Includes: Poole’s Diner and La Farm Bakery, Raleigh, NC; link to Pasta Ponza recipe
Last week, a dear but long-time-no-see friend and his fiance — whom I’d yet to meet — drove from Greensboro to Raleigh for a concert, and we met for dinner at Poole’s Diner.
I wasn’t surprised that they chose Poole’s, both — like myself — being foodies. And I was ready to give the restaurant another chance.
The darling of media outlets such as the New York Times and Bon Appetit, chef-owner Ashley Christensen enjoys quite a reputation.
I went several times when she first opened Poole’s a few years ago, both for dinner and brunch, and was underwhelmed. I appreciated her use of fresh and local products, and the food was good — but, in my opinion, not stellar.
Before I met Sean and Victoria on Thursday, I checked out reviews on Yelp. Poole’s has many Yelp devotees, but others were griping about the small servings and high prices.
I was very curious to see if this time the experience would live up to the hype.
I’ll say right up front I had a fabulous evening. The company was great, and the night got off to a fantastic drinks start. To my surprise and delight the beer menu featured an offering from my favorite Dublin brewpub, the Porterhouse.
You’ve got to admire any beermaker who brews stouts and porters in the country where Guinness was born and still rules. My favorite is the Porterhouse’s Plain Porter. I wasn’t crazy about the Oyster Stout when I tried it on the other side of the pond. It’s actually brewed with oysters, and I swear I could taste it. But maybe exporting it to the U.S. required a wimpier recipe. I couldn’t detect any taste of bivalve and enjoyed it just fine. It was worth the $9-per-bottle price tag for pure sentimental value.
I had one appetizer and two sides for dinner. All three were pretty large, so Christensen must be paying attention to those Yelp reviews.
My “devotion” corn side with oyster mushrooms and sherry was quite tasty.
The diner’s famous mac and cheese was huge — obviously meant to be a table-shared side dish. It was crazy-rich and had a nice cheesy crust on top, but was a little salty for my tastes. (Leftovers the next day, however, seemed less so. Can someone please explain that science to me?)
The verdict? Liked it better than before. And as Victoria said, “I’d come here again.” But it still didn’t knock my socks off. Maybe the hype just makes me expect too much …
What a fun wedding I experienced this weekend! Many of the attendees were boyhood pals of the groom’s from up north, and I had the honor of chauffeuring three of these young Jersey boys back and forth from the hotel to the backyard pig pickin’ rehearsal dinner. Very entertaining. They were thrilled with the whole, split hog, and took plenty of photos. The banana pudding was also a big hit. The car was filled with their groans at the end of the evening, and they asked if we ate like this all the time!
The couple’s love of nature was obvious, from the simple but beautiful bouquets and vases of flowers to the posy cupcakes.
Breakfast with — and dinner inspired by — Kathy
My hiking pal and roomie from last year’s Italy trip was an attendee at the wedding, and on Saturday morning we went out to breakfast and then to a couple of local farmer’s markets.
I’ve enjoyed La Farm Bakery’s breads in local stores and restaurants plenty of times, but never its Cary cafe. The atmosphere is quaint, the portions perfect and the food delicious. Kathy and I shared a bread basket that featured toast (crusty and perfect), a blueberry scone, a flaky croissant, butter and raspberry jam, and we each had a two-egg cheddar, tomato and avocado omelet.
Later at the Rebus Works market I bought a little basketful of figs, and Kathy reminded me about a fantastic appetizer we enjoyed in Tuscany that I’d forgotten all about.
So tonight while my cherry tomatoes were roasting I halved the figs, topped them with shards of pecorino romano, drizzled them with honey and savored each and every bite.
So then I couldn’t help running around the corner to grab a bottle of Chianti to drink with my Pasta Ponza — a Giada de Laurentiis dish Kathy suggested I make with the tomatoes. Excellent!
Never mind that by the time I sat down to sup the Thistle and Shamrock show was on my local NPR station. In my book, there’s not a thing wrong with being serenaded by Irish tune-age while eating Italian food …
Thanks for the recommendations, Kathy. Slainte and salute!