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Archives for March 2015

MISSING CHILD – Help Find Jewel Fitzgerald

We never imagined human trafficking would hit so close to home, literally and figuratively. Our friend’s cousin is missing. It is believed she has been kidnapped by a ring in North Carolina, and she is suspected to be as far away as California.

Jewel Fitzgerald

14 years old (Let that sink in.) Birthday May 5, 2000

5ft 3 inches tall, 112 lbs

Last seen on the way to Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday, March 25

Jewel was last seen leaving home for school but never made it there. Please share this post this far and wide. If you have info please call 917-209-4851.

Resources

We Help the Missing

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

 

Stanbury, Where Nothing Disappoints

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There is one problem with having dinner at Stanbury.

Every meal you eat thereafter pales in comparison. Such was my plight last weekend. My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a marvelous dinner at Stanbury. We found ourselves indifferent to every other meal option for the rest of the weekend. Nothing sounded appetizing. We are normally pretty eager eaters so it took a while to realize that what we were experiencing were the lingering effects of dinner at Stanbury.

I began my journey on the Pineapple Express, a delectable cocktail that was ever so balanced to be both perfectly sweet and tart. Goldilocks would have approved. My husband had the Stanbury Gin & Tonic. Who knew that celery, the wallflower of vegetables, could be so divine? And to think we relegate those stalks to tuna salad, never giving it a stage to shine on.

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We enjoyed the most delectable, creamy oysters with our cocktails. They were served on a bed of rock salt and presented ever so simply. To have dolloped a bit of cocktail sauce would have been a culinary crime. You might have heard audible gasps if you were seated at the table next to us.
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The charred broccoli in chili sauce was also divine, though it could be a tish spicy for the uninitiated. I’m from India and embrace spicy food so I thought it was sublime. My husband loved it too, though he might have ordered another cocktail to quell the heat. We devoured it so quickly I didn’t even capture a shot.

The first time we visited Stanbury we lamented the fact that we ate so much that we didn’t have room for the marrow. We weren’t newbies this time and knew to prioritize this indulgence. We shall never visit Stanbury again without ordering the marrow. When we told our sons about the melty, richness of this dish, they clamored to go to Stanbury right away. Never mind that it was 10:00 am. Your senses will be delirious with one bite of this goodness. The zing of the capers and parsley cuts the richness of the marrow, while the crunch of bread completes the medley. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t daydreamed about this dish.

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To finish off our meal, my husband and I shared the ribeye. We had been hearing accolades about the ribeye so we decided we must finally give it a go. This is one more thing our sons are dying to try. It’s delicious in its simplicity. The ribeye is generously topped with truffle butter and is certainly large enough to share. I’m pretty sure the truffle butter is what sold our sons on this dish. I swear, there can’t be 11 and nine-year olds on the planet who devour more truffle salt. The ribeye is also served with fries and an arugula salad. We also eat more arugula than any family in America so this too excited my boys.
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The light was dim so apologies for the photo. I admittedly didn’t fool around too much because I just wanted to dig in. Stanbury does not disappoint. The service is attentive and friendly, a nice departure from the oft uptight atmosphere that this caliber meal is usually served in. It’s a relaxed vibe that makes you feel chill, not out of place. There’s not need to dress up or stand out, though it’s cool if you do. Next time I’m going to kick back on the patio with the cocktail menu and indulge in oysters and marrow. Join me.

Where is Stanbury located?

Stanbury is located in Raleigh at 938 N. Blount Street.

Type Mache Makes Letters an Artform

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I collect the letter E and have variations from the flea market and other places where serendipitous finds can be had. I love words. I love letters. Imagine my giddy surprise to have discovered Heather Ng of Type Mache. Heather, artist and mother of three in Cary, NC, is a graduate of the renown Rhode Island School of Design. There she studied 3 D art, and her work makes that apparent.

Heather is at once creative and earnest. There are no cliche artist airs about her, despite her pedigree and talent. What I appreciate most is how Heather literally and figuratively rolls up her sleeves and gets her hands in the muck to create art that is one-of-a-kind indeed. In a strange twist, Heather thanks her parents for not letting her putz in paper mache as a child, sparking the desire to plop her hands into the gluey muck at first chance. Who knows what talents our children hide all the times we say no? As a mom who eschews a sticky mess of any sort, I can totally identify with Heather’s parents.

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As a lover of words and an appreciator of type, I positively drool for Heather’s large letter pieces. The process is quite in depth, starting with hand cut stencils made with the piles of corrugated cardboard knowing neighbors leave on Heather’s porch (way to be green!). How amazing is this example paper mached in maps? I also happen to love maps, ironic considering I have a lousy sense of direction. But I digress…

The ways Heather can make a letter personalized are as vast as your imagination. Sheet music, maps, menus, concert tickets, comics, dictionary pages, sewing patterns, newspaper clippings, vintage ads, the list goes on… Heather is more than a doer; she’s a thinker too, a tinkerer. She’s bursting with elan and can give you ideas to help guide you. You see, artists like her don’t stop creating, and their brains are always click-clacking away. There are seeds for new ideas pollinating in Heather’s creative spirit. Her new 3D texture tiles are the most recent thing to bloom. I covet a collection of the Wave and Petals to hang as a series on my wall.

