Tag Archives: North Carolina

Picture of the Week: Bean Traders in Durham

Bean Traders opened in the Homestead Market on Highway 54 in Durham back in 2000 and it continues to be mainstay of the local coffee scene. It is one of those coffee shops that I just don’t get to as often as I would like, but fall in love with it every time I visit. They roast their own coffee beans, have a creative drink menu, and offer an  impressive assortment of food items like waffles, homemade pies, and my personal favorite …. dark chocolate sea salt cookies.

A little over a year ago the shop expanded into the space next door and revamped its layout adding a lot of additional seating and a bigger coffee bar island to serve its droves of faithful customers. I usually go on the weekends when it can be quite busy, but the line always moves quickly and the space has a relaxing vibe making it a great spot to spend a Saturday morning nursing a warm mug of fresh coffee and people watching.

When you visit there is a pretty good chance you will run into the owners Christy and David both baking things for the shop and working the espresso machine. To learn more about their story and how they first met check out this great article in Durham Magazine. In the meantime add Bean Traders to your list of places to check out the next time you are in the Southpoint Mall area of Durham. Be sure to try their cold brew, it is some of the best around!

Bean Traders
105 W NC Highway 54
Durham, NC

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Il Palio in Chapel Hill ~ Italian Dining at its Best


I was recently invited to dine at Il Palio, the four-diamond rated Italian restaurant located inside the beautiful historic Sienna Hotel along East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. The restaurant opened in 1987 but the hotel and restaurant changed ownership back in 2009 and both underwent major renovations last summer resulting in a new modern & open design in the dining room and a revamped menu from the kitchen.

CHeff Teddy

Il Palio Executive Chef Teddy Diggs
(Photo courtesy Star Chefs)

The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Teddy Diggs who took the reins at Il Palio in early 2014 and oversaw the restaurants renovations. He was recently named one of the top “16 Chefs to Watch in 2016” by the foodservice website Restaurant Hospitality and was previously the head chef of prestigious restaurants in Washington DC and Martha’s Vineyard prior to moving to Chapel Hill. A main element of the kitchen renovation was the addition of a wood-fired grill which helped to reshape Il Palio’s Northern Italian menu featuring wood-grilled steaks, chops and whole fish incorporating flavors indigenous to Italian cooking like “smoke” and “wood” as a result of the grilling process.


Of course being there several fresh pasta dishes as well featuring seasonal local ingredients. But when I say pasta here don’t think of your typical pasta and sauce dishes. The menu features dishes like hand-crafted acorn fazzoletti with roasted local mushrooms and pappardelle with bolognese ragu just to name a few. We started things off with the delicious house made rosemary and sea salt focaccia bread and the nine herb salad was which was amazing. It came with great light lemon dressing and garnished with a tiny edible flower.


Next up we enjoyed the fresh house made fettuccine pasta & porcini mushrooms. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever had. I’m actually not the biggest fan of mushrooms but the way Chef Teddy prepared them they were just so flavorful that I honestly couldn’t get enough of them. And nothing beats freshly made pasta. The dish was a big hit at our table. These particular mushrooms are only in season for a short time so at this point are probably not on the menu anymore until next season, but they were are strong indication of the creativity and skills in the kitchen and how they can incorporate seasonal offerings into incredible dishes throughout the year.


As I mentioned earlier the wood-fired grill stoked with hard woods allows for creative meat dishes that incorporate smoke as an actual flavor. My wife ordered the 6 oz. beef filet with salsa verde. It was cooked perfectly and was delicious. We also shared the Chicken “al Mattone” with herb batuto and baby arugula which was excellent as well.


My wife and I enjoyed the look and feel of the dining room and overall atmosphere at Il Palio. It is an upscale dining experience for sure, but it’s very approachable. Perfect for a special occasion and getting dressed up, but also a great option for just a fun evening out with a great meal (no jacket and tie required).  There are seating options for all occasions, ranging from a private table for two and large booths for group to a large communal “chef’s table” with a view of the kitchen. Service wise the hostess and wait staff were exceptional. Our server chatted with us throughout the evening and sharing welcomed tips about the menu and wine pairings for each dish.


I was happy to see that Il Palio also has a patio area for outdoor dining during the spring and summer months. I don’t need an excuse for a return visit to  Il Palio but I enjoy eating outside this time of year and I’m already thinking about dining there again soon to see how the summer offerings have been incorporated into the menu. I am also looking forward to trying a few more of the many wines from their large Italian collection. I’m not sure just yet what I will order next time for dinner, but one thing I do know is what I will have for dessert. The first thing I will tell my waiter on my next visit is to save me one of the Videri dark chocolate souffles. They only make a handful each night and I hear it is wonderful!

Il Palio
1505 E Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 918-2545
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IlPalioRestaurant/
Instagram: @il_palio


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Filed under Chapel Hill, Restaurant Reviews

Coffee Crate Monthly Subscription Service Featuring NC Roasters

Just before the holidays I had the chance to try Coffee Crate, a new Durham-based  coffee subscription service that focuses on North Carolina coffee roasters. The box I received included three 4-ounce bags of whole bean coffee from three different NC roasters.  This was the first time I tried a service like this and came away very impressed. I think coffee subscriptions are a fun way to try new coffees and make great gifts for the coffee geek in your life. I’m particularly fond of this new service by Coffee Crate because they are local and feature NC roasters, several of which you can’t normally find for sale here in the Triangle.


