What we're eating: our weight in tomato sandwiches. Go minimalist with a thick slab of heirloom, slapped with mayo and a dash of salt on sourdough from Scratch in Durham. Or gussy up your seasonal treat at Ninth Street Bakery: Asiago cheese, cucumber, red pepper, onion and of course, mayo.
Our more exotic palates are traveling to Cary, where TIBETAN RESTAURANT (points for directness) has opened at 148-A E. Chatham St. The appetizers—Pema's Tsawa crispy lotus stems stir-fried with onion in honey sauce and Laphing (spicy Moong beans) will prepare you for the main event. Momos Tibetan dumplings, super-spicy, as in bring a fire extinguisher. Pan-fried or steamed, order them with beef, chicken or veggies. Immerse yourself in the full ethnic experience with Tibetan tea, which is doctored with butter and salt.
Every time THE ECONOMY FAILS IN GREECE, AN OLIVE DIES. If you're a fan of legit Greek ingredients (accept no substitutes!), then your kalamata spread could be in trouble.
The financial crisis in that country could squeeze the supply of feta, olives and olive oil because the country's exporters can't afford custom's fees.
Let's hope the Triangle's Greek restaurants—TAVERNA AGORA (Raleigh), SPARTACUS (Durham), KIPOS GREEK TAVERNA (Chapel Hill)—have connections with the olive black market, or at least a secret stash.
"Look for the short guy with black hair and an orange beard." That was my introduction to R.J. ST. JOHN, the new executive chef at the JAMES JOYCE IRISH PUB AND RESTAURANT in Durham. Half-Korean, half-Irish, St. John says people assume he dyes his beard. "And I ask, 'WHO WOULD DYE HIS BEARD ORANGE?"
St. John just moved here from New Orleans, where he was the executive chef at Saints and Sinners, owned by Channing Tatum. Now his focus has shifted to revamping the entire JJ menu. While the corned beef and hash, a crowd favorite, is staying, the rest of the fare will leans toward gastro-pub. A central item is the chicken and waffles, made with Cornish hens and house-made syrups.
"I definitely want to turn the James Joyce back to a gastropub feel," St. John says. "It should be comfort food that's elegant and sexy on a plate, yet attainable. You're in a pub."
Another pub, OAK CITY BREWERY, is opening, not in the Oak City, but Knightdale. (How about naming it after another N.C. tree? Chinkapin has a nice ring to it.) Its website teases us with few details other than "coming soon," but we hope OCB is dog-friendly, since it's located next to the Ashley Wilder Dog Park (616 N. First Ave., www.oakcitybrewingcompany.com/).
THIS WEEK'S DINNER MIXTAPE: GUY CLARK'S "Homegrown Tomatoes" and BILLIE HOLIDAY'S version of "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," in which the Gershwin Brothers' argue about toh-mah-to versus toh-mait-oh.
Load the triple CD set of the TIBETAN FREEDOM CONCERT and let fly the Fugees, Pavement, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Beastie Boys, Bjork, Patti Smith and KRS-One, with opening and closing prayers by Tibetan monks.
Or for more atmospheric, and some might say difficult listening, the avant-garde GREEK COMPOSER IANNIS XENAKIS' "Orient-Occident" and "Metastasis" is an ideal accompaniment for your hummus-making. Sonically, you won't know the difference between the food processor and his music.
Chow is a weekly column covering food news, politics, events and general culinary weirdness.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Tomato love."