Monthly Archives: October 2011

REVIEW: Alex’s Grill & Ice Cream – Lewisville

I never thought that I would run across a 50’s diner/Greek restaurant hybrid with penchant for serving delicious ice cream…but I found one. It is located in Lewisville, NC which is just outside of Winston-Salem off of I-40. I was there for work and had a little bit of time to kill. I hadn’t eaten all day and it was 4 p.m. so I was ready to crush about anything and had sadly been contemplating something quick and expensive from a fast food chain.As usual, thank goodness I chose against fast food and went with Alex’s.

It was pretty empty in Alex’s Grill & Ice Cream when I went in. I eat at odd hours most of the time which mixes me with the late lunch/early dinner crowd. It’s kind of weird…I know this. If you had asked me what I was about to order before I walked through the door of Alex’s, I think one of the last things I would have said would have been Greek food much less the souvlaki which I have never ordered before.

I stared at the menu for a little while as I bounced back and forth between American and Greek. I hadn’t eaten Greek in a while so it finally won my fierce appetite over and I ordered the souvlaki pita platter which came with fries and a drink for roughly about eight bucks which I consider to be a pretty damn good deal.

When the food arrived, I was pretty pumped. My stomach had been letting me know that it hadn’t seen food in a while so it was pretty pumped when I dug into the meal. The tzatziki sauce was very zesty with a soft, warm pita filled with spicy pork ribbons and fresh lettuce and tomatoes and that crazy little awesome tasting onion slivers  that I have only found at the Greek places that I really enjoy. The fries kicked ass, too. They were extremely crispy and seasoned well but the great part is that they were actually served hot as opposed to the luke warm style that so many places do these days.

I also got a hand-scooped milkshake which was some kind of peanut butter something or another. I can’t really remember anything about it except that it was delicious and I hadn’t had that good of a milkshake in a while (probably because I don’t really get milkshakes that often…but still, it was good…).

People started to file in pretty quickly around 5 pm with kids coming in to get a quick chicken finger snack and ice cream before they went to bed (I LOVE AMERICA!) The restaurant patrons were varied but it was a very laid back atmosphere (which I love) with a frustrating jukebox that I just couldn’t figure out how to work and tends to be the key element of a 50’s diner. They had a couple of flat screen TVs (a few with sports and one with the Disney Channel for the kids) above the counter.

I wouldn’t specifically make a trip back to Lewisville just for Alex’s Grill & Ice Cream but I would definitely stop by there again if I was in the area. It was good, honest food at a good price in a fun, small town atmosphere.

Alex's Grill & Icecream on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Fairview Dairy Bar – Sanford

A few weeks ago, I was down in Sanford on Sunday for business around lunchtime and figured I would check out a local place for a bite to eat even though I knew that I’d probably be run into the after church crowd since it was about 1 p.m. I pulled up Urbanspoon on my phone and checked out the most popular restaurants in Sanford (sorted by distance which is a huge help especially if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings).

The Fairview Dairy Bar (109 Carbonton Road) was ranked the most #1 popular restaurant in Sanford with a whopping 96% of the 91 people who voted on Urbanspoon liked it plus some great comments from locals. I decided I couldn’t go wrong with numbers like that and was definitely reassured when I pulled up and the parking lot was chock full of cars. I checked back today and realized the Fairview Dairy Bar is also ranked #15 and #21 on Urbanspoon because somebody created an extra page for  it…twice.

I sat at one of the barstools in the middle of the restaurant so I didn’t have to wait because I was flying solo and I didn’t want to be rude and snag a two top before a couple could. I was glad that I did because I met some great local people that went out of their way to make conversation with me while they ate. They mentioned that they ate at Fairview Dairy Bar about three to four times per week and they were just two of  the many locals that frequent the Fairview Dairy Bar regularly. I mentioned to them that I run a food blog and which basically steered the conversation towards food where they brought up Burger Burger in Buxton, NC (near Hatteras) which I am hoping to try soon.

The church crowd was in full swing in the restaurant and I was glad that I was able to sneak in and grab a barstool. I asked the waitress what she normally gets and she said that she loves the Chicken Bistro Wrap (below). I saw a large number of fried chicken and chicken & dumpling orders coming out of the kitchen window that looked absolutely delicious but I didn’t notice them until I had already ordered. Hindsight is 20/20.

