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I sadly announce that I’m moving to California soon, and so must retire the MagiesNoms food blog. I will leave the blog up indefinitely, however I will not be updating it any more. As a result, most likely comments may take several months to get approved.

Looking back at my food experiences in the Triangle, I have to say it’s been some of the best and most diverse food I’ve been able to experience. I think the Indian food in this area has been exceptional, with Tower Indian still topping my list as the best vegetarian Indian buffet around. I had never tried Czech food until I found Klara’s, which ended up being one of my favorite restaurants. I’m still looking for a new place to find fried brie in the South Bay area. The sushi around here, though far from the ocean, was still pretty good. Yuri was always my go-to sushi joint for quality, while Orchid in Raleigh was great for when I just wanted to gorge myself on as much Japanese food as possible.  I remember a lot of great Thai lunches at Tom Yum Thai, and decent Korean food at more than a few different restaurants in the area. But the best meal I had in the Triangle was at Second Empire. Everything from the atmosphere, service and food were perfect.

I regret there are still a lot of restaurants I haven’t tried, a lot of breweries and wineries I haven’t visited, and a lot of sights I never got to see. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to North Carolina, but it truly was my home for 6 years, and I’ll miss it terribly.

The Pit in Raleigh

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Free Biscuits and Hushpuppies

I made a reservation for 6pm on a Sunday, and we showed up a bit early because traffic to Raleigh that day was pretty decent. I took advantage of the free valet parking out front. Because we arrived about 15 minutes early, they couldn’t seat us right away, so we got a little buzzer to hold on to ’til our table was ready. I didn’t mind waiting, but it would be nice if there was any kind of waiting area. It wasn’t really nice enough to stand outside, and other than that thin hallway from the door to the greeter, it’s hard to stand anywhere without being on someone’s lap. At least they were able to serve us slightly before 6pm.

We were seated near a window, so there was a good amount of sunlight and it didn’t seem as crowded as in the center of the restaurant. However it was still very noisy at that side of the restaurant, though I don’t think there was probably any table that would have been quiet and calm.

The beer specials didn’t seem all that special, since the $3 beers are served in tiny, 10 oz. cups. I went for the 20 oz. Mother Earth Dark Cloud which is a pretty good beer, but still pretty pricy at $7.

Chopped BBQ with Coleslaw and Sweet Potato Fries

Chopped BBQ with Coleslaw and Sweet Potato Fries

I ordered the chopped BBQ dinner with coleslaw and sweet potato fries, my son ordered the kid’s chicken fingers, and my husband had a really tough time deciding on what to get. All the sides were very high-carb things like potatoes, and even things like coleslaw have a bit of sugar in them. He usually orders something like green beans, broccoli or a side salad at most restaurants, but unfortunately none of those options were available at The Pit. He finally ordered the coleslaw and grilled veggies, knowing he probably wouldn’t be able to eat the whole servings of either.

The service seemed really attentive, with servers constantly refilling glasses or asking us if we needed anything. We were given a basket of hot biscuits and hush puppies to snack on. I really liked the biscuits. They fell apart because they were so flaky, but they tasted delicious. I didn’t like the hushpuppies nearly as much. They were small and round, not like the oblong hushpuppies I’m used to seeing, and they tasted tough and rubbery in the middle. My son seemed to really like them though.

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Combo Double – Chopped BBQ and Beef Brisket with Coleslaw and Grilled Vegetables

Our plates came out huge and full of hot, delicious smelling food. The kid’s portion was way too much for a 7-year-old.  I thought the chopped BBQ was a little dry without sauce, so I added both the sauces to make it a bit juicier. It was pretty good BBQ, better than the average take-out place, but not the best BBQ I’ve ever had. The coleslaw was pretty good, though I would have liked more of it. The sweet potato fries were okay, but they weren’t as crispy or good as the ones at Tribeca Tavern or Spirits. There were also a lot of “scraps” underneath when I got done with the fries.

