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Posts posted by Bissey

  1. So, people, what's the buzz? We've been open for a few weeks, and have been crazy busy almost every day, for both lunch and dinner. I don't get out of the kitchen too often, and so I'm curious about your opinions in re: the food and the atmosphere. All I can say is that it's been an amazing experience to be a part of a new eatery downtown, and especially amazing to be so busy. I hope the proprietors won't mind me saying that the amount of business we've done has been truly unexpected. It's been a lot of fun to grow into a restaurant that is suddenly busy as hell on a random tuesday lunch, not to mention those friday nighdts when we feel like we're feeding half the population of Durham.

    So, thanks for the support, and more importantly, bring on the criticism. We want to be your neighborhood spot; we're not afraid of helpful suggestions. And salud to the Piedmont, as well. It's great to have some company serving good food in the windy streets of downtown Durham. Perhaps some day soon it won't seem quite so lonely down here. Judging from the parking situation lately, that day is not far off. Buy a hip condo while you can; Durham aint messing around any longer.


    jason (sous chef, rue cler)

  2. Thanks for the interest and the input, Bryan. It's been a crazy month, and an even crazier week, but we survived somehow. There are certainly a lot of little things that need to be fixed in the coming days, but our staff is fleshing out with some talented individuals, and everyone at the bistro is really focusing on details. We're so excited to be a part of downtown Durham, and have been amazed at the turnout for lunch and dinner.

    For the unaware, the (very much "under construction") website is www.ruecler-durham.com

    Look there for our hours of operation. I'll be trying to add more content this week, such as menus (duh!), the wine list, plus some fun background on our proprietors and staff, as well as a section devoted to our local farmers and our crazy French winemakers. Don't quote me on that... People have been eating coq au vin faster than I can make it, so I might not get around to adding all of that info. for a little while.



    (sous chef)

  3. The main fish guy at Fowlers [...] also had live scallops, which I never see around here, but alas for another time.

    a shame... I ate one right out of the shell, as raw as an apple yesterday. Really nice scallop, although I prefer the ones that I pluck from the seagrass in July in Florida. Great excuse to practise your snorkeling and raw-fish-addiction. Still: live diver scallops in Durham? Bring it on!

    A large number of fish are frozen on the catch boat and are sold for raw consumption, like every tuna caught.

    Most sashimi-grade tuna that you'd find in Japan is previously frozen for up to a year; in fact, the Japanese prefer it that way. It's like a curing process for them, and it has positive effects on flavor and texture. Or so I've read somewhere. Same with salmon, in fact. Mind, this ain't your average garage deep-freeze. We're talking commercial blast freezers that will take a 20# tuna loin from 40F to -10F in 30 minutes. In my mind, as long as you can get fish blast-frozen soon after rigor mortis has dissipated (or, ideally, before it sets in), you've got yourself some killer sashimi. Look for cryovac'd "saku block" tuna in asian groceries in the area if you're planning to make sushi at home. Nice product, if a bit pricey.

    Apologies for my fish rant.

    How about Fallot dijon mustard? Anyone found any in the Triangle recently?

  4. As for the new Pop's venture, it's going to be a small French bistro with a bakey attached, I believe.  I don't forsee it being better than Guglhupf, however.

    Bryan believes correctly. FYI, though, Pop's wholesale bakery currently supplies breads to two places he's complimented lately on these forums (the Nasher's cafe and the Federal) among many other establishments in the area. When the new storefront opens downtown, all of those products will be available retail.

  5. What is ok about the guys around the James Joyce is that there are usually enough street lights and people out and about so I feel somewhat safe.  But stick me on a street in d-town Durham without a soul on it and someone approaching me on the street, I am going to feel pretty threatened.  It's just the nature of the tall buildings and narrow streets.  I think Jo and Joes (Joe and Jos?) escapes this by being on the outer fringe.

    True enough. Hopefully, the return of 2-way streets downtown will bring a more populated feeling to the area, though.

    To offer my opinon on the original question 'If we build it, will they come?' - I think the folks who read this will come based on the food.  Folks who read and post on this forum will board eat from a taco van on a contruction site if the food passes muster (Rico's Tacos in Brier Creek past the Target on the left - Get there a little before noon or you're in the constructuon lunch break crowd.  I liked the lengua(sp? tongue) tacos).  But considering that some folks think Magnolia Grill is on a bad side of town, I think any restaurant in Durham d-town proper that doesn't make >75% of its profit on lunch (when people are there working) or delivery will fail. 

    Yep.. any "startup" restauranteur that isn't planning on serving lunch downtown should have their wine key revoked for pure idiocy. It's essential. We're hoping to use lunch as a leg-up, enticing folks to come back for dinner.

    If my assertion proves incorrect, I will happily walk to such a restaurant to devour a dish of crow.  As long as it is prepared well.

