Valentine’s Day Picks For Food Lovers In the Triangle!

Impress the one you love this Valentine’s day with a special dinner out or at home!

Il Palio – Chapel Hill

Chef Teddy Diggs shares his special al a carte menu, plus a few special recipes if you’re planning to stay in and surprise that special someone.

Forgo the hothouse flowers and store-bought chocolates this year. Nothing says romance like the savory flavors and decadent desserts haling from the heartland of Italy. Chef Teddy Diggs’ braised lamb meatballs begin with a simple base that you can personalize with creative garnishes suited to your sweetheart’s tastes. At Il Palio, Chef Teddy tops this recipe with cheeses – such as fresh ricotta, smoked pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano – or a dash of basil, gremolata, extra virgin olive oil and toasted pines nuts. You can pair with creamy polenta, rich and buttery potatoes or your favorite pasta.

For the final moment, Chef’s olive oil cake captures the quintessential elements of regional Italian cooking by pairing the sweet flavors of cake with the savory tang of extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Served in perfectly sharable portions, this indulgent construction leaves a lingering sweet finish to cap off what will undoubtedly be a memorable Valentine’s eve.

3Il Palio - Braised Lamb Meatballs (3)

 Braised Lamb Meatballs


4 pounds ground lamb

4 whole eggs

¾ cup whole milk

3 cups panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons black pepper, fresh and course ground

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus ¼ cup to finish the plate

1 tablespoon crushed red chili flakes

2 Spanish onions, small diced

4 celery ribs, small diced

2 large carrots, small diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 whole sprig fresh rosemary

2 whole sprigs fresh thyme

2 quarts (or as desired) basic tomato sauce

½ cup loosely packed mint


Place ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Once the oil has come to temperature (when it shimmers or glistens), add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Sautee the ingredients, stirring frequently so the vegetables do not brown. After approximately 10 minutes, the vegetables will have become soft and will smell delicious. Add chili flakes and black pepper to toast. Cook for approximately one more minute. Turn off the heat and allow the vegetables to cool in the pan. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprig, though the leaves that came off during the cooking process can remain in the pan.

In a large bowl combine the milk, eggs, breadcrumbs and remaining salt. Add the ground lamb and cooled vegetable mixture and combine with your hands until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Cover the meatball mixture and place in the refrigerator until chilled.

Roll the meat mixture into desired size. (This recipe yields about 36 meatballs for Il Palio.) Sear the meatballs in a large pot with ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. The meatballs should achieve a rich brown crust. Add your tomato sauce and a bit of water and allow the meatballs to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add chopped mint just before serving

Garnish as desired and serve! Eat! Enjoy!


2Olive Oil Cake (2)

Olive Oil Cake


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 ¼ cups whole milk

3 eggs

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

½ cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup Grand Marnier


Heat the oven to 350° F.

Lightly oil cake mold(s) with extra virgin olive oil.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, two hours.

Let Chef Diggs cook for you! Check out this special menu and make a reservation for Valentine’s Day.

Tupelo Honey Cafe – Raleigh

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Tupelo Honey Cafe at Raleigh’s Cameron Village is offering a two specials from Feb. 12-14: A fried chicken supper plate with a glass of champagne for $20 or two fried chicken supper plates, a shared dessert and one bottle of champagne for $55. To make a reservation, call 919-723-9353.

Blu Seafood and Bar – Durham

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Blu Seafood and Bar in Durham is offering a three-course meal for $55 per person. Choose from a variety of menu items including oysters, crab claws, carpaccio, salmon, shrimp and grits, key lime pie and so much more! Check out the full menu here and make a reservation online.