My husband thought his BBQ and brisket were really great. He liked it even better than The Pig in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately he didn’t really eat much of his sides. The coleslaw was noticeable sweet to him, and the grilled veggies weren’t particularly appetizing. Small slices would have been okay, but there were huge chunks of onion, bell pepper, squash and green onion that would have to be cut several times to fit in your mouth. I think the grilled veggies would have been a lot better in bite-sized pieces.

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Kid’s Chicken Fingers with Fries

My son did his best to eat his fries and chicken fingers, but didn’t even make it 1/3 of the way through. We ended up taking his entree home, as well as the leftover hushpuppies, so he could eat those tomorrow. At least this type of food heats up well the next day.

The dinner prices aren’t all that great for BBQ. I guess I’m just used to the smaller, roadside BBQ places, but $13 for a plate of chopped BBQ and $19 for a combo plate seemed a bit expensive to me. Even $6 is as much as we pay for a kid’s meal at Herons, we’re used to the Tribeca prices of $5 for the entree, kid’s drink and dessert. I figure there are any number of BBQ places in the area that offer similar quality food for cheaper prices, so I don’t know if there’s a need to return here in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I think the food and service were great. I just don’t think that the Pit offers anything above and beyond your average BBQ place for their prices.

The Pit on Urbanspoon

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Atkins has had their bars and shakes out for a while, but as far as an easy,microwavable meal for the low-carb dieters, there really hasn’t been much. Lean Cuisine has one entree that’s low-carb (steak tips portobello) but it’s a relatively untapped market. Finally Atkins has filled this niche with their microwaveable frozen entrees. My husband, who has been on the Ketosis diet for 6 months now, has long-awaited a frozen entree that he would be able to prepare easily at work, but fills him up in a way the Lean Cuisine didn’t.

The Atkins frozen entrees were found in the freezer aisle, near the Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Smart Ones frozen entrees. My local Kroger has only gotten in 5 varieties of Atkins frozen meals so far. At $3.29 for the breakfast portions and $3.99 for the lunch/dinner portions, it was a bit more expensive than most of the other frozen entrees. Luckily I’ve been saving my coupons from the Atkins bar boxes, so I was able to save a dollar off one.

The local Wal-Mart had about 8 different kinds, and at $3.48 they’re a bit cheaper than at Kroger. However I don’t really get around to Wal-Mart very much, as it’s further away from me than any of the nearby grocery stores. I’m hoping other grocery stores like Food Lion and Harris Teeter will start carrying the Atkins frozen meals soon.

Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo


The portion size seemed good for lunch, 330 calories and 26g of protein, enough to fill me up until dinner. The chicken is much better than the chicken I find in Lean Cuisine entrees, as it seemed less processed and more like actual chicken meat. The broccoli florets came out perfectly cooked, not mushy. I found one large, long stem, but the rest was all nice, green florets. Overall the flavor was very good, but it was noticeably salty. I looked on the nutritional information and it said there was 1070 mg of sodium, 45% of your daily amount. I think they would have been fine cutting the amount of sodium in half, since the broccoli and chicken seemed good quality and flavorful. I hope in the future they are able to cut down the sodium levels in their frozen entrees, as my husband has tried a few more than I have at this point, and says it’s a consistent problem.

Crustless Chicken Pot Pie

Crustless Chicken Pot Pie

The Crustless Chicken Pot Pie wasn’t as salty as the Chicken Alfredo, but at 880 mg of sodium it was still pretty salty. I didn’t really like the flavor of the cream sauce, as it was fairly bland. It seems they replaced potatoes in this dish with cauliflower, and I’m not a huge fan of cauliflower. The chicken was good, but with as much cauliflower as there was, I probably wouldn’t get this entree again.