    Well, I dunno about crow... maybe hare or pheasant. We'll do our best. ;)

  6. I think a grocery store downtown would be great, and would make living downtown a more convenient place for people without access to a car.  With the number of businesses and Duke extensions coming downtown, I would hope the increasing lunch business would help support downtown resturants.

    oh, man. a grocery store would be incredible. i seem to have read somewhere (DDI's newsletter?) that recruiting a major grocery store was on the agenda for 2006. Ever since the Teter closed at Northgate, I have been cut off from Duke's mayonnaise and lightbulbs within walking distance.

    My employers and I are really looking forward to serving lunch downtown. I think that a lot of people associate a downtown redevelopment with nightlife, but really most successful small-to-meduim-sized downtowns that I've been to (Asheville, Urbana-Champaign, Savannah) have a bustling daytime crowd as well.

    ...i think I "hijacked" your thread by bringing up safety issues, and I sincerely apologize!!

    not necessary. It is a major concern.


  7. The landlords really need to be ready to play ball because they'll be the biggest winners if this thing goes well.  Oddly enough, I didn't find that to be the case with the one person I actually spoke with early last year.  Certainly I won't name names, but the project was, at best, risky and they wouldn't budge at all on TIs or free rent.  They just kept playing the "Downtown Durham is going to be the next hot spot." card.  That may well be true, but I couldn't afford to subsidize the project until (and if) that was the case.

    The prospectors you speak of are certainly in the majority of building owners downtown. I know of at least one landlord who is an exception to that rule, though. There are folks who are doing what they do for the love of it more than for the payoff (though anyone who says they're not in it for the dough shouldn't be trusted).

    This topic never seems to fail in stirring up forceful opinions. I was interested to see that the "downtown is a crimeridden ghost town" perspective is still alive and well. That point of view is easily forgotten by those of us who live and work here. People have said that restaurants downtown should have valet parking and security guards... I tend to think that's going a bit far, but then again I'm not an unattended young woman with an expensive car.

  8. So it seems that the proverbial cats are out of their bags. There's been a lot of activity in Durham's downtown lately, and new restaurants seem to be in planning stages wherever you look. I'm curious, as someone involved in one of these new developments, what the general dining public thinks about venturing further east than Duke Street for a decent meal. Is this really gonna work? Durham has been talking about the Possibility of downtown for longer than I've been able to point it out on a map. Are we finally seeing the rennaisance that's been on folks' minds for years?

    More importantly, what can be done to make restaurants in downtown Durham help breathe some life into those lonely windswept blocks?

    If we build it, will they come?


  9. I've always been impressed with the level of service at Elaine's. I've been over to eat there three times so far, and have consciously noticed the professionalism of the floor staff on each visit. This, coming from a picky professional cook, should be a pretty good service quality barometer.

    I've been impressed with the food, as well. While I think that most cooks in Brett's style are guilty of offering insipid, boring but passable entrees while really showing off their chops with their appetizers, I've found the main courses at Elaine's bucking that trend. The entree side of the menu always seems to have a huge variety of flavors, rarely straying into the mashed potato and sauteed spinach doldrums. Finally, who can help loving a casual-hip bistro that always sends out an amouse-bouche? Classy touches all around. Kudos are due.

  10. Whole Foods for one. I saw it today as I was helping a customer look for organic gluten free bernaise sauce mix.

    Why would a bernaise sauce contain gluten? :wacko:

    it seems that there is a bit of an urban myth going on amongst celiacs... or maybe not. apparently, some think that some form of gluten is involved in vinegar, a key ingredient of hollandiase, bearnaise, etc. who knows. i dated a girl who was gluten-intolerant once, and beyond gluten in it's usual forms (i.e. breads, pasta, whatever), there were certain wheat-involved foods that she could not stomach, regardless of whether or not gluten could have formed in its preparation. it's a complicated allergy, and it's hard to find a place to eat out that is truly able to skirt gluten-containing ingredients for you. we do try pretty hard at the restaurant, and have one regular that is so appreciative that it makes it a pleasure to feed him properly. plus, he brings us the NYTimes on wednesdays.

    for a more involved interperetation, see: http://www.nowheat.com/fooddb/food/vinegar2.htm


  11. There is a place here in Philadelphia, Monk's Cafe that does Pommes Frites and has a quasi-Belgium theme - mussels, burgers with Belgian names.  When they first opened they started off with shoestring fries.  For me, chalk screeching on a blackboard. 

    I mustered my bluster and convinced the owner to switch over to 1/4" fries.  More authentic to Belgium and a better fry - consistently mealy on the inside, crisp on the outside. 

    That lasted less than a week.  All of his customers complained.  I theorized that they were weaned on McDonald's fries, and had to have shoestrings.

    I'm hoping the customers are more advanced in Durham, but, alas, probably not.

    You might find Durham to be more savvy than would be expected... I was certainly suprised when I moved here from Boston. But back to frites...

