Friday, September 15, 2023

Glasshouse Kitchen

Glasshouse Kitchen is a trendy new addition to the RTP area. Driving up, it's instantly recognizable - it's hard to miss the big glass structure - and inside, it feels like a greenhouse with stunning ferns and greenery adorning the walls. The bar practically stretches the entire length of the restaurant, which was consistently busy throughout our meal. It's easy to see why - the food and service was an absolute treat. The folks at Glasshouse know how to take care of their customers.

The restaurant changes their menu frequently and is rooted in seasonal offerings. It would be a mistake to not order the Bread Service - while I love a place that offers complimentary bread, when you pay for it, you know it's going to be special. Four warm, fluffy rolls made with Whole Grain Einkorn Flour are sprinkled liberally with sea salt, and are the perfect vessel for a sweet and spicy Sorghum Chili Butter. The room temperature butter allows the warm rolls to soak up these incredibly palate-stimulating flavors.

Burrata is always a favorite, and the rendition we had included Golden and Red Beets, Greens and a very unique Polenta Foccacia. Glasshouse's bread game is on point. I had never tried einkorn flour before, and certainly had never tried a foccacia made with polenta. The bread was crunchy on the outside and surpringly soft on the inside. Delightful. 

An enormous pile of Local Greens is tossed with Shallots and Ricotta Salata, and drizzled with a Lemon Vinaigrette. Very fresh, and a nice balance if you order one of their pizzas (you should). We opted for the Lamb Sausage Pizza, complete with Harissa and Mint. The crust had a nice chew - again with the great bread! - and the sauce was tangy and acidic. It's hard for me to resist lamb anything, and this was some of the better lamb sausage I've had.

The "Fried Fish for Two" would be more appropriately named "Fried Fish for Four", both for the sake of alliteration and for the amount of food. We enjoyed Black Bass with a crispy, salty, light crust, sitting in a pool of Chili-Lime Coconut Broth that packed quite a punch. I absolutely loved this broth, which was thicker, like a sauce, with a crazy depth of flavor. It's served with Jasmine Rice and Greens, and some Turnips and Radishes for crunch. This was a beautiful presentation and I hate that I didn't capture a photo of it (or of any of the dishes!)

I was quite impressed with Glasshouse Kitchen. I like giving restaurants a minute to find their footing and work out the kinks, and after about a year of being open, they most certainly have figured it out. It's here to stay.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Barbie / Cocaine Bear

It's been a MINUTE since I've been able to take in a movie in one sitting, let alone two in one week! "Barbie" and "Cocaine Bear" are two highly entertaining, laugh-out-loud, should-not-miss summer films.

Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon
Director: Greta Gerwig
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Rating: PG-13

This movie will give you all the feelings - you'll laugh, get angry, feel nostalgic - your emotions really run the gamut. Margot Robbie is absolutely perfectly cast as "Stereotypical Barbie", and deserves an Oscar nomination for her beautiful work. Her ability to cry on a whim and bring true emotion to this life-like doll is remarkable. I admit, I was skeptical about Ryan Gosling portraying Ken, but he had me laughing out loud. I loved the throwbacks to characters like Skipper, Midge and Alan, played by Michael Cera - the supporting cast is spot-on.

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach's brilliant script portrays Barbieland as a female-forward, happy, productive place, until Barbie has an existential crisis, and eventually learns that she's inhabiting the feelings of the little girl playing with her in the real world. Barbie decides to venture to the real world,  Los Angeles, more specifically, with Ken by her side (reluctantly). It's here she discovers things are quite the opposite of Barbieland. When she and Ken learn about the "patriarchy", things get a little funny (if not frustrating). 

If you're on the fence about seeing this film, give it a chance. I do think you'll appreciate it more if you grew up playing with Barbies, but the greater message about equality and optimism will stick with anyone.

Cocaine Bear
Starring: Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Ray Liotta, Margo Martindale
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Rating: R

For every bit ridiculous this "based on true events" film is, it's equally every bit entertaining. It features an unbelievable cast including those listed above and also Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and will have you thinking twice before you go hiking again. 

Apparently in the 1980's, a drug deal gone wrong led to several pounds of cocaine being dropped in the woods of Tennessee, and eventually in the paws of a black bear. Naturally, the bear went a little nuts. The film follows several different story lines and characters, and as long as you lean in to the absurd premise, you'll have a good ride.

This is one of the more grotesque movies I've seen in a while. It's definitely movie junk food - made purely for your entertainment - but wildly entertaining.

