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Discover Great Cuban Cuisine at Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse in Durham!

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Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse ~ Durham, NC

One of the things I love most about writing this blog is discovering great new places to eat.  Sometimes it is a brand new place and other times it is me simply stumbling upon a hidden gem that is “new to me”. This time around it is a little bit of both. You see Gregoria’s Kitchen has been reborn after temporarily closing in 2013 due to a fire. This past January it reopened as Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse in a new location on Hillsborough Road in Durham.  The new incarnation of Gregoria’s features a bigger space, a revamped look and an enhanced menu featuring home-style Cuban dishes and new menu additions like steaks with Spanish, African and Caribbean influences.

Appetizers

Let me get right to the point, the food was FABULOUS! The kitchen is run by veteran executive chef Michael Pirnik. Born in New York of Cuban parents, Chef Pirnik was trained in Paris and has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe and New York. His menu does a wonderful job of spanning the spectrum of traditional Cuban fare while incorporating new additions to the previous menu. I started of with an assortment of appetizers to familiarize myself with the range flavors. My two favorites were the spinach and cheese empanada, and the platano maduro relleno, a sweet plantain stuffed crisp pork belly & picadillo, drizzled with buttermilk crème.

Grilled marinated flank steak, yuca frita, chimichurri

While considering what to get as my entree I was  initially drawn to the the traditional Cubano sandwich. However I was also craving some of the more modern fare like the beef-and-chorizo sliders or house-cured pork belly chicharrones. Ultimately I couldn’t resist one of the steak selections added to the revamped menu. After sharing this dilemma with my friendly waiter I ordered the grilled marinated flank steak, with yuca frita, and chimichurri. The green chimichurri, with it’s finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, and olive oil, provided the perfect accent to my medium-rare grilled skirt steak. It was so flavorful. I’ve never had yuca before and was pleasantly surprised by the crispy texture and it went really well with the steak.  Just an aside, but I was also a big fan of the ornate “Deruta Style” dishes used to plate each course dish.

Main Dining Area

Before I go on more about the food I need to mention a little about the layout and decor of the interior. I enjoy restaurants that offer various seating options since they can suite many different occasions for dining out. At Gregoria’s the main dining area is spacious and intimate at the same time.  It has warm lighting accented by chandeliers and black and white photos of Cuba adorning the earth tone walls. There are both large and small tables making it perfect for a quiet date or meal out with a group of friends and family. There is even a separate room in the rear of the dining room that can be closed off for private parties of up to 60 guests.

Bar Area & My Mojito

The bar area provides a casual option with large booths along the rear wall and high-top tables placed spaciously across the dark wood floor. Perfect for a more casual lunch or dinner and drink with friends while enjoying nightly drink specials from the bar. I was there on a Thursday night and had a great $5 mojitos to tame the tickle in the back of my throat. Other weekly specials include 1/2 off bottles of wine on Tuesdays, $5 martinis on Wednesday, and $5 wine by the glass to go along with mojitos on Thursdays. Sunday Brunch drink specials include $5 bloody maria’s and $10 bottomless mimosas.

Tres leches

Of course I couldn’t leave without trying one of their deserts. Ive never had Tres leches before but the way my waiter described it I knew I had to try it. I’m sure my foodie friends already new this but a Tres Leches is a sponge caked soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The cake at Greogoria’s is a light fluffy cake with many air bubbles. The perfect texture to ensure it doesn’t suffer from soggy consistency, despite being soaked in a mixture of three types of milk. Topped with sliced strawberry’s the dessert was delightfully sweet and a perfect ending to a great meal.

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Outdoor Patio

As I prepared to leave I wandered outside though the restuarants secluded outdoor patio. It is a great outdoor area filled with bentwood chairs and tables with umbrellas and strings of suspended lights that reminded me of a dining club at the beach. The manager explained to me they have live salsa music most weekends (Friday / Saturday nights) and even have dancing demos from professional salsa dancers.  I’m am always on the hunt for a place to take my wife for salsa dancing (she is a much better dancer than I) so I know we will be back soon!

