As I mentioned last time, we recently got back from a visit to Win's parents' house in North Carolina. His parents are excellent cooks and bakers and they always feed us well. While visiting, also usually try and get out to a couple restaurants and shops to sample the local fare.
In my mind, no visit to their part of North Carolina is complete without a trip to A Southern Season. A Southern Season is one of the largest and most interesting cooking and food-related shops I have ever seen. Check out these photos to see for yourself. The massive, well-decorated and welcoming store boasts a large section devoted to coffee and tea, an enormous wine section, and then cases and cases of imported meats, gourmet cheeses, fresh salads, and other tempting dishes. The store sells all sorts of cookware, bakeware, and gadgets and I could stand in the aisles for hours just perusing all the interesting merchandise. They sell china, flatware, linens, and all sorts of table and dining room decorations. The racks of A Southern Season are chock full of unique condiments, sauces, spices, cookies, crackers, and other treats. They also have many regional specialties on hand, showcasing some of the best flavors of North Carolina cuisine.
Every time I go to A Southern Season, I want to buy practically everything I see. Fortunately for my bank account, I am always traveling by plane back home and I convince myself that buying all these things would be impractical and impossible to carry. I have ordered from their web site before, however, with excellent results. So if you have occasion to visit the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, definitely pay A Southern Season a visit. If you enjoy food, cooking and entertaining, you'll enjoy getting lost amidst all their treasures.
Besides our visit to A Southern Season, we ate some tasty Southern food too. One night I went out with a friend to Mama Dip's. It was a Mom's Night Out and I was off duty as a blogger, so sorry but no photos of this one. Mama Dip's has been serving up very traditional Southern food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for 25 years. While the décor in Mama Dip's is basic, the menu is full of pitch perfect Southern standards. My friend Debra and I tried the corn bread, the Brunswick Stew, the Catfish Gumbo, an order of fried green tomatoes, and an order of fried zucchini & broccoli with cheese. All of the food was very good. It should be noted that Deb and I aren't native Southerners (she's a Midwesterner now living in North Carolina and I'm an East Coast girl now living in Chicago). As such, our non-Southern palates encouraged us to select dishes that were delicious and traditional, but not the epitome of Southern cooking. For those who like the real deal, Mama Dip's also features chitlins, chicken and dumplings, black eye peas, collards, country ham, sweet potato biscuits and all sorts of barbeque.
Later in our visit, Win's parents took us to Allen & Sons for lunch. Again, I was off-duty for this one so I don't have any photos to share. Allen & Sons has amazing barbeque, slow-cooked on a wood fire that gives the meat an absolutely delicious taste. We started our lunch with sweet tea and an order of hush puppies. For me, that combo right there is heaven. Then we dove into their barbeque. Their barbeque (pulled pork) sandwich is so, so good. The meat is tender, smoky, and perfectly flavored. Despite being happily full with the barbeque sandwich, we all ordered one of their homemade desserts because they sounded too good to pass up. With that, coconut chess pie, cherry cobbler, blueberry pie and Klondike pie were delivered to our table. All of them were outstanding in their own, unique way. Our Lima Bean, who has never seen so much dessert all in one place in her life, was thrilled to have bites of everyone's pie. She proclaimed loudly that "Daddy's is best." So Lima's vote went with the Klondike; I'm going to have to say the coconut chess pie stood out for me as the most unique and intriguing. Allen & Sons has friendly servers and a charming, casual dining room. We were lucky to get there early because at peak lunch time they were packed. Their food is so good, I can absolutely see why.
Late one night, Win and I took a drive around Chapel Hill while my in-laws kindly babysat Lima for us. Knowing I am a complete sucker for sweet tea, Win lured me to one of his old favorites from his college days: Time Out. Time Out is a tiny takeout joint on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, right next to the University of North Carolina campus. It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and it specializes in Southern food and traditional takeout staples. Nothing fancy, but it's somewhat of an institution among the college set.
For years Win has raved about the chicken biscuit at Time Out. This sandwich is a fried chicken breast served on a warm biscuit. When you order the chicken biscuit, the person behind the counter grabs a piece of chicken, fried and on the bone, and uses tongs to rip the breast portion off. He or she then slaps the chicken breast on a biscuit and off you go. Win is in love with this chicken biscuit and it's been years since he's had one, so he loved trying it again. I thought the sandwich was good, but to be honest I was just happy sitting there slurping down my giant sweet tea. Ahhh, sweet tea...
So that sums up the Southern food portion of our trip to North Carolina. We had another excellent, non-Southern meal out, but I'll save that for next time.
Next time At Our Table: The polenta that blew my mind
A Southern Season
Highway 15-501 at Estes Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Web Site: http://www.southernseason.com
Mama Dip's Kitchen
408 W. Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Web Site: http://www.mamadips.com
Allen & Sons barbecue
6203 Millhouse Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
133 W Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
**People of Southern Season: I love you and yes, I do accept gifts.