My Top Holiday Picks ~ 2019

12. Irving Berlin's White Christmas

White Christmas at DPAC December 3-7th

There are always so many fun things to do around the Triangle during the holidays that I thought I would share a few of my top picks in the coming weeks. I am looking forward to kicking off the holiday season attending a couple of great shows at DPAC in early December including “A Magical Cirque Christmas” and the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas“. There are several great events throughout the month of December to help you get into the Christmas spirit. In addition to those listed below I also recommend checking out the awesome Chinese Latern Festival at Koka Booth in Cary. It runs through January 12th and features larger-than-life holiday lanterns showcasing the beauty and artistry of Chinese Culture. Happy Holidays!

Here are my top Holiday Picks for 2019:

November 30th
Holiday Night Market at Transfer Food Hall
Shop local this holiday season and enjoy a night out at Transfer Co. Food Hall. Join Triangle Pop-Up for their curated selection of 50 local artists & makers, live jazz by Dontez Harris & grab your poem by the Poetry Fox! 5-10pm.

December 1st
Magical Cirque Christmas at DPAC
Experience the magic of Christmas with dazzling performers and breathtaking cirque artists from all corners of the world, accompanied by your favorite holiday music performed live. Get into the spirit of the season with this merry treat that’s perfect for the entire family. 

December 3rd – Sunday, December 7th
White Christmas at DPAC
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written! 

December 7th
Pictures with Santa Paws
Bring your pet and have their picture taken with Santa & Mrs. Paws at Jordan Lake Brewing Company December 7th from 1-4:30 PM. For a donation of just $10 you will receive a social media friendly digital print of you and your pet taken.

December 14th
Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Your annual opportunity to tour the interior of some of the 19th and early 20th century historic homes of Oakwood happens each December during the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. Homes are staffed with docents to enlighten you on the rich history of each property. Tour the properties at your own pace in any order.

Raleigh Flute Choir Holiday Concert
The Raleigh Flute Choir, a chamber ensemble of nine professional flutists from central North Carolina, ushers in the holiday season with a flourish as they perform creative arrangements of familiar favorites and alluring original works that reflect the beauty and joy of the season.

December 15th
Bulltown Strutters Holiday Throwdown
Durham’s own NOLA-style jazz band is thrilled to unleash, once again, their extensive supply of holiday cheer on the Best Big Little City anywhere!  Fun for the entire family! At Blue Note Grill in Durham 5-7pm.

December 21st 
Berlin Brothers Christmas Orchestra
Berlin Brothers are bringing their Christmas Orchestra (along with their lovely choir of Irvettes!) to The Blue Note Grill. This show always sells out so grab your tickets early!

Raleigh Ringers Concert
Come experience The Raleigh Ringers live in concert as they continue to dazzle concert audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes arranged just for handbells. Performances on Saturday & Sunday at Duke Energy Center in Raleigh.





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Places to Order Thanksgiving Day Pies around Raleigh – Durham – Cary


It’s time to order those Turkey Day Pies! Below are my top eight local picks for places to order delicious pies to share with family and friends around your Thanksgiving table. Make sure you order soon as many of these bakeries offer limited quantities and once they sell out they are gone! Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Union Special
2409 Crabtree Boulevard, Raleigh

East Durham Bake Shop
406 S Driver Street, Durham

La Farm Bakery
4248 NW Cary Parkway, Cary

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham

Jack Tar
202 Corcoran Street , Durham

Boulted Bread
614 W. South Street, Raleigh
Pie Order Page:

Yellow Dog Bread
219 E Franklin Street, Raleigh
Call the Bakery: 984-232-0291

Monuts Donuts
1002 Ninth Street, Durham

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‘Top Chef’ Alum Katsuji Tanabe To Open High Horse in Raleigh This Sunday, November 17th


High Horse Dishes – Photo by Nancy Granados

Chef Katsuji Tanabe – the renowned chef who captured television audiences when he starred on Bravo TV’s hit competition series Top Chef BostonTop Chef Mexico and Top Chef Charleston, and whose restaurants have stretched from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to Chicago and New York City – announces his new Raleigh, NC restaurant High Horse opening Sunday, November 17th. High Horse is located at 208 Wolfe Street in historic City Market in downtown Raleigh. It will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 5pm until 11pm (and until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, serving drinks and an abbreviated menu). In 2020, High Horse will open for Sunday brunch. Follow @HighHorseNC and @KatsujiTanabe. Reservations can be made on Resy.

