A quick trip & report

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JRPfeff
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2013/01/26 10:14:22 (permalink)

A quick trip & report

I started a new job in North Carolina last Monday. I work as a contract engineer in the nuclear industry, so jobs ending and starting at locations far & wide is part of my way of life.  The term of endearment used for people in this profession is Roadwh0res (hopefully that gets through the bad word filter).  There is even a website by that name that posts job opportunities.  The new job has an expected duration of 5 years, so this is as close to a permanent position as I expect to ever see.
 
Pie Diva and I took a quick trip to reposition a car from Arizona to NC over the weekend before I started.  We did not have a lot of time, but we planned at least one stop each day around a Roadfood reviewed restaurant.
 
Day 1 - Buckeye, AZ to Las Cruces, NM
 
This will probably be our last chance to visit Tuscon before we pack the house and move, so we took an opportunity to stop at one of our favorite restaurants there.

 
I had a JoJo (Chipotle Beef and Cheese in Jalapeño Masa) and a Santa Fe (Pork Loin, Green Chile Sauce and Cheese).  Bobbi has a pair of San Carlos (Shrimp, Roasted Corn, Tomato, Cilantro in Red Pepper Masa).  They were all outstanding.

 
We will miss the food of Tuscon, but not the traffic.  The last three times we visited there were major SNAFU's with traffic.  A bike race shutting down seemingly every street, a gem show causing havoc throughout the city, and this time road construction barrels closing multiple lanes on every surface street we drove on.
 
Stay tuned for more of Day 1.
post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/26 10:54:18
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 10:49:19 (permalink)
    Day 1 - Buckeye, AZ to Las Cruces, NM (continued)
     
    Following our not so quick stop in Tuscon, we set off for our hotel in Las Cruces.  I narrowed our dinner choices by asking recommendations of a co-worker who attended NM State.  The final choice was based on Roadfood reviews, proximity to our hotel, and a restaurant.com coupon.

     
    La Posta is really a classic and apparently was a hit on the Roadfood sanctioned tour of New Mexico.  We started with a cheese crisp.

     
    The crisp was much different than the crisps we've had in Tuscon.  It had a lot more toppings than its Tuscon cousin, but the tortilla retained its crispness.  I liked this version a lot, Bobbi prefers the ones in Tuscon.
     
    For my entree, I had Steak La Posta - Tenderloin smothered with green chile sauce, topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese. I've never had cheese served on steak before, so I was a bit skeptical of how this combination would work. The steak came with a salad and La Posta's ranch dressing was notably good.

     
    I should not have worried about the combination of ingredients, this being the land of Green Chile Cheeseburgers.  The steak was exceptionally good, maybe my best meal on our 2,400 mile journey (although I am not convinced it was tenderloin).  Great charred-crust and the cheese and chiles complemented it perfectly, I was almost squealing like that pig in the GEICO ads.
     
    Our server was really good at La Posta.  The salsa that was served with chips was really hot, but was too good to stop eating.  Christopher did not let our iced teas go dry, which we were really thankful for in quenching the heat. 
     
    Knowing that the Roadfood tour had visited La Posta a year or so earlier, we asked Christopher if he remembered them coming.  I mentioned a bus full of people, he said they get a lot of buses.  I mentioned people taking pictures, still nothing came to his mind.  Then Bobbi said they didn't take pictures of each other, they took pictures of their food.  Suddenly Christopher developed a violent tick ...
     
    Day 1 done.  420 miles completed.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/26 11:12:23
    #2
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 12:26:39 (permalink)
    Beautiful stuff, and you're killing me with it. I'm eagerly awaiting more.
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    billbecker1959
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 13:09:55 (permalink)
    La Posta was our favorite place to eat while we lived in Las Cruces. Loved the square and the shops. Always try to time lunch or dinner when we're traveling through the area with our motorhome. The Steak la Posta is my favorite selection as well. Thanks for the post and the photos!
    #4
    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 14:13:05 (permalink)
    Day 2 - Las Cruces, NM to Mt. Pleasant, TX
     
    This day would be a long one, close to 800 miles planned and we lose 1 time zone.  Fortunately, Texas is quite generous with their speed limits, so we could make good time without speeding. 
     
    We never did break out our Asleep at the Wheel CD, but we became familiar with Miles and Miles of Texas without any decent restaurant choices.  Subways were everywhere, but nothing Roadfoodie to be seen, and even the usual burger chains were missing at most exits.  When we saw this logo, we finally had some hope.

