Local Eats: The Pig - Chapel Hill, NC

I used to think that my spirit animal was butter. I'm starting to think I'm a pig. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking with Victoria Bouloubasis(click here to read that article), a writer for The Independent. We spoke for hours at length about tour and food and performing all the while stuffing our faces with amazing food. This is a recap of that meal.

The above (drool) is a pork belly sandwich topped with cole slaw, and served with a side of home-made pickles. The pork is perfectly braised to that fall apart texture and the pickles are sweet and crisp.

So the above is what I consider to be vegetable bliss. It's roasted brussel sprouts with mushrooms, and seriously, it's so good you'll swear there's lard on them. PERFECTION in a bowl.

If you're ever in the mood for some good ole fried zucchini I'd say it's official, The Pig, has the best fried zuchs. in town and darn good fries to boot. The BBQ is chop style and for my palette could be spicier and more sour.

This dish reminds me of being in Germany. ThaSam was so nice to bring us out this awesome cold cut plate with home made sauer kraut and spicy mustard. The Germans really know what's up.

Now THAT is a fried green tomato. Most of the time when you get these at restaurants they are thin and non substantial and really don't have much to offer. The crust on these were super crunchy and these tomatoes were HUGE. They were practically a big thick slice of bread with some warm, firm green tomato on the inside.

Prior to this meal I had no idea what the process was for making real "cracklin's." The process is a lot more than just throwing some fat back in a fryer. In fact very little fat is left on them when they hit the grease. The process is too long to discuss for this post but let's just say the next time you eat a cracklin' you should savor every moment of it. AND, if you get the chance to eat some of Sam's cracklin's you're in for a treat. Perfectly airy and crisp, with a touch of sweetness just the way the should be.

So let's go over what we've eaten so far, pork belly, sprouts, zucchini, fries, bbq, cold cuts, fried green tomatoes, cracklin's, and now how am I supposed to fit puffs of air and dough into my belly? Ok, well the fact that they are mostly air really helps, but these things are perfect for that long meal. You get the sweetness without all the heavy, unless of course you eat the whole bowl like we did.

This is Sam. Does he look familiar, because he sure did to me when I walked in. Turns out Sam and I were on the UNC varsity fencing team together my senior year. Crazy small world I tell you. Thanks so much Sam for all the fantastic food!

If you live in Chapel Hill and have a car, you need to drive on over to The Pig and have some pig.

Local Eats: Sticks and Stones - Greensboro, NC

Artisan pizza seems to be a big thing these days. I've started to notice them popping up all over the country and a lot of times they just fall short of high expectations. After all sometimes just a classic slice of cheese pizza is all it takes. Well Sticks and Stones seems to have it figured out.

Peaceful Valley Local Organic Greens, Sprouts, Tomatoes, Carrots, Radishes, Toasted Pumpkin & Flax Seeds, Roasted Shallot & Herb Vinaigrette
The above is one of their signature salads which has nothing but fresh ingredients and as you can see a slew of health nut inspired additions. The pizza I must say was excellent. The crust survived a 10 minute walk back to the Schroth residence with plenty of elasticity and crunch.

A Kiss Before I Go Tomato Sauce, Fried Eggplant, Wild Mushrooms, Mozzarella, Carmelized Garlic, Fresh Basil, Parmesan
Just take a look at their menu, and you'll see that they have some really exciting flavor combinations on their pizzas. Anne, Pete's better half, steered us towards this pizza which I will be trying at home. The fried eggplant was really the kicker here. It adds texture, and just that flavor of fried fattiness that is obviously delicious.

To be the One Pizza Margherita w/ Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fresh Basil
Did I happen to mention they are a wood fired pizza establishment. See all that black charing on the crust. That's goes on underneath the pizza too so you know you've got some yummy burn flavor there. I must say if I were you I'd stray away from the basic Margherita here only because there are so many exciting flavors that are going to be a better bang for your buck and will incite a lot of creativity in your own creations in the future. However, it's still a great slice.

Rescue Blues Rosemary Garlic Fries
And now, we get to the creme de la creme of french fries. Fresh cut, tossed with garlic and fresh rosemary and from what I can tell double fried. These fries are salty, crunchy, the perfect thickness, and for what you get, cheap!

In any case, you need to check this place out. The corner where Sticks and Stones sits on is surrounded by a lot of young families and people and is a full of life. A great place to sit with friends and have a brew or a glass of wine.

