Joy by the Pound

Every couple of weeks The Kid and I take a trip to Chapel Hill.

First, we visit Café Driade.  We have an inviolable routine.  The Kid gets coffee and I get their transcendent hot chocolate.  We grab a table on the back patio.  And, we share half a fresh baguette with butter and strawberry jam.

But, it’s not something that we can do every time.  If it’s raining, won’t work.  If they’re out of bread, butter, or strawberry jam; nope.  No hot chocolate?  No can do.  And if it’s too hot outside; game over man.

But I’m telling you, sitting there, licking jam off my thumb or burning my tongue on my cocoa, I feel Frencher than Brigitte Bardot wearing a beret and eating a plate of Al’s fries.  It’s a precious little jewel of a time for both The Kid and me.

tres chic

Tres Chic!

We then head over to Trader Joe’s for groceries.  If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend it.  Before heading back to our own neck of the woods, we stop at Whole Foods for a little gourmet, organic splurging.

First, a sample of gelato in the prepared food section.  That’s the part of the store that gets us into trouble.  It doesn’t matter if we’re hungry or stuffed; we want everything.

That hot bar’s the toughie.  Not only does it all look delicious, we package it up ourselves.  That’s a recipe for disasterous sticker shock at the register. My mom says that when I was a kid I’d, “eat with my eyes, instead of my stomach”.  Which means that if you serve yourself, restraint and judgment fly out the window, and you take way more than you can eat.  Or, in my case, take waaaay more than I should eat; ‘cause honey, I can eat it; I just shouldn’t.

And the item that so often leads to my downfall is the cauliflower mac and cheese.  It’s unctuous and delicious.  This stuff also really reheats well; unlike regular mac, it doesn’t separate into a sad, greasy, unappetizing mess.

This could make a girl lactophobic.

Because I always inadvertently buy at least $10,000 worth, and my local Whole Foods doesn’t usually carry it, it’s problematic for me.  So, I finally asked Chef Alec how they make this stuff, and he told me.

The really neat things about this recipe is the cauliflower makes the sauce go further with very few calories and no fat.  Also, if you have cauliflower-phobic diners, they will never know it’s in there.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheesecauliflower mac1 pound ridged macaroni, cooked al dente and drained

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets and steamed until very tender. 

Place cooked cauliflower into food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth.

Cheese Sauce:cauliflower mac sauce¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 ½ cups skim milk

4 cups shredded cheddar

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt butter in large heavy pot on medium.  Whisk in flour.  Pour in milk, whisking constantly until it begins to bubble.  Add mustard.  Stir in cheese a bit at a time, until it melts, then add more until 3 cups are in, reserving last cup.  Take off heat.

Add pureed cauliflower and stir until combined.  Put in cooked pasta and mix through.  Season, taste, and re-season if necessary.  Pour into greased 3-quart casserole dish.  Place any leftovers into individual dishes for solo dining.  Cover with foil.Bake for 40 minutes, uncover and top with remaining cheese and bake 20 more.  Let sit 10-15 minutes before service.  Serves 8-10.

This mac would be a great addition to Easter dinner.  And if going to someone else’s house like me, this a terrific dish to bring.

Or stay home, eat it your pajamas, and Netflix & chill.Thanks for your time.

Contact Debbie at

So very proud in Durham

Cumulatively, in my entire life, I don’t think I have been thanked as much as I was yesterday afternoon.

Caution: Subject may appear way nerdier than he actually is.

I hung out with Maxie, one of my oldest friends.  We met in high school.  Doing the math yesterday, we realized we’ve been friends for thirty-seven years.  He is basically the nicest guy on the planet–I’ve never even seen him cranky.

Maxie and his husband Mark were at Durham Pride.  Pride is a weekend of activities celebrating, advocating, and supporting the LGBT community.  Through their church, Calvary United Methodist, they would hand out bottles of water to parade participants.  I joined them.How to describe the scene?  Well, imagine if colors, glitter, and feathers had rained from the sky, and this rain not only coated everyone, but made everybody it touched into best friends.  The air was thick with love and fun.  It was a grand example of the brotherhood of humanity.  I felt lucky to be there.


In our shade-less spot it was hotter than deep-fried fire.  We were passing out bottles of water as fast as we could.  I’ve no idea how many bottles went through my sunburned paws, but in return for each and every one I received a giant smile and heart-felt thanks.

This was my favorite float in the whole parade.  If I live to 1000, I’ll never be as fabulous as the sisters.

We ran out at least twice, and volunteers made a run to Harris Teeter.  By the end, 2100 bottles had been handed out.  And I had a blast.

Afterward, the three of us were famished, so we walked up to Dane’s Place (754 9th St) for lunch.  Everybody ordered cheeseburgers, and nobody was disappointed.  They have about twenty possible toppings, so our every whim was satisfied.  I had cheddar, grilled onions, and tomatoes, slathered with way too much mayo, just the way I like it.  They also have a really good fountain Coke, and the best tater tots in town.


Here I am in Dane’s, the filling in a man sandwich.  Check out that glitter on Mark.

After lunch, I ran a couple of errands on the way home.  First I hit Whole Foods.  After that meal there was no way I was making a big dinner for Petey and myself, so I picked up one of my spouse’s favorite dinners from their grab and go section.

That man loves Whole Foods burritos.  His traditional fave has been chicken adobo.  But recently it’s been AWOL and in its place they’ve had chicken mole.  Mole’s a complex sauce with seeds, nuts, spices, and usually some unsweetened chocolate.  From the way he devoured it, I don’t think he misses the adobo one bit.After that stop I was starting to hanker for chocolate.  Since I calculated that during my stint as water girl I’d worked off forty or fifty pounds, I headed to one of my favorite stops for sweet self-indulgences; Parker and Otis.

Luckily for my waistline, fate had different plans.

They had many gorgeous, delicious-looking treats on offer (six kinds of cupcakes, blondies, brownies, and assorted cookies), but they also had my favorite P&O summer-time treat: fresh corn and tomato salad.  They cut the fresh corn off the cob in big pieces and mix it with assorted small tomatoes, red onion, and parsley, all tossed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  Instead of sweets, I bought a half pound of summer salad.  But I could happily eat a bucket of it.While I was waiting for the salad to be packaged, I wandered around their autumn and Halloween displays.  Store owner Jennings Brody has curated a seasonal collection which includes everything from mallow pumpkins (my personal favorite) to very exclusive hand-crafted chocolates. If you need a dose of either sweets or fall inspiration, Parker & Otis is one of the best spots in Durham.  Regardless of the temperature outside, you’ll leave with the rustle of fallen leaves in your head, and the desire for a cozy sweater to wrap around your shoulders.So, although yesterday was an entirely new experience and one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time, it was also a typical day in Durham.

Because even though Pride is only one weekend each September, our Bull City is an off-beat, charming mix of diversity, acceptance, and friendship, with a generous helping of delicious, unique food every single day of the year.

I just love this twisted little burg.

Thanks for your time.