Includes: Iris (at the North Carolina Museum of Art), Aladdin’s Eatery and a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Lamb soup, risotto, pumpkin muffins, tailgating … ahhhh, fall, my favorite season.
Okay, okay, so middle eastern pizza doesn’t quite conjure the tastes and smells of autumn like the other references do, but I’m including it anyway.
Why do I never remember that Iris is a definite contender for one of the Triangle’s finest restaurants? Maybe because it’s located inside the state’s art museum.
Don’t let that deter you — make sure it remains on your must-dine-there list. It’s pretty awesome.
I enjoyed my Friday-night dinner there even more than my earlier lunch visit. The slightly dimmer evening lighting warmed the ultra-modern, mostly white decor a bit. And the first-Friday live music in the background added a nice touch.
If anything, the dinner menu is even simpler than the lunch menu. A few midday offerings remain, while several evening specials are added. The brief menu has something for everyone, spanning the price and complexity spectrum from a burger to sophisticated seafood entrees, with nothing more than $20.
I’ve had plenty of lamb stews, but soup? Iris’s was, thank goodness, not as heavy as a traditional stew, leaving plenty of room for my entree. The light-yet-flavorful broth was flecked with small, tender bits of lamb, red beans, kale, cheese shreds and scallions. Very satisfying.
My entree was a lemony farro risotto featuring broccolini (a current darling of the vegetable world), crisp-fried leek slivers and parmigiano-reggiano. Thanks to the farro, it felt far less evil than traditional creamy risotto. I’ve only become friendly with farro over the last couple of years. It reminds me a little of barley — nice texture and taste.
Tailgating and muffins
The next morning mom and I spent several hours getting pumped up for college football with my friend Nancy and her die-hard UNC compatriots. Let me tell you, these folks know how to tailgate. Carolina-blue canopies, chairs, cups, accessories and decor — even a pumpkin! — marked our primo top-of-the-bell-tower-parking-deck spot (that a few in our group had claimed at 7:30 a.m.)
It was my first breakfast tailgate experience. What fun! Traditional treats like cheese and crackers, popcorn and peanuts were joined by breakfast favorites such as biscuits and made-to-order, cooked-on-the-grill omelets. (Would you prefer real eggs or heart-friendly substitute? Bacon? Sure! Which of these finely diced, fresh veggies would you like? How about a little heat — try the jalapenos. With or without seeds, your choice …)
I made some ultra-easy, very tasty pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for the occasion. Here’s the recipe. I followed reviewers’ suggestions for making them a bit healthier — replacing some of the oil with unsweetened applesauce, reducing the amount of sugar and using a combination of whole wheat and regular flour (more whole wheat than regular).
I find many of today’s grossly oversized muffins to be dense and far too sweet. These were light in texture, a beautiful color and delicious. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll have one with a glass of milk as soon as I finish this post …
And finally, Aladdin’s Eatery just down the street from me is one of those restaurants I take for granted, and thus haven’t yet blogged about. I have several favorites, one being the pita “pitza” pictured here. The thin pita crust and lack of cheese make me feel lots better about indulging in pizza. The savory, tangy toppings include falafel chunks, tomatoes, yellow banana pepper rings, parsley and a drizzle of tahini.
Not quite as delicious as L’as du Falafel’s sandwiches in Paris, but a close second …