Joe Kwon

Local Eats: Dain's Place - Durham, NC

My cousin's Sol and Kun were the ones who discovered this place and raved about it for months before we decided to grab a bite here for Taste on Tour. I've been kind of a larda$$ lately and I thought I should kick off a new wave of working out and health consciousness with a nice burger. I guess it was a sort of an era coming to an end for me.

Ring of Fire a.k.a. chili cheese fries with jalepenos
We were a little bit dissapointed when these came out because I ordered the Tots of fire after my cousins told me about how awesome the tots are here at Dains. Regardless, I'm not one to turn back a good place of fries.

The fries are nice crisp shoestrings and the chili adds a nice sweetness to the kick of the jalepenos. If I were to get them again, which for the sake of my heart I probably wont, I'd order it with extra jalepenos. Still, they were good to the last bite.

8 oz. burger w/ Pimento Cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoe, Pickles, Spicy Ketchup
I should warn you that this is an enourmous amount of food. If you do decide to get some tots with your burger remember that you're getting a full basket and with a 1/2lb burger it's going to make you extremely full.

The burger was excellent. A nice moist meat that is soft and well prepared. The only thing I'd have to say about mine that is purely personal preference is that I like my burgers medium rare and this one was more of a medium. The nice thing about Dain's is that you can create your own burger. Most of the toppings and toppings that aren't free are about .75 cents so it's not going to break your bank to get creative here.

All in all I had a great time at this little dive bar/restaurant. Live music, great laid back atmostphere, and most importantly great food.

--Joe Kwon

For more info on Dain's Place

The Water Street Landing - Lewiston, NY

Comfort food found at Niagara Falls! Who would have thunk it. During our recent tour we made our way from Toronto, Ontario to the beautiful city by the river, Lewiston, NY. The Water Street Landing is a nice restaurant situated right on the US side of the river. I was really impressed with the food here. Well prepared and presented. So much so I couldn't wait to get some mac&cheese in my mouth. Sorry about that photo, I was HUNGRY!

This mac&cheese was special. I've actually never tried anything like it. I thought I had explored every odd flavor combination of mac&cheese in college trying to save a few cents. Well I guess if you throw some high quality smoked gouda into the mix it'll spice up the richness factor to any dish. This stuff was so gooey and rich it was too much to finish among 5 of us. We ate half the plate and couldn't bring ourselves to continue in good conscience. Would I get it again? In a heart beat. And I'd bring more people to share it with.

Pear, Gorganzola, and Walnut Salad
Definitely one of the most well presented salads I've seen in a while. It's not going for minimalism like a lot of salads these days. But rather going for pure decadence in a salad. Love it.

Fresh Cut French Fries
You know about my long standing love affair with french fries. I thought I've had the best fries in the world when I got to try Thomas Keller's version. They may still be the best for the cleanliness factor, but these were down and dirty and oh so tasty from a home grown point of view. This is what a french fry needs to taste like when you are eating a juicy cheese burger. Crisp, salty, and earthy. Perfection!

Cheese Burger w/ Sweet Potato Fries
It's hard to please me when it comes to cheese burgers. I rarely like the way they are prepared in restaurants because they are too salty, or not salty enough, too dry, too boring. The burgers here didn't leave much to the imagination in terms of flavor, but what it lacked in flavor it made up for in texture. A really nice soft meat that was juicy all the way through and when accompanied with some fresh cut sweet potato fries and honey, it wasn't half bad. If you're wondering about the sweet potato fries, they are the best I've ever had at a restaurant. Worth ordering over and over again. But now I'm torn, do I go sweet or regular?

--Joe Kwon

For more info on The Waterside Landing click here.

Köbes - Köln, Germany

A trip to Germany wouldn't be complete with out me eating some Jaegarschnitzel! Something I have found to love about Köln is that there are a plethora of mom & pop shops that seem to operate out of the bottom floor of the building they live in. This place, Köbes, was just across the street from where we were staying.

Jaegarschnitzel - Hunter's Schnitzel
One thing that does take some getting used to, is that there doesn't seem to be any smoking laws in Germany. But then again I don't expect a family run business to operate within such restrictions. I guess that was more of a warning than it was a complaint. It's hard to go to Germany and not continue to eat potatoes meal after meal. Afterall, I love potatoes, but there had to come an end. This was my last truly German meal for THIS trip. I can't wait for my return to this beautiful country!

--Joe Kwon