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Piedmont -- New Durham restaurant


Varmint
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New eGS member drewpbrown let it be known that he was opening a new restaurant in Durham, so I couldn't just let that fly by without further inquiry. Then, after a great email exchange, I learned that Drew is one of the three amigos that ran the Federal: Drew Brown, Andy Magowan and Abby Pearce. They're opening Piedmont, a new Franco-Italo joint, in downtown Durham next to the new farmers market. Here's a blurb that Drew sent me:

The restaurant is called Piedmont and it should be opening in about a month.  The name is, in theory, a nod to both the NC Piedmont and Piemonte of northern Italy, but i'll be the first to say those are not hard and fast guidelines for our food.  The basic idea for the food is to utilize as many locally sourced products as possible and present them in a simple rustic Italian and French style.  We'll be changing our dinner menu everyday (or at least some of it) to fit with the season.  We're also trying to keep the place as accessible as possible by keeping the prices as lowish and also by not using to much esoteric culinary jargon.  We would like to see our place becoming a a great neighborhood bistro sort of thing a la the Fed but better, more refined.  Besides the changing dinner menu, we'll have a menu of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie (some made in house).  We'll also be serving a really simple lunch and on the weekends brunch.  Oh, and we'll be right next to the new Durham farmer's market, so we'll even be doing breakfast on Saturday mornings to feed that crowd.  The location is on Foster St. in a beautiful old warehouse that we share with a couple of great art galleries.

If you ever had Andy's charcuterie at the Federal, you'll know that we're all in for a treat.

I hope Drew will chime in with some thoughts, but I'm very pumped that this will be another great addition to the Triangle.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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  • 2 weeks later...

The facts:

The street address is 401 Foster St., Durham NC 27701.

The phone number is 919-430-0261.

The web address is www.piedmontrestaurant.com

The opening date is not set, but should be late October.

The hours: dinner 5-10 Wednesday to Monday, lunch 11:30-3 Monday & Wednesday to Friday and brunch 10-3 Saturday and Sunday. In between lunch/brunch and dinner we’ll be open for cocktails and a few bar snacks.

The owners are Drew Brown, Andy Magowan & Abby Pearce. Andy and I are the chefs, and Abby is the general manager. Abby and Andy have been married for a little over two years. Andy was formerly the chef at Federal, but prior to that he has worked all over the triangle (including the Magnolia Grill, Fowler’s & the original Henry’s) as well as in London. I have also worked around town including Four Square, Pop’s, Fowler’s, etc., but most recently I was living in Las Vegas working at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. Abby has worked the front of house at Federal among other places, but most of her experience has been in gourmet stores like Fowler’s and Foster’s. She was the cheese buyer at Fowler’s back when they had one of the best selections in the state.

In the spring of 2005 I returned to Durham from my stay in LV with the intention of opening a little restaurant of some sort, and I discovered that Andy & Abby had been thinking the same thing. We decided to join forces and set off to find the right place, concept, etc. It all came together when we met Andy Rothschild of Scientific Properties. He was in the process of renovating an old warehouse on Foster St in the Central Park neighborhood, and was looking for a restaurant. The other tenants are galleries and artist’s studios including Branch Gallery.

The concept we decided on for Piedmont was to provide straightforward, rustic Italian and French inspired food at a reasonable price using fresh, seasonal and, when possible, local ingredients. The dinner menu will change daily (not all of it, but bits and pieces) according to what is in season. The lunch and brunch menus will be more static with a few seasonal specialties added. There will be a focus on artisnal cheese and charcuterie as well. We will be selling local cheeses as well as classics from Europe and the States. We will be making some of our own charcuterie such as pate, hams and foie gras terrine but will be buying dry cured salamis that we don’t have the facilities to produce in house. (maybe some day!) The wine and beer list will be very small (about 25 bottles of wine all together, three beer taps and an additional 8 or so bottles), but will have some really exciting stuff from primarily small, traditional producers. In the case of wine it will be all old world with the occasional exception, and will often feature wines that are organic and biodynamic. Because of it’s size we will be changing the list from to time to time to fit the season and to try out stuff that we’re excited about. Along with that there will be a full bar featuring a small list of specialty seasonal drinks (a la Lantern, one of our favorite places). We’ll be making our own bitters, grenadine, etc. We want to have some fun behind the bar, and to make it a little more creative than most people would expect.

