Vacation Eatz:Raleigh Mama Dip’s, Ice Tea, Grits and Turkey Shoot

Welcome to the North Carolina portion of my trip. I visited a friend here for 6 days. If you live in the South of the US you will feel right at home for the next 3 posts. If you come from anywhere else in the world…hold on to your hats and add an extra hole in your belt.

Southern food is by no means a glamorous fare, even if it can be presented that way. We are talking here about good home country cooking. Unfortunately we no longer work in the fields to work off all those calories! Granted my host Rich may have gone the extra mile to really stuff me with Southern food to give the max exposure to it. I did overdose and started to develop a fear of fried foods. My body was screaming for real veggies! But it was a blast.

My no.1 priority was to go to Mama Dip’s which we did on day 1 I think. This restaurant is your best bet as to tasting the local food. And it has a great history. “Mama Dip’s first job was as a family cook in Chapel Hill. She then moved on to work at Carolina Coffee Shop, Kappa Sigma fraternity and St. Andrews Hall. In 1957 she worked with her mother-in-law in a tiny take-out restaurant where she began to hone her business skills. On a Sunday in November 1976 Mama Dip opened her own restaurant with $64, $40 dollars went toward food and $24 was used to make change. The morning’s take was used to fund the lunch meal and lunch to fund the dinner. At the end of the day Mama Dip took home $135, and the rest is history”.

I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes because, well, never had them and its a movie about female angst lol. They were bland. Rich got the smothered pork chops with greens and green beans, he was very happy with his selection. I got a combo plate of Chopped BBQ Pork and Fried chicken with the mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. Sides, pork was pretty good, butt he chicken ruled. The batter used is remarkably light and fluffy, I loved it. I got to say everything had a bit of a blandness to it but this was a bit of a theme in the whole 6 days. I am so used to cooking with lots of herbs and spices, they don’t apparently. For me it made a big difference. That said I loved Mama Dip’s even if I found it bland a bit. Great adorable place and the sweetest most attentive waiter. We ate outside on the wrap around porch which give to a relatively quiet and almost residential street. Fabulous! If you go to Raleigh RUN to Mama Dip’s.

Corn bread and biscuits galore everywhere. Love that! It seems that what I consider a vegetable list and what the South considers a vegetable list is 2 different worlds. This list below may not be the best example as it has the most actual veggie choice of all side dish list I saw. But sorry…beans, black eyed peas, potatoes, yams, macaroni, firs, rice are not vegetables body absorption wise! They all taste GREAT…but it ain’t veggies people! Greens, collar or otherwise, are not my top choice, but are a real vegetable. Sorry but this was my pet peeve with my host – the veggie thing.

And of course I got an ice tea. I have always been a fan of ice tea and the South serves ice tea everywhere. Thank god though you can get it unsweetened. Lord some places has so much sugar in it a diabetic would go into hyperglycemia shock in 2 seconds flat! I don’t put sugar in my coffee or tea. I make my ice tea normally with a dash of lemon juice and maybe 1tsp of sugar per glass. If you like sweet but not that sweet you can ask for half-half. Drank lots of ice tea with the heat.

Remember last week I promised you a story about that all natural syrup where Rich freaked out? Well i will tell you that story here. On this trip I only had grits once at a breakfast plate. I am very mystified by grits. Polenta I get, cream of wheat I get, grist I don’t. And I know I am not alone. That is why there will be an in depth study future post on grits. Anyways we are having breakfast and I got grits with it. It was 100% unseasoned and bleh. I added a bit of salt and that helped, but not much. I could not help feel how close to cream of wheat it was, something I used to eat for breakfast. And I always sweetened it a bit. So in my logic I took the bottle of syrup and added a bit to the grits. This is when friend literally FLIPPED OUT on me and looked around in shame to make sure no fellow Southerner should have witnessed my sacrilegious action! I was baffled but very amused by it though. He was so embarrassed to be seen with me for that moment l0l. I am assuming some of you reading are nodding in a agreement with him. But once the shock subsided (about 10 min) he reluctantly took a mini forkful of it saying he had to taste my abomination and in a very low voice filled with resentment said” its not bad but I will never admit it publicly” Pfft I say! It was awesome with syrup.

After lunch we went to A Southern Season. I had been there in January and adored this foodie heaven. Got myself a few things here like local cheddar cheese, salt water taffy, pecans, moonshine cordial chocolates. Also got stuff I regretted not buying the last time: a mango coconut sauce and banana ketchup. They are from Costa Rica! This place also has an awesome selection herbs and spices cheap, in cylinder plastic tubes. Got a mole rub and two other I was clueless too: Annato seeds and Epazote. I love getting unknown stuff and then researching it at home only.

