Archive for April, 2010

404 W. Chatham St, Cary, NC

The Havana Grill in downtown Cary is a great outdoor spot for lunch.  The food is cafeteria style.  Everything is out for you to look at, and I usually get an entree and 2 sides for $6.45.  Of course they also have the Cuban sandwich, which is my husband’s favorite.

Fried Flounder with Yellow Rice, Red Beans, Bread, Flan and Cookie

Today I got the fried flounder with yellow rice and red beans.  I also got some flan to share, and a cookie.  They usually serve 2 pieces of fried bread along with the meal for free.  Previously I’ve had the sliced roast pork with onions, black beans and rice, and cuban fries.  Everything I’ve had here has been very good.  The only issue would be the food temperature.  Because everything (except the sandwiches) are pre-made, sitting under heat lamps, sometimes the food may get a bit cool, and not taste as fresh.  The fish would have been absolutely perfect if I was able to get it straight out of the fryer, instead of being the second-to-last piece left on the hot plate.  But you can’t have too many complaints for food that’s so cheap and quick.

My husband always gets the Cuban.  It’s made with real Cuban pressed bread, sliced pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.  The Cuban fries are always crunchy and tasty, but as with the fish, there’s a problem with temperature.  I’ve never had the opportunity to eat the fries when they’re fresh out of the fryer, and I’m sure they’d be better that way.

Cuban Sandwich

The desserts are always good here.  I’ve had the three milk cake before, which is delicious and rich.  It reminds me a bit of tiramisu, but without the coffee flavor.  Today we got the caramel flan which was also very rich and creamy, and big enough for two people to share without feeling cheated.  The cookie I got for my son, and unfortunately he didn’t like it much.  It was 2 very dry, flower-shaped sugar cookies coated with powdered sugar, with some caramel-type stuff in the middle which glued them together.  I didn’t mind it but it wasn’t as good as their other desserts.

The atmosphere at this restaurant is very casual.  The plates and utensils are plastic, the cups are styrofoam, and the seating is just cheap metal chairs and tables.  The inside is usually pretty crowded, especially in cold or hot weather, but we usually only try and go here when it’s nice enough to sit outside anyway.  The outdoor area is roomy and comfortable, with shade, and has lively Cuban music playing throughout the eating area.

I haven’t been here for evenings, but I’m told they’ve got live music and the bar outside is actually active.  Seems like a really nice place to socialize, though the tables aren’t big enough if you’ve got more than 4 people.

Overall the casual outdoor seating and cheap meals makes for a great lunch place. Havana’s has a website at http://www.thehavanagrill.com/ if you’d like to check out the menu before you go.

Havana Grill on Urbanspoon

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I love making cheeseburgers with a fried egg.  The only probably with these is, they usually fall apart because the fried egg is so slippery.  My solution is to make the egg part of the bun, as sort of a “french toast” hamburger bun.  This retains the eggy goodness, while not making the burger too slippery to eat.

For one burger, you will need:

  • hamburger bun
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp milk
  • hamburger patty
  • cheese slice
  • 1 leaf of green leaf lettuce
  • 2 slices of yellow tomato
  • 2 tbsp. mayo
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili paste

First take an egg and break it into a shallow plate.  Add the tsp of milk and whisk it with a fork until it’s an even, frothy yellow color.

If you haven’t cooked your patty already, set that up for cooking as well.  I won’t go into the instructions for that, since it’s pretty easy to cook a hamburger patty.  Either grill it if you’ve got a grill around, or cook it on medium heat in a skillet until it’s your preferred doneness.

Your bun will be cooked at a medium-low heat, lower than you would cook the meat at.  When your skillet is heated, dip only one side of the hamburger bun in, not both sides. If you try to cook the “round” part of the bun your bun won’t look very good in the end.  Make sure your pan has enough oil in it so the egg doesn’t stick at all.  I prefer to use butter, or a mixture of peanut and sesame oil.

When the bun is done cooking, it will look a lot like french toast. 

If you time it right, you should make the bottom bun ready before the meat and the top bun.  I like chili mayo on my eggy burgers, so that’s what I’ve done here.  First spread it on the bottom bun, then add the tomato slices and lettuce.  The yellow tomato is used because the sweet, mild flavor tames down the spiciness of the chili.

Put the hamburger patty and cheese on the lettuce, and then your top bun should be done as well.  I put chili mayo on both buns, but you can use ketchup, mustard, relish, or whatever you like.  Then eat up while it’s still hot!

You Can See Its Insides!

