Archives for posts with tag: local

The Fiction Kitchen is one of the hottest restaurants in downtown Raleigh for fresh vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Not only is the food delicious, but the cocktails are inventive. Mixologist Christopher Tamplin uses local ingredients to create a variety of unique drinks at The Fiction Kitchen.

IMG_4962If you’re missing the holidays, Christopher suggests trying the Krupnikas Old Fashioned. This cocktail includes krupnikas, lemon, ginger simple, chicory and pecan bitters. After just one sip, the mixture of flavors from the spiced honey liqueur to the pecan bitters made me feel like I was sitting at home by the fireplace. The cocktail is beautifully garnished with orange and lemon peel twist. Christopher is careful in his craft, making sure every cocktail is perfect.

IMG_4966All of the cocktails at The Fiction Kitchen are seasonal. The Fiction Kitchen only uses produce that is locally grown and Christopher prefers to mix up the drinks based on the local availability of ingredients. For instance, Christopher prepares his ginger simple and ginger beer using locally grown ginger.

One drink you’ll find at The Fiction Kitchen is what Christopher calls the Saint Forgot. This cocktail includes gin, St. Germain, orange juice, grapefruit juice and lavender bitter floated on top. The Edison is also a crowd favorite made with gin, fennel simple, orange juice, lemon juice, dry vermouth and an orange slice garnish.

My favorite drink is The Dirty Beetz. Christopher’s beet simple is incredible, which is used in the cocktail along with vodka, fresh lime juice and orange juice. The vibrant colors of the cocktail and the lime and orange peel garnish are beautiful. I really enjoy this drink because the beets do not have an overpowering earthy flavor. The Dirty Beetz has even been know to perk the taste buds of beet haters! You definitely need to try this cocktail.

IMG_4968Pay a visit to The Fiction Kitchen if you’re looking for a delicious meal along with creative, seasonal drinks.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

Escazu Artisan Chocolates Retail Shop is the perfect place to visit this winter. If you haven’t paid this Raleigh chocolate shop a visit, you’re in for a real treat.

Escazu LogoPhoto Credit: Escazu Artisan Chocolates

Upon walking into the shop, you’ll be taken aback by the rich smell of cocoa. Seriously, it’s like entering chocolate heaven at Escazu. You can also watch the machines making chocolate through a glass window in the corner of the shop. If you’re like me, you’ll most likely stand in awe as you watch the chocolate spin around on an old stone wheel.

Order one of Escazu’s handmade truffles but don’t overlook the historic hot chocolate. I recently found out about the historic hot chocolate through Offline’s Winter Bucket List and I’m so happy I tried this rich, delicious beverage. I ordered the historic drink from Spain, which is based on the first published hot chocolate recipe from 1549. The hot chocolate is lightly sweetened with piloncillo, and includes vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, cornmeal, almonds, hazelnut, guajillo and pasilla chiles. No wonder the traditional Spanish hot chocolate is also a staff favorite! There are many historic drinks to choose from at Escazu.

Historic Hot Chocolate Menu
If you’re lucky, Escazu might even have homemade marshmallows to enjoy in your historic hot chocolate!

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Sip on your hot chocolate while you are surrounded by local jewelry, pottery and paintings made my artists throughout Greater Raleigh. The shop has such a great feel and you’ll feel good supporting a local Raleigh artisan chocolate shop. What a perfect Foodie activity to do this winter!

Spain Hot Chocolate
Photo Credit: Escazu Artisan Chocolates

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

Chef Regan Stachler of Little Hen Restaurant always melts my locavore heart with his innovative dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients. Little Hen Restaurant is a true farm-to-table restaurant; their meat and produce come from within 40 miles of the restaurant, and their cheese comes from within the state.

All of the tables at Little Hen Restaurant are draped with white tablecloths, and farm-fresh flowers are placed in the middle. Modern meets country elegance at the restaurant with sketches of farm animals on chalkboards decorating the walls, and shabby-chic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Even most of the wooden furniture was constructed by Chef Regan himself.

I recently decided to try Little Hen Restaurant’s brunch for the first time. In my opinion, if you’re doing brunch right, you have to start by ordering a Bloody Mary. I enjoyed the rich tomato flavor of the drink and my favorite part were the two massive olives topping the drink.

