Panzanella To Close In December

CHAPEL HILL – Your local trattoria, Panzanella, will close at the end of this year, after 14 years in service.

Trattoria is Italian for an informal restaurant or tavern.

When Panzanella first opened, it was one of the few restaurants to offer locally produced food.  Since then, several other restaurants have opened offering local food.  General Manager for Weaver Street Market, Ruffin Slater, says declining sales and rising costs are the main reason for closing Panzanella.

“As a result, sales have declined and costs have continued to increase,” Slater says. “We have about 25 fewer customers than we did in 2008, so it’s just no longer feasible to operate.”

Part of the Weaver Street Market Cooperative, Panzanella will not renew its lease in Carr Mill Mall. The cost of the space at Carr Mill was originally split between a bakery and office space, but since opening the Food House in Hillsborough, Panzanella now pays for the empty space.

Slater says management will spend the next few months working with the staff to help place them either in another position at Weaver Street Market, or will help them find work elsewhere and provide severance pay.  Slater says one of the key resources the company wants to help people maintain is their health coverage.

“Severance pay if people prefer to move on, as well as assistance in maintaining continuous health insurance coverage, Slater says. “We want to make sure the staff can continue that coverage.”

Panzanella is one of the few restaurants to offer health coverage to employees.

Slater says the trattoria will remain open until December 22 and continue to provide great service to customers.

For more information click here.

My Paloma, with a Local Twist

Kari Winter PalomaI was recently looking through a magazine when I came across an article on the new “it” cocktail. I’m not known for passing up a drink, so my interest was instantly piqued. Apparently (if you trust the people at Bon Appetit), the cocktail of the year is the Paloma. Wait a minute… how can the cocktail of the year be something I’ve never heard of? Well, that was that — time to investigate.

All in the name of journalism, of course.

If you like a margarita, chances are you’re going to like the Paloma. It has that same ‘sweet and tart’ thing going on, and most sources say it is the most popular tequila cocktail in Mexico. Tequila and either grapefruit juice or grapefruit flavored soda (like Fresca), are poured over ice and stirred. Some people play around with the recipe by adding club soda and/or fresh squeezed lime juice. And just as with a margarita, you can chose to have salt on the rim of your glass.

If you’re looking to enjoy a Paloma out, Elaine’s makes a very good one. Panzanella makes something they call a Grapefuit Margarita, which has tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit juice and is served on the rocks with a salted rim. Glasshalfull serves a Glasshound made of grapefruit juice and vodka, but they’d be more than happy to substitute tequila for the vodka if asked. They also make another good sounding tequila drink called a Margarita Picante. It features tequila with freshly squeezed citrus juices and a jigger of blackberry puree energized with a few drops of habanero sauce in an old fashion glass with a salted rim, adding a nice zing. Lucha Tigre makes a version using the traditional grapefruit soda from Mexico. Crooks Corner doesn’t have it on their drink menu, but if you tell the bartender what is in it, he or she will be happy to make it for you.

Now that the weather is so nice, it’s a great idea to make up a pitcher of Palomas and invite friends over for drinks on the porch. To soak up all that tequila, how about tortilla chips and some homemade Roasted Tomatillo Salsa? This takes almost no time at all to put together, and makes a huge amount. You’ll be glad you have extra — it is wonderful on eggs or with any Tex-Mex food you have. And of course, it is great simply eaten with chips. Don’t be afraid of the tomatillos if you’ve never cooked with them before; they’re actually really easy to use.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (from Gourmet Today)

2-3 serrano peppers

4 garlic cloves (don’t peel)

2 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed under warm water

¾ cup cilantro

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 ½ teaspoons salt

Preheat the broiler. Put chiles, garlic and tomatillos on a rack on the broiler pan (you can also roast at 500 if you don’t want to broil) and broil or roast, turning each vegetable once or twice, until softened and partially charred. This takes about 8 minutes.

Peel the garlic (this will be very easy to do once it is roasted), get rid of the stem of the chiles. Puree these vegetables with the remaining ingredients (it might take two batches – or you can use your immersion blender in a big bowl) until almost smooth.

I think my next trip to the grocery store is going to involve some Fresca, tomatillos and tortilla chips. And then I’ll sit and enjoy ma-ma-ma-ma my Paloma (apologies for the earworm I may have just put in your head!).

Feature Photo by alexanderljung via flickr

Panzanella: On your schedule tonight and Monday

 Is it too early to sit out on the patio and enjoy a beer? Heck no, says me! Tonight at Panzanella, all local beer pints are only $3. While chillin’, think about signing up for the upcoming Eco Farm dinner, which takes place on Monday, August 29th. At 5:30 this Monday evening, Cindy Econopoly and John Soehner of Eco Farm will provide the ingredients for a multi-course feast prepared by Chef Jim Nixon. 

Fans of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market should immediately recognize John and Cindy…their stand at the market always draws me, I have serious love for their brats and arugula, which will be featured in two separate menu items next Monday. 

“All items are a la carte, select items from the regular menu are available as well. Parties of 6 or more should call (919) 929-6626 for reservations.”

Back on point – you can’t beat those $3 local pints tonight. I’m heading straight for the Fullsteam. What local beer are you most likely to inquire about tonight?