The air is thick with thoughts of biscuits these days, and not just because The New York Times discovered Neal's Deli this month.
Anyone who has stopped in at Neal's in Carrboro for a fluffy breakfast sandwich made with all-local ingredients can attest that the national press is warranted. The Times featured the deli twice this month, most recently in an April 20 article about the Durham food scene, which also featured Watts Grocery, Six Plates, Piedmont, the Washington Duke Inn, Cane Creek Farm and Brinkley Farms.
Biscuits have helped Raleigh's Mecca Restaurant (13 E. Martin St., 832-5714) reach the ripe old age of 80, an occasion the restaurant will celebrate on April 30. Generations of the Dombalis family have run Mecca since 1930. Today, John Dombalis, the original owner's great-grandson, makes the biscuits served on Saturdays. His father, Paul, is the current owner. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mecca will celebrate 80 years of diner-style, home-cooked eats with music and 1930s prices on old-fashioned glass bottles of Coke.
Durham's food truck scene welcomes biscuits, too. Grandma Hoyt's Country Buffet and Catering (704-629-9440, www.grandmahoyts.com) is located about three hours south in Besemer City, but a truck now graces the Durham Farmers' Market on Saturdays.
And in a new Durham food blog, You Don't Know Biscuits (youdontknowbiscuits.blogspot.com), Chris Rhyne Reid explores her great-grandmother's recipes like a tragic heroine, battling the Southern cook's classic challenge: making a perfect biscuit. She learns that cooking methods steeped in tradition yield golden results— with practice, of course.
There might not be biscuits at Raleigh's newest farmers' market, but you can hope to find local fruit, produce, seafood, chicken, eggs, honey, bread, flowers and more. Jean Martin, owner of NOFO at the Pig (2014 Fairview Road, 821-1240, www.nofo.com), told me that 40 locally owned businesses operate within one block of her store. "Whether it's food artisans, crafts artisans or local food vendors, there's talent right here under our noses," she says. She'll launch the first Five Points Farmers' Market April 24 in the NOFO parking lot. The market runs from 8 a.m to noon. NOFO will serve an early country breakfast (with Bloody Marys) until 10 a.m. The market is co-founded by Jonathan Botta, who plans to open Bickett Market, a local seafood and produce market, in the old Bickett Gallery space. Nearby, the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market (godowntownraleigh.com/farmers-market), formerly at Moore Square, kicks off today at 10 a.m. at City Plaza on Fayetteville Street. Both markets run through October.
To many customers' dismay, a popular Asian grocery in Chapel Hill, Eastern Market Oriental Food and Gifts (505 W. Rosemary St., 968-1703), will close in late May. The owners are considering a move to another location. Manager Joanna Chen is offering 10 percent off everything: Japanese noodles, Filipino marinades, Chinese rice, Indian chutneys and other Asian staples. As she picked through fresh bean sprouts, Chen said she felt lucky to have customer support and be a part of their lives.
"It's very emotional and tough, but this may be the time for us to think about retiring," she says.
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