a pho-nomenal competition

I have a confession. I currently have 70 {yes, 70!} half-written blog post sitting in my draft folder. Yikes. One that I’ve been meaning to write since last July was where to find the best hole-in-the-wall ethnic food in Raleigh.

My buddy and I made plans to get take-out Pho {Vietnamese soup} the other night. As we were driving up Capital Blvd and deciding which Pho restaurant to go to, we decided to get a dish from each place and pit them against each other in a super-intense food competition. Yes, this is what I do with my time. Haha! I knew it was a blog post in the making.

The competitors {drum roll, please}:

Pho Cali: 3310 Capital Blvd 
Pho Far East: 4011 Capital Blvd

We carefully devised a system to rank the restaurants.

  • Atmosphere: Pho Cali was perfectly nice but very simple; Pho Far East felt much more cozy because of the decor and lights.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
  • Popularity {extra points were awarded if the customers were Vietnamese because we all know that matters}: Pho Cali gained two customers while we were there, but Pho Far East had about eight people eating dinner there. It was a tie for percentage of Vietnamese diners. 
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Price: $8.99 for a big portion of pho at both places.
    • Tie
  • Quantity: The presentation made it slightly hard to judge, but I think the servings were comparable.
    • Tie
  • Hours: Pho Cali is open for an extra hour at the morning, but I am realistically going to drive up Capital for pho at 9am? Gonna call it a:
    •  Tie
  • Presentation: The overall presentation of Pho Far East’s was more elegant and appetizing.
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Service: The service at both places was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and even let us practice our Vietnamese pronunciation. But the winner by a slight margin was Pho Cali.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Location: Pho Cali is closer to downtown; Pho Far East is further up Capital {which is one of the worst streets in Raleigh}.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Quality: Arguably the most important of the categories! Alone, each bowl of pho was delicious. But side-by-side, Pho Far East was the clear winner. The broth was much more flavorful, the meat looked more fresh, and they included sriracha, which is critical to the enjoyment of a bowl of Pho.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
Pho Far East was a pretty clear winner in the pho-off {reviews on Yelp say the same thing}. I look forward to patronizing the restaurant again in the near future 🙂 

P.S. Cheesy joke time: what country has the best food? Viet-nom nom nom 🙂

Calling all Raleigh folks- time to rep your city!

I offered to write up a little post about Raleigh for work, so I need your help! Time to rep America’s #1 City!

 Photo credit: original source unknown; via EssentiallyLaura

1) What are three must see spots in Raleigh?

2) Best restaurant to get a taste of the city? 

3) Best place for a drink? 

4) Best place for live entertainment (music, sports, comedy, theater, etc.)?

5) Best neighborhood to shop? 

I certainly have a few of my own ideas but I wanted to get your insight as well! So leave a comment, tweet me, Facebook me, send me a LinkedIn message, email me- see? So many options, so you have no excuse not to 😉

keepin’ it accountable

Yesterday I ate lunch at Sitti with a coworker from The Raleigh Forum and one of our Raleigh friends. The food was delicious (albeit more than I normally pay for lunch) and we had fantastic service. I tweeted the restaurant as we were crossing the street and by the time we had sat down, the manager came over and mentioned that he saw my tweet and recognized my face. He then brought us some extra little treats (Feta Cheese Dip and an interesting marinated hard cheese thing, which I couldn’t find on the menu!). I will definitely go back as soon as possible. Follow them on Twitter to help them reach their goal of 1000 followers!

Anyway, my lunchmates and I got to talking about some of our personal flaws and bad habits and ended up deciding to give each other week-long self-improvement challenges. $10 is on the line, and we’re adhering to the Honor System.

Me: Write up 3 things every day that I’m grateful for (Though I love and appreciate my life, I have a tendency to take things for granted sometimes). I also have to ride my bike to work at least 2 times during the week (it currently sits in the bike rack at my apartment. I want to ride it more often for health and environmental reasons, not to mention as a way to save money on gas!)

Friend #1: He’s the reason we started this challenge. He mentioned in passing that he doesn’t wear his seat belt, which prompted shocked looks and a barrage of questions from me and Friend #2. For the whole week, he has to wear his seat belt every time that he’s in a moving car.

Friend #2: He finds himself eating out most days of the week, so his challenge is to bring his lunch to work all week. I offered to help by setting up a menu plan and sending him recipes! We also decided to have a mini-pot luck one day next week!

Wish me luck!

weekend recap

Happy Monday! I had another one of those relaxing-makes-you-feel-refreshed-for-Monday-morning weekends.

On Wednesday evening, my friend from college arrived in Raleigh. My sister and I picked her up at the airport, where the three of us promptly decided that this occasion called for a trip to Cracker Barrel. We happened to run into an acquaintance from college, who just moved to Raleigh. We invited him to eat with us, and I promised to show him the ropes 🙂

On Thursday and Friday, my friend came into the office with me. That’s the beauty of running your own business! The drawback is that I couldn’t take those two days off.

We did not make prank calls, I assure you. We did watch Friends and scary movies, take trips to Armadillo Grill and Raleigh Times, and play a lot of Taboo.

On Friday evening, 16 friends graced me with their presence at my apartment, where I had laid out a Shabbat feast (recipes to come). We went through the traditional actions, including drinking from the Kiddush cup and breaking Challah. It was such a cool feeling to be surrounded by a group of awesome people sharing Jewish traditions (many of which I had just learned myself). We stood in a circle with candlelight flickering and read about the origin of these traditions.