A big part of our philosophy is accessibility. We will try to keep the prices as reasonable as possible (for example a local, grass fed steak will have to be $25 or $30 and a foie gras terrine likewise, but we will also have plenty of great lower end options like hand made pastas for around $10). In addition we will be avoiding loads of esoteric culinary language and descriptions that include a million ingredients and their origins. We like simplicity, and feel that the food should speak for itself. Another major part of our mission is to work with and support the local farming community. This is a long-term goal. At the moment the local farming thing is fairly small, making the products often expensive and not consistently available. In order to keep our prices low we won’t be able to use everything local, but we plan to grow and evolve as the community does. In addition to private farms we’ll also be working with SEEDS (the local after school urban gardening organization, see www.seedsnc.org) by buying their produce and working with their kids. They also plan to create a sizeable garden at the new farmer’s market space on Foster with which we’ll be directly involved. Oh and on the 10th of October they are having their annual Harvest Dinner fund raiser (this year featuring author Michael Pollan) for which we’ll be providing a course.

Why does Durham need us? First of all, Durham is growing and there is simply a need for more restaurants. With the rapid development of downtown there is a particular need for good options in that neighborhood. At the moment there seem to be plans for a million condos and little plan for the infrastructure that makes an urban area exciting to live in. We would like to part of that much needed infrastructure. In addition, while Durham has a great history of culinary establishments (Mag Grill, Four Square, etc.) we believe that it’s time for something a little younger, hipper and more accessible. We love those places, but after seeing the success of Federal it is clear that there is a need for a place that provides a more casual, affordable experience that still maintains high standards of food and service. (note: Just to clear up a common misconception, none of us ever owned Federal, but we were all employed there. So Piedmont is in no way affiliated with the Fed).

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we believe that it’s time for something a little younger, hipper and more accessible. 

Hmmm, I guess I won't fit in well at Piedmont. :wink:

Anyhow, it's great to have Drew participating on our Forums, so please feel free to ask him any questions you might have.

Durham has more great neighborhood restaurants than any other city in the Triangle, where fine establishments are primarily found in commercial areas, including strip malls. I love the neighborhood restaurant concept, and involving the kids with the SEEDS project clearly demonstrates a full commitment to the community. Congrats.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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  • 2 weeks later...

piedmont update:

things at piedmont are moving right along. this week we're finishing the last of the construction, and we should be able to apply for our permits sometime next week. it's hard to tell how long it will take for the city to do their thing, but if everything goes well we'll be opening in the first week of november.

when we have an exact opening date i'll post it here of course. i'll also let y'all know when our website is up and running which will contain our menus and stuff.

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Be sure to let us know if you need any guests for a soft opening! :wink:

Seriously, we appreciate the update.

Have you run into any unexpected hiccups along the way? Have you found it difficult to hire talented servers? Or has this been a wonderfully smooth process? (and don't lie!)

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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thanks for your interest in what we're doing varmint.

i definitely wouldn't use the word "smooth" to describe the opening of a new restaurant. first of all, this is, for all three of us, the first venture of this sort. i've cooked in restaurants from opening day (and that can be stressful), but nothing could've prepared me for the incredible amount of details, big and small, that need to be addressed for piedmont.

the biggest headache has been the construction process. i don't want to point any fingers, so i'll just say it has taken many months longer than expected and has involved countless mistakes that needed to be corrected. it has been a hell of an education. i will point out that our mvp's of subcontractors has been the two fellows behind creative custom carpentry. they have built our bar, wine shelves and banquette (and have also built the lovely bar over at rue cler, also in downtown durham), and have done an amazing job. construction is finally winding up, so the next headache in line is the city of durham and it's crew of inspectors.

hiring has actually gone pretty smoothly. we've been lucky to find a really great bunch of folks for the front and back of house. many of them have loads of experience, and those that don't have a really great attitude. all have been very flexible with our ever changing opening date (they're as anxious as we are to get started), and seem to be very understanding of the learning curve that we, as new restaurant owners, are up against.

the place is definitely shaping up, though, so if any of y'all happen to be in downtown durham (maybe checking out the newly opened, aformentioned rue cler!) stop by and take a look and say hello.

dpb

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yes, we'll be open on sundays. and mondays, too. we've decided to close on tuesdays. it may seem like an odd day, but it seems that most restaurants in durham close on sundays and mondays. we want to be open on those days in order to provide another option for diners and to give restaurant empoyees that have those nights off somewhere to go.

hope to see you there jason, and i hope that everything is going well at rue cler!

and for a quick update: we should be getting most of our permits this week except for the ABC (did y'all know that according to the ABC comission in raleigh, durham county takes longer than any other county in the state to okay a new establishment for an ABC license? encouraging isn't it). we will be, hopefully, opening by the end of next week. it should be the 10th or 11th.

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A Piedmont press release made it into my mailbox today:

Piedmont: the quintessential neighborhood restaurant

Co-chefs collaborate on food, wine, mixology and design

Piedmont (401 Foster Street, Durham, NC; 919-430-0261) – the hip new restaurant in downtown Durham, North Carolina opening mid-November – is the collaboration of co-chefs Andy Magowan and Drew Brown, and partner Abby Pearce.

