Friday, July 24, 2015

| E X P L O R E | Grounds Cafe at Wendell Falls and DIY Dining

This past Tuesday evening, I got to visit the new Grounds Cafe for a fun Foodie event, located in the new Wendell Falls Community. The cafe is about a 20-25 minute drive from where I live. It was the first time I've visited that area. The Farmhouse is modern and stunning and stands out as you arrive. Parking is easy access. The menu at the cafe offers Do-It-Yourself grilled cheese sandwiches which is fun and delicious. Pick what you want in your sandwich and they will grill it up for you! Plenty of tasty drink options including coffee drinks, smoothies, teas, lemonades and local craft beer on draft!

We dined on sandwiches and enjoyed craft beer from local breweries (on draft). The space is naturally lit with open and modern high ceilings and exposed beams. The staff is friendly and helpful. After dinner they featured more DIY fun with deconstructed s'mores! The plate came to the table with marshmallows, chocolate dipping sauce and crushed graham crackers and of course your own flame for toasting, making for s'more fun even on a hot summer night! Even though the weather turned on us with an intense thunderstorm, there is plenty of comfortable outdoor seating for enjoying food and drink on the patio.

Wendell Falls will be kicking of Friday night Happy Hour at Grounds Cafe starting next Friday, July 31st from 6-9pm with live music and discounted draft beers.

If you are looking for something new and different, this is a nice spot to bring the kids, beat the crowds and relax in a cool, comfortable space. You can follow Wendell Falls and GroundsNC on Facebook (or follow them on Twitter and Instagram!) to find out what events they are hosting and all their updates. Possible weekend brunches coming as well!

I'm personally looking forward to a Friday night Happy Hour visit soon! Cheers!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Raleigh Summer Snapshots

It's officially Summertime in Raleigh! It's typical North Carolina weather, hot, steamy and stormy. So get somewhere you can cool off. Go check out some new cool places. Revisit some old favorites. There's so much to see and do. Here's a few snapshots of some fun ways to get out and spend your lazy summer weekends, afternoons or evenings!

See some amazing things at the NC Art Museum

Inside the West Building at NCMA

Cool down with a refreshing blueberry lemonade at Sola Coffee Cafe

Try a free wine tasting on Saturday at Wine Authorities...

 ...and grab a delicious cheese and meat plate

The new Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen and Bar is open on Hillsborough Street. Rooftop dining and fabulous food and drink.

Grab a cold beverage and delicious sandwich at State of Beer

Do a little shopping at Lumina Men's Clothing at North Person Street

The new Ashley Christensen restaurant, Death & Taxes is now open

Grab a cool cocktail at Bittersweet

Dinner at Garland is a great way to spend an evening with friends

Relax at a city parklet

Go for a casual drink with friends at William & Co. at North Person Street

Look for Two Roosters Ice Cream at pop ups and events around town!

Sneak out onto the back patio at Person Street Bar and catch the summer sunset

Get lunch or a milkshake at the new Person Street Pharmacy Cafe

Cool down at Weekend with amazing coffee drinks and pastries

Go to Summer Pop-Ups at Weekend and find cool guys and girls accessories, clothing and more from
440 Gentleman's Supply and Edge of Urge

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

| E X P L O R E | Dinner at Oval Park Grille in Durham

Sunday evening we headed to Durham for dinner at Oval Park Grille. Located next door to Watts Grocery, on Broad Street, Oval Park Grille features outdoor seating as you enter the restaurant. Friendly staff are waiting to greet you as you get seated.

At OPG, they source as much as they can from local partners, hence the hashtag #LocalAsHeck! The menu changes often, depending on what is in season. Some of the standout local ingredients in our dinner included amazing goat cheese from Elodie Farms, Johnston County Ham and Carolina Mountain Trout.

