Panciuto, Hillsborough

As I have said before, this area is truly blessed with wonderful farms and restaurants which capitalize on this.  A few weeks ago we tried another great example of the ‘farm-to-fork’ restaurants, Panciuto in Hillsborough.  Hillsborough is about 15 miles north of Chapel Hill and has a charming downtown area with several shops and restaurants; Panciuto is located right in the center of town.

The dining room is elegant yet cozy.  The exposed brick wall reminds you that you are in the heart of the historic district.  The lighting is soft and dimmed with candles on each table.  The elegant white table clothes are contrast with plush dark red upholstered chairs which play off the red brick wall.

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[ONE] Restaurant, Chapel Hill

We had been wanted to try ONE in Meadowmont for some time.  This is a one of restaurants by Shane Ingram of Four Square (which I enjoyed!), though the Chef de Cuisine is Sean McCarthy.  We tried once a couple months ago but they were booked as it was Duke graduation weekend.  So, on a random Friday evening we decided to try it.  The space is über modern with clean lines, dark woods, gray and orange chairs.  The highlight of the space is the wide open kitchen.  There is service seating at a sleek blue under-lit bar which overlooks open kitchen.  We opted to sit at the bar and watch the action.  The menu has a heavy focus on seafood and offers several small plates options.  As is typical for us, we opted for two soups and three small plates.  The shrimp and clam cioppino which had a spicy tomato shellfish broth and was chock full of seafood.  It was quite tasty and nicely balanced the acidity of the tomatoes with the spice and herbs.  The curry butternut squash bisque with lobster was rich and creamy with lots of curry flavor.  There was a small amount of the lobster in the placed on the soup.  While G liked the curry in this, I felt it overpowered the sweet delicate lobster.  The Peruvian ceviche that evening was made with a white fish and was lovely! The red onion, lime and chili just complemented the light fish.  The squid ink tagliatelle with littleneck clams was the highlight for me that evening.  The perfectly al dente, beautiful dark pasta highlighted by the flavors, and visually, with sautéed spinach and white wine & sausage cream sauce.  Lastly, we had the creole spiced seared tuna which was also delicious and served with rock shrimp etouffee, red rice and pickled okra salad.  We really enjoyed all the dishes tried and the variety of flavors and techniques that were used in the preparation.  The service too was extremely friendly and helpful, as we had several questions on the menu.  My only slight complaint was that all of our small plates came out at the same time and we had to eat the hot ones first and wait on the cold dishes.  It would have been nice, since we didn’t order main courses, if the small plates could have been coursed so that we didn’t have to juggle all three plates.  We will most certainly be back to sit at the kitchen bar watching the action and try more wonderful flavor combinations.

[ONE] Restaurant
100 Meadowmont Circle
Chapel Hill,NC27517

Halcyon Restaurant, Charlotte

Over the long Memorial Day weekend G and I went to Charlotte to check out the ‘big city!’  I wanted to take G out for a special dinner while we were there and was trying to do some research online.  I was having a difficult time with the various review sites as it seemed people were more interested in the atmosphere or the price but few discussed the food.  So, I turned to the Twitterverse and asked for some suggestions.  The food editor from the Charlotte Observer, Kathleen Purvis, was kind enough to direct message me her email address and asked what type of food, price range, etc I was looking for.  What a treat! She suggested a few options and based on those and the menus, I made a reservation at Halcyon.

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Bonne Soirée, Chapel Hill

I keep a list of restaurants that I want to try.  One of those in the ‘for a special occasion’ category was Bonne Soirée.  When I heard that they were planning to close at the end of April, we made my birthday the special occasion to try it.  It is located in the Courtyard Complex onWest Franklinwhich seems to be a bit of a revolving door for businesses.  There is no marking or name on the door, just a beautiful, hand-written menu on a stand in the window.  The dining room is elegant with light blue walls, wainscoting, dark grey ceilings, hardwood floors, and simple gold framed artwork on the wall.

We were seated and within a few minutes we were brought our hand-written menus.  It was such a treat to have such a beautiful menu.  Though, we were a bit confused by the fact that they didn’t have a wine menu but rather would help us select a wine based on our preferences.  I wasn’t sure if that was because they weren’t restocking their wine since they are closing soon.  We opted to do a wine pairing with our meal for $35 each.  It was a nice way not to have to decide or think too much about it.  We were each brought a different rosé to start.

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Elaine’s On Franklin, Chapel Hill

This past Saturday G and I went to a concert at UNC and we walked on Franklin before hand trying to decide where to eat.  We settled on Elaine’s on Franklin and walked in around 6:15pm.  The place was packed!  Of course we didn’t have a reservation but we were lucky enough to find a spot at the bar.  The space is smaller space with dark blue accent walls and a beautiful tin ceiling.  It is a open floor plan with many tables in the small space so it was a bit noisy.  But, the bar is a buffered a bit by glass partitions so it isn’t quite as loud.

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Ãn Restaurant, Cary

G and I finally got a chance to try Ãn when we found ourselves with a free night during the busy holiday season.  It is a large restaurant in a quiet, slightly out-of-the-way part of Cary.  The entrance is a dramatic drive thru. The interior is just as dramatic with high ceilings and a sleek design.  Throughout the restaurant there are elegant modern design elements such as large mirrors, a stainless steel bar and glass dividers.  Since this was a last minute plan, we didn’t have a reservation and they were full that night but we were content sitting at the bar.

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Saffron at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill

We went to Saffron to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  The original, which gets great reviews, is in Morrisville (we have yet to try it).  This new location in Chapel Hill is in the new mixed use development on 54.  The space is just lovely!  The dimly lit room is decorated with rich mahogany wood furnishings and Indian artwork in jewel tones.  It is indeed one of the most beautiful rooms!  We made a reservation but it wasn’t necessary as it was almost empty when we arrived on a Tuesday evening.

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