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Tyler's Taproom in Apex

Tyler’s has some pretty good bar food.  The chicken fingers with honey mustard is great with some beer, the fried pickles are surprisingly awesome, the fries are great if you love garlic, and their other appetizers are pretty good as well.  They also make some pretty good burgers here.  The only problem is, most of their other entrees aren’t all that good.  Most recently I tried the ribs with the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.  The ribs weren’t cooked properly, so I needed a knife to cut them off the bone, and the ends were so hard they couldn’t even be cut.  The fries with it were good, the beans had some delightful little bits of crunchy bacon in them, and the coleslaw was very soggy and flaccid.  It may have helped a bit if they had the coleslaw in a separate dish instead of just throwing it under the ribs, but the core sauce was bland so it wouldn’t have helped much.  I’ve been to the Tyler’s in both Durham and Apex many times, and for both of them I’d say the entrees aren’t cutting it.  I’ve tried the french dip, the pear salad, the fish and chips, but I have to keep coming back to the burgers.  They only seem to do the burgers and appetizers well.

The reason I keep coming back to Tyler’s is for the beer.  They have a wonderful selection of beer, and you’ll never run out of things to try.  It was at Tyler’s where I first tried the Kasteel Rouge, and began my love affair with Belgian Beer.  They also have the Lindemans Frambois (raspberry lambic), Chimay, and Delirium, as well as many others I haven’t had a chance to try yet.  They have beers from all over the world here, so even people who don’t like beer are sure to fine something they do like.

Tyler’s has a 20’s speakeasy vibe, with the woodwork, tin beer ads, and jazz music playing in the background.  They have private rooms for parties and other group functions, which makes it an ideal place for after work gatherings.  The Durham location has some excellent outdoor seating with a good view of the American Tobacco Campus.  The Apex location has outdoor seating as well, but no good view of anything.  I haven’t been able to visit the Carrboro location yet, and I hear they’re opening up a Tyler’s in Raleigh soon as well.

Tyler’s is at the southern end of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, and at the Beaver Creek Commons (west, past the movie theater) in Apex.  Their site is here: http://www.tylerstaproom.com/

Tyler's Restaurant & Taproom on Urbanspoon

Tyler's Tap Room on Urbanspoon

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The Weathervane restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC

The Weathervane is A Southern Season’s connected cafe.  The first few times I visited A Southern Season, I thought the attached restaurant looked very small, and probably only served coffee and pastries.  But actually going in and eating there today, I discovered the menu is very diverse, and the restaurant is fairly large, able to seat about 200 people inside, outside and upstairs.

I made reservations for three at 12:30pm on a Saturday.  It probably wasn’t necessary to make reservations, but I didn’t see many open seats when we showed up.  We were seated immediately.  Shortly after, we ordered drinks.  They have a wonderful selection of coffees, teas, juices, wines and cocktails.  I wish I had tried the hibiscus mimosa, it sounded interesting.  Maybe next time.  I just got the flavored ice tea of the day, peach, and I chose “sweet”.  I should have picked “unsweet”, as it was really sugary.  My husband got a coke and my son got an orange juice.

The restaurant was very accommodating for our son, offering a reasonably priced kids menu with lots of good options for him, and some crayons.  The kids drinks are served in the same glasses as adult drinks though, so if you’ve got a younger child you may end up having to hold it for them a lot.

Our drinks were brought to the table in a reasonable amount of time, and then we ordered the food.  There are different menus depending upon whether it’s lunch or dinner, weekday or weekend.  We were there for Saturday lunch so most of the foods on the menu were either breakfast type, salads or sandwiches.  We got the grilled baby lamb chops as an appetizer, my son ordered the kid’s french toast, I got the classic eggs Benedict, and my husband ordered the grilled rib-eye steak sandwich with sweet potato fries.  It was really tough to decide as there were so many great foods on the menu, and when I go back I’ll make sure to try the artisanal cheese plate or the seared scallops.  Everything sounded so appetizing!

We were brought three soft, warm bread sticks as an appetizer, and a small plate of olive oil to share.  The bread sticks had some lovely aromatic herbs on them and they were delicious.  The baby lamb chops arrived soon after.  There were three very small lamb chops on the plate, with some peas, pearl onions and mint sauce.   The peas and onions weren’t particularly good but I suppose they might just be there for decoration.  The lamb chops were tender and tasty, but very tiny, and I wondered if perhaps the cheese would have been a better choice.

The kid’s french toast was served next.  I like it when restaurants serve the kid’s food first, as it gives me an opportunity to cut it all up before my food arrives and most children don’t like waiting.  The serving size was 4 half-slice triangles of very large french toast bread, with a small cup of butter and a small cup of syrup.  It’s was more than enough for a 4-year-old, though he certainly tried.  He liked it so much he probably ate about 3 of the 4 triangles, and wanted so badly to have room for the last.  I was able to taste a couple pieces, and I thought it was very good.  Definitely worth the $3 for the kid’s plate.