Farmhouse-Style Sausage Scramble

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At 370 calories, this seemed a bit heavy for breakfast, so I ate it for lunch instead. This is my least favorite of the Atkin’s entrees I’ve tried so far. Again, it’s far too salty, and at 43% of your daily sodium allowance you can’t even eat 3 Atkins frozen entrees a day without totally overdoing the salt. The peppers were mushy, the eggs and cheese were rubbery, and I would never eat it again.

Beef Merlot


The Beef Merlot is probably one of my favorites so far, since the cuts of beef are very tender and the sauce is so flavorful. It’s still on the salty side, but at least it doesn’t have as much salt as the Chicken Alfredo or the Farmhouse Scramble. Because of the 6 minute total cooking time, the broccoli came out more mushy than it was in the other chicken dishes I’ve tried. Also, because the beef is so fatty, the portion size seemed really small compared to the chicken dishes. At 310 calories I should have felt more full, but I felt like I didn’t really eat a full meal with this one.

Meatloaf with Portobello Mushroom Gravy

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The meatloaf meal smells strongly like dogfood and didn’t come out looking very appetizing. Thankfully the meatloaf didn’t taste as bad as it smelled, and I still liked it better than the Farmhouse Scramble. The sodium level in this entree is a bit lower than the other Atkins meals, with only 640mg, 27% of your daily allowance. So at least with this one, you could eat 3 a day and not go over. I didn’t particularly like the veggies in this one, as they came out pretty overcooked. I don’t like cauliflower or zucchini much to begin with, so being cooked to mush made them even more unappetizing. The green beans were almost non-existant; I think I found 3 and they were terribly overcooked. My husband said this was his least favorite of all the Atkins frozen meals we’ve tried so far, so we probably won’t get it again.

Roast Turkey Tenders with Herb Pan Gravy

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The Atkins turkey meal is similar to the one Lean Cuisine makes, except the turkey portion in the Atkins is significantly larger, and Atkins doesn’t have the cranberries in their green beans. Because this frozen entree is only cooked for a total of 5 minutes instead of 6 like some of the others, the green beans don’t come out overly rubbery or mushy. The red pepper pieces don’t really seem to add anything to the dish though. I’m wondering if they could put some small, unsweetened pieces of cranberries instead of red peppers, if that could add some flavor without adding too many carbs. The cuts of turkey were decent, very similar to the ones in Lean Cuisine. Overall it seemed like a decent meal, and even though it had 35% of your daily salt intake, it didn’t seem overly salty like some of the other entrees. Maybe I’m just getting used to really salty meals. I’d probably get this one again; I like turkey and it was more filling than the Lean Cuisine version.

Italian Sausage Primavera

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I actually liked this one quite a bit, and I don’t normally eat a whole lot of sausage or cauliflower. The cauliflower seemed better suited for this dish, and the other veggies didn’t get to mushy either. The sausage was a bit greasy, but it had a lot of good spices in it. The Romano cheese sauce was also quite flavorful, and complimented the sausage and vegetables well. It’s a bit lower on protein and higher in fat than some of the other entrees, but if you’re on the Keto diet that shouldn’t matter much to you. The sodium levels in this one were still quite high, 38% of the average adult’s intake, and I think they could take away some of that salt and it’d still be a flavorful entree.

Tex-Mex Scramble


I had low expectations with this one after trying the Farmhouse Scramble. I think reheated eggs are just going to be hard or rubbery no matter what. This one had a better smell coming out of the microwave though, like spicy peppers and sausage. I liked the sausage in this one, and the meal did end up having a slightly better flavor than the Farmhouse Scramble. Unfortunately the egg texture is just unredeemable. This entree is also one of the highest in sodium I’ve ever seen, with 1150mg of sodium (48% of your daily intake). Additionally it has 420mg cholesterol, 140% of your daily intake. I’m in pretty good shape now and I’m sure one entree isn’t going to kill me, but the fact that they are putting this entree out for dieters out there, who probably have problems with cholesterol or sodium, is just plain irresponsible. Atkins should be ashamed of themselves for allowing it to get past the R&D phase.

