Food to Try Before You Die

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A couple days ago I stumbled upon The Traveler's Lunchbox, a blog dedicated to food and travel with a strong international presence and dialogue between food bloggers from around the world. I'm particularly fond of site author and mastermind blogger Melissa Kronenthal's project dubbed Things to Eat Before You Die, also known as The Foodblogger's Guide to the Globe, a take-off from the well-known book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die

Check out this guide of international food favorites. 
Be sure to add your "Five Before You Die" to the list!
Photo Source: The Traveler's Lunchbox 

The idea behind Things to Eat Before You Die is to come up with a list of the top five foods that you've eaten in your lifetime that you believe everyone should have to try before they die. This can include not only the tastiest foods that you've had, but also those special recipes or meals that spark memories or mark unforgettable moments. Maybe it was when you tried a certain food for the first time or time spent baking homemade cookies with a child. 

After you've come up with five, then you can post them to the growing list of food favorites from around the world. 

It was really hard to narrow down my list, but here are my five, not in any particular order:

1. A Parisian breakfast of pan au chocolat & cafe au lait 
2. Sweet and spicy North Carolina blue crabs seasoned with Old Bay
3. Delicious salty and raw oysters from Brittany, France
4. Perfect caramel sweet creme brulee in Paris 
5. Paella del mar and a cold glass of bubbling cava in Barcelona, Spain

You are looking at a perfect Parisian breakfast of pan au chocolat, 
a delicious chocolate pastry, with cafe au lait, 
a creamy coffee concoction. Yum!
Photo Source: Flickr

So what are your top five? What are the foods that you can't live without? And what can you tell about someone based on their list? 

Well, for me it's obvious that I have a very big sweet tooth and that I could pretty much float on the ocean and eat seafood my whole life (if I had a stock pile of sweets, of course). 

After scrolling through the list and seeing quite an interesting array of favorites including deep-fried alligator and kangaroo meat, I picked out a few items that I would love to try:

84. Blackberry creme brulee
629. Green Tomato Pie at the Holly Hill Inn in Midway, KY
763. The "Hawaiian breakfast" of half a fresh papaya filled with granola and yogurt served by the restaurant Eggs & Things in Waikiki

Did any of the "foods to try before you die" pique your interest? Which ones will you be adding to your "bucket list" and why? 

Ten Triangle Favorites

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

As promised here is a list of ten of my favorite Triangle-area restaurants! Being the foodie that I am, I've grazed in all parts of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Cary, Apex and Morrisville during my time at UNC and before my college days when I lived in Cary.

While it was very hard to narrow the list down to the top ten since there really are so many great restaurants in the area. My list includes elegant to casual and everything in between. You'll see a bit of diversity in the types of food, and I'm a sushi-holic so I apologize if that's not your thing (I'm already lamenting the thought of not eating sushi for nine months while I'm pregnant and that is still many, many years away).

It's not in favorite to least-favorite order or anything like that; these all just are really great places to eat! Bon appetit!

Penang, Chapel Hill
With a combination of Thai and Malaysian cuisine, the menu at Penang is full of colorful and flavorful dishes including traditional curry and satay-based dishes along with a sushi bar. I recommend the Thai Pineapple Fried Rice, which is served hot in a halved pineapple or the Rendang, which is a delicious combination of cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass and coconut milk along with your choice of chicken or beef. 

The food at Penang ranges from spicy to sweet with options for 
vegetarians and meat lovers alike!
Photo Source: Self

Mediterranean Deli, Chapel Hill
A purveyor of Middle-Eastern and Greek cuisine, Mediterranean Deli, also known as "Med Deli" by the locals, is fresh and tasty. Order the sampler platter so that you can try two to four different dishes. Some of my favorites include tabouli, falafel, and hummus with pita bread. Now that I have a new found love for moussaka, I'll have to try that next! The Franklin Street deli also has an olive bar and fresh-baked desserts. 

