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If you’re planning a visit to Greater Raleigh, one of the most luxurious hotels I recommend staying at is The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. Luckily, The Umstead Hotel and Spa caters to Foodies. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s new discovery series, Artisan Confections. Its new pastry chef, Evan Sheridan will be featuring cooking demonstrations, tastings and industry intel.

Sheridan_Evan_84A6781The first event of the Artisan Confections series is on Sept. 14 from 3-4:30pm and will feature special guest Hallot Parson of Raleigh’s Escazú Artisan Chocolates. During this event, Chef Evan and Hallot will cover more information about “bean-to-bar” practices while attendees sample delicious chocolates, including Escazú’s newest micro-batch creation, “1631.” This new chocolate was inspired by the first-known chocolate drinking recipe, originating in Spain.

barsThe Artisan Confections class will include a demonstration of The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s coveted Crème Brûlée recipe, which is a crowd favorite at its restaurant, Herons. This recipe features Escazu’s goats milk chocolate. The best part about the class is that you get to ask Chef Evan and Hallot questions while sampling from an indulgent display station of chocolates, assorted desserts and Champagne.

The Artisan Confections series will continue with special events for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and more. Each class is $55 inclusive of tax and gratuity. If you’d like to attend one of these great Foodie classes, make reservations by calling 919.447.4000.

If you’re looking to cool off on a summer day in Greater Raleigh, I suggest paying a visit to the Kona Ice of Raleigh truck.

The Kona Ice truck is brightly colored and hard to miss on the streets of Greater Raleigh. With more than 80 amazing flavors of Hawaiian shaved ice, there’s something for everyone on the truck. The great part about treating yourself to this cool dessert is that Kona Ice is dairy and gluten-free with only six grams of sugar per serving. Plus, you can make your own flavor combinations using Kona Ice Truck’s Flavor Wave System.

IMG_1243I enjoyed combining two of the flavors to create a strawberry margarita Hawaiian shaved ice. The hardest part was deciding what to order! There are many flavors ranging from cotton candy to wedding cake. You’ll definitely find something to enjoy.

IMG_1245I suggest checking the Kona Ice truck’s calendar on its website to see where they will be serving up these delicious treats next. The truck serves Raleigh, Wake Forest, Cary and Knightdale. Also, visit the Kona Ice store at Triangle Town Center & Commons just outside of the food court. The hours are Tues.-Sat. from 1-8:30pm, Sun. from 2-6pm and they are closed on Mon.

Grab a friend and visit Kona Ice for a sweet treat. The delicious Hawaiian shaved ice treats will certainly allow you to beat the heat this summer in Greater Raleigh!


Let’s face it, sometimes you just need a burger. The Station on Person St. in Raleigh will certainly brighten up your Mondays with its $5 burger special.

Last Mon. I decided to give this burger a try. The special includes a double-patty burger with lettuce, tomato and onion. Plus, you have the option of adding sliced cheese, cheese spreads, bacon and other condiments. The burger also comes with a side of housemade chips or potato wedges.

After enjoying a brew from Raleigh’s Lonerider Brewing Company at The Station’s outdoor bar, my burger arrived. The presentation was perfect; a burger served on a wooden cutting board along with a mason jar filled to the brim with potato wedges.

With wide eyes and a hungry appetite, I went in for my first bite of the burger. Delicious! The juicy patties were cooked to perfection and I liked the soft, slightly toasted bun. Of course, I finished the whole burger and may have left one potato wedge standing.

If you’re looking for a great burger along with a fun atmosphere, definitely pay a visit to The Station. I’m a fan of the outdoor bar, especially during the summer months.


Bittersweet is one of downtown Raleigh’s newest dessert bars, serving up delicious sweet treats and stiff drinks. If you’re looking for a fun place to go out in downtown Raleigh after dinner, visit Bittersweet. Bittersweet is open for dessert, cocktail and coffee service starting at 5pm, Wed. through Sat.

