Saturday, August 29, 2009


This post is not to say to the world how charitable, how caring, or how philanthropic Nick and I are, but to let you know sometimes there are other reasons why we dine at the places we do. I forgot to take the camera, so no pictures this time.

Today we had lunch at Vivace, in North Raleigh. It was about a 40 minute drive, not close by any means, but we had errands to run on our way back so it wasn't too bad. We decided to eat there because the staff was donating 100% of their tips to a very good, but sad cause.

Last Wednesday six-year old Ashley Ramos-Hernandez was hit by a car as she got off the school bus near her house. The 83-year old driver did not see her. Ashley didn't make it.

I'm pretty sure it's against the law to pass a stopped school bus in any direction and it makes me angry that such carelessness caused such a tragedy.

Her parents both work for Urban Food Group which owns Vivace, Coquette Brasserie (whose staff is also donating their tips), and two other restaurants. They decided to do this to help Ashley's parents with the funeral costs and other expenses. More details are found here, on the VarmintBites blog.

So Nick and I found ourselves at Vivace at noon today. The inside is cool and modern, with long banquettes and large cube lanterns overhead. We perused the menu while eating sesame semolina bread with a roasted garlic-white bean spread.

I started with a classic caesar salad and Nick opted for a large bowl of mussels steamed with garlic, butter, and tomatoes. My salad was pretty solid, with fresh romaine and lots of shaved parmesan. Grilled bread accompanied his bowl and I got to soak a piece in the delicious broth. Nick really enjoyed the mussels and the tomatoes.

I chose a scallop risotto with fava beans and corn for my entree and Nick got braised shortribs with mushrooms and polenta. We both thought everything was good, but I was so full after barely eating a quarter of my dish. I think I would have enjoyed it more if we didn't eat so much bread and appetizer. We'll just get to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

When our bill came, there was a slip of paper explaining that the service staff was donating their tips to the Ramos-Hernandez family. I hope it persuaded every patron to tip a little bit more than they normally would have for this family.

We ended up having a delicious lunch at a place I had not heard of before, along with being able to help a family in the aftermath of such tragedy. I look forward to dining at Vivace again in the future.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This past Friday I fulfilled one of the wishes that I had when I first moved to Durham. I wanted my very own hamster, and I finally took the plunge. She is a cute, gray teddy bear hamster. I'm still getting used to her and I hope eventually she'll get used to me.

I decided to name her Penelope, after the first name I came up with didn't quite fit. I think I'll call her Penny for short. =) She likes to climb the walls of her cage and eat blueberry yogurt treats. Last night she got carrots, celery, and squash for dinner. What a treat!

Monday, August 3, 2009


The Sunday after Nick's siblings left we decided to have some brunch. Usually I choose a brunch place like Rue Cler or Watts Grocery, but that day Nick decided he wanted to eat at Elmo's. Elmo's is a very popular diner on Ninth Street. It is usually insufferably crowded and the wait on weekend mornings is way too long.

This is when small numbers work to your advantage. The last three times Nick and I ate there, we squeezed into spaces at the counter instead of having to wait 30 minutes for a table. Once, when I ate there alone in November, the guy working told me I was the luckiest person in the place because I got the last open seat at the counter.

I like sitting at the counter and watching the friendly waitstaff go through their frenetic motions as they serve food and dispense beverages for the filled dining room. What can I say? People watching is a sport.

Usually I go for breakfast items but that day I saw a shrimp burger special listed on the board as I walked in, and decided to go for it. A shrimp patty on a kaiser roll with onion and tomato, with coleslaw, remoulade sauce, and fries on the side for $7.50. The patty was pretty greasy, but hit the spot when covered with coleslaw. I decided I prefer thin, crispy fries instead of the thick crinkle-cut fries on the plate.

Nick ended up getting corned beef hash with eggs and toast. He loved it. I had a couple of bites and it was pretty much as I expected: cheesy, salty, and oily. I mean, sometimes you just have to accept diner food as it is.

And that's what they serve at Elmo's: honest, greasy, delicious diner food that sets you up for an afternoon of napping.

Which is precisely what we did.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nick's siblings visit

About three weeks ago we welcomed Nick's siblings Peter, Philip, and Yvonne to Durham. They had just been in DC for the weekend and took the train down to visit us. I was really excited because I hadn't seen them for over a year. They arrived on a Tuesday and left on Saturday so we tried to pack as many sights as possible in the short time frame.

Tuesday night we went out for dinner at Sushi Love so they could experience this ubiquitous "buy one get one free" deal that exists at almost every Durham sushi restaurant. Since Emily and Carmen joined us, our sushi selection came on a sushi boat and an extra plate! Afterward we hopped over to get pops at Locopops because that is almost a Durham institution now. Unfortunately, I think the cream in my white chocolate icebox pie pop had gone bad because it was overwhelmingly sour.

On Wednesday Nick and I went to work while they hung around the house. They ate fried rice for lunch that I cooked up the night before. For dinner we had La Vaquita and then headed to Nick's softball game and cheered him on.

On Thursday we headed east to Wilmington to spend the day at Wrightsville Beach. They all got to touch the Atlantic for the first time, which was very exciting. We packed a picnic of sandwiches, mango, cucumber and carrots, tzatziki and pita chips, and coconut pecan cookies. I also brought along some cheerwine (soda of the south!) and water.

After 4.5 glorious hours lounging on the beach, accompanied by the wind sandblasting us, we went to downtown Wilmington to have dinner. We chose a small French bistro and had great food.

Friday was the day for them to take in more of Durham and Duke. We had lunch at Toast where I had the fabulous local egg sandwich again. We then walked around the campus and took pictures at the chapel and introduced them to some of Nick's coworkers. The heat took its toll on us so we relaxed at home instead of heading out to see UNC as originally planned.

For dinner we had to take them to have some southern food so we went to Mama Dips in Chapel Hill. Dinner was deliciously heavy and awesome. And they got our order right this time, too.

We stayed up late that night since it was their last night. I woke up early the next morning to prepare their travel bentos with turkey and cheese sandwiches, PB&J, farmer's market tomatoes, mango, cookies, carrots, and strawberries. We all said goodbye at the airport.

Nick and I were sad, but happy that they came to visit us. There's nothing like seeing family when you are far away.

Pics available on facebook, along with some funny ones where I digitally inserted Nick's oldest brother, Anthony.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last weekend of summer

Okay, I know it's only the 1st of August. However, the next few weekends before school starts will be packed. This is the last "I can do anything I want" weekend.

We woke up later than usual, but still early considering we didn't go to sleep til after midnight. I stayed up so late because Nick just got Wii Sports Resort and we were doing our best to paddle a canoe, play table tennis, practice archery, and sky dive. It's pretty awesome.

This morning we stopped at the Durham Farmer's Market where someone commented on my "durham: can you dig it?" shirt which was so cool. It's the fourth time that has happened. We got some peppers, corn, sweet sungold tomatoes, french and wax beans, and a melon.

Afterward we stopped by Piedmont to have brunch. Nick got the farmer's market special with eggs, home fries, bacon, and a biscuit (with ketchup and stawberry-fennel preserves) and I got a chicken, corn, and chorizo soup and a salad with avocado, smoked chicken, cheddar, and a shallot vinaigrette.

Now we are off to the Raleigh flea market. I love me some vintage, cheap stuff. Later tonight, Emily and Steve are coming over for games and the Wii. It's going to be great!