Classic Eggs Benedict

About 10 minutes later my husband and I got our food.  The Hollandaise sauce was really well done, with a creamy, yet tangy flavor that really added to the overall dish.  I had made eggs Benedict way back when, as a short order cook, but I’m ashamed to say the restaurant I worked for always used a powder mix for the Hollandaise.  It wasn’t until years later, when I made my first Bearnaise, that I learned what the difference was between a powder mix and a real egg/butter emulsion.  The Weathervane makes the real deal, and you can tell.  The eggs were perfectly poached, and the canadian bacon was also very good, but probably could have been sliced a little thinner so as to better balance with the eggs and english muffin.  The muffin wasn’t dry toasted, it seemed to be pan fried with butter, which in my opinion is the absolutely best way to make this dish.

The sides were a cheesy hashbrown casserole and fresh fruit salad.  Casserole is one of my dirty words, and since I don’t like my cheese cooked or my hashbrowns soft, this wasn’t going to be a favorite of mine.  I’m sure it’s appealing to many though.  The fruit salad was a nice way to end the meal.  All the fruit was free of bruises or other defects, and all very fresh tasting.  I was pleased with the amount of blueberries included, usually most restaurants try to be cheap and serve mostly melons.

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries

The grilled rib-eye steak sandwich didn’t come out looking that good.  Frankly I don’t think there’s a lot of ways to make cooked tomatoes and caramelized onions look especially appetizing, so perhaps this sandwich should have been served closed.  I didn’t have an opportunity to taste the sandwich myself, but I’m told it was a bit bland, and could have used either more steak sauce, or a stronger sauce.  He ate the whole thing so it must have been fairly good.  I tried a few of the sweet potato fries and they were perfectly cooked.  I really liked the fries, and would definitely get them again when ordering a sandwich.

The service was decent at the restaurant.  The server wasn’t overly friendly or attentive, but it seemed very busy.  The atmosphere was more distinctive than most restaurants in the triangle, as it all seemed specifically designed from the start to be for The Weathervane and Southern Season.  We were able to get in and out of the restaurant in just over 45 minutes, which is good if you’ve got a young child, or if you’ve got a short lunch break.  I’ll be coming back here in the future to try more dishes, since there’s so many others that sound really good.  At $11-$13 a plate for lunch entrees it’s a bit on the pricey side, but the $3 kid’s entree balanced that out.

The Weathervane is in the University Mall in Chapel Hill, connected to A Southern Season.  You can make reservations online and view the menu on their site: http://www.southernseason.com/cafe.asp

The Weathervane on Urbanspoon

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A Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC

My first experience with A Southern Season was through their gift basket orders.  Our first year in North Carolina, I ordered Christmas gift baskets for my parents and the in-laws which featured NC-specific foods, such as cheese straws and Moravian spice cookies.

Then, on a trip to a Chapel Hill shopping center, I discovered that there actually was a physical Southern Season store, and that there were a delightful amount of European foods I could find there.  Ever since spending a semester in Bonn I’ve gotten tastes for certain chocolates and candies that can’t be found in most places in the US, as well as some of the soft cheeses.

A Southern Season also has a small restaurant called The Weathervane connected to the store, though I haven’t had an opportunity to visit it yet.  In the future I’ll give a review of this restaurant.

When you first enter (from the outside, not the mall side) you’re greeted by a wonderful scent of various coffee flavors.  I would love to buy their coffee sometime if we ever get a coffee machine that is not a Keurig (single cup serving).   They also have many teas, but I usually just drink pretty cheap tea.  That’s one thing you need to know about A Southern Season.  It’s pretty easy, without realizing, to rack up a $200 food bill when you start just grabbing things without looking at the price.  There are some very expensive items in this store.

Then they usually have a seasonal section along the next left wall corner, which features rum cakes much of the time, and around Christmas you’ll find all sorts of Stollens.  I love the Cherry Marzipan Stollen, which is something like a cross between a coffee cake and a fruitcake.  They also feature various liquor cakes (Kalua, Strawberry Daquiri, ect), pound cakes, panettone (very dry Italian cake, usually has raisins), and other boxed baked goods.

On the right as you proceed through the store, there will be cooking supplies.  I’ve picked up pancake molds (they have a star one for making star pancakes), assorted meat pounders to make nice, thin tonkatsu or schnitzel, aprons, and Wüsthof knives.  Again, everything here is quite pricey, but I’ve always been satisfied with the equipment I’ve purchased.

