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Living the buena vida



When I was 19, I spent six months in Spain. Along the way, I picked up a painted tile that says "La buena vida es cara. Hay otra más barata, pero no es vida": The good life is expensive, and anything cheaper isn't life at all. I debated buying it, seeing as how I was on a college student's budget and didn't exactly live by this philosophy, except for one thing. I always seemed to scrounge up extra cash for a good meal, eating every single version of a tapa I could get my hands on and drinking copious amounts of wine. And I continue to try living the buena vida here in our local microcosm of food lovers. It isn't too hard. Who can resist all these great deals?

Earlier this year, Triangle Restaurant Week proved to be deliciously successful in bringing the entire area together for a week of sharing flavors and food stylings. From Aug. 24 to Aug. 30, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance ( teams up with local sponsor Triangle Blvd. ( to host Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week. Enticing you to indulge your palate, three-course prix fixe dinners will be a steal at either $20 or $30, depending on the restaurant. Visit the Downtown Alliance's site for videos and a complete list of participating restaurants.

If you're not utterly stuffed after a great week of restaurant sampling, stop by the annual Greek Night at Durham's Parizade Sunday, Aug. 30 (2200 W. Main St., 286-9712, I must add a flat-out disclaimer: I'm a Greek-American food junkie who just returned from a trip to the homeland, so I may be just a teensy bit partial (and nostalgic). For $29 (not including beverages, tax or gratuity), customers revel in a night of real Greek partying, with a massive spread of all-you-can-eat, true-to-tradition mezze. This includes fennel dishes touched by notes of citrus, salads with a focus on fresh tomatoes and cured olives, octopus grilled just right and succulent whole lamb roasted on a spit. Opa! The event starts at 6 p.m. with dancing to follow. Reservations are recommended.

For those of you hit by the cupcake bug, try your hand at whipping up an original treat at Chapel Hill's Cupcake Challenge Friday, Aug. 21 at the Horace Williams House (610 E. Rosemary St., 942-7818, To honor the birthday of the late, popular UNC philosophy professor, the Chapel Hill Preservation Society started the Horace Williams Memorial Cupcake Festival five years ago to determine "Chapel Hill's most luscious cupcake." Entry forms (found on the Web site) must be received by Thursday, Aug. 20. Judging begins at 7 p.m. Aug. 21, and attendees may sample cupcakes for free and vote for their favorite between 7:15 and 8:15 p.m. Local cupcake samplings will also be provided by Nantucket Grill, Bliss Boutique Bakery and Sugarland; live music will maintain that sugar high. Winners will be announced by 8:30 p.m., followed by an outdoor viewing of the documentary Moving Midway: A Southern Plantation in Transit.

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