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Food lover's guide to the Triangle?


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A couple of years ago, Katy Calcott published The Food Lover's Guide to Seattle. It's a basic city guide for buying food from locally-owned stores. The guide lists great butchers selling natural meats, fish sellers supporting sustainable fishing (if there is such a thing), where to get the best bagels. It's where I first learned about Salumi, Armandino Batali's salumeria and restaurant.

We need something like that here. Does it exist? If not, let's get started. I'm to new to Durham to be able to say much. But in order to get things started, can you all help me find....

Where to buy pastured meats?

I've been buying my meats directly from the farmers, whom I found through eat wild (http://www.eatwild.com/products/nocarolina.html). But It's tough driving several hours just for a few chickens and cuts of beef. Not such a green way to distribute stuff.

Where to buy local fish?

I don't know where to buy local fish. The whole foods fish counters in all three triangle shops are terrible. The people manning them don't know and don't seem to care what is local. I suppose the Raleigh farmers market is a good spot, although I haven't been in 6 years, and I also remember a great fish store south of Downtown Raleigh (whose owner was castigated by her neighbors for having a lighthouse on her front lawn), but I can't remember the name of the place. But how about Durham or Chapel Hill? I went to one spot in Durham, where I was told the salmon was wild atlantic salmon. Won't go back there again.

Good coffee?

I haven't found a place, and have taken to roasting my own. Bean Trader on 9th can't seem to get their H2O hot enough, neither Foster's nor Fowler's can get their grind right.

Good bakery?

Gugelhupf seems to be the best to me. But I've heard about Pop's starting a new venture.

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That's certainly a tall order for the Triangle, and, unfortunately I can't offer you a lot of help. Perhaps some of the people who have been in the Triangle for longer can chim in, but you're asking for a lot.

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.

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Can't help much on the meats. I have access to gorgeous local fish from a wholesaler on the coast, but that isn't much help to you.

As for coffee. Chapel Hill has the two best options. Cafe Driade has the best cappucino I've had anywhere (which would include SF Bay area, NYC, Seattle, but not Italy). 3 Cups makes delicious french press coffee from locally roaster Counter Culture (who keeps winning national awards).

In terms of Bakeries. It's between Guglhupf and Weaver St. IMO. Guglhupf has the pastries, the really dense breads, and the stollen. Weaver St. does better with French style breads.

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I buy my fish from the fish counters at Whole Foods or the Earth Fare in Chapel Hill; Whole Foods now displays the source for the individual fish on their price tags. I generally know what I'm looking for going in and what I'm looking at when I'm there so I don't ask too much of the counter help. There isn't generally anything interesting available, though I just picked up some lovely shad roes at the Whole Foods and Earth Fare has had skate. If you want lobster or bulk oysters then Fishmongers is the place to go, on Main St. They preportedly sell other fish at their market, but you can't see it, so I'm not sure what good that is. There is a fish store on University Dr. on Enterprise St. near downtown that does a good business and will cut on site to meet your needs.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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for fishies there are some decent options: Tom Robinson's eponymous establishment behind Armadillo Grill is very solid, he also offers cooking courses at Southern Season.

Additionally fish in Raleigh is easier to find than a butcher, Earp's on South Saunders, Capital City Seafood near the Farmer's Market, and Jezbel's in North Raleigh have always been postive experiences for me.

Cliff's in Carrborro is also the meat capital of the triangle. I picked up a 17lb. pork shoulder there last week (or my EGullet associate Pistachio Disguisey got it for me) at $1/lb. It was a beautiful shoulder and had no damages or bruises on it!

I should ditto the shout outs to Cafe Driade and 3 Cups which are to coffee shops what David Noel and Tyler Hansborough are to basketball (old and underappreciated; young and innovative with an old school charm).

Additionally, has anyone been to the Caspian Food Store right off Capital Blvd. (on the other side from the *divine* Fortune Palace). Is it a Russian good place? Anything particularly noteworthy there?

