Monthly Archives: August 2011

4th Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival

Pittsboro Pepper Festival

4th Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival. Say that 10 times fast!

Are you a pepper aficionado?  Are you one of those people who say “the hotter, the better?” Then you need to attend the 4th annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival in Chatham County October 2, from 4pm – 7pm at the Brier Chapel Subdivision’s Clubhouse (south of Chapel Hill off of 15-501).

Many of the best local chefs, including Chef Colin of Fearrington Restaurant, Chef Jason of 18 Seaboard, Chef Jeff of Saxapahaw General Store, Chef Aaron of Mez, Chef Angelina of Angelina’s Kitchen, Chef Jay of Lucky 32, and several local breweries and the Starrlight Meadery will be on hand to feature dishes cooked with peppers from locally grown farmers. There will even be a pepper infused beer served at the event. If you’re a  foodie, a supporter of North Carolina’s sustainable agriculture or just enjoy good music and a cold beer, this is the place to be!

Of course, what would such an event be without a pepper king and queen, who are crowned not for their beauty, but for the amount of tickets they sell. Tickets, by the way, are $20 in advance and $30 at the door. The money raised goes to the Abundance Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainability and educates the public on sustainable practices.

REVIEW: Gnam Gnam Gelato – Greensboro

When I purchased a $10 Groupon to Gnam Gnam Gelato in Greensboro, I thought that I was going to use it on $10 worth of gelato. I had never really branched out into the frozen world of gelato before, partly, because the little spoons that you eat it with make me feel like a giant but I figured it was as good of a time as ever since I’m not planning on jumping on this ridiculous fro-yo bandwagon anytime soon.

I did a little bit of research online to figure out what types of gelato people enjoyed up there and how much gelato I could get for $10. I found out that Gnam Gnam serves more than just gelato including some breakfast items, sandwiches and salads at lunch and a variety of coffee items. I also found out after eating there that they have started serving Donut World donuts which is a huge plus if you are on the way to work and looking for a quick cup of good coffee & donut.

Gnam Gnam Gelato has a cozy atmosphere with a few booths and tables. The colors are very inviting and it is a relaxing place to sit around and have a light lunch or frozen snack. I went in around 2 p.m. to avoid any kind of lunch rush and there were still a few families in there trying to escape the heat wave that hit North Carolina  a few weeks ago with some gelato.

 

I ordered the Gobbler Panini which is turkey, fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion with chipotle mayo ($7.50). I wasn’t too excited when my order came out because, at first glance, it didn’t seem like this was a sandwich that was going to fill me up especially since I was eating so late in the day. However, this panini turned out to be both extremely tasty and surprisingly filling. The quality of the sandwich ingredients were top notch although I would hope for more options on the potato chips or maybe some sides like pasta salad or fresh fruit for a healthier alternative to the somewhat greasy bag of chips.

I ordered it as a combo which meant that I got my choice of any panini on the menu with a bag of chips plus two scoops of gelato for $8.75. They have several different combo options that you come can choose from giving you the option to get a little bit of everything on the menu with two options offering gelato included with your meal.

They offer a variety of interesting flavors including Almond Joy, Amarena Cherry, Tiramisu and Pistachio just to name a few. Gnam Gnam also has several seasonal flavors that you can order as well  as a few different flavors of sorbetto. They posted the other day about an avocado and cilantro gelato which sounds interesting.  They also have some special gelato dishes like spaghetti gelato or Pinocchio gelato where the gelato is served in a creative fun way that children will definitely enjoy!

I ordered a combination of the caramel latte and some kind of crazy chocolate/banana flavor after getting the advice of the server. It only took me two bites of the gelato for me to know that I had become a fan of both gelato and Gnam Gnam Gelato in particular. It was so smooth and refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the book that I was reading during a relaxing lunch break.

You should stop in to Gnam Gnam Gelato soon and grab some gelato before we start getting cold weather because it is a great and inexpensive way to beat the heat. I am glad that I did because I am now on the gelato bandwagon. Gnam Gnam Gelato also has a cart that travels around Greensboro to weddings, parks and local businesses. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with where the cart will be!

