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Chicken & Waffles: Like Socks With Sandals, It Just Makes Sense.

Last weekend, a baby and her adorable parents took us to lunch.

See how cute those parents are?

In Durham, NC, there’s a place that, while the menu had grown over time, specializes in exactly 2 things:

Chicken ‘n Waffles.

Say, what?

Sounds strange, but Durham people know that Dame’s Chicken & Waffles is something special.  Which is why we weren’t too surprised to see the gigantic line outside.

Bummed, but not surprised.

How long is the wait?

So we waited.

And we watched people eat.

And we studied the menu.

And we became mildly concerned that we were going to starve to death, right there on the street, watching people devour heaping plates of fried chicken and waffles.

Jesus, my husband has to stop looking cute while holding babies.

We became delusional from the hunger, gnawing on mice and stray appendages.

Have I been reading too much Hunger Games?

They called us just in time.

And all was right with the world.

So I’ll get right down to it.

The place has a great atmosphere — tiny, crowded, and cramped enough to see what everyone else is ordering.

(Pssst – I’ll give you a hint:  Chicken.  And Waffles.)

Alaina and I got started with champagne and lemonade.  You know, to celebrate getting in.  We were going to go with mimosas, but our waitress killed us on the up sell.  The great thing is that they ended up being less than $7.00 each, and we were able to carry our mini wine cooler-tasting bottles of champagne through the Durham art show, taking nips to dull the pain of my poor choice in footwear.

I’m glad our drinks were light, because the meal was certainly not.

First came the sides.

A bowl of incredible fresh fruit — plump, ripe strawberries and sweet, juicy pineapple.  The cheese grits (left) were delicious — not gritty at all, which, in my non-southern humble little opinion, is the only way grits are tolerable.

The spicy greens, while not exactly aesthetically appealing, were divine, if you like that sort of thing.

spicy collard greens

Judge with your mouth — not with your eyes.

And the mac ‘n cheese.  Oh, my.  I could’ve had this as my meal.

mac 'n cheese

But we were just getting started.

On the back of Dame’s menu are several suggested chicken ‘n waffle combinations, including the “Orange Speckled Chabo,” served with a fried chicken cutlet, sweet potato waffle, honey-dijon mustard, and orange-honeycomb schmear, or the “Buff Brahmas,” served with your choice of wings or cutlets drizzled with whiskey cream sauce, a classic waffle, and peach apricot schmear.

The Buff Brahmas.

The verdict?

My fried chicken was cooked perfectly — nice and moist inside.  Unfortunately, it was a little soggy due to the whisky cream sauce, which, while mighty tasty, definitely took away from the texture of the chicken.  But everyone else loved theirs.


Let me tell you about the waffles.

And the schmear.

What’s schmear?  Well.  According to me, they’re little flavored dollops of mouth exploding gastrogasms.

To Dame’s, they’re flavored dollops of whipped sweet cream butter.

I schmeared my peach apricot schmear all over my beautiful waffle (and I’m not normally a waffle person), topped that with some maple syrup, and died.

Dame's Chicken and Waffles

Then I came back to life to eat some more.

Then I died again.

It. Was. Incredible.

Justin order the “Orange Speckled Chabo,” and we both felt that the sweet potato waffles were inferior to my classic ones.  Though his orange schmear was zesty and delicious.

But mine?  That combination of peach apricot schmear, whiskey cream sauce, and maple syrup was phenomenal.

A plate full of artery-clogging, diabetes-triggering deliciousness.

I wouldn’t take it back for a second.

In the end, we all felt like this.

But it was well — well worth the wait.

Have you had any excellent meals lately?

Dame's Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon

I Tasted Carolina. And Then I Ate it All. (Part 2)

Okay.  So where was I on my fantastic Taste Carolina food tour?  I believe we were carrying Alfred’s pecaaaahn pie over to the Carrboro Beverage Company to wash it down with a brewski.  Because nothing goes with sweet pie better than a bitter stout.


Probably not.

(If you missed Part 1, check it out here.)

The Carrboro Beverage Company is owned by Tyler’s Tap Room, which is apparently a very popular tavern in the area.  I’ll have to go back to try it out.

You know, for research.

