A Tale of Three Cities

My folks just got back from Pittsburgh.  Dad’s from there and they went up to visit his sisters.  They drove and stayed at his big sister’s house.

They came home a day early.

When we were kids and took vacations, we always stayed with family.  Our sojourn would turn family out of their beds, find us sleeping on the floor occasionally, and line up for the bathroom.Now when Petey and I go out of town, even to see friends and family, we stay at a hotel.  Everybody has a happier visit.

But not everyone has the time to go away for days or weeks, or can afford multiple days at the Friendly Arms.

A day trip is a terrific way to go interesting places and sleep in your own bed afterward.  I’ve chosen three places that are close enough to do in one day, and have great food and unique things to do.From east to west;

Durham.  The Bull City has enjoyed a renaissance, and if you haven’t visited lately, you owe it to yourself to go.  Downtown has the Durham Bulls Ball Park, Central Park with its Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon farmer’s market, and the Carolina Theater, with both indie movies and live entertainment.

Can you even?

Shopping is terrific downtown.  Vert and Vogue has unique, beautiful clothes.  If you love gorgeous fashion, but have limited funds you must stop at Fifi’s on Main.  Chet Miller has unique items and thoughtful gifts.  It’s owned by Jennings Parker, who has an awesome aesthetic, and also owns one of the best lunch places in town; Parker and Otis.When you get hungry, try Elmo’s Diner, Toast sandwiches, and Watts Grocery on Broad St.  If you’re feeling indulgent, try the Cupcake Bar or The Parlor, for amazing made in-house ice cream.Greensboro.  Try the Greensboro Science Center or the Greensboro Children’s Museum.  For a scary good time, take the Ghost and Vampire walking tour.  Elm Street downtown has numerous cool little independent shops, including a bookstore that serves beer.  There are numerous parks, including Bur-Mil with tons of attractions, including a working grain mill.Friendly shopping center has plenty of mall-type stores and also some nifty locally owned businesses, including one of my very favorite kitchen stores, The Extra Ingredient.Grab some eats downtown at Crafted, an artisan taco stand/burger joint.  And right down the street is my newest, most delicious find; Cheesecakes by Alex.  They’ve got around twenty different cheesecakes, but I beg you, try the lemon/blueberry layer cake with yummy buttercream.  Two other eateries I recommend are Monterrey Mexican (try the street style carnitas tacos), and Jam’s Deli, with awesome sandwiches and one of the best restaurant potato salads I’ve ever had.Boone/Banner Elk area.  Mast General Store in Valley Crucis.  You can easily spend a day here and need to come back again.  At the corner of Highway 105 and Broadstone is The Ham Shoppe.  These guys will put together a terrific picnic for you.  Plus they have lots of local treats like cake and mountain made butter.Blowing Rock is an adorable village that’s better experienced on foot.  Tons of shops and great places to eat.  Plus, there’s a Kilwyn’s with all the fudge and ice cream that implies.  Their blue moon has been my very favorite since childhood.

Blue moon, or more correctly, blue bubblegum makes me as happy as the kinda creepy face in the ice cream.  It’s a good thing I don’t get to Kilwin’s very often.

In Banner Elk you must get a meal at the Banner Elk Café.  Good food and nice folks.  The best activity in the high country is just to drive around.  You never know what the next bend in the road will bring.Thanks for your time.

Random stuff I discovered and wrote down in 2015 Part 3

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been relating excerpts of a food log that I kept throughout 2015.  This week will conclude with September through December.

September 14th– The Kid and I braved rush hour traffic and drove over to Cary this afternoon, and finally visited La Farm Bakery (4248 NW Cary Pkwy).

The reason we made the journey is because I really love to go by their stand and grab a loaf of sourdough at the “Got to be NC” festival in the spring.

Boy, am I glad we went.  It’s always nice when something lives of to the hype, and La Farm did not disappoint.  It’s a very French looking space in a generic strip mall.  Not only a bakery, they are a café, and coffee shop.  Everything’s fresh and fragrant.  One of the sides they offer for their menu of hand-crafted sandwiches are house made potato chips.  It was almost worth the trip just for that, but they also have various flavors of French macarons.

October 25th– It’s the fair!

This year I got to go twice, and got in free both times.  At the request of Lisa Prince from the NC Agricultural Department, I judged a couple specialty cooking contests.  It was a crazy amount of fun, and totally new for me.

Lisa Prince and friend.

Even though the novel holds much appeal, I’m delighted that some things never change.

Al’s French Fries: Without a doubt, the best fries at the fair.  Yeah, yeah, your fancy frites and duck fat fries are great, but there’s nothing better than stumbling through the midway, burning your tongue because those salty, crispy pieces of heaven are just too darn good to wait.fair-fudgeAll-American Fudge:  Located in the same spot every year at the end of the hobby and craft building, smiling faces will greet you and weigh out piles of fudge in old-timey cast iron scales.  Whether your first stop on the way in or your last on the way out, nobody anywhere does fudge like these guys.  I’m just grateful they only come around once a year.

Every couple of years the names changes, but the wooden barrels and the delicious root beer doesn’t.  Regardless whether they come as Pappy’s, Max’s, or your great-aunt Helen, those aluminum tankards of icy root beer are always as good as you remember.

November 16th– When I worked at Bosco’s bookstore at Woodcroft Shopping Center back when The Kid was elementary school, I grabbed dinner there every few weeks.  But it’s been years since I enjoyed the food at Hong Kong Restaurant (4711 Hope Valley Rd).  Recently though, after a doctor’s visit Petey and I went in for take-out.

I was hoping that my favorite dish, chicken mei fun was still on the menu.  In another win for stability, they had it.  It’s a sort of fried rice dish, made with veggies and scrambled eggs, only instead of regular rice grains, it’s made with rice noodles.  And although other restaurants will say they have it on the menu, many use regular wheat noodles instead of rice; which is just all kinds of wrong.

Actually, this is beef mei fun…still yummy, though.

Hong Kong makes is right.  It’s really yummy, and you get a take-out box so full it almost won’t close for about six bucks.  It’s enough food for three very filling meals for me.

December 17th– Went up to Greensboro for my mom’s annual Christmas cookie decoration party.  As always, we had lunch at their favorite G’bo eatery, Monterrey Mexican #29 (3724 Battleground Ave, Greensboro).

The first time I ordered tacos there I was very disappointed to get the hard u-shaped grocery store taco shells.  But I was ordering the wrong item.

This time I ordered tacos Mexico style.  Was rewarded with three fresh corn tortillas stuffed with the absolute best carnitas I’ve ever had the pleasure to devour.  The meat was as silky as a prom dress.  I’ve recently decided it will be my final meal.  It’s that good.

December 30th– Tomorrow night make some fun inconsequential resolutions so that it doesn’t matter when you break them.  And try to enjoy 2016.


Thanks for your time.