Help A Friend Out



In any normal week the fact that a friend was in the hospital with an infection would be at the top of my concerns list, but this has not been a normal week. That is no excuse or comfort to my friend, but since she is such a good friend she does not ask, nor expect anything from me. What kind of no-good-lame-ass friend am I? Before you answer that for me I want to let you know that I am in no Hippa violation by writing this blog and my friend approved my disclosure of her identity here.


If you live in the Durham area this blog is a call out to you. If you travel to the Durham area throw yourself in the group I am writing to. If you know of anyone who lives here, consider passing this message on to him or her for me. If you are a foodie and are interested in the great chef’s of the world, I’m talking to you.


My friend, Amy Tournquist, great chef and owner of Watts Grocery, Hummingbird Bakery and Sage and Swift Catering has been sick and in the hospital for days now. With the help of another friend and doctor she is on her way to recovery, but it has not been a fun time. Amy is the least whinny person I know. In fact that personality trait is one of the things the brought us together as friends probably thirteen years ago.


When Amy texted me early in the morning Sunday to let me know where she was it worried me, not just because she was sick, but because if she is sick it is hard to run her businesses. Granted she has great staff who can take care of the day to day, but small business owners like Amy wear many hats in their work and it is hard to make a living if you are in the hospital. Then add the pressure of being a wife and mother to two middle school girls with school and sports and all that that entails and Mom needs to be well and home.


The medical side of things is improving and Amy is looking at getting home in a couple of days. Great news, but in the restaurant business you have a hard time making up for lost days off. That is where you come in. I think the best thing our community could do to help Amy in her recovery is to eat at one of her establishments. You know you are going to eat a meal somewhere in the next week or two, if not you will be in the hospital. Why not do it at Watts Grocery or Hummingbird? You will have a fabulous meal and you will be supporting a person who has consistently been overwhelming generous to our community.


Yes, it has been a hard week here. What better way to make yourself feel better than by not cooking dinner and going out in support of Amy. Go on Open Table and make a reservation. If the site says tables are not available call the restaurant at 919-416-5040 and ask for a reservation. Open Table only represents a portion of the available seats.


Amy would never ask this for herself. Let’s surprise her and fill the restaurant up every meal for the next few weeks. I can’t think of better medicine than not having to worry about business while she is recovering.

Warren’s Durham Day

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After nineteen years of living in Durham my very old friend Warren finally came to visit us.  We had been imposing on Warren for years on our family trips to Maine every summer to stay in his Howard Johnson inspired rooms in Rockport.   See Warren collects all things Howard Johnson and happens to live on the beautiful clam cove in the mid-coast very near where we go to family camp.


Thanks to a man in Raleigh who was selling a large set of Howard Johnson ice cream fountain mirrors on e-bay Warren finally broke down and drove south to pick up his winning item.  I convinced him that he needed to spend one day in Durham to help break up the two days of driving down and two days back.  So one day in Durham is what he got.


When we first planned the visit I did not know that he would be here for drive-through-day for the Heart of Carolina Food Drive.  When he arrived I gave Warren the choice of sleeping in or getting up early and coming to the Kroger store to help collect food from people and watch me be interviewed on TV.


Warren said he could sleep anytime, but he could not get many opportunities to try and distract me while being interviewed on live TV very often.  I am happy to say that he did not run behind me or make rabbit ears or do anything that would make me look bad on TV.   I think the highlight of the morning for Warren was the tour of the TV van, which looks more like a spaceship.


We followed that excitement with a tour of the neighborhood and a good walk for Shay, and then we headed downtown.  I took Warren to Russ’ office at American Tobacco overlooking the Durham Bulls ball park to show him how great an old factory town can look when it get’s repurposed.


We then headed to Watts Grocery so he could experience real southern food done the modern way that only the brilliant Amy Tournquist can make it.  Warren, the consummate Yankee was a chicken and waffles virgin so he was deflowered right there in Watts.  There’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube now that he has had a taste of that true southern specialty.


Following lunch we ran over to Chapel Hill and stopped at the needlepoint store to pick up some finished items and Warren got to meet some stitching buddies.  He had to meet Nancy the owner since she has a great love of Howard Johnson for very personal reasons and she had heard all about Warren’s house when I stitched him a Ho Jo’s ornament as a thank you for our many visits.


