Bull Street Gourmet & Market (Durham, NC)

Hope Valley Square was once was a no-mans land shopping center south of Durham but is now home to some great tenants: Only Burger, Pop’s Backdoor South, Tonali, and Bull Street Gourmet & Market to name a few. The latter is the most recent to open, and is an offshoot of the venture’s original location in Charleston, SC.  It features a small but well-stocked grocery section and a casual eatery.  In the grocery you can find all manner of local and hyper-local staples (peanut butters, jams, relishes, cheeses, plus a few meats and some tempting ice cream sandwiches), as well as, somewhat incongruously, a decent selection of mass market candies. Otherwise, you can get breakfast here, or a pastry, or even a quick pre-made dinner-to-go, but the main culinary focus seems to be soups, salads, and sandwiches. These feature gourmet ingredients in classic pairings, and are priced accordingly.  The atmosphere is completely casual; just place your order at the counter and take a seat at one of the mix-and-match tables, or at one of the stools that run along the counter.

I chose a club sandwich (ham, smoked turkey, bacon, cucumber, lettuce, $8.99) and my wife opted for the “Chappy” salad (romaine/green apple/shaved red onion/walnuts/feta, $7.99). Our orders were brought out promptly by the very friendly staff.  Although the sandwich didn’t come with any sides, it was definitely big enough to be a full meal.  It was served in a small basket, and cut in half, but it was nearly impossible to eat thanks to some insubstantial focaccia and a massive amount of dressing. On the menu description, this was a dijon mayonnaise, but in the sandwich I got it was a horseradish mayo – pretty disappointing for a person who doesn’t love horseradish. The bread itself was very good (tomato-parmesan focaccia from Guglhupf) but, being very soft and thinly cut, it simply could not hold the sandwich together.  I almost resorted to a fork and knife, which probably would have been a wiser choice than amassing a pile of about 20 napkins.  I thought the ham was outstanding, the bacon and white cheddar unremarkable.  Overall, it was a decent sandwich, but I would probably order something different next time.  My wife’s salad was excellent, and very refreshing with a light lemon poppy seed dressing, but it probably could have used some more walnuts, and I felt like it should have been a dollar or two cheaper.  It came with a sweet roll that tasted just fine but seemed doughy and undercooked.

I’ve said this many times before, but I wish there were more places like this throughout the Triangle, and in Raleigh in particular.  But for now, Hope Valley Square is shaping up as a pretty decent foodie destination, so you can bet I’ll be back for more.

CSA Haul: Lettuce

image courtesy of my wife

This spring, we have been eating salads almost daily thanks to the abundance of lettuces coming from our Hilltop Farms CSA.  Farmer Fred grows green and red romaine, red bibb, and red leaf varieties, and they’re all great.  From taco salad to Asian wraps to sandwiches, or just simply dressed with a classic homemade vinaigrette, we’re eating lots of delicious and healthy greens.

CSA haul: Arugula

Farmer Fred at HillTop Farms loaded us down with greens at the season’s first pick-up last week: spinach, kale, pac choi, green and red romaine lettuces, and arugula.  This last one is not always my favorite, but here’s a great way to use it.

Arugula, Fennel, & Orange salad (courtesy of Allrecipes.com)

Vinaigrette: 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil

Salad: 6-8 cups arugula, 1 bulb fennel (chopped), 2 oranges (segmented)

Directions: just whisk up the dressing and toss with the main ingredients.  It doesn’t get much easier!