The Verdict

So far the Atkins frozen meals are just plain hard to find, as they only seem to sell them at Wal-Mart and one Kroger that I’ve seen. Their price point is a bit higher than Lean Cuisine, putting them at a disadvantage. I think unless someone is on the Atkins or Ketosis diets, they would probably go for something cheaper. Additionally, the high salt in nearly all of these meals is just adding fuel to the opinion that the low-carb diet is unhealthy. These entrees really didn’t need that much salt in them, and the cholesterol in the single Tex-Mex Scramble was just obscene.

I’d like for Atkins to ditch the eggs, since they’re never going to turn out well reheated, and instead focus on some other light meat entrees with veggies on the side. I’d love to see an entree that’s mostly brocolli, with some cubed ham and a bit of cheese sauce. Or maybe some fish entrees, like miso salmon with edamame, or tilapia with grilled peppers and onions. I think they should also try hard to keep the sodium levels for each entree below 33% of your daily recommended values. It’s really in their best interest to keep the entrees healthy enough for their customers to safely consume 3 frozen meals a day.

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Klara’s broke my heart and finally closed down their Cary location. We showed up to the Cary building the Sunday before last and they were taking out the artwork. We were told to head up Hillsborough St. to the Raleigh location. It’s about a 15 minute drive from Cary, and being so close to campus, the parking was difficult. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try and park on a weekday.

Cabbage and Kielbasa Soup

Cabbage and Kielbasa Soup

This location is smaller than the building they had in Cary, just a long, thin room. It’s pleasantly decorated though, with dim lighting in the evening. I was happy to see the waitress from the Cary location had transferred over to Raleigh. She recognized us, complimented my husband on his weight loss, and made us feel as welcome at this location as the old one.

The menu is slightly different now. Instead of the fried brie appetizer I normally order, they had a fried brie & mozzarella dish on the menu. The waitress told me she could request just brie for me, so I was able to get two pieces of brie as I normally have. I asked about a wine to pair with it, and I was told they were having a house wine special of a bottle of chardonnay for $12, so I got a whole bottle for myself. I also got a bowl of the soup of the day, which happened to be cabbage and kielbasa, one of my favorites. My husband ordered the spicy pork cutlet with grilled veggies, and also got the soup.

Fried Brie

Fried Brie

The soup was as good as always. The kielbasa pieces are a bit smaller than what I make in my soup at home, and they’re not grilled first, but my husband still likes Klara’s soup better than mine.

Our entrees were just as awesome as in the Cary location. Though the cranberry compote serving is a bit smaller than it used to be, the fried brie is still heavenly. The Tisdale chardonnay was decent for being such a cheap wine, and went fine with the brie. I would have preferred a more buttery chardonnay, but for $12 a bottle at a restaurant, you can’t beat the price.

Spicy Pork Cutlet with Grilled Vegetables

Spicy Pork Cutlet with Grilled Vegetables

My husband’s pork cutlet was really good. It was a messy entree, but he said it was even better than the pork schnitzel that he used to get.

Klara’s is still one of my favorite restaurants for its wonderful food and service, even at its new Hillsborough location. However, the lack of parking and the distance from our house means we’ll not be able to visit this Klara’s as much as the old one. I hope someday in the future, they can find a nice cheap spot in Cary and move back closer to me. I’d love to be able to get take-out fried brie on a regular basis again.

Klara's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Herons in Cary


I’ve been to Herons twice now, once for a romantic dinner with my husband, and once for Sunday brunch with the family. I didn’t do a review of my first dinner here, as my pictures turned out very dark, and I was a bit unsure of how to review the restaurant. My first impressions were that it was overly expensive, and the food was too “frou frou”, overly decorated without the flavor to back it up. The service was spectacular though, making it one of those “special occasion” restaurants where you care more about the person you’re with than the food.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

Peanut Butter Smoothie

I decided to come back for the Sunday brunch as the prices are more reasonable, and I figured they’d skip things like foam and fancy shaped crackers on top. They even have a kid’s menu for brunch, so I didn’t need to get a babysitter.