Friday, May 19, 2023


Starring: Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Ben Affleck
Director: Ben Affleck
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Rating: R

I hadn't been anticipating a movie like this in quite a while. Being a Tar Heel and a fan of MJ, I'm always interested in watching anything related to the GOAT. I'm also a big fan of Ben Affleck as a director (Argo, The Town, Gone Baby Gone are all excellent films) so this was a movie I was not going to miss. I also wasn't going to go to the movie theatre to watch it (ha) so I squealed with delight when I saw that it was available to stream on Amazon Prime. I quite enjoyed the film, but it does beg the question, why exactly did this movie need to get made, and why now? I feel a bit hypocritical asking that, but it does kind of feel like a group of friends doing a passion project, which is fine. We all know the outcome of the story - did we really need 1 hour and 51 minutes to tell it?

Aside from those questions, I really did find the film entertaining. Matt Damon shines, per usual, as Sonny Vaccaro, a basketball talent scout for Nike who believes an NBA rookie named Michael Jordan will save their shoe division. Enter excellent supporting castmates in Jason Bateman as chair of Marketing, Ben Affleck as Nike CEO Phil Knight, Chris Messina as MJ's agent and Viola Davis as the matriarch of the Jordan family. All eventually work together towards luring MJ away from competitors Converse and Adidas, but it's not an easy road.

The story takes place in the 80s, and they really drive home that fact - lots of iconic 80s tunes, clothes, office furniture - they do a good job setting the scene. Sometimes I felt the shots were too sepia-toned, but this was clearly a choice. It was also a choice for us to never see MJ's face, which I thought was interesting. Affleck has chosen to highlight the supporting characters in the Air Jordan story, instead of MJ himself. 

If anything, watch this film for some spectacular performances (Bateman and Davis really shine) and if you're a basketball fan. It's an entertaining 2 hours for sure, but at the end, you may ask yourself the same questions as me. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

M Test Kitchen

If you live in the Triangle, you've no doubt heard of the M Restaurants - you've got M Sushi (the best sushi I've ever had), M Pocha (Korean street food), M Kokko (Korean fried chicken + ramen), M Tempura (next on my list), and the latest hot spot: M Test Kitchen. Basically, they cook whatever they feel like and if it's well-received, perhaps you'll see it on one of their other restaurant menus. I jumped at the opportunity to dine here when it opened at Fenton in Cary last month. I felt like we were in on a secret - while we had an early reservation time (not surprising), the place was surprisingly empty. By 7pm, every table (and bar seat) was occupied. The atmosphere is minimalist, the service is spot-on, and everything we tasted was delicious - and we tasted almost everything on the menu. I can appreciate a small, focused menu that executes beautifully and M Test Kitchen does just that. Just be sure you don't get too attached to anything - they revamp the menu often, and we were already on version 1.8!

Channeling my inner Gail Simmons

The food menu is on one page, and the drink options take up three pages. They take their bevvies seriously. I ordered The Triad, combining Japanese Whiskey, Amaretto and Cointreau and it was  slightly sweet and delightfully boozy. My husband opted for the Black Sage, with Irish Whiskey, Sake, St. Germaine, Sage and Blackberries. It was a flavor combination he had never tasted and said it was "highly drinkable".

The menu is divided into three sections: Cold, Warm and Sweets. We started off with Roasted Shishitos with Edamame and Plum. Being that it was the first thing we tasted, it set the bar incredibly high. The humble shishito peppers are perfectly blistered, not too oily, and rest on a stunning edamame hummus. I would have licked this plate clean. Dollops of plum puree bring a subtle sweetness, but the star of this show is that hummus!

Crispy Rice with Salmon Tartare was another favorite bite of the night. Beautiful squares of golden brown fried rice is topped with mounds of salmon, with Carolina mustard seeds for some acid and a pop of texture. This felt like a really funky and adventurous bite of nigiri. Absolutely fantastic.

Amberjack Tataki with Yuzu and Lotus was a beautiful presentation, featuring slices of that meaty fish topped with crispy lotus root slivers and pops of yuzu. The slight saltiness of the lotus was a great match for the seasoning on the fish, but the yuzu was TOO citrus-forward for me. It almost overpowered the delicate bite.

My entire dining party was very excited to order the Kani Crab XO Fried Rice, but much to our surprise, we couldn't locate any crab in the dish! Instead, beautifully cooked Shrimp sat atop the mound of flavorful rice, with julienned cooked Egg and Scallions too. The kitchen must have been out of the crab that night, or it was VERY carefully disguised.

