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Articles: food

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Restaurant Review: Chuck's
Tuesday, 2011 October 4 - 11:26 pm
Chuck's is one of the newest ventures from acclaimed local chef Ashely Christensen. It features a variety of novel high-end burgers, like "The High and the Valley" with crushed avocado, bacon-onion jam, and blistered red peppers. As a burger aficionado, I was looking forward to the experience.

The restaurant is pretty; it has a retro diner feel to it, with bright red chairs and black tables. You order at the counter and someone brings your food out to you. Unfortunately the initial impression I got from the order-takers was not positive: there was no welcome greeting, only a haughty stare as they waited for me to pick what I wanted. And when I did give my order, there was no acknowledgement or follow-up. I'd expect some basic prompts like "which dipping sauce would you like for your fries?" or "what would you like to drink with your lunch today?", but no, it was just click on the register and then a bunch of glaring. It was off-putting.

As for the food itself, I was severely disappointed. The burger is very finely ground, not quite to paté consistency but certainly more meatloaf-like than burger-like. It had been pressed into a round mold instead of hand-formed. And then the burger came out with no char or sear, as if it had been cooked at far too low a temperature. It seemed almost steamed instead of grilled. And it was severely under-seasoned to boot.

I've heard of others who have had a better experience with the burger quality, but when you're paying $9 for a burger (without fries), it had better be awesome every time. I've also heard of horrific customer service experiences, like diners getting charged for poorly-cooked burgers that they tried to send back. And it is too much to ask to get a properly-sized glass of water, instead of these little four-ounce thimbles that they grudgingly allow you to serve yourself? (Oh, and the sodas are outrageously priced eight-ounce bottles.)

I'm a big fan of Ashley Christensen and the things she's trying to bring to Raleigh. But I can easily think of a dozen places around here that have better burgers and better service at a lower price, including national chains like Ruby Tuesday, Chili's and Applebee's. And that should be embarrassing to a good chef.

I'm hoping they can chalk up the problems to inexperienced staff rather than design, but I'll have to hear a lot of good things about the place before I go back again.

Rating: 1.5 / 5.0
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Posted by Ken in: food

Downtown Raleigh Happenings
Wednesday, 2011 February 16 - 10:14 pm
Two restaurant closings to announce this week.

Cherry Bomb Grill, which just opened a few months ago, is closing. According to their Facebook page: "Cherry Bomb Grill will be reopening as a different restaurant/bar concept in March. It will, however, as previously stated, no longer be Cherry Bomb Grill, nor will it be Cherry Bomb Grill with a new name."

There were many issues with that place. It was supposed to be a retro, pin-up themed burger-and-beer place, but the giant bar and the TV screens made the place feel more like an ordinary sports bar. The signature burger was decent, but none of the other food we had there was very good. And I never once saw any of the waitresses dressed like a pin-up girl.

Also closing: Glenwood South institution Bogart's American Grill. Bogart's was a pretty trendy place back in 1998, but the menu doesn't seem so novel anymore, and the execution from the kitchen is inconsistent. At night, the fickle Glenwood South crowd no longer thinks of Bogart's as a singles hotspot.

It's prime real estate and whoever claims the spot will enjoy about six months of trendy fame. But as with any restaurant, the quality of the food will determine its long-term success. Let's hope for something interesting and unique.
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Posted by Ken in: food

Frozen Lunches: The Year-End Wrap-Up
Friday, 2010 December 24 - 2:17 pm
Well, that's the end of my year-long experiment. All told, I reviewed 131 frozen meals; not quite the 150 I had planned, but still a good chunk. Here's the year-end wrap-up.

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Posted by Ken in: foodinterestingsite-business

Today's Frozen Meal: Hungry Man Classic Fried Chicken
Friday, 2010 December 24 - 1:40 pm
"Tender white and dark chicken with home-style mashed potatoes and sweet corn - includes a chocolate brownie." One pound of food. It's a Christmas miracle.

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Posted by Ken in: food

Today's Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Tortellini Primavera Parmesan
Tuesday, 2010 December 21 - 2:20 pm
Hmm, how many Italian words can you string together in one name? They should have added "puttanesca" too. "Four-cheese filled whole grain tortellini, red peppers, zucchini and carrots, in a marinara sauce, topped with parmesan cheese."