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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I buy my fish from the fish counters at Whole Foods or the Earth Fare in Chapel Hill; Whole Foods now displays the source for the individual fish on their price tags. I generally know what I'm looking for going in and what I'm looking at when I'm there so I don't ask too much of the counter help. There isn't generally anything interesting available, though I just picked up some lovely shad roes at the Whole Foods and Earth Fare has had skate. If you want lobster or bulk oysters then Fishmongers is the place to go, on Main St. They preportedly sell other fish at their market, but you can't see it, so I'm not sure what good that is. There is a fish store on University Dr. on Enterprise St. near downtown that does a good business and will cut on site to meet your needs.

That's Capital Seafood and I've gotten some very good stuff from them. I forgot about them in my earlier post.

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Where to buy pastured meats?

I've been buying my meats directly from the farmers, whom I found through eat wild (http://www.eatwild.com/products/nocarolina.html). But It's tough driving several hours just for a few chickens and cuts of beef. Not such a green way to distribute stuff.

Nu Horizons Farm sells pasture-raised beef, as well as chicken, pork, eggs, and lamb, at the Farmer's Markets in Carrboro, Cary, and Fearrington Village. You can order ahead on their website and pick up your order at one of the markets, too. I have had their sirloins and ribeyes, and they were quite good, but not close to the sublime prime, dry-aged cuts at Fowler's. Of course, the difference is about $20/pound.

As for fish, the lady who runs Earps' Seafood Market (Mrs. Earp, I believe), told me all the fish they carry are from North Carolina waters.

Good luck!

Scott

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit. -Oscar Wilde
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As for fish, the lady who runs Earps' Seafood Market (Mrs. Earp, I believe), told me all the fish they carry are from North Carolina waters.

Right -- Earps'! That's the kind of place I'm looking for a little farther west, i.e. Durham or Chapel Hill. It's the most locally minded fish market I've been in. I am really disappointed by the Whole Foods and Earth Fare fish and meat counters. Seems like the signs only give the country of origin, and they seem to make little effort to secure local fish. Maybe it's a matter of volume for them (Earp's was always jammin when I was in there), but I think they need to figure it out

I also had no idea Fishmongers sells retail. That's right in my hood. I will definitely check it out.

Cliff's in Carrborro is also the meat capital of the triangle. I picked up a 17lb. pork shoulder there last week (or my EGullet associate Pistachio Disguisey got it for me) at $1/lb. It was a beautiful shoulder and had no damages or bruises on it!

I don't know this place. Sounds great -- where do their meats come from, and any idea how they feel about pastured products?

Okay, so now we have the bakery and coffee figured out, how about, say...

Wine? I used to hit the Wine Merchant, mainly because I was a poor grad student and they had lots of good <$10 wines. Although I've graduated, my everyday wines still have to be of that class. West of Raleigh, all I can find are these mega wine stores and Fowler's and Southern Season, both of which have such a limited selection of affordable wines

Produce? I guess the obvious answers are the Farmer's Markets. Which ones run year round? Durham's doesn't, really. And the Durham coop is a disaster. Again, I'm disappointed with the Whole Foods and Earth Fare. Although the Raleigh WF and Chapel Hill Earth Fare are okay (produce-wise).

Specialty meats? For example, where can I find really nice pancetta, or salt-packed anchovies?

Please chime in with your own needs and finds.

Edited by umbabaru (log)
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Sorry I've been absent for this discussion, but y'all have identified the main seafood and meat sources. When it comes to wine, I'd strongly recommend Carolina Wine Company. This is not your standard wine shop, as the best bargains won't be found in the store itself (which is completely climate controlled) -- you need to subscribe to their email list. They also don't carry many of the wines you'd get at Total Wine or any of the other major retailers. They like to find the smaller producers, seeking out value.

The State Farmers Market in Raleigh is what I'd call the Target of farmers markets. You'll find the produce that is in season (go to the vendors in the outdoor building), but you won't find esoteric items or much in the way of organics. It's open year-round, and at this time, you'll find mostly greens, sweet potatoes, and apples. If you can, try to go during the week, as the weekends can get incredibly crowded.