On the left as you go through the store, you’ll see the pastries.  I’ve had pastries at Guglhupf in Durham that are better, and less expensive, so I usually skip these.

My favorite part is the cheese section.  They offer all different kinds of cheese, and the selection rotates over time so you’ll always be able to find something new.  My favorite cheese is the triple creme brie called Fromager d’Affinois.  This is also offered in a herb variety which I haven’t tried yet.  I also like the Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and the Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc.  The Fromage Blanc is excellent for cooking.  Sometimes in this area they also feature items such as fig cake and quince paste, each are wonderful to try at least once.

I’ve always skipped their deli/meat section, though certainly if I ever need prosciutto, this would be the place to buy it.  The kitchen supply section continues to the right for a while.
Next up on the left will be the chocolate section.  I love the Ritter Sports from the time I spent in Germany, and occasionally they’ll offer some Côte d’Or chocolate as well.  They sell some truffles as well, though I haven’t tried any yet.

Further on through the store will be the cookies and candy section.  I’ll usually get some Dare maple cookies from Canada, which always remind me of road trips to Ontario, and some Moravian spice cookies.  They come in so many different flavors now.  They’ve got some Haribo gummi candies, though not my favorite, Tropi Frutti.  I’ll settle for some of the raspberry gummies instead.

The wine here is pretty expensive, though if the mood strikes I’ll spring for some Niagara Icewine.  It’s hard to find elsewhere.  The rest of the store I pretty much skim through, since many of the other food items offered such as mustard from England and sauces from India, I can find elsewhere for cheaper.

Again, it’s a very expensive store, but when you’re craving some good brie there’s just no place else in the triangle to go.  It’s also a good place for me to buy holiday boxes for my family in Wisconsin, since they like a lot of ethnic German food.

A Southern Season is located in the University Mall in Chapel Hill, NC.  You can visit the site at http://www.southernseason.com/

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I’ve been to China Town Chinese buffet several times, usually before or after movies at the Park Place cinema in the same lot.  Though I usually don’t eat too much at buffet-type places because I always over-eat, this one is worth it every few weeks or so.

Dim Sum

The restaurant atmosphere is pleasant when you first enter, but the seating area is rather cheap and crowded.  After ordering drinks, you just grab a plate and start loading up.  The different sections offer various Asian varieties such as traditional Chinese, soups, dim sum, hibachi, and sushi.

Sushi Bar

The sushi is sub-par and I wouldn’t recommend it.  They don’t use any of the higher-end fish (yellowtail is my personal favorite, they have never served it) and most of the rolls are tiny and poorly constructed.  However it’s a good opportunity for those new to sushi to get to know the types and flavors, and to begin to learn the process of eating sushi in a non-formal environment.

The hibachi isn’t too great either, but for a buffet it’s not too bad.  Certainly if you’re looking to get hibachi alone, you could do better at a Japanese steakhouse.

Hot Chinese Food

The dim sum here is why I keep coming back.  Not only do they have favorites like BBQ pork buns and peach buns (in the shape of peaches but actually contain red bean paste, like mochi), but they also offer some traditional and lesser-known Asian fare that most Americans wouldn’t get the chance to try otherwise.  I feel bad not remembering the names of half the things I try, but it’s always exciting for me to try new foods.  This section of the buffet never disappoints.

Cold Section

There are usually 3 soups offered, an egg drop soup, hot and sour, and wonton.  The hot and sour is decent, but the egg drop and  wonton are pretty bland.  The soups are basically a conduit to eat the crispy noodles that are offered nearby.

Between the soups and the Chinese dishes is the steamed rice.  Most people miss this the first time around.  Since the restaurant is always pretty packed and busy, the hot dishes never sit out too long.  Most of the veggies like the beans or broccoli don’t get soggy too fast, and everything is hot and fresh tasting.  I usually get the General Tso’s chicken.  It’s not very spicy, but still pretty good.  Towards the end of this line is the spring rolls, egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce.  The egg rolls have gotten better since the first time I tried them, and the spring rolls are also decent.

They also offer a few “American” foods such as macaroni and cheese, salad, apple pie and other assorted things for the picky eaters.  I’ve tried the apple pie and it’s good, but I don’t come to a Chinese buffet to eat mac n’ cheese and salad.


Last is the dessert section.  They usually offer cream puffs, flaky pastry cookies, frosted nuts, small cakes, and Napoleons (a kind of custard pastry with frosting on top).  I grab one of everything and try it all; the pastry cookies are my favorite.

China Town is located at 9601 Chapel Hill Rd, near the intersection at Cary Pkwy.  It’s in the same lot as a Food Lion and the Park Place Cinema.  Reservations aren’t needed unless you have a huge party (20+).

More Desserts

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