I really enjoyed the Chicken Bistro Wrap. It was basically chicken tenders with lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese mixed with onion straws and bistro sauce (basically a remoulaude) and then wrapped in a tortilla. I would have preferred if they had used their fried chicken (off the bone) instead of chicken fingers to give it a little less generic taste. The French fries were sub-par but I’ve pretty much gotten over judging a place by the generic fried items that are dumped out of a freezer bag into the grease. It seems like it is a rare to find a place that actually fries that are actually hot & crispy by the time they make it out in front of you at the table.

Overall, my meal was very tasty and was what I was looking for since I had to be somewhat productive for the next few hours and I doubt fried chicken for lunch or chicken & dumplings would have me wanted to do anything else other than lie on a couch and watch NFL all day long. Next time, I will have to get one of the two plus a milkshake which looked great on someone’s table that I passed by after I had paid my check already.

Fairview Dairy Bar has good home-style food plus a family-oriented atmosphere with a 50’s diner feel that just feels right. It is places like this that make me wonder why people pay to be herded through the national chain restaurant experience when you have good ol’ fashioned places like this.

Fairview Dairy Bar on Urbanspoon

Cheerwine Expands Its Reach Further Across the Nation

Last week, the “legendary” North Carolina soft drink, Cheerwine, announced a partnership with Pepsi Beverages Company which will double its market size throughout the nation as it expands its distribution in Florida, Atlanta and Memphis. This is a huge announcement for the tastebuds of Cheerwine lovers that live outside of North Carolina because it has only recently been easier to find Cheerwine on the shelves outside of the Old North State. The initial expansion of distribution will just be for glass bottles of the original 1917 formula which uses real cane sugar as well as 12-packs of cans (not sure if that includes the diet version or not…although I hope it doesn’t…).

You have probably read a post or two where I profess my love to the cherry flavored cola that was created in Salisbury and how it has been a part of my life since before I can remember. I have tried it in almost every form from Cheerwine Slushies to Cheerwine Ice Cream to Cheerwine Doughnuts but nothing compares to Cheerwine in a glass bottle or when it is poured over pebble ice (probably my favorite).

I lived in Chattanooga, TN for four years in the early 2000’s and the lack of Cheerwine was a definite problem while I was there. It was nearly impossible to find Cheerwine for sale anywhere in Tennessee back then so I had to bring back about eight to ten 12-packs every time that I went to visit my family in North Carolina. My supply wouldn’t last long because I’m a generous person. If I find out that you had never tried Cheerwine, I would make it a point to get a cold one in your hand as soon as possible so you could give it a try and I could see the smile hit your face.

I have been a pretty avid promoter of Cheerwine and even got my little cousins hooked on it down in Florida and my family always have to save room in the car for a 12-pack when we drive down there for Thanksgiving. I’ll still try to remember to toss some in the car this Turkey Day but I am excited to know that they can find it down there sometime soon.

Not having Cheerwine readily available would be a nightmare for many North Carolinians. We are so used to having it almost everywhere that it is almost hard to imagine a place where you couldn’t find it. I had that happen when I moved to Tennessee (although it is a neighboring state so it wasn’t too far away). It is somewhat like moving to Florida and losing real sweet tea. #NIGHTMARE

However, Cliff Ritchie, the president and CEO of Cheerwine (and great grandson of the L.D. Peeler), wants to change that. His goal is to have nationwide distribution for Cheerwine by 2017 which just happens to be the 100th Anniversary of Cheerwine which was first developed by his great grandfather in 1917.

Until then, it looks like people who don’t live in the current distribution will either have to beg their friends who did live in a distribution area to bring them some or order it online from a few different retailers (even from Cheerwine.com) but the price plus shipping can start a pretty expensive addiction for you.

Bull City Burger & Brewery in Durham Opening Soon

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A new restaurant is coming to downtown Durham and my article in Wednesday’s (Feb. 23) Durham Herald-Sun is an interview with Seth Gross, the brains/chef/brewmaster behind Bull City Burger & Brewery. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into one of Seth’s pasture-raised beef burgers.

And fries finished in duck fat… oh là là.

I haven’t had those since I lived in France in 2008.