Specialty meats? Hmmm, no great choices that I know of. For Italian stuff, you could try Capri Flavors in Morrisville. It's a fun place to visit.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Well, the Whole Foods in Chapel Hill isn't so bad for produce (Durham's is about as bad a Whole Foods as I've ever been to). That said, this Northern California shopper misses the produce out there more than any other food stuff. The Durham and Carrboro markets (when open) are a great source, but that's pretty much it.

I echo the Carolina Wine Co. suggestion but also think that Southern Season has a fair selection in the lower price point.

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Hey, Dean, my information is probably woefully out of date (quoting Dorothy after the Good Witch floats off in her bubble: "People come and go so quickly here"). But what about Mariakakas in Chapel Hill, for imported food? Is that still fun? Also, last time I was in Carrboro, there was a small seafood market on a side street near the Weaver Street market that had a good selection of N.C. coastal catches. Do you know the place I'm talking about?

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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I haven't visited Mariakaki's in ages, so I can't really offer any opinion. The seafood place you're thinking about is Tom Robinson's, which was discussed above. I remember visiting that place over 20 years ago and seeing his sign that said "Good seafood isn't cheap, and cheap seafood isn't good." I carry that message with me to this day!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Some of my favorites that have not been mentioned:

Kings supermarkets in Durham are a great place to buy pork. They are a real throwback (seems like a 70's grocery store to me), and I'm not suggesting you do all your shopping there. But if you want a pork shoulder or a picnic, they have it (and you don't have to order ahead or anything). Good price, too. One on Roxboro by 85 and another over where SouthSquare used to be.

If you want to pay 10x as much for something good (and completely different), I really like the dry aged beef from Fowlers. That was our Valentines Day dinner at home and it was stellar. Well, at least the beef was.

At this point, I'm going to continue to be snarky about Fishmongers and say that the uncooked seafood is the only seafood they should be selling there. Feel free to come to their rescue and claim that they make a good (blank) and maybe I'll try it. Sweet tea doesn't count.

So for seafood, I like to go to Grand Asia Market in Cary (near Crossroads). They have quite a spread - it has really expaneded in the last year or so. And plenty of unusual stuff (live eels and the like).

Almost forgot - Conti's Italian Market in Raleigh has some good Italian meats and sweets. I really like their sausage. And the Krispy Kreme is right across the street, so depite being a haul from Durham, it ends up being a 2 birds one stone kind of thing.

Questions: Anyone know where to get a brisket suitable for smoking (whole, not split) and not pay an arm and a leg for it? And anyone have any experience with the Mexican meat markets around town? I just got back from Mexico and was thinking of trying my hand at arracherra.

~Nibbs

Edited by nibbs (log)
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I've bought some stuff from Carniceria Superior on Roxborro. They seem pretty clean. The meat market at Grand Asia is also run by latinos FWIW.

Another vote for Grand Asia BTW as a good food source. Other Asian stores of note are Asia Mkt on 15-501 Business and Silver Wok in Chapel Hill (also on !5-501).

Neomonde in Raleigh is a great source for Middle Eastern supplies. Great pickles, olives, Lebneh, Ajvar, and other cool stuff. Their prepared foods are also delicious. The one in Morrisville is fine for the prepared foods but the groceries are a bit limited by comparison.

As for Mexican, my favorite for prepared foods (though they don't do tacos) is Miss Tortilla way out East Durham on 98 and Mineral Springs. Rotisserie Chickens, braised beef cheeks, carnitas, salsa, lengua, fresh tortillas, and a bunch of other goodies. Certainly worth the trek. They do sell raw meats so that may be of help to Nibbs question as well.

Best mexican grocery is... You know, I can get there but I forget the street. I think it's on Allendale in a shopping center behind an office furniture store. Like that's not cryptic enough.

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Another vote for Grand Asia BTW as a good food source.  Other Asian stores of note are Asia Mkt on 15-501 Business and Silver Wok in Chapel Hill (also on !5-501).

I remember now that I used to go to a small aisian grocery, in the late 90's, in on Buck Jones, and it had an incredible fish counter adjacent to it (actually adjacent to the video store adjacent to the grocery). I wonder if that place grew into Grand Asia. I work in Cary (not in the food biz -- at least one person in my family had to branch out), so it's convenient, sort of.

