It is hot in North Carolina and it has been since we arrived. And, being August, not only is it hot it is also oppressively humid. My favorite, the double H’s….heat and humidity [she said with sarcasm dripping from her lips and sweat dripping from her brow]! I cannot express to you with mere words how much I dislike the dog days of summer. And yet here I am in Raleigh in the middle of August.
We’ve been here since Sunday and I’ve been hot and sticky since we arrived. If it were simply hot, evaporation would help me feel cooler (maybe there is something to the saying, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat”!). But it’s not simply hot. So my body (everyone’s bodies in humidity) must work harder to cool off, which leads to excessive sweating, increased rate of blood circulation, and increased respiration. Hyperthermia [the opposite of hypothermia, about which we are warned in extremely cold weather] can lead to dehydration, fatigue, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat stroke, and – worst of all – bad hair!
Bad hair days can make me grumpy and I’ve had bad hair for ALL EXCEPT approximately 3 1/2 minutes of this trip!!! The 3 1/2 minutes when I did not have bad hair were yesterday right after my afternoon shower when I only had to walk 7 feet to my car on the way to meet Jeff for dinner. So, of course, I had to snap a selfie to commemorate the “good” hair. It was not good hair in the wow-great-hair sense, but rather good-for-August-in-North Carolina!
Strangely enough and in spite of this summer cold that is still hanging on, I haven’t been all that cranky – due in part to having a baseball hat with me at all times, in part to not really knowing a soul and in part to age/wisdom!!! But I have had ENOUGH of the humidity. In fact, last night I carefully and emphatically explained to Jeff that I did not want to do ANYTHING outside today. I made him look at me while I explained it a second time to make sure he completely understood me. Interestingly, however, I believe he was still surprised today when I asked him to drop me off and pick me up at the door of nearly every place we went. [It’s only fair that I tell you that my dad has done this for my mom for as long as I can remember so I have been conditioned to expect it. But even with the conditioning, I don’t often ask for or expect it from Jeff].
In case you think I’m exaggerating about the heat, here are a few snaps from the last few days in Raleigh. They don’t prove my point about the humidity, but anyone who has spent any time in the south in the summer knows I am not misrepresenting facts!
If you’ve read my last few posts you had to know I was going to rant about the humidity eventually. If you didn’t see it coming, you need to revisit some of the Raleigh posts!!!
Besides thinking/worrying/complaining about the humidity, what have I been up to since I last posted?
LAKE JOHNSON PARK
After finishing my post and leaving BREW yesterday, I navigated the Raleigh traffic to Lake Johnson Park. I planned to rent a kayak and explore the lake, but since it was pouring on the way to the park (I kid you not, as soon as I got into the car at BREW it started to rain) I decided that if the rain let up I’d walk the Lake Trail instead of getting out on the water. Well, the rain did let up and I did walk the 3 mile lake trail and it was a beautiful walk. Rather than putting in my ear buds and listening to music or a podcast like I typically do on a walk, I used my time to talk with God and to enjoy the scenery. The rain held off until the last 1/4 mile when it began to pour again, but I was so hot [did I mention it’s hot and humid here?] the rain felt amazing!
Last night after taking the above selfie I met Jeff at Clouds Brewing. He was having a farewell drink with his classmates while I was getting ready after my walk. He met me outside the moment I pulled up and we had a quick conference about where to have dinner. While he found the address of our destination and typed it into waze, I ran inside and said a quick goodbye to the guys who had graciously let me crash their dinner the night before.
After hopping back into the driver’s seat, I followed waze to Cantina 18. If you read yesterday’s post entitled ‘Scatterbrained…,’ you know we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at 18 Seaboard on Wednesday evening. Cantina 18 is owned by the same chef – Jason Smith – that we had the chance to meet when we visited 18 Seaboard.
I ordered a traditional margarita and Jeff ordered a Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA and we decided to share the Queso Fundito to start. The margarita was DE-LISH – it had the saltiest salt [I realize that sounds strange] I’ve ever tasted on the rim. And the Queso Fundito (which was flavored with chorizo, grapefruit pineapple salsa, and possibly canela) and warm chips were amazing. If people wouldn’t have stared, I might have considered licking the bowl!!! Jeff ordered short rib tacos with pickled corn relish and chipotle crema – I ordered the short rib burrito with pickled onions & poblanos, cheese, rice, black beans and cilantro crema (I subbed the cilantro crema for the chipotle crema on the menu). Although the Queso Fundito was the star of the meal, my burrito was very good – the short ribs were cooked to perfection.
