Thursday, July 21, 2011

Homage to the Culinary Boutique

Over the past two decades, Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina has steadily attained national recognition as a paradise for foodies. Innovators such as Café Parizäde, Crooks Corner, and the Magnolia Grill are among a handful of the eateries that came to define Triangle fine-dining. Newcomers such as Lantern and Vimala’s Curryblossom Café pair the magic of locally sourced ingredients with old-world recipes. These red-hot restaurants are blowing up food columns and blogs alike, and the demand just keeps growing. But unbeknownst to many, a movement of a different kind is quietly gaining popularity and it is leading to the revolution of appetizers and condiments.

I would define them as Culinary Boutiques: small, yet generously stocked, gems of gastronomic reform. When Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar opened just over a year ago, customers fell in love with their products, but feared their longevity. After experiencing widespread success, we are all thankful that Blue Sky is here to stay!

Blue Sky offers the unique opportunity to sample fresh extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars from carefully chosen artisans. Their impressive selection of extra virgin olive oils, fused and infused extra virgin olive oils, traditional 18- year barrel aged balsamic vinegars, and infused balsamic vinegars have become a staple in the community kitchens. Fused olive oil, or “agumato” in Italian, is when additives, such as basil, are directly incorporated into the oil. One of my favorites is their black truffle infused olive oil. A drizzle of the umami-loaded oil atop some freshly cut fennel with fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt is a rich afternoon indulgence. For a memorable dessert, I’ve been told that ice cream with their black cherry balsamic vinegar is a local favorite. The best part about Blue Sky and owner, Glenda Keenan, is that they are willing to let their patrons learn about their diverse offerings through taste-tests. Complemented with a passionate and knowledgeable staff, you are guaranteed to leave the store with a variety of delights.

A second notable boutique just opened last month in Durham dedicated to cheeses and cured meats. Reliable Cheese Company’s owner, Patrick Coleff, didn’t always know his way around a wheel of the good stuff. After years of training at Murray’s Cheese Shop NYC, he developed a knack for stinky blues, creamy washed-rinds, and the sharpest cheddars around. Reliable Cheese has offerings from small-scale producers located throughout the US and Europe, in addition to local North Carolina farms that specialize in cow, buffalo, sheep, and goat cheese. Their variety of meats also pair local fare with world famous producers, granting the public unparalleled access to delicacies available in few locales outside of New York or Chicago. Like Blue Sky, sampling is never a problem! Patrick is more than willing to let patrons nibble away at the display case until you find the right match.

Now if only the two stores merged into one…

Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar
400 S. Elliott Road
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

Reliable Cheese
405 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham, North Carolina 27701
(919) 680-3939

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Vintage 301, Greensboro, North Carolina

Vintage 301, once one of Greensboro's most daring and innovative restaurants and cocktail bars, sadly shut its doors for good on Sunday, June 12, 2011. 301 was introduced to me by my old friend, Sarah Welch, and was one of our few regular hang-outs. Executive Chef, Ben Sullivan, offered diners an extensive selection of world delicacies and unique culinary whims that excited the palate and provoked the mind. Among my favorite dishes were their legendary polenta with blue cheese and walnuts. Their savory apple ravioli with subtle hits of butter and rosemary were also legendary. I haven't even mentioned their selection of wine. $5 Martini Wednesdays and 1/2 Price Beer Fridays will also be sincerely missed! For dessert, their maple bacon ice cream, a staple of my freezer, featured decadent ice cream made with local milk and real maple paired with brown sugar dusted chunks of real bacon. Ah, Vintage 301 - you will be missed!

Vintage 301
301 Martin Luther King Junior Drive
Greensboro, North Carolina 27406

Visit Vintage 301's website at:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Humanitarian Relief in Japan

On Friday, March 11, 2011 northern Honshu experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake which resulted in one of Japan's most serious disasters since World War II. The death toll is expected to exceed 10,000 lives, with tens of thousands left homeless. As the situation becomes increasingly dire in Japan, Worldly Eats asks that you please consider making a contribution of any amount to the organizations trying to help those affected. There are many non-profit groups working to provide shelter, water, & medical care for the thousands of victims. For information, please see the following sites:

The American Red Cross


Doctors Without Borders

Global Giving

International Medical Corps

For larger donations, we highly suggest donating directly to the Japanese Red Cross via wire transfer. Information can be found at:

Thank you for all of your support!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Treasures of Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun - Japan the mysterious, awe-inspiring culinary gem of Asia. As a world leader of gastronomic innovation, many of the most delicious morsels I have ever experienced come from this tiny island nation. As the 2011 Japanese school year begins, many students from around the world are preparing for their own Lost in Translation experiences. To better prepare the ambitious young travelers of west,  Worldly Eats is going to begin a new series highlighting the best eateries Japan has to offer over the next few weeks. Check back for an expanded section of reviews of my favorite places to snack and dine. Just as a reminder, here is a list of some hot-spots that have already been reviewed:

