Hello there, blog friends. It has been a while. So how have your last two weeks been? Good?
Mine too. Between Ohio and Tennessee and North Carolina, I’ve been getting to be a pro at vacation.
A pro, I tell you. I’ve eaten well, in the homes of friends and in quality restaurants; I’ve seen new places, from Nashville parks to Durham campuses; I’ve, mostly, spent time with great people, all over the country, and I’ve loved every bit of it.
Now, while I work on getting good at other things — namely, the everyday tasks of working and cooking and so on — why don’t we talk about my last trip, the one to the Research Triangle of North Carolina, a destination chosen for, what else, the food.
It was the most relaxing vacation I’ve taken in years, one which we did little else but eat and lounge around, a practice that has seriously opened my eyes to what vacation is supposed to be like.
So in true Food Loves Writing form, here are all the details:
The HOTELS: We left last Wednesday and returned Saturday, for a grand total of three nights in three different hotels, all totally free with credit card reward points that my generous dad saves up for my brother and me to use.
Night One: The Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill // Night Two: The Franklin, 311 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill // Night Three: The Umstead Hotel & Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary.
Of those three, The Umstead was my favorite hands down, not just because it was GORGEOUS but because of the workout room (which I really did use, I swear), the restaurant, the pool where people brought me ice water and spray misters and frozen grapes on sticks. Now that is vacation.
As far as the RESTAURANTS: we ate our first dinner at Lantern Restaurant, which was walking distance from The Carolina Inn, and split the drunken chicken, a beef special and chaat — a mix of organic cauliflower, chickpeas, potatoes, pickled red onions and mint chutney.
Lunch Thursday was probably my favorite meal, only partly because it was at Watts Grocery, 1116 Broad Street, an adorable Durham spot focused on locally sourced ingredients, mostly from within a two-hour radius away. It was also where we met up with my long-time blog/food/LOST/how-have-we-not-met-already friend Kendra, of My First Kitchen.
Kendra is every bit as awesome in real life as she seems from her blog: totally sincere and open, transitioning from serious topics like the false perceptions we have of ourselves to practical ones like how her family’s getting beef from a local farmer. She told me about how she met her husband, what got her interested in starting a business, how she wants everyone to be able to find something they are passionate about and love.
After two easy hours of conversation, I walked away so grateful for blogging and the people it’s brought into my life — all of you reading included — and I still get a little overwhelmed thinking about it.
Plus, the next day, Kendra wrote a recap post of our lunch that made me full-on cry while I read it on my phone in the rental car. I want to say she’s kind, but it’s really more than that: she’s incredibly generous with her time and her words and the way she communicates.
It amazes me. Anyway. Moving on.
Other meals: Thursday dinner at Coquette Brasserie, 4351 The Circle at North Hills, Raleigh: highly rated French food right off a shopping mall, with ambiance that’s Cheesecake Factory meets small bistro.
We split steak frites, a beet salad and croquettes. // Friday breakfast courtesy of our hotel, The Franklin, 311 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill: eggs sunnyside up, a spinach-cheddar-onion omelette // Friday dinner at The Umstead Bar (because the hotel was so gorgeous, we didn’t want to leave), 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary: a cheese tray, boneless pork ribs, a B.L.T., a roast natural hen with morels and sweet peas, some crazy chocolate dessert with apricots and pistachios; all the photos below are of that final meal.
And there’s more!
Lunch Saturday was at Market, 938 Blount, Raleigh, a restaurant that calls itself West Coast-inspired and features all natural, unprocessed foods from local sources. (Bonus! It’s right next to Escazu Chocolate, a Raleigh-based artisan chocolate maker whose dark chocolate bar with sea salt was so good, we bought it and split it twice!)
At Market, we had zucchini latkes with avocado creme fraiche, a pan-fried fish sandwich with a side of kale chips, a roasted vegetable sandwich on hearty grain bread, fresh strawberries and cracked black pepper with a balsamic glaze on mascarpone ice cream, coconut and avocado gelato topped by Escazu chocolate curls.
Somewhere in the midst of all the eating and lounging, we also saw some pretty downtowns, beautiful flowers, even the state farmers market on the hot, hot, hot, hot, Saturday morning.
And then, just like that, vacation was over, and I was back home — well, that’s not true. It was more like, after five hours at the Raleigh Durham Airport and a crazy delayed flight and a few hours flying through the sunset and over thunderstorms, I was home, finally, at 10 PM Saturday night, happy to be back.
I mean it. I’ve missed you all.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.