Friday, August 27, 2021

The Fearrington House Restaurant

I was absolutely thrilled to celebrate my 34th birthday and check off another bucket list item last weekend, by dining at the Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro. It was unbelievably splurge-worthy, and unlike some other high-end restaurants I’ve been to, it’s worth every penny. My fiancé and I were stuffed to the gills with some delicious morsels, and agreed that it was one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. It's one we'll treasure for a long time. So if you happen to be in the market for a celebration, The Fearrington House Restaurant is your spot.

Love a personalized menu!

Our amuse bouche was a 3-parter. Instantly, I was intrigued: 1) Pernod-Chanterelle cream filled up the inside of a puffy Gougergie, which oddly enough reminded us of the flavors in a Ginger Snap. Unfortunately, the licorice flavor in the Pernod was just too overwhelming for me. 2) Tomato Gelée with Basil Mousse, a fresh Tomato, and Rosemary dust was like a perfect bite of a summer garden. It was a very interesting play on textures, having the tomato both raw and in gelée form. 3) An Herb Mousse with Peaches, Pearl Couscous and Popcorn Dust – while texturally playful, it was much sweeter than expected. It was like they used kettle corn dust, when salty, buttery popcorn might have been a better flavor.

Amuse bouches #1 and 2

Amuse bouche #3

I love a good bread service, and at Fearrington, they don’t mind if you get all 3 breads (I did!) The Parmesan Cornbread, Epi Baguette and Whole Wheat Challah were all fabulous, but my favorite was the whole wheat challah. The REAL star of the show was the disk of softened butter that had been rolled in flaky sea salt – OMG – save me from myself!! Soft, warm bread with salty butter is heaven on Earth. It does not get any better than that, folks. Believe me! (The 5 exclamation marks used in this paragraph are warranted here!)

Ooh bread-ven is a place on Earth

My sweetheart and I opted for the seasonal 3 course tasting menu, and got more food than we could have ever bargained for. They definitely want you to leave full, and leave full we did. My first course was a Farm Fresh Egg with Asparagus, Parmesan Mousse, Quinoa, Mushrooms and Brown Butter. There must have been 3 different sauces on the plate, each better than the last. I love eggs and this dish elevated the humble ingredient so beautifully. I appreciated the umami from the parmesan, brown butter and egg yolk, and it made for a very satisfying first course.

For my main course, I enjoyed Seared Halibut with Peas Two Ways (mashed and puréed) with White Asparagus. The Halibut was cooked beautifully – it practically melted like butter under my fork – and I appreciated the contrasting textures to the tender fish. A really beautiful, light summer dish, and again with the multiple sauces. I detected a bit of mustard in one of them, which brought a necessary acidity to the dish.

A pre-dessert amuse bouche was a bite of Lemon Cake with Guava Mousse and a Shortbread Crumble. I thought the cake was fabulous and moist, but found the guava to be disappointing and oddly floral (and I just developed a newfound guava obsession thanks to my recent trip to Miami!) But alas, I was ready for my MAIN dessert.

I lost my marbles entirely for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, Whipped Cream, Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Bruléed Bananas and a Maple Banana Bar. The cake was insanely tender and soaked up every bit of the butterscotch sauce that was poured tableside (I should have asked to keep the serving dish it was poured from!) The bruléed bananas had that lovely crème brûlée crunch, but the Maple Banana Bar really didn’t need to be on the plate – everything else just totally stole focus. I didn’t make many notes about this dish because I was so in the zone enjoying it. You cannot go wrong with sticky toffee pudding. Making it is a real labor of love but so, so worth the work!

I was 100% satisfied at this point, but when the server brings you a little tray of bite-sized nibbles to accompany your bill, it lessens the financial blow, and convinces me that I can find a little more room for these goodies. My favorites were the chewy Blueberry Caramel and the pillowy Coconut Marshmallow, but the Apricot Gummy and Mint Chocolate Wafers certainly earned their places on the board.

As if everything wasn't already enough, we received a box of beautiful truffles upon our departure, each with a unique fruit filling - lavender, raspberry, strawberry and orange. If you're keeping count, this marks dessert #4!! I love a little take home gift at the end of the night, and these jewels were *almost* too pretty to eat.

If you’re looking for a place near the Triangle to splurge, look absolutely no further. You will leave incredibly satisfied. The team at Fearrington will take fantastic care of you, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be in their hands.

Friday, August 13, 2021


Starring: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin
Director: Tom McCarthy
Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Rating: R

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with Matt Damon as the lead. It may have been as far back as "The Martian", but I must say, he is absolutely spectacular in the new movie "Stillwater". Loosely inspired by the Amanda Knox story, this film focuses on an oil-rig roughneck from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who vehemently works to free his daughter from a French prison. While a bit too long, it's a captivating, anxiety-ridden story, with great performances. If you're looking to get out of the house (or if you can stream it at home), give this one a watch.

We meet Bill Baker (Damon) in Oklahoma, as he prepares for a trip to Marseille, France, to see his daughter Allison (Breslin), who is serving a 9 year sentence after being convicted of murdering her former girlfriend/roommate. Prior to the conviction, Bill and Allison were somewhat estranged, so the tension between them is palpable. She maintains her innocence, and he's pretty much the only person who believes her, so when the opportunity to help get her sentence overturned arises, Bill jumps at the challenge.

