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Posts posted by detlefchef

  1. Actually, I think that the designation of the Angus Barn as the "best" restaurant in the Triangle demonstrates exactly what y'all are trying to say.  But it is incredibly important to recognize that the Independent did not name the Angus Barn as the region's best restaurant.  This was based on the people's vote, and the editors' vote would never go that way.  This vote is, unfortunately, representative of our suburban, chain, strip-mall culture, however.  At least I'm glad that a locally owned institution such as the Barn won the vote.

    It should also be noted that those polls are notoriously easy to stuff. The actual number of people who vote is alarmingly low, so if one place gets their act together and recruits their staff and regulars to hype them up, they can usually swing it.

    Mind you, it isn't cheating or anything, and I've done it at every place I've ever run. Of course, the down side is then the paper squeezes you for a half page ad thanking your loyal customers.

  2. Shwartz, don't write off Chinatowns as some "stereotypical tourist trap". While there is certainly an element of that in the bigger ones, the concentration within neighborhoods like that breed a strong basis of ethnic cuisine. In East Oakland, CA, there's a 6X3 block stretch of Vietnamese restaurants, each turning out different versions of Pho, all of which are outstanding. Other cities at least have strip malls or one or two blocks that are exclusively Asian. One can say, I like so and so for this dish, but think so and so does this one better. Here? Gee let's talk about Vietnamese restaurants... well, I'm waiting. You can either shlep out to Capital Blvd for Pho-Cali and get a decent bowl of Pho or now you can go to 9n9 in Durham. That's really it. Dalat and that place on Guess Rd. in Durham just don't count. That's two good choices in a 25 mile radius. Give me the stereotypical tourist trap any day.

    Certainly the brightest sign of good ethnic cuisine comes from the burgeoning Mexican scene. The little enclave on Indian down in Cary is nice as well. On a bright note, if anyone wants to get down with the real Mexican scene, drive out Hwy 98 east of Durham towards Wake Forest. A few miles after Hwy 70, you come to a Papa John's Pizza on your left. Just past that (through the light), you'll see "Tortilleria y Carniceria" (sp) on the shopping center marquis. Inside is one of the more impressive tortilla machines you'll see along with several rotisseries churing out great chickens. In addition, the hot case features an assortment of prepared meats by the pound. Nice fatty carnitas, lengua, and best of all, braised beef cheeks! Their homemade salsa is damn good as well. They don't, however, sell tacos, only stuff by the pound.

    I suppose I should start a new thread on Mexican, but I've a very extensive study on Durham and Chapel Hill Mexican and would love to share notes.

  3. If there is ANY region in the world ready for a Culinary Explosion it is the Triangle!

    The per capita income/price of living is higher than 75% of the country, not to mention the highest # of PHD's/capita in any area in the world! What makes you think they aren't ready? I have worked at 2nd empire, magnolia, nana'a, vin and not to mention countless other chefs in this area. This area is ready noone has stepped up yet to take the responibility and put this place on the map. The money is here. The demand is here.

    We have some of the countries best produce, livestock, fisheries, etc. The resources, market, and talent are here.

    It's just a matter of time.

    Look at your own facts. 75% is the most important number you show. I'm sure the food in the triangle is better than 75% of the rest of the country. In fact, you could argue it's even higher than that based on the high number of PHDs, etc.. Let's say it's better than 85% of the other markets in the country. Last I checked, 85% is pretty much a "B" and it certainly puts us behind the likes of NYC, SF, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.. Wasn't that how this whole thread got sidetracked, that some kid from NY whined about the fact that we're no NY?

    So great, your facts prove that the food here is likely better than in, say, Des Moines, or Indianapolis, or Cleveland. Of course, I don't think anyone was disputing that.

    Wealth does support high-end restaurants, but that doesn't always mean "great" restaurants. As I said in my response to Bryan, the fact that chains are thriving here speaks volumes. Compare that to a city like Berkeley, CA (which is actually a pretty good social comparison on many levels). Places like Outback, Mangiano's, etc. just don't do well. Sure they have a few, but nothing like here. I mean, we have an entire outdoor mall that is essentially dedicated to "destination" chain restaurants! A lot of this money you speak of is driving to Southpoint for dinner to eat at places that one can find in every other B market in America. Not simply grabbing a bite at Firebirds because they're shopping, but getting in their car on Friday night and going there for dinner.

    The triangle also doesn't have any pockets of International communities that other cities tend to have. There's no Chinatown, no Little Saigon, etc. Cary has a nice enclave of Indian stores and restaurants, and East Durham has a good concentration of Mexican food, but that's pretty much it.

    As for the products. Yes, there is good stuff here. Again, likely better than Indianapolis, Cleveland, etc. However, as someone who's lived and/or cooked in NY, LA, and SF, the variety and quality of pretty much everything you mentioned is absolutely second tier. The Durham Whole Foods would probably be about the 5th best market in Berkeley, CA. Obviously there is a bigger selection available to wholesale, but Whole Foods is a very good barometer of what the upscale dining public is buying. I ask them why they don't have, say, frisee around more often and I'm told it's because nobody buys it.

