Herons: Most Underrated Restaurant in the Triangle

January 31, 2008


Herons, the ultra-swank restaurant in the even ritzier Umstead Hotel in Cary, must be the “poor” stepchild of the Triangle’s restaurant community. It gets no love at all from the foodie community. Greg Cox didn’t include it in his top 20 restaurants in the Triangle. There’s been little discussion of Herons from the local food blogging community, or at Chowhound or eGullet. Quite frankly, Herons has been overlooked, dismissed, and cast aside by the same folks who debate endlessly about the local food scene (myself included). And that’s a crying shame, as this is one of the finest restaurants in North Carolina, let alone the Triangle.

I’ve now eaten three lunches and a dinner at Herons, and when it comes to upscale dining, there may not be another restaurant in the area that can match the full package Herons offers: the decor, the ambience, the service, the wine selection, and, of course, the food. The Umstead Hotel is essentially one big, plush art gallery. This carries over to Herons, where that plushness is complemented by the most comfortable chairs and banquettes anywhere. The staff is extremely attentive, with a touch of formality, but not overly so and never intrusive. The wine list, put together by sommelier Steven Eudy is top-notch. Chef Phil Evans is extremely talented and has put together a well-rounded, very tasty menu, featuring mostly local ingredients. Pastry chef Daniel Benjamin creates whimsical desserts such as a chestnut “Moon Pie” or a somewhat deconstructed version of key lime pie. Everything about this restaurant is great, not good. But where is the love? Read the rest of this entry »


The Science of Double Dipping

January 30, 2008

guac.jpgFood scientist Harold McGee has a great piece in today’s New York Times (free registration may be required) about the microbiological effects of double dipping your chips. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you remember the episode where George Costanza is caught dipping the same chip twice in the dip. Mayhem ensued, of course, after George continued the practice.

The study — “the only one I’ve ever seen to proclaim that it was inspired by an episode of ‘Seinfeld,'” McGee states — was conducted by a Clemson University food microbiologist. The results? Well, lots of bacteria do get transferred by the duplicate dipper, but no conclusions were reached on whether this was a serious threat to the public health. Just in case, I may have to have my own personal bowl of guacamole this Super Bowl Sunday. A big bowl, at that!

Bunions, Onions and the PedEgg

January 29, 2008

pedegg_t.jpgLeave it to the smart folks at the eGullet Society to come up with a food-related use for a foot care product. The PedEgg is designed to remove dead skin and callouses from the bottom of feet. Using the same type of surgical blade operation as a Microplane, one eG member has decided that this will be her “go-to” gadget for grating lemon zest. It’s self contained, so all the grated up bits are stored within the “egg.” And right now, they’re buy one, get one free. Of course, just make sure you keep the one used for the kitchen separate from the foot care product, or we’ll have an altogether new meaning of the term, “toe cheese.” Ick.

Cocktail of the Week: Spiced Meyer Lemontini

January 25, 2008

meyer_lemons.jpgOK, the name really sucks. So help me come up with a new one. I found this recipe on the Site of the Evil Empire and made a couple of modifications. It’s really tasty, simple to make, and a bit different. I love the flavor of the Meyer lemon in this cocktail, as it’s not quite as bracing as regular lemons. In my mind, that makes it work better with the nutmeg, cinnamon and spiced rum in this drink. My guests loved it last week, and I might have to have another this weekend.

Recipe below. Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Feminism and Food

January 24, 2008

Speaking of food videos that’ll make you laugh and make you cringe, check out this one that I discovered on Bob Del Grosso’s site. If only Mrs. Varmint had seen this, I might never have had to cook a day in my life!

Vodpod videos no longer available. from vids.myspace.com posted with vodpod

Food Commercial of the Week — Politically Incorrect Edition

January 24, 2008

We here at VarmintBites strive to keep you abreast of all the latest news and trends in the gastronomic world. We scour the far reaches of the internet, looking for the latest news. We seek out new dishes, new civilizations, to boldly go — er, well, we like to be fresh.

However, we’re also never afraid to resort to the easiest method of expanding an audience: tapping into nostalgia (despite what the English post-punk band Gang of Four might have said, nostalgia is good!). So starting with this post, we’ll introduce a Food Commercial of the Week. In some instances, it will bring back memories. Hopefully, it’ll make you smile and laugh. And if we’re really lucky, it’ll make you cringe. Today, we resurrect our old pal, the Frito Bandito!

The Pit is Great, And They’re Open for Lunch

January 22, 2008

thepit.jpgThe Pit has now been open for nearly two months, and I finally made it there for lunch. Yes, that’s right, for lunch — they started offering the mid-day meal in the last couple of weeks. But others — many others — have beaten me to the punch. Greg Cox of the N&O has already visited and will be reviewing it shortly. Bob Garner‘s crew is editing his review for his television report. And I, after writing about it extensively (including my first ever post on VarmintBites), finally got down to Davie Street to see how good it was. Damn good is the answer.

For some reason, I was a bit skeptical of The Pit. Most of the early reviews were favorable, with a few high praises and one or two “no, thank yous” mixed in. I knew Ed Mitchell could cook a pig as well or better than anyone else, but I also remembered that his Wilson restaurant was plagued with quality control problems. Blame it on inattentiveness, bad management, or just lack of consistent turnover, but I had some pretty lousy barbecue at Mitchell’s. That’s why I was hoping, but not overly optimistically, that this partnership with Greg Hatem and Empire Eats would result in a quality eating establishment. Read the rest of this entry »