We love going to the Triangle Tweet-ups, it’s always a great way to meet new people, see friends, and have some great food. However, I’ve been hoping for more Tweet-ups in Raleigh. I feel like we have some great local places and so many of the tweet-ups have been outside of Raleigh. . I thought May’s partnership with Taste Carolina Food Tours was a great idea. We would walk and take the bus to several locations around downtown Raleigh to try different foods around the area. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every single tweet-up, but I wanted Raleigh to get a chance to shine.
We started the tour at my new favorite haunt, which is Busy Bee Cafe. We were able to try several local brews from the Triangle including my beloved Basil Farmhouse Ale from FullSteam and Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen from Lonerider Brewery. There wasn’t much food there to speak of, outside of their tater tots, which was disappointing, but I guess you don’t want to start a walk on a early Summer day with a belly full of heavy food.
After Busy Bee, we were supposed to head to 18 Seaboard. Making our way from Wilmington Street to Peace street would have been too much of a trek, so we hopped on the R-Line bus, which is the free busline for the downtown circuit. Once we got to 18 Seaboard, I was impressed by the atmosphere of the place. It’s definitely more upscale, but it was a beautiful open space. Chef Jason Smith was there to introduce the restaurant and explain about his personal cooking philosophies. I love finding new places that focus on local farming and resources and I could tell that keeping his food and menu local was important to Chef Jason. For our sample, we were presented with a seared scallop with sauteed ramps and morels. I had never had morels before and I loved the earthy taste it had combined with the sweetness of the scallop. I was pretty happy with our short time at 18 Seaboard and walking away, I couldn’t believe I had never been there before. I will definitely be back to experience a full dinner.
We then made our way to Market. After their Anti-Valentine’s Day dinner, I can’t sing their praises enough. Chef Chad McIntyre was there to introduce our bites and talk about the restaurant. Again, local and organic was a common theme of our tour, as Market focuses on seasonal and local specialities. We started with one of their fabulous cocktails, which was called a ginger slap. I’m not a bourbon fan, but mixed with fresh ginger syrup and soda water, the Ginger Slap was refreshing, spicy, and a welcome way to sit and relax after the walk from 18 Seaboard. An accompanying bowl of beignets with powdered sugar and locally gathered honey was a nice way to start the meal. The dishes we were given there were a nice mix of Southern classics with modern and world cooking. The Korean BBQ with pickled onions was a nice play on the traditional NC BBQ. Meanwhile, the cheesy grits were surprisingly light without the gut-busting heaviness I hate about grits. As much as I love duck, I almost felt like the duck served with the grits was an afterthought. While it was cooked nicely, I think the grits and BBQ blew it out of the water. I could have stayed all day and had more Ginger Slaps, but there was chocolate to be had!
Escazu Artisan Chocolates (936 N. Blount St. Raleigh, NC) was previously located on Glenwood, but I’m glad they moved, because they really deserve a place where they can showcase their spectacular chocolate. We were given a tour of their place and got a brief introduction of the chocolate-making process, with a few tastings of their Costa Rican and Venezualan bars. It was pretty impressive with what they could do in such a small space and the taste will make you swear off mass-produced chocolate. We picked up a couple of their truffles and I was instantly hooked. I’m not a sweets person, but I could go for a box of these any time.
Our last stop was at my favorite bar in Raleigh, Foundation (213 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC). I adore the underground feel of the place and I like how they try to focus on regional liquor, beer, and wine (or as regional as possible when it comes to rum) and house-made sodas. After the lovely Ginger Slap at Market, I was still craving some ginger ale, which is made on premises at Foundation. I am hooked on real ginger ale, the stuff you buy at stores doesn’t have that fresh bite of the spice to it. We were so happy to be at Foundation because Crumb was there as well to offer up a sample of their sweets. Crumb doesn’t have a physical location to pick up their desserts yet, so any time they make an appearance as a Triangle gathering is an event. At Foundation, they were serving their lemon meringue tartlets, which I could have eaten a dozen of (and almost did). Since I don’t have a sweet tooth, it takes a lot for me to eat dessert, but the cirtusy bite of the tartlets was addictive.
It was a fun time doing the walking tour with everyone and I honestly would love to do this again through Taste Carolina in a different city. All of that walking just means I can eat more, right?