    Yes, things are headed in the right direction, so I suppose that does mean it's "just a matter of time." But right now, I believe the call for better places is mostly being made by a vocal minority rather than the public at large.

    I know a lot of the local chefs and food professionals, and most of them are as committed to great food as anyone I met in other (better) markets. To a person, they all complain about what an uphill battle it is here.

    Of course, a house doesn't have to cost $500K here either.

  4. I've certainly had more interesting dishes and definately more southern dishes. However, the one that leaps out at me as the most hedonistically outstanding plate of food served to me in these parts was a platter of Kobe Strip Loin cooked to a perfect 120 degrees. It was simply topped with grilled onions and served family style to our table at Spice Street in Chapel Hill, NC.

    Again, this may not be exactly what you were looking for with this thread but I practically started crying tears of joy as I ate it. Devouring a steak like that is a pleasure beyond description.

  5. I've found the overall dining scene in the Triangle to leave a lot to be desired.  I'm just a student at Duke but have probably spent more hours researching the restaurant scene here than actually doing my school work.  That being said, I've had some good experiences in the Triangle, but, generally speaking, compared to NY/NJ I'm disappointed.

    Well gee, and here I thought we were up there with NYC in terms of dining hot-spots :rolleyes: . Well, it's no SF either and wont be until the entire culture of the area is upgraded. It's a two way street, my friend, food scenes get better because the dining public rewards hand made quality over chain-style "value". The triangle is a haven for chains. Mangiano's, Firebirds, Outback... those places are packed every night. SF, NY, and other food cities are that way because there are a ton of people who couldn't care less about how much food they give you at Mangiano's, they want the goods and are willing to search and pay for it. The quality food scene in an area like this is driven by a much smaller percentage of the populous that is actually passionate about what they eat.

    We are a b-market at best, and serving top notch food in a b-market is an uphill battle. Several years ago, I was the chef of an upstart market in a simillar area not too far from SF. We got a bunch of great reviews, but the locals would call on Friday afternoon looking for a table at 7:30. If you didn't have it, they went elsewhere. Perish the thought that they'd be willing to dine a bit earlier or later. After a write-up in the SF Cronicle, we had people from that market asking sheepishly if we could possibly fit them in a week from Wednesday. It was all could do to not ask them how many tables they wanted. It's just a different mentality. Ultimately, until the public at large rewards true commitment to hand-made quality food over an essentially passable meal at a chain, you're only going to have a handful of people willing to take that extra step. Plenty, after several years of putting in that kind of effort for a pedestrian income will say, "Screw it" and go into wine sales or something.

    I think it's certainly headed in the right direction, mind you, but it may be asking a bit much for it ever to catch NY.

    Oh, and...GO HEELS!

    edited to add: sorry to pile on, I actually started my reply earlier and just got back to my computer to finish it. I was unaware that someone else had already replied.

  6. I would add to the list The Duck & Dumpling in downtown Raleigh. It's fine-dining Asian flavored, but with twists, and he makes his own dumplings, even the wrappers. Very uptown contemporary interior. Not as expensive as Fearrington.

    Absolutely no way they belong in this conversation. Fine enough food, I suppose, but nothing near the experience that one would expect from "best restaurant in the triangle".

    Same goes for Starlu (someone mentioned them as well). While there have been some good comments about the place, there have been plenty less than great as well. Besides, they're way to new to be in the running.

    I think your list is pretty solid and I look forward to the results.

  7. A chap I was working for at the time took a few of us on a road trip to Seattle.

    The wine that made the heavens open uip and the angels sing was a 1985 Silver Oak Cab.

    Funny '85 Silver Oak has a special place for me as that was the first winery I ever visited (about a week after my 21st B-day) and I bought 3 bottles of the 85 Napa. Turns out I got started on the right foot.

    That however, was not the wine that put me over the edge...

    As I mentioned in the other post, here are a few that just killed me:

    82 Gosset Rose Grand Millisime (sp?)- I went through about a case of this on a shoestring budget and tried it with everything from the classic champange apps to seared livers to rack of lamb. It went with everything. I recall reading a few years later in Serena Sutcliff's book on Champagne that she'd drink it with just about anything as well. Not so much pink as amber in color, it completely changed how I looked at wine.

    83 Jamet Cotes Rotie- I'd read about Cotes Rotie in Parker's Buying guide and even tried Guigal's 85 Blonde et Brune, but this wine had so many layers.

    85 Tempier La Migoua- I recall literally drooling as I drank it. It was absolute hedonism in a bottle. This launched a very rocky relationship with the Tempier winery as I know of few wines that I hold dear that I've so many bad bottles from. In fact, I've pretty much stopped buying the stuff. Literally 3/4 of the ones I put down fell apart.

    Sorry, there's more, but I have to run.

  8. I think there was a number of lines...

    Badgering a co-ed at a Berkeley party about drinking White Zin before I was of legal drinking age comes to mind.

