Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Find Sweet Thrills at D.H. Hill

Situated inside D.H. Hill Library on the N.C. State campus, the Creamery serves up Howling Cow products, which are fashioned from milk produced by cows at the university’s nearby research farms. The result is consummate hand-scooped ice cream, shakes and sundaes.

Ice cream flavors range at the Creamery range from cherry vanilla and chocolate chip mint to campfire delight and dulce cheesecake. Butter almond and peanut butter spin are also worthy of consideration.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

While popular specialty sundae Chancellor’s Choice features vanilla ice cream with fudge ribbon and peanut butter cups, the decadent blue ribbon milkshake comes loaded with three large scoops of any flavor ice cream. It's created by adding a splash or heavy cream, a dash of vanilla and then it's blended to perfection. Be advised: it's rich.
Although surprisingly the Creamery is closed on Saturdays, students and guests delight in late-night visits Sunday through Thursday, when the store is open until 1 a.m. The shop closes at 8 p.m. on Fridays.

D.H. Hill Creamery on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lucky 32 Serves Up Fried Chicken Done Right

Nothing beats the savory unpretentiousness of fried chicken. Consider it the quintessential Southern comfort food. It should come as no surprise, then, to find this crackling culinary staple at Cary’s Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen — but only on Wednesdays.

According to Lucky 32 Executive Chef Jay Pierce, the chicken is served from 4 p.m. until the restaurant runs out. Pierce's concoction represents a rendition of the late chef Austin Leslie’s recipe spotlighted in John T. Edge’s book "Fried Chicken: An American Story."  

Pierce’s recipe calls for buttermilk instead of evaporated milk and also includes smoked paprika. The chicken, which is seasoned and air-dried in a cooler overnight, is sourced from Hopkins Poultry of Browns Summit near Greensboro. It’s cooked in rendered lard from Cane Creek Farms of Snow Camp, N.C.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Consider it 19th-century style fried chicken since Pierce uses lard instead of unhealthy hydrogenated vegetable oil. I like to think of it as pure Carolina goodness on a plate.

The $17 three-piece dinner features a breast, leg and wing and is served with delicious fatback-enhanced collard greens, skin-on mashed potatoes with giblet gravy and a hunk of cornbread for dipping.

Be sure to pair it with a glass of iced sweet tea. You'll be glad you did.

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Holly's Will Make You Smile

Family-owned Happy Holly’s in Holly Springs is a nifty drive-through and walk-up kiosk that offers patrons ice cream, shaved ice, milkshakes and other tasty indulgences.

The store serves Hershey's brand ice cream and crafts the shaved ice on site. Happy Holly’s offers about a dozen flavors of preservative-free Hawaiian shaved ice such as green apple, strawberry cheesecake and piña colada.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Other tempting creations include floats, low-fat yogurt, milkshakes and banana splits.

Happy Holly’s provides outdoor seating with large umbrellas as well as small plastic chairs for kids. Cornhole (bean-bag toss game) and mini golf is also available. 

Happy Holly's also offers 10 percent off for anyone wearing any type of sports uniform. The same discount is given to school teachers, police officers, fire and rescue personnel and senior citizens.

Happy Holly's on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chevy's Revs Up

Chevy’s Ale House entered the oh-so-crowded sports bar scene this summer, and it seems fairly well-positioned to become an impact player. All the essentials are evident: multiple flat-screen televisions, dozens of beer selections on tap, piped-in rock music, conscientious servers and an extensive pub-grub menu.

The free basket of buttered popcorn delivered to the table is a good idea, but the serving I received tasted slightly stale. Perhaps a better way to pass time while waiting for your food is to shoot pool or enjoy a video game in one of Chevy’s back rooms.

Chicken wings are plenty meaty, but the flavor may leave you somewhat disappointed. I tried the honey barbecue and the cayenne apple butter. Both batches were considerably bland and failed to pack a savory punch. If you do want to give the wings a try, consider going on a Thursday between now and the end of September when they are half price all day.