First off for drinks we tried a beer on tap called the Tricycle Radler by Parallel 49 Brewing Company. I'm a pretty big fan of beers with hops, such as IPA or Pale Ales, but I have to say the Radler style is new to me and I will be exploring more of these this summer. They are ideal for this time of year because they are super light and fresh with a hint of sweet. With a refreshing grapefruit taste, this beer would probably appeal to many who are not into heavier craft beer flavors or are just looking for something light, crisp and refreshing to drink.

We started with two salad dishes, the Beet and Johnston County country ham salad and the Kohlrabi and Turnip salad.  The Johnston County ham had amazing flavor and combined with the beets (white and candy stripe) and Elodie goat cheese, this was my favorite. SO good. The second salad was the kohlrabi and turnip salad with henchman cheese, marcona almonds, garlic, anchovy, lemon, cured egg yolks, which was also full of flavor and good texture.

I definitely recommend for appetizers trying the chicken wings. Loved the Haynes' spicy, and medium, jerk flavored ones. Fantastic. I'm not a huge fan of oysters, clams and scallops but we tried the Fried Oyster and Kale salad and it was really good! The oysters are lightly battered and fried and very fresh. The kale is grilled and crispy and served with Pecorino Toscano, peanuts, chili, lime, and caramelized shallot. I might try grilling kale at home, it was really good.

Our two mains were the Clams and the Trout. Both dishes absolutely amazing. We had a glass of Foggy Ridge Cider from Virginia that was refreshing and crisp and nicely paired with our mains. The Sneads Ferry clams and seaweed broth was delicious. The Carolina Mountain trout and roasted golden cauliflower was perfectly cooked and I couldn't get enough of the capers and raisins.

The flavors for Oval Park Grille's dishes were nice combinations of different flavors new to me and really well done. Chef Todd made time to stop by and introduce himself and we enjoyed talking to him about the dishes. The staff are excited about the menus and the drink options and were very knowledgeable and attentive.We truly appreciated being guests and really enjoyed the dishes we ate. I also appreciate that the restaurant has a casual, neighborly atmosphere but the food is carefully presented with lots of attention to detail.

This week happens to be Triangle Restaurant Week in the Triangle so put Oval Park Grille on your list of places to try out this week. Their menu for Triangle Restaurant Week features some of these dishes. You will not regret the trip.

beet and Johnston County country ham salad

Relaxed bar atmosphere
Outdoor seating at the front of the restaurant

Thursday, May 21, 2015

| E X P L O R E | 21c Museum Hotel - Durham

One of the latest in several boutique hotels popping up in Durham, the 21c Museum Hotel is a must visit when you are in Downtown Durham. Not only is it a chic new hotel in a renovated historical building, it's also a very cool art gallery.There are several art installations and you can find art in the stairwells and elevators as well. (And a must! Check out the bathrooms!) Rotating exhibits will be featured as well, I believe twice a year.  The current exhibit is called Pop Stars! Popular Culture and Contemporary Art.

The exhibits are fresh, modern and provocative. The current exhibit has had many local people talking.
We walked through after dinner in Durham recently with our two teenagers and had some good discussions for sure!

There is a restaurant and bar as well. Counting House is a great spot if you are looking for a nice dinner or a drink, especially before or after a show at DPAC or Carolina Theatre. Led by Executive Chef Josh Munchel, Counting House features NC cuisine with a global perspective.

Next time you are thinking of something new to do, why not get out and explore locally. With it's fabulous food and drink scene, baseball games and amazing cultural and art centers, Durham has so many great options. And make sure to pop into the 21c Museum Hotel for something new and different!

The 21c Museum Hotel is located at 111 North Corcoran Street in downtown Durham and was recently featured in Architectural Digest.

Recognize this person?

This musician was very recently featured in a NYC MOMA exhibit

Hotel Gift Shop

Counting House

A local favorite very close by the hotel.
Directions from Raleigh: Take I-40 West and take exit 279 B towards Durham/Downtown. Merge onto NC-147 North and take exit 12B toward Roxboro Street/Mangum Street. Turn right on South Roxboro Street and turn left onto East Main Street. Turn right onto Corcoran Street. 21c is on the left.