Top of the Hill, Chapel Hill
Simply put, if you are a Chapel Hill-first timer, you have to have a meal at Top of the Hill. Known for their award-winning beer and elegant Southern cuisine, Top of the Hill or "Top O" is a great place to experience Chapel Hill nightlife or to enjoy the view overlooking the heart of Franklin Street. While the menu changes, one favorite is their Chicken Parmesan. Even if it's not on the menu, they'll make it for you with their heavenly Buttermilk Fried Chicken atop a heap of hot noodles and a sweet tomato sauce. If you're sampling their brews, I recommend the Old Well White.

Carrburritos, Carrboro
My fiance and I love many Mexican restaurants and burrito spots, but Carrburitos certainly has our hearts. The variety of tasty fresh salsas and the colorful upbeat atmosphere of the restaurant makes this place a standout. Tip: there is limited outdoor seating tucked away on the side of the building.

This is a favorite breakfast spot for Kris and I. We love hitting up the hot breakfast bar on Sunday mornings, which includes favorites such as dill biscuits, eggs with peppers and corn tortillas and, my favorite, mediterranean strata. The laid-back atmosphere of eating at outdoor picnic tables is enjoyable, and often there is a musician or two playing the guitar, which can be nice. Beware that it's a popular place on the weekends and during nice weather, so it can be difficult but well worth it to find a seat. 
Breakfast Bar $5.99/lb
Hours: 7:30 - 10:30 a.m., Monday - Friday
Saturday, 8 a.m.- noon
Sunday, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.

You won't ever find Weaver Street this empty on a Sunday morning 
during their brunch buffet!
Photo Source: Infrastructure of Milk Blog

Milltown, Carrboro
Milltown has delicious Belgian-style food and a variety of beer from around the world. The grilled chicken sandwich with gorgonzola cheese and grilled pear is my all-time favorite, and I'm always torn between pairing it with their salad, which is delicious and healthy or their skinny French fries, which are possibly more delicious but are certainly a calorie killer. Their grilled cheese with avocado and tomato (I've dubbed this dish "sexy grilled cheese") is also awesome. Milltown hands down has the best selection of beer in Carrboro with 100+ choices on their menu.

Shiki Sushi, Durham
As a self-appointed sushi connoisseur, I've eaten my way around quite a few sushi digs. Of all of those, Shiki Sushi is my all-time favorite. I would probably eat their daily if it wouldn't break my budget and if I still lived in the area. Their unique and ecclectic rolls such as the Sumo Roll with tuna, yellowtail, salmon, white fish, spicy mayo tempura top with mixed roes, crab stick, conch, sprinkle eel & cream sauce is fantastic. Shiki is the only place where I've ever had conch on sushi, and the sweet buttery meat is a fantastic addition. Other favorites include the Atlantic Lover, which has snow crab meat, cream cheese inside out with four kinds of fish and three kinds of roe on top and North Carolina Sunset, a roll with spicy tuna, salmon, cream cheese and spicy mayo inside out with flying fish roe. Tip: one of the best parts of eating at Shiki is that all sushi is buy one get one free - always.

518 West Italian Cafe, Raleigh
Three words on 518 West for you - delicious Italian food. A perfect date restaurant, 518 has great ambiance in addition to a wonderful menu. Notable entrees include The Crab, which is red pepper papardelle pasta tossed with a dill cream sauce and a saute of wild mushrooms, scallions and bacon topped with fresh crab meat and Lemon Linguine Pasta, which is a delicious combination of shrimp, scallops, roasted tomatoes, garlic and scallions in white wine with lobster butter sauce.

518 West Italian Cafe has ambiance, charm and decadently delicious Italian cuisine.
Photo Source: Technimo

Daniel's, Apex
A long-time family favorite, Daniel's is another great Italian restaurant in the area. While it's less romantic than 518 West, Daniel's is a restaurant that's good for a family outing or a date. Try out the Penne alla Vodka, which is pasta in a yummy pink vodka sauce. For dessert? Sample a slice of Oh, My God, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

Sweet Tomatoes, Cary and Raleigh
While Sweet Tomatoes is a chain restaurant, I truly love this place! Named one of America's Healthiest Restaurants by Health Magazine, Sweet Tomatoes is famous for their healthy and affordable seasonal soups, salads, bakery delights and pastas. Some favorites are available year round, such as the Big Chunk Chicken Noodle, which is a yummy version of Chicken Noodle Soup that has big fat dumpling-like noodles. Tip: for dessert try the Chocolate Brownie Muffin with Vanilla Soft Serve for a healthy and delicious treat!

