carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

My Vivian Howard Tale

Vivian Howard is a chef living in the eastern North Carolina town of Kinston. She and her husband, Ben, were living and working in New York City when her parents offered to help them open a restaurant “as long as it was in Kinston” where Vivian “swore she would never go back to.” They came back, opened several successful restaurants. One of them, The Chef and The Farmer is a farm to table restaurant using year round products from local farms. She also developed and starred in two PBS series, “A Chef’s Life” and “Somewhere South”.

When we were living in Italy, somehow, through some magic, I was able to watch the first PBS series “A Chef’s Life” on the TV in my kitchen. Watching that brought back to me the North Carolina that I realized I missed. It was easy to fall in love with and admire Vivian. She is bright, smart, ambitious, great in the kitchen and very human on camera. And she has this great laugh. She just enjoys herself.

Lately, we have been watching reruns of “A Chef’s Life” and “Somewhere South”. And I have been thinking about Vivian. Before the library closed I was able to check out her giant cookbook Deep Run Roots. It has been very handy.

Truly, I have been thinking about her. By watching her shows we got to know her family, the farmers she works with, her restaurant family. And I worry about them. Her Momma, Miss Scarlet is a delicate little bird. I would hate for her to get sick. And who is buying all those tomatoes that she got Warren to plant? And she probably had to lay staff off. Has she been able to film new episodes of “Somewhere South”?

So I guess Vivian has been with us the whole time. But now the library is asking us to return books. And I know there is a waiting list for her book so I have given it back.

But look, I was able to preorder and pick up a book. We’ll miss you Vivian but I have something else to read now…….

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The Prisoner

Here he is…..

THE PRISONER OF CAMERON VILLAGE!!!!!!!

We have a friend, who is always very good about speaking TO Ben, AND NOT ALLOWING ME TO ANSWER!!!!!!!! Anyway, we had a ZOOM chat with this friend, who asked Ben if he felt he was being held prisoner in Cameron Village? “BLINK TWICE!!!”

Yeah, Ben is suffering so. First off, he doesn’t have to leave the house which truly, he could care less. He pretty much is doing whatever he wants to do. And then the poor man, forced to eat my cooking……

This week it was lasagna.

This is a real one. With Bolognese…..Bechamel. No, no, no I do not make my own pasta sheets. Come on, this takes hours!!!!! And for two people? Fortunately it is one of those things I planned for. Small, aluminum take out pans to pack up left overs. Smart friends will answer the call and meet us for a frozen transfer…..

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They are at it again!

Guest Post: By Guppy, the Lucky Dog 3

Really! I just want to have a nice quiet weekend and She Who Must Be Obeyed starts moving everything around!

Well, I just plopped down and hoped She won’t mess with me.

I guess that didn’t work. Look, the big bed is gone and my bed has gotten crammed over here in this little corner. Really! How am I supposed to relax. And then…

Oh, it was almost too much. She opened up a can of duck. Who knew duck comes in a can!!!! It smelled so good. And then there was fresh duck too. Enough to drive me crazy!

Of course, other people came. Fortunately, people I like, but they ATE ALL THE DUCK! Oh no! I didn’t get any at all! She keeps talking about how She misses eating duck so maybe she’ll buy another one and do this again. I sure hope so.

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Wegmans Report (or Oh, Look Harris-Teeter!)

Well, I waited 10 days after the opening to go to the Wegmans here in Raleigh. TV news reported that 30,000 people visited the store on opening day. Even 10 days later when I went the first time, it was still a mob scene. Now, a month and a half after opening it has calmed down some. I have been back every week since then and it is less crowded and I am learning the store so that I can jet in and out. Wegmans is sending coupons, so of course, I have to go. But, they also have things I want to buy and while it is a little farther than my Harris Teeter, it is less expensive for many items than Harris Teeter and the specialty things that I want to buy are there.

So how does the Raleigh store compare to the Fairfax, Virginia Wegmans…. I must preface this by writing that it has been a number of years since I have been in the Fairfax store. Things might be different there now. The big thing that I noticed missing was a large housewares department. (china, serving pieces, dish towels, pretty bakeware) Which is a good and bad thing. In Virginia, the store had Crate and Barrel quality merchandise. And there are Crate and Barrels in Virginia, nearby. There is a Crate here in Durham, not really nearby. I love Crate. I used to work there as a seasonal employee at this time of year. It was a joy to work there because I love housewares. So I was looking forward to a large, well stocked housewares department. But I do not need to be tempted by a large, well stocked housewares department. So it might be a good thing that this Wegmans doesn’t have one.