A Boylan soda fountain (the first in NC), all-beef dogs, housemade condiments, such as ketchup, pickles, and chili, griddled pound cake for dessert with, maybe, just maybe, locally made chocolate sauce (that’s in the works). Housemade ice cream.

Oh! Can’t forget the beer made right there before your very eyes. Admittedly though, I have a lot to learn about beer. Seth put me through a tasting and I found out that I am dumber if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link47″).style.display=”none”;} than I even thought. Lots more research will be needed!

Projected opening- Monday, March 21. 107 E. Parrish Street.

Review-The Blue Taj in Charlotte

Outside of the Blue Taj

Even as you enter the Blue Taj, you get the feel of a modern, upscale restaurant.

Last weekend my husband and I traveled to Charlotte to see some friends. When it was time for dinner, we had a plethora of places to choose from. We finally settled on trying out a place in Ballentyne Village, in the southeastern part of Charlotte called the Blue Taj.

This is a mixed-use community with a thriving commercial center that features a movie theatre, lots of unique shops and restaurants.  Tucked inside the lower level of the circular building where the movie complex is located is the Blue Taj. Even from the outside, we knew this place was going to be special. The blue lighting gives the place a techno feel. The Blue Taj specializes in food from Northern India.

The orange room in the Blue Taj

The restaurant is modern, yet cozy.

Upon entering the restaurant, there is a huge wine cellar encased in glass in the front. The flowing orange drapes and the cream and orange colored walls give the place a modern and upscale feeling. The source of the blue glowing lighting comes from the bar, which is situated in the back of the restaurant. We later discovered that there are different rooms with different themes in each part of this restaurant. There is even an outdoor seating area for times when the weather is decent. This place was buzzing with activity, even though we didn’t arrive until after 8pm. In fact, the place kept getting more crowded as the evening went on.

One of our friends had never tried Indian food before, so we knew this would be a treat. The waiter was one of the best wait staff I have seen in a long time. He took time out to explain many of the dishes to our friends and gave suggestions from each page of the menu. He never had to write down our order and was very attentive throughout the night.

cauliflower florets served in a zesty garlic and scallion sauce

Our appetizer of Masala-Chili Cauliflower Florets was a great choice.

We started our meal with the Masala-Chili Cauliflower Florets. The cauliflower was roasted in the oven and coated with a garlic, soy and scallion glaze. It had enough heat to make your mouth buzz just a little bit. We all wanted more, but knew the best was yet to come. Two of us also had to have a mango lassi, which is a drink made of mango juice and keffir (an ingredient similar to yogurt). It is like a mango smoothie. They were so tasty that we both finished the drink before our entrees arrived.

My friends had the Chicken Makhni, which was chicken thighs in a tomato sauce. The thighs were pounded to make them more tender, then roasted in the oven with some spices. This was the person who had never had Indian food, so we encouraged him to order the mild version. He loved it.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Our other friend had the Chicken Tikka Masala, which was big pieces of roasted chicken breast meat and a mixture of vegetables served in a creamy tomato sauce and scented with fenugreek. The spices were a nice combination that didn’t overwhelm your senses, but had a good zap to it.

My husband had the Lamb and Goat Curry, which featured a coconut-curry leaf flavored sauce. It was a combination of the sweetness of the coconut and the heat of the curry, but was again not too overpowering in the heat department.

Chicken Korma

Chicken Korma

I ordered the Chicken Tangdi Korma. I love a good korma. This is chicken thigh meat that has been simmered in a cashew cream sauce and cardamom. The menu said it had Iris essence as well, though I could not discern a taste of Iris in the dish.

We ordered some Naan bread for the table as well and the bread was very fresh and soft. It was a great tool to use to sop up some of the great sauces each of us had.

There were a great assortment of vegetarian dishes, and some very interesting sounding desserts and a whole selection of Tawa, and Tandoori dishes, but we just didn’t have room to try anything else that night. Maybe this is a good excuse to travel back to Charlotte to try some more food at the Blue Taj.

We were interested to find out that the owners of the Blue Taj are related to the people who own the Mint in Chapel Hill (review coming soon) and the Saffron in Greensboro.

