Following Chowhound advice, the missus and I stopped at the newly opened, cafeteria-style Q Shack in Durham, to the rear of Pao Lim. I concur with the initial report: good stuff. We had ribs, pulled pork butt, puppies, slaw, fried okra, and beans. The sides were good but not spectacular; the meat, on the other hand, was unusually succulent and tangy. The rib meat fell off the bone and lightly came apart on the tongue. Keep in mind that this is not NC-style que; I gather the inspiration is St. Louis (the ribs are presented on the menu as "St. Louis style"). Two dinner plates, plus drinks, came to $21.
We also paid our first visit to the highly touted La Farm Bakery in Cary, which I first heard mentioned in Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking Across America" (a great book, for those who don't know it). La Farm is a smallish, wood-appointed shop in the inevitable strip mall. Thanks to the several items set out for tasting, we had the chance to try a good deal: baguette, mushroom-stuffed baguette, pain ordinaire, banana tart, apple tart, chocolate croissant, and cream puff. Everything was good, but not quite as good as I had hoped, and not quite worth driving thirty miles for. The bread was crusty and fresh, but the crumb was just a bit heavy and under-developed. The banana tart was excellent, but the cream puff somewhat heavy and lacking crispness, and the chocolate croissant had no play of texture; it was merely soft and bread-like. More like brioche than croissant. For pastries, I prefer Gugelhupf; for bread, I give the tentative nod to Weaver Street (or at least to its best loafs).
By any non-nitpicky standard, however, La Farm is a pleasant nook, and its effort to uphold artisanship worthy of respect. It beats the supermarket by a long way, though it's not cheap: loafs run as high as $5, and the eclair, which I didn't try, is a whopping $3.89.
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