Unfortunately, I feel a little like this is where the tour started going downhill.  We were becoming full and tired, and then we introduced alcohol into the mix.  The guys working here were very friendly, but they seemed unsure about what they were supposed to serve us, so they just started handing out samples of whatever they had on tap.  There also happened to be a wine representative in the place, so we had more than our fair share of samples, but combine all of that with a slice of fresh pecan pie, and they almost had to roll me out of there.

Carrboro Beverage Company
Carrboro Beverage Company
Carrboro Beverage Company

They rolled me right into the place I’d been most looking forward to on the tour — Acme.

We’d eaten there with Alaina and Dirk once before, and from what I remembered, the food had been spectacular.

Which is why, needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed when they came out with what basically amounted to glorified nachos.

Acme Nachos

Sure they looked pretty, and the taste of the homemade chips dusted with goat cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime was good, like goat cheese, and who doesn’t like goat cheese, but it just… wasn’t what I’d been expecting.  I suddenly felt like the annoying neighbor who’d dropped by unexpectedly, so our hosts rummaged through the fridge and threw together whatever they could find.  And after a morning of service by enthusiastic and prepared artisans who were incredibly proud of their products, this just felt like a letdown.

That said, I’d still recommend them if you’re planning to spend some money.  The food really can be phenomenal, and they have a gorgeous courtyard out back.

The next 2 stops, Miel Bon Bons and Jessee’s served more as an interlude for all of the gastronomical craziness going on.  We sampled tiny macaroons and chocolate confections at the little patisserie with its stunning displays of pastries, candies, and the most beautiful wedding cakes I’ve ever seen (which they wouldn’t let me photograph, but you can see plenty on their website).

Miel Bon Bons

At Jessee’s, we took a rest and sipped refreshing flavored iced teas.

This was the reprieve we needed, apparently, because I felt rejuvenated.  Which was extremely fortunate, because for the next stop, I needed my energy.

Welcome to Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe.

Now we’re back on track.

We were able to meet Vimala herself, who opened this restaurant with the help of the community.  After emerging — alive — from an abusive marriage, family and friends encouraged her to open this cafe, where her motto has always been, “When Vimala cooks, everyone eats!”  She will feed anyone who comes through her door, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.

But her generosity is not a cover for lack of flavor.

This was just… the best.  And my biggest regret is not taking sufficient notes so I could accurately describe to you the deliciousness that we ate.

All I can say is if you like Indian food, or you think you might like to think about liking Indian food, this is a great place to start.

Then finally — finally — we were nearing the finish line.

Our guide stopped us on a corner to talk about the place we were about to enter, the Open Eye Cafe, but I couldn’t concentrate due to the food coma my brain was trying to fight off, so I took photos of bees instead.

Dudes.  I totally felt buzzzzzed.


So we entered the coffee shop, and I’ll be honest — I wish this would have started the tour, since they by far had the lengthiest and most informative presentation.  But after 9 stops and countless indulgences, I wasn’t sure the Open Eye Cafe could… well… keep my eyes open.  Which is a shame, because they took us into the back room, where a more conscious mind would have learned from a true coffee connoisseur how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.  From selecting the best free trade beans from individual farmers around the world, roasting their beans in-house, and adjusting the brewing water temperature to suit the particular bean — they knew it all.  Really.  This place could be more intimidating than a winery, and their super-trained and certified baristas do, in fact, hold tasting competitions with coffee.

It’s that serious.

He brewed a couple of different samples for us to try, and even my husband, who is not a black coffee drinker, had no problems getting this down.

If I learned nothing else, I did learn that coffee-making is an art much more complicated than pouring a glass of wine.

And, if done right, can lead to an exceptional tasting experience.

We drove to Dirk and Alaina’s to see the baby, but there’s a chance I might have wandered out to their porch by myself, stretched out on the couch, and took a nap.

Hey.  Don’t judge.  Eating Carolina is exhausting.

I Tasted Carolina. And Then I Ate It All. (Part 1)

It’s times like these.

Times when it’s cold, and the forecasters predict that later today it will progressively get colder, because there’s this evil thing called a COLD FRONT and it’s headed this direction and some time — some foreboding time later this afternoon — it’s going to actually start feeling a little bit like winter, and even though it’s already mid February, which means I’ve had months to prepare for this, I realize I’m still not prepared and I feel like it would probably be best for everyone if I just stayed snug under my 35″ high covers until April.

That’s right, we’re still sleeping in the guest room, in case you were wondering.

