To continue my discovery of North Carolina, I recently visited Durham. Home to Duke University, and just a short drive from Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham is full of culinary delights and artful adventures.
Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner in Durham
I’m a big fan of pastries for breakfast, so what better place to start than at Scratch Durham. The award winning bakery is owned by Chef Pheobe Lawless. She not only has a badass name, she’s a champion of the SlowFood movement and her pies and recipes been featured in a long list of the must-read food magazines and national media including Saveur, New York Times, Garden and Gun and Today Show. Lawless was a 2013 and 2014 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award, and in 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Baker.
Being the crazy chef fan that I am, I was starstruck before I took the first bite of pie. I grabbed a cup of coffee first. Not just any cup of coffee, though! It was called The Goober and was a delicious peanut infused milk latte served in a bowl. Those North Carolina bakeries sure do love their coffee bowls. When is everyone else getting on board? I also ordered a chocolate Doughnut Muffin, like a doughnut and muffin had a baby, and I chose a little chocolate pie. Both were delicious and chock full of gluten, but when you’re confronted with the goods of pastry royalty, you shut up and eat.
For lunch, head to Picnic Durham. The hot new barbecue spot is a collaboration of Pitmaster Wyatt Dickson and former Piedmont Chef Ben Adams. I was hoping for some sliced brisket when I ordered the brisket sandwich, but instead was brought chopped brisket. Who chops up perfectly good brisket and douses it with BBQ Sauce?! I asked for plain sliced brisket, too, and the lady looked at me like I had horns on my head. Turns out, the chopped and doused stuff was tasty, and that bun soaked with barbecue juice and sauce was heaven. There were some nice surprises on the menu,too, like the Kale Salad, Pickled Deviled Eggs and tasty Collard Greens. We were too stuffed for desert, but rundown of options had us painfully drooling.
When I hit a new town, I always look for the local markets. I was so excited to stumble upon Fosters Market. So excited, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures, but ran into their wine rep and bent her ear for at least half an hour about North Carolina wine, The Master Court of Sommeliers exams and where to go in Durham. Some of her favorites include: Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, 21C Museum Hotel, The Durham Hotel Rooftop, Black Twig Cider House, Duke’s famed Student Union, Alley Twenty Six for cocktails, Mothers & Sons Trattoria, Pizzeria Toro, and Piedmont. She was uber helpful, and gave me so many suggestions I could eat my way around Durham for a week!
Fosters Market is quintessential Durham. You’ll find local artisan food products on their shelves, deli offerings, baked goods, candy and a great wine selection. I grabbed a lemon square and pecan pie square for the road. On the way out the door, I realized that each bar probably weighed a pound. My family ate on them for a week.
After walking around downtown Durham, you’ll be ready for some serious snacks. Try Taberna Tapas in Durham for heavy afternoon snacks and afternoon drinks. My guide, @durhamfoodie, and I shared their sweet potato fries, meatballs and bacon wrapped dates and chatted it up with the bartender and a guy hanging out at the bar on his computer. It felt comfortable, and local and was perfect for regrouping.
Dinner is served.
My whole reason for being in the Raleigh-Durham area was to join client Jesse Roque for Manteo to Murphy, an NCRLA PAC fundraiser at the legendary Angus Barn in Durham. After a tour of the restaurant, kitchen, private dining rooms and wine cellar, I was floored by Angus Barn and can’t wait to go back for dinner and experience one of these Tomahawk steaks! That’s some serious meat people. The Angus Barn property has a beautiful lake with a walking path, multiple sexy, manly bars, one of which was named one of the Best Business Bars in America by Entrepreneur Magazine. A legendary restaurant deserves a legendary chef. Angus Barn Chef Walter J. Royal won the coveted Iron Chef America title in 2006 and continues to rake in the praise.
I was lucky enough to hang out at the Meat Locker Lounge surrounded by North Carolina’s most talented chefs, a cigar in one hand, a whiskey in the other, and my toes warming by the fire. Does it get any better than that? You have to take a tour of their website. You’ll need a cigarette, and you’ll want to make reservations immediately.
Shopping in Durham:
The little local grocery store on the corner tells me so much about a cities culinary identity. I love to go in and scope out the local food artisans, and often local artists. I find locally roasted coffee, locally grown produce, local meats, honey, grains, etc. Bulldega Urban Market is such a place. I didn’t have a cooler with me, but I was able to grab a Butter Pecan Syrup from Fogwood Food and some cards by local artists.
I found a place called The Scrap Exchange in Durham. I thought it might be a scrapbook store, so I put it on my list to visit. Man, was I surprised! Think Goodwill for arts and crafts supplies. Give me two hours in there with Pinterest and I could craft the world.
Parker and Otis is the PERFECT store. I wish there was something like this in every city I visit. You’ll get lost in the winding store full of local artisan goods, fashion finds, odds and ins you can’t live without, coffee mugs (my weakness), stationary, chocolates, a HUGE collection of cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, seasonal items, and so much more. There’s also a cafe and coffee shop in-store.
The sister store, or should I say brother store, is Chet Miller. Jennings Brody, who owns Parker and Otis, opened Chet Miller about a year ago. Whereas Parker and Otis is feminine and decadent, Chet Miller is masculine and sleek and more focused on design and home goods. Both should be on your to-visit list.
That should keep you busy for a day in Durham! For more info on where to eat, shop and stay, visit www.durham-nc.com.