Daily Candy Weddings

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was so excited to see an email come through my inbox today announcing that DailyCandy has started a dedicated wedding site! For those of you who aren't familiar with DailyCandy, it's just like what it sounds like -- a scrumptious and often witty daily dose of shopping, contests, gossip and more. You have to subscribe to fully experience and appreciate the fun little interruptions to your day, especially with sometimes over the top email titles that might make you do a double-take (No, it's not another unsolicited email from an online dating site). DailyCandy has special editions for cities across the country. Since my status as a Charlottean hardly qualifies me as a full-blown "city-girl", I'm subscribed under the "Everywhere" category.  

The newly launched DailyCandy Weddings has quite a few fun features. Check out playlist recommendations or, my favorite, the songs on the "not" playlist meaning that these are a list of songs that you should provide your DJ with so that he or she won't play those songs under any circumstances! Some of the songs that made the cut for the "not now, not ever" list include:
"Gold Digger," by Kanye West
"Womanizer," by Britney Spears
"Cry Me a River," by Justin Timberlake
"Dirrty," by Christina Aguilera
Other content to check out includes a picture gallery of rewearable bridesmaid dresses, over-the-top hair accessories, creative cake alternatives and sample menus (I really think I may have drooled on my laptop while reading the Gala Gala menu...yum!). I can't wait see what else is to come now that there will be sweet daily wedding tidbits in my inbox! 

This beautiful updated vintage-style headpiece is a 
fun and elegant addition for a wedding day outfit 
that's sure to make you feel like a queen!
Photo Source: DailyCandy Weddings

Gone to Carolina in My Mind

Sunday, April 12, 2009

If you haven't ever experienced a springtime in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, then you're missing what I consider to be a truly beautiful experience. If I could bottle the intoxicating feeling that permeates the air -- the life and activity, the swirl of excited emotions as eager seniors dream of tossing their cap into the Carolina blue sky, the smiles of couples walking hand in hand among the shaded boughs of Coker Arboretum and the laughter of pink-cheeked children walking down Franklin Street with ice cream cones in hand -- let's just say that I'd be quite comfortable living off the spoils because I would have succeeded in capturing simple, sugary sweet joy in the purest form.

The Old Well, pictured here during springtime, is one of the most 
famous representations of Chapel Hill and the university. 
Photo Source: Wunder Blog

Each year it's the same scene that unfolds. The Old Well dons her throne of pink azaelas in full flush and a sea of students don cotton candy colored clothing. As Chapel Hill-bound hopefuls tour the campus with Mom and Dad, the student population busies themselves with classes, papers and preparation for finals while catching sunbeams in the Quad at any given chance. 

This only skims the surface of the dozens of reasons why I love Chapel Hill. But being a witness to this mesmerizing tradition isn't the only reason to visit this fine Southern town. No, there are many, many more! From a delightful array of dining options to sell-out performances shows at local venue Memorial Hall, outdoor theatrical experiences in the Forest Theatre and a variety of nightlife options on Franklin Street, there is a lot to see and do in Chapel Hill. 

While I could write a book on this, I'll boil it down to a few fun upcoming events in the area, and a list of my top Triangle dining favorites (coming soon)! 

Durham Bulls First Home Game of the Season - April 15
Not only are the tickets for Durham Bulls' games inexpensive, they're just plain fun for all ages! Whether you grab a lawn seat with local college students or bench or club seating, there isn't a bad seat in the house. Check out their 2009 season schedule for more details.  

Great Grapes Wine, Arts & Food Festival - April 18
A first-time Great Grapes attendee last year, I had a blast at this fun festival. It was a great way to sample wine from all different regions of the state to see what vineyards to add to my roadtrip list. Some of my favorites picks from last year included Old North State Winery (try the 38 Vines Autumn Leaf Gold), RagApple Lassie Vineyards and Lumina Winery (ask for the Green Apple Riesling). Great Grapes is also held annually in Charlotte among other locations across the Southeast. Check out their site for a full list of venues.

