Friday, May 14, 2010

Bye-Bye Durham

As the mother of sons, I should have learned a long time ago not to get attached to anything (or anyone -  like girlfriends) in their lives.  For obvious reasons.  This should also include the places where they reside.
Here they are recently in NY at a Karaoke bar.  One of their
friends took this picture with her iPhone and sent it to me!

To be fair, Andy has lived in New York City since he left home.  He went to college and grad school there and never left the place.  Even if he did, we have so many friends and relatives up there that we will likely always continue to visit.

But Eric?  Different story altogether.  Let's see - New York, Washington, London, Santa Monica and Durham.  So far.  This summer it's DC again, then on to Philadelphia.

He departs Durham this week, having lived there for three years.  I have to admit I've developed a fondness for the place.  Other than a brief trip or two to Raleigh, I had never spent any time in the area before.  Durham is pretty much the red-headed stepchild of the Research Triangle, but it's coming into its own.  The area around Duke University is beautiful and there are more than just a few notable restaurants.  The farm-to-table concept is well-established, so much so that the New York Times recently took note.  Local produce abounds and chefs in Durham are making the most of it.

My favorite restaurant in Durham is Watts Grocery, which is heavily referenced in the above article.  Others I like are Nana's, Four Square and Magnolia Grill.  Vin Rouge, too, even though it isn't really farm to table.  But in my mind, Watts Grocery reigns supreme.  One of my favorite dishes is their "Grits bowl" on the brunch menu (I know, I'm not a brunch kinda gal, but I'll make an exception for this).  It's a big bowl of buttery, stone-ground grits and you get to choose four toppings which include sausage, chilies, chopped bacon, grated cheddar, salsa, avocado and a fried egg.

In honor of Watts Grocery, here is my version.  I opted for what I had on hand, which included fresh basil and pancetta.  Oh, and here's a picture of the basil in my back yard.  Maybe there's hope for me as a gardener yet!


1 serving hot stone-ground grits (recipe follows)
1 large egg (preferably farm fresh), fried sunny-side up
1 slice pancetta, sauteed until crispy then crumbled
2 tablespoons grated extra-sharp cheddar
1 large basil leaf, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place grits in individual serving bowl.  Place egg on top and scatter with pancetta and cheddar.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and top with basil.

Yield:  1 serving

OLD FASHIONED CREAMY GRITS      (From Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis' "The Gift of Southern Cooking"

This is the recipe for grits we always used at Watershed when I worked there.  We would make shrimp paste, then stir it into the warm grits and serve it with lightly toasted Pullman planks.  It is well worth it to seek out stone-ground grits.

2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat the water and milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  Sprinkle the grits into the pan, stirring well.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until grits are tender to the bite and have thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal.  This could take up to 45- 60 minutes.  Be sure to stir frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom and burning.  Season generously with salt, stir in cream and butter and remove from heat.  Serve hot.

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

I will miss you, Watts Grocery.  I will miss you, Washington Duke Inn.  Onward to Philadelphia!


  1. Glad you liked the grits! We are glad you liked Watts and hope you will make it back to Durham for another visit before too long!-Amy and Watts Grocery

  2. Amy and Friends, you made my day! I will be in Durham the last week of July and you can be sure that dinner (and brunch!) at Watts Grocery will be on my agenda that week. You guys rock!