     
    Our first warning should have been that this place was in a gas station.  After using the restroom, I looked at the offerings and was going to tell Bobbi we'd go somewhere else.  She emerged from the ladies room and sounded interested in the food, so we ordered anyway.  Only later did she tell me she was ready to walk out too, but thought I really wanted to eat there.
     
    The result was this, our worst meal of the trip.

    It's a barbecue brisket sandwich, although the brisket was at least half fat.  We ended up eating the meat off each slice and tossing most of the fat.  I'll spare you a photo of the mystery-meat taco we ate.  This meal was the Texas equivalent of the hotdog rollers at most service stations.
     
    More Day 2 to come.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/26 17:33:02
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    kland01s
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 14:23:14 (permalink)
    Yuck!! Maybe the bun was OK?
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 14:34:04 (permalink)
    Good thing we ordered double meat on that sandwich!
    #7
    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 14:35:30 (permalink)
    billbecker1959

    La Posta was our favorite place to eat while we lived in Las Cruces. Loved the square and the shops. Always try to time lunch or dinner when we're traveling through the area with our motorhome. The Steak la Posta is my favorite selection as well. Thanks for the post and the photos!

    Any relation to billbecker1957? He was my best friend in high school.
     
    Jim
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    billbecker1959
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 16:42:40 (permalink)
    No, don't think so, Jim.
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    bwave
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 20:55:30 (permalink)
    I know you're new to the industry, but you'd think an engineer would know it's spelled Nucular.  
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 22:19:42 (permalink)
    Day 2 - Las Cruces, NM to Mt. Pleasant, TX (continued)
     
    Here was my idea going into our journey.  As we drive across the Southern U.S., we make stops to eat 3 of the Big 4 barbecue styles on 3 successive days - brisket in Texas, ribs in Memphis and pork in Lexington, NC. 
     
    It was Friday, so we were looking for barbecue brisket.  At dinner time we'd be near Dallas, the original Sonny Bryan's was recommended and was in my Roadfood POI's on the GPS. Before reaching Fort Worth, we stopped for gas and a couple pounds of Texas pecans.
     
    I didn't consider rush hour traffic, so our drive to get to Sonny Bryan's was an adventure.  But we eventually made it.

     
    Certainly a lot of history at the Sonny Bryan's on Inwood.

     
    We ordered a variety of meats and sides.

     

     
    Our favorites were the smoked hot link and the onion rings.  We thought the brisket lacked the smokiness we expect in barbecue and were not blown away by it. This is probably a consequence of eating too much competition and homemade barbecue.  The original Sonny Bryan's is a unique experience and we enjoyed the stop.
     
    Day 2 total - 793 miles.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/27 09:59:14
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/26 22:45:43 (permalink)
    Day 3 Prequel - Mt. Pleasant, TX to Knoxville, TN
     
    “I’d go to Memphis,” Raylan said, “for the ribs.”
    “Now you’re talkin,” Cuba said. “Best bar-b-que in the world’s at the Germantown rib joint.”
    “The Germantown Commissary,” Raylan said. “Corky’s is good.”
    “I love Corky’s,” Rachel said. “They serve that pulled pork shoulder. Best anyplace.”
     
    Dialog from Raylan by Elmore Leonard
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    Texascajun
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 01:17:08 (permalink)
    Wow you were real close to me. Mt. Pleasant is only 20 miles from me. We have lots of great roadfood in the area, and if you were in a hurry I would have even brought some to you. If you ever pass back through maybe I can. I hope all goes well with your new job and location.
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    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 01:32:34 (permalink)
    JRP,
    I'm not arguing that the 'Que at Laredo Taco Co. was lousy, but you shouldn't (necessarily) have made any negative assumptions based on its location in a gas station.  One of Kansas City's most popular, and most highly regarded (not by me) Barbecue Joints, Oklahoma Joe's (coincidentally, today's reviewed restaurant by Michael Stern) is deeply ensconced in a gas station.
     
    Furthermore, this year's Christmas trip to KC brought us to another gas station restaurant, Papu's.  They served up some mighty fine Middle Eastern grub, including an excellent version of Babganouj.
     
    Sorry you had bad 'Que in Texas (is that even possible?  I guess you're proof that it is.).  Hope it gets better as you head east.  You didn't happen to make a stop at Payne's did you?
     
