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.

Poole’s To Host Special Dinner to Benefit Girl’s Family

August 27, 2009

I have a big smile on my face because I just got off the phone with Ashley Christensen, chef of Raleigh’s Poole’s Downtown Diner.  I always enjoy talking to Ashley, and she and I support a lot of similar causes.  But today, Ashley called to tell me about a very special dinner she’s cooking on Sunday, a five course dinner showcasing the offerings of Harland’s Creek Farm.  The meal will have a particular focus of the farm’s heirloom tomatoes.

That’s not what made me happy.  This is: Poole’s will be donating 100% of the profits from this meal to the family of Ashley Ramos-Hernandez, the six year old girl who was killed in the school bus crossing accident last week.

As I wrote earlier this week, Ashley Ramos-Hernandez’s parents are both restaurant workers in Raleigh, at Vivace and Coquette.  Both of those restaurants, and the other establishments in the Urban Food Group, are donating the tips received this Saturday to the young girl’s parents.  I appealed to the restaurant community to step up and support the family, and Ashley Christensen and Poole’s is certainly doing that.

So, after your dinner at Coquette, Vivace, Frazier’s or Porter’s on Saturday, consider dining at Poole’s on Sunday.  You’ll be very well fed, and you’ll help the healing process for a young family.


Harland’s Creek Farm Wine Dinner

Poole’s Downtown Diner

Sunday, August 30th, 6:30 p.m. Price per person is $79 plus tax and tip. Please call 919.832.4477 for reservations

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 »

Ashley Christensen Featured in Bon Appetit, Bids Farewell to Vin

August 4, 2008

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Galecke Photography

The September edition of Bon Appetit has a great story featuring Raleigh’s own Ashley Christensen.  Entitled “Women Chefs: The Next Generation,” the story discusses the stories of six women chefs from across the country, including Melissa Perello, Kelly Liken, Naomi Pomeroy, Allison Vines-Rushing, Alexandra Raij and Christensen.  These young chefs, all under 40, had a round table discussion with the trail-blazing Evan Kleiman, owner of LA’s Angeli Caffe and host of the great radio show, Good Food (a podcast of the round table discussion should be released shortly).

The article includes a recipe from each restaurant and delves into each chef’s favorite foods, including Christensen’s love of a dish from Mark Ladner’s and Mario Batali’s Lupa in New York: “It’s this pork shin that’s brined, and then it’s braised and the bone’s removed, and it’s tied, and it’s deep-fried. The outside is the equivalent of a pork crackling and the inside is very similar to barbecue. Texturally and theoretically, it hits on all these levels.”  Ashley loves her some pork — especially twice-cooked in this style! Read the rest of this entry »

Asparagus in Season — Spring Officially Here

April 3, 2008


I had to drop some stuff off at Poole’s Downtown Diner a few minutes ago, and while there, I asked Ashley Christensen what she had on the menu tonight. “Asparagus — first of the season,” she replied with a goofy grin on her face.

Oh, asparagus, how I love thee.

Asparagus is such a wonderful vegetable and goes well with so many things. You can roast it, steam it, stir fry it, grill it or boil it. You can add it to salads or make it the focal point of its own salad. It goes well with dairy, be it cheese or cream-based sauces. It makes a great filling for ravioli, and asparagus soup is a beautiful bowl of tasty green. One of my favorite dishes is asparagus topped with a poached egg and shavings of pecorino romano and lots of pepper. I’ve made asparagus and sour cream omelettes.

But what I love most about asparagus is its symbolism: asparagus represents to me the true beginning of spring. Strawberries will soon follow, and then the farmers markets will be filled with all sorts of goodies. The dull browns of winter’s root vegetables and heavy dishes will be replaced with the vibrant polychrome of summer’s bounty. And the flavors!

So head out to the farmers market and pick up some Spring — in convenient, tasty, spear-shaped servings.

Copain Wine Dinner at Poole’s Diner

February 1, 2008

copain.gifNow I’m not going to get into the habit of promoting special events for friends, but Ashley Christensen asked me nicely to spread the word about this great looking wine dinner at Poole’s on Tuesday, February 5 at 6:30 PM. This dinner features the wines of Copain Wine Cellars, all of which have received a 90+ rating from Parker. Wells Guthrie, Copain’s owner and winemaker, will be in attendance (ladies, his baby blue eyes will make you melt). The cost is $79 a person, and includes the following menu:

Reception at the bar with sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvre


Lobster bisque with lobster terrine and chervil

2006 “Catie’s Corner” Viognier


Torchon of Berkshire pork belly with caramelized rutabaga

2006 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir


Crispy Quail stuffed with duck confit

2005 Saison Des Vin Syrah


Braised lamb with French horn mushrooms

2006 Les Voisins Syrah


Caramelized banana “cream pie” with bittersweet chocolate


So give them a call at 832-4477 to book a spot. And report back here regarding Wells Guthrie’s eyes!


Ashley Christensen Brings the French Countryside to Raleigh with Poole’s

December 14, 2007


Crispy frogs’ legs. Calves’ liver with sweet onions. Poached eggs on brioche with a chanterelle gravy. This is the food of the French countryside, food that you could get from a farmhouse restaurant in Normandy. And now you can get it in Raleigh with the opening of Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s Downtown Diner. The old Poole’s vibe is still the same, but this ain’t no diner. The huge bar remains, the seating arrangement hasn’t been modified, and it’s as hard to get in the bathrooms as it ever was, but the food is unlike anything you’ll find in Raleigh. Braises. Confit. Thick, hearty soups. And mounds of simple, bright salads. Poole’s has arrived, and if you like rich, heavy French comfort food, you’re in for a treat. Read the rest of this entry »


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