Road trips and picnics!

June 2015

Summer is finally here! Taking my child to camp in Eastern NC recently brought back memories of the picnics our family enjoyed on many car trips to the coast. Mom always had the cooler at hand for impromptu excursions, and she came up with easy, quick recipes that she whipped up like magic. Our family car was always (and still is) loaded up ready for a picnic at a moment’s notice.

On road trips, we would bypass the many restaurants and rest stops. Instead, we opted for stops at tiny roadside churches — where there always was a picnic table in the shade, welcoming folk and a playground to get the wiggles out — or the beautiful state parks along the way. And boy…Mom was ready to whip up a farm-to-fork snack right there in the parking lot when we happened upon a road-side stand.

We all have fond memories of picnics and tailgating with family, friends or a romantic interest. So we thought we’d share some yummy, fast recipes that incorporate the bounty of summer and travel well to your ultimate picnic spot. Get out there and make your own memories!

Heirloom Tomatoes with sea salt, cracked black pepper, fresh herb vinaigrette and crumbled Goat Lady chèvre

Heirloom Tomato Appetizer with sea salt, cracked black pepper, fresh herb vinaigrette and crumbled Goat Lady chèvre

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Appetizer

  • 1⁄2 pound variety of heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 fluid ounce Herb Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1 ounce Goat Lady chèvre

Slice tomatoes and place them on a serving plate. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Drizzle Herb Vinaigrette over tomatoes, and then sprinkle with goat cheese. Makes 1 portion.

Recipe Tips:

  • Pack recipe ingredients separately in your cooler, and then combine them when you get to your picnic. That way your tomatoes won’t get mushy on the way.
  • Cut your heirloom tomatoes at home, marry the pieces back together again in the shape of a ball and bind with a few rubber bands. Then, combine all ingredients when you get to your picnic destination.

Recipe: Herb Vinaigrette (make at home and bring in a squeeze bottle)

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 1⁄4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 cups canola oil
  • 1⁄2 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1⁄2 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Combine all ingredients except oil and herbs in a saucepan, and heat while whisking until sugar is dissolved and Dijon is incorporated. Pour mixture into a blender and slowly add oil until well combined. Stir in herbs. Makes 1 quart.

Curried Chicken Salad over baby spinach tossed in Meyer lemon vinaigrette, topped with fresh blueberries and sliced almonds

Curried Chicken Salad over baby spinach tossed in Meyer lemon vinaigrette, topped with fresh blueberries and sliced almonds

Recipe: Curried Chicken Salad

  • 2 pounds diced roasted chicken
  • 1/8 cup diced red onions
  • 1⁄4 cup diced celery
  • 3⁄4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except chicken) until well blended. Add chicken and mix thoroughly. Makes 4 cups.

Another great picnic recipe is our Cucumber-Tomato Salad “Liquor House Salad” (see it on our “Fresh, cold hothouse tomatoes” blog post)

Chocolate Brownies

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ¾ cups packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips while stirring. In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mixture should turn light brown in color when done (about 5 minutes on medium speed). Add melted chocolate and melted butter to egg mixture and then add that mixture to the flour mixture, blending well with a spatula. Add walnuts, stirring to incorporate. Pour mixture into a greased pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Makes 6 large brownies.

Tips for a fun and easy picnic:

  • Keep the car packed with the essentials: blanket, basket or backpack to carry it all in, wet wipes, paring knife, wine tool, chairs (if needed) and an empty Tupperware container (you’ll use it for something).
  • Think ahead of any road trip — bring along some basic ingredients in a cooler, and supplement them with roadside stand produce. (Here are some of our favorites: hard cheeses, olive oil, French bread, cured meats, capers, smoked salmon, olives and a few basic herbs and/or spices. Take our suggestions or add your own favorites!)
  • Choose an ant-free, soft, grassy spot at a park, church or school. Many rest stops have lovely picnic areas in the shade.
  • Pack a big blanket (the bigger the better — it helps prevent those pesky bugs from climbing on).
  • Bring along a small pillow to lie back on while you watch clouds go by, take a nap or stay late for a romantic star gaze!
  • Flashlights and citronella candles are important for evening picnics. And don’t forget the bug spray, especially when the mosquitoes are out.
  • Be sure to clean up after yourself — leftover foods, drinks and trash can attract wildlife to picnic areas, which isn’t safe for the animals or picnickers!

There you have it: A few of our recipes and tips for delightful and yummy summer picnics. Load up your car with family and friends (or a romantic rendezvous) and take off to explore the back roads and popular destinations near you. With a few simple recipes and a little forethought, you can avoid the fast food trap and enjoy a tasty, farm-to-fork meal while en route.

