Shop Local: The Gift of Local Coffee


Jubala Village Coffee in North Raleigh

If you have followed my blog for while you know I am a big fan of coffee and enjoy frequenting the many great local coffee shops we have here in the Triangle. As we approach the holidays I wanted to share that local coffee shops are also a great source of gifts for the coffee geek in your life. Most shops sell bags of fresh locally roasted coffee and home coffee brewing equipment like pour over cones, mugs, and coffee servers. If you aren’t sure what to get another convenient option is a gift card.  Your local coffee shop is a great way to shop local. Below is a quick list of some of my “go to” places for local coffee, home brewing gear, and gift cards.

Local Coffee Shops – Gift Cards Available
Brew Coffee Bar – Downtown Raleigh
Bean Traders – Durham
Cafe’ de los Muertos – Downtown Raleigh
Caffe Driade – Chapel Hill
Cocoa Cinnamon* – Durham
Jubala Village Coffee* – North Raleigh
Open Eye Cafe* – Carrboro
Sola Coffee Cafe* – North Raleigh
Well Bean Coffee – Wake Forest

* = Home coffee brewing equipment also available.


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12th Annual Gingerbread Benefit at The Umstead Hotel in Cary

1st Place- Corinna Morris of Prestonwood Country Club

Last weekend I had the honor of being a media judge for the 12th Annual Gingerbread Benefit held at the Umstead Hotel in Cary. The annual holiday event benefits Triangle Family Services and its mission of “Building a Stronger Community by Strengthening the Family”. The benefit features a gingerbread house competition with elaborate gingerbread houses designed by the Triangle’s finest chefs and bakers. More than a dozen houses were submitted for the media and attendees to view and judge. While there were many great houses, in the end the media and people’s choice award for 1st place went to the spectacular house submitted by Corinna Morris of Prestonwood Country Club.


Gingerbread House by Wii Little Chefs

The truth of the matter is it was incredibly difficult to pick any one as “best” as they were all so incredible. The creativity and attention to detail was mind boggling. Several of the homes looked like they took days to create and had elaborate scenes set up INSIDE the gingerbread house that revealed themselves only as you peered in the windows.

House Created by Harvest 18

The house pictured above was done by Harvest 18 and was a personal favorite of mine. I loved the creativity of using cereal for roof shingles and pretzel logs as siding to give it the appearance of a log cabin. The little farmers’ market filled with fruit shaped candies and Santa’s legs dangling out of the chimney were nice touches too.

2nd Place- Robin Bilodeau of Searstone

My wife and I  were also blown away by Searstone’s house which was made to resemble Raleigh’s famous Angus Barn. I loved how they used rosemary as trees and thick white icing on the rood to look like packed snow. My wife pointed out that if you viewed the house from the back you could see intricate dining rooms with tables and place settings. It was very impressive.


3rd Place- Emma Isakoff of Fearrington House

A last minute addition to the lineup was the simple yet elegant gingerbread house from Fearrington Village. Another onlooker with more baking experience than I pointed out that the clear globes were made from blown sugar and that they are extremely difficult to create. I had a nice time being a judge at the competition and enjoyed my first visit to the Umstead. If you ever have the opportunity to pay them a visit I recommend you jump at the opportunity.

About Triangle Family Services
Since 1937, Triangle Family Services (TFS) has served as a safety net for the community. TFS accomplishes its mission of “Building a Stronger Community by Strengthening the Family” through one of TFS’ focus areas that include Family Safety, Financial Stability, and Mental Health.  These direct family services directly impact children from economically disadvantaged and/or abused homes. To learn more about their mission visit the TSF website.

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Smashburger Opens in North Raleigh Dec. 17th!

Smash Burger Durham 7


Smashburger, the nation’s fastest growing “better burger” restaurant, is gearing up to open its second Triangle location Wednesday, Dec. 17 in the Shops at Falls Village (6679 Falls of Neuse Rd.) in North Raleigh. I visited their Durham location back in March and was very impressed with the food. I had heard rumors that a Raleigh location was in the works and am excited that it is finally happening. I am always on the hunt for a great burger and we need a place like this on Falls of Neuse Road. You can read my full review of the Durham Smashburger here and find details about the Raleigh location Grand Opening on the 17th below.

Samshburger Grand Opening Celebration
The community is invited to opening day for a first-hand taste, fun onsite activities (including a SNOW machine) for the kids to enjoy snow flurries along with fun games and tasty giveaway opportunities throughout the day. The grand opening will also help raise money for Communities in Schools of Wake County, the area’s largest dropout prevention agency that helps students in need. The local restaurant owners are donating 10 percent of total proceeds from opening day through Friday, Dec. 19 to the local nonprofit.

