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The Cookie People, The Carrot Cake Lady, & La Farm Bakery via Raleigh Farmers Market

3 Aug

It’s a given that one will find an abundance of produce at the Farmers Market, but have you paid attention to the vendor area where all the carbs sit? Even if my arms are full with fruits & vegetables, I can’t resist stocking up on the breads and sweets that local bakers are offering there. Sure you can find these products at your nearby Whole Foods/Fresh Market, but its ‘all the rave’ to be shopping locally & why miss out on these deliciousnesses.

The Cookie People:
These folks are the definition of small business – marital couple churning out a magnificent product from their home kitchen… These cookies are worthy of conveyor belt production, or at least local market distribution. I tried 8 varieties: Chocolate Chip, Triple Chocolate, Oatmeal Golden Raisin, Molasses Crinkle, Peanut Butter, Sugar Cookie, Mexican Chocolate, & Lemonade.
Each was fantastically perfect in moisture & flavor.
My suggestions is to up your marketing & distribution, Cookie People: sesame st. logo, website, product packaging, etc. The cookies are so moist they crumbled in the paper bag & the logo/site are elementary — but then again, who is a cookie’s target consumer: the same folks watching sesame street : ) Load up on your next farmer’s market trip.
The Cookie People on Urbanspoon
The Carrot Cake Lady:
If you’re dubbing yourself THE carrot cake lady, its an assumption you’ve mastered this spiced confection. Safe bet: She has, and you’ve got options: mini cakes, large cakes, cupcakes (with, without nuts) — The Carrot Cake Lady is distributed throughout the triangle (Cary, Chapel Hill, Raleigh) & also has an order form online.

La Farm Bakery:
Fancy, fancy bread – locally baked. You can find LFB products at the Farmers Market, as well as at their store in Cary, NC.


Caffe’ Luna

10 May

It’s so refreshing to arrive at a reputable Italian restaurant and admire your surroundings. I say this because it seems Italian eateries use atrocious décor to prove authenticity a la fake ivory, short ceiling columns, and elementary wall murals of landscapes. Not the case with Caffe’ Luna – after a day of shopping, my dinner mate and I were actually intimidated to enter, as we feared we were underdressed. However, we soon learned that anything goes at Caffe’ Luna (CL). There were large formal dinner parties, as well as, casual families all dining under the same roof. The dining areas are large, tenderly lit rooms divided by a wall of refined archways – the perfect stage for a rehearsal dinner or intimate dinner party (which I later found out is available). Call me crazy; however, amid these subtle elegances, I was incredibly distracted by the soda cans on the tables? It may better preserve carbonation; however; it was an eyesore in such a graceful picture.
The Food: We started with the safe options of Mozzarella Fresca: caprese-style app which was fresh and delightful & the Insalata del Pastore – Crumbled Goat Cheese with Walnuts over Mesculin Greens: generously portioned, tasty salad. These items were of well-known flavors – nothing too inventive, but delicious.
Entrees included the Fantasia di Mare (black taglierini w/ diced grouper & shrimp tomato sauté) I’m pretty novice with seafood; however, I’m confident one needs to be a descendent of Poseidon to really embrace this dish. With squid-ink pasta, fish, and shrimp…personally, I was overawed by the ‘sea-full’ flavor. The Tortelli Crostacci (lobster/crab/prawn ravioli with cream sauce) was also ordered. How can you go wrong with a lobster & cream combination? – Definitely rich and delectable. In retrospect, I wish I had ordered the pasta marinara; mountainous plates of this enticing entrée were frequently exiting the kitchen.
Lastly, we opted for dessert and sampled the Tiramisu. In regards to tiramisu, my personal preference in ingredients is the usage of espresso vs. coffee liquor. It tastes fresher, and less artificial. Regardless, we polished the dessert plate.
Caffe’ Luna is a traditional restaurant in every sense of the word, conveying a memorable experience through beautiful décor and familiar Italian flavors.
FYI: Free parking available across the street for Caffe’ Luna patrons
Caffe Luna on Urbanspoon

Capital Club 16

10 May

Impromptu visit into CC16’s early opened doors Saturday yielded a sure pleasure. CC16 is one of the most endearing establishments in downtown Raleigh – with tons of natural light and vintage decor… I felt like I was taking a rest in the sunroom of grandmother’s manor. In observance of the KY Derby, the staff was adorned in various hats and conducting charitable bets for victims of the recent tornado – only adding to the bubbly charm of this place. Hospitality comes naturally to these folks…with more than five staff members visiting our table to ensure we were content with our visit.

