Posts Tagged ‘Durham’

My iPhone took a trip without me

September 8, 2012

UPDATE: Never got news of phone, so replaced it with another 4s, though so tempted to get a 5! Every bit of my data was saved! Woo-hoo!

Well, my iPhone 4s went on a little adventure without me. I’d love to know the places it went and the people it saw. Siri, fill me in!

Frank and Sabrina, in a rare moment of calm here, agreed to accept partial blame in exchange for a treat

I traveled from Tampa, FL, to my home in Durham, NC, in a day, which is about 11 hours of driving, including the slowdowns during the notorious speed-trap zone along US 301 in Florida. I was operating on three hours sleep because my dang dogs were restless all night. In fact, I’m blaming the entire fiasco on them, because they distracted and exhausted me all day and because they’re dogs, so they can’t read this and disagree.

I stopped for gas near Florence, SC, and did the usual routine. Gas for the Honda, bathroom for me, bathroom and a walk for Frank and Sabrina, another bathroom stop for me, and then I decided to crack open a Dr Pepper to perk me up. Somewhere along the line I’d put my phone on the hood of the car. Uh-huh, you know where this is going.

Diane shows off her durable but not at all snazzy waterproof iPhone case

Accelerating back onto I-95, I heard a crack on my back windshield and saw an oddly shaped thing bouncing on the pavement. “Weird, I thought. That came out of nowhere.” A few miles later, I glanced to where I keep my phone. Empty. Not good. I fished around, realized I needed to go back, then remembered that unidentified flying object: my phone, of course. The good things were: I knew roughly where it fell and my phone is protected by a heavy-duty waterproof and shock-resistant case.

I had to go 12 miles back to the exit. Just as I was exiting off the highway I saw that a man had pulled over right where I think my phone bounced. It appeared he had just picked something up in the street and was getting back into his pickup truck. I pulled over. I honked. I screamed. But there was no chance he could hear me over six lanes of rushing traffic and a highway median. Do I know he got my phone? Nope. Coulda been a coincidence. I went to the scene of the crime and saw nothing. Maybe it bounced into tall grass? Maybe the guy had it? I have my contact info on the back of my phone, but no one has called. I took another exit and a nice hotel clerk let me use the phone. I called my lovely Lina, who went through the iCloud system and blocked data access. Later I called AT&T and deactivated my number. I did try the phone location service, but it said the phone was “off line” even though it rang.

Things I did right: Block access as soon as possible. Subscribed to iCloud from the beginning. My contacts are all updated online and I can load them onto a new phone. Most of my photos had been downloaded by Lina. Still I lost some. Put ID on my phone, not that it helped this time.

Things I did wrong: That’s easy — leaving my phone on the car roof! And maybe that I didn’t get insurance, but iPhone prices are falling very soon with a new model coming out, so that’s a silver lining!


High honor for Durham’s dining scene

January 8, 2011

So this morning I’m reading the New York Times’ feature “Where to Travel in 2011,” which is online now and will be in print in the travel section on Jan. 9 and I’m zipping through the entries, places like Koh Samui, Thailand; Loreto, Mexico; Park City, Utah; and then I get to No. 35: Durham, N.C. Excellent choice, y’all, and not just because it’s my hometown.

For those of you not registered with the Times’ website, here’s what writer Ingrid K. Williams had to say about us in the piece titled “A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip.”

“A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.

Visit Scratch at 111 Orange St.

The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution Restaurant, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu.”

Thanks for that, Ingrid, and to the Times’ editors for including us in this list that will bring more visitors to sample our many wonderful offerings, food and otherwise. Congrats to those who got shout-outs, and of course there are dozens more businesses who deserve them as well.

Taking a dog’s blood pressure? Start at the end

June 3, 2010

The indignity of it all, says Roxy

Poor Roxy, “the foxy doxy with moxy.” As if having her tail tampered with wasn’t bad enough, now I’ve got to go and post the photos online. She did tell me she’s happy to help in the name of science.