    There is a potato-cutter bolted into an inconvenient place on the wall in, I'd say, 50% of the restaurants in North America. Usually, it's fitted with a rusting, starch-sodden 1/4" die, that gives us the familiar almost-crispy-enough fry. But I THINK there is another die that is somewhere between the shoestring size that the julienne blade on a mandoline delivers and the usual "bar fry" size. To my mind, just a little less fluffy meal on the inside, with consequent increase in crunchiness on the exterior would be the pinnacle of the fry. And also, shoestrings just aren't a proper mayonnaise-ingestion device... something more substantial is required.

    You'll have to forgive me. I've obviously been thinking about this far too much.


  12. though a fine state (even if its landmarks are falling apart), Vermont certainly runs a distant second to Rhode Island in sriracha consumption, what with there being lots of Southeast Asians, Johnson and Wales folks, university students, and just plain obsessives (like yours truly) spraying it yon and hither.

    touche. i claim no allegiance to Vermont anymore, so i will defer to your Rhode Islander experience.

    ... such a small state, and so much hot sauce. 'tis miraculous.

    it'd be kinda funny to get ahold of the shipping records of sriracha-making companies... see who's really pulling their weight. somehow i'm guessing that south dakota won't be on top (with apologies to those who might be afflicted with residence in that particular state).


    [edit: to add insult to injury, i seem to have misspelt "Dakota". sorry. really, it's a very pretty place]

  13. I've had no problems holding 1/4" fries overnight in water, and haven't really needed to dry them out thoroughly, either, but i would imagine you would need to if you were frying them at home. Restaurants have the luxury of huge fryers that won't boil over from that extra water. A long soak, i have found, is actually beneficial for fries after they have been cut, in that it rinses off excess starches/sugars that don't really contribute to crispiness, and often end up over-caramelizing, the result being over-brown fries that aren't even crisp on the exterior. double-"boo".

    on a bit of a tangent: what do you frites lovers prefer when at a french bistro? thin, shoestring fries, thicker, ~1/4" bar-style fries, or somewhere in between (i.e. McDonald's size, albeit house-made from non-bionic potatoes)? i'm in the process of opening a new bistro with my bosses, and i've been leery of their preference for the shoestring variety. i suppose it's more "traditional," but i think the 1/8" middle-ground is a better fry. thoughts?


  14. at the restaurant we habitually save any fat that we happen to render, and the bulk of this is chicken fat, followed very closely by bacon fat. over time, and through confusion in the walk-in amongst our more, shall we say, spanish speaking peers, the various fats tend to combine into a huge bucket of all-purpose confit-makin'/lardon-cookin'/sweet potato poachin'/potato-brownin' animal fat. the result is an extremely flavorful, if not so much michelin-level, cooking medium that we like to call "meat fat." schmaltz is actually my favorite component of this melange. many chefs might prefer duck fat, but i find that a nicely clarified schmaltz is actually more rich, just as abundant [read: free], and more neutral than duck fat... but then again, we get really nice chickens here. i feel that i am about to wax poetic about chicken fat, so i will now stop typing... but i will say that i do prefer duck fat for searing brussels sprouts.

  15. mr roommate is positively frightened with the frequency that i use sriracha. when i come home from a long night cooking, i just can't help but to douse any leftover meat in the fridge with it. he cringes when i spray it onto leftover lamb leg on top of costco naan bread spread with goat cheese, but i caught him drooling over fried eggs positively drenched in the stuff the other morning. it's a bit of a proximity thing; the more you see that green-topped bottle, the more you are tempted to squeeze it.

    probably something to do with the rooster.

    god, i love the shit.

    as an aside, the New England Culinary Institute is constantly running out of sriracha, as well as it's sister sauce nam-ploy. Between students dousing it on everything in the cafeteria (possibly to hide the flavor of dishes created by their junior peers), and chef-instructors dumping it into every conceivable sauce and marinade, Vermont might just have the highest "vietnamese" chili sauce consumption in the country.

  16. I braise pork shoulder quite often. Pretty cheap cut of meat, needs to braise or be smoked for many hours to be really good. ... You get a lot of bang for your buck that way.

    Amen, sister. Pork shoulder is hands-down my favorite big chunk to braise or smoke or slow-roast on my day off, then munch on for the rest of the week. I get mine CHEAP from a local farmer, who in addition to growing excellent product, has the best deep-fried southern accent I've run across since I moved down here. Even if you're not a citizen of the Pork Belt, chances are that there is a farmer within a half-hour's drive of your home who will just happen to have a few whole shoulders or smaller cuts thereof (a bit easier to manage for the home cook) that he or she'd be more than willing to sell you. You might get a cup of coffee and a great accent out of the deal, too. And if you happen to go to William Brinkley in Creedmoor, NC, you'll undoubtedly get a protracted version of his favorite slow roasting technique (I'll just say it involves a brown paper bag and a process known as "sage-in' it up").


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