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If you’re a coffee lover, order the French press coffee. Little Hen Restaurant supports their neighbors by featuring Boogie Bean Coffee Roasters, fresh roasted coffee out of Holly Springs. Honestly, this was the most flavorful cup of coffee I’ve enjoyed at a restaurant. My trip to Little Hen Restaurant even inspired me to learn how to use a French press at home.

French Press CoffeeThe artisan board is the perfect appetizer for sharing. The cheeses are paired with different types of nuts and my favorite was the Goat Lady Dairy cheese with peanuts. The board also includes house made pickles and local charcuterie. Chef Regan visited my table to talk about each element on the artisan board. I enjoyed listening to his stories about making pickles and sourcing local products from N.C.

Artisan BoardIf you’re in need of a hearty breakfast, Little Hen Restaurant’s ham steak and eggs will do the trick. A generous piece of ham steak is topped with two farm fresh eggs and served with fingerling potatoes. Chef Regan also added a sweet element to this savory dish by including raisins on top of the ham steak. My friend, Kyle seemed to enjoy his brunch, only allowing me to steal one bite.

Ham SteakThe goat cheese, herb and tomato omelet was fabulous. Chef Regan executed this dish by creating a perfect balance of flavor between the fresh vegetables, herbs and goat cheese. The produce is extremely fresh at Little Hen Restaurant. You can see and taste the difference in Chef Regan’s food because he uses local products. Although the omelet was the star of my meal, the biscuit wasn’t just any ordinary side. The biscuit had the perfect flaky and buttery crust. The warm, fluffy inside of the biscuit reminded me of a cozy morning at Grandma’s house.

OmeletYou always have room for something sweet at the end of every meal. The homemade challah French toast with strawberries was the perfect dessert. The strawberries were a vibrant red and tasted like they had just been picked from the farm.

Challah French ToastChef Regan Stachler is talented and supportive of his local community. I highly suggest dining at Little Hen Restaurant for an excellent brunch experience. Chef Regan is also participating in Competition Dining’s Fire in the Triangle. He will be battling Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West on July 10 in this competition featuring local chefs.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Cary is rolling out their summer 2013 menu on July 3. Lucky for me, Executive Chef Jay Pierce allowed me to get the first preview during his summer menu roll out. Foodies rejoice! All of your summer favorites are back. Heirloom tomatoes, roasted peaches and banana pudding; I can hardly stand it!

Chef Jay Pierce is known in the N.C. culinary scene for using farm fresh ingredients at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. One of his favorite parts about the summer is tomatoes. Lucky 32 will feature an heirloom tomato platter with five slices of juicy, ripe tomatoes from Screech Owl Farms, Rudd Farms and other local farmers. These local tomatoes are sprinkled with sea salt, cracked black pepper and chopped green onions, then drizzled with a fresh herb vinaigrette.

IMG_5005On those cooler, rainy summer days you have to try Lucky 32’s golden tomato soup. Roasted yellow tomatoes are transformed into a delicious, creamy soup and served with a sharp cheddar cheese crostini. I highly suggest dunking the crostini in the soup.

IMG_5013Whenever I think of summer, peaches always come to mind. Lucky 32 has a delicious roasted peaches appetizer. Three peach halves are stuffed with Goat Lady Dairy chèvre and wrapped in thin slices of Benton’s dry cured country ham. The sorghum glaze adds a sweet, cinnamon flavor to the salty element of the dish.

IMG_5009The okra popcorn from Lucky 32 is quite addicting. It’s impossible to only have a few pieces. Fresh, sliced okra from local farmers is covered in buttermilk and dredged in a mixture of yellow corn flour, corn meal, salt and pepper. The slices are deep fried and served with Lucky 32’s creamy buttermilk dressing and voodoo glaze. In my opinion, summer is best appreciated with a side of fried okra.

IMG_5007Many restaurants will begin featuring chilled soups during the warm N.C. summer months. Lucky 32’s cold seasonal soup is a chilled cucumber-avocado soup. On my list of foods I couldn’t live without, avocado ranks quite high. This soup was perfect; a pureed blend of ingredients like cucumbers, avocado, garlic, red onion and cilantro.

IMG_5011If you follow my Foodie blog, you know how much I love spicy food. The Texas Pete fried shrimp dish is incredible. White wild Carolina shrimp are coated in Texas Pete, seasoned with creole spices and fried. The shrimp are served with voodoo cocktail sauce.