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Posted by Ken in: food

December 20 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce
Tuesday, 2010 December 21 - 2:15 pm
"Chicken breast with rib meat and angel hair pasta."

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Posted by Ken in: food

December 17 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Hunan Stir Fry with Beef
Tuesday, 2010 December 21 - 2:09 pm
"Beef steak with broccoli, red peppers, edamame and whole wheat vermicelli in an Asian-style sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

Today's Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Shrimp Scampi
Wednesday, 2010 December 15 - 2:40 pm
"Shrimp with pasta, broccoli, yellow carrots and red peppers in a lemon garlic sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

December 13 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
Wednesday, 2010 December 15 - 2:35 pm
"9 grain cavatelli pasta in a roasted red pepper sauce, topped with parmesan, romano and asiago cheeses."

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Posted by Ken in: food

December 3 Frozen Meal: Kashi Black Bean Mango
Wednesday, 2010 December 15 - 2:29 pm
"Black Beans with Onions, Roasted Red Peppers & Sweet Mangos; Kash 7 Whole Grains & Sesame Pilaf; Zesty Mango Sauce".

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Posted by Ken in: food

Today's Frozen Meal: Marie Callender's Creamy Chicken and Portobello Risotto
Tuesday, 2010 November 30 - 2:35 pm
"White Meat Chicken with Rice and Portobello Mushrooms in a Creamy Chardonnay Sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

Today's Frozen Meal: Marie Callender's Penne Chicken Piccata
Monday, 2010 November 29 - 2:14 pm
"Penne and White Wine Lemon Butter Sauce with White Meat Chicken, Spinach, Parmesan Cheese and Capers."

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Posted by Ken in: food

November 23 Frozen Meal: Kashi Tuscan Veggie Bake
Wednesday, 2010 November 24 - 9:41 pm
"Yellow Squash, Eggplant, Red Onion & Sweet Potato; Kashi 7 Whole Grain Noodles; Zesty Basil Tomato Sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

November 22 Frozen Meal: Kashi Chicken Pasta Pomodoro
Tuesday, 2010 November 23 - 11:43 am
"Grilled Chicken Breast with Red Peppers, Yellow Summer Squash & Zucchini; Kashi 7 Whole Grain Penne Pasta; Tomato Garlic & Basil Sauce".

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Posted by Ken in: food

November 2 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Chicken Tuscan
Tuesday, 2010 November 23 - 11:37 am
Chicken Tuscan? Don't they mean Tuscan Chicken? or Chicken Tuscany? "Chicken tenderloins and linguine in a sun dried tomato sauce, served with broccoli and carrots."

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Posted by Ken in: food

November 1 Frozen Meal: Amy's Indian Mattar Paneer
Tuesday, 2010 November 23 - 11:21 am
"Curried peas & cheese with rice & chana masala; made with organic rice, tomatoes & peas."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 22 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Rosemary Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
Monday, 2010 November 22 - 3:31 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with sweet potatoes, yellow carrots & pearl onions in rosemary garlic sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 20 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Sesame Glazed Chicken
Monday, 2010 November 22 - 3:02 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with whole grain rice, sugar snap peas, red peppers in sweet sesame glaze."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 19 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Creamy Basil Pesto
Monday, 2010 November 22 - 2:57 pm
"9 grain cavatappi pasta, broccoli and tomatoes in a creamy pesto sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese."

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Posted by Ken in: food

Cheese
Thursday, 2010 November 18 - 11:40 pm
Question of the day: is $10 cheddar cheese actually five times better than $2 cheddar cheese? I mean, I like cheese, and I like good cheese, but when it comes to cheddar... well, I'm not sure I could distinguish the $10 cheddar in a blind taste test.

I was debating this question today when buying ingredients for the company Thanksgiving potluck tomorrow. The store brand was $2 a pound. The specialty brand was $10 a pound. The store proprietors surely would have frowned upon me taking a sample taste.

I'm mixing this cheese with two other cheeses, along with butter and shiitake mushrooms and onion and bacon. I'm thinking, my co-workers will not notice the extra $8 of cheese quality. And when some of them are bringing a $3 store-brand pumpkin pie, or $2 worth of bag salad... well, perhaps they won't have reason to complain.