While we were eating, I thought I saw the chef walk through the front door. Jeff asked our waiter if we had seen him and, if we had, he asked if it would be possible to speak with him. Jason came to our table and we talked about our meal at 18 Seaboard and the meal we were enjoying. We learned a bit about the ’18’ and about why he was at Cantina 18 – he was there to pick up 5 orders of the nightly special for the cooks at 18 Seaboard since they were starting a busy weekend and ‘tacos make everything better.’ We only chatted for a few moments, but we really noticed again and appreciated even more the spirit of humility Jason displayed during our conversations!!! We were so full we didn’t order dessert, but were sent a little something from the chef – two delicious bites of strawberry cake!!!
After dinner we checked into our new hotel (I had loaded our bags into the car before I showered) and it is an enormous improvement over the last hotel. We began our stay at the Hilton Raleigh North and had a less-than-stellar experience there. Our last two nights (last night and tonight) were/will be spent at the Hyatt House in North Point. The hotels are night and day in terms of rooms (space, cleanliness, features), service, breakfast, and overall experience! Bear is much happier at the Hyatt House!
FURNITURE LAND SOUTH
This morning we woke up early, had a quick and tasty breakfast at the hotel and began our trek to High Point. We arrived at Furniture Land South at around 10:15 and were amazed at the size of the “furniture store.” It was more like an amusement park for furniture lovers! We saw some cool furniture but no great values that we couldn’t live without, so after about 2 hours of walking through the stores we hit the road for Pittsboro (near Chapel Hill).
How do you know when you’ve arrived at Furniture Land South? You see this:
ALLEN & SON BARBEQUE
If I haven’t mentioned it previously [sarcasm again – I HAVE most definitely mentioned it previously], Jeff is a barbecue guy. He would eat it any time of day or night and has been known to eat so much of it he gets what he affectionately refers to as the “meat sweats.” The best definition I’ve seen of ‘meat sweats’ is as follows:
“Meat sweats” is the mysterious condition whereby, after ingesting a generous helping of meat, you begin to sweat like a fat man in a cake shop. First identified by competitive eaters, for whom the malady is an occupational hazard, the meat sweats are thought to be caused by the combination of adrenaline and protein.” ~ from https://www.birchbox.com/guide/article/five-ways-to-conquer-the-meat-sweats
Anyway, as usual, I digress. We arrived at Allen & Son at approximately 1:00 p.m. and we were hungry from all the walking we had done at FLS! After perusing the menu, we both decided on The BBQ Plate, which included BBQ (pulled pork), hush puppies and slaw. And, of course, we also ordered sweet tea [a treat since I’ve been off tea for a year]!
Our waitress brought us each a glass of tea and she also brought a carafe (as big as a 5 gallon bucket) for refills. It was so tasty – sweet but not diabetes-inducing like the sweet tea we had in Texas! Our food was delivered very quickly and it smelled so good. I had a quick debate – add sauce or don’t add sauce. I decided to start without sauce and go from there. The flavor of hickory was so wonderful throughout the pork that I initially thought no-sauce was the way to go…that is until I added some Carolina-style sauce. Mmm mmm mmm!!! It was vinegary and spicy and wonderful. I still have not determined if the Q was better with or without the sauce.
The slaw was a bit sweet, but fresh, vinegary and peppery – just right as a side to the Q! The hush puppies – what can I say about the hush puppies? They were divine. They had a hint of sweetness, the fresh-fried oiliness that turns bad quickly when food gets cold but is so wonderful in the first few minutes, and were comfortingly crunchy with the other foods. I was in hog heaven [see how I did that there?]! Until…….
While cutting into my last hush puppy, it rolled onto the floor! Noooooooooooooooooooo! I guess it was the universe’s way of telling me I didn’t need the last one! Never one to miss a message from the universe, I also gleaned that we should share an order of Banana Pudding!!!! And we were not sorry we did. It was warm and had a meringue topping. The banana flavor was great and it wasn’t too sweet. I’d say it was the perfect ending to a wonderful Q experience.
Next stop? Southern Season in Chapel Hill. Jeff and I decided that the perfect time to stroll through Southern Season was when we had full bellies. There were so many things we might have purchased had we been hungry. As it was we meandered through the gourmet food store for about an hour and a half and ended up with A LOT of beer [not all for us] and a few goodies in our cart!!!
On the way back to Raleigh we made a quick stop at Guglhupf Bakery. Jeff, who has a list of every restaurant within 100 miles of wherever we are staying, had it on his list and since we were driving past we stopped. In addition to the artisan bakery there is a café too. We spent a few minutes in the bakery – during which time we picked out a cheese, some bread and a sweet treat to nosh on for dinner.
The last stop of the day was at Whole Foods in Durham for a bottle of Sancere, which we will be enjoying momentarily with our noshing dinner. At Whole Foods we also added some fruit and a few tiny pieces of cheese to our evening menu. [A special thanks to the Cheese Monger who assisted us with picking just the right ones.]
Here we are, back at the hotel, listening to Pandora, writing the post and getting ready for a quiet evening. It may be humid outside, but it’s cool in our hotel room and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in this moment than with Jeff in North Carolina in the August heat!!!!