Bull Durham

You would think Durham was in a different country. Yet it’s only 25 freakin’ miles away. Why haven’t I been going there more often? I’ve really been missing out. So a few weeks back, on a Sunday obviously, Sara and I ventured out to Durham for a day trip/birthday celebration. After a cheap $20 Uber ride, we started the day off at Pizzeria Toro. OMG. The antithesis of Pequod’s in Chicago. But so delicious. Wood fired crust, charred and crispy with just the right amount of sauce and toppings. Come on Raleigh, someone do this please. And the ricotta dumplings were superb, light and fluffy, definitely not dense as some gnocchi can be. Just call me a gnocchi snob since I have spent many an hour rolling them out. Next up, a short walk to Fullsteam Brewery for a paw paw tripel and a gose or two. On top of it I met a dog named Raleigh there, although not a Japanese chin, that was adorable and took a liking to me. Plus it’s owner was super cool and friendly. Craft beer drinkers, gotta love them. Speaking of craft beer, after a short walk we checked out Durty Bull Brewing Co. A small tap room with picnic tables outside, it produces a handful of beers, and serves a few local ones as well. Definitely try the blonde sour ale, great patio drinking beer. It was a glorious day outside, not a cloud in the sky, so the rooftop of The Durham Hotel seemed like a logical next destination.  The view of the city was worth the trip, plus the oysters were briney and cold, and the beverages were flowing like wine. And some great people watching to boot. Thanks again Paddycakes for the dranks and the laughs. The tour of Durham contined to Alley 26 for some pre-dinner cocktails. I opted for The Kill Devil Leasure Suit, with flavors of coconut and coffee. One and done. Some quality day drinkin’ in The Bull City I tell ya. But the jewel of the day without question was Mothers and Sons. I’ve been to Mateo, but have been dying to check out their Italian spot. And it did not disappoint. Probably one of the best meals I have had in my entire life. Thanks to Cheetie, they kept sending out more food. Plate after plate of deliciousness. It felt like the scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation when Audrey cannot stop eating. Just look it up on YouTube. Anyway, we felt like we ate the menu. Carne crudo, bruschetta, artichoke salad, escarole Caesar, gnocchi, rabbit saltimbocca, and a whole mess of pasta. And dessert. A perfect meal. A perfect day. Downtown Raleigh really needs a decent Italian place, Gravy doesn’t cut it. Despite being a short drive from Raleigh, Durham definitely has a different vibe and feel to it. It’s cool and hip, quaint and funky, and you can walk to everything. I love my Raleigh, but Durham, I’ve got my eye on you. This time it won’t be so long for my return trip. So instead of going the same places on your next day off, make the short drive to Durham, explore downtown, and eat and drink all that it has to offer, you will not be disappointed. Cheers foodies!


Amateur Hour

So I was laying on my couch as I typically do on my days off, scrolling through Facebook/Instagram when I saw a post about things you have to explain to people who have never worked in kitchens. From working on your feet for 10 hours with no break to tasting food all day but not really eating, it was spot on. Check out http://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/understanding-cooks-best-kitchen-advice in case you want to read the original article. Anyway, the author pretty much summed up my entire life as a chef. It is hard to explain to people what we actually do in the restaurant industry. Unless you have actually worked in the kitchen or the front of the house you really have no idea what it is like. I think everyone who dines out and hasn’t worked in a kitchen should be forced to read the above post, as well as my blog (obviously). One thing that does grind my gears is people who dine in a restaurant and give the server an out by time. If you know you have to be somewhere soon, either don’t order something well done, have it coursed out, or expect fine dining in fast food time. I’m not microwaving your food lady, I’m cooking from scratch. It ain’t Applebees. Not sure what it worse, people who come in 15 minutes before we close or people who have to be out in 45 minutes right in the middle of the dinner rush. Both throw a monkey wrench into my night. Common courtesy is appreciated, that’s all. And both happened last night, which made for a fun evening. The great thing about working in restaurants is there is always plenty of blog material. And people keep reading me so I must be doing something right.

I do want to give a little pub to one of my good friends John Upsal, who happens to be a talented chef as well.  He recently started his own catering company, called Spread. http://www.spreadnc.com/ Give the website a look and spread the word. See what I did there? I had to slip in a terrible pun when I could. The days when Upsal, Rotella, and I worked together in the kitchen were some of the best times I’ve had. Getting paid to cook and laugh all day is hard to beat.

This weekend is what we call in the industry amateur hour, or Valentine’s Day. People who normally never dine out think they can take their significant other out to impress them with set menus. I typically don’t mind amateur hour because set menus usually equal an easy night in the kitchen. It’s the sheer volume that is tough, unless you’re working the grill at a steakhouse on Valentine’s, when it’s well done city. However it does seem that people come out the woodwork for Valentine’s, New Year’s, and Mother’s Day. The Holy Trinity of amateur hour. Don’t even bother with the drink menu, they’ll have water. Anyway, off to Bida Manda tonight, one of my favorite Raleigh restaurants. If you haven’t been, please go. Stay tuned for a plethora of Instagram pictures. Cheers foodies. Below is pretty much my view for 6 hours, the calm before the storm.