 Gnam Gnam Gelato • Bistro on Urbanspoon

Review – Maple View Farm Country Store in Orange County

rocking chairs at Maple View Farm

Relax in a rocking chair and eat your ice cream while viewing the farm across the street.

The dog days of summer are upon us and there is no better time to take a little trip out in the country to visit the original location of Maple View Farm. Half the fun of going to the country store is the drive. You will go past many rolling hills and see lots of farmland on your way to the store. As soon as you leave the city, you can feel yourself begin to relax.

I am a huge fan of Maple View Farm. I drink their milk all the time. Call me crazy, but I swear their milk tastes fresher and sweeter than most store bought milk. I love the fact that the milk is still bottled and I like taking the used bottles back to the store to get a little refund which I used to by my next gallon of milk. It reminds me of the days when the milk man used to come to our house and deliver bottles of milk. (That gives you an idea of how old I am, I guess!)

I have a very special place in my heart for dairy farmers because my grandfather and my uncle were dairy farmers. They raised Jersey cows and later Holsteins. Bob Nutter, also known as “Farmer Bob” and his business partner, Mike Strowd, raise Holsteins. Holsteins are better for milk and ice cream because the fat content is not as high as Jersey’s which are better for cream and cheese.  Holsteins are the black and white spotted cows.

enjoying the view at Maple View Farm

Come relax and eat your ice cream while looking at the farm

Another thing I love about the folks at Maple View Farm is that they treat their cows very well. You can see them grazing in the fields across the street from the country store. After you order your ice cream, you can sit on one of the many rocking chairs on the front porch, or sit on a picnic table on the hill, and relax, soaking in the pastoral scene. You are literally looking at the cows who produced the milk and ice cream you are eating.  Many people like to come out at sunset, because you can see the sun setting over the farm.

Maple View Farm uses no hormones or antibiotics, so the milk and the ice cream is safe to eat.  The farmers also grow their own corn and barley, which they use to feed to the cows which helps to increase the level of protein in the milk.

Maple View Farm

The view of the farm from the front porch of the country store

In 1995, the Nutter family made its first conservation easement on the farm north of Dairyland Road to the Triangle Land Conservancy. This easement designates that Maple View Farm land will be used for agricultural purposes or as open land forever. An additional 80 acres was added to the conservancy after 2005.   So, generations of young children can come to Dairyland Road, sit on the porch and look at the farm and the cows while eating their favorite flavor of Maple View ice cream. I am so thankful that responsible people such as the Nutters have chosen to work with the Triangle Land Conservancy. They have given Orange County a huge gift by preserving their land.

Maple View Farm is a big tradition for many folks from Chapel Hill. It is just a few miles from downtown, so many people like to drive out to the farm. This farm is so famous, many times our politicians make a friendly wager with opposing teams saying they will send Maple View Farm ice cream if the Tarheels lose the competition. (This, of course, hardly ever happens!)

Counter at Maple View Farm Country Store

Which flavor will you choose when you visit Maple View Farm?

Every time I enter the country store, floods of memories wash over me as I think about which flavor of ice cream I want.  I immediately feel like I’m a six-year-old. Can’t I just order one of each flavor? This particular day, I tried the Carolina Crunch, which was a mixture of caramel, Heath bar (chocolate and toffee), and coffee. It was creamy, sweet and cool. Usually, my husband and I get the maple flavor. This month, the store is featuring a maple walnut flavor. I highly recommend it as you get the sweet, sugary taste of the maple and the crunchiness of the walnut. It is one of the best flavors they offer. We also love the egg nog, the grape nut flavor (remember the old cereal? It tastes just like that!) and the cinnamon. When it comes down to it, is there a bad flavor of ice cream?

yummy ice cream

Carolina Crunch

The country store is located off Dairyland Road at 6900 Rocky Ridge Road in Hillsborough. Maple View also has two other locations, one in downtown Carrboro and the other in Hillsborough on Hampton Pointe Boulevard.  The country store is open from noon to 8pm Sunday through Saturday.  You can also purchase their milk and ice cream at a variety of local stores. For a list, click here.