Fridays on the Front Porch - April 24 
This year's series of the Carolina Inn's Fridays on the Front Porch kicks off at the end of April with a weekly TGIF celebration of live bluegrass music and a knock-out buffet lineup of Southern delicacies. Fridays on the Front Porch will be held every Friday from April 24 through mid-October. 

The Carolina Inn is a must-see for anyone traveling to Chapel Hill. 
Make an appointment for teatime or enjoy their 
award-winning cuisine.
Photo Source:

North Carolina Symphony at Memorial Hall - May 7
The North Carolina Symphony is an incredible group of performers that continue to amaze me each time I see them play! From pop to classical to a knock-out Beatles themed-show I saw a couple summers ago, they play a variety of styles. Check them out at Memorial Hall before their Summerfest series kicks off at the end of May. They'll be playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons, so I'm sure that it will be an excellent show!

Shows at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill are often sell-outs,
so be sure to buy your tickets in advance!
Photo Source:

Now that you're all ready to pack your bags to visit Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas, be on the lookout for an upcoming post where I'll share my favorite dining spots around the Triangle! Until then, I'll leave you with words from Class of 1920 UNC graduate Thomas Wolfe who wrote the following words for the yearbook his senior year:
" ... But sometimes when the springtime comes,
And the sifting moonlight falls --
They'll think again of this night here
And of these old brown walls,
Of while old well, and of old South
With bell's deep booming tone,
They'll think again of Chapel Hill and --
Thinking -- come back home."
-Thomas Wolfe, Class of 1920

A Twist on Tradition

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter dinner is one of those food events that I look forward to all year because I know I'll be spending it in the kitchen with my mom and sister cooking our favorite traditional recipes like deviled eggs, honey-baked ham and asparagus.

These dishes are timeless classics. You can bet that my mom ate almost the same Easter dinner when she was a child that we still cook every year. But just because we're planning to stick to the mainstays doesn't mean that we can't spice up these dishes with a new twist!

If you're looking to mix-up family favorites without losing sentimental staples, here are a few dishes for cuisinspiration!

For Breakfast

As bright as an Easter egg, these bubbly beauties are aItalic mix of orange juice, pineapple juice and champagne with a splash of grenadine. Serve chilled in a tall champagne flute.

Photo Source:

This custard-like dish combines the flavors of tart raspberries and fresh citrus lemon zest. Some Epicurious reviewers liked this best with the zest of a full lemon and when the maple syrup is added before baking. If you can't find good-quality fresh raspberries, you could use frozen raspberries or any another fresh or frozen substitute including blueberries, blackberries or all three! 

Photo Source:

For Dinner

Fresh spices and bread crumbs give traditional deviled eggs a much-needed makeover in this recipe. If you don't want to sacrafice the spice, substitute spicy mustard and add a dusting of paprika on top. 

Photo Source:

This yummer from The Splendid Table is inspired by an old Persian dish. The sweetness of spring carrots with tangy apricots and salty pistachios offers a unique sidedish option that's not lacking in taste.
2 bunches green-topped carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup diced dried apricots
Shredded zest of one lemon
6 large garlic cloves, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup shelled and crushed salted pistachios

1. In a 12-inch skillet, combine everything but the butter, lemon juice and pistachios. Bring to a simmer, cover, and gently cook about 8 minutes, or until carrots are barely tender.

2. Uncover and boil until they are cooked through and the liquid becomes a glaze coating the carrots. (You could stop here, cover the carrots, and hold them at room temperature an hour or so, or refrigerate overnight, then reheat).

3. Taste for seasoning, then stir in the butter. Turn into a serving bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice and pistachios.

This five-star favorite is sweet and savory with detailed steps to guide cooks of all experience levels and skill. Cooking Light recommends pairing this dish with a Chardonnay that's light on oak flavor. 

Photo Source:

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