Very sad news from Durham, folks. Restaurant Starlu (3211 Shannon Road, 489-1500, www.starlu.com) is going out of business as of Dec. 22. Chef Sam Poley wrote an e-mail to friends and customers, and said in part: "We have truly enjoyed the opportunity, but we can no longer sustain the effects of factors we cannot control. ... Everyone involved, including our staff, property management and building ownership, have done everything we can think of to avoid this outcome. At some point though, no matter how great the highlights, you need to realize that there needs to be a solid foundation of routine business that simply is not coming in our door."
True to his classy form, Poley said he wished to spend Starlu's remaining weeks saying goodbye, and remembering all the good things Starlu accomplished during its three-plus years in business. So, I highlight them here: "helped raise more than $43,000 for charity through its Bottles of Change program; bought holiday gifts for children living under the auspices of Children's Home Society; raised awareness of dozens of great organizations doing wonderful work in Durham and beyond; received many accolades generated by our diners attesting to their appreciation of what we do; and had the pleasure of getting to know so many wonderful people."
On a happier note, congratulations to Ian Sullivan, chef de cuisine at Vivace restaurant in Raleigh (4209-115 Lassiter Mill Road, 787-7747, www.vivaceraleigh.com), who beat out eight other members of the N.C. Pork Council's Chefs Advisory Board to win the council's Taste of Elegance competition recently. Sullivan's braised North Carolina pork belly with egg ravioli, piave crema and microgreen salad won him $1,000 and the chance to represent our fair state in a national competition next year.
(It sounds incredible, even if I didn't know what piave crema is. Sullivan graciously explained that the dish is his take on carbonara. Piave is a soft cow's milk cheese, so piave crema is exactly as wonderful as it sounds: It's a reduction of heavy cream with cheese in it. The greens on top are a palate cleanser.)
Second place ($500) went to John Toler, chef/owner at Bloomsbury Bistro (509-101 W. Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh, 834-9011, www.bloomsburybistro.com), for his lengthily named dish: hoisin-glazed, blade-end pork loin roast with spicy chinese pork and cabbage dumplings, sticky rice and sweet red chili-sesame sauce.
Also, look for Lionel Vatinet, master baker and owner of Cary's La Farm Bakery (4248 Cary Parkway, 657-0657, www.lafarmbakery.com), in the December issue of Food & Wine magazine, with a three-page spread dedicated to healthy breads. The feature includes recipes for raisin-rye, granola and honey spelt, as well as information on "healthy bread essentials" and "healthy dips and spreads by Lionel." Much of this content can also be found online at www.foodandwine.com/articles/a-master-bakers-healthy-breads.
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