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Posted by Ken in: foodlife

Only Burger Comes to Raleigh
Wednesday, 2010 November 17 - 11:49 pm
Only Burger, an offshoot of Durham Catering Company, has a pretty straightforward concept: they serve burgers, and only burgers (er, and fries and drinks), from a food truck. There's also a brick-and-mortar location in Durham.

Only Burger Van

As you can see from this line, word got out when the truck came to Raleigh:

Only Burger Line

And that picture doesn't even show the SUV packed with nine people who drove to eat from the lunch truck.

Here's their top-of-the-line burger, the double with cheese and bacon. With fries and a drink, it's a fairly pricey $11.00.

Only Burger Meal

The burger is, on the whole, excellent, with a nicely crusty surface and a juicy interior. I'd recommend the single over the double, though, as there aren't enough condiments to flavor the double all the way through. And the cheese and bacon aren't a necessity either. Going with a plain single $4.25 over the full-blown double with cheese and bacon.

The fries are hand-cut, fresh, and flavorful, but a little bit soggy. They could stand a treatment of blanching in vinegar-water before frying.

All in all... a nice addition to the Raleigh lunch scene. Let me know if you want to meet me on Wednesdays for lunch!
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Posted by Ken in: food

October 18 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta
Thursday, 2010 November 11 - 7:10 pm
"In a creamy seafood sauce." Yes, seafood sauce. Whale? Plankton? Who knows.

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Posted by Ken in: food

Haaaay It's Wednesday
Wednesday, 2010 November 10 - 11:59 pm
We had dinner at Jibarra tonight, a hip Mexican restaurant downtown. For those of you who aren't from the Raleigh area, Jibarra is one of those places to which you can confidently bring your out-of-town friends for a tasty and interesting meal. I find it interesting that in a lot of small towns in this country, you'd have to take your VIP guests to a chain restaurant. When the Olive Garden is your best option, you know the local independent restaurants are doing something wrong.

I'm increasingly pleased at the restaurants in the Raleigh area. There's even a great German restaurant here now (J. Betski). I remember when I moved here, there wasn't a German restaurant of any kind for 150 miles. Progress!
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Posted by Ken in: food

October 14 Frozen Meal: Marie Callender's Rigatoni Marinara Classico
Tuesday, 2010 November 2 - 1:23 pm
"Rigatoni in a Slow-Simmered Marinara Sauce with Meatballs and Italian Sausage." Meatballs and sausage; they're not messing around here.

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 13 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Rosemary Chicken
Tuesday, 2010 November 2 - 1:22 pm
"Roasted chicken tenderloins in a lemon-rosemary sauce with carrots, spinach and whole wheat pilaf."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 12 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Orange Chicken
Monday, 2010 November 1 - 1:49 pm
"In a sweet & spicy asian-style sauce with rice, roasted almonds and edamame." (Note: not actually edamame.)

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 11 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Glazed Turkey Tenderloins
Monday, 2010 November 1 - 1:28 pm
"With whipped sweet potatoes and dressing."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 8 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Baked Chicken
Monday, 2010 November 1 - 1:20 pm
"White meat chicken with savory stuffing and creamy red-skinned mashed potatoes."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 5 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
Friday, 2010 October 15 - 1:10 pm
"Savory meatloaf with gravy and creamy red-skin mashed potatoes."

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Posted by Ken in: food

October 4 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Honey Balsamic Chicken
Thursday, 2010 October 14 - 5:11 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with red potatoes, asparagus, cherry tomatoes in honey-herb balsamic glaze."

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 29 Frozen Meal: Lean Pockets Grilled Chicken Mushroom and Spinach
Wednesday, 2010 October 13 - 1:01 pm
"Grilled white meat chicken, mushrooms & spinach with three cheeses and sauce in a crust." Gotta love that "sauce in a crust".

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 28 Frozen Meal: Lean Pockets Garlic Chicken White Pizza
Wednesday, 2010 October 13 - 12:54 pm
"Grilled white meat chicken, mozzarella, parmesan & fontina cheeses with creamy garlic sauce in a crust."