When my vet (St. Francis Animal Hospital in Durham) told me that the results from Roxy’s “senior checkup” indicated they should check her blood pressure, my first question was, how the heck do you check a dog’s blood pressure? While some online sites (and who can trust them?) recommend using the dog’s legs, the base of the tail is the best place for an accurate reading. Of course since dachshund’s legs are only a few inches long, that’s another reason to grab the tiger by the tail.

Vet techs Dianne Saladino holds the cuff around Roxy's tail while Paula Davis secures and comforts her

The equipment is similar to what is used for humans. The cuff that goes around the tail is infant-sized, but on my 15-year-old tekkel’s tiny tail it was still difficult to tighten. The listening device must be amplified because the pulse deflections are much harder to hear in dogs than in humans. (Did I get that right, vet techs?) It took a good ten minutes to get a reading. Tech Paula Davis held Roxy while her colleague Dianne Saladino operated the equipment. Meanwhile, Mom looked on, calming her baby girl when she wasn’t busy snapping photos.

Roxy’s blood pressure was a bit elevated, but now the vet isn’t sure if it’s because she was stressed or because she might have another problem. So I’m now to try to get a urine sample, which isn’t easy on a dog with low clearance. But fear not, there are other ways to collect, and, per Roxy’s request, I promise to not show any of them here. We all have our limits.

Winter Olympics, North Carolina style

February 1, 2010

Yay! We got our first substantial snowfall since moving here from New England in 2003. As you can see below, our low-riding dachshunds were not pleased, but Wessel and I rejoiced, along with much of North Carolina. Durham, where we live, got seven inches, which almost — don’t laugh — qualified it for the top-10 snowfall list started in the 1920s. (The record is 14 inches, in 2000.) We still have our cross-country skis, minus one pole (oops) and managed to ski out the back door both Saturday and Sunday. Temps climb into the 40s this week. Farewell, old friend! 

Sabrina was not amused when she ended up belly deep in the white stuff

Wessel swooshes down a hill on one of our neighborhood streets

If you don`t own snow boots, just make them! (We spotted several of these)

Diane puts her keen herringbone skills in place up this tiny golf-course hill

Diane lobs a snowball at Wessel, plucked from the mountain formed by a plow

Walk this way to way fresh seafood

November 10, 2009

Diane is ready for Walking Fish pickup

Can you believe that even in coastal towns, most of the “fresh seafood” on restaurant menus isn’t even from this country, much less the county? Some 80 percent of seafood served in America is imported and much of it is harvested under conditions that would not meet U.S. environmental standards. Diners are unaware either because they assume it’s local or they’re told it is when it’s not. Or they just don’t care.


Carteret clams are being steamed

The shrimp we sauteed the other night were recently caught in Carteret County, NC, about 200 miles east of our home in Durham. So were the clams we steamed two weeks earlier. And the flounder and jumping mullet we grilled? Yep, all from Carteret. Towns there include Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, and Morehead City.


Locavore fishavores congregate on Thursdays at Duke Gardens pickup point

We got all that seafood through Walking Fish, a subscription seafood service organized by Josh Stoll and other students at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. They’ve joined with Carteret fishermen/women to launch our region’s first community-supported fishery to sell locally caught seafood to the public. The name is a takeoff of the more common CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. The CSF is coordinated through Bill Rice, owner of Fishtowne Seafood, a small Beaufort-based processing facility.


Chuck of Fishtowne fills up a bag with fish and ice. Earlier he gave a filleting demo.

The composition of each week’s portion varies according to season and weather. We were told ahead of time that we’d likely get clams, shrimp, triggerfish, spot, mullet, flounder, and black drum. I really appreciated that we had choices — weekly vs. biweekly, half-share vs. full share, filleted vs. do-it-yourself. We chose biweekly, half-share and filleted, for $79. Each share is enough for two people with a little leftover, and we’re getting six weeks of fish, so about $13 a meal-for-two for really fresh seafood. And we’re helping our fishing friends in Carteret.