Contributing Writer: Virginia Phelps

These recipes are available on our Suddenly This Summer menu at Lucky’s through August 4. See the menu.

Spring’s Bounty of Fresh, Local Vegetables and Fruits

May 2015

As winter’s grasp eases and the temperatures begin to rise, the availability of locally sourced food increases, expanding menus and creativity in the kitchen.  I know this is an incredibly exciting time of the year for me—as it is for other chefs and avid home cooks.

From left to right: Inner Faith Food Shuttle Farm Manager Kay Coleman, NC Regrown Farmer Jesse Crouch, Incubator Farmer Maria from LuLu's Farm, Lucky 32 Executive Chef Russell Shinn, and Black Hat Jonny Hazel.

From left to right: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Farm Manager Kay Coleman, Incubator Farmer Jesse Crouch of NC Regrown, Incubator Farmer Maria of LuLu’s Farm, Lucky 32 Executive Chef Russell Shinn, and Lucky 32 Sous Chef Jonny Hazel.

For months now, farmers markets and “local availability lists” have suffered from the annual winter slump. Offerings have primarily consisted of turnips, mustard greens and kale greens, alongside year-round collards, sweet potatoes and peanuts.  While hearty root vegetables and greens are a staple of Southern cuisine, our locally sourced, seasonally rotating menu at Lucky’s gets a boost when spring fruits and vegetables begin to appear. Put it this way: Creating menus with winter produce is fun, kind of like like driving a Model T … but spring produce season is a blast, more like driving a Ferrari!

A few weeks ago, as I perused the rows of radishes and asparagus at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Teaching Farm in Cary, I started to get excited about the possibilities to come.  I picked a crisp, green spear right out of the earth, dusted it off on my pant leg and eagerly bit into the freshest produce possible. My creativity was recharged instantly, and ideas for new menu items flashed through my mind.

Rows of radishes and okra from NC Regrown

Rows of radishes and okra from NC Regrown

I got even more excited when Jesse Crouch and his brother Dustin (both incubator farmers at the IFFS farm and owners of NC Regrown Farm) told me they had just planted rows of okra alongside their colorful radishes.  Other IFFS farmers are planting broccoli, cabbages, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, red and golden beets and sugar snap peas to be ready in a few weeks. And on the horizon, we can expect to see more local fruits taking center stage, from watermelons and cantaloupes to peaches, plums and berries. Oh, the possibilities!

Jesse Crouch from NC Regrown, with radishes picked for Lucky 32

Jesse Crouch from NC Regrown, with radishes picked for Lucky 32

All of these colorful and delicious selections definitely will make it onto our menu, helping us maintain our 10% NC Promise: All Quaintance-Weaver restaurants promise to source, at minimum, 10% of their food purchases from local farms and farmers. This program is designed to give back to the community that allows our business to thrive.

I just can’t wait for that okra – and those plums – to be ready!

Closeup of an okra seedling

Closeup of an okra seedling

by Executive Chef Russell Shinn, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Cary

Raleigh Brewing Company

What a Brew-ha-ha!

April 2015

Three years ago, we decided to further our proud commitment to local North Carolina products by dedicating our draft beer program to beers brewed in our great state. Our guests have given this program an unqualified thumbs up. So, in honor of North Carolina Beer Month, we want to share some of our favorite homegrown ales and lagers, all of which are featured at various times in our restaurant.

North Carolina’s Original Craft Breweries

Big Boss

Big Boss

Our three mainstay beers—Red Oak Amber Lager, Bad Penny Brown Ale and Carolina Pale Ale—represent some of the original (and larger) craft breweries in North Carolina. Red Oak, started in Greensboro, prides itself on a commitment to German Beer Purity law in all of their brews.  Big Boss, along with making great craft beer, is at the forefront of creative packaging and label designs; the brewery’s beer names and logos are inspired by WWII bomber art.  Our other year-round beer, the popular Carolina Pale Ale from Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Newer Breweries in Asheville, the Triangle and Johnston County

The past three years have seen incredible new growth in the state’s craft brewing industry.  Some of the biggest national names in craft beer—Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada—have opened locations in the Asheville area, and New Belgium will be opening an Asheville brewery soon.  The Triangle has seen several new breweries open recently, too, and the region is giving Asheville a run for the money as the beer capital of the South.  We recently visited some of these breweries to get to know a little bit more about the beers we serve.Johnston County, an area known for illegal moonshine, has entered the legal craft beer market.  In February 2013, the first legally produced beer was made in Clayton by Deep River Brewing Company.  Since then, they have made some of our favorite creative brews, including the marshmallow and sweet potato JoCo White Winter and the amazingly refreshing Double D’s Watermelon Lager.