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Bartender Crafting my Mojito!

I was really impressed with every aspect of Gregoria’s. From the food to the specials, to the entertainment offerings. I highly recommend checking out this place out whether you are looking for fun date night spot on the weekend or just a great place for delicious Cuban fare on a weeknight. Of special note, if you happen to stop by Tuesday through Thursday they are currently offering a special $20 Three Course Dinner option that is a really a nice deal. As always, if you pay them a visit I’d love to hear what you think. Enjoy!

Gregoria’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Brunch is also served on Sundays between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. To learn more, visit www.gregoriascubansteakhouse.com.

Gregoria’s Cuban Steak House
2701 Hillsborough Rd
Durham NC 27705 (919) 973-2717
website: http://www.gregoriassteakhouse.com
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GregoriasCubanDurham
twitter: @GregoriasDurham

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A visit to Watts Grocery in Durham ~ “Strange Seafood” Event Recap!

Watts Grocery - Durham, NC

Watts Grocery – Durham, NC

Watts Grocery in Durham has long been at the top of my list of the great Triangle restaurants to visit. For one reason or another I’ve never managed to make the trip over from Raleigh to dine there until very recently when I was invited to attend a special “Strange Seafood” event hosted there last month. I can’t believe what I’ve been missing! My first experience at Watts Grocery was exceptional and the culinary creations by Chef Amy Tornquist were fantastic.

Dining Room - Watts Grocery

Dining Room – Watts Grocery

The “Strange Seafood” event I attended was a partnership with the Walking Fish Cooperative, an award winning community supported fishery that links fishermen on the coast of North Carolina to seafood-loving consumers in the Triangle. Attendees enjoyed a 5-course dinner that showcased an array of sustainably harvested strange seafood from North Carolina paired with wines from Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Proceeds from that night went to benefit Saltwater Connections, a regional initiative aimed at sustaining livelihoods, cultural heritage, and natural resources along North Carolina’s central coast.

Strange Seafood Menu

Strange Seafood Menu

Full disclaimer, although I love to blog about food I am have an unfortunate shellfish allergy that makes it challenging for me to fully enjoy seafood since many dishes typically have shellfish in the ingredients in one form or another. So on this night I sampled what I could, and quizzed my dinner companions for their thoughts on the dishes I could not try myself. Fortunately I was sitting with some of the areas best foodie bloggers like Matt Lardie of EatWriteGo, Kristen Baughman of Gadabout Food, and Jill Warren Lucas of EatingMyWords. It was great fun spending the evening with the three of them and bending their ear a bit about local foodie happenings as we chatted over each course.

Appetizer - Hush-puppies and Fried Okra

Appetizer – Hush-puppies and Fried Okra

As luck would have it I was good to go with the  appetizer served for our table share. It consisted of hushpuppies and fried okra. These fried delights were light and tasty and the basil mayo & tabasco aioli served accompanying them added a burst of flavor that really tickled my taste buds. The wine served with this course was actually nice light champagne.

2nd Course ~ Smoked Jumping Mulle

2nd Course ~ Smoked Jumping Mullet

First course was Sea Asparagus & tomato salad with chapel hill creamery feta cheese & lemon vinaigrette (image). The sea asparagus was something many at our table had not tried before but all agreed it went very well in the salad. The wine pairing for the first course was a lovely Muscadet.  The second course (pictured above) was a smoked Jumping Mullet with pickled red onions, arugula salad, and a grilled baguette

Wine

Wine

As I mentioned earlier, I was somewhat limited in the number of dishes I could try due to my allergies (I knew this going in to the event) but was thrilled to be a part of the evening and enjoyed listening to my foodie friends describe the flavor profiles of each dish. I was not however limited in my ability to try each dishes wine pairing and I made sure I thoroughly enjoyed those. Picture above is the fine burgundy that accompanied the evenings third course.

