I spent last weekend with my brother and his family near Raleigh NC and we took the opportunity to eat at Durham's renowned Magnolia Grill. Chef Ben Barker is a past James Beard Award winner, the restaurant was named #11 in the country on Gourmet Magazine's list of America's top 50 restaurants, and pastry chef Karen Barker (Ben's wife) makes some of the best desserts you'll ever eat. I have dined at Magnolia a few times over the years, but not at all recently, so we made the pilgrimage and had a pretty near perfect experience.
The ambience is not at all formal or stuffy, and diners feel welcome and comfy enough to linger over the fascinating menu and lovely wine choices.
Pictured, from top:
Citrus-cured Loch Duhart Scottish salmon with Indian River pink grapefruit and Valencia oranges, shaved fennel and arugula, mascarpone orange crema (loved this!);
Pan-seared Chesapeake Bay wild striped bass on flageolet beans with calamari and chorizo, tomato-red wie ragu, local arugula and shaved fennel;
Pumpkin gingerbread with apple-date compote and caramel ice cream;
Dark chocolate waffles with peppermint stick chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce.