3 Day Weekend: Durham NC

center-city-bull-for-the-bull-cityWhadaya say, time to get the heck outta Dodge and plan a relaxing 3Day weekend?

Consider a visit to the Bull City – just an hour and half way its an easy drive and you won’t believe what you’ll find there.   You probably know that Durham, NC is a part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region and that it is home to Duke University; but did you know that included in this city’s rich history is the fact that it is the site if the largest surrender of Confederate troops, effectively making it the city in which the Civil War ended or that it is now the happy home to Burt’s Bees?
bull-durham-tobaccoDurham is a great food-centric town and the perfect destination for a relaxing fun and flavorful 3 day weekend!

Known as the Bull City ,due to the fact that the first brand of Tobacco sold and shipped out of Durham was Bull Durham brand, Durham is home to many old textile mills and tobacco factories. A cast bronze bull now sits in the center city square and many think it good luck to give the bull a rub on the head. When Durham’s last producing textile mills closed in the late 1980s and  a decade later the last of the city’s working Tobacco factories closed. But instead of planning the demolition of these large mills and factories, or letting them sit empty to decay, city planners have wisely repurposed most to be shopping and entertainment  venues and malls.

thedurham-hotel-outsideTwo of my favorite hotels in the center city are repurposed properties as well  The Durham Hotel, with mid century modern interiors and a beautiful rooftop bar.

21c-hotel

 

 

 

 

And 21c Museum Hotel Durham, a  hip boutique hotel featuring funky art exhibits throughout. Both properties were originally banks and have since been repurposed and a grand places to call home during your Bull City visit.

 

the-durham-hotel-lobby-restaurantBoth hotels offer on property dining and while I have yet to eat at 21c Museum Hotel Durham, I enjoyed a fabulous meal at The Durham and would go back again, no matter if I stayed there or not. It’s no wonder the food was so well done, the restaurant in The Durham Hotel, serves a delicious locally-inspired menu designed by the Triangle’s  James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing.

img_9940

Durham is a walker-friendly city divided into districts that all offer shopping, dining and entertainment venues. and as you walk looks for these fun informational signs  that direct you to even more fun to be had and sites to be seen,

Cute funky little shops are all over town head to the Ninth Street shopping district or Brightleaf District where you will find your self wandering in and out of the shops at Brightleaf Square – have a blast.

scratch-bkery-2Start the day with Breakfast and delicious baked goods at Scratch Bakery or the Ninth Street Bakery. From pies to cookies, and more to enjoy on site or take to go, both of these places will make for a great start to your day. Check out the made-in-house tonics at Ninth Street Bakery and don’t miss a slice of pie at Scratch.

 

 

watts-groceryIn fact there are lots of great restaurants in the Durham area, many of them with menus that center around locally farmed or produced proteins, produce and product, so those of  you who know me, know I love that! Among don’t miss farm to fork spots to stop for a midday or evening repast: Piedmont, home to the talented Chef John May and Watts Grocery, the brainchild of chef Amy Tournquist.

img_3867Also make plans to enjoy a trio of restaurants and more to come by chef Matt Kelly, Currently Kelly owns or is a partner in  Mateo, a terrific Spanish tapas restaurant doing it right; an Italian Trattoria called Mothers & Sons and a classic deli known as Lucky’s Deli. By the Christmas holiday Kelly also hopes to have a seafood restaurant to add to his harem of well-know, well-done eateries – I’ll keep you posted!

fullsteam-on-tapLooking for a bit of night life then head to the Central Park District where you will find all sorts of repurposed automotive workshops and former gas stations. The Central Park district is home to Fullsteam Brewery – a front runner of the pack of uber popular North Carolina brews. The Plow to Pint is their motto as they incorporate local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and seasonal botanicals in each of their brews. The tap room is open every day from late in the afternoon to the wee hours of the morning.

parts-labour-1Across the street from Fullsteam is Motorco and the adjacent Parts & Labor. MotorCo is a popular music venue while Parts & Labor a bar and restaurant offering incredibly well done street food to enjoy at tables inside the bar out in good weather, outside at a host of picnic tables lit with twinkling white lights strung overhead.

Looking for coffee – lots of shops around town, but don’t miss a stop in a Cocoa Cinnamon – located right around the corner from Motorco.

