The Triangle, Day 2: Lisa’s Culinary Journey to the U.S. Southern States

Raleigh-Durham Day Two. Duke University and a Sublime Coconut Layer Cake.




After lunch we visit the area’s impressive College, Duke University. It is, in a word, awesome. Beautiful old English architecture and enormous grounds make this gorgeous College a pleasure to stroll around. Even the students’ quarters are enviable – amazing large brick houses lined up along a huge expanse of lawn.

Duke University lawns. Beautiful!

We visit the Nasher Museum of Art (on campus) and see a wonderful exhibition about the Cone sisters,  the largest private collectors of Picasso and Matisse in the early 20th Century. Stef is a guide at the Museum so we get our own private tour. If you’re in the area, it is a must-see and, if not, if you’re ever in Baltimore that’s where you’ll find the permanent exhibition.

Who'd have thought such a beautiful museum could be found on a University campus?
Who’d have thought such a beautiful museum could be found on a University campus?

Stef then takes us to her favourite food spots in Durham. Foster’s and Gugelhof. Foster’s Market is another beautiful gourmet food store, but selling more ready made food than Parker & Otis.

We spend a good fifteen minutes seriously ogling and drooling over the pie cabinet. Embarrassing really. And so sadly, we are too stuffed full of ‘Q and puppies’ to try anything else. We all LOVE the look of the lemon curd coconut layer cake. The pies look enticing. Chocolate Chess, Sour Cream and Cherry Chess, Bourbon Pecan, Blackberry – just to name a few! Save those for next time. The salads look fabulous, particularly the succotash which is a new one for me.

The owner is Sara Foster, entrepreneur, chef, caterer and cookbook writer. Her books are gorgeous and if this wasn’t my first stop, I would have bought them all.

I am still kicking myself that we didn’t grab a piece of that coconut cake…but I have now found the recipe online, so I might just have to make it myself.


More pies....
More pies….
Look at this beauty. Lemon curd coconut layer cake. Mmmmmmmm. I want.
Look at this beauty. Lemon curd coconut layer cake. Mmmmmmmm. I want.
Succotash. In case you were wondering.
(Suffering) Succotash. In case you were wondering.

Just a few doors down the road is Durham’s well known Guglhupf bakery and patiserrie, famous for its brezels (pretzel rolls) and other German style baked goods. We stick our heads in there, ooh and ahhh a bit, and then move on.

I am interested in seeing what the biscuit looks like as a fast food, which I am told it is becoming. I imagine a sweet country shack with home cooked biscuits being sold in a more ‘efficient’ way. We spy a ‘Biscuitville’, which is closed, but we manage to check out the drive thru menu. Sadly, it looks just like McDonalds but instead of buns they use biscuits. Disappointment. Maybe I shouldn’t judge until I have tried it, so I promise next time I will go to Biscuitville and give it a go.

Biscuitville....looks like Macca's drive thru, right?
Biscuitville….looks like Macca’s drive thru, right?

It’s back home to the ranch where we spot a deer inside fence one, but outside fence two. Interesting. A quick change and we are on the road to dinner at Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh where Ashley Christenson is at the helm. She is one of North Carolina’s best known chefs and has a number of restaurants  in her stable. You can’t book, so we go early to be sure of getting a table.

The menu is really well put together and it’s hard to choose. We start with a few interesting salads. How about arugula, pink lady apples, red onion, marcona almonds, buttermilk blue cheese, sourdough croutons with a maple Dijon vinaigrette sound? Or charred Brussels sprouts with lettuce, pomegranate, pecorino and honey with white balsamic vinaigrette? I am beginning to understand that pimento cheese varies from place to place, and Ashley makes her version using ‘Hooks 3 year cheddar’. It is so good. For main course I order ‘Burgundy Braised Short Ribs with pointed head cabbage, crispy Tabasco onions and charred shallot gravy’. Yum. Esther chooses fish, which I pay no attention to at all as I concentrate only on scoffing my own meal. Note to self: pay more attention.

Ashley Christensen and moi. In case you are wondering, I'm the one without the apron.
Ashley Christensen and moi. In case you are wondering, I’m the one without the apron.

We have the pleasure of meeting Ashley during the meal (our friends have known Ashley since her catering days) and she is delightful. She sends out an extra dish from the menu – a really wonderful lobster salad that we scoff in a minute. If only we could have waited long enough so I could make note of some details.

The highlight of dinner, and the signature dish of Poole’s, is the Mac and Cheese (aka Macaroni au Gratin). OMG. Rich, golden, cheesy, toasty, crusty. And that’s just the outside. Her recipe is published online so we can all now make it at home. I think when you all look at the list of ingredients and the calories per serve, it might be better NOT made at home. This is a special once-in-a-blue-moon type of dish.


The Ultimate Mac 'n Cheese, thanks to Ashley Christensen
The Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese, thanks to Ashley Christensen

It’s such a shame we don’t have more time in Raleigh to try all the restaurants and really get a sense of the city. Next time.


Duke University – 2138 Campus Drive, Durham

Nasher Museum of Art – 2001 Campus Drive  Durham

Guglehupf – 2706 durham-chapel hill blvd. suite #11, Durham

Foster’s Market – 2694 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham

Poole’s Downtown Diner – 426 S. McDowell Street, Raleigh




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