A Farm-to-Fork Dinner

This is one of those posts that I should have typed up long ago. But life happened (we left for Alaska a few days after) and I wasn’t exactly happy with my photos.

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At the beginning of October, a friend of mine had an open invitation for people to come to her family’s farm for a delicious farm-to-fork meal that she helped produce along with a friend of hers from Raleigh. I couldn’t resist the urge to go even though rain somewhat threatened the day (only to reward us later on with a gorgeous rainbow). 

This wasn’t the first time I had been out to Somerset Farm and I hope that it will not be the last. I love spending way too much money at their table at the Edenton Farmer’s Market picking up delicious and fresh vegetables. The menu at this particular event featured produce and lamb straight from the farm.

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The menu:

  • lamb pate with blood orange marmalade + rosemary crisps
  • chioggia beets with feta + berbere chickpeas
  • couscous with roasted butternut + golden raisins
  • eggplant with za’atar + pomegranate molasses
  • grilled lamb ribs
  • pear + date croustade with vanilla cream
  • lemon balm mojitos
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lamb pate | blood orange marmalade | rosemary crisps

Everything that I ate was delicious, and yes, I even braved the pate! My evening was spoiled slightly when I locked my keys into my car, which contributed to some of the less than flattering plated photos, but my boyfriend came to my rescue (eventually) and brought me my spare keys.

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lamb ribs being grilled
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chioggia beers | feta | berbere chickpeas
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My plate – prepared by a friend that I had invited while I was out dealing with my car issues.

All in all, it was quite the magical evening! She hosted a November event in honor of Guy Fawkes Day that featured Indian food, but unfortunately I was not able to attend. I hope that she resumes these events once the weather grows warmer.

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Expressing My Excitement to Come!

(Note: I’m filling this posts with pictures of some of the food I made when I lived in Raleigh – pulling these from my defunct flickr stream)

When I lived in Raleigh (in what seems like another lifetime now), I tended to shop at either Food Lion or Harris Teeter (depending on where I was living at the time) with visits to Whole Foods every other week. Mostly to enjoy the prepared foods bar, but also to view what new and unusual products they had in the produce section. Typically it was items that I could either not afford on a student’s budget or thought I didn’t like (such as mushrooms) but it was fun to view them. I think that was the budding foodie in me starting to emerge. About once a month or so, I would venture over to Trader Joe’s – that was back when “Two-Buck Chuck” was actually $2. If you are a Trader Joe’s fan, then you’ll know what I’m referring to.

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A delicious chicken & vegetable soup I made using brother, corn, potatoes, carrots, spices, and a rotisserie chicken back in October 2010.

Since moving back home, my grocery store choices have been limited to Food Lion, mostly to supplement what I can’t grow myself. Sure there are a couple of other grocery options (Farm Fresh and a small health food store), but I find their prices are typically higher for the same products I find in Food Lion. As the years passed, I found myself missing my Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Finally, my mom and I ventured up to a Whole Foods in Virginia and you would have thought that I was a kid in a candy store. It was heaven even though I didn’t buy much, if anything. Fast forward to dating my boyfriend. We were bored one weekend and after driving up to Bass Pro Shops, we traveled a bit further to Trader Joe’s. I think that it when he started to see the magic.

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My dinner in March 2010 – pork roast and frozen potatoes from Trader Joe’s (the potatoes were delicious) and cucumbers from a family recipe.
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Trader Joe’s purchases from March – the potatoes and pork roast pictured above are included.

Half a year later, I took him up to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and he realized that they really had some awesome things and that it wasn’t just for “hippies”. Though we spent more than we probably should have at both stores (but how could he resist the olive bar??), we made a vow that we would try to go a few times per year.

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Chicken katsu with tonkatsu sauce and cucumbers from the same family recipe as before. I crave this meal (from October 2009) even now.

So guess what time it is now? YES, it is time for our quarterly trip. Our last trip was over the summer so I wasn’t able to get the frozen items I wanted but I have a few days off from work between Christmas and New Year’s making it the perfect time for our little adventure. We are making the effort during the next two weeks to empty our fridge, freezer, and pantry of as much food as possible with no trips to the grocery store.

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Preparing for the Superbowl in February 2010 – I made shrimp dip, pigs in a blanket, velvetta cheese dip, and we had oreos.
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Shrimp dip (as mentioned above) – this recipe will be coming soon!

Duck Donuts [Outer Banks]

Every year around the 4th of July, my family go down to the Outer Banks to stay in a timeshare. From middle school thru college (and a few years after), I was able to go every year. Then life got in the way. 2016 marked the first time I had been able to attend since 2012 and I certainly have missed going.