IMG_5021My favorite summer memory involves Grandma’s banana pudding. Family reunions and summer picnics wouldn’t be the same. Lucky 32’s banana pudding is a John Egerton, author of Southern Food, family recipe. The creamy banana pudding is topped with meringue and browned in the oven.

IMG_5033Another popular dessert that tastes like summer is Lucky 32’s peaches and cream. Buttermilk custard and fresh peach slices are served with a drizzle of sorghum and mint.

IMG_5031The summer 2013 menu will run until Aug. 20 at Lucky 32. Head over to Cary for your summer favorites inspired by local, farm fresh ingredients.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

If it’s your first time walking down the streets of downtown Raleigh, a large group of people sitting rooftop might catch your eye. Better yet, maybe it’s the downstairs patio, crowded and perfect for people watching during all times of the day. So, what attracts so many people to this place? Why, it’s the city’s “timeless local watering hole,” otherwise known as The Raleigh Times Bar. This 100 year old building sits on one of my favorite street corners in downtown Raleigh, E. Hargett St. and S. Wilmington St. Street corners are where things come to life in a city, each corner having its own story to tell.

IMG_3171The Raleigh Times Bar is housed in a building constructed in 1906. Not only does this building have such a rich history, but the owners of The Raleigh Times Bar have done their best to restore it to its original state. The building served as the headquarters for the once thriving newspaper of our city, the Raleigh Times. You’ll find old newspaper clippings throughout the establishment, as well as photographs of memorable events and Raleigh natives lining walls of the bar. Perhaps my favorite photograph is a 1912 shot of the newspaper delivery boys, which spans a twenty foot wall at the entrance to the bar.

Since this watering hole is named after Raleigh Times, the menus are designed to look like the old newspapers. You’ll find an extensive beer menu including over 50 Belgian beers. The Raleigh Times Bar also features a wonderful draft beer menu, changing daily to reflect seasonality and often featuring local N.C. beers.

IMG_4222You’ll also find a large menu with classic bar fare favorites, which serve to reflect the history of the building. The kitchen is open until 2am, perfect for late night snacking. The chefs use fresh ingredients to create their handcrafted menu items like the braised pork enchilada, beer steamed pastrami sandwich on rye and PBR battered fish and chips. The Raleigh Times Bar was recently renovated and now when you walk down S. Wilmington St. you can watch the chefs busy preparing delicious dishes in the kitchen. Beware, staring too long into the kitchen will result in salivation.

The Raleigh Times Bar is known for their pulled pork nachos among the Raleighites, also a staple of my diet. The crispy nachos are topped with fresh jalapeño, white cheddar, cojita, pulled pork, pico and sour cream. The small order is filling for one person and only costs $4.95. The nachos always pair nicely with a cold beer, no matter the time of day.

IMG_4224If you’re a Raleigh native, continue to support your local watering hole and bring your visitors to this iconic bar. If you’re new to the area or just visiting Raleigh, sit on the street corner with a beer and an open mind. Watch the city come to life over a plate of pulled pork nachos at The Raleigh Times Bar.

IMG_4223Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

N.C. is becoming home to some amazing distilleries. With Greater Raleigh restaurants continuing to support local products, it’s rather easy to find beverages concocted with local spirits. For those of you who are new to the N.C. spirits scene, I wanted to take some time to introduce you to some of my favorite places in Greater Raleigh to grab a drink. There are also wonderful events coming up in Greater Raleigh featuring N.C. spirits.

On May 10 the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh will host Arthouse 2013, a celebration for their third year anniversary and an art auction. Ashley Christensen and Scott Crawford of The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary are in charge of the food. These fantastic Greater Raleigh chefs have developed a phenomenal menu inspired by the art itself. The event will also feature well-known mixologists from C. Grace, Fox Liquor Bar, Bida Manda and Foundation making craft cocktails for the guests. There will also be a cocktail competition featuring N.C. spirits. C. Grace will be featuring a TOPO vodka cocktail and Poole’s Diner will be preparing a TOPO Piedmont gin cocktail. Purchase your tickets before the event sells out!

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The OC Bar & Grill is one of the newest establishments in Greater Raleigh dedicated to using local spirits. The OC Bar & Grill features local liquors such as, Red Wolf Vodka, TOPO Carolina Whiskey, Cardinal Gin and Junior Johnson’s Strawberry Moonshine. The drinks also include house made bitters, fresh squeezed juices and house made syrups. Their strawberry lemonade speciality cocktail includes Junior Johnson’s Strawberry Moonshine, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, basil and a lemon wedge. I can definitely see myself drinking this artisan cocktail on their patio this summer!

