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On The Hunt, with Greg Barbera: Spotted Dog

Ours is a community with a voracious appetite. But food comes at a cost. My goal here is to go on a food safari, setting my sights on the delicious and delectable options often overlooked around town. As a single dad of two growing boys, I consider myself a frugal foodie. I like to maximize my investment to get the most out of a dollar. Ten dollars will be my tipping point. The days of the $5 lunch are long gone but I believe there’s still affordable food—be it a sandwich or late night tapas—available to us. Outside of setting my sights on what’s out on the range, I also hope to tap into our other side. The gatherer. Armed with little more than a five-dollar bill, I will visit the area’s farmer’s markets scouring the booths for earthen bounty. I am not a trained chef; every thing I have learned is through observation and experimentation. But I have a will and a way and a limited budget, so let’s go hunting…

I have lived in the area long enough to remember when that iconic brick building sitting on the V-island between Main Street and Weaver Street in Carrboro housed Spring Garden, which if my memory can recall was a Greenboro-based pizza joint with an array of beers.

Today, The Spotted Dog, which has been there since opening in 1998, occupies the location. Their focus is on fresh, healthy food and they pride themselves on locally-sourced and house made fare. I can’t remember that last time I had been there and yet suddenly I found myself in need of lunch on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s an eclectic menu for sure, especially for vegetarians who can sample some of the South’s most traditional dishes in accordance to their diet. Veggie BBQ ($8.95), Black-Eyed Pea Cakes ($13.25) or the cleverly named Chik-Faux-Lay ($9.25), which consists of crispy soy chicken on a bun with lettuce, tomato, red onions and mayo (just like that other place) are good representations.

spotted1

I had the Crab Cake Sandwich ($9.25). Born and raised in Maryland, it is terribly difficult to not order blue crab when I see it on a menu. My choice was close to my self-imposed ten dollar cap, but it was crab what can I say? It arrived spiked with a pickle on top of the bun. I love it when chefs give the food some love. As often discussed, if it doesn’t look good, chances are it won’t taste good. Accompanied with lettuce, tomato and a remoulade sauce, it was not overly bready, pretty crabby and laced with a touch of bourbon and spice. It was served with in-house made potatoes as a side. Well-done Spotted Dog.

Photographer Sonnie Plakotaris, a vegetarian, ordered the Curry Quinoa Burger ($8.95). A Lunch Special, the house made burger is comprised of organic quinoa, currants, garbanzo beans, flax and sunflower seeds. Then served on a bun with organic greens, cilantro and a vegan curry mayo. So good was this burger that Plakotaris searched for a recipe online mid-meal with visions of making her own at home. The curry mayo complimented the burger well. And, “cilantro makes everything better,” she said. I agree as it is one of my favorite and most widely used green herbs.

spotted dog greg

Speaking of green, The Spotted Dog recycles everything: paper products, cardboard, cans, bottles—even cooking oil. They also compost their food waste generating “little trash,” according to their website. Adding, “which is a good thing when you are located on an island!”

All photos by Sonnie Plakotaris

http://chapelboro.com/columns/on-the-hunt/on-the-hunt-with-greg-barbera-spotted-dog/

On The Hunt, with Greg Barbera

Ours is a community with a voracious appetite. But food comes at a cost. My goal here is to go on a food safari, setting my sights on the delicious and delectable options often overlooked around town. As a single dad of two growing boys, I consider myself a frugal foodie. I like to maximize my investment to get the most out of a dollar. Ten dollars will be my tipping point. The days of the $5 lunch are long gone but I believe there’s still affordable food—be it a sandwich or late night tapas—available to us. Outside of setting my sights on what’s out on the range, I also hope to tap into our other side. The gatherer. Armed with little more than a five-dollar bill, I will visit the area’s farmer’s markets scouring the booths for earthen bounty. I am not a trained chef; every thing I have learned is through observation and experimentation. But I have a will and a way and a limited budget, so let’s go hunting…

OTH_bought_croppedRose with the sun on Saturday August 3rd in order to get to Carrboro’s Farmers’ Market before the masses. I took a quick peek in the fridge and cupboards before I left and made a mental note of what I had at home.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant were in large supply — so I couldn’t avoid picking up an “ugly ‘mater” and two small orange peppers. I browsed the stalls, then settled on two ears of corn, a cucumber and a roll of fresh baked bolillo bread.