220th_sm_0vb5sblmuhAnother fun area to explore is the American Tobacco Campus the former home to the American Tobacco company. This area is interestingly enough now a smoke-free campus with restaurants, office space, shops and entertainment venues.

heidi-with-burts-beesIt is also home to the headquarters for Burt’s Bees and the largest visible bee hive. The center of the factory  building is now a beautiful park, with tables and chairs for al fresco dining lined on either side. In the center a stream of running water, once used in conjunction with the factory now adds a wonderful water feature.

heidi-on-tobacco-tractor

Throughout the campus,  bits an pieces of Durham’s tobacco industry pay homage and tell the story of this city’s history. Check out this photo of me on a tractor once used to plant tobacco!  The American Tobacco campus sits next door to the Durham Bulls stadium and an Aloft hotel is adjacent to the property as well

duke-lemur-center

Of course the Duke University campus contributes to a major part of the Durham skyline. Take the family to enjoy one of the most hidden treasures in the Bull City, The Duke Lemur Center. This research sanctuary is dedicated to helping this endangered breed to thrive and grow and repopulate. It is the  largest lemur sanctuary in the world. Interesting and informative tours are available by appointment.

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIt was my pleasure to share all of this info on my monthly 3 Day Weekend travel segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today. The show originally aired at 11:45 on Wed Nov 14. Want to see for yourself? Simply Click here , then for more info visit http://www.durham-nc.com/                 #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

 

 

October Restaurant RoundUp: 6 Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar

img_5460

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto in the WCNC Charlotte Today studios with all the dishes featured in her October Restaurant Roundup lined up and ready to roll.

Updated Blog post to go along with my October Restaurant Round Up segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today originally airing this morning (Wed., Oct 19) at 11:47.

A link to the video from the show appears at the end of this post and I’ve updated each restaurant’s section with photos of the featured food and several shots from the show. Always great fun to share my thoughts on chefs, restaurants and food that really should be on your radar.

In addition to the photos posted here, I’ll also post them all on all of my social media with links back to the blog and to the video.

To be the first to see them, Friend me at Heidi Billotto or like my page at Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook; follow me on Twitter at @HeidiCooks and Follow me on Instagram @HeidiBillotto.

The segment on Charlotte Today  featured five restaurants that, if they aren’t already, really should be on your radar. The sixth, included in this post relates to a dinner I attended last night.

Check those social media feeds now and you’ll see photos from a fabulous dinner I attended last night at The Asbury in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte.

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

img_5423It was the last Collaborative chefs dinner of the 2016 series and it was an extraordinary evening. A pairing of the culinary talents of The Asbury‘s culinary team led by executive chef Matthew Krenz and guest chef John May from Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. This dynamic duo turned out 9 plates of fabulous fall flavor, each course paired with a wine especially selected for the evening by Josh Villapando of The Assorted Table Wine Shop also located in uptown Charlotte in Seventh Street Station.

If you haven’t eaten at The Asbury yet, don’t wait a second longer to make reservations. With a focus on all that is local and seasonal, and a nod to our Southern roots, Chef Matthew Krenz is really doing something special and the new fall menu is now up and running. And when next you visit Durham, be sure that a dinner at Peidmont Restaurant, home to chef John May, is a part of your plans!

There were nine courses at the dinner last night so can’t picture them all here – and its hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed I would have to say it would be John May’s salad with a poached egg and Matt Krenz’ roast lamb with stewed white beans and bitter greens. Both truly outstanding. My favorite wine of the evening  – this is another hard pick, but I think I’d have to say the rose paired with May’s salad. After nine plates and nine wines, the name escapes me so just call Josh at The Assorted Table Wine Shop and ask – he’ll be glad to tell you all about it!