The progress on our bedroom is slow, and not very steady, but I promise you there is progress, even though it occasionally/all-of-the-time gets hindered by wine by the fire and new episodes of Revenge and me spilling baseboard paint on the carpet.

Yes, that happened.

Yes, I will tell you about that little fiasco one day soon, when I’m ready to share some more positive progress.

But anyway.  Not only do I have the overwhelming urge to hibernate this time of year, but I also reminisce.  I reminisce on happy times of yore, like just 4 months ago when it was pleasant and warm and sunshiny — when I could wake up with the bright morning rays, stand outside in all of my barefooted glory, sip my coffee and stretch to greet the world.

Nearly 4 months ago, on the weekend of my 29th birthday, we did something we should probably be doing a lot more frequently.

The concept is simple.  I’ve heard it called “taking a ‘staycation,'” in which the participants are traveling, but not, because they’re staying at home.  But I don’t really like those cutesy terms people come up with to make a concept stick — like “Brangelina” or “frenemy” because they make me feel lazy, so really.  I’ll call it what it was.  It was a day trip.  Something fun we could do without the cost of booking a hotel or packing camping gear or sleeping in the car.

I know.

It sounds like we’re taking all of the fun out of travel.  But hear me out.

See, with my unending itch to explore and discover and be moving all of the time and Justin’s desire to… well… not, we discovered this extremely enjoyable and compatible compromise that earned us at least 2 weeks worth of patting ourselves on the back for how awesome we sometimes are at being married.

We both love trying new foods, so when I heard about gourmet food tours by Taste Carolina, I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday.  We opted for the walking tour of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, which is about an hour and a half from where we live, for $44.98 per person, which earned us over 3 hours and 8 stops at amazing, locally owned eateries.  That’s less than we would’ve spent on a “fancy” night out at our local Red Lobster.

We were pretty psyched.

Now this is where I’m a bad blogger.  Bad.  I actually managed to take many pictures this time, so no worries there, but notes?  None.  I didn’t expect to wait 4 months before blogging about it.  So, sadly, I don’t remember many of the details about what we ate, but I will try my best to explain and then let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our very first stop was one of the best, in my humble little opinion.  I was a little camera-shy at the start, so I didn’t get a photo of the place, but it was called Neal’s Deli.  I was a little disappointed that the tour didn’t take us inside the establishment, but instead we were parked on some benches outside.  My disappointment quickly faded when I bit into one of these:

On the left, we have what I believe to be some type of homemade pastrami with mustard.  The beef was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted — full of pressed spices and divine on the homemade buttermilk biscuit.  The other was some type of egg and cheese, with a buttery, melty consistency that made me want to eat one of these every morning for the rest of my life.  It made me very, very glad that I don’t pass Neal’s on my way to work.

Next, we headed to the renowned Carrboro Farmers’ Market, established in 1996.  It’s held every Wednesday and Saturday morning in the “town commons” (no joke), and it felt like stepping into a type of fairy land filled with fresh produce, vibrant blooms, hand-made crafts, and local meats, cheeses, and an impressive variety of gourmet delicacies.

Carrboro Farmers' Market
Carrboro Farmers' Market
Carrboro Farmers' Market

Our first stop in the market was at the booth of Chapel Hill Creamery, a company I love because I love to say its name.  Go ahead.  Say it out loud.  Sounds like something you might say if you’d lived in pioneer times, like in the game The Oregon Trail. “I’m off to the Chapel Hill Creamery to fetch some cheese before we leave,” you’d say, not knowing that you’re destined to die 3 days later from a broken leg you suffered during a wagon axle accident while fording a river, and you’ll wish you’d just stayed with the happy cows at the creamery, because California is probably overrated anyway.  (It’s not.)

My favorite was their Dairyland Farmer’s Cheese, which was very simple, creamy, and would probably taste delicious melted over some frijoles negros and tucked inside a burrito.

Next, we were treated to a very generous sample from The Pig, a restaurant with a booth at the market serving up fresh grilled pork franks made from local, hormone and antibiotic free piggies.

The Pig Menu
Sam from The Pig

Of course, I tried the Reuben frank because it marries one of my favorite sandwiches (the Reuben) with one of my favorite foods (the Hot Dog) to create this orgasmically inspired offspring:

Reuben Frank

They say you can taste the difference between real meat and the kind you buy discount packaged at the grocery store, and now I’m convinced.  You can.