And I feel that the prepared foods bar has a different mix of foods. But I can’t say exactly how it is different. The Raleigh Wegmans has a burger bar, which we have yet to try. And you can get a glass of wine or a beer in store which used to not be the case in Fairfax. Ben and I had lunch from the prepared foods bar one day. We picked only Asian choices. The egg rolls are really good but there is no chili garlic/duck sauce for them. I can’t remember now what we had but it was good. The prepared food section would be great to take visiting guests or a group with mixed ages or food preferences to. There is lots of seating and it is wheel chair friendly. I would avoid normal lunch time (11:45 -1:30) since there are a lot offices and businesses nearby and employees come in to eat here.

The ready to take home meals section certainly shines bright. I have been visiting the store mainly on Thursdays which is the day that an outside care giver comes in to stay with Ben. I figure I should make my afternoon of respite complete by picking up something from the ‘take and heat’ section for dinner.



This is one of the meals that I have gotten. We have pretty much settled on egg rolls from the prepared foods bar and two Asian dishes from ‘take and heat’ section. It is good, well prepared food and is good value. I am certainly happy to have that as an option.

The bakery section is outstanding. There is a section of mini French pasteries which are $1 each. Not what you would pay at a Carrefour for the same thing but just as good. The problem I have found is that by 4 or so in the afternoon it is sold out. However, there are always loaves of ciabatta left which is not the case at my nearby Fresh Market. Oh, and the cheese……Honestly, tears came to my eyes the first time I saw the cheese department. I pick up something from there every week. It is so nice to have choices. The unfortunate thing is, most of the cheese is cut and portioned for a crowd. Yes, I know that I can always ask to have it split, but really? Is it too much trouble to have some $4 pieces as well as the $8 pieces??????? There are also some tasty looking dips, again packaged for a crowd. Is it too much trouble to pack some $4 tubs as well as the big $8 tubs?

Opening week had a special on scallops. I don’t eat a lot of seafood. Would not touch sushi unless my life depended on it. Seafood doesn’t agree with me. Those scallops were so fresh and good I could almost have eaten one raw. Ben has been enjoying those.



The oysters are pretty too. Haven’t bought any yet but I’m tempted.

What have I found at Wegmans that I can’t find elsewhere.

Well, one thing was these chopped, pickled peppers that I put on subs and Philly cheese steaks. Harris-Teeter used to have them but they completly disappeared as did President brand French butter which Wegmans has. Wegmans also has a very nice selection of tomatoes. They have an 8 pack, mixed flavors of the Danactive yougurt drink while H-T only carries a 6 pack (that costs more than the 8 pack) and H-T has been known to stop carrying it. Wegmans’ house brand pasta sauces are very good. More points for Wegmans, I found polenta. Farro is in the bulk section. And shittake mushrooms can be bought loose rather than pre packaged. Harris-Teeter wins on the arborio rice selection though.

Oh, and the olive oil at Wegmans. Look where it comes from…..



Lucignano, the village right next to where we lived in Monte San Savino….

You know that touched my heart. Our Lidl sells Italian Sparkling Water that is bottled in Monte San Savino. Now if I could just get someone to carry my favorite wine……

I can’t tell how much I miss this wine and its $5 price tag…….

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At last, Wegmans

Today’s the day. To much fanfare the store opened at 7:00 AM this morning. Did I say much fanfare….

Above the fold, front page of Saturday’s paper. Feature segments on many local news stations. Rented signs on the highways leading to the store advising of traffic delays. A food ad in Wednesday’s paper

And they have mailed coupons….So excited! We won’t be going until the end if the week. After last week of traveling to my high school reunion I have had my fill of moving Ben about and in crowds.

When we were considering where to land as we planned our move back here, Wegmans coming to Raleigh helped tip the balance. I am glad that it is finally here.

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Tomato Tart

Well, I gave in. All signs seemed to be pointing towards tomato tarts. David Lebovitz wrote about it. https://www.davidlebovitz.com/tomato-tart-recipe-fresh-herbs/ . Carol at Paris Breakfasts wrote about hers. http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com/2019/08/august-paris-letter.html . I was reading a cookbook from Poole’s Diner where we celebrated Ben’s birthday with a recipe in it, for what else, a tomato tart. And of course Southern Living had one too. So, a couple of Sundays ago I decided to make one. It more or less took all day!

Required a lot of untensiles and dirtied up the whole kitchen.



It was very pretty. And made a nice slice

I used the Southern Living part for the crust which was excellent. The Poole’s Diner part for the filling, which was not as good. Maybe too much horseradish???? We ate it, but I won’t make it again.

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Wegmans is coming! Wegmans is coming!

Can you tell I’m excited! I have been waiting for this since before we moved back to Raleigh from Italy! Years now.

The rest of Raleigh is taking it as a big deal too.



It is regularly reported on at least two local news casts. Spoken of as “the State Fair of Grocery Stores”.