Now, to be honest, my favorite time to visit the beach is in October – the off-season. The weather is still decent, there isn’t much traffic, and most of the businesses are still open. There is something so magical about being able to sit on the beach and watch the waves without the excessive heat and noise of Summer surrounding you.

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Taken in March 2016

Duck Donuts is a must each and every time I go to the beach – no matter what time of the year it is. I first discovered Duck Donuts not long after its opening in Kitty Hawk back in 2007. Funny story – the original Duck Donuts is actually the Kitty Hawk location, not the Duck location! The one located in Kill Devil Hills is my favorite one though and just a brief bike ride away from our beach condo.

Duck Donuts are the best donuts I have ever eaten – and this is coming from a girl who was born and raised on Kripsy Kreme. Duck Donuts are made to order, so when you get one, it is crispy, crunchy, and blistering hot. The inside is more cake-like than yeast and it tastes like something decadent and buttery. The really neat thing about Duck Donuts is that you get to customize your own donut with any variety of coating/topping/drizzle. I usually go for just the chocolate glazed (or chocolate glazed with peanuts if I’m feeling adventurous) but they are all delicious (cinnamon sugar is my second favorite). The maple glazed with bacon is pretty popular, so I’ve heard.

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Chocolate glazed with peanuts… mmm.
Be warned – during the Summer, there will be a line at Duck Donuts. I went on a Saturday morning at 8 and waited 20 minutes, then returned the next day at 7 and still had to wait 20 minutes! Even though the line was out the door, don’t get intimidated and leave. The line will move quickly and the donuts are worth the wait.
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All hands are on deck to get your donuts out in a timely manner.

You can even have the donuts shipped to your home, but nothing beats a fresh one.

Keep an eye out on their website – new locations are popping up everywhere and one may be popping up near you!

Kill Devil Hills, NC
710 S Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, United States
Mon – Tues: 6:30 AM – 9:00 PM*
Wed: 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM*
Thurs – Sun: 6:30 AM – 9:00 PM** I suggest visiting their website or their Facebook page to make sure the hours are still valid if you are going in the off-season.

bu•ku [Raleigh]

[Note: Same as in my previous review, there are no pictures of the food below. Though I had my camera with me when I was in Raleigh, I neglected to carry it inside as I wanted to focus on my friends. Plus, I do think that sometimes you forget to enjoy your dish when you are busy trying to find the best angle to photograph – contrary to what recent research has found about how Instagramming your food may make it taste better. I will try better in the future.]

bu•ku opened up in downtown Raleigh about the time I decided to move back home. It’s one of those rare restaurants that had intrigued me for years and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to try it. I finally had the opportunity last weekend. While in Raleigh for a business meeting, I coerced an old friend of mine to gather a couple of her friends to meet me up there.

I cannot say enough positive things about bu•ku. Everything was phenomenal from the food all the way to the ambiance and the service of the wait staff. Even the reservation process itself was super simple and I even received a personal call on Friday to confirm my reservation. I arrived early (well, technically on time) while the rest of my party ran about 15 minutes late but I was still seated at our table so that I could enjoy a drink. I elected to go with a glass of Ricossa Moscato D’Asti while I waited – one of my favorite beverages. Sequestered off from the rest of the dining area in its own room, there were 4 tables, each having plenty of seating for groups. I loved the large windows in the room that gave me the opportunity to glance outside.

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The menu at bu•ku is eclectic. It features street food from around the world and can be a bit intimidating to look at. Luckily enough, our waiter was able to give us some great recommendations.

We all ordered a different small plate to start – the Aloo Chana Chaat [spicy potato cake, chickpea, cucumber, cabbage, cashew, raita, tamarind, cilantro-mint chutney], Chinese Steamed Buns [Szechuan pork belly, pickled vegetables, hoisin-tamarind], Seared Pork Dumplings (Napa cabbage, scallion, ginger, chile-soy), and the Baja Crab Flautas [jumbo lump crab, pineapple, cream cheese, pickled serrano, cilantro, mango-habanero salsa, crisp flour tortilla].

Everyone raved over the Aloo Chana Chaat (which was my pick), but I enjoyed the creaminess of the Baja Crab Flautas best of all.

For dinner, I went with the day’s special – Chilean seabass with roasted maitake, grilled eggplant, massage kale salad, local cherry tomato, Burgundy macerated raspberry, sweet potato crisp. It was delicious! The seabass was perfectly moist and flaky. I tried a bit of the duck confit leg (from the Filipino Duck Adobo dish) and it was equally as good.