Duke students said they weren’t sure how the program would go over, but I could have told them it would sell out, which it did (at 400 members!). We’re situated in locavore/foodie/eco central. You should see the Prius drivers pull up at the pickup point at Duke Gardens with their farmers’ market and Obama bumper stickers.

While we’re on the topic, there’s also a wonderful program called Carteret Catch. When you see that label in a Carteret restaurant or seafood store window it signifies that the seafood labeled as local comes directly from the county. Those fish don’t have to walk far.

NC chefs tell all, with recipes

October 5, 2009

200910_04_book Ann ProsperoChefs are like rock stars and athletes. They switch from place to place, working their way up the food-service pyramid. A writer pal of mine, Ann Prospero, has interviewed the best chefs in my area of North Carolina in her “Chefs of the Triangle: Their Lives, Recipes, and Restaurants.” We learn how they moved up, over, and around to become forces in food. We’re even treated to a few recipes from each.

Ann, by the way, is a wise author — for her book signings, she brings along chefs, and they bring along samples. The reading I went to, at Regulator Bookshop, featured Durham restaurateurs Jim Anile from Revolution, not yet a year old but buzz-worthy, and Shane Ingram, whose celebrated Four Square Restaurant turns an impressive 10 years old this month. It was great to hear them talk about their work and even better to sample their wares — fig gazpacho from Shane (the recipe is in the book) and, from Jim, butterbean hummus crustini with marinated octopus. Yum!

Author Ann Prospero

Durham author Ann Prospero

While I realize most of my readers live far from my home state, you should know that we have some mighty fine restaurants here in Durham and environs. In 2008, Bon Appetit magazine rightly named us “America’s Foodiest Small Town,” although they were talking about two towns, Durham and Chapel Hill, but whatever. We’ll take it.

Chefs Jim Anile and Shane Ingram co-hosted the book reading

Chefs Jim Anile, left, and Shane Ingram spoke and served food at the reading

As Ann points out, it was the late chef Bill Neal of Crook’s Corner who really got the dough rolling by mentoring and inspiring others, who in turn did the same thing for their colleagues in the kitchen. Crook’s is still going strong under chef and cookbook writer Bill Smith, a culinary force in his own right. Lucky us!

Five porker stars for Wilber’s Barbecue

June 2, 2009
Wilber's take out in full swing

It takes three Wilber's workers to keep up with Memorial Day takeout orders

Willllll-berrrrrs! Willll-berrrrs! That’s my cry whenever we drive to the beach from Durham, North Carolina, or anytime we get close to Goldsboro, home of Wilber’s Barbecue. (I try to sound like Mr. Ed talking to his pal Wilbur, but I do a poor imitation. At any rate, it annoys Wessel. Mission accomplished.)

When I moved back to eastern North Carolina after years in Florida and then Boston, I was happily reunited with barbecue made the right way — slow cooked over wood and seasoned with vinegar, not, I repeat not, with tomato-based sauce.

The cornucopia of Eastern North Carolina

This Wilber's waitress is a winner!

We all have our favorite BBQ joints, and Wilber’s is mine. I was thrilled to bring Wessel here. Somehow Wilber’s had stuck in my brain, although I moved from North Carolina at the tender age of 16, when I didn’t care what I ate as long as it had pasta and spaghetti sauce in it.

We most recently stopped at Wilber’s on Memorial Day, on our way back from the beach. It was just us and about 80,000 other customers doing the same thing. We got ‘cue to go, along with coleslaw, sweet tea, and hush puppies. Classic Wilber’s. The restaurant is totally old-fashioned, with as many locals as visitors. There’s always a brisk takeout business, but the table service here is great too — friendly and oh so country. Yanks might need a translator.

Dutch friends Tjits and Liekle demonstrate before and after effects of Wilers BBQ

A stop at Wilber's transformed the profiles of our Dutch friends Tjits and Liekle

Wilber’s also has great Brunswick stew, fried chicken, and other Southern specialities (pronounced spesh-ee-AL-i-ties).

