Durham, N.C. — I have been to the Durham Farmer's Market several times, but never had the chance to stop by Piedmont, which resides on Foster Street only a few feet away in a strip near Daisy Cakes. For Triangle Restaurant Week, I decided to make the trip to check out their locally sourced cuisine. The drinks alone are worth the trip!
Location: 401-B2 Foster St. Durham. Parking is available on the street.
Restaurant: The Piedmont has very rustic feel - simple wooden tables and old re-purposed wood hanging from the walls. In addition to an array of tables downstairs, there is a second floor offering additional seating. The food is upscale and inventive with a great focus on farm-to-table. Not too much of a surprise since two of Piedmont's managing partners are Coon Rock Farm owners and managers Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb.
Menu: The bar includes an extensive wine list, liquor and many local craft beers. Their craft cocktails contain local spirits like TOPO's Piedmont Gin and house-made bitters and syrups. Chef Ben Adams has crafted a dinner menu that features an array of entrees from roasted Spring Mountain Farms' chicken to Chapel Hill Creamery "Calvander" risotto. The desserts stray from the typical chocolate brownie and ice cream or cheesecake selections at many places. Think more rhubarb tarts and sticky date cake with salted caramel ice cream.
The Meal: To thank my mom for all the babysitting she does for me, I decided to take her out to dinner. What you need to know about my mom: This New Orleans native normally dines at chain restaurants and is quite particular about her seafood. She absolutely loves Poole's soft-shelled crabs and mac and cheese. That was our last night out before I took her to the Barry Manilow show at PNC Arena. We were way overdue for a mother-daughter meal.
We started with cocktails. I had the 401 (house-made jalapeno vodka, fresh strawberries, lime and prosecco) and I ordered her the Mint Julep, since she has never had one before. Both drinks were strong, but in different ways. The vodka was delightfully spicy. That first sip burned, but the flames slowly subsided the more I consumed. The Mint Julep was strong but equally as tasty.
We started with fried Rappahannock oysters served on a bed of duck liver parfait, and a salad of Root Down Farm roasted beets, compressed watermelon, house-made kimchee, basil pesto and lemon balm. My mom, the seafood critic, loved the oysters. They were tender, properly seasoned and cooked to perfection. I agreed, but preferred my beet salad. I'm not always a fan of beets, but I loved the way the watermelon blended with the beets. A great sweet salad that is also on the restaurant week menu.
For entrees, mom opted for the grass-fed Painted Hills' coulotte served alongside Triple J Farm's diced sweet potatoes and smoked bacon hash, roasted Four Leaf Farm's broccoli and topped with a delicious black garlic sauce (another Triangle Restaurant Week entree). At first, mom wasn't sure what a coulotte was, but when she found out it was steak - she was in! Because we each wanted to try something different, I ordered the roasted Springer Mountain Farms' chicken served with Root Down Farm's cauliflower, Anson Mills' benne seed, Carolina gold rice, braised pine nuts and "marbella" jam. The dish was delicious and savory. I was hoping for more a sweet kick from the jam, but enjoyed it. My mom, however, could not stop raving about her meal. She shared a little with me and I can see why she was so happy. That black garlic sauce tied the entire dish together perfectly. So good!!
For dessert, we highly recommend either the sticky date cake topped with salted caramel ice cream, dulce de leche and caramelized white chocolate, or the Blueberry "Ten Dollar Pie" served alongside homemade lemon buttermilk ice cream (both restaurant week selections). The coconut cake (another restaurant week dessert selection) is also a good choice. My mom hates coconut but really enjoyed it because it was so understated.
If you go off the restaurant week menu, the strawberry and rhubarb sorbet is a light, fruity dessert that is perfect for the summer.
Service: General manager Crawford Leavoy and the rest of the staff were attentive, knowledgeable and more than willing to help guide us through the menu. Our server was spot on with his choices for the best items! My mom is still talking about the date cake and the coulotte.
The Price: Appetizers range from $7-$14 and almost all entrees are more than $20 (with the exception of the risotto, which comes in at $17). Dessert ranges from $5 for the sorbet to $12 for a Southern cheese plate. Going to dinner here is definitely a splurge, but it is a steal during restaurant week. You get three courses for $30. You get several options for each course, but we will save you the time. Get the beet salad, coulotte and the sticky date cake. You will not be disappointed!