One other soapbox-worthy matter: Whenever the average price for a burger is $10, I have to throw a flag. Considering that nearby MacGregor Draft House charges about $8 for their burgers and a nine-ounce Angus patty melt at JD’sTavern will only set you back $8.50, it seems Chevy’s may want to revisit its price point. Just sayin’.

Service at Chevy’s is pleasant and efficient, and there’s a good mix of tables and booths. Kid’s 12 and under eat free on Tuesdays when accompanied by an adult. Additional food, drink and event specials are listed on the website.

Chevy's Ale House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

PieBird Sings in Sweet and Savory Harmony

Let me start by saying that PieBird, located in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood district, boasts one of the coolest restaurant concepts imaginable: serving up first-rate sweet and savory pies.


By all accounts, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Patrons have been flocking in droves to PieBird ever since it opened back in March 2011. And what’s not to love? At lunchtime, whether it’s classic chicken pot pie, zesty pimento cheese or nutritious spinach and feta, every “hand pie” (small enough to pick up and eat with your hand) is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Never mind that the pie crusts are as flaky and delicious as you’ll find anywhere.

Salads also deserve props. Consider the flavorful $8 chopped salad built with cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, avocado, celery and blue cheese crumbles on a bed of mixed greens.

The eatery’s décor is stylish but not fussy. Exposed brick walls, brushed-metal stools and high-backed banquettes fill the open dining room. A smaller back room contains a cozy seating area and fireplace.

But let’s get to the most tantalizing selections: the dessert pies. On any given day, about a dozen varieties of sugary goodness will make your decision extremely tough. Will you choose blueberry or coconut cream? Peanut butter or Oreo-imbued black bottom pie? Since I’m a sucker for chocolate, I enjoyed the rich chocolate cream, which featured a fantastic mouse-like texture and flavor. Bonus tip: Consider ordering French press Counter Culture coffee with your dessert. Another nice touch.

Whole pies are available for sale, and the restaurant also has free WiFi. PieBird is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

PieBird on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Henry's Gelato Hits the Sweet Spot

It must be fun to be Henry Dirkmaat, owner and founder of Henry's Gelato. 

Imagine constantly dreaming up new flavors of gelato, the delicious Italian variant to ice cream. With more than 80 flavors in the store's overall repertoire, it’s safe to say customers have plenty of choices.

Small batches of gelato are produced on-site daily by Henry or other specially trained artisans. Approximately two dozen flavors are showcased in display freezers at any given time, and these are rotated regularly to maintain diversity.

Sophisticated and unfussy concoctions are presented with equal aplomb. Consider rich Belgian chocolate, caramel apple, baklava and bubble gum. Then there are selections like cozy interlude (an amazing concoction featuring dark roast coffee with chocolate and hazelnuts),peach champagne and orange dream.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Popular sorbets include blood orange, fruits of the forest, lemon and grapefruit. The store also sells gelato-based cakes and pies. There's even pet-friendly K-9 Crunch available.

During the summer months, the three area Henry’s Gelato stores are open seven days a week.

Henry's Gelato on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012

Aviator Smokehouse Still Finding Its Wings

Located in the bustling Varina area of Fuquay, AviatorSmokehouse continues to build a following as a casual place to enjoy barbecue, ribs, burgers, beer and more. On a recent Friday night, there was a surprising 45-minute wait to get a seat. That’s a good thing for a locally owned dinning establishment.

Smoked meats like chopped pork barbeque, St. Louis style ribs and beef brisket are generally reliable options. Side items baked beans and collard greens are solid as well. The house-made mac and cheese is first-rate (my extremely picky 9-year-old daughter gave it a big thumbs up).

Much to my surprise, the fish tacos were the best I’ve had anywhere, and I’m a huge fish taco fan. Large, lightly battered pieces of tilapia and slices of avocado make these tacos a winning entrée choice. The beer-battered onion rings, however, were flavorful but too greasy for my taste.

The restaurant’s décor tends toward sports bar meets airport hangar. Service is friendly, but the staff can tend to get overwhelmed when the dining room is crowded.

