Hereghty (Raleigh, NC)

image courtesy of flickr

Even if you’ve never been to France, you probably know that a nice buttery, flaky croissant is one of life’s great pleasures.  Fortunately for those of us in the triangle, you don’t have to go nearly that far to enjoy one.  Tucked away in a bland shopping center at the corner of Oberlin and Glenwood in Raleigh is Hereghty Patisserie and Cafe.   I  consider it something of a hidden gem in Raleigh, and it’s a great place to pick up a light lunch, an excellent pastry, or a decadent dessert.

Inside it’s about what you’d expect – a handful of tables, richly appointed seating, and, of course, a set of long glass cases showcasing all of the tempting options.  On one side are the cakes, tarts, and other fancy desserts; the chocolate desserts, in particular, are well worth the trip.  A chocolate mousse cake and a chocolate tart are memorable for being rich and pretty much perfect.  In the other case are scones, cookies, and, of course, croissants, among other things.  You can get a chocolate, almond, or plain croissant, but it doesn’t matter – they’re all delicious.  As for the other items, a triple berry scone I tried recently was outstanding, if a bit too similar to a muffin.  For lunch, Hereghty offers sandwiches, salads, crepes, quiches, and soup.  A turkey croissant sandwich was just right (with nice ripe tomatoes), although the accompanying green salad was nothing special.  A cup of tomat0-basil soup was fine but a little creamier and a lot less basil-y than I would have liked, though it had a nice subtle spiciness to it.  A surprising letdown was a piece of biscotti that was oddly shaped – a thin flat plank – and lacked all crispiness.

To sum it up, you won’t be disappointed if you go to Hereghty for the desserts or croissants.  If you’ve been to France, it will remind of that lovely country, and if you haven’t been, it will give a taste of it.

Review Update: Piedmont (Durham, NC)

Ever since Piedmont in Durham came under new management, I’ve been curious to try it again and note any differences.  Unfortunately, I must say that my most recent visit there was somewhat disappointing.  The space is the same, and the menu is similar, with perhaps more of a focus on pastas.  But, outside of the desserts, the food was a big letdown.  To begin with, three crudely cut sections of doughy whole wheat bread arrived, accompanied by some very bland butter.  The thickest chunk of bread was gummy, or undercooked, in the middle.  I ordered a potato gnocchi / caramelized leek / country ham / tomato jus dish that was served as a very small portion with a nice parmesan tuile on top.  The gnocchi was a little dense, the country ham flavor was not present enough, and the leeks were tough and chewy.  Still, it was tastier than my wife’s tagliatelle / mushroom / carrot / aged balsamic / cream dish.  Her noodles were soft and delicate, and it was a creamy dish – nice for a cold night – but it was terribly underseasoned and lacked much of any flavor.  Dessert, on the other hand, was much better.  We tried a perfectly decadent chocolate soufflé and an almond-fig pithivier (puff pastry like thing).  The latter suffered from a pastry that was a bit tough but was redeemed by the scrumptious filling.  It came with a few superfluous apple slices and a little smear of sabayon.  The magnificent soufflé was accompanied by a tiny dish of caramel ice cream and some extra ganache.  It was wonderful and insanely rich.  Either dessert was easily big enough to share.  When we were finished, the waiter brought us two small chocolate chip cookies with our check.  I thought it was an odd touch after we had just polished off two large desserts.  We’ll try somewhere else next time we’re in Durham.