Greetings loved ones, let’s take a journey. The last time I visited my Carolina girl sister, Courtney, in Durham, the city had vacation mode flipped on and she and I were still recovering from the stress that is our family’s Christmas white elephant gift exchange. So, I was excited to make another trip out to the Bull City to see it in it’s prime. And let me tell you, Durham is a true city of the summer. The patios and parks are full of locals, the farmers market is brimming with lush produce and the Durham Bulls season is in full swing.
My family, much like myself, loves to eat, so this trip sort of felt like one long feast with a couple breaks in between. Below are my favorite meals from the trip and those breaks we took in between.
Durham Bulls game
Anyone that has known me for more than 8 minutes tops knows that I’m not much of a sporty spice. Although the highlight of my sports playing career was picking clovers in the goalie net during kindergarten soccer I do like to watch sports on occasion (especially if yummy ballpark food is involved.) One of my sister’s favorite things to do in Durham in is go to Bulls games. The city is very proud of their minor league team and there’s even a movie called Bull Durham from the ‘80s. I’ve heard good things, but I haven’t seen it myself —like I said, not sporty.
The Bull’s stadium had a surprisingly wide selection of food. I got the brat which also surprised me how good it was. Right now, I’m an omnivore, but I was happy to see how accommodating the options were. My dad, who eats wheat-free, can vouch for this and really enjoyed the brat dipper which was just a sliced up bunless brat. Also, now I know I can bring my friend Cara along next time and she won’t go hungry because of the gluten-free vegan burger!
Two of my favorite things to do in any city are go to the botanical gardens and go to the farmers market and in Durham I got to do both. The gardens are sprawling and there’s every sort of flora from an English rose garden to an Asianic area complete with a bamboo forest. If getting your feet chalky and having specs of gravel stuck between your little piggies tickles your fancy I would highly suggest wearing sandals like I did. Otherwise, a closed toed shoe will more adequately protect you from the natural pathways throughout the gardens. One of my favorite parts was a beautiful green space in the center that if I went to Duke would be the place I’d say I’d sit in to study on Sunday afternoons when in reality I’d be too lazy to veer the ten min off campus. What’s nice about this type of activity is it’s a choose-your-own-adventure sort of excursion and you can spend however long you’d like or however long you can survive in the 90° sunshine, but it takes about 1:30 to walk the whole grounds.
American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus is exactly what it sounds like, the former site of the American Tobacco Company. Unless you are planning to go to the Burt’s Bees headquarters, which from what I saw by pressing my nose against the window is really cool, eat at one of the restaurants, or work in an exceptionally cool office building, you can walk the whole outdoor campus in 20 minutes or less.
Farmers markets as I mentioned above are my other favorite thing to experience in every city. The Durham farmers market is two fold: there is the typical fruit, veg and flower section and a long aisle of food trucks and vendors of hand made goods. Since we weren’t staying in NC long, there wasn’t much point in buying any produce but we did buy a lovely bouquet of peonies.
The vendor area was like a real life Etsy marketplace and we walked away with goodies like a ceramic to-go mug from a zany dancing woman, dangly pearl earrings from Santa’s southern doppelgänger and a pastel llama tapestry from two bad ass ladies.
Fullsteam and 2770F Fair
Fullsteam Brewery is a somewhat recent Durham staple with a warehouse area fit for a hipster wedding that houses markets and events. This weekend they were hosting the 2770F Fair which was a handful of quirky small businesses—mostly alcohol related since it’s at a brewery. I firmly believe that I was only brought to this market under false pretense as part of a ruse for my family to sit down for a mid-day beer break. At first I felt cheated, but Fullsteam has a board game collection that puts my family’s three game stashes to shame. I got to play whoop everybody’s butt in scattergories and eat a Carolina shrimp roll, so I was a happy camper.
Wine and Design painting event in Chapel Hill
Painting at Wine & Design was actually what our entire trip was built around. About a month ago, my sister forwarded my mom an email advertising a Mother’s Day painting event saying she wished they could go to it together. Luckily for her, my school year ended just in time for the trip to be do-able and thus our Durham road trip was born!
Wine & Design is one of many art studios that offers BYOB painting classes. At this lesson we learned how to paint these pretty Mother’s Day bouquets shown below.
(Pronounced google-huff) This restaurant’s design made me feel like I was in an enchanted German fairy garden. The interior was so luminous that it felt like you were outside when you were inside. I could imagine it as a gathering spot for authors who have just returned from backpacking the continent and are now trying to write the next great American novel. I ordered the potato and leek tart purely because it sounded like a good vehicle for my daily dose of cheese and was so satisfied. I accidentally sat on a radish slice and it stuck to the back of my thigh though, so I can only give the entire experience a 9/10 for jumpy produce (smh).
Ah, Dos Perros, “two parrots” as my mom creatively translated…not because of the similarity in the words even, but because she saw the sign with two dogs on it from afar and thought they resembled birds more than canines. All was forgiven over thick and gooey queso with generous chunks of chorizo (it’s usually prepared with brussel sprouts but gosh darn it they were out and we had to suffer through the spicy sausage instead…almost a week later I’m still thinking about how the brussel sprouts would have worked logistically). I ordered the tacos al pastor which were perfectly fine, but paled in comparison to the churros and chocolate sauce we ended our meal with. We all enjoyed our meals so much that it was a close call on clearing the dessert plate. I, being the selfless soul that I am, took one for the team and had a third churro though, saving us from the embarrassment of leaving one lonely. No churro left behind as I always say.
I’m double dipping on this one a) to emphasize just how much I really love farmers markets and b) I would count the food I ate there as my breakfast. I ate a spiced fruit cup and a medowlark (iced matcha latte with vanilla and rosemary) while my sister enjoyed the figs and pigs grilled cheese and a cold brew. I wish there was a Cafe Bellezza in my hometown because as much as I try I’m not sure I’ll be able to replicate the fresh spicy matcha they served.
I know I said last time that I hoped Courtney would stay in Durham long enough for me to visit again, but I honestly did not expect her to. I’m so thankful I got to experience Durham in all its sunshiney glory and will happily return again soon (hopefully while the farmer’s market is still running)!