Thursday, May 03, 2007

The City of Oaks

Wednesday evening I went out with some ladies from work to an art gallery and then to a fine-dining restaurant in downtown Raleigh, and I just can't get the meal out of my mind.

I've lived in Chapel Hill for 16 years (!), and I like it here so much that if there's not a real good reason to venture out to Durham or Raleigh--I don't. There's so much about our capital city that I've yet to explore in earnest-the parks, the galleries, the restaurants, the museums; there really are some gems that I've overlooked all these years.

One of my colleagues is an artist and she currently has an exhibit at the Lee Hansley Gallery on Glenwood Ave. We went there first, and I was super impressed with her mixed-media pieces. All of them were framed in gorgeous, thick wooden frames, and the images on her website don't do them justice at all, but here's my favorite. It looked stunning in its frame and if I had $1,000 on hand, it's exactly the piece of art that I'd like hanging up in my home. I really like this one too.

After the gallery tour, we drove a couple of blocks to this great restaurant called Fins where Joyce has some artwork displayed. Fins just opened up in a new location and Joyce is the first artist whose work is showcased. The artwork and overall decor was visually appealing, but it was the food we sampled that left the delectable taste in my mouth.

I'm far from a food critic and I'm just as happy with a cheeseburger from Linda's as I am with a meal from Herons at the new 5-Star Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, right down from where I work. I'm not a "foodie." I saw this t-shirt the other day that said, "FOO-dee: Someone who plans dinner while they're eating lunch." (That's something I only seem to do when I'm visiting my in-laws).

But the appetizers at Fins the other night were good enough to write home about--or at least to blog about. We had a group of 5 and the waiter suggested ordering two group-sized appetizers: a cold array of their signature seafood delights and something called a "hot pot." The cold platter came out on a thin, rectangular beautiful tray and we all got to sample each of the following: salmon and seaweed salad, peeky-toe crab salad, tuna sushi roll with fried plantains, sweet and sour thinly-sliced cucumbers, marinated mushrooms, and mussels. Yum. Nothing prepared me, however, for the culinary knock-out that came next, the "hot pot." The waiter talked us all into getting this seasonal hot dish that essentially amounts to a seafood soup or stew, but OMG it was delicious!! The broth contained coconut milk among other things, and I'm not a big fan of coconut, but it rocked! There were fresh bay leaves, onions, mushrooms, and big, juicy, plump shrimp to sink your teeth into. There was this spicy sauce with crushed cashews that you added to it if you wanted to enhance the unique (and perfect) blend of sweet and savory. One of the very best things I've ever tasted. Before that, Chilean Sea Bass at a work-related dinner party was Number #1 (and I've heard that Fins does a to-die-for Chilean Sea Bass), but I think that's been bumped.

David and I have been digging the various sushi selections at Weaver Street Market lately (we've already been to WSM four times this week...I know, I know. It's our third home, next to home and Spanish For Fun Academy). But the seafood and sushi I tasted at Fins made Weaver Street's sushi taste like cardboard.

So, if you need a new restaurant to try out and you live in or near the Triangle, I give Fins 5 very bright and shining stars.

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