It's a bit disappointing when the Cucumber and Herb Salad that is served alongside the Char Sui Ribs is the star of the dish (at least, the star for me). The ribs were just a bit dry, and had a touch too much sweetness from the hoisin glaze. The men at the table devoured them though, which was fine, because I was all too eager to have extra servings of the refreshing shaved cucumber salad. 

Another standout dish was the Crispy Tilefish with Green Curry. Thick, meaty white fish is surrounded by a creamy, only slightly peppy Green Curry sauce, with a mound of sticky White Rice underneath. The crispiness comes from the fish skin AND the scales, which are fried, resulting in a delicate salty crunch. This is extremely rich and comforting and I was disappointed to have to share.

Just when you think you've had all the Carrot Cake you could ever want, M Test Kitchen goes and does it right. They deconstruct the classic dessert, plating little cubes of moist, spicy Carrot Cake with sweet Carrot Puree, Candied Walnuts and Ginger Ice Cream. This was beyond anything that I was expecting. I love a good restaurant dessert, especially ones like this, that totally reinvent the wheel.

Do yourself a favor and make a reservation here before the word gets out even further. This is an awesome spot for a girls night, date night, or when you want to have yourself a little Top Chef adventure. I'd like to come for every iteration of the menu.

Friday, March 10, 2023

2023 Oscar Predictions

Hello from the other side. It's bananas that it's both mid-March, AND that I have been off the blogger grid for the past 4 months! I've had my hands full, but not without a FEW quiet moments here and there to catch up on some of this season's buzzworthy films. The Oscars are right around the corner (this Sunday!) and I'm taking any excuse to have some bubbly, park myself in front of the TV and stay awake past 8:30pm (but not much later). I hope everyone who cares enjoys the evening. I know I will.

Best Actor
Austin "hunka burnin love" Butler, Elvis
Colin "finally getting his time" Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan "high school crush" Fraser, The Whale
Paul "who?" Mescal, Aftersun
Bill Nighy, Living

Should Win: At press time, I have not seen The Whale, but everyone I've spoken to who has seen it says this is an incredibly heart-wrenching performance by Fraser. As much as I loved Butler as my man Elvis (he was the only good part about that movie), Fraser never disappoints and has paid his dues. I think he's got this locked down.

Will Win: Fraser.

Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree "paper boi" Henry, Causeway
Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy "in the bag" Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Should Win: EEAAO was just too overstimulating for me, but the acting was incredible. Anyone who watches this film could empathize with Ke Huy Quan's sensitive, delightful, relatable performance. And Hollywood loves a comeback story. The Banshees boys were fine. I just could not get through that film. And BTH's day will come.

Will Win: Ke Huy Quan.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Michelle "always a bridesmaid" Williams, The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Should Win: Michelle Yeoh is a sneaky one - she has been around forever, been in more films than any of us realize, and shines in everything she does. She can do action, drama, romance - and while I didn't love EEAAO, she is a force of nature in it. This Oscar is hers to claim. Cate Blanchett was wonderful in Tár (she is always phenomenal), but she has 2 statues already. And Ana de Armas will have her moment in the sun eventually.

Will Win: Yeoh.

Best Supporting Actress
Angela "queen" Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau, The Whale
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee "proud nepo baby" Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Should Win: The critics are loving Queen Bassett's performance in Black Panther, but I have not yet seen it. I can say, however, that JLC was unrecognizable and absolutely fabulous in EEAAO (this is the year for all the acronyms). 

Will Win: It's a toss up between Angie and Jamie.

Best Director
Martin McDonagh, The Bashees of Inisherin
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Todd Field, Tár
Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

Should Win: I would like to squeeze in a viewing of The Fabelmans before Sunday (doubtful) because Spielberg is always great. Hollywood loves longevity and the man certainly has it. I think Todd Field did a tremendous job with setting the mood for Tár. It's not my choice for Best Picture, nor is EEAAO, but I think the Daniels or Field should win for their direction.

Will Win: The Daniels.

Best Picture











Should Win: This is tough for me. I've only seen 5/10 and of those 5, I really only liked Top Gun: Maverick. But should it win the Oscar for Best Picture? No. So by process of elimination, that leaves me with the (very wrong) opinion that Elvis should win (it should not). Again, I would like to see The Fabelmans because I do think it has a chance. But a very small one.

Will Win: EEAAO. It's going to sweep.