New Vegan Eats: Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen

Earth to Us of Durham and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex offer vegan cuisine to satisfy any foodie.

Vegans and omnivores alike, rejoice! Two new additions to the Triangle dining scene are doing vegan versions of beloved cuisines with flair that foodies of any diet will appreciate.

Earth to Us of Durham does comfort food with a Latin bent, and Vegan Community Kitchen of Apex takes on Turkish cuisine. Both family-owned enterprises are taking root in the Triangle vegan scene, but anyone who loves a delicious meal will feel at home- this omnivore included.

Earth to Us

Cauliflower wings.

You’ll find Earth to Us tucked just outside of Northgate Mall in Durham. The space is cheerfully decorated with a bicycle installation, framed photos of the food, and chalkboard drawings.

Firstly, all of the appetizers are tempting, but I think you can’t go wrong with the cauliflower wings. With a satisfyingly crunchy fried exterior, the spicy bang bang sauce and drizzle of ranch fulfill every wing craving. The loaded nachos, topped with a mound of guacamole, are infinitely Instagrammable and delicious.

The chicken and rice plate.

Next, I went for the generously-sauced soy barbecue chicken, served with pigeon pea rice and slaw. The well-spiced barbecue sauce complimented the soy chicken’s convincing texture. Plus, I have a weakness for arroz con gandules, and this was a great version of that Puerto Rican treat.

The Impossible Burger

Finally, I had to try Earth to Us’s take on the Impossible Burger, the bona fide fad by Impossible Foods. I can add my voice to those lauding the patty’s realistic texture. I love me a good burger, and this is as close to a red-blooded texture and taste as I’ve ever had in an imitation. The Earth to Us version comes piled high with fresh lettuce and tomato, spicy sauce, and cooked onions.

Although the Earth to Us menu has more favorite American comfort foods, the arepas are also yummy. Accompanied by a creamy garlic sauce and daiya cheese (a substitute made from cassava and arrowroot), this arepa addict gives them a big thumbs-up.

Vegan Community Kitchen

Just a few minute’s drive past downtown Apex, the mother-daughter team at Vegan Community Kitchen serve vegan Turkish cuisine.

Right at the door, you’re greeted with an enticing case of brightly-colored fresh salads and grains. Make sure to return to this case after you walk past down the counter to order, because tasty options abound.

Red lentil balls and tabbouleh.

I sprung for the red lentil balls and tabbouleh. Peppered with fresh parsley, the tabbouleh was one of the best I’ve had- uber-flavorful. It was my first time with red lentil balls, but based on the Vegan Community Kitchen version, I’d order them again anywhere.

The Iskender kebab platter.

Next, I hit up the Iskender kebab platter. Seitan, a wheat substitute, stood in for traditional meat. The seitan, cooked to a beefy consistency, was a great base, but took a backseat to the yogurt and fresh tomato sauces. Served on pita triangles with herbs tossed on top, this is a more-than-worthy meatless alternative for those of us with a doner kebab habit.

Falafel combo

Finally, the falafel combo cemented Vegan Community Kitchen as a foodie destination for me. Light, flavorful falafel, classic hummus, and traditional stuffed grape leaves served with fresh veggies? Yes, please. This is a Mediterranean classic done right.

The welcoming atmospheres and diverse menus of Earth to Us and Vegan Community Kitchen make them exciting additions to the vegan scene, and the Triangle food world at large. Forks and knives at the ready, everyone.

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Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

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Cheap Durham Dates

How to date in Bull City on a budget.

Maybe you’re a long-term couple and you’re saving up to buy Hopscotch tickets together. Maybe you’re single, mingling, and don’t want to shell out too much cash on a first Tinder date. Or you’re a student and you want to go out, but you’d also like to, y’know, eat food this month. Any way you slice it, we all want maximum romance at a minimum cost- so  The Triangle Guide presents the “Dates on a Shoestring” series. This week, I’m serving up the best the Bull City has to offer in terms of great dates that won’t break the bank.