Look for more on Krenz,  The Asbury and the fall menu in my culinary section of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine out soon – Subscribe to this blog and you’ll be among the first to know when the fourth quarter issue hits Charlotte newsstands!   Now on to the five restaurants featured on air this morning.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Concord, NC  30 Raiford Drive

concordstoreoutsideThis newest Dunkin’ Donuts celebrates its Grand Opening on Friday Oct 21 and has the distinction of being the 50th Dunkin’ Donuts to open in our area. The fun at the Grand Opening begins bright and early at 6:30 am. Free coffee to each guest from 7-9 am, and one lucky customer will be picked at random and will win free coffee for a year!

img_5430All the other Dunkin’ Donuts locations will also be celebrating with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent donuts all day long on Friday Oct 21 – For more details on all the events planned at the Grand Opening and for a several fun recipes with Dunkin’ Donuts products as ingredients check out one of my blog posts from earlier this week here.

Fern, Flavors of the Earth at 1419 East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood 

img_5304After four year in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Fern, Flavors of the Earth, takes up new digs in Dilworth. Now with an open kitchen, seated at the bar, inside and outside on a beautiful patio, there is more room to sit and enjoy the great vegan and vegetarian dishes chef Matthew Martin and his team are turning out.

On the show today I featured Fern’s,  Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer and well as two entrees: the raw noodle pasta dish and the Seitan Steak. After the show, My husband Tom and I stopped by to drop off some containers and stayrd for lunch which led us to discover two more favorite Fern Fall Flavors – the black bean burger and the Buddah Bowl, a mix of black Forbidden Rice, sauteed tofu and mixed seasonal vegetables – can’t wait to go back for more!

Clean Juice with three locations in Charlotte, at Birkdale Village, Sonecrest at Piper Glenn and in CrossFit Vitality in Concord

img_5366This is a great new juice and smoothie bar with a clean fresh and all organic approach to eating on the run.  I love the smoothies and the bowls, but don’t miss the little bites like the pumpkin, avocado or almond toast offerings. And if you are interested in juicing or a juice cleanse – the folks at Clean Juice can set you up and get you headed in the right direction.

As I said on air, the thing I love about this place is that this chain of juice bars are USDA Certified Organic, which makes their healthy offerings all the better. On air I showed the chia puddings, the carrot, pineapple and orange juice, spiced up with a big of good – for you turmeric; a wheat grass shot, the blue Panther Fan smoothie and my favorite of Clean Juice’s seasonal bites, the Pumpkin butter toast, made with homemade pumpkin butter, bits of cocoa nibs, cinnamon honey and sliced apple.

The last two restaurants featured today are  old favorites. Solid members of the Charlotte culinary skyline, both are located uptown.

Aria Tuscan Grill located at 100 N Tryon Street on the lower level of Founders Hall

img_5368With modern contemporary interiors that include  a dining room with a picture perfect view of whats going on in the kitchen, a private chefs table dining room open to the kitchen, a large and comfortable bar area and private dining rooms for larger groups, the fall menu at Aria features many seasonal old world Italian favorites as well as several new delicious spins on classic recipes.

Featured today – chicken cacciatore served atop homemade pasta with mushrooms and olives; Aria’s signature caramelized gnocchi in a truffled cream sauce, with thin sliced prosciutto and grated pear; and a melt-in-your-mouth polenta topped with Taleggio cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Funny enough I stumbled over the pronunciation of the word Taleggio – just for future reference for us all, its “Tall-Agee-O”. No matter which way you say it , its smooth and creamy, pungent in aroma but rich in flavor and a perfect foil for the umami of the mushrooms and the base of creamy polenta.

City Smoke at 100 N Tryon with an entrance off of the bottom floor of Founders Hall at the foot of the escalators.

img_5367If you are thinking barbecue, well, you are right, but City Smoke is so much more. Much of the fall menu comes from the rotisserie and its all about the smoke.  Classic Oysters Rockefeller, shucked ot order and topped with a spinach cream and then served on a bed of course salt, pepper and bay make for a fine start. My favorite recipe of the season at City Smoke might be the  smoked and grilled octopus salad – sliced grilled octopus served with roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted red bell pepper all atop a bed of lightly dressed arugula. Finally we have the Lamb roast done on the roitisserie and served with a rich brown sauce topped with a pine nut gremolata along side a bowl of roasted beets and blue cheese – This one had my name all over it!

Here is the link to the video segment in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it
Then make breakfast, lunch or dinner plans ( as it applies) to each of these great places soon. and remember to tell them Heidi sent you! Cheers!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

If you enjoyed this post, I suggest you sign up to follow HeidiBillottoFood.com  where prompted on the home page.