Of course they are preaching to the choir when they mail me things.





If they want us there on opening day they will have to send a limo. But we will probably be there that first week. Ohhhh, so excited!

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Ben’s Birthday

Ben’s birthday was July 1. We celebrated on the 30th by having brunch at Poole’s Diner in downtown Raleigh. https://ac-restaurants.com/pooles/

We were a big group so we had to wait for a table. So we had a drink while we were waiting. It was not hard to get Ben in and out of the restaurant. Food and service were good. Sorry no food pics. I felt like it was a nice size meal, without feeling stuffed and without dragging home left overs. I would certainly go back.

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Finally!

Okay, I know I am writing about a very first world problem. I’ll say that right up front. But it is what I know and what I can write about……………….

BUTTER

Yes, butter. We eat butter. We have eaten it for years, years. Like Julia Childs I try to use it in moderation. That said, I appreciate good butter. Butter in Italy was CRAP! The only way I can describe it, waxy. It just wasn’t good. No matter what brand. And that is because there is such good olive oil, that many folks produced them selves. So why bother with butter.

When Ben and I visited Ireland with his sister in 2004, we rented a house. First thing, I bought several different kinds of butter. So we could taste test. (And several different types of cider too) There were some good butters there. When we used to stay in France, again, all different types of butter. Then we landed in Italy. Butter, a small disappointment. Really not good.

When you live in Italy it is easy to vacation in France. We drove. Heh, six hours away to the south of France. It dawned on me that we could buy French butter and bring it back to Italy. So for a number of years I did that. I was happy with a commercially mass produced brand, President. President made basic salted and unsalted butter and they also made a ‘sea salt’ version. That is butter with sea salt crystals incorporated in it. Discrete, taste them on your tongue salt crystals. I like salt. I will choose something salty over something sweet any day. So this butter was just the best.

After two years back in the US, I had actually forgotten about my favorite butter. Then I was reading a French blog online and reminded of it all over again. I thought longingly of that butter. Looked on the President web site to see if it was sold anywhere nearby. Well, basic butter is the sea salt crystal, no. So it was pushed to the forgotten corners of my mind. Then….

I was in the Harris-Teeter looking for President butter. IT WAS GONE! DISAPPEARED off the shelf. Of course I had to discuss this with the dairy products guy. He seemed to think it was a warehouse issue, not a discontinued forever issue. (Good for him, because my reply will soon be ‘Well, you might well just drive me to Wegmans’ which will be open in the fall) Anyway, I found Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter. Heh, give it a try. It sat in the fridge for two days before it occurred to me to try it.

OH MY!!!!!!

BUTTER WITH SEA SALT CRYSTALS IN IT!

DISCRETE, SEA SALT CRYSTALS THAT DANCE ON YOUR TONGUE

I almost cried. Really, I am so happy I have found this butter. This is the butter to put on a warm croissant. To put in hot baked potato. To melt and pour over popcorn. And the best of all, a hot ear of corn on the cob.

So tonight, we watch the ACC final and eat baked potatoes, I’ll have mine with the Vermont Creamery Sea Salt Butter thank you.

 

 

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We did something

Why is this a big deal…because we rarely go out and do anything. By that I mean, go to a movie or an exhibit or a play or concert. We just don’t do those things. It is not because of Ben’s lack of mobility. We never did. I can’t recall a concert that we have ever been to together. We have probably seen more movies in the last two years than we have before. That is only because Ben was winning tickets from the newspaper. I guess it is good that we are both very happy to stay in our house and amuse ourselves. But every now and then something comes along and I get us organized and we do something.

Chef Vivian Howard was being honored at my college, Meredith. The tickets were very affordable and included heavy hors d’oeuvre at the alumnae house before hand. How could we refuse.

For those who are not in the area, Vivian grew up in Eastern North Carolina and then left as soon as she could. She worked in NYC and married a nice man named Ben (can’t go wrong marrying a Ben). Her parents offered to help them open a restaurant as long as it was in her home town of Kinston, North Carolina. So she and Ben came back and did that. http://www.vivianhoward.com/#

Anyway, they have 2 restaurants in Kinston and one in Wilmington. She has written a book and had a very popular TV show on PBS, A Chef’s Life. When we lived in Italy, if the clouds were just right and the wind was not too strong and the internet gods were smiling I was able to watch her program. Her sweet Eastern North Carolina accent always brought me back to Carolina and helped me realize that was where we needed to be. So we went to see her.

Couldn’t take pictures during the presentation. It was just the right length. Vivian was interviewed by the President of the College. It was quiet enjoyable.

Meredith also announced a new degree program.

I am really excited for the college about this program. Had it been available when I was there I would have gotten that degree. If I still wanted to work, I would be applying. Such a good thing.

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