After making acquaintances with a local, Virginie (Cottin), and her daughter, Maya, Bill begins digging for clues and following leads that Allison's lawyer has chosen to ignore. He comes in contact with some pretty shady characters and does some borderline-illegal acts to get answers. Meanwhile, his hard exterior is softened a bit by his budding relationship with Virginie and Maya. By day, he's super dad, picking up Maya from school and bringing her chocolate croissants, and by night, he's assaulting young men on the street and holding them captive.

The final 20 minutes of the film are thrilling, I just wish it didn't take us quite so long to get there. It's a great detective story, as we watch Bill uncover clues and stay under the radar on his mission. And Damon's attention to detail - the way he speaks and carries himself - allows him to fully disappear in this role. He reminds us that he is one of the great film actors of our time. Bravo, overall.

Friday, August 6, 2021


Herons Restaurant at The Umstead Hotel and Spa has been on my bucket list for a very, very long time. I was eager to experience their four course tasting menu, and last month presented the perfect opportunity to celebrate. If only the meal was as fabulous as the company!

My sweetheart proposed to me before we went to dinner(!!!!!!), and this splurge-worthy, over-the-top meal seemed like the ideal way to celebrate off the evening. We even got flutes of complimentary champagne to honor the occasion! My kind of place.

Love these teal plates!

The service at Herons is impeccable. They anticipate your every need, and strive to take exceptional care of you. Little touches go a long way: lemon and lime slices for your water, warm lavender oil wash cloths to clean your hands, mini pound cakes to take home with you at the end of the night - they know how to pamper their guests. I was expecting an amuse bouche before the first course, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we'd receive a small, whimsical bite between all four courses! And the servers seemed genuinely excited to bring us each bite. We started off with a Sunflower/Sunchoke Tuile, filled with Egg Mousse and topped with Caviar. A fantastic way to tantalize the taste buds, and visually stunning.

First Course: Flounder Crudo with Cantaloupe, Caviar and Puffed Grains. I would soon learn that each course is a work of art. I admired the intricate plating and this was a delightful dish for summer. I love discovering unexpected flavors that work well together. Would I have ever paired raw seafood with fruit? Probably not. But as it turns out, I'm a big fan.  

Unfortunately, my sweetheart's first course didn't come out quite like he was hoping. The "King Crab" was presented like this:

Needless to say, he was disappointed that the dish was more green (and frozen) than crab. That should have been a tell-tale sign that our dinner was going to be a bit more avant-garde than we had initially anticipated.

I love a bread selection and at Herons, you get 3 options, each better than the last. A Truffle Parker House roll, Red Cornmeal Muffin and Pretzel Roll were each enhanced by softened, salted butter. This was the most outstanding bread course I've ever experienced.

Our second amuse bouche was a Cornmeal Puff with a Blueberry Foie Gras Mousse. I liked the idea of this, but it did not come together as a successful bite. Foie Gras is a fickle mistress, and she was a bitter one tonight. 

Second Course: A 62 degree Egg with Grits, Mushroom Ragout and Shrimp, with Truffle Crisps for dipping. This was my favorite course of the night, and I was so busy eating it, that I didn't capture a photo! The soft boiled egg yolk married beautifully with the mushroom ragout - super umami. This was a luxurious riff on shrimp and grits. The truffle crisps were a nice touch, but I can ALWAYS use more truffle flavor.

To up the whimsy, we were presented a Mini Pheasant Corndog with Truffle Ketchup. This was super cute and clever. The meat was flavorful and tender and a yummy bite but again, I can always use more truffle.

Third Course: Salmon with Coconut Tartare, Zucchini Linguine, Heart of Palm and Charred Okra, with a Red Curry Sauce. If you read that and thought "how does all of that go together?" you're not alone. I honestly don't know what some of it was doing on the plate. The star was the salmon, which was cooked to absolute perfection. The red curry sauce was a little too sweet, and the coconut tartare reminded me of a diced hard boiled egg with mayonnaise (eek, sorry!) The zucchini linguine was yummy and salty but didn't really have a place on the plate. This was the most confusing course for me, but they can sure cook some salmon.

To get our palates prepped for dessert, we were presented with a Yuzu-soaked Cucumber that was hollowed out and filled with Watermelon Sorbet, and topped with Black Sesame Seeds. I loved the refreshing sorbet, but the cucumber was not yuzu-soaked enough for me. Perhaps a squirt of citrus on top would have rounded this out more.

Fourth Course: Peaches with Corn Pudding, Honeysuckle, Creme Fraiche and Hibiscus Ice. Considering we're in the thick of peach season, this seemed a very appropriate dessert, but I could have used more corn pudding and less hibiscus ice - it melted into the creme fraiche and watered down what should have been a rich, luxurious sauce. Stunning, but not satisfying.

The bill was accompanied by Almond Joy Ice Cream Popsicles underneath a beautiful chocolate sheet that said "Congratulations"! These ice cream pops were sensational and I will never say no to seconds on dessert. And the mini pound cakes that we got to take home were perfect with coffee the next morning.

It's hard for me to recommend this place to anyone who is not a foodie (I'm a foodie and still struggled with some of these dishes) but it was very fun to pretend I was on Top Chef. It seemed a bit "fancy for fancy's sake" but it was an experience I will never forget, because it was the best night of my life (so far!)