    Buddy
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    Foodbme
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 02:06:08 (permalink)
    I post with mixed emotions
    Sorry to see you and Pie Diva leave the Valley but happy for you as a career move after your experiences at Palo Verde.
    I'm enjoying your trip report put don't really understand the serpentine route you're taking. That's not the most direct route from AZ to NC by far.
    Must be a good reason, since engineers don't do things without a good reason do they???
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    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 08:19:21 (permalink)
    Jim - Wait til NC hosts the first pie gathering....
     
    BTW - love TX sausage!
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 09:42:32 (permalink)
    Texascajun - We were considering waiting until Mt. Pleasant for our dinner brisket stop.  From a driving standpoint it made sense, sounds like we would have ate well too.
     
    Buddy - I don't want to give the impression that the barbecue at Sonny Bryan's was not good (I've revised my write-up above).  We just weren't blown away by it.  The best brisket we ever had was at a place in Knoxville 25 years ago called the Lucky Rooster.  The pitmaster was a displaced Texan who ran his restaurant in an old hotel building.  That remains our standard.   The ambiance at Sonny Bryan's was remarkable. We wished it was a little warmer so we didn't have to cram into the school desks to eat.
     
    We also tried the food at the gas station realizing that these are sometime hidden gems.  The brisket did have decent flavor, but that inch or so of fat cap should have been trimmed.
     
    Foodbme - Two things went into our route selection: 1) Avoiding possible severe Winter weather around Flag: and 2) The opportunity to eat in Tuscon and try all the barbecue varieties.  Weather was magnificent on the entire route.
     
    CTD - Pie Diva is sizing up kitchens near Raleigh.  SPOILER ALERT - We really enjoyed the Roadfood and non-Roadfood we tried  in the Triangle area last week.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/27 10:00:20
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 11:18:40 (permalink)
    Day 3 - Mt. Pleasant, TX to Knoxville, TN
     
    I gave away our first stop in the prequel.  Elmore Leonard has referenced Roadfood approved and certified restaurants in several of his books.  I wonder if he is a lurker here or possibly uses the website or books for research.

     
    We had an uneventful drive from Texas, through Arkansas, to Memphis.  I chose the Germantown Commissary based on a report I read on the internet written by a guy who ate at all the Memphis rib joints over a weekend.  The restaurant was farther off the Interstate than I expected (I just plug the restaurant into our Sat-Nav and let Emily get us there).
     
    Arriving at the Germantown Commissary around 1:00, we got into the queue the extended out the front door.  We were told there was a 30 minute wait to be seated. When we got inside, I spotted this sign for carry-out and decided that was the way to go.

     
    We ordered the Ribs for 2 meal and decided to dine ala dashboard (too brisk for dining ala trunk).

     
    Fine ribs and sides, although they were still so hot we didn't get the full flavor of the smoke and dry rub until we ate the leftover ribs cold the next day.  We also ordered the Caramel Cake which was outstanding.

     
    After leaving Memphis, my odometer revealed that I was finally through with my break-in period and could challenge the full capabilities of my vehicle.

     
    More to come of Day 3.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/27 11:22:23
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    Pie Diva
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 11:26:34 (permalink)
    Should I tell everyone about the argument you and Emily got into about where Jimmy's Bar-B-Que in Lexington TN was located?
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    kland01s
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 11:41:04 (permalink)
    Never let a computer defeat you!
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 12:14:07 (permalink)
    Day 3 - Mt. Pleasant, TX to Knoxville, TN (continued)
     
    We did not have a dinner destination selected for Day 3, Nashville was too soon after lunch and Knoxville too late.  I have the Roadfood Points of Interest loaded in the GPS and was hoping to find something between the two cities.  Finding nothing, it occurred to me that the term "Roadfood" is a misnomer.  The vast majority of restaurants reviewed in the books are in or near cities, there are not many choices in the books when looking to eat while on the road.
     
    Pie Diva was behind the wheel at this time and was on the lookout for anyplace with "diner" in the name.  Approaching Silverpoint, she saw a exit services sign with Rose Garden Restaurant listed.  That was close enough to "diner" for us to make the stop.

     
    Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  The parking lot was pretty full, too. Bobbi ordered the catfish with tots, slaw & hushpuppies.

     
    Bobbi said her fish had a "dirty" taste to it and was wondering if it wasn't cleaned properly.  I chose the evening's special of country fried steak & gravy, mashed potatoes and pinto beans.

