Friday, March 12, 2010

Eating On the Road - Day 5: My Brother's Keeping Me Fed

It has been more than a year since I saw my brother Greg who lives in North Carolina. He usually makes a trip back to Michigan at some point during the year, but last year he just couldn't get away. The last time I went to NC to see him was almost ten years ago, so I really looked forward to seeing him. And, like traveling anywhere, the best advice of where to eat can always be found from someone who lives there, so Greg had a few places in mind that he wanted to share with me and Ralph. (Pictured: Ready to eat - Ralph, Greg and Jon)

Ralph, Greg, his partner Jon and I began the day going out for breakfast at a local diner in the neighboring city of Burlington called the Burlington Diner. It's one of those places that look small from the outside, but once you walk in you're amazed by the size. They definitely do a brisk breakfast business, and there was plenty of both southern and Yankee standards to choose from.
(Pictured: The diner's "regular" order of pancakes)

I'm convinced that there is something different about the coffee in the south. I'm not talking about Starbucks (you actually don't see nearly as many down here as in the Midwest) or other chains. I mean the coffee that is dispensed at diners, truck stops and other local places. It has a little sharper edge to it - it's darker but not in a French roasted way. Maybe some use chicory in their coffee, but to me it tastes bolder but not burnt. And all the sweet tea! Love it! (Pictured: Eggs and savory patties of sausage)

Breakfast was great - everyone enjoyed what they had and we spent more time talking and catching up than we did shoveling the food in our faces. But, that's what these kinds of things are all about.
(Pictured: Waldorf salad, broccoli, fried Whiting and seven layer salad)

After breakfast, Greg took us into Chapel Hill to do a little shopping. There's a couple of great food/cooking stores there. One of the stores, A Southern Season, blew me away with their selection of cooking gear and gadgets, candies, cheeses, wines and prepared foods. Incredible! I could have spent hours looking around that store. We picked out a couple of bottles of "un-oaked" wine (wine that is fermented in stainless steel instead of oak barrels - very different - bright, crisp notes), some cheese and candy.

While we were at the candy counter, there was a big display of handmade truffles made by a candy maker from Raleigh, NC. As I was talking to Ralph, a man behind the candy counter approached me and said, "You have to be from the Midwest with that accent!" I said, "I'm from Detroit." He said he was originally from Wisconsin and those were his truffles being featured. His name is Reginald O. Savage, a retired Philosophy professor from NC State who named his line of fine chocolates, "Azurelise," after his daughter, Azure Elise. We talked about working at a university, and how he got into making candy. He offered me a sample of one of his truffles, and I knew I needed to take a box to-go. I asked him what his favorite was, and he said he particularly liked the Chocolate Julep, which is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. That's all he needed to tell me. I immediately put a box in my cart!

Well, after all this shopping and candy conversations we worked up a little appetite, so Greg took us to a K & W Cafeteria, which was located next to the shopping center. Wow! How come we can't have these back home? I remember a time as a kid when we would go to these kinds of cafeterias. I always loved it because you could get exactly what you wanted, essentially creating your own entree. So, if you wanted salad and coconut cream pie for dinner, you could have it! (Pictured: hush puppies, pintos, creamed corn, golden fried chicken)

There were literally hundreds of choices on the line, and on the other side were people standing by asking, "What would y'all like?" I really had to hold back because I wanted to try everything. The first thing I got sucked into was hush puppies, which I never have in Detroit because no one offers them. At K & W, they were four (about the size of ping-pong balls) for 40 cents! How can I go wrong?? Add to that a couple of pieces of friend chicken (dark meat), creamed corn, beans and a cup of good southern coffee and I called it lunch. The pies along brought a tear to my eye. They had a lime chiffon pie that stopped me in my tracks. If I wasn't busting at the seams after lunch, I'd go back and get that pie. Regrettably, I was completely stuffed after lunch. (Pictured: Greg and Ralph enjoy the spread at K & W)

We had barely worked off breakfast and now it was time to work off lunch. We rolled out of the K & W Cafeteria and loaded into the Town & Country. Destination: Pittsboro, NC. The rain was starting to come down, but we had a nice ride in the van and enjoyed seeing more of the area with its rich, red dirt coming through the dormant winter grass. Pittsboro isn't a very big town, but like so many other towns we've been to along the way it's rich in history and there's a lot of wonderful architecture. In the middle of town, there is a round-about with a statue to the Confederate Soldiers in the center. The hot spot in Pittsboro is a place called the S & T Soda Shoppe. Another place lost in time, this soda fountain/diner is filled with antique soda and drug store fixtures. They have about 30 flavors of ice cream, some I had never seen before. They also serve soup and sandwiches. (Pictured: Inside the S&T Soda Shoppe in Pittsboro, NC)

We kept telling each other how full we were, but we couldn't just sit in the soda shoppe and drink a glass of water! So, Greg ordered a hot fudge sundae (just one scoop) and I ordered a pimento cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. I've heard a lot about pimento cheese and have seen people making it on the Food Network, but I've never had it. Now, I never want to live without it! (Pictured: Greg is very happy he ordered this sundae)

Greg's sundae was made with coconut ice cream and hot fudge and came with extra spoons. We passed the pimento cheese sandwich around and declared it delicious! After we finished, we headed back to Greg's where we'd break open the un-oaked wine and spend some precious time together. (Pictured: the pimento-cheese sandwich was a melt-in-your-mouth delight!)
What a great day!
(Pictured: a good cup of coffee)

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