Just down the road in Smithfield, Double Barley Brewing opened its doors. As with many of these breweries, Double Barley Brewing started with a homebrew: Cheryl Lane bought her husband, Larry, a homebrew kit for his 40th birthday, and after a brief stint in the attic, it became the catalyst for Double Barley.  They have created some bold and flavorful beers like Steak Cake Stout, so named because it is sweet enough for a dessert beer and bold enough for a steak; and Thrilla in Vanilla, a porter flavored with hundreds of pounds of hand-split vanilla beans soaked in Jameson.

Draft Line Brewing Co.

Draft Line Brewing Co.

Aviator Brewing Company in Fuquay-Varina welcomed a new neighbor, Draft Line Brewing Co., just down the street.  Their selection includes tropical fruit notes in their Australia and New Zealand-hopped Graf Pale Ale and the refreshing Bavarian-style Hemmings Pilsner.

Brüeprint Brewing Company

Brüeprint Brewing Company

Apex saw the opening of its first brewery last April, when Brüeprint Brewing Company opened its doors.  Founded by a water treatment scientist with a passion for the culinary arts, the name is inspired by this mission statement: “Better than a recipe, a brewing blueprint combines science and great culinary skill to create a Brüeprint.” Their rotating seasonal beers are based on the sports seasons—Zambrüni Lager for hockey, Brüe Diamond IPA for baseball and (our favorite name) Brüe 32 Pale Ale for football.  They have also invited bartenders from both of our locations to participate in brewing a beer later this year. We’ll keep you updated!

Women in Brewing

Raleigh Brewing Company

Raleigh Brewing Company

Before the industrialization of beer, brewing was the realm of women. Two breweries that have opened over the past three years show a return of female involvement in the brewing arts.  Raleigh Brewing Company became the first brewery in the state with a woman as majority owner. Its most popular beer, Hell Yes Ma’am, takes its name from a story about owner Kristie Nystedt, who wanted a Belgian golden-style beer. She faced pushback from the brewer, but when the brewer finally tasted it, he said, “Hell Yes, Ma’am!” to brewing the beer, which has since become their flagship brew.

In Holly Springs, Bombshell Beer Company became the first brewery to be owned solely by women. The Bombshell story began with Ellen Joyner, whose passion for homebrewing began more than a decade ago. Michelle Miniutti joined Ellen in her brewing endeavors, and the seed was planted for what would become Bombshell Beer Company.  Jackie Hudspeth eventually joined the other “Bombshells,” and in 2013 they opened their brewery with a line-up of great beers.  A few of our favorites include two great wheat beers, Hey Honey Hefewiezen and Dunkelwiezen; and their rotating Dirty Secret Stout series, which has included a Dry Irish, Coconut and Russian Imperial styles; as well as the year-round flagship Pick-Up Line Porter.

It has been a great three years for craft beer in North Carolina.  Our state is at the forefront of beer making in the South, and new breweries are opening every month.  Come in and see us at Lucky 32 – we’ll help you celebrate North Carolina Beer Month with some hand-crafted, local libations and a great meal to boot.

Chris Marusa
Bar Manager
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Cary


10 “Egg”cellent Easter Brunch Tips

March 2015

With spring just around the corner, plans for celebrating Easter with brunch at the family breakfast table are in the works.  Of course, the central focus of any brunch menu is eggs, but don’t just settle for the same ol’ bacon and eggs combo. There are countless other ways to prepare this versatile favorite.

Before you get started, here’s a word to the wise: Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible, and use eggs from free-roaming hens, which lay the most flavorful eggs because they eat a natural diet.  The eggs may be a bit more expensive, but like my mother used to say, “You get what you pay for!”

