Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sip Covers All the Bases

These days it’s great to find a relaxing place to unwind and enjoy good food and drink. Sip Bistro in Holly Springs provides guests just such a welcome refuge for hanging out and experiencing a sense of community.
 
This distinctive wine bar, coffeehouse and upscale eatery all in one is owned and operated by Sarah and Justin Hummell, who formerly ran a successful coffeehouse in Winston-Salem before relocating to the Triangle and opening Sip in 2013.

Since its genesis, Sip has become a popular spot to frequent any time of day. The signature Sip breakfast sandwich comes stuffed with melted provolone, an over-medium egg, bacon and cream cheese on a ciabatta roll. Hawaiian Sunrise features two scrambled eggs with pan-seared ham, red onions, Swiss cheese and mango habanero chutney wrapped in a sun-dried tomato tortilla. The crowd-pleasing fireman’s breakfast platter shows off Justin’s flavorsome espresso-rubbed pork loin with two eggs over-easy, bacon, hand-shredded hash browns and fresh fruit with a warm buttered French baguette. Pancakes of the month may feature anything from blueberries to blood orange. If you’re not in the mood for a big breakfast, locally made pastries and muffins are readily available.


At lunchtime, you’ll find a variety of creative gourmet sandwiches and salads. Pressed in a panini grill, Justin’s tri-tip steak sandwich is simmered in red wine and topped with balsamic caramelized onions and goat-cheese mustard spread on sourdough bread. An intriguing fig and fennel salad includes black mission figs, cranberries, almonds, fennel and goat cheese over a bed of mixed greens.

The eclectic Sarah sandwich combines Havarti dill cheese and roasted turkey with house-made hummus, balsamic-drizzled mixed greens, roasted red peppers and basil pesto on a toasted ciabatta roll. Proteins range from Boar’s Head brand turkey to grass-fed chicken from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem.


When it comes to java, Sip offers a wide assortment of traditional, signature and international offerings. Product is locally sourced from Boogie Bean Coffee Roasters in Holly Springs and Full Bloom Coffee of Garner.
 
While you can certainly get your fill of conventional cappuccino, latte and mocha drinks, be sure to explore one of the select specialty coffees. Consider, for instance, the curiously titled super-sweet Sexy Modias with Ghirardelli white and dark chocolate melted by espresso and steamed milk topped with house-made whipped cream. For something totally unexpected, try the Spicy Mayan Mocha. Sip’s twist on Mexican hot chocolate involves Ghirardelli chocolate and red-hot cinnamon topped with cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. 


Among the nine choices on the global espresso flight are Italian-roasted espresso, Latin American café con leche, and Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Alternative beverages extend from loose-leaf tea and chai latte to crème caramel and Italian soda.
Since both Justin and Sarah are sommeliers, the wine selection at Sip covers the bases of Old- and New-world varietals with labels from award-winning wineries as well as interesting finds from off-the-path boutiques.

Whether your love for the vine resides in the heart of Napa, the terroir of Bordeaux or the tradition of Romania, Sip offers something for all ranks of the wine enthusiast. Along with your wine, order the charcuterie platter with chef’s choice of three meats, three cheeses, seasonal fruit, olives, mixed nuts and toasted artisan bread. Small plate possibilities include crostini, pistachio pear, spinach and artichoke dip and hummus.
A spacious bar features an abundance of taps dedicated to local craft brewers. Fresh pints from Raleigh Brewing Company, Carolina Brewing Company and Holly Springs newcomer Bombshell Beer Company are readily available.

Décor at Sip is warm and inviting. A centrally located stone fireplace and high ceilings provide an airy, laid-back vibe. A cozy patio out front is perfect for al fresco dining or savoring your beverage of choice.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JONATHAN FREDIN/S&A CHEROKEE

SiP Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 1, 2014

Patrick Jane's Committed to Sourcing Local Ingredients

It’s hard to imagine anyone more committed to sourcing local and North Carolina-produced ingredients than Kevin and Ngiare Hubbard, husband and wife proprietors of Patrick Jane’s Gourmet Pizza at the Shoppes of Kildaire in Cary. The restaurant’s comfortable, contemporary space offers a fresh alternative to typical pizza joints.
 
