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New restaurants and happenings

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The days following Thanksgiving usher in some of the biggest shopping sprees of the year, and while we're out and about town we may find ourselves in need of a bite. What a great time to try one of the Triangle's newly opened restaurants. Durham's Mexican hot-spot Tonali (3624 Shannon Road, 489-8000) is drawing raves from fans coming back for the from-scratch tortillas and a wide variety of tacos—including a popular fish taco. In comfy-casual ambience you can get a filling lunch or dinner for under $10. If you're near downtown Durham, the long-awaited Piedmont has finally opened (401 Foster St., 683-1213) featuring seasonal food inspired by traditional French and Italian dishes by former Federal chef Andy Magowan and Drew Brown, formerly the sous chef at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Las Vegas.

In Chapel Hill, Citrus (100 Westgreen Drive, 933-1623) opened last week and is keeping its promise to offer brunch specialties as well as breakfast and lunch seven days a week, plus its by-kids-for-kids menu. In Raleigh, Café Monet (664-6838), a temporary set-up at the N.C. Museum of Art created just for the exhibit, is a great place to refuel for more shopping or museum-going (entry fee not required to visit café or gift shop). It offers, among lots of quick goodies, an impressive array of fresh, locally roasted coffees, wine by the glass, soup du jour, and an Impressionist painting-inspired muffin called "the haystack."

If you are lucky enough to get to the Monet in Normandy exhibit this holiday season, bear in mind all the French cuisine many local restaurants are cooking up in honor of our own museum being one of only three U.S. cities to get the show. Blue Ridge, the museum restaurant, is serving French country specialties such as cassoulet and tarte tatin in addition to their classic and eclectic menu.

Tastings can be another delicious way to take a break. Counter Culture Coffee (4911 S. Alston Ave., Durham, 888-238-5258) is hosting a reception Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. featuring award-winning coffees by owner-farmer Aida Batlle of El Salvador. Batlle will give a short presentation on responsible, high-quality coffee production before the samplings. The event is free and open to the public.

Other tastings: "Fridays Uncorked" and "Saturday Wine Night" continue through November and December at A Southern Season (201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill, 913-1243) with wine-tasting and food pairings created by visiting chefs. Friday, Nov. 24 explores Beaujolais Nouveau and Saturday, Nov. 25 will match wines with holiday cooking that's "anything but turkey."

The narrative film version of Eric Schlosser's 2001 bestselling book Fast Food Nation opened Trianglewide Nov. 17 and will play into early December. While not exactly a holiday feel-good movie, it may play a role in encouraging responsible food choices during a time of year when cooking and eating are a big focus.

Word has it that RSVVP went well Trianglewide, with folks eating out to help stock local food bank shelves. It's not too late to donate to this effort. Through Nov. 26, Harris Teeter is selling specially marked gift cards to distribute as part of the Harvest Feast Food Drive and America's Second Harvest Network. Buy the $5 or $20 gift cards at checkout and the store will take care of the rest.

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