 

Review – Pepper’s Market and Sandwich Shop in Morrisville

inside Peppers Market in Morrisville

Contemporary design is the name of the game at Pepper's in Morrisville

Summer is coming to an end, and my friend is moving to Ohio. Before she leaves we decided to get a group together and have lunch. She suggested we go out for lunch and try Pepper’s Market and Sandwich Shop.

This quaint, yet sleek and modern looking sandwich shop is located in Morrisville in the Grace Park mixed-use development, and is a quick drive from many of the Wake County companies in RTP. Patrons are handed a menu as they enter the door and then order at the counter. Then you are given a number to put on your table and a waitress brings you your meal. The open kitchen helps to keep you from thinking about how small this place is. There is also a table with barstools that helps break up the room a bit and give the illusion that the restaurant is bigger than it is.

This sandwich shop was booming. Lots of people have already discovered it, and are enjoying the big sandwiches, salads and smoothies. There are many choices of low calorie and healthier foods here which may add to the place’s popularity.

black bean burger

Black bean burger at Pepper's

I ordered the black bean burger.  It was topped with a generous portion of lettuce, tomato and avocado and slathered with a dressing that looked like Russian dressing. It was wrapped in a Ciabatta roll.  I would have liked a little more spice in the black bean mixture. I think a bit of cilantro may have helped.  The sandwich came with a side dish. I had the fruit salad, which consisted of pineapple and red grapes.

roasted vegetable sandwich

Roasted Vegetable sandwich

One of my friends had the roasted vegetable sandwich. It is a nice sized sandwich served with roasted eggplant, carrots, onions and peppers with a Ciabatta roll. She is a vegetarian and loves this restaurant, because there are many choices for vegetarians. She said the sandwich was very good.

grilled cheese

An upscale grilled cheese sandwich

Another of our friends was in the mood for a little comfort food, so she ordered the grilled cheese sandwich. It was nice and toasted, served with gourmet cheese and Applewood smoked bacon. It looked very inviting!

salmon sandwich

Grilled Salmon sandwich

Someone else tried the grilled salmon sandwich which came with a citrus sauce and was served with lettuce, red onion and tomatoes. She said it was a superb sandwich and she would definitely come back for another one sometime soon! I think next time I eat here I will also order the grilled salmon. It really looked great.

We ended our outing by walking over to the Goodwill Thrift shop which is located in the same complex. Our friend bought several books to read while she stays indoors during those long Ohio winters.

Pepper’s is open for breakfast and lunch and usually closes by 4pm. (3pm on Sundays). It is located at 2107 Grace Park Drive in Morrisville, off of Davis Drive.

Peppers Market & Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Review – Bean & Barrel in Chapel Hill

Bean and Barrel

Bean and Barrel is a coffee shop, bar and restaurant

Folks in the northeastern section of Chatham County are rejoicing as they are finally getting some variety of restaurants that are a little more upscale than the standard fare. One such place is the Bean and Barrel, located off of Farrington Road, just across the street from Governor’s Club.

When you first enter the Bean and Barrel, it has the feel of a coffee shop. And yes, that is the “bean” part of the name, “Bean and Barrel.” The other half of the name comes from the fact that this is also a bar that offers an extensive selection of wines, and beer, but also has martinis and other mixed drinks. The Bean and Barrel offers fun specials such as $2 (draft beer) Tuesdays and 1/2 off of wine for Wine Wednesdays.  You’ll see people with their laptops relaxing in a corner checking their email with the free Wi-Fi offered here.  The eclectic decor, comfy chairs and funky light fixtures definitely gives you the sense that you are in a coffee house or a bar.

However, the food is the real highlight here.  Credit is due to head chef Sam Allen.  Allen trained at New England Culinary Institute and has worked in several fine restaurants around the country before settling at the Bean and Barrel. Most of the dishes at Bean and Barrel are pub fare, but they are done in a way that makes you feel you are getting something more special.

gazpacho

Gazpacho at Bean and Barrel

My husband started his meal with some gazpacho, which was a nice, chunky gazpacho with chopped onion, cilantro, ripe red tomatoes, and a dash of fresh jalapenos. It’s a perfect choice during these hot summer months.