3rd Course - Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate

3rd course – Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate

The third course was none other than a Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate with capers, sauteed potatoes, and green beans drizzled with a brown butter sauce. I have caught my fair share of skates in my day but never realized they could be turned into such an elegant dish. It was at this point that Chef Amy Tornquist stopped by our table as she made her rounds to checking on the guests in the dining room. It was great listening to her stories about how she tackled the challenge of creating such inventive dishes with the unique seafood she was presented with for the evenings menu.

Dessert - Fig and Apple Cake

Dessert – Fig and Apple Cake

The fourth course was Sheephead Stew (yes that is a fish – and a scary looking one at that) with collards, smoked tomatoes, and house bacon (image). This was served with nice medium bodied Pinot Noir.  The fifth and final course was dessert. This was an incredible fig and apple cake served with vanilla ice cream and a fig caramel. It truly was amazing. I don’t think I left a crumb on my plate. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic evening of wine and fine seafood.

Chef Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

Chef Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

Although I could only sample a few of the night’s dishes I truly enjoyed my first visit to Watt’s Grocery and can see why Chef Amy Tornquist and the restaurant are so highly regarded. Not only was the food wonderful but I loved the setting inside the restaurant with the spacious bar and the artwork adorning the walls in the warmly light dining area. The tables are spread throughout the restaurant in such a way to make private conversation easy and perfect for a date night, while at the same time close enough to make the restaurant feel like a place inviting to larger groups looking to enjoy an evening of great food with their friends. I look forward to my next visit and am particularly looking forward to trying their weekend brunch menu which I hear is fantastic!

About Watts Grocery
With roots firmly planted in North Carolina, Watts Grocery takes its name from the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood where chef Amy Tornquist has fond childhood memories of the Watts St. Grocery candy and snack stop in Trinity Park. Featuring local foods by the forkful, Amy weaves them into her cooking to create a distinctive take on North Carolina cuisine. Watts Grocery combines easygoing Southern hospitality with dishes such as fried oysters with remoulade, chicken and dumplings topped with cheese biscuits, and Meyer lemon mousse. Durham’s night owls feast on the unconventional bar menu featuring fried chicken gizzards with garlic aioli, hush puppies with basil mayo and red velvet cupcakes.

Upcoming Dining Event!
Watts Grocery to Host Farm to Fork Dinner October 23, 2014
If you missed the Strange Seafood event but would like to experience Watts Grocery at a future event you are in luck! On Wednesday, October 23, Watts Grocery is teaming up with Four Leaf Farm & Bluebird Meadow to host the Farm to Fork Wine Dinner. Guests will enjoy a five-course meal paired with wines by Drew of the Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Cocktails begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by dinner. Tickets are $55 (tax and gratuity not included) and can be purchased by calling Watts Grocery at 919-416-5040.

For more information, visit wattsgrocery.com or call 919-416-5040. Watts Grocery is located at 1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC, 27705. Connect with them on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

 

 

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A visit to Glasshalfull Wine Bar in Carrboro

A few weeks ago my wife and I visited Glasshalfull in Carrboro to taste some wines and have lunch. It is located in the center of downtown Carrboro, and includes  a wine bar, wine shop, and restaurant under one roof that combines big-city sophistication with small-town geniality. It is a great place to meet friends for a drink and a bite or a delicious bottle of wine and a full dinner.
This was our first time there and we truly enjoyed it. The have a great selection of wines that you can try in 3 oz or 5 oz glasses or by the bottle.

The food is excellent too.  For lunch I had the Slow-Roasted Porchetta sandwhich on Ciabatta bread. My wife enjoyed the Tuna Confit salad with radishes, cucumbers, braised leeks, and pimnetos. They only serve lunch to 2:30 on Saturday and we arrived on the tail end of that and UNC game was also going on at the same time, so there were not a lot of people there which was kind of nice for a quiet lunch. We tried a variety of their wines too. All of which were excellent. But don’t take my word for it. You can read Greg Cox’ review  on the News and Observer website. For more information about the wine and food they offer check out their website here: Glasshalfull

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