And then we consumed my smorgasbord of food, drank a lot of wine, and played some intense rounds of Taboo, followed by a night downtown.

On Saturday, we went to look at some dogs and then had a goofy, silly breakfast at Ihop. Then we spent a few hours at a local bar watching football. And by a few hours, I mean 9.5. It was like a revolving door of friends coming and go, and before we knew it, it was 10:30pm! So we had to refresh and head back out, of course.

I can’t say exactly what we did on Sunday because I don’t want to jinx it 🙂 But the perfect weekend was capped off by a mini-road trip to Goldsboro, where our new favorite person cooked us a delicious steak dinner.

I think the reason it was such a great weekend is because there were people in my apartment literally** the whole weekend- dinner, slumber parties, etc. I love the feeling of being surrounded by great friends, especially when I’m playing hostess! And my philosophy is that if you’re with the right people, you’ll end up in spontaneous, random situations. At one point during the weekend, my friend and I were throwing acorns at trees. I thought how nice it was that such a simple, silly act was so…fun. As someone said, “Only boring people get bored.”

*Literally means “actually or without exaggeration.” Our generation has decided to use literally in the exact opposite sense of the word; it is now interchangeable with figuratively. This simple illustration may help you out. And this article, The Trouble with Literally, is a really interesting look at the evolution of the term.

recap of nyc trip

What a whirlwind! I haven’t even had computer or internet access since Monday (I used WordPress’ handy scheduling tool to schedule a few of my design posts).

Monday: Arrived at the office at 6:30am. Met the summer interns. Took a bus to NYC. Dropped bags off at the beautiful Renaissance 57 hotel. Ate lunch at the NYC office. Hit the streets to chat with merchants, like this one, this one, and this one about their participation in Dollar Lunch Day. Ate dinner at Brother Jimmy’s, my new favorite Southern-inspired NYC BBQ joint, which has maps and flags from Duke and Carolina everywhere! Hung out on the top of the hotel roof.

Tuesday: Breakfast at the office. Hitting the streets once again. Lunch at delicious Jezalin’s. Funny adventures with my partner, another research intern. Dinner at Spin, an adorable ping pong bar. Girls night in, complete with a bottle of wine and 16 and Pregnant.

Wednesday: 4:30am wake up. Camping out at the Today Show to promote Dollar Lunch Day. On the screen for approximately 15 seconds. Seeing Jimmy Fallon, Al Roker, and the back of Meredith Viera’s head. Heading out to Angus McIndoe to assist them with Dollar Lunch Day. Pizza and beer at the office. Saying goodbye to LivingSocial people and heading to the West Village. Dinner at Ditch Plains, where I tried a hot dog covered with macaroni and cheese.

Thursday: Bagels, coffee, and park with my nephew and sister-in-law. Starbucks time. Seeing Bridesmaids, my first solo movie experience! 5th Avenue to wait in line for the Black Eyed Peas benefit concert (with T Swift!). Heading to happy hour at Brother Jimmy’s once we realized the concert was cancelled. And the rest is history!

raleigh: a narrated walk through downtown

Well, I am (happily) overwhelmed after a very fruitful day wandering the streets of downtown Raleigh. So overwhelmed, in fact, that I have to write not one, not two, but three blog entries today in order to get everything down in writing.

My adventure started at 2:30pm when I took the R-Line bus to Morning Times (see entry below). I then decided to walk home and managed to find out about a million cool places. I felt like a stranger in the city, even though I’m from the next city over and I lived here all summer. And I mean stranger in the best way possible. I felt enlightened and fascinated to discover so much about the thriving downtown area.

For example, who knew there were five named districts? There is Glenwood South, Capital District, Warehouse District, Fayetteville Street District, and Moore Square District.

Follow me on my walk:

  • Porch Rockin’: lunchtime meal delivery of sandwiches and sides to busy professionals. Veryyy similar to my business idea; emailed the founder about collaborating
  • Design Box: a “workplace, gallery, and design shop.” In a funky warehouse-like building full of unique art and bright colors. Might be a possibility for part-time office space for me, my sister, and a few of my co-workers. Must follow up with staff
  • The Roast Grill: Their limited hours could mean it’s a possibility for a commercial kitchen rental
  • My future apartment building *fingers crossed*: I dropped by and spoke to several residents. They said it was a great community and they love their apartments. They mentioned the hassle of no laundry in the apartments and no central air, but as a current resident of DC, I reassured them I could handle those factors! Besides, I have my sister’s laundry room to use 🙂
  • The Cupcake Shoppe: I know I said I was over cupcakes, but it might be worth checking out!
  • Dress: an adorable consignment store on Glenwood, where everything is organized by color (my kind of place!)
  • Tutti Frutti: a forthcoming frozen yogurt place. Raleigh may be a little behind on the fro-yo trend, but it’s just in time for summer!
  • Zaky: an express Mediterranean restaurant
  • Zely & Ritz: fresh, organic, and locally grown restaurant offering tapas and a wine bar
  • The Rockford: a famed (and pretty well-hidden) sandwich place on Glenwood
  • Skirt Magazine: I was re-introduced to this magazine somewhere along my walk on Glenwood. It’s “all about women. Their work, play, families, creativity, health and wealth, bodies and souls…skirt! is an attitude”
  • Peace Camera: a slightly run-down store that is full of both character and characters. I plan to take a few of their workshops once I invest in a good digital camera
  • The Sahara Cafe: I’m not a huge fan of hookah bars, but this one seems to have a neat environment. And I can practice my Arabic!