Monday, December 29, 2014

Relay Foods

As evidenced from an earlier post: I love farmer's markets.

There's a palpable energy there, from the convergence of shoppers and vendors. Regional farmers and artisan food-makers. Crafters and musicians. Dogs and baby strollers.

Sometimes dogs IN baby strollers.

But most of all, I love the treasure trove of edible goods that can be discovered all in one location on a weekend morning. I live for the joy of filling my grocery bag with locally grown vegetables, small-batch peanut butter and hand bottled pasta sauce. 

Local goat cheese sample? Pass the crackers. Hot pepper jelly? I'll take a small jar. Vegan cheese spread? Sounds oxymoronic, but what they hey!

Unfortunately, here's the all too common problem I run into with my farmer's market patronage: actually getting myself to market to buy these great things. 

Most markets in the area are only open for a few hours on Saturday mornings. So if I'm not in town or can't carve out time in my Saturday morning schedule (may or may not correlate to Friday evening activities...) I miss out on a weeks worth of local food enjoyment. 

Sad face.

BUT, a fortunate encounter at Raleigh HQ on First Friday revealed a brilliant solution to this problem: Relay Foods.

Imagine with me for a second: an online marketplace where you can browse food by category (fruit, vegetable, bakery, dessert, meat, etc.) add and remove items from your virtual cart, select your pick up day, time and location and pay for your order. All from the living room couch (potentially in your fuzzy bunny pajamas).

Well that's exactly the service that Relay Foods is looking to provide, but with a deliberate focus on supporting a local food community by connecting shoppers with quality, healthy and sustainable foods.

They offer locally farmed produce, milk, cheese and meats, as well as other Triangle area food items including: Cackalacky Spice Sauce, Big Spoon Roasters nut butter, and Nello's Pasta sauce. 

This means my farmer's market bounty can be assembled, bagged and waiting for pickup after work on a Tuesday evening.

With a huge smile on my face.

Relay is new to the Triangle (since the end of June 2014) but traces its history as a startup back to 2010 in Charlottesville, VA. As of now, there are 24 different North Carolina producers selling their products on Relay Foods, with that number to grow as business does in the area. Pickup locations (14 in all) are spread throughout Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, with home delivery also available for a higher fee.

After learning about them, naturally I had to give Relay the ol' college try. I browsed the website for some enticing NC products (Nello's Hot Pepper Pasta Sauce and Chapel Hill Creamery's Calavander aged cheese are a match made in heaven) along with regional flair from north of the state line (Bombolini spinach fettuccine out of Richmond, VA: you look great sitting in my cart). Add in some organic broccoli for a dose of greenery, choose my pickup location and payment method, and just like that my order was ready. 

That Tuesday, on my way home from work, I stopped by Sam's Bottle Shop in Durham to collect my edible bounty. I gave my name to the friendly Relay employee manning the delivery truck, she gathered all my items, paper bagged them and I was on my way.

Farmers Market: if you're reading this, don't be jealous. Nobody's taking me away from your Saturday morning goodness.

But there's no question Relay Foods will expand my appreciation and ability for local food buying and eating.

What's not to love about that?

Interested in giving Relay a try for yourself? Use the link below to get $30 off your first order of $50 or more:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monuts Reopens in Durham

I would say like most breakfast-loving Durhamites, I had a love/hate reaction to the announcement that Monuts was temporarily closing while they moved from their original Parrish Street location to a new spot down on Ninth street.

I loved that the former doughnut cart had done so well in its first brick and mortar, it was able to spread its glazed, sesame sprinkled wings into a bigger space.

I hated that I'd be without their donuts for several weeks.

I loved that the new digs were breathing life into the former Magnolia Grill building, conjuring up delicious memories of a trendsetter in the now vibrant fine-dining scene in Durham.

I hated that I'd be without their donuts.

I loved the teasers they were dropping on social media of an expanded menu, with new offerings for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktail hour.

I hated... OK this is making me sound a bit doughnut obsessive.

But no sooner than I began to wallow in my own doughnut-less self pity, Monuts opened their newly polished doors for business: bigger and better than ever.

The difference in size between old and new is immediately evident. But while the Parrish Street storefront was short on standing space and seating capacity, the exposed brick walls and massive street-front window gave the spot a charmingly cozy feel that I feared would be lost in a square footage upgrade. 

My stop in for breakfast on opening week proved this worry to be misguided. Monuts has taken full advantage of the added space, while keeping alive the intimate community feel from their first storefront. 

String lights line the walls and ceiling. Large wooden booths, communal table and expansive bar invite hungry patrons to grab a seat and stay awhile. Donut-themed art and Children's book prints adorn the walls, while tiny plants and funky-fine china line the window sills. 

But what had me giddier than a 5 year old hopped up on an extra large chocolate glazed with sprinkles? The new Monuts menu

Now, in addition to the ever-changing donut selection and create-your-own bagel sandwich options, there's biscuits, there's salads, there's full plate entrees, there's daily soups, there's cocktails, there's draft beer. Doors are open 7 AM - 9 PM, and the first few weekends have even featured some awesome looking brunch specials

The expanded staff have had their hands full with the restaurant's early popularity (there's been a steady line stretched by the bar every time I've been in), but it moves quickly and all employees are just as friendly and welcoming as they were back on Parrish street (pro tip: if the line up front is too daunting, you can order food at the bar too. Go ahead and get a beer while you're at it...)

Welcome to my new obsession.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Running Durham: Al Buehler Trail

Buehler...? Buehler...?

I don't think there's any relation to Ferris, but that doesn't mean the Al Buehler Cross Country trail in Durham isn't a great way to spend a day off.

Probably my favorite place for cardio (of all kinds!) in the Bull City, this gravel route has it going on.

The three mile loop around the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Course features: scenic views of golf holes and pond, excellent forested tree cover (for shade in the summer, rain canopy in the spring), and plenty of friendly folks to encounter along the way (dog walkers, stroller walkers, bikers, joggers, Duke Divinity students pondering the inner workings of modern religion...)

The course is moderately hilly (including one MASSIVE hill about halfway through. Just remember: hills build character), and the total distance is great for 5K training or just getting out in nature for a bit.

If you're looking to take this trail for a spin, there's parking off Cameron Blvd.

Playing hooky is optional.