Neomonde in Raleigh is a great source for Middle Eastern supplies.  Great pickles, olives, Lebneh, Ajvar, and other cool stuff.  Their prepared foods are also delicious. 

I used to buy my olive oil, yogurt, and pita there when I'd go for lunch; I forgot about that place.

As for Mexican, my favorite for prepared foods (though they don't do tacos) is Miss Tortilla way out East Durham on 98 and Mineral Springs.  Rotisserie Chickens, braised beef cheeks, carnitas, salsa, lengua, fresh tortillas, and a bunch of other goodies.  Certainly worth the trek.  They do sell raw meats so that may be of help to Nibbs question as well.

My man! This is a lead for sure. Braised beef cheeks? Yeah you right!

Best mexican grocery is...

Although not much for local produce, Galaxy Supermarket on Lakewood/University is right next to my house, and I get Jjicama, yuca, plantains, avacado, etc there (not to mention tortillas WITH LARD). Pretty good cerveza selection, too. But it's basically just a big ole latino grocery store with a good produce section.

NIbbs -- check the link in my original post. You might have to head north or down to Chatham, but if you want the whole brisket, while you're there you could grab a side of raw bacon and smoke it with your brisket, and meanwhile grab a few frozen birds and a couple dozen of their eggs, and it'd be worth the trip. So far I've bought from 3 different farmers on that list, and they are all very cool people.

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Additionally, has anyone been to the Caspian Food Store right off Capital Blvd. (on the other side from the *divine* Fortune Palace).  Is it a Russian good place?  Anything particularly noteworthy there?

I happened upon this store by accident, but I've made several return trips since then. It's run by friendly people who have been helpful in answering questions and deciphering labels. They have a great selection of Russian and Middle Eastern products. I could be wrong, but I think that the owners are Persian. There's also a small section of Indian products. A lot of spices, grains, drinks (great beer selection!), refridgerated items, bulk candies and snacks. For those who can speak the language, they carry some books, magazines and even have a mini video loaning service. Out of curiosity, I bought a bag of "honey cookies," kind of oval shaped brown cake-like cookies. They are delicious! A mildly crunchy crust with a soft, chewy interior infused with just a bit of sweetness. Cheap and not that horrible for you. Also out of curiousity, I tried a plain flavored carbonated yogurt drink. Wow, talk about an acquired taste. It's akin to carbonated rotten milk. :wacko: I took one sip and was ready to dump it, but I thought that maybe I had to just get used to it. A couple hours later I tried again, and after the third try I was convinced that it just wasn't for me. Apparently, there are peach and mint varieties available. Anyone willing to do a taste test for me? :rolleyes:

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Another vote for Grand Asia BTW as a good food source. Other Asian stores of note are Asia Mkt on 15-501 Business and Silver Wok in Chapel Hill (also on !5-501).

I mentioned this place in the "Japanese Restaurants in the Triangle" thread, but if you're looking specifically for Japanese products, this place may have more of what you're looking for then Grand Asia and the like. As a bonus, sometimes they give you free inari-zushi and rolls of futomaki along with some daifuku (pounded rice filled with red bean paste). I haven't figured out what it is that I have to do in order to get the freebies--smile real big? spend a certain amount? Sometimes I get the goods, other times I don't...

Toyo Shokuhin & Gifts

748-L East Chatham St.

Cary

(919) 319-1620

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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.

Will cook for food.

jasonbissey@yahoo.com

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On the fish front I just got an email from Fowlers claiming to have a load of shashimi grade fish in today: tuna, flounder, salmon, and striped bass. I'll probably swing by and buy some for dinner on the way home.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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On the fish front I just got an email from Fowlers claiming to have a load of shashimi grade fish in today: tuna, flounder, salmon, and striped bass. I'll probably swing by and buy some for dinner on the way home.

Is "shashimi" what a sushi chef who's had a few too many drinks serves?

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On the fish front I just got an email from Fowlers claiming to have a load of shashimi grade fish in today: tuna, flounder, salmon, and striped bass. I'll probably swing by and buy some for dinner on the way home.

By the way, I've always thought sashimi-grade in a grocery was synonymous with "previously frozen". Do any of you pros know?

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