We love sending our friends there, too, like the Dutchies, at left, visiting from the Netherlands last summer. They loved it, maybe even a little too much.

The word has been out on Wilber’s for a while now. As owner Wilber Shirley said in an interview with John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed of  the awesome book “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,” “we’ve been written up in right many magazines over the years.” (That’s an understatement.) All deserved, too!

I do have to say that after spending this past weekend at Fickle Creek Farm in Efland, North Carolina, which raises its hogs sustainably and environmentally, I am feeling a tad guilty about hawking a place that I’m guessing doesn’t really think right much about that stuff.

But there you go. My blinders are firmly in place, and I’m here to say: Willllll-berrrrrs! Willll-berrrrs!

If you licked this plate clean, it would disappear

March 19, 2009
Candies for the eye

Here's the plate I broke. Oops.

What happens when you break a plate at a fancy-schmancy restaurant? You eat it! To get rid of the evidence? No, because you can.  So, while I didn’t eat my plate at Herons, I could have.

Herons is the four-star, four-diamond restaurant at the five-star, five-diamond hotel The Umstead, in Cary, N.C. (near Durham, where I live). I know what you’re thinking. Diane, you are not a fancy-schmancy gal. You write about farms and you pack ham-and-cheese sandwiches to take on day trips. Yes, yes, all true.

But because I’m a Travel Writer, I get invited to all sorts of events and dinners. Usually, I pass. That’s either because I don’t need to go there for my work or, if I do want to write about a place, I go anonymously and pay my own way.

Premier King Lake View Room at The Umstead

One of Umstead's deluxe rooms, with a view of the lake behind it

But I made an exception to eat at Herons and tour the luxurious and totally gorgeous hotel and spa. Since the place opened in 2007, it’s gotten nothing but raves.

I was with a group of writers and editors much more sophisticated than myself, which was a good thing so I could watch which forks they used.

I should have photographed every stage of the glorious five-course meal, but because I was so exhausted from two days of schmoozing and speaking at the NC Governor’s Conference on Tourism, and because the food was spell-binding, I plumb forgot. (I also would have looked like a countrified idgit snapping away when every dish arrived, so it’s just as well.)

The meal was compliments of Herons and its brand-new, award-winning chef Scott Crawford, who came from the Georgian Room at the over-the-top Cloister resort at Sea Island, Ga. (though he’s so fresh-faced he looks more like he just graduated from the University of Georgia).


The main dining room at Herons

So, from soup to nuts: 1) Amuse bouche, natch. 2) Malted parsnip soup, vanilla poached lobster, tangerine, almonds. 3) Roast quail, foie gras (yes, I felt guilty), date butter, apple marmalade, bacon sauce. 4) Kobe beef, oyster mushroom, potato puree, balsamic barbecue jus. 5) Tar Heel Mud Pie: dark chocolate, peanut butter wafer, salted caramel ice cream, from playful and superb pastry chef Daniel Benjamin. All courses came with wine pairings from sommelier Justin Tilley, who also looks about 22 and is ridiculously knowledgeable.

Just when it was safe to roll myself  home, Daniel brought us a few bonbons on plates. They had a more sophisticated name, which of course I’d never heard before and can’t recall now. The plates were adorned with glass medallions with our names in them (!) and a doodad design. As I examined mine, I broke it! I guess those Y workouts are working out.

A dessert plate or is it a plate dessert?

Is it a dessert plate or a plate dessert?

Then someone more in the know informed us: it was all hard candy! Yep, a plate of candy. The Herons’ media rep, the amazing Jennifer Noble Kelly, gave me her intact one to take home and show Wessel, hence the reason for Jen’s name in my plate o’ goodies in the photo.

I walked out of the four-star restaurant, five-star hotel, to-go box in hand, feeling more like a Gomer than a globe-trotter. Wessel was equally excited to see the candy/glass plate. I guess we were meant for each other. After all, he’s the one who makes my ham-and-cheese sandwiches.