     
    The steak & gravy were good, as were the pintos after I added hot sauce, but the highlight was the mashed potatoes. With no gravy or butter on top, I had low expectations, but it was love upon first bite for me.  The potatoes were moist and had a slight tang, Bobbi said they must use buttermilk in them.  We asked the waitress and she confirmed it was the buttermilk I was tasting.  Best mashed potatoes ever!  The Rose Garden is worth a stop just for them.
     
    We finished our meal by sharing a slice of chess pie.

     
    The filling was excellent and crust was flaky, it was made with lard.  The flavor was a bit too porky for Bobbi, which meant I got to eat all of the crust!
     
    End of Day 3 was Knoxville. 720 miles for the day.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/27 12:25:31
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    ann peeples
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 12:17:23 (permalink)
    I absolutely love Raleigh and the surrounding are. Bob's family is from Greensboro/Raleigh area. i hope you guys embrace it as I did. And, we are down there every couple of years, so meeting up there is going to happen!
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 20:45:17 (permalink)
    Day 4 - Knoxville, TN to Raleigh, NC
     
    We awoke in Knoxville near Cedar Bluff Road, within 2 miles of the house we lived in 25 years ago.  We did not recognize anything, even the strip club in front of our old grocery store was gone.  Is nothing scared anymore?
     
    After our deluxe hotel provided "hot breakfast" we headed towards North Carolina on I-40.  We decided to make a detour towards Charlotte to look at a truck I am considering acquiring.  That would add an hour and a half to our drive.
     
    After the drive to Charlotte, we finally made it to Lexington for lunch.

     
    I had wanted to stop at the Lexington BBQ #1, but they close on Sundays.  I still don't understand that.  Most of the year it makes sense, but NASCAR does not race in November thru January.
     
    I had the chopped barbecue sandwich.  Good stuff.

     
    Bobbi ordered the fried chicken.

     
    Her chicken was really good.  Next stop was our hotel in Raleigh.
     
    Peyton Manning bought dinner to close our journey.

     
    Who can say no to Peyton?
     
    Day 4 - 339 miles.
     
    We are done.
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/27 20:47:17
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 22:02:04 (permalink)
    Placeholder ...
     
    Descriptions later.
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    #24
    CNW
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/27 23:00:45 (permalink)
    I spent my early grade school years in Apex, NC. It was far enough outside of Raleigh/Durham in the early 70's that it still retained it small town feel even though enough northerners had moved in to outnumber the natives. Cary was also a small town at the time, not so small now. I have family in Durham and they love it, but since you talked about traffic you might want to stay away from Cary. They tell me that the traffic is pretty bad.
     
    CNW
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    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/28 03:56:32 (permalink)
    That last set of pix looks fantastic!  Hurry with the captions so we know what we missed out on.
     
    Buddy
     
    EDIT: The added captions below do not disappoint.  Beautiful plates with excellent grub!  I think I might have a hard time with all those sweet potatoes, but Mrs. Roadhouse would be in Heaven.
     
    B.
    post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2013/01/28 14:13:13
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/28 09:34:42 (permalink)
    Welcome to the non-Roadfood portion of this trip report.
     
    We were very fortunate to arrive in Raleigh the week of the Winter version of Triangle Restaurant Week.  With 79 different restaurants participating, we spent the week before our trip looking at online menus before making reservations.  We focused on what we later learned is called Contemporary Southern Cuisine.  The way I figure it, CSC means that each dish will include greens, grits, a root vegetable (usually sweet potatoes), something pickled, and/or pork.  We made reservations at Lucky 32, Porter's City Tavern, Piedmont, and Weathervane.  We were both especially excited about the menu at Weathervane, which they described as "This menu was created for the "Got To Be NC" Competition Dining Series, and was voted "Best in the State" at the Final Fire-Battle of Champions." Read the descriptions below and view the pictures and see why they won..
     
    First up is the meal at Lucky 32, Bobbi's starter was the Creamy Parsnip Soup with crispy garnish 

     
    For my entree, I had the Crawfish Etouffee, American crawfish tails in a rich brown gravy over rice. This breaks from my Contemporary Southern Cuisine definition, but I have an exception for Cajun and Creole cooking.

