Every once in awhile, a girl needs a Day Trip. Usually, our day trips consist of wending our way through the countryside to a winery or a cool restaurant. Today, we ended up going to a shopping center.
Romantic, right? Well, it kind of was. It's not like we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond followed by a smackerel at Pei Wei (although that's okay sometimes, too). No, friends, today we drove up to a Very Keen shopping area in North Raleigh called Lafayette Village. (I didn't bring my camera, so check out the site and video up there to get a feel for the place). The whole center has been designed and built to be reminiscent of an old European market street. There is a lot of stone and lion's head fountains gurgling water into basins. Lots of different colored shutters on the shop fronts and many nooks and crannies to explore.
Lafayette Village has only been open for about a year, and it seems like it is about half occupied right now, with a few "coming soon" signs in sight along with the "Available" signs. Right now, the draw seems to be the unique restaurants. There's a Gelato place, a cute bakery called Upper Crust (open until 3pm on Sundays--we didn't make it in time to go in), a way upscale sports bar (kobe burger with black truffle pate, brie and fig jam, anyone?) with the rather Pedestrian-sounding name The Village Grill. Seriously, we wouldn't have considered going in after seeing the big screen televisions on the Exterior Walls, but after checking out the menu, it is probably worth at least one trip to sample some menu items featuring locally grown and/or produced ingredients.
The main reason we went up to Lafayette Village today was that one of the shops was featured in the current issue of SavorNC Magazine.
We bought two spice blends and some dark and mysterious candied ginger
for The Beloved to use in his fruit cakes. And look, there's the magazine article
about them. Yay!
Savory Spice Shop is a relatively new spice franchise perfectly positioned to compete with Penzey's. Now, I love me some Penzey's, but Savory has a few things going for it that I don't believe Penzey's has. First, not only can you smell almost every spice and spice blend available, you can also taste them. Yes! Just shake some in your hand, have a taste and brush the excess onto the floor along with the peanut shells. (That last was Poetic License. Savory does not sell peanuts). Anyway, how cool is that?!
Second, you can buy as little as 1/2 ounce. It's a great way to buy a bit of specialty spice and not have extra hanging out in your cupboard until 2020 while you figure out another use for it. Also, they grind all their spices weekly right there in the store, so you know what you're getting is fresh. They even had a whole spice garam masala mix,which I thought was brilliant--grind it when you get home. Or, better yet, toast it and then grind it. Ah, Indian food, how I love thee...
We had a wonderful time chatting with proud franchise owners and devoted spice heads Cindy and Bob Jones. They were both so knowledgeable and happy to talk with us about their spices. By the way, Cindy is Savory Raleigh's Voice of Twitter, so go check her out: @SavoryRaleigh.
We also found Antonio's Gourmet Market and spent quite some time talking with owner Antonio Saladino about where and how he sources his meat and seafood. Happily, we discovered that almost all his pork is raised locally and humanely. He also only buys domestic, sustainable seafood. We had a Gentlemen's Disagreement, as it were, about beef. He sells humanely raised corn-fed beef, which I think is a bit of an oxymoron. After all, cows are ruminants, and their systems are designed to digest grass. Anthony sells corn-fed beef because of the flavor profile: corn-fed beef is what consumers have been taught that beef tastes like, and so they expect it. I will say that he has visited all the farms and ranches that he has a relationship with and knows how well the animals are treated. So, we agreed to disagree on the grass-fed point.
Otherwise, we had a great conversation with him and could tell he is passionate about what he is doing. And I truly appreciated his taking the time to answer our questions and to stand behind his product 100%. One thing I noticed about his fish case was that all his whole fish were displayed the way they would swim if they were alive: dorsal fins up. No sad lying-on-their-sides fish here. Thomas Keller would certainly approve.
Since we hadn't brought a cooler with us, we left to grab a bite before returning to purchase some cultured butter and 3 house-made hot Italian sausages. We ate at Simply Crepes, which is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant that manages to work crepes into every menu item--breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert--either as a wrap, as a traditionally folded crepe. The concept worked well with The Beloved's smoked salmon crepe but was not quite as successful with my Crepes Benedict. I found the very thin but slightly sweet and slightly spongy (almost injera-like) crepe to be a bit much with the fattiness of the yolk and the richness of the smoked apple wood-bacon cream sauce (yes, you read that right. The sauce was Excellent). We split a chocolate mousse crepe that, aside from the eponymous chocolate mousse (maybe made with ricotta--I'm not sure), contained sliced strawberries and blueberries and was drizzled with their homemade chocolate sauce. I would've preferred more seasonal fruit, but the crepe was very tasty. We split the "Petite" size, and it was more than enough for the two of us.
Currently, they don't feature many, if any, local ingredients, although it was nice to see that you could substitute organic eggs for generic Cisco eggs and that they offer a gluten-free, lactose-free buckwheat crepe for those with dietary restrictions.
So, what else is at Lafayette Village? Currently, there are a couple of clothing boutiques, a coffee shop, a sculptor--you can actually go in and watch him work if he's there, so that's kinda keen--a day spa, an Italian restaurant called Paparazzi whose menu looks promising and a South American wine bar and tapas place called Vinos Finos y Picadas that we definitely want to check out.
The only down-side to Lafayette Village for us is that it's a bit of a trek. We live south of Raleigh by about 15 minutes, and LV is clear up in North Raleigh at the corner of Honeycutt and Falls of the Neuse. Still, we would certainly venture back up there to check out Village Grill, grab a gelato from Henry's (I had a taste spoon of blood orange and it was Superb), and maybe check out one of the many events that Happen there. If you happen to be in or near the area, it's well worth checking out, and I think the experience will only get richer as more tenants move in.