That way each and every post, restaurant suggestion and recipe will come straight to your in box as soon as is goes up online.

North Carolina Chefs Showdown

Its a food and lovers’ dream dinner. The 2016 North Carolina Chefs Showdown.

Chefs showdown logoThis is the inaugural year of the NCRLA – the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s North Carolina Chef Showdown and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to have played a part in putting it all together. The evening features 16 of North Carolina’s best chefs and pastry chefs as well as six of the Triangles most creative mixologists, all together at one venue at Raleigh’s 214 Martin Street/Market Hall for an ambulatory evening of sweet and savory food and drink as a part of the NCRLA 2016 Expo in Raleigh North Carolina.

The 2016 NCRLAExpo is predominantly for the culinary trade and hospitality industry and takes place in Raleigh Aug 29 and 30. The Chef Showdown event is for the trade with tickets now available to the public as well and I am telling you, no matter where you live in the Carolinas, this event will be worth the road trip.

The NCRLA 2016 Chef Showdown in this Monday night August 29; doors open at 6 pm.

You food-centric folk  are going to Eat This Up!!!

While it will be dinner and a ton of fun, its also a competition and to that end, I’ve rounded up a tremendous panel of judges all involved in the  industry, including Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte; Chef Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh; Certified Master Chef Tony Seta of Butterball; Andrea Weigl, Food Editor from Raleigh’s The News & Observer; and Tim Parrish, Marketing Specialist at North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This awesome panel of judges will be charged with the task of naming several awards to be announced by our host for the evening, television personality Ken Smith of Raleigh’s WRAL, including recognition for one  dessert plate and one savory dish that make the best use of a North Carolina Grown, Raised, Caught or Made product, produce or protein; One dessert plate and one savory dish  offering the most creative presentation; and then of course the big overall award – the 2016 NCRLA Chef of the Year and the 2016 NCRLA Pastry chef of the year.

In addition there will also be a People’s Choice Awards for the best savory dish, the best dessert and the best craft cocktail  and there is  also an interactive Instagram contest to boot! It’s going to be an exciting evening for sure. The chefs are ready to roll, all that is missing is you!

Don’t Miss This Inaugural Event:

Get your tickets NOW for the Monday night 2016 NCRLA Chef Showdown event with just one click right here

Have I whet your palate? Need a bit of a push – well then, this will seal the deal.. let me tell you  who will be there cooking. You won’t believe that all this culinary talent will be in one room!

2016 chef showdown chefsThese chefs are cooking in this competition without any boundaries or parameters, serving guests and judges alike, with plates that best represent their personal style and what they do on a daily basis at their restaurants. Its going to be fabulous! 

From Charlotte, Luca Annunziata Passion8; Matthew Krenz The Asbury; Tom Marlow Mimosa Grill; Matt Tilman Gallery Restaurant; Ashley Bivens Boyd 300 East and Heritage food & drink; Jossie Perlmutter Block & Grinder – Langtree; #NoellGogg The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge.

From Hendersonville, Jess Roque Never Blue

From Hickory Sam Stachon Highland Avenue

From the Triad: John Bobby A Noble Grille ,Richard Andrew Miller Graze Restaurant, #PabloDelValle Atelier on Trade,Jay Pierce The Marshall Free House

From the Triangle Chef Gerry Fong at the Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center at NC State University

John May Piedmont Restaurant and Christopher Scott James The Angus Barn.

Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery, by Tamara LackeySo what’s dinner and dessert without a little bread and butter?  Guests with a passion for bread ( and who among us doesn’t have that)  will be delighted to know that the evening also includes a Bread Station compliments of the talented team at La Farm Bakery.

Heidi Billotto 2008

And did I mention there would be wine, beer and  craft cocktails, all compliments of these fine Triangel based mixologists: cheers to Alex Flynn, The Haymaker, Raleigh; Kyle Hankin, Fox Liquor Bar, Raleigh; Quentin Hill, The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill; Drew Schenck, RallyPoint Sports Grill, Cary; Jarod Sneed, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Raleigh; and Tim VanBeek, The Washington Duke Inn, Durham

Cost for the evening is $125 per person. Tickets Available Here and I will see you there! #TellThemHeidiSentYou