Fried Eggs

  1. Fry ‘em up. In my household, we use leftover bacon grease to fry up our eggs. If you ladle the crackling lard over the eggs in the frying pan, you’ll create a fluffy and sinfully delicious version of this classic.Scrambled Eggs
  2. Scramble ‘em up. Try adding a touch of cream, salt, and pepper before scrambling for a less-dense take on this old-time favorite.Omelet
  3. Mix ‘em up.Have you ever had a sweet corn and goat cheese omelet?  How about one with fresh crab and pimento cheese?  The great thing about an omelet is that anything goes (in it)!
  4. Don’t be afraid of the “flip.”A second cousin to the omelet is the frittata, which is essentially an unfolded omelet.  Try yours with country ham and scallions, or diced peppers, onions and pepperjack.  Start it on the stove, but finish it in the oven for about 5 minutes to cook the top.
  5. Brunch for two? Individual egg casseroles are a good way to go.  Add a bit of cream, scramble the eggs and bake in the oven in a one-inch water bath for a light and moist result.  Try adding some sautéed spinach and shiitake mushrooms for a twist.Quiche
  6. Feeling Frenchy? No, I’m not talking about making French toast; instead, create a traditional quiche. This egg and cheese baked pie is a great way to show off your culinary skills (but it isn’t difficult to make). Try out our mushroom and Swiss cheese recipe below. It’s one of my favorites!
  7. Want less mess to clean up? Try a one-skillet scramble.  Start by frying hash browns in a cast-iron skillet.  Then, add tasso ham, fresh vegetables, whisked eggs and cheese.  Finish with toasted English muffins and a dash of Sriracha sauce.Huevos Rancheros
  8. Feeling even spicier? How about some “huevos rancheros” with a fire-grilled tomato and jalapeno salsa on top.  Add a side of chorizo sausage, and you’ll really be feeling the heat!Eggs Benedict
  9. Eggs “Benedict Arnold.” You may defect from fried or scrambled eggs once you’ve tried them poached!  Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to your poaching liquid to add flavor and help hold the egg’s shape.  Serve over toast points with country ham and hollandaise sauce.
  10. Sweetie pie. What meal would be complete without dessert?  Try a dried cherry pop-over made of eggs, butter, sugar, flour and sweet dried cherries. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Bon Appétit!
Chef Russell Shinn
Executive Chef, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, Cary


6 each fresh eggs, beaten
2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
3 tablespoons` flour
1 cup half & half cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
1 each unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add mushrooms to a hot sauté pan and sauté until they squeak. Add butter, thyme and garlic to pan and cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in flour until well combined. Mix in cheese.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste. Add mushroom mixture to eggs and combine well. Pour into pie shell and bake for 35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Makes: 1 quiche, 6-8 slices

Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch size. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Chess Pie … A Southern Tradition, Y’all!

February 2015

Chess Pie is a Southern staple with historical roots in England. Though its basic ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs and flour – can be found in any Southern pantry, the variations on Chess Pie can seem as far-fetched as the folklore surrounding its etymology.

Many folks believe that its name originated from the closely related English lemon curd pie, which often was called cheese pie; “Chess Pie” allegedly derived from Southerners’ tendency to drawl our words. Another version tells of a plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great: “Jes’ pie” (just pie) was her answer. Yet another myth states that the pie’s high sugar content allowed it to keep well in a pie chest at room temperature, so “Chest Pie” turned into “Chess Pie.”

Though basic Chess Pie is remarkably easy to prepare by mixing simple ingredients and baking for 30 minutes, you can get fancy by adding innovative flavorings. Popular additions include zesty lemon juice, earthy nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, tropical flaked coconut, and toasted, chopped pecans. Some believe a splash of buttermilk makes Chess Pie better, while others swear by a tablespoon of vinegar. If you’d like to double the decadence, just stir in some cocoa powder!

Whether you call it cheese pie, chest pie or “jes’ pie,” there are no boundaries to this traditional Southern confection. – Chef Russell Shinn, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen (Cary)

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Chocolate Chess Pie
(makes 1 pie)


4 eggs
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 tablespoons white cornmeal
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 pound melted butter
1 unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then assemble pie as described below.

Chocolate Chess Pie Recipe

In a bowl, sift dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Chocolate Chess Pie Recipe

Add vanilla, cream and butter and mix until incorporated.

Chocolate Chess Pie7

Pour into an unbaked pie shell (see recipe below). Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool; serve cold.

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Housemade Pie Crust (makes 3 pie shells)

4 1⁄2 cups all purpose flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
1 1⁄2 cups unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water

Pie Crust Recipe

Sift the flour and salt together. Freeze the butter then grate it to make it easier to handle. Work the cold butter into the flour mix.  Add ice to water to make it cold, make sure you don’t pour any ice into the dough mixture.

Pie Crust Recipe 2

Add water slowly and mix until just combined. Portion out enough for one shell and begin to roll it into shape on a floured surface.

Pie Crust Recipe

This recipe makes 3 pie shells. Freeze any unused portions.


Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch sizes. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.