Saturday, June 6, 2015

Gocciolina lives up to its hype

A group of us recently had the chance to eat at Durham's Gocciolina for the first time.  We'd heard a lot of hype about the Italian eatery, most notably its selection by N&O food reviewer Greg Cox as the best restaurant of 2014.  Having now sampled quite a few selections from its menu, I am happy to report that its food is indeed excellent.  (I still would not have picked it for best restaurant, but at least Cox chose a strong contender.)

Gocciolina does an excellent job of using mostly local ingredients to create Italian dishes.  We sampled nearly half of the small antipasti choices on offer the night we were there, and every single one was at least tasty, and most were delicious.  To my surprise, my favorite was the fava bean crostini, a rich and flavorful paste on a perfect house-made crostini.  (The restaurant makes almost everything it serves; the night we were there, the exception was a local Robiola cheese they were wisely featuring unadorned, just a small slice on a plate.)

The pork chops some of us ordered were excellent, but I stuck with the pasta, and it was simply superb.  The spaghetti carbonara, a benchmark dish for me, was rich and tasty and perfectly executed.  I also sampled the agnolotti, which that evening were stuffed with truffled pecorino and were delicious.

The chocolate torte was decadently rich and topped with a soft, bruleed meringue.

As best I can tell, everyone in our group was as enthusiastic about the food as I was.

I am happy to welcome Gocciolina to my list of the top tier of Triangle restaurants.  I look forward to going back, most especially to enjoying some pasta on a cold fall or winter evening.  I strongly recommend you check it out.

Friday, June 5, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 5

I'm home, and I'm quite happy to be here.

The day started at 2:30 a.m. after about two and a half hours in bed.  Unsurprisingly, the drive to the airport at that time of the morning proved to be extremely short and free of traffic.

I did not score any upgrades, so today's flights resembled nothing so much as being packed into sardine cans and thrown through the air; no fun for anyone.  I dozed a bit but mostly worked.

Lunch was a delightful Red Mango parfait in DFW.  I've praised them before, but these creations provide quite a lot of volume, fruit, and granola, along with some tasty frozen yogurt, for a mere 300 calories.

Dinner was a Farm to Fork 2015 event at Duke Gardens.  I was attending because PT this year became a sponsor of Farm to Fork, a cause I've supported now for several years.  I enjoyed the food, the talk of special guest Paul Greenberg, and the chance to hear the chefs speak about their dishes.  If you're not familiar with Farm to Fork, definitely check it out.

And now, to crash.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 4

Right now, what's most important about my day is that it's nearly eleven p.m. here in Portland, I'm still working, I'm not yet packed, and I have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to shower and head to the airport.  So, there's that.  Yeah.

The only part of my day I can discuss was a short but delicious dinner at Murata, a nearby and, to the best of my ability to tell, very authentic sushi place.  I definitely recommend it.

Now, back to that work and packing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 3

Today ran insanely long, from very, very early until very late, and almost all of it was work.

The fun high point of the day was dinner at Le Pigeon, one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  We ordered the seven-course tasting menu with non-alcoholic beverage pairings, and every course was absolutely delicious.  I believe this was the best meal I've had at Le Pigeon, and that's saying something.

I would write more about the meal--and may do so later--but I am so exhausted that I simply must crash.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 2

Almost all of today went to work, so I can't discuss most of the day.

I can share something lovely I experienced for the first time today:  Hood strawberries.  David brought us some, and they were possibly the most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted.

Click an image to see a larger version.

David said they have a very short season, so I was lucky to get to taste them.  I cannot recall a more succulent, rich, flavorful strawberry.

Dinner took us to Gabe Rucker's second restaurant, Little Bird.  Everything we tasted was excellent, but the dish that surprised me the most was the soup.  A blend of pureed zucchini, leeks, and potatoes, with a swirl of lemon creme fraiche and, believe it or not, a mild olive tapenade, this little bowl was outstanding.

As I've said many times, Little Bird is on my short list of the restaurants you should not miss if you're in Portland.

Monday, June 1, 2015

On the road again: Portland, day 1

Today started for me at 5:50 a.m., which was only a very few hours after yesterday ended, so I did not begin as a happy camper.  The flights, though, went as well as they reasonably could, with an exit-row seat on the first leg and a first-class upgrade on the second.  I was able to work enough that I ran my laptop out of power--but was then able to plug in on the plane.  Technology is grand when it works.

Almost all of today went to work, but I had a few food highlights.  One was a small sipping hot chocolate from Cacao, a lovely little shop in the front right corner of the hotel.  That definitely helped pick me up.

Dinner took us to Bamboo Sushi for a tasty meal of fish and salad.  The folks there were definitely on their game today:  everything was delicious.

For dessert, we walked next door to Salt & Straw, where we enjoyed fresh and wonderful local ice cream.  This place really is one of the best in the country.

And now,  more work, and then sleep.  I am quite looking forward to sleeping.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

San Andreas

is an hour and fifty-four minutes of headlong insanity.  Its science makes no sense, and no one in the cast tries very hard to portray a well-rounded character, but none of that matters, because it's The Rock vs. Earthquakes, and we know who's going to win that match.  Oh, yeah:  always bet on the The Rock.

Dwayne Johnson is fun to watch from start to finish.  Even when he has to emote, he's become just good enough that you don't need to groan.  He works in a helicopter, a truck, a plane, and a boat, using all of humanity's transportation modes to regain his wife, save his daughter, and kick ass--all while saving people from time to time.

The film contains plenty of short character-based scenes, but it never stays long on them before it returns to a long action sequence.  The SFX and action scenes are spectacular indeed, with astonishing amounts of sheer destruction.

Do not go to this movie if you want great acting or good science or, really, anything that makes sense in the real world.  On the other hand, if you want to see The Rock repeatedly save the day, don't miss it.

I had a grand time.


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