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The Bee Sting is one of my favorite cocktails at Sitti Restaurant. This Southern classic cocktail is made using Midnight Moon, a corn whiskey distilled at Piedmont Distillers in Madison, N.C. All of Sitti’s juices, syrups and garnishes are house made. The Bee Sting includes lemon juice, mint and simple syrup infused with honey. The best part about the drink is not only is the liquor produced locally, but the honey is directly from the hives on Sitti’s rooftop at 137 S. Wilmington St. Freshly steeped Ceylon Pekoe black tea from Tin Roof Teas in Cameron Village finishes off this perfect local and sustainable cocktail.

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Photo credit: Sitti Restaurant

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen’s Purple Jay is a delicious artisan cocktail using local products. The Purple Jay is named after the popular party punch we all drank in college and the restaurant’s Executive Chef Jay Pierce.

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Photo credit: Cary Magazine

Visit Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Cary to try this popular, fruity cocktail. Chef Jay was so kind to share his recipe with us, which is below.

purple jay recipeBe on the lookout for events at Greater Raleigh restaurants like Zely & Ritz, who hosted a liquor dinner using TOPO products. The dinner was quite a hit with Chef Sarig pairing TOPO artisan cocktails with amazing gastronomical creations. The dessert was a crowd favorite, TOPO Vodka Grapefruit Cello paired with grapefruit creamsicle ice cream. Pictured below is Just Crumb’s Carrie Nickerson crafting her take on the vesper cocktail with TOPO vodka at the Zely & Ritz liquor dinner.

IMG_4001There are so many wonderful places in Greater Raleigh serving local artisan cocktails, the possibilites are endless. Cheers, and have fun exploring Greater Raleigh!

Ryan Reid and Ryan Faircloth opened The OC Bar & Grill with the vision to provide an upscale sports bar to visitors and residents of Greater Raleigh. You’d think an upscale sports bar would come with high prices, but that’s not the case. The best part about The OC Bar & Grill is the affordable food, which is all made in house and from scratch every day. Actually, I’m lying. Everything is from scratch except for the S’mores dessert, which you make at your table over an open flame! Too cool. With over 30 televisions and every sports package imaginable, you can enjoy the big game and delicious food all in the same place.

IMG_3398The OC Bar & Grill opened its doors on Wed., Apr. 17, 2013. I visited the Ryan’s last night to talk about the new restaurant and of course, try some food. Before walking inside the restaurant, I noticed a massive patio to my right. The patio is about 1,000 square feet and can seat 75 people. I then walked into the restaurant and was blown away by the gorgeous bar and numerous televisions covering the wall. I definitely know where I’ll be hanging out more often!

IMG_3396A large part of The OC Bar & Grill’s menu includes drinks. The majority of their beers are from N.C. and I noticed a lot from right here in Greater Raleigh. Included on draft were beers from Big Boos Brewing Company, Lonerider Brewing Company, Natty Green’s Pub & Brewing and Aviator Brewing Company. The unique part about The OC Bar & Grill is that they want their customers to be happy with the beer selections. There are 16 taps at The OC Bar & Grill and 13 are up to the customers. Each Friday customers can visit The OC Bar & Grill’s Facebook page to vote for their favorite beer to be featured on tap. The Ryan’s have found that the majority of the customers are choosing local beers made right here in Greater Raleigh or N.C.

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The OC Bar & Grill also has an amazing speciality drink menu, which features local liquors such as, Red Wolf Vodka, TOPO Carolina Whiskey, Cardinal Gin and Junior Johnson’s Strawberry Moonshine. The drinks also include house made bitters, fresh squeezed juices and house made syrups. Lucky for me, Monday’s are quite a steal! All of The OC Bar & Grill’s specialty drinks are only $5, so I had to order one. After much debate over the extensive drink menu, I decided on the strawberry lemonade. This drink is perfect for the summer and includes Junior Johnson’s Strawberry Moonshine, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, basil and a lemon wedge.

