So I was in Durham, NC the other day scouting locations for an upcoming story on Amy Tonrquist, the super-talented chef/owner of Watts Grocery (a hip new restaurant near Duke's east campus). I left Birmingham on a 6am flight (which meant rollin’ outta the rack shortly after 4am) with little more than a granola bar and flavored water in my tummy. By lunchtime I was ready to chow down.
My tour guides, Zavi and Babs, whisked me away to Parker and Otis, a gourmet grocery store, restaurant, wine store, and all round cool place to hang and be seen. I don’t know who Parker is, but Otis is a regal looking pug who shows up in photos throughout the store. Located in a jazzed up downtown warehouse, Parker and Otis has only been open a few months, but appears to already have quite a following. I reckon if I lived in Durham, I’d spend a lot of time here too.
There was a bowl of pimento cheese out for customers to sample – it look so good (and I promise it wasn’t the hunger speaking through me), that I decided to order some for myself. See, I knew if it turned out to be as good as it looked, I’d most certainly embarrass myself by making quick work of the floor sample. It was, as it turned out, the bomb.
You know, pimento cheese one of those sensitive subjects in the South – so long as folks stick to agreeing they love to eat it, everything’s okay. Start talking about how it should be prepared and who makes the best, well, things can escalate quickly. Thankfully, we were all too hungry to argue. But, to be honest, it would have been hard to pick apart this pimento cheese. It was thick and chunky, just like I like it. Not so heavy on the mayo. The roasted pimentos and sharp Cheddar to do all the talking. I could see it piled high and melted on a juicy burger (maybe topped off with a slice or two of bacon).
I knocked back a big ol’ cupful, along with an awesome curried chicken salad sandwich, which was chock-full of goodness (chopped mango in the mix was a nice touch). Too much of this stuff and you’d be moving straight to the Sansabelt flex-slacks.
Have any great pimento cheese stories? Or a favorite recipe you'd care to share?
I stopped back by before supper to grab some candy (one of their specialties!) for my girls (which, for the record, includes my wife). I notice the parking lot was bursting at the seams. A spot magically opened and a threw in my rental car. I heard a mandolin in the distance and someone singing, “Honky Tonk Blues.” Low and behold, Parker and Otis had transformed into a laid-back gathering spot for folks looking to blow off a little post-week steam. Everyone enjoyed nibbles, wine, and specialty brews, all to the soothing sounds of the Duke Street Dogs, a local bluesy-bluegrass-jazz quartet.
I haven’t stopped thinking about Parker and Otis, and, frankly, can’t wait to get back there to have a little more of that pimento cheese as well as sample other tempting items off their menu. Let’s hope Otis keeps up the good work.
VIEW PHOTO ALBUM FOR A PEEK INSIDE THE STORE
Parker and Otis
112 South Duke Street, Durham, NC