE money during Restaurant Week.  WTF?????  Even if you went with the higher priced items, such as the Greek Salad at $7 and the small plate surf & turf at $16, the dessert would have to be more than 7 bucks to make Restaurant Week a good value.  That’s not what Restaurant Week should be about.

The Irregardless Cafe isn’t the only one guilty of this transgression.  From what I could ascertain, Duck & Dumpling and 42nd St. Oyster Bar have similar pricing issues.

Another problem I have is when the Restaurant Week menu is not just limited, but it offers no choices whatsoever.  Examples include 18 Seaboard (at least they’re only charging $20), Second Empire (where grilled salmon is the only entree), 518 West, and Humble Pie (although they do offer separate $20 and $30 menus).  Many other places offer no more than two choices for each course.

Then there’s a place like The Mint, which has a daily $30 menu, so the RW menu is nothing special at all.

Who gets it right?  Well, Posta Tuscan Grille has some interesting choices, and seeing they typically charge 30 bucks for their baked sea bass, which is on the RW menu (although portion sizes may be smaller, which is OK with me), this is a great deal.   Red Room might have the best values with their $20 menu.  You’ll save at least ten dollars going to Sono during Restaurant Week.  The Big Easy offers 11 different entrees for RW, and with them charging only 20 bucks for their three courses, there are some definite bargains to be found.  Solas could be a solid value, depending on what you order.

Jibarra and Bogart’s don’t give you a lot of choices, but they’re charging only $20, which would save you some money.

A place like Caffe Luna handles this week a bit differently, where the entrees offered are not typically on their menu, and at $20, this will inevitably be a better value than a regular visit.

In the end, my primary question is this: Why do we have Restaurant Week?  I thought it was a mechanism to get people to try restaurants. Yes, it puts a hurt on profit margins, but this is an investment in the future success of each establishment.  Build up some goodwill during Restaurant Week, and if you do it well, then you’ll establish some new loyal customers.  Unfortunately, too many restaurants treat Restaurant Week like a big burden, and if that’s the case, they shouldn’t participate.

The Triangle Top 50

July 8, 2009

The News & Observer’s Andrea Weigl has put together a list of the top 50 food items/icons in the Triangle, and boy, what a list it is!  And you know what?  There’s no way in hell I could have come close to doing such a great job.  Now mind you, there are a lot more than 50 things on this list as Weigl has a number of groupings, such as women chefs (Andrea Reusing, Amyu Trnquist and Ashley Christensen) as a single listing.

So go to the multi-media presentation and check out the listing.  What did she miss?  What should not be included?

Edit: Oh my goodness, this blog got a mention as #42 on the list!  Thanks, Andrea!!!

Ashley Christensen — Ingredient Maker

June 9, 2009
Photo: Elizabeth Galecke

Photo: Elizabeth Galecke

I love Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner.

No, not in the biblical or romantic sense, but anyone who has ever read this blog knows I’m one of her biggest fans.  Yes, she’s a good friend, and I probably wouldn’t say a bad thing about her even if there was a bad thing to say (and fortunately, there’s not).  But I rave about her cooking for two reasons: First, she can flat out cook.  Second, she makes her own ingredients.

Say what? Read the rest of this entry »

J. Betski’s Open for Lunch!

May 15, 2009


I usually don’t report on items like this, but when I saw my friend Jedidiah’s report on New Raleigh, I had to go, “Hurrah” and post it here!

J. Betski’s, Raleigh’s gem of a Central/Eastern European restaurant, is now serving lunch Tuesday through Saturday.  This is huge news for me, as my wife doesn’t really care for their cuisine, but I love it.  And seeing I eat out for lunch a lot more frequently than I do for dinner, I’ll be going here quite a lot.

Click here for the lunch menu.

Gastronomic Items at a Musical Event

April 27, 2009


As my readers know, this blog is about food, and it is incredibly rare when I post something that isn’t about food.  I also try to avoid the politics of food, because I want my blog to be about fun.  Today’s entry certainly has some food-related aspects about it, but it’s not the primary purpose behind my post.  But I assure you that today’s topic is all about fun.  And doing the right thing.

I’m looking for items to be donated for a silent auction.  I’m looking for experiences to be donated, too.  Here’s the deal:  As I’ve written before, I’m the Vice Chair of the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood, and that has nothing to do with food.  It has everything to do with young children getting help for mental health problems, and with the economy the way it is, more kids need the help and fewer families are able to pay for it.

Band Together is a Triangle-based nonprofit organization that has nothing to do with food, either.  Each year, they choose a local charity and hold a huge, kick-ass concert, with the net proceeds going to the charity.  Last year, the designated charity received $109,000.  This year, the designated charity is the Lucy Daniels Center.  The concert is on June 6 in downtown Raleigh, outside the Lincoln Theatre.  This should be a very fun concert, featuring Rusted Root, the Rosebuds, Chatham County Line, and an indoor after-party with Hobex.   General admission tickets are 20 bucks in advance and 25 at the door.  It might cost you a few more bucks to get into the after-party with Hobex.

Still nothing about food, right?  Well, let me fix that right now.  VIP tickets to the show will cost you $125, but that added cost has some tangible benefits.  For example, you’ll get all the beer and wine you want to drink (within reason, of course), and you’ll get to eat the great food provided by the chefs of the Urban Food Group restaurants.  Yup, Coquette, Vivace, Frazier’s and Porter’swill be providing all that food.  Oh, and you’ll get air conditioned bathrooms, some comfy seats, and elevated viewing area.

But wait, there’s more food information.  There will be a silent auction at the event, and we will have a number of food-related auction items.  How about Fullsteam Brewery making a beer just for you, customized to your personal tastes, and then delivering 5 gallons of it to you with a unique label and 10 t-shirts with that label?  Or an in-home knife skills class by Chad Ward, the author of An Edge in the Kitchen?  Or an in-restaurant cooking class with a well-known local chef?  That’s just the beginning.

And I want more items for the silent auction!!! Please let me know if you would be interested in donating something to our auction.  Gift certificates are welcome, but we’d really love experiences.  I mean, there has to be a chef out there who would let someone work in their kitchen on a slow night?  And if you’re not in the food business, we’re happy to accept other items and experiences (ever wanted to ride on the Zamboni at a Hurricanes’ game?  You can if you’re the winning bidder).

So help me out.  Buy tickets to the Band Together show.  Or better yet, buy VIP tickets. And if your business is looking for a way to give back to the community, consider a sponsorship.  Finally, of course, we’d love for you to donate items to the silent auction.

And they don’t have to be food-related, unlike this blog.


Band Together for the Lucy Daniels Center

June 6, 2009

Featuring Rusted Root, the Rosebuds, Chatham County Line and after-party by Hobex

Downtown Raleigh at the Lincoln Theatre


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