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You thought deciding on a drink was hard, wait until you see the food menu. The cedar plank grilled salmon is one of the crowd favorites. The salmon is grilled, marinated and seasoned with a spicy brown sugar rub, then served with grilled vegetables and Spanish rice. You’ll find something to please everyone’s taste buds at The OC Bar & Grill. There’s a wide variety including wraps, sandwiches, wings, burgers, ribs and steak. One unique item on the menu is the fried turkey sandwich. House brined turkey breast is breaded and fried, then served with swiss cheese, house pickled jalapenos and chipotle ranch dressing on a potato roll. Every roll and bun used for the sandwiches at The OC Bar & Grill is scratch made, and you can definitely tell the difference in quality. The OC Bar & Grill also uses their smoker every day, which adds to the amazing quality and flavor of their meats.

IMG_3403I had the option of selecting a side with my sandwich, all for a shockingly inexpensive $7.99. What a deal! I was stuffed after chowing down on my side of extra cheesy macaroni and cheese topped with bread crumbs. The Ryan’s also say the fried green beans with horseradish ranch sauce are a big hit with their patrons. They’re on my list to try during my next visit!

IMG_3402If you’re looking for a sweet ending to your meal, look no further than the banana pudding brulee. This dessert is Grandma Faircloth’s recipe from the back of a Nilla wafers box with a twist. Regulars are asking for the banana pudding brulee to-go, it’s that good! You’ll definitely need a cup of Larry’s Beans coffee to pair with your sweet ending, too. The OC Bar & Grill has the capacity to make any speciality coffee drink, including mochas prepared with chocolate from Raleigh’s Videri Chocolate Factory. The Ryan’s are extremely dedicated to sourcing local products, which positively impacts the local economy and certainly my taste buds!

I encourage you to pay a visit to The OC Bar & Grill next time you’re looking for delicious, scratch made food. The restaurant is located at Oberlin Court just north of Cameron Village at 1028 Oberlin Rd. Be on the lookout for brunch, which will soon be offered by The OC Bar & Grill every Saturday and Sunday. You’ll have to try the house made Bloody Mary mix. The amazing specials are listed below:

Mon.: $5 Specialty Drinks, $2 Wells
Tues.: 1/2 Price Glasses of Wine, $1 Miller Lite
Wed.: DJ Trivia – 8pm, $2.50 NC Drafts, $1 PBR Cans
Thurs.: Live Music – 10pm, $1 Rolling Rock Bottles, $4 Fireball Shots
Fri.: $1 Fire Sale Pint – Draft beer that is coming off tap, until we run out. This week is Carolina Brewery Oatmeal Porter. $3 All Drafts.
Sat.: $2 Bud Light Draft, $5 Bombs, $2 Flush Shots
Sun.: Live Music – 10pm, $2.50 Corona, $5 Bloody Mary’s & Mimosas

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

Apr. is officially N.C. Beer Month! I’ve made it my mission as your Greater Raleigh Foodie blogger to drink at least one pint of N.C. beer every day in Apr. However, there’s more to N.C. beer than just raising your glass. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the beer world that the average person may not understand. So, I visited Chip Mims, Chief Executive Officer of Mims Distributing Company to do some investigating.

IMG_2204Mims Distributing Company is based in Raleigh and was established in 1964. Mims provides domestic, import and craft beer brands to licensed retailers in nine central N.C. counties, including Wake County. This locally owned and operated company has been recognized as one of the top distributors in the nation, receiving the prestigious High Life Achievement Award from Miller in 2007. Mims is also active in the local community and supports efforts such as the Walk for Hope and the Frankie Lemmon School.

IMG_2202I entered Chip’s office located at the Mims Distributing facility on 8605 Ebenezer Church Rd. Superheroes lined the walls and bookshelves in Chip’s office, with a large portrait of Superman next to his desk. Chip is inspired by superheroes, which he believes are “better versions of ourselves.” I made myself at home in this newly-renovated, sustainability-focused facility. Chip told me that Mims has one of the largest private solar rooftop systems in Wake County, which offsets about 30 percent of the building’s energy needs. The facility wins many awards for its many sustainability features, such as the retention pond pictured below.

IMG_2208We began discussing beer and it was amazing to learn about the economic impact of N.C. beer distributors. Some interesting statistics include:

  • The total economic impact on N.C. from its 78 beer distributors annually is valued at more than $1.3 billion, including more than 9,000 jobs paying more than $514 million in wages.
  • The efficiency of N.C.’s wholesale beer distribution process (transportation, transactions, marketing and consumer choice) produces more than $607 million annually in added economic benefits to the state.
  • The annual total taxes collected in NC by federal, state and local governments from beer distributors – more than $289 million – are sufficient to fund 12,069,026 teacher hours or to maintain 9,587 miles of highways in the state for a year.