Aviator Smokehouse seems fully capable of churning out quality provisions for a reasonable price. Even so, it needs more reliable soul. Perhaps a front-of-the-house manager visiting tables and flashing a friendly smile would help. Each time I’ve visited there never seems to be a manager onsite. Here’s hoping the owner will pour as much passion into the eatery as he does the tap house across the street.

Aviator Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 11, 2012

No Passport Required at Bahama Breeze

At a recent invitation-only event sponsored by Bahama Breeze Island Grill, I was impressed anew by the quality food, beverages and service at this relaxed, Caribbean-themed eatery. Confession time: it’s probably been a good five years or more since I’ve visited Bahama Breeze. Let’s just say I’m glad I had the opportunity to get reacquainted with the restaurant.

More than a few guests enjoyed the new “Legendary Island Cocktails” that were served. Selections included the rum-infused “Painkiller” comprising pineapple and orange juices with cream of coconut and nutmeg and “Parrot Passion,” which featured passion and orange juices along with Cointreau and Bacardi Limon. Six other intriguing concoctions are available.

When it came to cuisine, we noshed on a variety of flavorsome starters. Standouts were coconut shrimp, chicken quesadillas and classic cheeseburger sliders. Also noteworthy was the slow-roasted pulled pork, which was as good as any I’ve had in the Triangle.

No passport is required to explore Bahama Breeze. Just bring a good appetite and a laid-back sense of adventure. 


Bahama Breeze on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 2, 2012

KoMo KoMo Serves Up Stellar Cuisine

A stylish new Korean-French restaurant in Cary’s Maynard Crossing offers innovative cuisine in a tranquil setting. KoMo KoMo, which derives its name from the words “Korean mosaic,” opened in November 2011 and has steadily built a loyal following ever since. 

Chef-owner Jae Lee is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and honed his skills at several fine-dining establishments in New York and the Triangle area (the Washington Duke Inn and Fins, to name a few). While Lee directs the kitchen, his wife, El Ryoo, capably oversees the front-of-house operations.

Charmingly appointed with framed quilts, vintage pottery and understated florae, KoMo KoMo’s cozy dining room beckons patrons to relax and enjoy a serene dining experience. The soothing music wafting overhead only enhances an already delightful ambiance.

KoMo KoMo represents the antithesis of the typical strip-mall-situated Asian eatery. No doubt Lee and Ryoo bring a keen sense of attention to detail. Impressively, Ryoo handled all interior decorating herself, including an eye-catching stenciled tree on one of the dining room walls.

Décor notwithstanding, nowhere is fine-tuned precision more evident than with the food. Need proof? Look no further than artfully presented appetizers like pan-seared scallops with wild mushroom and chive potato puree or chicken dumplings with soy sesame sauce.
Indeed the menu offerings are interesting — if not ambitious. 

Dinner entrees, which start at $12, represent French- and Korean-infused selections alike. Aficionados of bouillabaisse (a traditional Provençal seafood stew) will find much to like about KoMo KoMo’s rendition. The same goes for Korean specialty bulgogi ssam, which essentially comprises lettuce leaf wraps with marinated beef.

Another signature main course is bibimbap, a bowl-style meal featuring multigrain rice mixed with various vegetables and, if desired, pork, beef or tofu. Other solid dishes at dinnertime include skewered grilled chicken and mushrooms with mint-enhanced couscous and yogurt sauce, and Atlantic salmon with fava beans, radish and lemon fennel citronette.

 At lunchtime, tempting specials such as the Meyer lemon organic chicken roll with artisan salad or combo meal including half a sandwich, soup and a salad come in under $10. The rich lobster ravioli with ginger and fennel also merits consideration.

A reservation-only tea service is available on Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30 p.m., featuring a platter of mini-sandwiches, tarts and desserts with coffee or tea. Free Wi-Fi Internet access is an added bonus.

When it comes to desserts, you can’t go wrong with the house-favorite ginger lemongrass creme brulee, coconut rum raisin bread pudding or the KoMo red velvet cake.

Open six days a week for lunch and dinner, KoMo KoMo is closed on Sunday. Reservations are strongly recommended for groups larger than four people.

KoMo KoMo on Urbanspoon