The threesome first met while working with artisanal cheeses and house cured meats at Fowler’s, then each set out to fine tune their complementary skills – Brown at Las Vegas’s Bouchon and Fiamma, then the five-star Fearrington House, and Magowan and Pearce at the Triangle’s first gastropub, The Federal, as Executive Chef and front-of-the house maitresse. Now, years later, they’ve joined forces, borrowing from both their informal and high-end training to open Piedmont – a restaurant that is unassuming yet sophisticated, and equally as inventive and thoughtful. From food, wine and cocktails, to décor, service and prices – Piedmont is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant.

At Piedmont, Brown and Magowan’s cooking is the kind you crave on a regular basis – comforting and rustic, fortified by integrity and creativity. Their overall concept, marrying the sensibility and cooking techniques of Italy’s Piedmont with the ingredients of North Carolina’s Piedmont, is deeply satisfying.

It all takes place in an industrial-chic setting among the Indy galleries of Durham’s downtown.  To preserve the sense of place, the trio chose to retain the open warehouse feeling by exposing the duct work and soaring arched ceiling overhead, giving the concrete floors a simple gloss, and highlighting ironwork on the staircase leading to the dining alcove upstairs, seating 40. They balanced it with soft lighting in canvassed chandeliers, dark leather banquettes seating 40 downstairs, rich cherry wood tables and chairs, and elegant stemware, for a cozy effect. The bar, with an open view into the bustling kitchen, is situated before a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Foster Street, setting the tone for a lively setting at high cocktail tables and the 12-seated bar.

As with all great neighborhood restaurants, good food doesn’t have to come at a price. Begin with local cheeses or house cured and cooked charcuterie – among them, a country pate served with house pickled vegetables, a foie gras terrine served with seasonal jam, and housemade bresaola, or choose from the $3 “etceteras” section offering roasted and spiced nuts, marinated olives, and pommes frites served with aioli. Wash these down with a wine from the carefully edited 20-bottle list, not unlike the menu, or a chef-created cocktail.

As with each savory dish, the co-chefs creativity spills into the bar where cocktails ($7) maintain the same confident mark of a chef at play. Here, Brown shares his housemade orange bitters in a classic Manhattan, adapted to his taste with brandy soaked French cherries; Magowan’s own limoncello completes “The Durhamite” – a high octane version of sweet tea – and brings the two Piedmonts together in a glass.

First courses on the dinner menu ($4 to $10) feature simple salads using farmer’s lettuces and fresh herbs, as well as soups with layers of flavor like the squash and guanciale soup. Adventurous dishes abound as well, but show restraint, as with the braised pork belly with sweet potato puree and roasted cippolinis. Or begin with oysters on the half shell, paired with a classic mignonette.

“Seconds,” also accessibly priced ($10 to $25), deliver the same level of confidence, but in heartier portions. Housemade pastas find their place here, as in the potato & mortadella ravioli with bolognese. North Carolina pork will be a staple of the menu –osso bucco with white beans and kale – as will NC Trout – wrapped in pancetta and served with glazed brussel sprouts and carrot. Follow this with the pecan brown butter tart with pumpkin butter, or a zabaglione made with moscato and seasonal fruit – and your satisfaction will grow with every bite.

These chefs haven’t overlooked breakfast or lunch either. At lunch, housemade breads will be the star of the sandwich menu – a rustic pain campagne, baguette and focaccia make the pastrami with carmelized onions and oil packed tuna salad even more special.  Breakfast will benefit from them as well. Is there a better way to start the day than with homemade brioche and jam or a Croque Madame? Saturday morning’s repast will be shared among farmers following mornings spent at the nearby Durham Farmer’s Market.

Piedmont is the real thing – a neighborhood restaurant that’s affordable and welcoming, with style and finesse. It’s what happens when two talented chefs play with Italy’s comfort food and North Carolina’s farms and hospitality.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Magowan was at the Durham Farmer's market this weekend, serving a butternut squash salad on croutons, and a country pate with some pickled onions. The pate was a good choice -- it showed that they know how to cook but also that simple is good. The squash thing was okay; probably didn't turn out like they'd hoped.

Expectations are high -- it's interesting what it says about Durham. I guess if you're going to open up a restaurant here, you better come correct. Foie gras, raw oysters, fresh pastas, and then breakfast and lunch as well? Wow -- that's a lot. I'm looking forward to trying this place.

