September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
My friend Natalie lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and sweet-cute dog Lucy. I got to visit with them a week or so ago now, and it was a good time of fun and laughter and reconnecting with an old friend. Friendships are fuller face-to-face. Natalie shared with me the bounty of her garden, and we explored Durham and its environs a bit. I remember saving a magazine article about the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke University’s campus probably a decade ago. The photo run with the article was lush and beautiful enough to stand out in my mind. In-person, it was just as good. If it had not been so hot, we could have stayed for awhile longer to see all the nooks and crannies of this lovely spot. Into the kitchen we went after this outing and whipped up a tasty tomato pie using a Southern Living recipe, of course. Natalie’s tomatoes also figured prominently in tomato sandwiches she packed for us the next day when we went on a hike through Umstead State Park. I will miss that about summer, the juiciness and almost unbelievable ripeness of tomatoes in their season. The colors are so vibrant and the taste offers a certain zing that tomatoes the rest of the year cannot match. Continuing our food tour, we drove to nearby Raleigh and indulged in two local chocolate-maker’s wares, Videri and Escazu. Words pale in attempts to describe the luxurious richness of the truffles I tried and brought home to try later. Cherries and vodka, garam masala and amaretto, raspberry ganache, muscadine jelly and pecan butter…each was a flavor trip, an exploration of the unique and unexpected. Escazu definitely won for inventive pairings and abundance of offerings, plus they had push pops. Videri’s charm lay in its simplicity and access to see the chocolate-making process, which unfortunately wasn’t at work when we stopped by. I left wanting to chuck it all and travel to Costa Rica or Venezuela or Europe and learn the fine art of chocolatier-ing myself. Birmingham needs a chocolate spot. Satisfied, we whiled the rest of my visit away in a game called Munchkin (which makes no sense) and playing with Natalie’s bead collection, out of which she made me two new pairs of earrings. Swaying in her hammock and watching her dog chase the neighborhood bunny, watching the first 2 Harry Potter movies because I hadn’t seen them, meeting a friend and neighbor of hers and sharing our pie: all of this rounded out a much-needed trip to a beautiful location and a dear friend. I left full of thanks and renewed even after all the driving I did to get there and get back home.