Spoonfed (Raleigh)

Mark Petko photographs Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill's culinary scene.

Archive for March, 2010

Escazu Artisan Chocolates | Raleigh NC

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Escazu Artisan Chocolates

936 North Blount St.

Raleigh, NC 27604

919.832.3433

www.escazuchocolates.com (link)

The owners of Escazu have just recently moved their retail operations to new space combining it with their artisan’s factory where the chocolates are born.  When contemplating their new surroundings I can’t help but relate their process of chocolate making to life in general, I realize this may be getting a bit too Chocolat (the movie) but last night I had some lucid dreams where I chose to fly around and explore, so this morning I’m experiencing some pensive mindsets.  Put on some boots and buckle up, it’s gonna get thick and bumpy.  Having recently moved part-time to Raleigh, I can attest to the awakenings provided by new digs, of which Escazu must surely be experiencing.  Change is good, sometimes difficult, but if embraced with that fact placed in the proper lobes, then change will eventually lean positive.  It is during these times of change that internal and ingrained wiring is reset, shifting our perceptions, creating new connections and seeding the ground for new growth (ahhh the cocoa bean is planted).  As one travels a lifetime, inevitable and repeated experience with change will force individuals to form their own processes with which they practice change, a process reflected in chocolate making.  Some aspects of change will involve choice and selection, similar to the choosing of a proper cocoa bean, life’s choices are often foundations that hold the essence to later flavors.  In Escazu’s chocolate making process the beans are then roasted and cracked to remove the husk.  I liken these processes to the simmering and unveiling of truths in ideas and thought.  Through contemplation and examination, one discovers new realities to put into use in an attempt to verify their validity, testing them in the workings of an individual life. (Damn, your in it now).  The chocolate nibs, left over from the shucking process are then placed into an antique stone grinder and ground, sometimes for days.  This is the practicing of new concepts, mentioned before, the daily grind.  The weight of the world pummels a chocolate life and breaks it down, reshaping it, transforming it.  Repeated revolutions, monotonous drone, the challenge of existence.  Other ingredients are sometimes added during the grinding process, some sugar, maybe vanilla.  As in life, one adds past experiences to the mix, bringing past knowledge to new ideas, learning and growing along the way, making of the mixture what they will.  As growth happens and past choices form new opportunities, new days take on shape and the seeds of change become realized as with chocolate poured into molds, forming little gems of sweet living.  After being formed the chocolate is wrapped in gold and silver linings, then packaged with declarations, definitions, names and titles being given to each creation.  With life this package is similar to our own thoughts and ideas on living itself, our newly learned truth, dressed up, titled and ready to share with others.  The only thing left to do is enjoy until you run out, then start a new batch.  If you need some help during the process, stop by Escazu’s new retail shop, peek into the factory process, sip some coffee and taste a bit of their life’s work.  Live well.  (you may now unbuckle and hose the muck off you boots, it’s out of my system…back to the grind).

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Pomegranate

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Chipotle Chili & Vanilla bar

Chipotle Chili & Vanilla bar

Dark Chocolate Cherry Vodka (front)

coffee break

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Spize Cafe | Raleigh NC | Meechai and Jacq Kowae

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Spize Cafe

121 Fayetteville St.

Raleigh, NC 27601

919.828.5000

www.spizecafe.com (link)

I crouch down once again peeking through the viewfinder at the dish in front of me.  It is placed on a metal chair in an attempt to get a silver-washed background to add interest and emphasize the clean and modern space that houses Spize Cafe.  The prawns have once again slid down the noodles, off of their perch, begging for yet another tweaking and having their way with me.  Lil’ buggers.  I can hear them snicker, mocking me.  ”You can’t style food!” they heckle.  I grab one by the tail and can feel the vibration of laughter pulse through it’s last bit of shell in my fingers.  I once again place the unruly Decapoda atop the noodles, check the position and hurry my greasy fingers back to the camera for a quick fire.  As I check the screen to verify my placement another sound begins to drown the audible amusement of jeering prawns.  It is a sound familiar to me.  Not only have I heard this sound before but it’s one that I have created myself many lifetimes ago.  I think most men my age have personal experiences with this sound.  One couldn’t have possibly traveled through the universe during those formidable “Star Wars” influenced years and not perfected it.  A manipulation of muscles around the mouth combined with perfectly timed breathing distortions, once learned and refined, could bring to life any handheld object, real or imagined and form a respectable laser blaster.  These laser shooting sounds emanate from the door marked ‘office’ where the son of Meechai and Jacq Kowae amuses himself in creative play while his parents ready the restaurant for the evening’s dinner service.  Being a family run establishment I imagine the lad is forming quite a few childhood memories as he spends time at Spize, nuances that will be ingrained into his being.  Will he remember the smell of grilling cumin chicken? Or the sound a serrated blade makes when halving a baguette?  Will the laughter and friendly faces of the crew at the grill play like a movie when he reminisces to his days as a boy?  Will the sounds of grilling vegetables and the chatter of a packed dining room remind him of the times when he was playing, in the back room of his parents restaurant with his laser gun?  His imagination inspires me,  making sure to wait until the mischievous prawns are watching me I create my very own imaginary laser gun.  I wave it a bit in the air, to show them I mean business before strapping it into it’s “Han Solo” holster.  I peer into the viewfinder once again only to see them cooperative and upright, knowing the doom fated to them if they continue their shenanigans towards the dark side.