Chef Katsuji Tanabe relocated to Raleigh to open High Horse – a restaurant to celebrate his “American Dream.” “The South has such a rich food culture and history; I really fell in love with it during Top Chef Charleston,” explained Tanabe. “I’ve found a home in the South where I can provide the best possible life for my family, and do what I love in a place that really cares about their food culture.” At High Horse, Tanabe brings his signature playful style and wildly unique combination of Mexican, Japanese and American flavors to life – influences from his childhood in Mexico City with parents of both Mexican and Japanese descent, two decades in restaurants in major cultural cities across the US, his experience competing on “Top Chef,” as well as his new home in the American South.


Chef Katsuji Tanabe – Photo by Nancy Granados

High Horse – a play on words – references the original stables which once occupied the City Market area, and serves as an invitation for diners to leave their pretentions behind and enjoy the “fun dining” experience for which Tanabe is so well known. “When you visit High Horse, we want to entertain you in every way – from the live fire in our open kitchen to the visually exciting cocktails and candy-filled cakes. Our entire menu is designed to share, and to be a really fun, engaging and affordable way for guests to dine together,” explained Tanabe, whose signature social media hashtag is, “#itookarisk.”

This festive restaurant and bar features two large wood-fired grills visible from the oval-shaped bar and dining room, in addition to an indoor private event space.


High Horse Cocktails Photo by Nancy Granados

Fans will discover variations of dishes from throughout Tanabe’s life and career – including his grandmother’s cornbread – also offered at his Chicago restaurant, Barrio. This close guarded family recipe also serves as Tanabe’s bread breaking with his new community; a percentage of sales from all cornbread sold will benefit downtown Raleigh’s pay-what-you-can café, A Place at the Table.

The majority of the menu offers dishes original to High Horse, which will be finished on the roaring wood-fired grills, including large format dishes like Spare Ribs in Tamarind Vinegar Sauce, charred Flat Iron Steak with burnt onion relish, and Skuna Bay Salmon with roasted peppers and chilies.

To complement, there is an adventurous selection of smaller and lighter dishes to share which have also been kissed by the flames and Tanabe’s global influences – charred Shishito Peppers with ponzuCauliflower with labneh, preserved lemon, burnt honey, chilies and mint, Oyster Mushrooms with black garlic confit and roasted Candy Cane Beets with marcona almond brittle, queso fresco and sherry vinaigrette.

Tanabe’s fondness for local Southern ingredients is as evident as his original take on them – as seen in the roasted Oysters with Country Ham Aioli and LimeNC Shrimp marinated in TogarashiOkra with Bottarga and NC Country Ham Tasting.

Like Tanabe’s bold cuisine, High Horse’s cocktails and desserts will also be instantly memorable. Vibrantly colored cocktails, including a keg Margarita, Cheerwine Old Fashioned and “Green Tea” ice shots draw inspiration from Tanabe’s heritage as well as his new found home in North Carolina.


Dessert! – Photo by Nancy Granados

Stay tuned! Soon, High Horse will introduce heated, outdoor dining and lounge seating as well. View High Horse menus at and reserve on

About Chef Katsuji Tanabe
Born and raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Mexico City to parents of both Mexican and Japanese heritage – captured the hearts of Americans at his restaurants across the US and through his appearances on national television. Now the Chef of Barrio in Chicago, Hussong’s Cantina at Mandaly Bay in Las Vegas, and High Horse in Raleigh, NC, Tanabe first made a name for himself in 2011 in Los Angeles, CA as the owner and chef of Mexikosher, the first authentic kosher, Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, and the first of its kind in the United States.  In 2016, he charmed audiences on Bravo’s Top Chef Boston, followed by Top Chef Mexico and Top Chef Charleston. Prior, Tanabe appeared on The Travel Channel’s Chow Masters, had a winning appearance on Food Network’s Chopped, was a professional chef contender on NBC’s Food Fighters as well as a judge on Master Chef Mexico.

Tanabe is committed to being a voice for immigrants in the food and beverage industry, supports CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees) and the James Beard Foundation’s “No Waste” initiative.

From restaurants and events to national television, Katsuji Tanabe continues to deliver his flavorful and flamboyant style to diners and fans across the US.