I left with sixty cents change on a $5 bill.

Back in the kitchen, I boiled the ears of corn (after breaking them in half into smaller pieces). I tossed some butter and garlic on the roll and made toasted garlic bread. The tomato and cucumber I washed, then sliced thin. I had pita bread and hummus leftover from the previous night. I spread the hummus on the pita and then loaded it up with tomatoes and cucumber, then topped it with lettuce and Greek dressing. I stuffed the peppers with leftover taco meat (flavoring it up a bit with roasted corn, garlic and red onion). I christened them STP — short for “stuffed taco pepper” because I am clever like that, ya know?

*You can stretch out these simple ingredients but using the corn cobs to make soup stock. As for the tomato and cucumber, diced them up. Then mix with olive oil, red onion, lemon juice and mint for a refreshingly light Moroccan style salad.

STP

OTH_made_framed-Preheat oven to 350 degrees

-Rinse and core out peppers then place to the side

-In a skillet, I sautéed garlic (same clove from my recent trip to Chapel Hill’s Farmers’ Market), red onion and some kernels of corn I stripped off the tip of one of the cobs in sea salt, pepper and olive oil.

-Added last week’s leftover taco meat to the skillet and toss to mix.

-Grease up a baking dish

-Stuff peppers with meat mix then topped with parmesan cheese

-Bake for 30 minutes… then eat up. Yum.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/on-the-hunt/on-the-hunt-with-greg-barbera-3/

On The Hunt, with Greg Barbera

Ours is a community with a voracious appetite. But food comes at a cost. My goal here is to go on a food safari, setting my sights on the delicious and delectable options often overlooked around town. As a single dad of two growing boys, I consider myself a frugal foodie. I like to maximize my investment to get the most out of a dollar. Ten dollars will be my tipping point. The days of the $5 lunch are long gone but I believe there’s still affordable food—be it a sandwich or late night tapas—available to us. Outside of setting my sights on what’s out on the range, I also hope to tap into our other side. The gatherer. Armed with little more than a five-dollar bill, I will visit the area’s farmer’s markets scouring the booths for earthen bounty. I am not a trained chef; every thing I have learned is through observation and experimentation. But I have a will and a way and a limited budget, so let’s go hunting…

Med_deli_AOn a recent hump day I found myself hot and hungry. I was on West Franklin St. with not much time on my hands and few funds, when I spotted an old favorite—Mediterranean Deli.

Opened by JamilKadoura and his wife in 1992, the deli offers up authentic Mediterranean & Greek food staples like falafel, gyros, souvlaki and babaghannoug. The small deli expanded in 2008 and, more recently, added its own bakery. Good news for the gourmand-challenge: they have vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu.

It had been awhile since I went to Med Deli (as it is affectionately referred to by locals), which is surprising since I have a soft spot for souvlaki. But today wasn’t going to be about souvlaki; today was all about falafel. Falafel—for the uninitiated—is fried, ground chickpeas. Sort of like the Middle Eastern version of the hush puppy but sometimes with a more spreadable texture. My order was served on a fresh, house-baked pita with lettuce, tomato and tahini dressing (made from ground sesame seeds). A complimentary condiments bar allows customers to “spruce-up” their order with olives, peperoncinis, tahini and tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, parsley) sauces and more. This is one of my favorite aspects of Med Deli because some people like it plain and some people like it “with the works.” And this provides options for both of those and every one in between.

Med_deli_BMy pita was amply stuffed. I added peperoncinis, olives and tzatziki sauce. The warmth of the fried falafel was counterbalanced with the crisp, cold crunch of the lettuce and tomato. It was a light and refreshing meal. Perfect for the hot summer day I was experiencing. Not wanting to stuff myself, I got a to-go box for the other half of the pita and added olives, peperoncinis, tzatziki and tabouli. For a total of $6.50 I got two meals out of my trip. So when someone tells you to try Med Deli, you’ll know it is the real deal and a good deal.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/on-the-hunt/on-the-hunt-with-greg-barbera-2/