(Remember this?)

I’m pretty sure if I were going to buy tongue, it would NOT be from my neighborhood Food Lion.

Moving on.

Our last stop at the market was at that of the fantabulous Alfred De La Houssaye’s Sweetwater Pecan Orchard.

If I remember correctly, he started the orchard because he loves pecans and he loves oriental persimmons.  Ignoring the fact that everyone told him he would not be able to successfully grow those things here, he managed to do so and to do so quite successfully.


With pizzaz.

Sweetwater Pecan Orchard

And I love him because he insists that the correct pronunciation of the nut is pecaaahn, with a soft “a” and not the harsh, biting hard A that so many southerners use.

And also because he makes these chocolate pecan chewies, which I couldn’t stop eating.

And also because he gave us each a slice of pie to take to our next stop, the Carrboro Beverage Company.

Carrboro Beverage Company

But this post is getting a little long, methinks, so I’m going to save the second half of the tour for next time.

Oh, but trust me.  It’s worth the wait.

There’s more! Click HERE for Part 2.

I Bet My Lunch is Better than Yours

I have a confession to make.

It’s not like this confession or this confession, where my mistakes were embarrassing but innocent, yet they were just that – mistakes.

No, this is something different entirely.

This is something that could be considered a flaw of character.

I know.

I didn’t think I had any of those, either.

Well maybe this isn’t so much a character flaw, as it is a taste flaw.

I can’t believe I’m about to admit this on this blog.  My foodie friends read this blog.

But those of you who know me – like know me, know me – are already aware of this fun little fact.

One of my absolute, all-time, mouth-is-watering-right-now-just-thinking-about it foods is…

A hot dog.

Correction – a good hot dog.

But I’ll eat the bad ones, too.

Justin and I decided to go out to dinner last night because our heater is broken, it’s unseasonably cold, and refusing to conform to what most people would do in our situation, which is call someone to fix it and eat Ramen noodles in an attempt to save as much money as possible for something that could potentially do catastrophic damage to our already-dwindling savings account (more on that later), we decided to pretend that the problem didn’t exist and go try a restaurant we’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.

*This problem is much more difficult to ignore today, while I’m sitting here typing with the very real fear that the tip of my nose is going to freeze off, which, if you’ve seen my schnoz, wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to my face aesthetically speaking, but I’m pretty positive it wouldn’t feel all too pleasant.

The restaurant is called The Steele Pig, and is located a mere 25 minutes from our house, which is remarkably close for an actual chef-owned restaurant ’round these parts.  We didn’t even know it existed until a couple of months ago.  It’s incredibly understated, hard to see from the street, minimally decorated, doesn’t have an overabundance of tables, and none of that matters because holy crap, it’s a real restaurant less than an hour away from our house!

Now, I’m not a “foodie blogger.”  Unlike my friends Steven and Matty, I can’t wax poetic about chef credentials and food names I can’t properly announce and why certain reds are better served in a tulip glass because the liquid will hit my not-so-refined palette in just the right place and are you still talking because I’m seriously trying to eat over here.

So I’m not even going to try.

All I can tell you is that while there are some things on the menu that sounded absolutely delicious (crawfish cakes or a fried green tomato BLT, anyone?), I knew my choice had been made for me when our server told us about their $12 hot dog they had on special that night.

That’s right – $12 for a hot dog.

I knew it had to be good.

I waited anxiously with my tasty $5 mojito, and we downed some fried pork wontons that were gone before I could snap a photo.

*All of these photos were taken with my crappy camera phone, by the way.  My apologies.  I tried to be discrete because I know Justin loves being seen with the girl taking pictures of her food.  I only wished I had my giant DSLR to take better photos…

But then – then – came this:

A giant, delicious, 100% beef (I think) dog on an egg bun topped with incredibly tender pulled pork and homemade coleslaw with my choice of either a traditional red barbecue sauce or a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce.

Oh. My. God.

I had to eat this with a fork.

It was also served with homemade applesauce and incredible herb and garlic fries.


In fact, I think I’m going to go devour the other half right now before I go in search of a warm place (maybe a bookstore?) to spend the afternoon.

Let’s hope the heater fixer guy has good – and not expensive – news, shall we?

The Steele Pig on Urbanspoon