I made a reservation for 11am on a Sunday. I’m not sure if I needed a reservation for brunch or not, but I figured with Herons, it can’t hurt. Our coats were taken at the entrance, and we were promptly seated near a window so we could see the outdoor eating area. Someday when it’s nice weather in NC I need to come back here and eat with a view of the woods.



Scones and Bread

Scones and Bread

My son immediately picked the pancakes to eat, since that’s what he eats at every restaurant that serves breakfast. At $6 it was decently priced, for Herons. My husband picked the Steak & Eggs, since he’s still on the low-carb diet and that’s just about all he could eat. It took me a really long time to decide, but I finally picked the Pecan Crusted French Toast, and the Fruit Plate appetizer for us all to share.

The waiter brought out tiny shot-glasses of what he called a “peanut butter smoothie” for us to try. I remembered this from the last time we were here, I guess the chef likes to give out samples of new things to try. I wasn’t particularly thrilled by it, my husband couldn’t eat his (carbs) and my son didn’t like his. I ate all 3 since I didn’t mind it, but I certainly wouldn’t have ordered it.

Kid's Pancakes

Kid’s Pancakes

We also got some free bread and scones. The waiter explained that the bread was from La Farm Bakery, and the scones were made in-house. Honestly, I liked the scones best, and I ended up eating two of them. But I always liked La Farm’s pastries better than their bread anyhow.

The entrees took quite a while to come out, but since it’s not really a diner, I wasn’t expecting super-fast service. All the entrees and the fruit plate were served at the same time, on very large, square plates, so there was hardly any room left on the table. The plates were big, but mostly bare, typical Herons style.

Steak & Eggs

Steak & Eggs

My son’s pancakes were at least served somewhat normally, with two nice round pancakes on a nice round plate, maple syrup on the side. With the butter from the bread, and pouring on all the maple syrup, he actually ate both pancakes. He did mention they weren’t as good as IHOPs, but he’s 7 so I wouldn’t trust his judgement. I think they looked beautiful and I’m sure they tasted just as wonderful, but he wouldn’t let me try any.

My husband’s entree was more “potato cake” than “Steak & Eggs”, but being on a diet, he didn’t complain too much. At least with the eggs and steak it was all protein and fat, no carbs, and he said it was very good. But he couldn’t eat the potato cake at all, and he gave it to me to eat. It was good, but far too rich and too big, and even I couldn’t eat all of it. Perhaps they could give a bit more steak and cut that potato cake in half. For $22 I would expect more than two tiny slices of steak.

Pecan Crusted French Toast

Pecan Crusted French Toast

I loved my French toast, and I thought everything about it, even the little smudge of marmalade on the lower left side of the plate, was delicious. For $12 I thought I definitely got the best deal on an entree here.

The Fruit Plate, since it was served with the entrees, was mostly overlooked and eaten mostly after the main food was done. For $11 I thought it was pretty bare, probably not more than 1/2 lb. fruit total, and could have used some more berries and less melon. I probably wouldn’t get it again.

Fruit Plate

Fruit Plate

Overall I think that brunch is definitely the best deal you’re going to get at Herons, since they do try more to make your food taste good instead of just look good. I was generally unimpressed with the dinner presentation and would choose Second Empire over Herons for any sort of date/anniversary/special occasion. However if you’re going to be at the Umstead anyway for a hotel stay or a nice relaxing day at the spa, then certainly the food here is going to be convenient. Just expect the meal to be all about service and presentation, because the meal will not fill you up or compare to the flavors to be had at other high-end restaurants in the area.



Herons on Urbanspoon

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