Raleigh recap

  • Posted on April 6, 2010 at 11:32 pm

From Savannah, we headed out to Raleigh. We were going to break up the last big push of driving into two days, see a new city, and get a chance to see some old friends who have moved down there a couple of years ago.

All started out well enough. Packed up and checked out of the hotel, stopped to top off the gas tank and on the road we went. We figured the trip would be about 5 hours, no problem. Once we arrived, we had a massage scheduled for the Husband, a carriage ride around town, and then dinner with our friends.

We made really good time on the road, so much so that we stopped for lunch at Tart’s 50’s Diner off Exit 77 on I-95, it’s on a side road on the  north-bound side. Shiny red vinyl. A Wurlitzer jukebox. Cheap food. Everything made fresh, our waitress said, except the veggies that are on the steam-table, but everything else is fresh. It certainly tasted it! I started with some fried mushrooms and the Husband had fried macaroni and cheese bites. I had one, and they tasted like Kraft Macaroni and cheese in the blue box- that’s NOT a bad thing, mind you, I used to like it quite a bit. The Husband had eggs and bacon and french toast (I think), and I had a mushroom swiss burger with sweet potato fries. My mistake was the burger. It wasn’t bad by any means but in most cases I shouldn’t order a burger out. The Husband makes them too well and I’ve been spoiled by some good diners through the years. And -never- order a burger where they don’t ask how you want it done. I was so spaced I forgot to specify and she didn’t ask. I like my burgers rare to medium rare and this was definitely cooked through- I don’t even know what to call it other than for the Husband, not me. I was so hungry, though, which is why I’d settled on the burger in the first place. It definitely wasn’t terrible and the sweet potato fries it came with were quite tasty.

From there we got the rest of the way to Raleigh (with a slight detour, u-turn, etc). The bed-and-breakfast we stayed at was lovely, the Cameron Park Inn. We ran into a bit of an issue with the air conditioning in the room not working well enough as well as it being too hot out to enjoy a carriage ride. Note to self: never pre-reserve carriage rides in anything other than the winter. There was also a little snafu when we realized we had all the reservation times wrong, for the carriage, and for dinner. Ugh! I could have sworn I’d booked everything for on the hour, but apparently I did not. And I did not look over the final confirmation email carefully enough either. So we nearly missed our reservations and told our friends the wrong time as well. (We suggested to our inn-keeper Nikki that she go over anything scheduled when she goes over everything else when guests are checking in.)

It’s -hot- out, hotter than we had expected this trip to be. That’s never really a good sign. It was actually 20 degrees hotter than average that day. Our luck. <shudders>

taken from the Second Empire website

Dinner, however, was the highlight of the trip. The restaurant is called Second Empire and we had reservations for the Chef’s Table in the kitchen. Elements in Princeton has tables “in” the kitchen as well, but they are more of in an alcove off of the kitchen. At Second Empire, we were really IN the kitchen. Our table was set up right in the middle of the kitchen, with everything going on around us. It was really cool, and I would have loved to have had more of an interaction with the Chef and his staff but we were having SUCH a good time catching up with our friends, it was hard to know where to focus. I think we flustered the poor guy too, which was not at all our intention. Should he happen to read this, Chef Schurr, we had a FABULOUS time and can’t thank you and your staff enough for a delightful evening. We’re a little nuts, as our restaurant friends up here can certainly tell you, so please don’t think that anything was or went wrong.

We were so caught up on catching up that we didn’t take any picture, though I did remember to grab the menus, I just need to remember where they are, or where the folder they are in is. There was seared tuna, veal cheeks, lamb and scallops, a sorbet palate cleanser. Dessert was a Warm Fruit Galettesweet yeast bread style pastry folded around brown sugar & cinnamon-roasted apple & pineapple, baked to a golden brown, served with vanilla ice c­ream & dried cranberries, finished with mango & caramel sauces. I think I’m missing a course in there. Two kinds of bread were served, but I didn’t write down what they were. Tasty, as we all had several rounds. I would definitely go back and recommend it to anyone else. The food was excellent, even though we all have different preparation of done-ness for things like the tuna, from rare to cooked through for the four of us, we all agreed that everything was just superb. I can’t comment on the dining room or the service, but from what we could see from the kitchen, it was definitely the kind of place we could get accustomed to.

We came back to our room after dinner and it was still hot. So hot that after our friends left we went for a drive in the car to see if we were going to try and stick it out or get back in the car and head off for home. Fortunately by the time we got back and decided to try and stay and sleep, we put the ceiling fan on and it was barely tolerable. By the next morning it was lovely, but overnight was a bit rough. A sleep number bed helped slightly; at least it wasn’t a slab of concrete like most others had been this trip. I got my massage in the morning while the Husband packed up the car and took some pictures and then we were off for the final journey home.

It’s the Saturday before Easter and we’re traveling I-95 from Raleigh, NC up to NJ. We were ok for most of the trip, except Virginia, which sucked. And our foo with alternate routes was pretty lousy too. It was so bad, we actually took a detour THROUGH Washington DC on 395 to take a look at whatever we could see of the Cherry Blossoms from the road, instead of staying on 95. In the grand scheme of things we were lucky- no accidents, flat tires or encounters with police- but it sure could’ve been an easier drive.

It was a good, not great, trip, and I’m not sure if we’d stop in to Raleigh again other than to see our friends. To me at least it didn’t ease the trip any, it was just an additional day in the car. To a certain extent, 5 hours or 11 hours, doesn’t make all that much of a difference to me.

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