Local Eats: Watt's Grocery - Durham, NC

I'd heard so many good things about Watt's from everyone who had ever eaten there, so I thought it was time for my Em and I to go have a nice night out.

I have a hard time composing my thoughts when I write about food because I don't think the English language has enough words for describing flavors/textures/temperatures/essence. I use the same adjectives over and over again in my writing and I just wish there were better words for what I'm trying to say. It all comes down to how wonderful our experience was at Watt's Grocery.

Arugula and Strawberry Salad
This really is such a sign in NC that summer is almost here. Strawberries, are one of the few fruit that we grow really well in NC and restaurants celebrate them as soon as they come in season. The combination with the slightly spicy arugula is so nice.

Country Ham Tart - with caramelized apples, shallots, arugula and house made crème fraiche
We didn't order this but our server thought we should give it a try so he brought it out for us anyways. I'm so glad he did. The local pork and the caramelized apple go so well together and you really wish you could have more after your last bite. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and then the creme fraiche to cool it down and smooth it over.

Winter Salad - Arugula, oven-roasted tomatoes, fried shallots, with dijon vinaigrette
I love the idea of this dish. Put the things on a salad that are in season in our region and make a beautiful salad out of it. The canned oven-roasted tomatoes go so well with the salad that we started doing it at home.

Clam Fritters - with seaside tartar sauce and cole slaw
Just the thought of these makes my mouth water. I pretended at the beginning of this meal that I wasn't going to get anything fried so I could splurge my cholesterol intake for the main course, but of course, we had to get clam fritters. What on EARTH was I thinking to even question not ordering these. Fried to flakey perfection, these huge fritters are good enough to make a meal out of them. And by the way, Watt's also gives you plenty to go around.

Tasso Seafood Stew - shrimp, mussels, clams, caramelized onion, roasted tomato, house-cured tasso, and white beans garnished with roasted garlic crostini
Emily's dish was very rich in flavor with tons of different seafood swimming around in the rich bean based broth. Unfortunately, I was so full I couldn't fully enjoy our main courses. Not that I didn't eat everything on my plate though.

Watts' Pork and Peas - Sea Island Peas, duck confit, grilled pork belly, wilted greens, and pickled beets

I wanted to give both of these pictures to you because the dish was really stacked high and it was so pretty to look at from above as well. You could say that this is probably the most unhealthy dish on the menu. Duck confit AND pork belly, both cooked to amazingly well (I like my confit to be crispier), and sitting in a nice rich broth as well. Again, I wish I wasn't so full when I approached this dish, seems like a waste of amazing food lost on a full stomach.

Chocolate Tart
Now you realize that we were totally full right, well of course we couldn't skip desert. We ordered one desert and got two. Oh my. About . . . to . . . burst . . . need . . . sweatpants . . . must . . . force . . . down . . . all . . . the . . . . . . . food.

Banana Pudding
You get the point. Too full, but nothing stops me. I preferred the banana pudding over the warm choco cake. But, then again I'm more of a fruit person than chocolate.

We're very fortunate in Durham to have so many fine restaurants at our disposal. In my opinion of all the spots I've eaten in the area, which is not enough by the way, Watt's Grocery is one of the best. They succeed in producing amazing food that sources from local farms. A beautiful thing indeed.

--Joe Kwon

Au Général La Fayette - Paris, France

This day was a day filled with many many miles of walking the streets of Paris to try to get lost. Crackerfarm (@crackerfarm) and I set our destination for Sacré-Cœur and started walking. Knowing that the Sacré-Cœur was up at the highest point of Paris, we just started walking up hill. Lo and behold our assumptions were right!

We stumbled across this restaurant while attempting to get lost in this wonderful city. In fact it's pretty difficult to get lost in a city when you know what 'metro' stop your hotel is off of. But nonetheless the romanticized view of coming across something no one else has seen was on our minds, and we were bound to find it. Well of course this didn't happen but it did lead us to several beautiful boulangeries and patisseries. (Post to come later!)

When I was planning my culinary endeavors for this trip I knew I wanted to eat a three very specific things. They were crépes, duck confit, and a croque madame. This french really know how to eat and I'm not just talking about their fine dining, but I'm talking about their bistro foods. Duck confit is duck that is slowly cooked in duck fat. How can you go wrong, right? This duck confit was cooked so perfectly with a nice crispy skin and rich dark meat and served with garlic potatoes. Confit de Conard, Pommes à l'Ail

I don't think it'd be a true bistro style meal without proper bread and of course moutarde. If you follow my twitter feed (@joekwon80) you know I kinda set out early in the morning today trying to find some find french dijon mustard. There is nothing like it, and in france every bistro serves up their bread with a good spicy dijon, at least all the ones I've been to. I can't emphasize what an amazing this mustard is. It's great with the bread that comes with the meal as well as a substitution for the ketchup for fries (although not as good a substitution as mayo). Moutard

In any case a good attempt at getting lost in this beautiful city turned out to be a culinary jackpot. I can't wait to come back to Paris and lose myself again!

Au Revoir!
--Joe Kwon