The Blue Taj is definitely a great place to take someone out for a date, or a special night out.  The prices were on par for an upscale Indian restaurant. The Blue Taj is open seven days a week for dinner and six days a week for lunch (no lunch service on Saturday).

The Blue Taj is located at 14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Suite 170, Charlotte, NC 28277. Call 704-369-5777 for reservations or for more information.
Blue Taj on Urbanspoon
 

Review – Carrburritos in Carrboro

Preparing the food

The counter at Carrburritos

The fiesta is always happening at Carrburrito’s in Carrboro. Located on Rosemary Street, just a half a block from the “V” in the road where Rosemary Street intersects with Main Street.  Carrburrito’s is tucked in a corner of a two story building, sharing the space with a Buddhist Center.  When you enter the establishment, the place is alive with energy. Most nights, the place is packed with students from UNC, young families with their children and other folks, like myself and my husband who just like a really good burrito.

Inside Carrburritos

This is a popular destination for many folks in Carrboro

The ingredients are fresh, mainly local and everything is made in the restaurant, including the tortillas and all the fillings. Some of the postdocs at my workplace have told me time and again that I needed to try this place, so I finally ventured out this weekend to check it out.

The ordering happens much like when you go to Mo’s. You line up, cafeteria style and order. You have a choice of three basic burritos, the plain which comes with Black or pinto beans and cheese or rice; the regular, which comes with everything in the plain, but also adds lettuce and salsa fresca;  and the mejor, which comes with everything in the regular plus guacamole and sour cream.  There is a great variety of fillings to add to the basic burrito. You can choose either one of the vegetarian options, such as tomatoes and rice, or vegetales asados, which is grilled marinated seasonal vegetables, or the pure’de papas, which are mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized onions.  I had the sweet potato mixture and it was excellent. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes married well with the earthiness of the black beans and the spiciness of the salsa. The portions are generous, so you might even get away with eating just a half of a burrito, but I liked mine so much I ate the whole thing!

There are also a variety of meat fillings including pollo asado, which is marinated grilled chicken breast, carne desebrada, which is beef roasted in chipotle peppers, onions and garlic, or my husband’s choice, which is chorizo, a spicy pork sausage that Carrburritos makes in-house.

Burrito from Carrburritos

Typical Burrito from Carrburrito's. Bring your appetite!

The plates are also accompanied by homemade tortilla chips that are a mix of corn and flour tortillas fried to a crispy golden brown. You have your choice of six salsas to dip your chips in. My husband had the salsa fresca, which  included fresh tomato, jalapenos, cilantro and lemon. It was crisp and clean tasting and not too hot.  I had the salsa frutas, which had lots of fresh pineapple, along with chilies, cilantro and just a tiny bit of tomato. It was really delicious and had just a little bite to it from the chili peppers.  We also each had a margarita. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. It’s probably better to get another beverage here and save your money to drink at one of the many bars down the street in Chapel Hill.

Nachos at Carrburritos

The Nachos at Carrburritos

Carrburritos serves more than just burritos. You can also order tacos, quesadillas, tostados and nachos. Everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked really appetizing. I know we will be coming back to try more dishes soon.

As I said before, you will get a great deal here. The mejor was just $7.95. No wonder there were so many families with children here. You could feed your family and keep within a tight budget.

Carrburritos is located at 711 West Rosemary Street in Carrboro. They are open from 11am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and are closed on Sundays.

 Carrburritos on Urbanspoon

Follow Up: Pittsboro Pepper Festival 2011

Lots of folks at the Pepper Festival in Pittsboro

Lots of folks at the Pepper Festival in Pittsboro

If you couldn’t pick a pepper at the Pittsboro Pepper Festival, you were in the wrong place on Sunday! My friends and I have been talking about this event for several weeks. Although I am still tentatively stepping up the heat for my own palate, my friends like all kinds of peppers. I was interested in going to this event, because so many of the great local chefs from the Triangle region would be here and I could be in one place and try lots of their food at one time!

We started our foray into the myriad of food vendors by tasting the jalapeno ice cream from the Bean and Barrel. It was creamy and cool with just the right bite of spiciness to remind you that you were eating a pepper dish. We all loved this ice cream and, in fact, would dare to say it was on the best dishes of the afternoon.  They also had some stuffed peppers which everyone was raving about, but somehow we missed them and by the time we tried to make it back to their booth, they had run out.

