Herons, Cary

To celebrate our anniversary G and I decided to finally check out The Umstead Hotel in Cary.  We made an entire afternoon of it with massages and an afternoon at the spa and then dinner at the nationally recognized Herons.  The entire hotel has a modern, elegant style with muted neutral tones and warm lighting.  This elegance is carried on into the restaurant, Herons.  The walls are covered in a warm wood paneling.  The space is divided into smaller rooms with alcoves holding beautiful large artful pieces which set off the well-designed space.  The large table are well spaced to allow guests to have intimate conversations.  The kitchen is viewable from the dining area for those who would like to see the action.

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Carolina Crossroads, Chapel Hill

The Carolina Inn is a beautiful, historic inn in the center of Chapel Hill on UNC’s campus.  In the summer they have a lovely tradition of ‘Fridays on the Front Porch’ in which they have a local bluegrass band playing outside and offer food and drinks for purchase.  It is such a fun, relaxing afternoon.  I have wanted to go all summer long and between the ridiculous heat, the thunderstorms, and our own travel we finally managed to go a couple of Fridays ago.  We decided to make an evening out of it and enjoy dinner at the inn’s restaurant, Carolina Crossroads.  We headed to the inn around 6:30pm and enjoyed the music for about an hour and then made our way to the restaurant.  It is an intimate, charming space with French country decor.  The light yellow walls are accented by crisp white table clothes and tarheel blue upholstered chairs and banquettes.

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Fairview Dining Room, Durham

The Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club is a beautiful hotel on the Duke University Campus.  The ‘WaDuke’ is where the Fairview Dining Room is located and overlooks the golf course.  The dining room is elegant with a grand piano in the center of the space which is divided by wooden banisters.  The tables are covered with white linens and set with gold rimmed china.  The high back chairs are upholstered in a rich blue with golden emblems.  The tables are set a good distance apart to allow for pleasant conversation at each table.

G and I met one of my dear friends from high school here (what is the probability of two native Coloradans, who graduated together to be living in the Triangle at the same time!?) for an early dinner.  We decided to try the Happy Hour Menu; between 5:30 and 6:30pm daily they offer a $25 three course dinner menu.  After looking at the menu online we noticed that several of the entrée options are offered and the full menu prices were quite expensive.  So, we opted for an earlier reservation to try the Happy Hour menu (the latest reservation they will take for this is 6:15pm).

We settled in and selected a wine from the Barossa Valley in Australia to start.  I started with the shrimp and corn chowder with bacon which was rich and hearty with a perfect combination of sweet shrimp and corn offset by the salt and smokiness of the bacon.  For my entrée I had the lump crab cake which was full of large pieces of crab and complemented with a roasted red pepper and sweet onion relish.  With the happy hour menu they offer a sampling of desserts which was a perfect ending.

Somehow when the three of us get together we manage to cover every topic under the sun chat for hours on end.  This time was no exception, as we did not leave until 9:00pm!  But, at no time did we feel rushed or any pressure to leave.  The servers offered us water long after we finished dinner and asked if we wanted anything else.  The Fairview Dining Room is a perfect option for an elegant evening with delicious food and great conversation!

Fairview Dining Room at Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club
3001 Cameron Blvd

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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