Bittersweet also recently announced that they have a coffee window, which is open Mon. through Fri., 7am-1pm. Now you can order a cup of coffee from the sidewalk! Bittersweet features a full espresso bar, drip coffee, iced coffee, tea and morning pastries like organic blueberry muffins, cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and banana bread.

Of course, I had to check out Bittersweet. Bittersweet features an all-natural, seasonal menu with drink and dessert pairing specials offered regularly. They are also committed to sourcing locally and have a great N.C. beer menu, wines, champagnes, seasonal cocktail selection and more.

IMG_1476Upon entering Bittersweet, I noticed that the atmosphere definitely fits the mood for the perfect after dinner spot. The bar has dim lighting along with minimal seating, which creates a sense of intimacy for Bittersweet’s visitors.

IMG_1484I suggest ordering desserts and drinks to try amongst your table. The desserts are baked in-house daily by owner, Kim Hammer of bittycakes and Bittersweet’s in-house bakers. I tried the derby pie, which includes bourbon, pecans and chocolate.

IMG_1480Of course, the cookie platter was my absolute favorite. This dessert plate is perfect for sharing and gives you an excellent sampling of Bittersweet’s desserts. The platter includes a sea salt cookie, homemade Oreo and everything bar. At least one of the cookies is sure to satisfy any palate.

IMG_1479Pay a visit to Bittersweet in downtown Raleigh next time you’re looking for a sweet ending to your evening paired with a great cocktail or cup of coffee.

If you’re visiting downtown Raleigh, I encourage you to take a stroll through one of my favorite spots. Don’t miss Raleigh’s beautiful cobblestone street located in historic City Market. This street is charming and always takes me back in time. What you might not realize is that it’s been 100 years since City Market has actually served its original purpose as a market.

city-marketThanks to Raleigh City Farm, local farmers and City Market, Raleigh City Farmers’ Market launched this summer. Raleigh City Farm and other local farmers will hold the market every Wed. from 4-6pm under the awnings of Cobblestone Hall.

Raleigh City Farmers' Market
Not only will there be a variety of locally grown produce and artisan foods, but the market features art vendors, live music and culinary demonstrations from Greater Raleigh chefs. The Raleigh City Farmers’ Market is a great way to meet other Foodies and people involved with local food in the Greater Raleigh community. You can talk to chefs about how to cook with local ingredients and plan to make one of their market demonstrations at home.

Chef demo 1Along with the great market activities, Raleigh City Farmers’ Market offers a wide range of goods from locally baked breads to seafood. Vendors include Chapel Hill Creamery, Kailyard Farm, The Grange, Endless Sun Produce, Understory Farm, Old Milburnie Farm, Boulted Bread, Color Fields, Coon Rock Farm, Walk Ahead Farm, Moonflour Baker, Locals Seafood, Double T Farm, Crude Bitters and Sodas, 5th Season and Following the Field.

Make plans to visit the Raleigh City Farmers’ Market to interact with vendors, try delicious samples from chef demonstrations and pick up local ingredients for your next snack or home cooked meal!

Chef demo

Loi Le is the owner of Pho Vietnam in Cary, N.C. He has traveled the world, served in the military and owned more than six restaurants throughout the U.S. Loi moved to Greater Raleigh with his wife about nine years ago. After longing for traditional Vietnamese cooking and quitting his day job, Loi started Pho Vietnam about one year ago.

Pho VietnamPho Vietnam is located off Buck Jones Rd. in Cary, across the street from the Grand Asia Market. Loi takes great pride in his restaurant’s food because nothing is ever frozen and he uses fresh ingredients. His recipes are reminiscent of the delicious food you will find in Vietnam. The menu includes traditional dishes and one of the crowd favorites is the Phở Bò, a delicious beef noodle soup. Loi explained to me that Phở is a typical breakfast food to eat in Vietnam because it’s so hot during the day.