Vimalas Curryblossom Cafe had a booth

Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe's booth.

gazpacho

The gazpacho from 18 Seaboard was sweet and creamy with a little hint of spice

One of my other favorites of the day was 18 Seaboard’s Gazpacho made with sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes. It was sweet, creamy and very refreshing. I could have had several more servings of this soup.

Another favorite was Lucky 32’s butter bean pate with pickled peppers. The mild butter beans played nicely with the tartness of the pickled peppers.  I also loved the pork with two pepper aioli sauces from the Granary.

Dos Perros had a habanero aioli sauce that my friends liked so much they went back to the booth to ask whether the restaurant sells it. Sadly they do not sell it and they only serve it on occasion, as the dishes they serve are all seasonal.

Zily and Ritz, from Raleigh, served a strudel that was also excellent. I had to go back and have seconds of this dish. I know I will have to seek out the restaurant sometime soon and eat there, if this is any indication of the type of food they serve. The strudel was filled with sweet lamuyo peppers. Who knew you could make so many delicious desserts from peppers? I surely didn’t.  I also really enjoyed the Market Restaurant’s creme fraiche cheese cake with chocolate mole graham cracker crust and tobago infused honey caramel. I had seconds of this one as well.

My friends loved Glasshafull’s smoked pepper soup with shrimp, cilantro, lime creme fraiche and a fried tortilla. I thought it was OK, but not my favorite.

Cackalacky had a booth featuring a pepper sauce

Cackalacky's booth featured a pepper sauce you could buy

There were plenty of beverages as well.  My favorite was Starrlight Mead’s  Cranberry Orange Mead, which was an off-dry Cranberry Orange Mead with Chipotle Pepper. It had some smokiness to the flavor, which was actually pretty good, though I’d never think to have a smoky mead before.

I tried Fullsteam Brewery’s Escazu Chocolate and Chipotle cask beer. The person working the booth warned me it would not be as bubbly as I would be used to in a beer and he was right. It had a bit of a bitter taste to me and frankly it was not for me, but another friend who was with us loved it.

Triangle Brewery’s Tobago-Habanero Pale Ale was a winner though. Perhaps it’s because I like lighter to amber beers, but don’t always like a dark, heavy beer. This was light and had just a little bit of spice to it. It would be perfect on a hot summer’s day.

Pepper queen and runner up

Pittsboro's Pepper Queens

While focusing on all the eating and drinking, there was also music, dancing and the crowning of the Pepper queen. The festivities were held at Brier Chapel’s new community park. While we were there, we also ducked into the model home that will be one of the houses featured in the Parade of Homes the next couple of weeks. It was a really nice home with a great floor plan.

It was great to celebrate the multitude of peppers grown in the Triangle and cooked by some of the most famous chefs in the Triangle. I would highly recommend you plan to attend this festival next year!

REVIEW: Smith Street Diner – Greensboro

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My husband and I ventured out of Durham last Sunday morning to visit our son who cialis 5mg goes to Guilford College in Greensboro.

I decided we should have breakfast at Smith Street Diner.

It was recently featured in Our State magazine and I figured we couldn’t go wrong. I love diners. I have since I had my first hamburger in one in Marion, NC when I was about 8 or 9 years old.

My grandfather took me there and he viagra no prescription if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link142″).style.display=”none”;} knew good food, having been a chef once upon a time in a hotel in High Point.

We only had to wait about 10-15 minutes before we were seated.

Posters of pigs are the main decoration at Smith Street. Our waitress brought us steaming mugs of freshly brewed Counter Culture coffee while we checked out the menu. I decided upon a biscuit, gravy and an egg over-easy.

They serve the biggest biscuits I have ever seen, much less eaten.

My breakfast was delicious! The gravy was perfect–just the right amount of pepper. The guys needed meat so they ordered sausage and bacon with their biscuits and eggs.

I checked out the lunch menu and now wish that I had asked to bring home some of their housemade pimento cheese. Next time, I will try to pass up breakfast and have a pimento cheese BLT.

The menu says: House Specialty: “A Satisfied Customer” They sure succeeded Sunday morning.

Smith Street Diner on Urbanspoon

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