Gyoza no Ohsho
(Japanese-style Chinese with locations throughout Japan)

(Traditional Japanese Pub/Izakaya located in Sapporo)

Il Piatto
(Amazingly authentic Italian cuisine and one-man-show in Kyoto)

(Classic mom and pop sushi bar in Osaka, featured on Anthony Bourdain)

Mochi Cream
(The best ice cream on Earth, not to be missed! Locations across Japan)

(Chicken yakitori with two locations in Hokkaido, one of which is in Sapporo)

(Japan's best pork cutlet. Located in the heart of Tokyo's Tsukiji Market)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yachiyo, Tokyo, Japan

My first experience at Tokyo's bustling Tsukiji Market was a sweltering summer morning back in June 2004. Dreadfully jet-lagged and lost in translation, my family and I navigated the narrow stalls peddling honmaguro and other delicacies of the sea. Tsukiji is a magical place, especially for western-born Foodies. I have such an ardent affection for the tastes, sights, and sounds of Japan's largest fish market, I make it a point to appreciate its majesty on each and every trip to Tokyo.
After a dozen or so trips to Tsukiji over the years, in 2009 I discovered the love of my life. During my studies at Ritsumeikan University, I had the opportunity to escape the confines of Kyoto and visit the Eastern Capital over a long weekend with Jennie Borgström and Michael Ginsberg. After sampling a fresh variety of giant oysters on the half-shell, decedent shrimp tempura, and savory roasted seaweeds - the juxtaposition of the word tonkatsu caught my attention against the backdrop of tuna steaks and monkfish foie gras. As the smell of hot grease and Japanese curry quickly primed my salivary glands, I easily gave up my original ambition of having sushi for breakfast.

Yachiyo does tonkatsu, the legendary Japanese fried pork cutlet, unlike anywhere else in the world. The simple twelve-seat restaurant caters to the needs and palates of Japan's fishermen who require a hearty and flavorful early morning meal. Yachiyo starts with a well-marbleized pork fillet and generously breads it in Japanese breadcrumbs. While this is the standard for all tonkatsu, do not be deceived: this signature crunch and subsequent life altering experience of tender pork meat and rich, buttery pork fat cooked to a golden-brown make Yachiyo's take at this staple of Japanese cuisine supreme. But in a style of indulgence that can only truly be experienced first hand, there is more! The pork cutlet is then drenched in piping hot Japanese curry and served alongside traditional Chinese mustard. I can say without any reservations, it is one of the single best tastes that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

とんかつ八千代東京都中央区築地5-2-1 築地卸売市場6号館
Tonkatsu Yachiyo, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1 Market Building Number 6

Telephone: 03-3547-6762
Hours of Operation: Monday through Sunday, 5:00am to 1:00pm

You may visit Yachiyo's direct website here.
Yachiyo is also part of TabeLogs's top 5000 at TabeLog's Yachiyo Listing

**Their special Chashu Egg (チャーシューエッグ) is only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and it sells out fast!

The picture of Yachiyo's heavenly pork cutlet was graciously provided by Nicholas Sanford in 2010 and is being used with permission. You may view his other photography on his Flickr Homepage.

So Much Food, So Little Time. Recommendations and Future Indulgences...

  • 3Cups, NC
  • Amy's Bread, NY
  • Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar, NC
  • Boku, NC
  • Buttermilk Channel, NY
  • Cool Gelato, Mexico
  • Crystal Jade Dim Sum, China
  • Death & Co., NY
  • Duck and Dumpling, NC
  • Duck Fat, ME
  • El Bulli, Spain
  • Fette Sau, NY
  • Frontera Fresco, IL
  • Frontera Grill, IL
  • Grand Asia Market, NC
  • Hot Doug's, IL
  • La Parilla, Mexico
  • Lantern, NC
  • Loncheria Alexia y Geovanny, Mexico
  • Magnolia Grill, NC
  • Momofuku, NY
  • Nana's, NC
  • NY Dosas, NY
  • Per Se, NY
  • Piedmont, NC
  • Pizzeria Baffetto, Italy
  • Puerto Madero, Mexico
  • Ramen Ippudo, Japan
  • Rana Loca, NC
  • Red Lotus, NC
  • Rolandi's, Mexico
  • Sapporo Genghis Khan, Japan
  • Shake Shack, NY
  • Shiroi Taiyaki, Japan
  • Siam, Japan
  • Sono, NC
  • Super Manzana 28, Mexico
  • Sushi Yasuda, NY
  • Takaraya, Japan
  • Tallula's, NC
  • Taqueria El Azteca, NC
  • Tebaya, NY
  • The Fat Duck, UK
  • The French Laundry, CA
  • The Green Vally Grill, NC
  • The Pit, NC
  • The Silver Palm, IL
  • Topolobampo, IL
  • Toshishun, Japan
  • XOCO, IL
  • Yakitori Totto, NY