Spring fever

Includes (in Raleigh, NC): The Pit, Hereghty Heavenly Delicious, Gigi’s   

Oh my god do I have spring fever! And boy, does it scare me, because I know this string of 70s days is a tease — the cold isn’t quite gone yet.

But in the meantime, I’ve taken full advantage by enjoying four al fresco meals over the last few days. I’d like to tell you about a couple of them, plus an eaten-indoors sweet treat and a cool new (to me) website.

On Saturday two girlfriends and I ate on the front patio of The Pit.

(Side note: The Pit is always a mob scene, especially on beautiful days when many, many diners covet the few outdoor tables. Luckily, our friend Tobi got our meeting time wrong, arrived an hour early and snagged us a table after a 45-minute wait. Tip: Prepare to be patient.)

Live in the Triangle area and haven’t been yet? What are you waiting for?! Planning to visit Raleigh? Make sure to put The Pit on your itinerary for some authentic Eastern North Carolina ‘Cue. (Plus a few other BBQ styles as well.)

“Pitmaster” Ed Mitchell — originally from Wilson, N.C. — uses only free-range, North Carolina pigs, which I certainly appreciate. Think of The Pit’s grub as traditional Southern with an upscale twist. For instance, not plain ol’ cornbread, but pumpkin skillet cornbread with maple butter. Fried green tomatoes … with buttermilk lime dressing and fresh basil.

The Pit has been lauded by Southern Living, Bon Appetit, Gourmet (R.I.P.) and The New York Times, and Ed Mitchell beat Bobby Flay on an episode of Throwdown.

I’ve heard good things about the barbecue — of course — and the fried chicken and meatloaf. But what I go to The Pit for is Ed’s barbecued tofu plate with grilled veggies.

Don’t laugh. Even non-vegetarians and tofu-haters like it. The tofu is the “formed” kind that some Asian restaurants use. I hate to say it, but the look and texture are kind of like chicken! I’ve had it a number of times and it’s always outstanding. The accompanying grilled veggies are awesome, too, and change with the seasons. My plate on Saturday included scallions, thin-sliced sweet potato, tomatoes and thick-sliced zucchini.

One of my other outside meals this past weekend was at Hereghty Heavenly Delicious, a wonderful local patisserie and cafe.

Hereghty’s story is a bit convoluted. It was once owned and run by two brothers. One was the pastry chef, and made delicacies that were so beautiful you almost hated to eat them. Almost. But they tasted as heavenly as they looked. Excellent coffee, a nice selection of wines and sandwiches, salads and soups rounded out the simple but high quality menu. I ate there often. Far too often.

Well, from what I understand the brothers had a falling out of some sort and the pastry maker left. Alas. The food began to suffer the consequences and I stopped going.

I think, if I’m remembering correctly, the shop even closed for a short time. It’s open again and it must be under new ownership. I hadn’t been in quite awhile but decided to try it today, and I’m glad I did.

Hereghty’s soups were always tasty, and I was happy to see a cup-of-soup-and-half-a-panini combo on the menu. My carrot ginger soup was perfect — thick (often this type of soup is very thin) and not too heavy on the fresh ginger. The panini was equally delightful. I often find focaccia too thick and bland, and overwhelming to whatever it’s sandwiching. Hereghty’s is thinner than most and perfectly textured. In between the toasted slices were asiago cheese, tomato, spring mix, good olive oil, shallots and lemon juice. Light and flavorful.

Best of all, I brought home a day-old (just $1) chocolate chip-orange scone. I was addicted to them at the original Hereghty’s. I even tried to make them at home but couldn’t duplicate them successfully. After the first pasty chef departed, so did my favorite scone. I’m thrilled they’re back.

I’m saving it for after dinner, butI took a bite to compare to my memories. I’m sure the fact that it’s yesterday’s pastry doesn’t help. It’s yummy, but doesn’t quiet reach its former splendor. Still, I’m looking forward to eating it later. I love that orange+chocolate combination.

I visited a chain over the weekend. I know, I know. BUT … I can’t not check out the new cupcake place in town. (I’m not wild about Glenwood South’s offering.)

I have never seen such exquisite-looking, over-the-top cupcakes than those at Gigi’s! And the variety of flavors (they change daily according to a set menu) is crazy. I had a very difficult time choosing, but finally took home a tiramisu cakelet.

The amount of frosting on top was obscene, and I scraped a good bit off into the trash. But when I tasted what was left I was sorry to have thrown any of it away! The cake was Kahlua flavored with a center of cream cheese, and the frosting was Kahlua and cocoa. Holy moly, it was a good, moist cupcake. And there are many, many more flavors left to try.

And finally, have you heard of foodspotting.com? (I’m sorry I can’t add a link — I’ve specified Raleigh as my location and wordpress does something wacky with the link.) It’s a cool website where “foodspotters” upload photos of individual dishes or items they like from a restaurant or food shop. I think it’ll be great when I’m traveling to see what dishes folks think are fantastic, instead of just restaurants recommended in their entirety. (Of course I signed up to be a foodspotter!)

What lovely weather. Today the high hit about 78 degrees, and I wore my first short sleeves of the season. The feeling of the fresh air on the bare skin of my arms was almost as delicious as all the tasty food I’ve sampled recently.

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About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
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