The Food
At Smashburger, the secret is in the smash. It starts with 100-percent fresh, never frozen Certified Angus Beef that is smashed on a 400-degree flat grill to sear in the juicy flavor. To further the “better burger” experience, the delicious burgers are served on toasted artisan buns (including gluten-free buns) and topped with a selection of the freshest produce, real cheeses and highest quality condiments.

Smashburger serves more than just burgers. Guests can also enjoy a selection of tender marinated grilled or crispy chicken sandwiches, black bean burgers, and fresh-tossed signature salads, along with a variety of irresistible sides including rosemary and garlic-seasoned Smashfries, Haystack Onions and Veggie Frites (flash-fried and seasoned carrot sticks and green beans). The restaurant will also serve a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages ranging from handspun shakes, root beer floats in frosted mugs and beer, including local craft brews.

About Smashburger
Smashburger is a leading fast casual “better burger” restaurant with more than 290 corporate and franchise restaurants operating in 32 states and in five international countries. The company began in 2007 with the vision of Rick Schaden and funding by Consumer Capital Partners—the private equity firm that he and his father Richard own. By offering fresh, premium “smashed to order” burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, signature side items and hand-spun shakes, Smashburger has modernized the way people think about burgers. Known for localizing its menu in every market with regionally inspired burgers, side items and local craft beers, Smashburger has received numerous awards, including topping Fast Casual’s 2012 Top Mover & Shakers list, America’s Most Promising Company by Forbes magazine, INC. 500’s List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies and INC’s #9 Hire Power Award winner, as well as regularly receiving “best burger” awards in cities around the world. To learn more, visit

About Communities In Schools of Wake County
CIS Wake helps schools remove the barriers that put students at risk of wasting their potential by surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. As the area’s largest dropout prevention agency, they serve more than 2,200 students at four after-school community-based learning centers and within 16 Wake County public school sites. Their goal is to reduce the Wake County Public School System dropout rate and prepare students for post-secondary education and careers. They achieve this by providing individualized case management that tracks and increases student performance in attendance, behavior and course work success. For more information, please visit

Smashburger – Raleigh
6679 Falls of Neuse Rd – Raleigh, NC (map)
Twitter: @SmashBurger


Filed under Restaurant News

2014 Triangle Christmas Parades, Tree Lightings, & Holiday Concerts!

Angus Barn Christmas Tree

The Angus Barn at Christmas ~ Raleigh, NC

I know it is still November but Christmas events like the 2014 Raleigh Christmas Parade and the North Hills tree lighting are set to kick off this Saturday (Nov. 22nd) and the ice skating rinks in Raleigh and Durham will be open this weekend too. With that in mind I thought now would be a good time to share my annual list of events scheduled in the Triangle for the 2014 holiday season. There is so much going I’m sure I missed a few. If you have any to add to the list please leave a comment below or shoot me and email and I will do my best to add it to the list. Happy Holidays!!


Tree Lightings

Christmas Concerts / Performances

Holiday Historic Home Tours

Holiday Ice Skating

Other Holiday Events

Holiday Markets – Shop Local!

The fine folks at Carolina Parent have put together a nice list of holiday markets throughout the Triangle. You can see their full schedule of markets here. Two of my favorites are the Boylan Heights Artwalk in Raleigh on Dec. 7th and the Saxapahaw Holiday Market (Dec 8-9th).


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Vote for Not Just Icing as Mobile Cuisine’s Dessert Food Truck of the Year!

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Not Just Icing Cupcake Truck

The Raleigh based Not Just Icing mobile bakery & cupcake truck is one of 10 finalists for Mobile Cuisine’s “Dessert Food Truck of the Year”. They are the only North Carolina Food truck in the finals and they need your support! The winner of the contest is determined by online voting that is going on now through December 12th. It only takes a few seconds to vote. Please show your support for this great local food truck and VOTE HERE.

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Donna Downs & Cristal Harrison
Owner / Operators of Not Just Icing

I can personally vouch for how wonderful their cupcakes are as I have enjoyed more than my fair share at local food truck rodeos and events. Donna Downs and Cristal Harrison, the dynamic duo Not Just Icing, are wonderful people who have not only elevated the food truck scene here in the Triangle they have been very generous in their support of various local charities such as the Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina, Safe Child Raleigh, and The Durham Rescue Mission to name just a few. To learn more about these great ladies I encourage you to read The Wandering Sheppard’s “Behind The Wheel” write-up about their unique truck and inspiration.

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About Not Just Icing
Not Just Icing is a mobile cupcakery (they bake everything on the truck) committed to providing made from scratch, baked fresh daily scrumptious treats throughout the Triangle area. Their cupcakes are made using all-natural ingredients like butter instead of oils and real fruit instead of fruit flavored extracts. You won’t find any preservatives in their cupcakes, so they are best eaten the day you buy them. You can find them at food truck events around the Triangle. They can also be booked for private events and make custom orders for any occasion. To find out where they will be next visit their online calendar here.

Twitter: @NotJustIcing
Instagram: @notjusticing

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