The presidential election distracted me from my usual preoccupation with things of the table, but I am now back in full eating mode. Yesterday I bought Thomas Keller's new book "Bouchon" -- lovely!
The big news is that Grand Asia Market (Buck Jones Road, Cary) has completed its expansion. The new market is superb: cheap, clean, varied, comprehensive, spacious. Most exciting, as far as I'm concerned, is an in-house Taiwanese-style bakery offering buns, pastries, breads, and cakes. I've had far better -- it may not be widely known that the Taiwenese are exceptional bakers -- but the mere fact that such authentic treats are available is something to be celebrated. There is also a cafe offering the kind of cafeteria-style food that makes for a cheap, quick lunch or dinner in Taiwan -- the Taiwanese equivalent of soup and a sandwich. Again, the quality is not what I'd call stellar, but the authenticity is irreproachable. The food is lighter and less sweet and less gooey than what one finds in more Americanized Chinese restuarants. For $5 you get rice and three dishes. I recommend the lion's head (meatball with cabbage). As modest and quotidian as this cafeteria may be, it has become my favorite place to eat Chinese food in the Triangle.
The wife and I also recently tried Ristorante Tosca in downtown Durham. This was a mixed experience. The ambience is pleasant and the fare is inoffensive, but it is merely inoffensive. We started with the bruschetta, which turned out to be nothing more interesting than diced, out-of-season tomato on buttered toast. I followed this with rigatoni and sausage. The pasta was properly al dente -- for once!hosanna! -- but the dish as a whole was on the blunt side, more salty than nuanced. We wife had roasted chicken in a balsamic or red wine reduction; the chicken was a bit dry, the reduction a bit sweet. It was not a great dish, though it was hearty. For dessert we had tiramisu, which recalled Boston cream pie doused in Hershey's syrup. No hint of alchohol or espresso; a mere sugar-delivery device. Prices and portions were both reasonable, making Tosca a tough call. If I were in the neighborhood and suddenly felt a craving for pasta, I would consider a return visit, but otherwise I would pass. 411 West is much the same kind of restuarant, but marginally better.