Wow this is a huge post. OK finishing it off with a couple of pics from July 4th. This was museum day but we walked right by the State Capitol building where lots of celebration stuff was going on. That night we went to the State Fair Grounds to see the fire works. Wow there were a gazillion food vendors with enormous lines. All we got was a orange-aid. There was one thing that caught my eye: the Turkey Shoot. I am sure you are thinking the same question I did: do they shoot real turkeys? I asked my friend knowing how stupid it probably sounded out loud. Thing is he is excellent at keeping a straight face when responding so sometimes I never can quite tell if it is a joke or not..even if what he says makes no sense. It drives me NUTS  and he knows it and relishes those moments. GRRR!

So in the end no turkeys were being shot at…tree trunks were.  But I did my research! The term comes from the 1800s where REAL turkeys were tied down and shot at 25 to 15 yards away. If a bird was killed it WAS given to the shooter as a prize. years later an inanimate target was used and a frozen turkey was given to the best shooter. I am so quoting wiki on this one (inside joke): today, turkey shoots are still popular in rural America, where citizens are all likely to be familiar with shotguns. The prize was a T-shirt.

Just 2 more posts coming about my trip…then back to blog reality! Tune in:

Saturday…..Vacation Eatz: South Fast Food
Sunday…….Vacation Eatz: Sanitary Beach

Lucky 32 and A Southern Season in Raleigh NC

Very very late and overdue, I bring you a pic essay of my ONE traditional North Carolina meal I got to eat while in raleigh NC about a month ago.

We had diner at a restaurant called Lucky 32. now technically its classified as Southern food, not NC food, but they did have plenty of local fare on the menu. There are barely any local restaurants there, the other option being Mama Dips. Mama Dips is quite a story:

“Mama Dip’s first job was as a family cook in Chapel Hill. She then moved on to work at Carolina Coffee Shop, Kappa Sigma fraternity and St. Andrews Hall. In 1957 she worked with her mother-in-law in a tiny take-out restaurant where she began to hone her business skills. On a Sunday in November 1976 Mama Dip opened her own restaurant with $64, $40 dollars went toward food and $24 was used to make change. The morning’s take was used to fund the lunch meal and lunch to fund the dinner. At the end of the day Mama Dip took home $135, and the rest is history”.

But I digress, back to Lucky 32. A big effort was placed on the decor. It’s somewhere between fancy and comfy, not pretentious at all but classy. Service was excellent. As you recall the staff bent over backwards to get me this notorious non existent Cherry Bounce cocktail. The food was good. Its not fancy or foodie worthy. It was good. here are some pics of the dishes we had:

The Cherry Bounce, sort of

Voodoo Pig bread with traditional pulled pork

Now I have had several conversations with my dinner partner where he claims what we call BBQ is not what they call BBQ. So I asked him what is his BBQ in NC. He said its got to have sauce, sauce must be vinegar based  and its got to be all pork, preferably pulled apart after cooking. Apparently he says we grill, not BBQ…pfft! lol

Chicken and Dumpling

Chicken something ??? but the important thing is the fancy cheese grits on the right!

Side dishes: collard greens and cornbread with Pot Liquor

What is Pot Liquor you ask? It’s the liquid that is left behind after boiling vegetable greens and meat. My dinner partner told me as a kid this stuff was usually thrown out in the woods behind their house and no one would EVER consider ordering it, he found it funny to see that on the menu.

I also ordered a local wine which was pretty good actually. better then I had expected. but I almost fell of my chair when I saw the 4th word on the back label:…yep, NASCAR! Dorothy you are so not in Kansas anymore!

Although I had only one traditional meal I did discover an absolutely fabulous  kitchen store called A Southern Season, located in Chapel Hill.  They sell everything imaginable that is kitchen related: all appliances, all cook books, and table settings and all the specialty food you can want. I mean rows and rows of BBQ sauces and marinades, local peanuts, jams, candies, cookies, international products, gift baskets, cheeses, cold cuts, teas, coffees, bakery. I am talking 20 to 30 huge rows. Foodies could spend 3-4 hours in there easy….my companion was not that patient to give me hours lol.

So I got to buy my own Foodie Exchange package he he.

Unusual (to me) salts and spices I got!

I did not buy these but was so intrigued I have to find out about making some:

Sweet Potato Butter, Spicy Apple Garlic Butter, and Pear and Port Butter.

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Wow, what a huge post. Are you hungry yet?