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Kukia's Cookies; I Heart Chocolate; A Southern Season 

The must-try Chocolate Chip Lavender Pecan from Kukia's Cookies

Photo by Katina Parker

The must-try Chocolate Chip Lavender Pecan from Kukia's Cookies

A homemade double chocolate cookie would probably calm anyone's nerves. But add a pinch of real lavender to the batter and you've got an extra soothing dose of sweetness.

Kifu Faruq is behind Kukia's Cookies (kukiascookies.com), a recently launched business offering organic "cookies with a conscience." Her Chocolate Lavender and Southern-inspired Chocolate Chip Lavender Pecan are two must-try varieties. The smooth chocolate flavor hits first—rich, simple and pure—then shifts to lavender, taking over and lingering like a refreshing, palate-cleansing digestif.

Faruq quit her full-time job as a biochemist in clinical research to start the baking venture. Before that, she launched Green Space Initiative LLC with her partner, Melanie Wilkerson, working with Durham urban farmers and food justice activists. The couple runs a small urban farm at their home on Summit Street, where they've offered a seasonal produce CSA for three years that now includes the cookies and lavender lemonade.

Working out of Ninth Street Bakery, Faruq uses hormone- and antibiotic-free butter, local eggs from Simple Rhythm Farm and, when available, local pecans that she picks off a friend's tree. Organic culinary lavender (a special order, she says, because our climate is too humid to grow the right kind) aids as a pain-relieving agent in addition to its calming effect.

In a mass-market society that touts food as a trend, Faruq, who identifies as a multi-ethnic black woman of Barbadian and Cherokee descent, says, "The face of what local and organic looks like doesn't look like me. This is a way to engage communities of color in food issues, just by talking about a cookie."

Kukia's Cookies run $15 a dozen via special order or $4.95 for a pack of four at Blue Coffee Cafe. The lavender delights will soon be available at Local Yogurt as toppings and at Six Plates, presumably as a ruby port wine pairing. Faruq also sells her cookies at a reduced rate for those who can't afford the full price, and she often donates them free of charge to communities in local food deserts.

Faruq comes from a lineage of food justice. Her parents met in San Francisco while volunteering with the Black Panthers' popular 1970s Free Breakfast for Children program in low-income neighborhoods. Her mother raised the family vegan before moving to Virginia, where natural foods were harder to come by. So she helped start a co-op grocery and buying club for vegetarians "from Quakers to Muslims to Seventh-day Adventists."

"That's what my life looked like. We roamed around Virginia for deliveries, and people came over to our house for pickup. That's how you fall in love with food and how you fall in love with organizing."

To sample a unique blend of local food craftsmanship, hit the I ♥ Chocolate event presented by Jeff & King at Casbah (casbahdurham.com) on Friday, Aug. 19, featuring DJ Chocolate Thunder and a chocolate bazaar with local purveyors Cocoa Cinnamon, The Parlour, KoKyu, Berenbaum's, Parlez-Vous Crpe, LocoPops, The Chocolate Door and more.

Faruq's cookies will be sandwiched around Pearl Gray Frozen Custard, a soon-to-be official ice cream business by musician and urban farmer Justin Robinson, formerly of the band Carolina Chocolate Drops. "It sounds like a lot," says Faruq, "but we all come from a tradition where this is what you do. You have so many great talents where you create a business and a community out of it."

The event starts at 9 p.m. and costs $5. Word is there are a few golden tickets hidden in the place; find one and win a prize.

A local gourmet staple since 1975 is now under new ownership. Chapel Hill's A Southern Season (southernseason.com), the fine foods superstore, switched hands Aug. 1 to TC Capital Fund, a joint venture group headed by Chapel Hill entrepreneur Clay Hamner. Executive and Chapel Hill resident Larry Shaw was brought on as president.

"A core part of our mission has always been 'local ownership and operation,'" says A Southern Season founder Michael Barefoot. "That will not change; ownership remains local in this new corporate structure ... we will now be positioned to grow to the next level."

Barefoot says he'll be "fully engaged" for the next five years while Hamner and Shaw, longtime customers, settle into leadership.

Know of a restaurant happening or food event? Email food@indyweek.com.

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