Having run similar restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Meechai and Jacq Kowae are accustomed to providing hungry patrons with a pleasant mix of their Pan-Asian eats.  From soups to salads, noodle salads and baguettes to small and large plate entrees, Spize Cafe offers plenty of options to quell the hunger if you are in Downtown Raleigh and are in need.  Adding to their counter service of mouthwatering offerings the management of Spize have taken on a positive approach to being eco-friendly by serving all of their dishes using only trays, platters, silver and napkins that are made of renewable and biodegradable materials such as corn, sugar cane and bamboo.  They also pride themselves on their organic wine offerings including French Rabbit Pinot Noir, packaged in earth friendly containers and Live A Little Ravishing Red, fair-trade and organically certified.

Visit their website here to see weekly specials and menus.

or follow them on twitter or facebook.

All content ©Mark Petko Photography (click here for permission)

Baguette -Cumin Chicken w/ Sweet-chilli mayo

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White-Peppered Prawns noodle salad

Lemongrass pork w/ soy vinaigrette glaze, steamed Jasmine rice, mixed grilled veggies w/ ginger

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Spize Cafe on Urbanspoon

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March 17th, 2010 at 10:53 am

The Pit | Raleigh NC | Ed Mitchell

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'nana puddin'

Carolina Style Ribs, bbq baked beans, collard greens, biscuit, hush puppies

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The Pit (Authentic Barbecue)

328 W. Davie St.

Raleigh, NC 27601

919.890.4500

www.thepit-raleigh.com (link)

Everything but…

When mucking around in a new town, inquiring into culinary notoriety, earshot rings with familiar themes on repeated play.   Names precede faces and within a few conversations, one can really gain a sense of the big game in town.  The legends of lore stand tall in individual descriptions of great feasts and draw those unacquainted to the homes of heroes, in search of an experience that hopefully confirms, a legend to be true.  Upon verification, the story lives and breathes through yet another teller, to be heard by those that have shared in the adventure and those that can only listen, and wonder with Pavlovian dripped chins…and as this legend goes…

Ed Mitchell’s barbecue passions began decades ago in Wilson, North Carolina.  Learning the craft from family members Ed keeps traditions alive through his recipes and techniques.  He began by selling barbecue out of a family run grocery store eventually shifting the business to a full-on restaurant.  After gaining notice on a national level for quality barbecue Mitchell ran into an unfortunate string of events that lead to the foreclosure of his business and also some time in court.  Fortunately this new found time with a lawyer led him to an introduction to Greg Hatem from Empire Eats, a restaurant group in Raleigh.  Ed and Greg joined forces to open the Pit showcasing Ed’s Whole Hog barbecue but in a more than usual ‘upscale setting’ that barbecue is accustomed.  The pairing of the two allows Ed to concentrate on being ‘the pitmaster’, in a uniform of plaid shirts and overalls, gracing tv spots on the Today Show and Man V. Food while leaving the business responsibilities to Hatem and team at Empire Eats.  Starting with North Carolina raised all natural hog, Mitchell is one of a few that represent true Whole Hog barbecue using “Everything but the squeal”…”from the rooter to the tooter”.  Mitchell’s Whole Hog harvest is paired with sides based on family recipes but also feature some additions with a contemporary flair prepared under the watch of the Pit’s Executive Chef, Lauren Smaxwell.  Check out the full menu options here.

All content ©Mark Petko Photography (click here for permission)

Ed Mitchell-Pitmaster

Check Out Our Sister Site ‘Your Kitchen Camera’ to learn how to photograph food.

Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato Fries, Stewed Green Beans

Barbecue Fries-hand-cut fries with melted pimento cheese, chopped 'cue, chives and bbq ranch dressing

Pineapple Upside-down Cake w/candied pecans, caramel sauce, house made bourbon ice cream

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All content ©Mark Petko Photography (click here for permission)


The Pit on Urbanspoon

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March 9th, 2010 at 4:16 pm