I had a side salad and an order of the truffle mac and cheese. It was rich tasting, with a hint of pepper. A very comforting appetizer and with the salad, was enough as a meal for me. The salad was a decent size and the citrus dressing was splendid.

fish and chips

The fish and chips at Bean and Barrel

My husband also ordered the fish and chips. It was one of the best plates of fish and chips I have seen in awhile. The outside was a nice shade of tan and it was crispy. The waiter said the batter had some panko in it. The inside was a nice, sweet flavored cod. The fries were also crispy and plentiful.

mushroom risotto

Mushroom Risotto without the chicken

The first time I ate here, I had the mushroom risotto with blackened chicken. The chicken was an explosion of flavor and was the key element to this dish. It was tender and moist and added just the right amount of spice to the dish. The risotto was a perfect al dente. It was creamy and flavorful. It was cooked with cherry tomatoes,  zucchini,  onion, mushrooms and a bit of white wine.  This time, my friend had the risotto, but without the chicken because she is a vegetarian. She also enjoyed it quite a bit.

veggie burger and fries

Veggie burger and fries

One of our friends ordered the veggie burger. He said it was really tasty and as you can see from the photo, there was a generous portion of jalapenos served on top.

We were all too full to have dessert, but will have to come back again to try out the blueberry cheesecake.

Bean and Barrel also offers a Sunday Brunch which really sounds great with entrees such as Eggs Benedict, Blueberry Pancakes and Biscuits and Gravy. Sounds like the perfect place to go after church. Needless to say, at that time of day you can try one of their coffee drinks as well.

Bean and Barrel is located in the Village Shopping Center at 50100 Governor’s Drive.  They are open seven days a week, though are closed after 3pm on Sunday.

Bean and Barrel on Urbanspoon

Review – Bella Donna’s in Pittsboro

Donna Bianco

Donna Bianco, chef and owner of Bella Donna's

My friends and I wanted to get together to celebrate with a couple of friends who recently had their birthdays. We were looking for an intimate, yet fun setting in which to celebrate.  We decided to meet at Bella Donna’s in Pittsboro.

Donna Bianco, owner of Bella Donna’s, is a very enterprising woman. She originally opened Bella Donna’s as a combination of a charter school, called Our Neighborhood School,  and a restaurant. When I first went to her place, it was take out only. I remember eating her lasagna, which was a rich,  meaty marinara sauce smothered in lovely layers of pasta and melted mozzarella and generous portions of ricotta cheese. I also ordered a few pizzas from the “Our Neighborhood Pizza” window, where you may sometime see students making the pizza. The pizzas at Bella Donna’s are wonderful. The crust is not too thin nor too thick, but somewhere in the middle. You can smell the garlic as you pull up to the restaurant, which means this is a great Italian restaurant.

Donna prides herself in using as many local ingredients as possible. She knows many of our local farmers in Chatham County and other nearby counties. She uses Lindley Mills Flour from Graham for her pizza dough, her meatballs and hamburger toppings come from Lilly Den Farm in Goldston and her eggs that are used for the pasta dough and egg wash are from Eastwick Farm in Pittsboro.

She makes all of her pasta, bread and sauces from scratch, reminding many people of their Italian grandmas. Much of the success of her restaurant is due to her warm and generous personality. She is an owner who cares about her customers deeply and her welcoming nature makes people feel immediately at home when they come to her restaurant. She also mentored Angelina Koulizakis-Battiste and encouraged her to open Angelina’s Kitchen, which will be reviewed here in the near future.

people at Donna Bellas

Celebrating birthdays at Bella Donna's

The restaurant is small, with about eight tables. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner, or a gathering of a small group of friends. Our group was a bit large. We had 10 people, but they were still able to accommodate us. Most of Donna’s wait staff are local high school students, again because she likes to give young people an opportunity to gain real world experience. Our waitress and waiter were both very attentive and friendly.

pizza at Donna Bella

The pizzas are one of the main features at Bella Donna's

A group of our friends got one of the pizzas with ham, jalapeño, olives and onions on it. They raved about the great sauce and crunchiness of the crust. They also ordered mushrooms stuffed with sausage, which, for mushroom lovers, looked like a great bet. The mushrooms were quite large and filled with a generous portion of the sausage filling. I’m not a big mushroom lover though, so I did not try them myself.

eggplant parmesan

eggplant parmesan

Another friend ordered the eggplant parmesan. My husband and I were sorry we didn’t get this dish when we saw his arrive. There were several very large slices of eggplant that were slightly breaded and generously coated in mozzarella and Donna’s famous red sauce. It was served with a side of spaghetti.