Edited by umbabaru (log)
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Durham has an amazing food scene. I think I have Varmint correct in saying that it has the best collection of neighborhood restaurants in the area. I agree with that and think that a lot of the reasons for it are the things that make Durham seem like the stepchild of the triangle for other reasons. Lower rents, decentralized shopping and pedestrian areas, and stronger neighborhood loyalties than city loyalties. Having moved to Burlington, VT where there are a lot of great restaurants we're missing a lot of what we took for granted. And with Rue Cler and Piedmont openning Durham just get's better.

Bryan C. Andregg

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

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here's the scoop...

abby dislocated her knee in a nasty spill in one of our bathrooms which set things back only slightly. shortly thereafter, our brand new walk-in went kaput which set us back a bit more. anyway, we finally have our stuff pretty much together and we're ready to open. dinner tonight (wednesday the 15th) is a private affair for friends and family to give our staff and ourselves some practice, and thursday is the big day. we'll be opening for lunch thursday at 11:30 and dinner that night. from then on we'll be open every day but tuesday.

a couple of things to be aware of: we had some complications with our ABC license, and will not be selling booze right away. we think (or at least hope) that this will be worked out by the end of the week or the beginning of next. also, our webmaster's laptop was stolen, so our site will not be up and running for a few more days. once it is, y'all will be able to check it out for the day's menu etc.

thanks for everybody's interest and we hope to see you there very soon!

drew

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  • 2 months later...

I had lunch at Piedmont today, and man, do I ever wish this place were in Raleigh. I ordered the charcuterie plate, which had a duck liver mousse, a pork pate (featuring Cane Creek hogs), pickled onions, and some Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove aged raw-milk cheese. Served with house-baked baguette and dijon, this was fantastic (and a bargain at $7).

I also had the hangar steak sandwich, which was served with those same addictive pickled onions, arugula, bleu d'auvergne and rosemary mayo on baguette. This was served with great, crispy, salty (a bit too salty) fries. Top notch all the way. This dish only cost me $8.

What I didn't try were some of the specials, such as braised pork cheek ravioli (I saw Andy the chef rolling out fresh pasta in the kitchen while I ate) or the pizza with house-made Italian sausage. This place is the real deal, folks, and when co-owner Drew Brown let me sample some of his spicy candied cashews, I was almost pissed that this place is in Durham. But then, with bar snacks that good, it's probably better that it's not so close.

Check it out soon, as this place is just getting busier and busier.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Our recent meal at Piedmont was also outstanding. This is a spot that is deserving of recognition and customers not just from Durham, but the entire Triangle. I'm really happy with what they have done so far, and look forward to many more meals there.

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I've eaten at Piedmont twice. Both times I've been very pleased. I've enthusiastically recommended the place to others.

The first time in December, I was completely blown away by the menu. It was completely seasonal with beans, nutmeg, sweet potatoes, and confit. These are all wintery ingredients in my mind.

I had an app of pork belly on sweet potato puree, It was excellent and in fact it was the largest piece of belly I've ever been served. I couldn't get enough.

In January, I was a little disappointed to see cherry tomatoes and berries on the menu, since both are out of season. The menu was for the most part in keeping with the season and a different form of the pork belly was there. I realize they change the menu frequently and I wasn't looking for the same menu. I was interested to see that they added items that were clearly out of season.

I think it would be an interesting creative challenge to have a "rigidly seasonal" menu. Perhaps diners are too fickle for such a concept.

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woah there! i'm not sure what restaurant you ate at the second time, but here at piedmont we would not have used either fresh tomatoes or berries this time of year. in fact, since we've been open not a single fresh berry or tomato has entered our restaurant. serving what is in season is very important to us, and we have stuck to strict guidlines when writing our menu. and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

i am very pleased to read that you enjoyed your meals at piedmont, tomv, but i think you may have us a little mixed up with someone else.

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My impressions, from today's Chronicle.

A recent visit yielded a diverse and unexpected array of tasty and soulful cuisine from a menu that changes daily. From the "etceteras" section of the menu, chicken croquetas were exemplary, featuring a rustic breadcrumb crust that contrasted with the creamy filling. A cheese plate with selections from Chapel Hill and France was intelligently composed and smartly presented. The delicious country pat� harkens back to Magowan's previous work at Federal, when that gastropub was known for its diverse selection of cured meats. And the braised pork belly, served on one night with sweet potato puree, should motivate other area restaurants to offer this oft-misunderstood cut of pork on their menus.

Other dishes failed to rise to such compelling heights, although none were by any means objectionable. The shrimp in a seafood stew were overcooked and the pork osso bucco could have been more tender and moist, but these dishes were still enjoyable. Desserts, too, are not spectacular but competently executed and keep with the Old-World-meets-New-World theme that runs through the savory dishes.

Full review.

This is one of my favorite places in the Triangle right now.

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