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 27 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Asiago Cheese Tortelloni
Monday, 2010 October 11 - 12:40 pm
"With tomatoes, yellow and green zucchini and yellow carrots in a tomato vodka sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 24 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Chicken Romano Fresca
Monday, 2010 October 11 - 12:33 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with whole grain pasta, broccoli, red peppers in romano cheese & butter glaze."

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 23 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Lemon Herb Chicken
Tuesday, 2010 October 5 - 1:56 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with whole grain pasta, cherry tomatoes & green beans in herb lemon-Chardonnay sauce." The ingredients do not identify what the "herb" is.

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Posted by Ken in: food

September 20 Frozen Meal: Healthy Choice Roasted Chicken Verde
Tuesday, 2010 October 5 - 1:50 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with whole grain rice, sweet corn, red & poblano peppers in cilantro-lime sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 31 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Chicken Alfredo
Monday, 2010 October 4 - 12:46 pm
"White meat chicken with penne pasta, broccoli, yellow carrots and orange carrots in a creamy alfredo sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 30 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Shanghai-Style Shrimp
Monday, 2010 October 4 - 12:37 pm
"Shrimp with udon noodles, snap peas, red bell peppers and carrots in a sweet and spicy asian sauce." I'm not sure what part of this qualifies as "Shanghai-Style"; I guess the assumption is that most consumers won't know what that means anyway.

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 27 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Chicken Margherita
Monday, 2010 October 4 - 12:37 pm
"White meat chicken with penne pasta, tomatoes, red bell peppers and spinach, with mozzarella cheese in a savory balsamic sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 26 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Sweet and Spicy Ginger Chicken
Thursday, 2010 September 23 - 1:18 pm
"Chicken tenderloins with udon noodles, broccoli, carrots, red peppers and water chestnuts in a sweet and spicy ginger sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 24 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Mushroom Tortelloni
Thursday, 2010 September 23 - 1:10 pm
"Portobello mushroom and cheese stuffed tortelloni with snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, peas, and red peppers in a creamy mushroom sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 19 Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Garlic Chicken
Monday, 2010 September 20 - 12:25 pm
"White meat chicken with bowtie pasta, asparagus, broccoli, and carrots in a creamy roasted garlic sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 16 Frozen Meal: Tai Pei Shrimp Fried Rice
Monday, 2010 September 20 - 12:17 pm
"Shrimp, vegetables, and fried rice". They really don't spend much time on their frozen-lunch buzzwords. Other lunches would say something like "savory shrimp and tender vegetables on a bed of Asian-inspired fried rice".

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 3 Frozen Meal: Michelina's Lean Gourmet Three Cheese Ziti Marinara
Wednesday, 2010 September 8 - 11:08 am
"Pasta topped with cheese in marinara sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

August 2 Frozen Meal: Michelina's Lean Gourmet Five Cheese Lasagna
Wednesday, 2010 September 8 - 10:58 am
"Pasta layered with blended cheeses, topped with marinara sauce."

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Posted by Ken in: food

July 30 Frozen Meal: Tai Pei Bourbon Street Chicken
Wednesday, 2010 September 8 - 10:39 am
"Breaded chicken white meat and vegetables in bourbon flavored sauce with steamed rice". Ah yes, the famous Bourbon Street... in Tai Pei.

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Posted by Ken in: food

July 29 Frozen Meal: Tai Pei General Tso's Chicken
Tuesday, 2010 August 17 - 2:26 pm
"Chicken white meat and vegetables in spicy sauce".

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Posted by Ken in: food

July 28 Frozen Meal: Tai Pei Chicken Fried Rice
Tuesday, 2010 August 17 - 1:53 pm
"Chicken, vegetables and fried rice with oyster flavored sauce".

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Posted by Ken in: food

July 26 Frozen Meal: Smart Ones Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Tuesday, 2010 August 17 - 1:32 pm
"Tender spaghetti in a zesty meat sauce with onions, mushrooms & tomatoes". Since when is "tender" a good quality for spaghetti?

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Posted by Ken in: food

Today's Frozen Meal: Lean Cuisine Tortilla Crusted Fish
Friday, 2010 July 23 - 4:56 pm
"With rice, poblano peppers & corn in a sour cream sauce". Note that they carefully avoid telling you exactly what kind of fish it is.

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Posted by Ken in: food


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