For those who might be overindulging this time of year ("Who, me?" she says, through a mouthful of peppermint bark), I have some good news. The RBC Center in Raleigh is now using oil free of trans fats. That's right. As of last September, the arena voluntarily switched all of its fryers—those in the concession stands, the Arena Club restaurants, and within the catering department—to run on a blend of corn and high-oleic canola oil. Also, hockey fans and concertgoers may have noticed two new "Market Place" concession stands at sections 126 and 314. These stands feature hot soups, panini sandwiches, sushi and salads. "We are proud to offer a more diverse selection of menu items," said General Manager Dave Olsen. "Our guests requested healthier food options, and we are now equipped to deliver."
And now back to our regularly scheduled consumption ... to celebrate the holidays, Zely & Ritz (301 Glenwood Ave., Suite 100, Raleigh, 828-0018, www.zelyandritz.com) has come up with a fun twist on the wine dinner: the "Holiday Spirits and Liquor Dinner." At 7 p.m. Dec. 20, Chef Sarig Agasi will pair five courses with five different liquors: tequila from Mexico, limoncello from Italy, bourbon from Kentucky, etc. Here's a sample course: braised pork shoulder with ginger-honey glaze and fennel potato gratin, paired with Jamaican rum balanced with ginger, cloves and pineapple puree and garnished with pineapple sage flowers. Yowza. Eammon O'Mahoney, the national sales rep for all the included liquors, will speak at the event. Cost is $60 per person, and that doesn't include tax or gratuity (or cab fare). Reservations are required.
From 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 16, the Chatham Marketplace Co-op (80 Hillsborough St., Pittsboro, 542-2643, www.chathammarketplace.com) will host the folks from Mebane's Iron Gate Winery for December's "Tasting and Tapas" in the cafe. Wine tasting, notes and dinner are included. Cost is $20 per person, and reservations are required (ask them about the Pumpkin Chunkin' contest).
AAA Carolinas released their Four Diamond ratings for 2008 recently. Five Triangle restaurants maintained their ratings (there are 15 in the state, from Duck to Lake Toxaway, and 1,800 in the United States). Drumroll please: Il Palio Ristorante and Carolina CrossRoads Restaurant and Bar in Chapel Hill; The Fairview Dining Room and Four Square Restaurant in Durham; and Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern in Raleigh. And joining this impressive bunch—only 3.4 percent of the more than 57,000 annual inspections conducted nationally result in a Four Diamond rating, according to AAA—is one swanky newbie: Herons in Cary. Congratulations to all.
Know about a special food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at email@example.com.