Coffee Date at Beyù Caffè

The Oprah Mocha

Meeting for coffee is a classic first date for a reason. It’s low-commitment, and it feels perfectly natural to stay for half an hour, or to linger late if the conversation flows. But you can tip the scales in favor of the date going well if you choose the right setting- and, of course, if the coffee is good. And for ambiance and coffee quality, you can’t beat Beyù Caffè.

With its exposed brick and big windows, Beyù Caffè’s sophisticated, airy environs are low-key romantic. And the coffee is top-notch. Local roasts, plus cream and milk from Homeland Creamery? Yes, please! Grab one of their tempting lattes or mochas (shoutout to the Oprah Mocha!) or split a French press pot for $4.95.

Date at Duke Gardens

Love may just bloom at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

It’s harder to think of a more romantic, or more uniquely Durham date than strolling Duke Gardens with your beloved (or beloved-to-be.) The Gardens’s picturesque settings have seen many a Carolina date, proposal, and nuptial. You can bank on the romance factor- love has a long history of blossoming here.

Wander the Garden’s 55 acres hand-in-hand, plotting how to spend the money you saved on this date, because admission to the gardens is free! (Be aware parking will set you back $1 per half hour. More details on the Duke Gardens website here.)

Open from 8 AM to 5 PM, you may want to consider going to Duke Gardens on a weekday if you have the option, as things can get pretty packed at primetime on the weekends.

Ice Cream Date at The Parlour

Sweet romance at The Parlour.

Ice cream is an underrated low-commitment date, or a lovely little outing for a couple. The Parlour on Market Street makes phenomenal ice cream by hand, in classic and imaginative flavors, and all served up in a pretty, pastel environment. There are great vegan options, milkshakes, baked goods, and every manner of sundae customization you can think of. This is a great afternoon or evening date- The Parlour is open from 12 PM to 10 PM Sunday thru Thursday, and 12 PM to 11 PM Fridays and Saturdays. Yes, sometimes the ice cream line can go out the door, but that’s part of the experience. The ice cream is that good, and the line gives you more opportunity for conversation. (You’re right across the way from Major Bull, and if he’s not a conversation piece, who knows what is.)

Art Gallery Date at 21c Museum Hotel

21c Museum Hotel’s signature pink penguins are tucked all over the galleries.

Whether you’re a sophisticate, or you just want to look like one to impress your date, a wonderful way to take in modern art on a tight budget or a tight schedule is to visit 21c Museum Hotel on North Corcoran Street.

21c is part of Museum Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels with modern art galleries on the premises. The Durham version, housed in the historic former Hill Building, has rotating exhibitions of contemporary art on over 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The sleek galleries are free and open to the public 365 days a year. If you and your date want to get some context for the art, guided docent tours are available at 5 PM Wednesdays and Fridays, and are also free and open to the public. So put on your finest (or not), impress your date, and get your culture fix for the best price of all- free.

Bathroom signs at 21c- for dates of all gender identities!

Drinks at The Atomic Fern

Let’s face it- pricey cocktail bars are a lot of fun. They’re also a guaranteed way to make your wallet weep, and chances are you won’t be focused on getting to know someone when you’re thinking about your dwindling bank account. Luckily, the remedy lives on East Parrish Street in Durham, and it’s called The Atomic Fern.

The Atomic Fern does have a membership fee… but it’s $3, and you can bring a guest. Beer goes for around $4, wine and mixed drinks for around $6. The focus at The Atomic Fern is on conversation- so no TVs, no loud music, and board games to settle into (bonus points if you bring your own!) The surroundings are cozy and quirky, the patrons are chill, and it makes for a great date spot if you just want to relax over a drink and really get to know the person sitting across from you. This is let’s-get-a-drink done right.

Major Bull is a romantic at heart.

Check out cheap Raleigh dates here!

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