Looking back, I am a bit confused that I was directed to order off the chalk board menu, when CC16 has three full menus (brunch, lunch, dinner) – Perhaps I arrived during a transitional hour of sorts…but I’ll be back soon to test drive these comprehensive menus.

The Food: Pimento Cheese Spread w/ Fig Crostini… excuse me? Who thought of this … give them a hug.
We also tried some cucumber fanciness, which was basically an open-faced tea sandwich… and artfully prepared… I noticed the specificity of those pepper grains. Lastly, we carbed with Shanny Fries (cut potatoes + oil + rosemary w/triad of sauces) …CC16 can make some sophisticated spuds – eat them. For a light/bar eat, it was a success.

Menus are accessible on the CC16 website.. but for the most current info visit their Facebook page.
p.s. Late-night, I’ve passed by CC16 in transit to it’s neighbor King’s Barcade and noticed a large gathering inside – so it seems CC16 is a prime social spot as well.

Capital Club 16 on Urbanspoon


15 Apr

Those gravely missed degrees have finally returned – what better way to celebrate than with a chilly treat, right?

Locally-praised LocoPops (LP) crafts gourmet frozen popsicles by “blending the traditions of Mexico with the flavors of the world,” according to the brand’s website. LP includes a triad of locations in Durham, Chapel Hill, & Raleigh, as well as, distribution to ten or so triangle restaurants, markets, etc. With such hip marketing and positive local buzz – I had to visit LP and try their product.

I guess I have a preconceived notion that any store showcasing a sugar-based product is going to be a hello kitty spin off concept… sugar, spice, and everything nice…and LP’s logo didn’t help dispel this expectation. Oh boy was I wrong. Without the sidewalk stand-alone sign, I would have thought it was a vacant property via the blank, dark windows. Walking inside – it only got more awkward… a large white room with a few tables, park benches, a big cooler, and a silent employee waiting for a sale. My companion expressed his mutual disappointment by stating that the vendors must be trying to run LP’s operation with as little overhead as possible… a la no interiors. Upside – they do get the kids involved — with pages of kiddie art tacked up.

But, let’s get to the reason why we came – the popsicles. Kid-size & Regular size options – My recommendation is to get the generous kid-size so you can sample a few flavors… ours included: Mexican Chocolate (choc+cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), Mango Chile (Mango+dash of chile pepper), and Cookies&Crème. The yummy, unique flavors are very literal – you’re going to taste what their name promises. Frozen is an understatement, with the water-based popsicles being much harder than the cream-based. But that’s the point – this ain’t icecream.

Conceptually, I dig it…really distinctive popsicle flavors that change weekly… however, I feel there would be more character in presentation if I bought it from a street side, umbrella-shaded stand vs. driving to a large cooler inside a white room. I did “fancy a culinary adventure” a la LP’s mission statement and got a truly tasty Popsicle – but sitting on an inept park bench inside a blank space. Overall, LP is a great product but with less than mediocre staging. I’ll be happy to purchase Locopops via satellite distribution or if in the area… but it’s not my afternoon destination.
Locopops on Urbanspoon

Escazu Artisan Chocolates

13 Apr


Escazu Artisan Chocolates (EAC) is a local chocolatier distributed amongst many local bars and eateries, in addition to having its own retail store/factory on N. Blount Street. As the wrapper states, these folks ensure excellence with each product being “handcrafted from bean to bar.” This dedication was acknowledged with locals voting EAC the Best Chocolate Confection in the Triangle via The Independent Weekly in 2010.

I have not ventured into the retail location; however, recently found an opportunity to sample their goods while visiting Raleigh’s fav basement bar. The on display was the “Beaufort Bar” (a name honoring EAC’s birthplace) composed of 65% Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt. Who doesn’t like a sweet & salty combo? I’m hesitant to eat dark chocolate, finding it usually too bitter for enjoyment. EAC’s version is a very rich, sweet chocolate with a muted salt component – I barely detected it without the occasional crunch of a salt grain. When I tasted EAC’s bar, I immediately pondered how this would taste in a cookie – Behold! (online)…they make cookies! Located in the retail store – I gotta try one of these. Other EAC bars include dark choc w/ chipotle chili, cocoa nibs, or roasted pumpkin seeds w/ guajillo chili. So you’ll get that rich chocolate with some flavorful texture. I’m intrigued!

Considering how enjoyable the chocolate bar is, I’m sure the other confections are equally delicious—expect an update… I think this is an assumption I’ll have to test, especially the hot chocolate mix.. mmm.
Escazu Artisan Chocolates on Urbanspoon


3 Apr

In a cupcake era, Piebird (PB) has the recipe for success…good mission, good location, good product. I dropped in Saturday to finally get a taste of the place with all this remarkable hype – it had 900 Facebook fans before the doors had officially opened?!

{Tangent:: What ironic timing for this store’s opening when 2 days earlier HBO airs the highly celebrated miniseries Mildred Pierce – a story of a restaurateur who opens a café based on her pie’s reputation… I loved the Kate Winslet-starred series, only deepening the craving to get inside PB’s doors}

The savory pies look and sound amazing; however, we visited with a sweet tooth initiative. We first ordered coffee to sip while deliberating over the several pies on the chalkboard – a wide assortment of fruit, chocolate, and molasses pies. We expected these coffees instantly; however, PB coffee is French pressed only. In my opinion, there should be a ready-brewed source of coffee, with the option of French press. This will assist in efficiently serving those walk-in/take-out orders. On the up-side, it definitely added character to the experience. We settled on a slice of the Tarheel (chocolate pecan), Rexie Had a Birthday Chocolate Cream, and Pie in Your Face Coconut Cream. OPULENCE! This isn’t a thaw & serve situation – these pies are of fresh, rich deliciousness. The Tarheel has lockjaw richness, for the serious chocolate consumer only. The Chocolate Cream is a bit more subtle, but satiates that sweet tooth just as well. The coconut cream pie is in the fridge awaiting sampling; however, if it tastes as good as it looks I’m sure to be smiling.

Service was very friendly and the usual newbie inefficiencies were present –nothing so devastating to deserve the unfair criticism written by other reviewers – it’ll work itself out soon. The mod motif & indie tunes successfully accentuate the cool character of this hip, family-friendly eatery.

I’ll definitely be coming back…

PieBird on Urbanspoon

The Federal

3 Apr

I was in the Durham area this weekend and mosied into The Federal solely based on the Yelp attention this joint has received. The reviews were dead on – delicious, beautiful food disguised within a dark, vintage dive bar. In retrospect, neither I nor my lunch mate had any complaints about our lunch – everything was perfect. As directed, we started lunch with an order of “Fed fries” – cut potatoes tossed in an oil/garlic/parsley mixture – good balance, the herbs were not overpowering and we easily polished off the entire basket.

My lunch mate and I split the chicken sandwich & grilled cheese sandwich. The chicken was so tasty! – The Federal can really work with herbs. They don’t monopolize the entree, but subtly highlight flavors in the food. I didn’t ask for any accessory sauce – which is usually the cause w/chicken, so truly tasty marinade. The grilled cheese was introduced as the menu favorite by the waitress – if I was still vegetarian I would have been turning cartwheels, but the chicken sandwich was undeniably superior. Both sandwiches were grilled like paninis (my fav) and were generously garnished with tomatoes, avocado and spring greens. The side mixed green salad was selected as our sides, since we carbed up earlier. Beautiful greens – there’s always something elegant about mixed baby greens with balsamic dressing – a bit out of place considering The Fed’s motif, but delicious none the less.

The Fed featured several beers on its chalkboard, and by the traffic in&out to its barstools — its a decent little bar for a drink(s).

Overall: Raleigh > Durham… but The Federal definitely has it going on… stop in.

Federal on Urbanspoon