I ordered the Filipino Halo-Halo [parfait of coconut custard, sweetened plantains, guava sauce, ube ice cream] for us to share between the 6 of us at the table for dessert. It was different. There were aspects of the dish that we liked and aspects that we did not (including a red gummy that we thought tasted like cherry cough syrup). We all had a blast eating it and trying to guess what each component of the dish was. The custard and ice cream were delicious and I would order this dish again just for how fun it was to eat.

Now, bu•ku isn’t cheap. For just myself (for a glass of Moscato, appetizer, entree – which I did go with a pricier entree, beer, and dessert), my tab was close to $85 after tip. But the experience was worth it. There aren’t a lot of places where I live now that I can visit that are just different. Plus, I rarely am able to visit with that friend. All in all, it was certainly a memorable experience.

Tip: The traffic in downtown Raleigh was certainly bustling on a Friday night. Instead of driving around in circles looking for a parking spot, I parked in the Moore Square Parking Deck. Sure it cost me $5 to park there (which I heard caused some contention at one point) that night, but it was just easier and I didn’t have to worry about my vehicle being towed. Some of my friends used Uber, which is another great option (plus it allows you to drink as much as you want and avoid getting behind the wheel).

bu•ku: global street food
110 E. Davie St.,
Raleigh, NC 279601
Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Friday/Saturday 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM/5:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Garland [Raleigh]

[Note: There are no pictures of the food in this review. Though I had my camera with me when I was in Raleigh, I neglected to carry it inside as I wanted to focus on my friend. Plus, I do think that sometimes you forget to enjoy your dish when you are busy trying to find the best angle to photograph – contrary to what recent research has found about how Instagramming your food may make it taste better. I will try better in the future.]

Back in May, I found myself in Raleigh thanks to work. I had lived in Raleigh for about 7 years previously and the only thing that I miss now about the city are the food options. You can find pretty much anything that you are craving at any hour of the night. Not so much where I am now but living here still has its perks.

I decided to call up an old friend of mine and arrange dinner. At the suggestion of another friend, we went and ate at Garland, located in the downtown area. I had forgotten how much I did not miss having to drive and park downtown. I don’t parallel park. I’ve never had the need to. Instead, I prefer to just drive around in circles until I find a place that I can zip in. Thankfully with my little car, there are lots of places that I can now just zip into.

We started off the night with cocktails. I elected to go with the Dearly Beloved… [gin, rhubarb shrub, pink & Szechuan peppercorns, sparkling rose, lavender] while my friend went with the Lodger [tequila reposado, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, cocoa, ancho chile, coconut]. She wasn’t able to try my drink as there was something in it that she was allergic to (lavender maybe? Or maybe the rhubarb?) but I tried hers. I did not like her drink at all but that didn’t surprise me. I like more of a delicate sweetness to my drinks almost to the point where you wouldn’t think of them as containing alcohol. She loved her drink however, and I loved mine. I would probably drink it on a daily basis if I could get away with it.

We ordered the Pakora [“bird’s nest” fritters of farmers market vegetables, spicy chickpea & rice batter, tamarind and cilantro-mint chutneys] as an appetizer. My friend had tried pakora before, at a different restaurant, but she thought that the one at Garland tasted much better. The fritters were perfectly crispy. While I enjoyed the cilantro-mint chutney (again, it’s a sweetness thing), my friend enjoyed the tamarind chutney better.

For the main course, I had to make a tough choice between the Local Catch and the Tandoor Chicken. They both sounded delicious but in the end, I ordered the Local Catch [pan seared NC fish, fragrant broth, sauteed local greens, Laurel Branch Gardens shiitakes, shaved fennel, puffed rice salad, chili oil], which was simply a beautiful dish to look at.

My friend ordered the Vegetable Curry [roasted cauliflower, house-made paneer, local root vegetables, baby peas, tomato broth, coconut milk, cardamom basmati rice, pickled onion, whipped coconut cream]. I enjoyed my dish, especially the puffed rice salad (I liked the texture) and my friend’s dish was equally as good.

The vegetable curry was a bit heavier than my dish, so my friend did fill up quickly. But that just meant that she had some delicious leftovers to take home.

The service was great and I loved the little touches such as having the glass bottle of water sitting on our table (I drink a lot of water). The decor of the restaurant was pleasing and certainly gave off a “hip” vibe. While it wasn’t that busy when we first arrived (at 6:30 on a Thursday night), it was hopping by the time we left. I would definitely come here again for another drink and to try the Tandoor Chicken.

Garland
14 W. Martin St.,
Raleigh, NC 27601
Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 5:30 PM-10:00 PM,
Friday/Saturday 5:30 PM-11:00 PM
Lunch: Wednesday-Friday 11:30 AM-2:30 PM