Friday, June 24, 2011

Buy It to Eat t!...In Durham.

Even those with little social interaction or minimal consumption of media know that Durham is one of the nation's most vibrant food communities.  With dozens of chef/owner-driven restaurants from mobile operators to classic interpretations to concept properties, there's a whole lot going here.  Durham is not a place of hubris, but suffice it to say that there really is a little bit of most every kind of food available here.  Diversity is a well-earned local brand value, and with 77 different countries represented in the public school system it is not undeserved.

A natural pattern of market growth is playing out here, as the population is demanding more of retailers to provide them more of the ingredients they seek to create the dishes they are having in great local restaurants and about which they read in some of Durham's exciting food blogs.  After all, Durham's Farmers' Market is competing to be labeled America's favorite, The New York Times listed Durham as one of 41 places in the world to visit in 2011 largely on account of the local food scene, and chef's move here to open restaurants.  So naturally, retail was bound to follow.

Enter Reliable Cheese Company, the newest food retailer in Durham.  In case it's unclear, this place is largely a cheese shop.  Owner operator Patrick Coleff was attracted to Durham precisely because of the large and growing base of educated food consumers who either live or work here.  To shop in his store, that is filled both with product and the whispers of what more is to come soon as additional goods fill the shelves, cases and walls, is to feel that he is in this place deliberately.  He knows his product, loves what he does and is rather well, it seems, enamored of the people for whom he has opened his store.

Durham is also home other great specialty food retailers.  The list is considerable, but would be incomplete without mentioning the following:

Foster's Market - Formerly a chef for Martha Stewart, owner Sara Foster opened this landmark specialty food store with prepared foods, baked goods, gourmet grocery, wine, beer and candy.  It remains a staple for Durham visitors and locals alike.

Li Ming's Global Mart - A mecca for Asian specialty foods including live fish, an enormous produce section, significant groceries and housewares, as well as some typical domestic goods commonly found in regular grocery stores.

Tienda La Superior - The Latin American equivalent to Li Ming's with butchers, freshly made tortillas and grocery shelves stocked to the hilt with all manner of traditional south of the border specialty items.

Parker and Otis - Epic selection of candy, some specialty non-perishable grocery, beer, wine, prepared food, cheeses, housewares, coffee and tea.  That, and it's named in part for a dog, so how can that be bad?

Wine Authorities - largely a wine shop, this store also stocks bacon, bread, cheese, chocolates, coffee, olives, and sausages. They source locally that which they can.

Durham vehemently supports local business as a means to strengthen the local economy and keep Durham's celebrated independent businesses thriving. Local business advocacy organization Sustain-a-Bull hosts a bi-yearly event to promote the value and importance of supporting independent local business. Shop Independent Durham Week is coming up on July 3-10. For information on Shop Independent Durham Week, visit Sustain-a-Bull's website.

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