The three individual four ounce bag of beans contained in each delivery go a long way. I enjoyed all three roasters included in the box I received. The coffees featured were a Kenyan coffee from Joe Van Gogh (Hillsborough), a Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia roasted by Mount Air Roasting (Asheville), and a nice espresso blend by Beans Boro Roastery (Greensboro). All three were very fresh (roasted just that week) and made for excellent cups of coffee. I enjoyed experimenting with the Kenyan and Yirgacheffe using my Chemex and  pulled several great espresso shots to make cappuccinos using the Beans Boro blend.


As an added bonus the delivery also included a chocolate chip cookie from the Appalachia Cookie Company along with a printout with details about each coffee. Coffee Crate offers multiple subscription options ranging from 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and one year. Subscription prices range from  $29 for 1 month to $23/month if you sign up for a year. Shipping is included in the price.  There is still time to sign up for their February deilivery which will offer coffee from NC roasters Enderly, Biltmore , and Reposo. I was very happy with my box of coffee from Coffee Crate and recommend you check them out. For more details about their monthly subscription service visit their website at http://coffeecrate.co/.

Coffee Crate – Durham, NC
Website: http://coffeecrate.co/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/coffeecrate
Twitter: @CoffeeCrate
nstagram: @CoffeeCrate


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Local Coffee: Back Alley Coffee Roasters

Back Alley Coffee Roasters – Wake Forest, NC

Did you know there is a new coffee roaster in the Triangle?  Back Alley Coffee Roasters is a small batch roaster located just north of Wake Forest in Youngsville, NC. Back Alley was started by local resident Tracy McKenzie after 10 years of home roasting and sharing his coffee with friends. I recently had the pleasure of sampling three of Back Alley’s current offerings with coffee from (Kenya, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica). I enjoyed experimenting with all three using the traditional drip, pour over and the AeroPress method. All three coffees arrived extremely fresh (just roasted days prior) and I found each made for a unique and delicious cup of coffee. The Costa Rica made for a clean cup with a smooth finish, while the Ethiopian features I slightly earthier sweeter flavor. The Kenyan was the darkest of the three roasts and I found that in addition to a great pour-over it worked great for pulling shots of espresso to make a full bodied cappuccino.

Pour Over w/ Back Alley’s Kenya Coffee

So where does the name “Back Alley Roasters” come from? As Tracy explains it, after learning of his love for coffee and several requests from coworkers one day he did a little roasting demonstration for his colleagues at work. He set up in the alleyway between two office buildings at work and while the smoke billowed from the roasting beans, they talked about the finer points of roasting over pour over coffees. Someone came out of the building and warned them that the bass was going to hear all the commotion to which somebody replied “We’re just roasting in the Back Alley!” and hence the name of Back Alley Coffee Roasters was born!


Ethiopia – Costa Rica – Kenya
Back Alley Coffee Roasters

For now Back Alley Coffee can be ordered through their online shop at backalleyroasters.com or by emailing Tracy directly at  tracy (at) backalleyroasters (dot) com. As an added bonus deliveries in the Wake Forest area are free and shipping is available to other areas. I suspect you will also soon be able to find their coffee in select retail locations in the Wake Forest area in 2015. In the meantime, to learn more about Back Alley Coffee Roasters and order some of their coffee beans visit their website here. Happy brewing!

Back Alley Coffee Roasters – Wake Forest, NC
website: http://www.backalleyroasters.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/backalleyroasters
twitter: @backalleycoffee
instagram: @Back_Alley_Roasters


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Well Bean Coffee ~ Coffee On The Go in Wake Forest!


Well-Bean Coffee – Wake Forest, NC

Well-Bean Coffee is a fun new coffee kiosk located on the corner of Burlington Mills Road and Capital Boulevard in Wake Forest just across the street from Crossroads Ford (map). What sets them apart from other local coffee shops is they are a drive-though service featuring locally roasted organic coffee, espresso drinks, teas and fruit & protein smoothies. It is a perfect stop for commuters because it is right off Capital Boulevard and you don’t even need to get out of your car to get your coffee. Just pull right up to the the window to place your order and within a minute or two you are on your way with drink in hand. For those in an even bigger hurry,  Well-Bean just released a a new app so you can place your order in advance so they can have your drink ready for you when you arrive.

Iced Latte

I paid my first visit to Well-Bean a couple of weeks ago on a particularly warm day so I opted for iced latte. I was really impressed with the wide variety of drinks they offer. I like whole milk in my iced latte, but was happy to see they also offer soy and almond milk for those looking for dairy alternatives. In addition to a full lineup of coffee and espresso drink offerings, Well-Bean also sells a number of healthy shakes and smoothies including gluten free and paleo-friendly options. You can view their full menu here.

Well-Bean Coffee Kiosk

The baristas at Well-Bean are super friendly and skilled at making great drinks. I was really impressed with my iced latte and a cappuccino I ordered on a subsequent visit. Their drinks easily rival those found in some of my other favorite coffee shops around the Triangle. I really like the healthy aspect of the business with its focus on organic coffee and gluten free and paleo-friendly options. If you are looking for a new place to pick up a great coffee on the go without compromising quality and enjoy supporting locally owned business keep an eye out for the little green Well-Bean sign the next time you are driving down Capital Boulevard. Well-Bean is open 6am-5pm Monday through Friday and 8am-4pm on Saturday & Sunday. For more information about their coffee and the services they offer check out their website here.

Well-Bean Coffee
10012 Capital Boulevard
Wake Forest, NC
website: http://www.well-bean.com
twitter:  @wellbeancoffee
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wellbeancoffee


Filed under Coffee