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata al Limone

I ordered the chicken piccata al limone, which featured a nice, big piece of chicken breaded and lightly fried to a perfect golden brown. It was served with a side of linguine and a sauce of white wine, lemon, capers, and parsley. I had enough left for a second meal.

Another friend had the pasta ribbons, which was freshly made pasta served with cherry tomato sauce and basil, topped with lots of parmesan cheese. He also added spinach to his. I had a bite and was really impressed with the tomato sauce. It tasted like the cherry tomatoes had just been picked and put into the sauce.

The pizzeria also has a “make and bake” pizza. They put all the ingredients you need in a pizza box, including a dough ball, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and as many toppings as you’d like. You take it home, assemble it and throw it in the oven.  The price starts at $7.95 for just a cheese pizza. Not a bad deal when you are busy and want to have a nice meal at home.

Bella Donna’s is located in downtown Pittsboro, at 87 Thompson Street. They are open 11am – 8pm Monday to Thursday, 11am – 9pm Friday and 4pm – 9pm Saturday.

Bella Donna on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Paul’s Place – Rocky Point

I ended up in Rocky Point a few months ago while on the search for the greatest hot dog in the state of North Carolina. I had been down in Wilmington for a wedding and was on the way back to Greensboro with Ron and Anna when we decided to pull off and grab some lunch. We had planned on getting some fast food since it was Easter weekend and we didn’t think any local places would be open. Surprisingly, the fast food restaurant we were trying to eat at was closed for the holiday but we drove a little further down the road and came across Paul’s Place and it was open!


My dad had told me that his favorite hot dog was Paul’s Place just outside of Wilmington but he had never given me the specific location or exit that it was off of. He told me that their best dog wasn’t the Carolina-style dog (chili, slaw, mustard, onions) but it was the one with their special relish on top. He and my mom said that they used to buy jars of the Paul’s Place relish as presents for their friends during the holidays because it was just that good.

Paul’s Place opened in 1928 and the Paul family has been serving their special dogs to patrons ever since.Paul’s Place serves their dogs on a steamed split bun. Their dogs are boiled in water and then simmered in the same pot until they are served. I ordered three dogs and a drink ($5.45) which are served with Paul’s version of “all the way” at no extra cost. According to InsterstateEateries.com, the Paul’s Place relish is “a holdover from the World War II era when beef was rationed.”

The relish on Paul’s Place signature hot dogs definitely gives a different taste to the hot dogs than we are used to in North Carolina. It replaces the spicy chili with a nice tang. However, I thought the change in taste is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong though. I love a good ol’ fashioned Carolina-style dog as much as any North Carolinian but I think change is good and this is a great change especially in the hot dog department.

You can order a Carolina-style dog for sixty cents more per dog but that bumps up the price of a single dog to $2.20 instead of $1.60. I debated on ordering one so I could compare the two but I decided to stick with the favorite from Paul’s. I will give the Carolina-style a go next time I am down that way. You can purchase jars of the Paul’s Place relish at the restaurant. I think you can also find it at various Piggly Wiggly stores around North Carolina although I am not sure which of those stores you can find it at.

Ron, Anna and I all enjoyed our Paul’s Place hot dogs and we all agreed that we would go back again the next time that we were down near Wilmington. I regret not picking up a jar of the relish because I have cooked hot dogs at home a few times and would have loved to been able to make one like Paul’s Place with some yellow mustard and onions. If you are cruising down to Wilmington or heading back home from the beach, you should stop in to Paul’s Place and scoop up a dog or two. I think you will like what you find there. Plus, they have great milkshakes if you are driving on a hot day!

 Paul's Place Famous Hotdogs on Urbanspoon

 

 

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