All of Heather’s work is painstakingly handcrafted. To hear her talk of her art leaves you smiling, her joy palpable and contagious. To own a piece of Type Mache is to truly have an artist’s touch in your home.

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The Secret Chocolatier

Everyone has their favorite decadent treat(s). Mine are bon bons and sea salt chocolate butter toffee from The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC. Owned by the Dietz and Ciordia families, The Secret Chocolatier was conceived when Chef Bill Dietz found himself at a career crossroads. He called a family meeting with his wife, Karen, their daughter Robin Ciordia and her husband Andy, and the four foodies decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Three years later, after building a following at local farmers markets and retailers, they responded to public demand for a storefront where customers could get their chocolate moment five days a week.

The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

How good are they? Famed food critic, Helen Schwab from the Charlotte Observer proclaimed:

“In Timothy Leary’s eight-circuit model of consciousness, the eighth circuit is the one you need to get to for out-of-body experiences. Here’s a shortcut: Truffles from the Secret Chocolatier”

Their use of American craft chocolate, which is chopped and melted with hot cream to be whisked into silky ganache is a beautiful assault on the senses. It is full-bodied with a character akin to Frank Sinatra’s stage act. Saucy, yet robust. Combine that with fillings created in house from all natural ingredients, with nary a flavoring oil or extract in sight, and you have a chocolate ready for its Academy Award.

Andy and I met on Twitter in 2007 and struck up a fast friendship. When I heard about this tasty venture, I headed over to the Atherton Market in the South End section of Charlotte to test their wares. My first purchase was chocolate brownies. What’s so special about a chocolate brownie? When it is the perfectly sized three inch brownie enrobed in creamy chocolate creating a bit of heaven in every bite. More importantly, it passed the test of the pickiest chocolate connoisseur I know, my son.

I spent some time at The Secret Chocolatier before Christmas and learned how to make some of their products. It is a laborious process filled with love and marked by serious craftsmanship. During the time I was there, we created vanilla bon bons. The time to create these delectable treats is one and a half hours from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if it is one bon bon, or twenty dozen, that is how long the process takes.

Chocolate tempering at The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

Tempering chocolate at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC.

Another lady who was with me on this field trip confided “I never understood why chocolate was priced the way it is until today. Now I won’t hesitate buying good chocolate.”

The entire premise behind The Secret Chocolatier is to create artisan chocolates. Chocolate is a family business and the Ciordia and Dietz families want their customers to feel like they are part of the family as well. Amazing corporate gifts are created via the concierge service, along with unique wedding ideas that will satisfy any bride.

Vanilla Bon Bon's at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC #HandMadeNC

Vanilla Bon Bons

You can find The Secret Chocolatier at the locations in Charlotte (listed below) or order online from their website.

Each Bon Bon is filled by hand at The Secret Chocolatier in Charlotte, NC. #HandmadeNC

Bon Bons being filled by hand.

 Locations:

Chapel Hill Toffee

Ever tried toffee? I made a happy discovery and found Chapel Hill Toffee while in my local grocers and picked up a box all in the name of research for Handmade NC. Instead of tearing into the box in the car, I brought it home, plated a piece (or three), and sat down to taste test this gorgeous, sugary confection.

Chapel Hill Toffee is definitely a family affair. Karen Graves had perfected her toffee recipe and decided to open a small home-based business. She made her retail debut at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill in 2006 and soon after (2008) son Mark joined her in the kitchen to help scale their business. His wife joined the Chapel Hill Toffee team in 2012. What started as a cottage industry in North Carolina has grown to a much larger family business with products now in 400 retailers across the country.

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandmadeNC

On first appearance, the toffee is a perfect square, robed in dark chocolate and dusted with finely chopped pecans. When you smell the toffee, you are smelling the deep dark cocoa and pecan. The first bite gives you a hint of good dark chocolate and a slight nutty flavor. Not enough nut to overwhelm your palate, but just enough to enhance the dark chocolate. The real surprise is getting through the thin layer of chocolate and getting the first hit of English toffee on your tongue.

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandMadeNC

Imagine your taste buds coming alive and you’ll understand what you will find when you try Chapel Hill Toffee. The dark, earthy chocolate with its hint of truffle, mixes with the depth of the pecan. These flavors meld with the smoky, sweet, caramelized sugar used to create the toffee, with an unexpected hint of salt from the caramelization process. The toffee was brittle enough to have a satisfying crack, but not so brittle that you think you are going to break a tooth when biting into it.

You can find Chapel Hill Toffee in select retailers on their site www.chapelhilltoffee.com. To order online, head over to http://www.chapelhilltoffee.com/shop/.

Disclosure: This post was not sponsored. I bought Chapel Hill Toffee at my local Whole Foods and am quite happy it made it home for me to do a proper taste test. If you see me devouring toffee at the red light the next time I leave the grocery, please look the other way. I don’t want you to witness such toffee savagery.