     
    Bobbi loved her Smoked Turkey Breast with bourbon cream sauce, dried cranberries and sweet potato dumplingsLucky 32's beautiful interpretation of these ordinary ingredients made this an exceptional meal.

     
    For dessert we each had the Coconut Chess Pie with citrus syrup. Not exactly what a certain Roadfooder would expect when he orders this favorite pie. Very good!

     
    Day 2 was Porter's. Porter's is omitted from this report because they changed their menu and raised their price after we made reservations.  We ate from their regular menu and enjoyed it, but their food did not measure up to the other three restaurants.
     
    At Piedmont on Day 3 Bobbi had the Cast iron Ashley Farm chicken, creamy polenta, braised greens, chicken jus. They are very proud of their locally sourced poultry, meats and vegetables in the Triangle.  The vinegary greens were perfect with the crisp chicken and grits ("polenta" my butt!).

     
    I enjoyed the Slow braised Harris-Robinette grass fed beef short ribs, sweet potato puree, crispy onions, pan jus (although the menu at the restaurant described this as beef Osso Bucco).  No matter, it was wonderful and we both loved Piedmont's combination of flavors.

     
    For dessert, Bobbi ordered the Butterscotch Pot de Crème – caramel, whipped crème fraiche, grey salt, which we shared.  I enjoyed this more than my beignets, which were also good.

     
    Weathervane for Day 4, where I developed my definition of CSC.  Bobbi started with Bourbon-Spiked Sweet Potato Bisque, pulled pork shoulder, pickled peppers

     
    My starter was the Sweet Potato Raviolo, confit pork jowl, Pepsi-sage brown butter, balsamic-Pepsi syrup.  What more can I say to add to this picture? 

     
    Bobbi's entree was the Sweet-Potato-Glazed Pork Belly, braised collards, sweet potato grits, duck fat sweet potatoes.  Another gorgeous presentation by the chef at Weathervane.  The pork belly was a bit fatty for her, but I was happy to help Bobbi finish the smoky belly.

     
    This entree at Weathervane may have been the highlight of the week.  Korean BBQ'd Pork Shoulder, blue cheese grit cake, confit tomatoes, crispy jowl bacon had a lot going on with it.  I worked my way down through the entree and hit another treat with each layer.  The confit tomatoes were fantastic, then I came upon the crispy jowl bacon bits.  I shared this entree with Bobbi, she liked this much more than her choice.  She even enjoyed the blue cheese grit cake, with blue cheese being something she usually avoids.

     
    My dessert was the Pork Fat Funnel Cake, buttermilk cake, Pepsi-apple ice cream, candied pork jowl, cherry Pepsi syrup.  I really liked the Pepsi ice cream and syrup.  This was a plate licker, too bad I wasn't at home.


    Bobbi's Sweet Potato Twinkie, sweet potato butter cream, praline brittle, sweet potato ice cream was fun and tasted great.  The Twinkie was not filled, the butter cream was deconstructed and put along its side. We both loved the praline brittle.
     
    End of report.  Caio!
    post edited by JRPfeff - 2013/01/28 10:52:02
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    JRPfeff
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    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/28 11:00:31 (permalink)
    CNW

    I spent my early grade school years in Apex, NC. It was far enough outside of Raleigh/Durham in the early 70's that it still retained it small town feel even though enough northerners had moved in to outnumber the natives. Cary was also a small town at the time, not so small now. I have family in Durham and they love it, but since you talked about traffic you might want to stay away from Cary. They tell me that the traffic is pretty bad.

    CNW

    CNW - We are looking in Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina.  Quieter there, but we'll still get our share of driving in traffic.
     
    Jim
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    ann peeples
    Sirloin
    • Total Posts : 8642
    • Joined: 2006/05/21 06:45:00
    • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
    • Status: offline
    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/28 17:14:13 (permalink)
    Opt for Fuqay Varina. My choice when we were seriously considering moving there....However, a caveat..dont know Holly Springs.
    #29
    Beefeater, too
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 2
    • Joined: 2010/12/31 12:11:00
    • Location: Fuquay-Varina, NC
    • Status: offline
    Re:A quick trip & report 2013/01/28 17:32:23 (permalink)
    JRPfeff
    We moved to Fuquay about 4 yrs ago from the St Louis area.  Love it here.  My wife has family in Holly Springs.  We are far away from Raleigh to avoid the big city problems, but close enough for the conveniences.  Welcome to Wake COUNTY !!!    
    -tdw
    #30
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