Chip also discussed the beer trends that residents and visitors of Raleigh can expect to see in the near future. He believes that more flavorful beers are here to stay. Many people also select beers while at a restaurant or bar because they recognize particular craft breweries. N.C. beer drinkers embrace this diverse industry, which has attracted large breweries to establish a home in our state like Oskar Blues and New Belgium.

Another trend that Mims has even bought into is growing your own hops. N.C. breweries have begun growing hops, which are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. I’ve even seen hops growing on the walls at Big Boss Brewery in Raleigh!

IMG_2207Chip was ecstatic to tell me more about Foothills Brewery. Mims is responsible for expanding the Foothills Brewery market and many of their beers are now available at retail stores throughout Greater Raleigh, not just at bars.

IMG_2206Mims is a successful, locally owned business contributing to the economy of N.C. Chip Mims loves beer and encourages you to drink N.C. beer to celebrate N.C. Beer Month this Apr. Anyone can get a feel for what Mims does by checking out their website as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages. The sites are updated regularly with information about their brands and what’s going on at Mims. Mims reps are also out and about in Greater Raleigh at different events, and would be happy to answer any questions people have.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

Dean’s Seafood Grill and Bar is Cary’s new home for fresh seafood and oysters. The menu changes weekly with fresh catch options sourced from top notch providers all over the U.S. and even N.C. You can also enjoy a variety of specialty oysters shucked and served to perfection. Not only can you enjoy delicious seafood, but Dean Ogan, owner of Rocky Top Hospitality, wants you to be educated on the fish you are eating. The menu includes information about where the fish came from, what kind of flavor it has and other interesting facts. If you’re really curious, some of the fish arrives to the restaurant with the name of the fisherman and boat along with the ocean coordinates explaining where the fish was caught. Talk about fresh!

Aimee, director of corporate relations for Rocky Top Hospitality, and I started off our meal at Dean’s with a speciality cocktail. I enjoyed the pomegranate and guava martini, made with Tito’s vodka, Pama Liqueur and cranberry juice. My cocktail was beautifully garnished with guava foam and an edible flower.

IMG_1652I will forever have dreams of the Prince Edward Island mussels. The mussels were tender and served with chorizo and fresh tomatoes in a Harissa-butter and wine sauce. The grilled ciabatta was crunchy and soaked up every last drop of the delicious, mildly spicy sauce. I highly suggest ordering the Prince Edward Island mussels for an appetizer to share.

IMG_1654Aimee and I debated on what to order; the entire menu looks amazing! After much debate, I decided on the pan seared Scottish salmon. Scottish salmon from northern Scotland produces a superior flavor and texture compared to its Atlantic brethren. This salmon is higher in fat content with a leaner muscle, making this fish what’s considered, “the best in the world.” For my accompaniment I ordered the Harissa garlic butter, which included excellent spices like chili, cumin and coriander. Each fresh fish entree is served with an accompaniment and two sides. The brie and roasted tomato macaroni and cheese was phenomenal and extra cheesy. I am a huge fan of Brussels sprouts and these were tender and roasted to perfection.

IMG_1655Aimee ordered the pan seared N.C. trigger fish, which was a generous portion. This locally caught fish was accompanied by grilled zucchini and mushroom risotto with a fresh tomato jus. Trigger fish has a mild, sweet flavor and Aimee seemed to enjoy her dish.

IMG_1656We had to sample one of Dean’s original homemade desserts to finish our phenomenal dinner. After much back and forth between the white chocolate banana bread pudding or something chocolatey, we agreed on the peanut butter brownie cake served with chocolate ganache. The cake was extremely rich and velvety. If you are a peanut butter and chocolate lover, this cake is for you. Make sure you have someone to help you successfully demolish the huge portion!

IMG_1660For those of you who aren’t a fan of seafood, don’t fret. At Dean’s there are plenty of options like steaks, ribs, pastas and more. The restaurant is family-friendly or perfect for a date night. The walls are even lined with photographs of Dean’s fishing excursions in Alaska. You’ll definitely feel at home and amongst good company at Dean’s Seafood Grill and Bar in Cary.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

The décor at Lilly’s Pizza is funky and will definitely grab your attention the moment you walk inside the dimly lit restaurant. Honestly, what other restaurant in Greater Raleigh has a plastic Santa Claus sitting on their counter year round?

