Of the rivalrous cities that make up the so-called Research Triangle — Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham — Durham 10 years ago was the unkempt sibling: scruffy and aging....
Now, a drive around town might yield the smell of clams from the coastal town of Snead’s Ferry, steaming in white wine, mustard and shallots at Piedmont restaurant; pungent spice and sweet fennel from the “lamby joe” sandwich at Six Plates; and seared mushrooms and fresh asparagus turned in a pan with spring garlic at Watts Grocery.
The vast brick buildings still roll through the city center, emblazoned with ads for Lucky Strike and Bull Durham cigarettes. They are being repurposed as art studios, biotechnology laboratories and radio stations.
More important for food lovers, hundreds of outlying acres of rich Piedmont soil have “transitioned” from tobacco, and now sprout peas, strawberries, fennel, artichokes and lettuce. Animals also thrive in the gentle climate, giving chefs access to local milk, cheese, eggs, pigs, chickens, quail, lambs and rabbits.
Watts Grocery's Amy Tornquist, DaisyCakes' Tanya Catolos, and Six Plates Wine Bar's Matthew Beason are among the local restaurateurs featured in the story, which is one of the nicer features on Durham in the national press in some time, and certainly evocative of Bon Appetit's appellation of Durham and Chapel Hill as America's foodiest small town a year or two back.
Not to be missed: the photo essay, with pictures by Travis Dove that capture the Farmers Market and local restaurant scene. (They have the stark contrasts and early-morning lighting that I love about Indy Weekly and NYT freelancer Jeremy Lange's occasional pictures of his Bull City hometown and other subjects; check out Jeremy's web site to see what I mean.)