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“A Bronx Tale” Brings Heart to DPAC

A Bronx Tale

Nick Fradiani as Lorenzo and Stefanie Londino as Rosina in “A Bronx Tale”
(photo by Joan Marcus)

On Tuesday I headed over to Durham to get a little taste of the Bronx. After grabbing a quick dinner at Only Burger (perfect inexpensive pre-theater dinner spot by the way) with my friend Art, we strolled over to DPAC to catch the opening night performance of A Bronx Tale. If you are a fan of the 1993 film directed by Robert DeNiro then you will love this production and the talented cast that brings the story to life on stage. Based loosely on the life story of Chazz Palminteri, this is a fast paced high-energy musical set on the mean streets of the Bronx in the 1960’s filled with peppy Doo-Wop tunes and fancy footwork.

A Bronx Tale tells the story of Calogero, a young Italian boy from your typical working class family coming of age. Calogero is taken under the wings of  Sonny, the powerful neighborhood don who accepts him into his crew for not snitching on him when he witnesses Sonny kill a man in front of his house. Sonny’s mobster life and morals are are odds with don’t with Lorenzo, Calogero’s honest and hardworking father who drives a city bus to put food on the table. As he grows up Calogero has to decide between the two conflicting worlds and realizes living a life of integrity really means.

b. The Company of A BRONX TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Company of “A Bronx Tale”
(photo by Joan Marcus)

The second act centers around the forbidden love between Calogero and his classmate Jane, a  black girl from Wesbster Avenue, the dividing line beween the black inner city and the Italian neighborhoods of Belmont Avenue. Their relationship inevitably sparks trouble when a fight breaks out between Calogero’s Italian street punk friends and Jane’s brother. But it is this conflict that forces Calogero to confront the big question of how he wants to live his life and what type of man he is to become.

The cast is the real start of this production, but they have great support from a production that has created a simple yet inspired set design that does an excellent job of transporting you to the world  of  the gritty streets in the 1960’s Bronx.  Speaking of the cast, Ale Nevin is wonderful as the handsome but naive Calogero. He brings a sweet-hearted masculinity to the roll and is excellent as both the narrator during the first few numbers and is on top of his game when he gets his chance to sing.

g. Jeff Brooks as Sonny, Trey Murphy as Young C and the Cast of A BRONX TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus

Jeff Brooks as Sonny & Trey Murphy as young “C” in “A Bronx Tale”
(photo by Joan Marcus)

Jeff Brooks also does an outstanding job as Sonny, the mafia boss. He plays the character with depth and a fatherly warmth that allows him to step out of the old cliches typical of mafia characters. And although he is violent at times (he does kill a man after all) his musical numbers make him endearing and show a side to the character that transcends the movie version to show his true character as he watches out for Calogero.

One thing that really stood out to me about A Bronx Tale, aside from the superb singing and choreography, was the number of male characters that dominated the stage throughout the show. As I thought about this later as I walked back to my car after the show I realized that this casting decisions makes a lot of sense, because at its core this show is a coming of age story about male identity and relationships. While some may think it is only targeting male theatergoers I think this is a show that any audience member can relate to and enjoy.

‘A Bronx Tale’ has performances at DPAC through this Sunday, November 11th. For more information and tickets visit:

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Friday Pick: Little Waves Coffee Roasters and Heirloom Brewshop First Friday Launch!


Little Waves

Chuan Tsay – Areli Barrera de Grodski – Anna Phommavong

Starting this Friday coffee lovers will be able to find coffee from Durham’s Little Waves Coffee Roasters served in Downtown Raleigh at Heirloom Brewshop. To celebrate this new exciting partnership coffee fans are invited to join these two local businesses on their collaboration launch tomorrow after 4pm – Friday, November 1st, for the first taste of “Douang Prachanh” (Lao for “Heart of the Moon”), an exclusive coffee for Heirloom, inspired by Anna and Areli.


On Friday visitors to Heirloom can meet the the people behind Little Waves Coffee Roasters and Heirloom Brew Shop and chat about inspiration, heritage, and the importance of minorities and women in our community and in historically male-dominated professions. There will be free sample bags of coffee for the first 50 attendees!

Chocolate pairings from Escazu Chocolates and a special First Friday cocktail made with a Douang Prachanh cold brew and Hakutsuru sake on the menu all night. Heirloom also seves noodle and rice bowls and a has a special sake menu making it a perfect Friday date night spot. Hope to see you there!

Heirloom Brewshop
219 S. West Street
Raleigh, NC

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