We rounded the day out by setting up the house for a party, packing up the very large and fragile Ho Jo’s mirrors for the drive home, taking Carter by the mall and eating soup for dinner by the Christmas tree.


One fast day in Durham and it was great to have my friend who has known me for 37 years come and visit.  In between all this activity we laughed and reminisced talking about all the friends and some others we have known through the years.  I hope that someone else in North Carolina sells Warren an unmailable Ho Jo’s item so he can come back for another visit soon.  Our family will certainly be imposing on him in Maine soon enough and I need to do some paybacks.




Happy Cheetos Day

Before you get all in a wad that you missed National Cheetos day, relax, this is not a national holiday.  If it were it would have to be before Yom Kipper so that you could quickly atone for the sin of enjoying those cheesy orange puffs.  No, Cheetos Day is my friend Mary’s own personal annual event.  See Mary loves Cheetos but she only allows herself one bag once a year.  That is a fairly good diet routine because an addictive food like Cheetos with no nutritional well being at all needs to be moderated.

I used to have a Weight Watcher leader, Eve, who waited all year for Easter to come around so that she could indulge her one big splurge of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg.  It is like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but the filling is slightly fluffier and the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is different making it Eve’s favorite food she must avoid except for once a year.  The Reese’s Egg was Eve’s kryptonite and it was never a good thing for us Weight Watcher members to have her talk about what it was going to be like when she ate it.  She justified it by telling us it was just four points (in the old points system) and that she saved up her points to eat it, but it always made me crave one of those PB&C (that’s peanut butter and chocolate) eggs.

If I were to relegate all the foods I crave, but need to stay away from, to their own one day a year I easily could have a special day everyday.  The calendar would look something like this, Bull Street Market Gooey Butter Cake on October 1, Toro Pizza’s Lemon Pizza on October 2, Watt’s Grocery Pimento Cheese on October 3, ETC, ETC, ETC.  I easily could fill 365 days with a different food that should be forbidden to me and my tend-to-blow-up-just-looking-at-carbs-body.  Even though I am just eating that bad for me food once a year when you add it to the other naughty foods I would be in a bad place.

No Cheetos, or Reese’s, or cake, pizza, pimento cheese days for me.  I need to celebrate National Radish Day or Celerypalooza.  After a few hundred more of those days I might finally fit in my skinniest pants that have patiently awaiting their chance to be comfortably zipped up on me.  The only day I really am hoping to observe is You Reached Your Goal Day!

Hell Yes, We are the Tastiest Town


If you live in Durham this is probably not news to you, but we were just named Tastiest Town in the South by Southern Living Magazine as the rest of the world will learn in their May issue.  Well, we actually won the voting contest that was between 10 great southern food cities, like Memphis, (number 2) and New Orleans.  The Editors at Southern Living were very smart not to decide for themselves which city had the best food and thus piss off all the others.  If you did not win it is your own fault that you did not go out and garner votes as Durham proudly did.  We have so many chef/owner restaurants that asked people to vote for Durham. I have more e-mail addresses than fingers and toes I was able to vote many times everyday and I am sure I am not the only Durhamite who did.


Since I live here I agree that we are one tasty town, but I also find it ironic since at one time Durham was considered the diet capital of America.  We have the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, the Rice Diet and Structure House, just to name three of the major diet programs in Durham.  I don’t know if any other city has claimed the diet prize so for now I am proclaiming us the southern city with the best food and the most ways to get it off after you have tried it all.


Does living in a place that clearly has great food give one an excuse for carrying a few extra pounds?  No, it just means that you have to choose carefully.  I would bet that the city with the worst food in the south is collectively fatter than Durham because their options might just be McDonald’s and Burger King.


I want to give a shout out to my chef friends Like Amy Tournquist of Watt’s Grocery and Scott Howell of Nana’s who are just two of the great chefs we have in Durham who keep us at the top of any Foodies list.  It is the supportive culinary community that helps new talent be able to make a living in Durham.  Running a food business is nothing but hard work so it is nice when we can show those people who provide interesting and yummy food for us some love.


Congratulations Durham and thanks to all the people who voted for us.  I am glad we are not just known for dieting, that would make us a place no one would want to visit.  Instead we are an eating destination and that is something everyone has to do everyday.