Coquette: Construction Update

September 26, 2008

The construction at Coquette continues, as the black and white tile floor is being laid and the tin-type ceiling in the bar area is nearly installed.  The hardwood floors in the private room are done, but they were covered with paper, so no photos. Read the rest of this entry »


Lantern’s Reusing Featured in October Gourmet

September 20, 2008

Andra Reusing, chef of Chapel Hill’s fantastic Lantern restaurant, is prominently featured in the October edition of Gourmet.  This is not a simple little fluff piece.  This is a HUGE article featuring nearly a dozen recipes from the restaurant.  Tons of photos.  We’re talking major publicity here.  Reusing has been on a roll lately, being written up in Food & Wine, the NY Times, and the fairly new glossy, Garden & Gun.  Sure, she’s got a great publicist, but without her cooking ability, Reusing wouldn’t attract the attention of anyone.

This is the second chef who started at Raleigh’s Enoteca Vin to get a spot in one of the major food mags, and we’re all very lucky to have such culinary stars in our midst.  I’ve never met Reusing, but I’ve eaten her cooking, and damn, it’s fine.  And the fact that she’s so commited to sourcing local ingredients, including heirloom pigs, makes it even better.

So run out and get a copy of Gourmet (the article isn’t online, apparently) and make a couple of recipes.  Then head over to Lantern and compare your cooking with Reusing’s.  And be humbled.

Mother’s Milk, Seriously

September 18, 2008

OK, it was just a matter of time before this happened: a Swiss restaurant is featuring human breast milk in some of their dishes.  I’ve heard of cutting edge cuisine, but this goes a step beyond what I’ve seen before.  As a lawyer, I thought the funniest thing in the story is that the dishes cannot currently be banned, because “Humans as producers of milk are simply not envisaged in the legislation.”

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

Coquette: Out with the Old, In with the New

September 16, 2008

(This is part 2 of a series of posts about Coquette, the new brasserie opening in Raleigh this fall.)

Stacey and Kevin Jennings saw an opportunity when the old Restaurant Savannah in Raleigh’s North Hills had gone under.  With three successful restaurants in the area, the Jennings’ Urban Food Group decided to add one more, this being a Southern-accented restaurant — so Southern that they named it “South.”  The Jennings sunk over a quarter million dollars into South, hoping they could succeed where the owners of Savannah could not.  Despite their best efforts, however, South never took off.  It made money, but it became apparent that it would never be sufficiently profitable to keep it going. Read the rest of this entry »

Birth of a Restaurant: Coquette

September 12, 2008

Raleigh is fortunate to be getting a classic French brasserie, Coquette, the latest venture from the Urban Food Group restaurant company.  Coquette, which basically means “flirty girl”, will be taking over the space previously inhabited by South in the North Hills Mall.

I’m very fortunate in that I’ve been granted complete access to the Coquette project.  From the business plan, financial model, menu and recipe development, to extensive interviews with the owners, chefs, and front of the house managers, I’ll be telling a story over the next few months about the opening of a new, high-end restaurant.  You’ll learn about construction, finances, landlord relationships — things that you just don’t hear about very often.  If you have questions, ask them here, as I’ll try to get answers.  In the end, this should make a compelling story of what goes into a restaurant.

Coquette is scheduled to open in late October or early November, and right now, the construction site is a typical mess.  Nothing from South remains except for the kitchen, an overly large, inefficient space.  But when you’re talking about a restaurant that hopes to have 400 covers a night, you might need a huge kitchen.  Time will tell.

The menu will be classic brasserie, with a huge menu of standard dishes, but many with a contemporary twist.  The wine list will be French, French and more French, and damn it, that’s a good thing.

So let me know what you want to know about this new edition to the Raleigh restaurant scene.  Making this an interactive experience should be fun for all, and if you learn something new, well, that’s just a bonus.

Happy Anniversary to Me

September 11, 2008

Tomorrow, September 12, marks the one-year anniversary of VarmintBites.  Wow.  When I started this blog, I didn’t expect to generate a lot of interest, and I didn’t even think I’d stay with it for very long, but it’s been a ton of fun and I’ve received a lot of great feedback.  I’ll be celebrating the anniversary by introducing a new series of stories.  Details to come tomorrow, but I think it will be interesting for you (think “new restaurant”).

Let me display my narcissism and spout off some facts about the site.  

First, the most viewed topic on the site is about fried chicken.  Chocolate gravy, biscuits and peanut butter and banana cake are also in the top 20.  The top three search terms that lead people to this site (other than terms such as “varmint bites”) are “fried chicken,” “chocolate gravy” and “biscuits.”  You folks like your Southern food (I knew I had a smart audience).

You also like restaurant information.  Stories about The Mint and Poole’s Downtown Diner rank 2nd and 4th, respectively.  However, there are 4 different stories about The Mint in the top 20.  I guess the controversy I started helped with my traffic, but I assure you that wasn’t my intent.  

I don’t get a ton of traffic with my most personal stories, but then, I write those for me more than anything else. 

I’ve had a lot of readers from across the world, but I’m pretty popular in Singapore for some reason.

I’ve received several offers to add my blog to networks where I could make a ton of money ( yeah, right — I could make a whopping $50 a month).

I’ve published 189 posts (190 counting this one).  That means that I posted something new a little bit more frequently than every other day.  There have been 1208 comments, or over 7 comments for each post (and I’ve deleted about a dozen additional comments).  Of course, I’ve also had over 3,000 spam comments, but the wonderful WordPress software catches those.   

If you Google “varmintbites” you end up with over 10,000 hits.  That boggles the neurons, for sure.  

So, happy anniversary to me, but more importantly, thank you for making this so much fun.  It’s been a blast, and I look forward to a second year.

Top 20 Topics

Fried Chicken  
The Mint Now Open in Raleigh  
Easier No Knead Bread  
Ashley Christensen Brings the French Cou  
Chocolate Gravy — Yes, Chocolate Gravy!  
An Open Letter to Chowhound, by Charlie  
News & Observer’s Top 20 Restaurants  
Greg Cox Just Doesn’t Get It  
Biscuits on a Saturday Morning  
Best Burgers in the Triangle  
Peanut Butter and Banana Cake (aka “Elvi  
Jujube Banned from Chowhound?  
Raleigh Restaurants Open on Sundays and  
Vittles from the SFA Symposium  
The Pit Opens Today  
Buttermilk Pie  
The Mint is Loaded  
Puff Pastry, Palmiers, and Me  
The Mint — Cutting Edge Cooking in Rale  

Big Mac Attack — 36 Years’ Worth

September 9, 2008

I usually don’t post about silly food items in the news, but since my friend Holly Moore was one of the creative forces behind the discovery of the Big Mac, I thought I’d bring up the story of the Wisconsinite who has managed to eat a Big Mac every day for the past 36 years (except for the day his mother died, and only because she had somehow asked him not to). A damn Big Mac every single day for 36 years — that’s about 23,000 (or 46,000 all beef patties). Can you imagine working with this guy? “Hey, Don, want to join us for lunch today? We’re getting pizza. Oh, you already have plans? How but next week? Oh, you’re busy then? What, you’re busy for the next 36 years??? Um, er, OK, Don.”

He also doesn’t have to worry about what to make for lunch.

And by the way, he has kept every one of his receipts.