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The antiques come from all over Raleigh, including downtown’s Father and Son Antiques and estate sales. Lilly’s Pizza houses a window from the oldest African American Church on New Bern Ave. in Raleigh, which was built in 1852.

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The restaurant has also collected unique items from places outside of Greater Raleigh. You’ll find an antique mirror in the corner of Lilly’s from a 19th century home in downtown Manhattan.

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Food standards are taken seriously at Lilly’s Pizza. An eclectic group of people ranging from a family of four to punk rockers have made Lilly’s Pizza their home since 1993. Three musicians originally opened the restaurant as a delivery and carryout pizza joint in the space of a former biker bar. People from the surrounding neighborhoods started bringing lawn chairs to Lilly’s Pizza to socialize and enjoy pizza pies. Over time, Lilly’s Pizza transformed into an actual restaurant with tables and chairs. The restaurant is still locally owned and continues to produce a product that is time-tested and true. The people of Raleigh also agree. Lilly’s Pizza has won Spectator and Indy awards for the best pizza in the Research Triangle Region from the beginning.

Jon Garrison is now the owner of Lilly’s Pizza. He is serious about buying local and organic ingredients for his restaurant. Since 1993, Lilly’s Pizza has been using certified organic, whole wheat flour from Lindley Mills in Graham, North Carolina. Jon frequents the farmers market where he met the owners of Melvin’s Gardens in Wake Forest, the supplier for Lilly’s Pizza’s fresh herbs. No wonder the certified organic tomato sauce is so flavorful! All of the vegetables are sourced from Blue Sky Farms in Wendell and are mostly organic. Jon prides himself on providing a product to his customers that is locally sourced and delicious. The restaurant takes the extra step to support farmers and give back to the community. They even support the North Carolina beer industry. I’ve had a few Lonerider Sweet Josie Browns and Duck Rabbit Milk Stouts during my numerous visits to Lilly’s Pizza.

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Jon understands the challenges of being vegetarian and vegan. He was vegan for one year and vegetarian for about six years. Jon estimates that over half of his customers are vegetarian or vegan. With eight vegan pizza sauces and over 40 vegan toppings, no wonder the clientele frequents Lilly’s Pizza. Not only is Lilly’s Pizza cognizant about vegetarianism and veganism, but the restaurant provides gluten free pizzas made from Bob’s Red Mill flour.

One of Jon’s favorite pizza pies is The Aristocrat because of the flavor of the roasted vegetables. This vegetarian pizza pie is made with high quality, extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, cremini mushrooms, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, roasted organic tomatoes, roasted organic yellow onions, roasted potatoes and parmesan. Mr. Green Jeans is another great vegetarian option with a plethora of fresh, organic vegetables. The best part about Lilly’s Pizza is that any vegetarian pizza pie can be made vegan. Customers can request their pies, as well as the calzones and stromboli,s to be made with Daiya vegan cheese. I ordered the vegan Buddha pie, which includes extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, baby spinach, sharp cheddar, organic tomatoes, organic zucchini, kalamata olives and Daiya vegan cheese. I’ve never eaten vegan cheese on a pizza and I was shocked! I couldn’t tell a difference.

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If you’re not in the mood for a calzone, stromboli or pizza pie, Lilly’s has other healthy options. Their salads are massive and sure to satisfy your hunger. The most popular salads are the Bantam Weight and Red Hot Rooster. Jon’s favorite is the Spinach Salad with ginger soy dressing and homemade croutons. The Roasted Veggie Salad and the Tofu Salad are great vegan options when requested without cheese. All of the dressings are homemade and many are also vegan. Pair a salad with a bruschetta appetizer and you have a delicious meal. The bruschetta includes five pieces of Lilly’s dough topped with a homemade sundried tomato pesto, fresh mozzarella, organic tomatoes and fresh basil.

You’re encouraged to be creative at Lilly’s Pizza. With over 70 pizza toppings, you can honestly come up with any pizza pie! Jon has customers who order pizza pies with sardines and mandarin oranges. Give Lilly’s Pizza a try next time you’re at Five Points in Raleigh. I guarantee you’ll be back!

Written by local Foodie, Kristen. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter!

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