    However, looking back I'd have to say I went over the line when I single handedly bought out the local wine shop of a case of 82 Gosset Rose Grand Millisime one bottle at a time over the course of a month... on a linecook's salary of $8.50/hr. I would literally cash my paycheck and go straight to the wine store. You'd think it was crack.

    As for the specific wines that doomed me to this life of abject geekdom...

    82 Monsanto Chinati Classico Il Poggio

    83 Jamet Cotes Rotie

    85 Domaine Tempier Bandol La Migoua

    The above mentioned Champagne

    78 Rayas (that was freaking bright magenta at 12 years old)

    88 Pignan

    83 Clape Cornas (KL Cuvee)

    and finally a horizontal tasting of about 15 87 Grand Cru Burgs conducted in 1991. Sandwiched between 85/86 and 88/89, you could pick up Grand Crus for nothing. Just a perfectly sublime expression of Pinot fruit. I think we were buying Jadot Clos Vougeot for something like $20 and drinking it as our house wine. Now those were the days, I was about 23 years old and already ruined for anything but the kind.

  9. This thread has recently been swept clean, but we’ve endured months of postings from insiders raving about 4+ hour parades of cutely packaged, tasty amuses.

    To me, that doesn’t justify the 1.5 hour commute through nasty choked highways to get there. Can someone, an outsider, a basic customer with no connections, tell us if this place is really any good? There’s a regular menu on Manresa’s website. Can the kitchen actually create a main course that sustains interest for more than three bites? How fantastic is a three course meal ordered ALC by a stranger? How does the FOH treat those unconnected to the place? Is there an interesting list of good bottles to enjoy on their own, or does one have to mix red, white, sweet, sparkling, and four countries to “get” what Manresa is supposedly doing?

    Sorry to say, that I'm not an "outsider", so take this with a grain of salt. I no longer live in the area and only ate there once. I'll also say that David and I are at least friendly aquaintences and one of the people I was dining with is a close friend of his. I should also say that, while I am also a chef and completely enjoyed my meal there, I typically gravitate towards more simple fare. A perfect Lengua Taco sort of guy if you get the drift. That said, one could argue that this type of restaurant is the only type worth dropping big money on. I mean, what's the point of spending $25 for Braised Lamb Shank with Polenta when you could just make that at home and avoid the hassles of going out. If I'm spending good money, I want some kitchen gymnastics.

    First off, the 1.5 hour commute and the alleged lack of ambience the area provides: While it may not be quite as nice as a jaunt into Napa (as you implied when comparing it to F.L.), spending a leisurely drive down Skyline Blvd with a nice hike and picnic at one of the many parks along the way is pretty nice. If you were to start your Saturday that way and then drop down Hwy 9 into Saratoga, you could spend a little time there, probably grab a nice coffee and move along to Los Gatos (just a few miles down the road). For that matter, Santa Cruz Ave in Los Gatos is pretty cool as far most downtowns are concerned and I'm sure you could find a chill little place to stay the night.

    In terms of the restaurant itself, I wouldn't mess around with a three course meal. Not that it wouldn't be good, but that would seem like a cop-out. Endless journeys of small plates seems to be what Manresa is about and I'm sure the crew would put their best foot forward regardless of who you are. The cooks work there because they are deeply committed to making great food, not just turning out their friends. Getting together for drinks with some of them made me realize just how into it they are. These guys were showing up with cookbooks and arguing about Catalan cuisine for godsakes! After work! At a bar! Who brings a freaking cookbook to a bar? I assure you, you'll be in good hands.

    However, just like any dining experience, you'll need to chill out and meet them halfway. If you go in with the chip on your shoulder that your posts seem to show, you'll just be wasting your money.

  10. I hate to step on any toes here, but I don't agree with much of what has been posted here. First off, the NC State Farmer's Market is quite a trek from Durham (about 25 miles or so) and I don't think worth the effort (especially so early in the growing season). Both Durham and Carborro have better Farmer's Markets but I'm afraid that they to will be rather sparse in April.

    As for Carborro being spitting distance from Southern Season (which is worth the trip) that's a bit of a stretch. Chapel Hill and Carborro do border one another, but that particular store is not walking distance as seemed to be implied.

    As for BBQ, I wouldn't put my vote in the Bullock's category. If you want traditional Q, Allen and Son's is the place. Two newer places called Q Shack and the BBQ Joint are a little more newfangled but I've had very good Q at both. Q Shack being the only of the three actually in Durham.

    Let me second the Guglhupf suggestion, at least for the Pastry Shop. My only trip to the cafe didn't yield as good an experience. Foster's next door is certainly a cool spot with perhaps better egg dishes and good but not as good baked stuff.

    Fowler's in downtown Durham is certainly worth a trip.

    Vin Rouge is making a great brunch if you want to step up from Elmo's.

    If you like espresso, a trip to Driade in Chapel Hill is a must. It may be the best I've had anywhere.

    Lastly, the only other thing you might consider is a trip to one of the good Taquerias. Super Taqueria on Roxboro is one. There's two others whose names are escaping me but are very tasty. Both are tiny. One on the corner of Pickett and Chapel Hill Rd and one at the corner of Club and Roxboro.

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