Certified organic flour for the pizza crust comes from Lindley Farms in Graham. Herbs are provided by Fuquay-Varina’s Green Bee Farms. Goat Lady Dairy in Climax furnishes the goat cheese, and First Hand Foods in Durham supplies antibiotic- and hormone-free pork and beef. The Hubbards even grow basil, rosemary and mint onsite. 

Among the restaurant's eclectic menu selections is zucchini flower pizza, which features a roasted garlic base with aged mozzarella, goat cheese, zucchini, zucchini flowers and pine nuts. Deliciously robust asparagus pizza comprises pecorino Romano cheese topped with fresh asparagus, ricotta and lemon saffron aioli.

My favorite pie is the savory-and-sweet bacon and blueberry jam. Created with a mascarpone cheese base, it’s topped with aged mozzarella, house-made blueberry preserves, bacon and dollops of ricotta cheese. 


Pizzas take approximately five minutes to cook, and the addictive crust is always crispy. Gluten-free and vegan pies are also available.

Photos Courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Patrick Jane's Gourmet Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bellini Excels in Italian Fine Dining

Since opening its doors in 2010, Bellini Fine Italian Cuisine has become the most highly favored restaurant in Fuquay-Varina. That’s not surprising, especially since everything is executed with aplomb: irresistible food, polished service and classy ambiance.        

If you’re wondering how this delightful, strip-mall-situated restaurant became so fine-tuned, it’s all thanks to unpretentious chef/owner Abel Atauchi and his equally modest brother, Adan.


The two natives of Ecuador work long hours each day in Bellini’s kitchen, churning out soul-satisfying dishes at lunch and dinnertime. Solid front-of-house management also ensures customers’ expectations are met and exceeded.

Among the array of menu standouts include über-rich lobster ravioli brimming with a pink-hued vodka sauce and house-made gnocchi bolognese incorporating mascarpone cheese, potatoes and meat sauce. The crowd-favorite lasagna abounding with ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses is as luscious as you’ll taste in any Italian eatery. What's more, most pasta dishes are fashioned from scratch. 


Additional selections not found on the printed bill of fare: braised lamb shank, veal osso buco and pan-seared yellow fin tuna with balsamic glaze. Weekend specials like mixed grill platters with rib eye steak, lobster tail and pan-seared jumbo shrimp are often determined by the availability of fresh fish and other proteins.



Superb hand-tossed pizzas, most popular at lunchtime, are available during the evening as well. During lunch hours, pies are offered on a buy-one-get-one-free basis (toppings are extra). Also well- liked during the midday meal, calzone and stromboli will satisfy the hungriest of eaters.

Be sure to save room for dessert. Among the can’t-go-wrong options: apple crumb crowned with brown sugar and raisins; the house-favorite classic crème brûlée; and a decadent chocolate soufflé that’s cooked to order in a convection oven and served warm. Most desserts are accompanied with a scoop of ice cream.


Decor at Bellini is warm and inviting. Buttercream colored walls, dark wood furnishings and white table linens provide a casually elegant vibe. The main dining room is split into two equal sections, making the restaurant flexible enough to accommodate larger group events. A small, easily accessible bar is situated near the kitchen.


Bellini is located at 1436 N. Main Street (Sexton Commons Shopping Center) in Fuquay-Varina. Reservations are highly recommended on weekends. 

All photos courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Bellini on Urbanspoon 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Get Your Burger Fix at Bad Daddy's

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar has been on my radar screen for a while. After a recent visit to the Morrisville location at 3300 Village Market Place, I only wish I had gone sooner!

Bad Daddy’s specializes in high-quality burgers with tantalizing toppings. It’s hard not to be impressed with burgers made from chuck and brisket. Burgers run the gamut from basic to “Bad A**.” A create-your-own option starts with a 7-ounce patty and includes your choice from 10 varieties of Boar’s Head cheese plus premium toppings such as avocado, buttermilk fried bacon and rosemary ham.

Among the various specialty burgers, I recommend the classic Southern burger with American cheese, chili, slaw, mustard and relish. It’s a messy proposition, but thankfully there’s a roll of paper towels on the table. For something decidedly different, try Mama Ricotta’s burger with fresh mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, pepperoncini and extra virgin olive oil. 