You may want to pack a hankie before voting

October 23, 2008

2012 Election UPDATE: I need more hankies!!!!!! (in a good way)

I usually get a little choked up when I vote because there is nothing better than living in a country where citizens can choose their leaders. But I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed afterward until today, after I voted in my hometown of Durham, NC. We’re in a blue county in a red state, which, because of Obama, may this year become a blue state for the first time since 1976. So the nation’s eyes are upon us.

The ballot for the 2008 US presidential elections

The ballot for the 2008 US presidential elections

But politics aside (as much as possible), here’s what I witnessed. As I arrived at the crowded voting location (we have several and they’ve been crowded since early voting started here last week) I was shown to a parking spot by one of the many election volunteers. About half the volunteers were black, which also reflects our diverse population here in Durham (45% black, 45% white, 10 percent Latino).

As I walked in to vote, there was a big round of applause for a 20-something Hispanic-looking woman. While she turned in her completed ballot, a volunteer yelled: “First-time voter! First-time voter!” That was enough to get me choked up.

One of seven voting stations in Durham that allowed early voting

One of seven voting stations in Durham, NC that was open for early voting

But to see all the African Americans volunteering and voting, I kept thinking, what must it be like to see a black presidential candidate on the ballot? And to finally feel you’re a part of the process? Then I remembered, oh, yeah, I’m a woman and haven’t seen a female presidential candidate in the final vote. I do know what’s it like. But not really. I’m a white, middle-class woman, and it ain’t the same. When I went to school in NC in the ’60s and ‘70s, schools were still segregated, and lord knows what else was that I didn’t notice. So though I’m still waiting for a female president, at least I’ve lived to see the day where a black man can run for and perhaps even win a US presidential race. How cool is that?

The "I voted early" sticker

The “I voted early” sticker

After I cast my ballot and collected my “I voted early” stickers, I walked out just behind another “First-time voter!” “First-time voter!” this time an older black man. That was enough to keep me in my car for a few extra minutes, until I could see to drive.

Civil rights beyond MLK weekend

January 18, 2008

If you’re interested in the Civil Rights movement, including information on visiting historic sites, there’s a wonderful book just out called “On the Road to Freedom: A Guide Tour of the Civil Rights Trail,” by Charles E. Cobb Jr. (Algonquin, $18.95). The sub-sub-title is: “The Marches, the Book cover On The Road To FreedomStruggles, the Triumphs, Speeches, Profiles, 150 Photos, Maps, Web Sites, and 400 Historic Sites.” Unfortunately, there’s no accompanying website, but the book is absolutely worth buying to learn about black history and civil rights sites in DC and the South.

Author Cobb will be touring in DC and the South almost daily through February and a bit beyond.

It’s funny. Folks talk about how racist the South is, but I’ve lived in the Tampa, Fla., and Boston areas, and now Durham, NC, and Durham is by far the most integrated place I’ve experienced. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the majority of Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Ten Best Cities for African Americans” are in the South. (None are in the north!) This makes me proud.

Absolutely, the South has had more than its share of atrocities. Like the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, where riots broke out after blacks registered to vote and some 22 people were reported dead, all black. Only this year did our state leaders express “profound regret” about that awful chapter in history. Growing up in Raleigh in the ’60s, I remember how segregated we were. I was bussed to an “inner city” junior high school, which for me was an eye-opening experience.

After moving back to North Carolina in 2003, and especially since living in racially mixed Durham, I’ve been much more aware of the fight for black equality here, and have visited many sites, including the former Woolworth department store in Greensboro, where on Feb. 1, 1960, four students held one of the first sit-ins; and Parrish Street, aka “Black Wall Street,” the commercial strip in Durham that was home to many black-owned enterprises. There’s now an advocacy group working on the Parrish Sreet Project to commemorate its history and spur economic revitalization along a central downtown corridor. You can learn all about it during Preservation Durham’s free walking tours April through November.  So y’all come on over for a spell.