PhoOne of my favorites at Pho Vietnam is the Bánh Mì sandwich with BBQ pork. The sandwich is topped with vegetables including fresh cilantro, cucumber slices, jalapeño, shredded carrots and daikon. The bread is flaky and has a perfect amount of crunch when you bite in the sandwich.

Banh mi sandwichAnother great option is the Bún Thịt Nướng. This dish is filling and includes delicious pieces of BBQ pork over vermicelli noodles with shredded carrots, daikon, cucumbers and cilantro.

Pork BunNo matter what you get at Pho Vietnam, the food will be delicious and follow traditional Vietnamese recipes that Loi Le has brought to Cary from his hometown.

If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious lunch or dinner, Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro is the perfect option. Nawwaf Said, owner of Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro, recently opened his newest location off Walnut St. in Cary. He has lived in Raleigh for the past 20 years and enjoys sharing his Lebanese food and culture. The restaurant’s name comes from “Jasmin” the Middle Eastern flower known for its simple beauty. Also, Nawwaf previously owned a restaurant in the area called Aladdin’s, so Jasmin is an ode to his last venture.

IMG_1592Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro’s menu offers a blend of both Greek and Lebanese cuisines with dishes made entirely from scratch. There’s something for everyone on the menu ranging from kabobs, gyros, chicken shawarma and many other great dishes. Plus, if you’re a vegetarian there are numerous options like Greek salads, hummus, grape leaves, falafel and more.

Jasmin PlatterUpon entreating Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro, you’ll notice that all dishes are made to order. Simply order and go through the line as your plate of food is prepared fresh right in front of you. There also are refreshing drinks that you won’t find at other restaurants like Lebanese tea.

Nawwaf SaidNext time you’re in the mood to try a new type of cuisine, pay a visit to Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro. With four locations in Greater Raleigh, Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro is easy to access for a quick, delicious meal.

It’s almost the Fourth of July and Greater Raleigh’s breweries are celebrating with special beer releases. So, hurry to the breweries and let’s celebrate!

Carolina Brewing Company brews a small batch of something special every year to celebrate its anniversary. This weekend, Carolina Brewing Company will be celebrating its July 3 anniversary at 42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill by releasing the Imperial IPA. This N.C. beer is hopped in the kettle with Columbus, Magnum and Cascade hops and then dry-hopped with more of the same and an added dose of Centennial hops. You can expect a citrus, pine, floral and herbal aroma and taste from the hops. There is just enough malt character to hold it all together. This is a limited release beer and for the first time will also be available in bottles. It is 9.1 percent ABV and 95 IBU.

Over in Holly Springs, Bombshell Beer Company is doing “Four Firkins for the Fourth.” Visit the taproom to enjoy four unique beers. The Patriot Blue IPA is one of the offerings, which includes its Lost My Way IPA on local, farm sourced blueberries. The Firecracker Pilsner will certainly kick off your Fourth of July with “Red Hots” infused into its Polished Pilsner. The third N.C. beer offering is the Cracker Jack Ball Game Porter, which is Bombshell Beer Company’s Pick-up Line Porter infused with caramel and Nutella. Lastly, the Sons of Liberty Stout will be offered, which is its “Sweet” coconut stout dry hopped with Sorachi Ace hops and vanilla bean infusion.

Gizmo Brew Works will celebrate the Fourth of July weekend by releasing a truly unique brew. Gizmo partnered with Dr. Anne Madden at to produce a new version of The Palisade Wasp IPA, one brewed not with the standard Cali. ale yeast, but with an entirely new strain never before used in production brewing.

Dr. Madden’s doctoral research at Tufts University focused on the microbes associated with paper wasps. From the body of a paper wasp, she isolated a wild yeast strain that just happened to love maltose. Dr. Madden cultured the new yeast strain and sent it to Gizmo Brew Works, where it incorporated it into its flagship IPA. This special release of The Palisade Wasp IPA really will be a wasp IPA! Nicknamed the “Wild Wasp,” this one-of-a-kind brew maintains the crisp sting associated with Gizmo’s IPA but is enhanced by the orangey sour tang imparted by the wild wasp yeast. The “Wild Wasp” will be available for a limited run at Gizmo’s taproom beginning July 5. Select draft accounts in Greater Raleigh will also carry the new brew.

Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing is excited to release its Freedom American IPA on the Fourth of July. It will be available July through Oct. in bottles and draft. Freedom is Natty Greene’s all-American IPA. Big and bold, it’s all about the hops. Natty Greene’s use a lot of hops in every stage of the brewing process, starting with the mash and lautering, all the way through to dry-hopping. Natty Greene’s also has re-designed all of its beer packaging, so Freedom will have a new label and six-pack for this release.

Freedom IPACheers to the Fourth of July! Enjoy a cold N.C. beer and have fun this holiday.

It’s officially summertime in North Carolina! If you’re looking for the perfect spot to cool off with great food and beer, pay a visit to Boylan Bridge Brewpub.

Since 1997, architect Andrew Leager has operated a cabinet shop located in the lower floors of the building that houses Boylan Bridge Brewpub. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys brewing his own beer, which is why he took on the operation of a brewpub. Boylan Bridge Brewpub brews fresh N.C. beer directly on-site. During your visit, make sure to check out the brewing operation, which is visible from the indoor bar.

I highly suggest grabbing a pitcher or pint of beer while sitting on the outdoor patio. The patio overlooks a beautiful view of the downtown Raleigh skyline, which is an amazing sight to see, especially if you’re visiting Raleigh for the first time. I enjoying lounging on the patio during the evening because the skyline seems to sparkle at night.

IMG_7428Boylan Bridge Brewpub has a variety of N.C. beers. From the Hopped Off the Tracks IPA to the Pullman Porter, there is a beer style for every palate. One of my favorite beers to enjoy during the warm summer months is the Endless Summer Ale. This light-colored English summer ale has bright hop flavors with a strong yeast presence reminiscent of wheat beers. It’s perfect to sip on during a hot summer day in Raleigh.

10172707_10152299078299367_1865083646_nAlong with beer, Boylan Bridge Brewpub also offers a full menu. One of my favorite experiences at Boylan Bridge Brewpub is ordering a pitcher of beer along with a few appetizers. If you go with a big group of friends you can easily polish off a pitcher and appetizers ranging from the Choo-Choo Chicken Wings to the Hand Car Nachos. There are also a variety of entrees available and I highly recommend the Cannonball Run, an angus short rib burger, with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese, served on a toasted bun.

There’s something for every Foodie and craft N.C. beer lover at Boylan Bridge Brewpub. Make sure to check out this brewery located in the heart of Raleigh with beautiful views of the skyline.

If you’re on the hunt for an ethnic food experience in Raleigh, pay a visit to Taqueria El Toro off Tryon Rd. Located in a small shopping center next to El Toro Supermarket, this taquería is truly a hidden gem.

Upon entering Taqueria El Toro, you’ll notice award-winning bulls decorating the walls and peach-colored walls. Walk up to the counter, place your order and get ready for some serious eats!

Photo Credit: Dave Horne

Photo Credit: Dave Horne

Taqueria El Toro has a large menu filled with options like tortas, sopes, tacos, gorditas and burritos. There is also a wide selection of different types of meats to choose from like azada, tripe, carnitas and more. Another great part about the menu is the drink selection including Coca-Cola from Mexico, a variety of Fantas and the traditional horchata drink.

Place your order at the register and in a matter of just a few minutes your number will be called. After receiving my tacos, I visited Taqueria El Toro’s condiment bar. The condiment bar has everything you can image like pico de gallo, guacamole, pickled carrots and onions, hot sauce, fresh limes, cilantro and more.

IMG_1285After loading my tacos with delicious condiments, I sat down to enjoy my carnitas and azada tacos. The meats were well seasoned and my only regret was not ordering more! I definitely suggest visiting this traditional taquería the next time you want delicious Mexican food in Raleigh.

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