Standout side items include hand-cut French fries, onion straws and house-made potato chips. I opted for sweet potato fries served with chipotle ranch for dipping, which were as tasty as I’ve ever encountered.

Décor tends toward modern casual. High ceilings with exposed ductwork work nicely with the wide-open dining room.  Service is friendly and efficient, and I would have been even more impressed if a manager had come by the table to ask how everyone enjoyed the dining experience.

A meal with drink at Bad Daddy’s will set you back about $15. That's somewhat pricy, but it’s well worth the investment. 

Bad Daddy's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon 

Image courtesy of Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wingin' It Offers Locals a Welcome Addition

When Tom McGrath and Cory Ellsworth joined forces earlier this year and opened Wingin' It Bar and Grille, they brought food service experience and stability to a location that lacked solid direction. The restaurant that previously occupied the space on Main Street in Fuquay-Varina closed its doors after operating for more than five years.

“We’re committed to having a regular presence out on the floor,” McGrath told me recently. He also owns and runs the successful Assaggio’s Pizzeria & Ristorante in the Quay. “We get the food out as fast as possible so people don’t have to wait.” McGrath "gets it" when it comes to customer service.

Menu starters like nachos, bacon-infused potato skins and fried jalapeños kick things off nicely. Burgers and chicken wings are crowd-pleasing favorites. Be sure to order the sugar-glazed sweet potato fries as your side.


With 18 varieties of traditional and boneless wings, sauces range from garlic Parmesan and backwards ranch to Thai peanut and Jamaican jerk. Try the tasty "gold rush," which has a seasoned honey-mustard base.

If you’re in the mood for red meat, go for the satisfying fried egg bearnaise burger or a succulent French dip sandwich. Be sure to watch the large-scale toy train run overhead as you enjoy your meal. 



Photos courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Wingin' It Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 27, 2014

Get Your Fill of Pub Grub at Brewster's

The first thing you notice upon entering Brewster’s Pub is the inviting horseshoe-shaped bar. It practically beckons each patron to pull up a stool and chill.

The pub is owned and run by former musician Seven Morello (yes, "Seven" is his real first name), who shares proprietorship with Jim Cassese. It's open for lunch, dinner and late-night service seven days a week.
 
While you’re there, chow down on a fried bologna and cheese sandwich or some loaded nachos. Even better, build your own creamy mac and cheese (think blackened chicken, bacon and jalapeños).

A messier but no-less-filling proposition, the Brewster Bomb burger arrives crowned with bacon, mushrooms, grilled onions and Monterey Jack cheese. It’s accompanied by waffle fries or house-made chips.


 Photos courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Whether it’s the weekly indoor cornhole tourney on Mondays, team trivia on Wednesdays or a competitive game of darts anytime, there’s plenty of fun to enjoy. Circle Thursday on your calendar, as that’s steak night. Starting at 6 p.m., you can score a 10-ounce Omaha ribeye with baked potato, steamed veggies and, if you're inclined to imbibe, a Samuel Adams seasonal draft for just $15.99.

Brewster's Pub on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Craft Public House Serves Up Great Fish & Chips, Burgers

Craft Public House may be Cary’s first farm-fresh sports bar. Consider this: The restaurant's freezer is completely empty.

According to co-owner Brian Cordileone, Craft makes everything from scratch using high-quality ingredients like grass-fed beef and cage-free chicken. Robust offerings like slow-roasted baby-back ribs, cast-iron steak and artisan pizzas are all legit. Never mind the chicken Parmesan and baked lasagna, both of which are made from Cordileone's grandmother's recipes.

Don’t miss the Yuengling beer-battered fish served with hand-cut fries and Creole tartar sauce. Or feast on a succulent Southwest burger (pictured below), a hefty eight ounces of ground chuck topped with Monterey Jack cheese, jalapeño peppers, avocado, onion straws and ranch dressing.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee


When it comes to libations, an ample selection of craft brews is available along with domestic and premium bottles. White and red wines are offered by the glass or bottle, and various specialty cocktails give you plenty of alternatives.

Service is mostly efficient and friendly, although the last time I visited it took a while for the waiter to take my order. A spacious dining room with two dozen high-definition televisions provides plenty of opportunities to view a big game.  

Craft Public House on Urbanspoon