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Larry Tollen's Blog

By Larry Tollen | Broker in Durham, NC
  • The Pleasures of Living In “The Triangle” – The People and The Food

    Posted Under: General Area in North Carolina, Quality of Life in North Carolina, Shopping & Local Amenities in North Carolina  |  June 17, 2012 6:30 AM  |  658 views  |  No comments
    My wife and I met with one of our friends on Friday evening at 3 Cups in Chapel Hill. 3 Cups is a small retail store specializing primarily in wine, coffee, tea and chocolate from small farms and producers.  Their focus is on taste, quality, intimate knowledge of the source of everything on their shelves and in treating everyone involved in the transaction (the consumer, producer and their staff) fairly. Additionally twice a month they invite local farmers in to offer tasting dinners featuring locally grown foods often prepared by the farmers themselves and with our friend Alessandra’s urging we decided to meet there for dinner on Friday.

    The main purpose of our getting together with Alessandra was to pick her brain. We’re planning a trip to Italy this fall and we wanted her insights for two reasons. The first is she’s Italian and while she lives about a mile away from our own home here in Durham NC, she regularly returns to Italy to visit family as well as to study and share her knowledge of cheese making.

    We initially met Alessandra about 6 years ago, through other friends Dalia and Fernando (both from Mexico) who were living here at the time getting their PhD’s in environmental science at Duke’s Universities Nicholas School of the Environment and who are now both working in Europe. A former executive chef and persistent “foodie” once I learned that Alessandra had converted her garage into a licensed cheese manufacturing facility and was producing magnificent Italian style cheeses just down the street from my home our connection was cemented.

    So we meet at 3 Cups which she’s been promoting to me for some time now and she introduces me to the featured chef/farmer Austin Genke and his wife Dani from BoxCarr Farms in Cedar Grove NC (just outside of Hillsborough NC. Let me start off by saying the meal was awesome, small plates featuring their garden fresh produce as well as pigs, eggs etc all sustainably produced on their 30 acre farm.

    Austin is an extremely talented chef, with a deft hand and a real eye for presentation and I predict it won’t be long before he opens his own restaurant. Three plates that really stood out that evening were a Smoked Pork Banh Mi with lightly pickled radish and cilantro, Homemade Spaetzle with a light tomato broth, goat cheese and greens, and an Herb Crusted braised Pork Belly with a potato puree, kale and roasted baby carrots. I did not try it but everyone else at the table seemed to like the dessert offering of a simple handmade yellow cake with fresh peaches and cream.

    Besides the food, what I enjoyed most about the evening was the eclectic group of people I got to share a meal with. One of the things I most enjoy about selling real estate here in the Chapel Hill/ Durham area is the incredible people I get to meet. Our dinner was a wonderful reminder of the pleasures to be found living in such a vibrant area with two world renown Universities just 7 miles apart (Duke and UNC) These two schools along with the Research Triangle Park (Silicon Valley East to many) and NC State University draw highly educated and fascinating people from all over the world. In addition to Alessandra we were joined by her fellow Gabi, (originally from Lebanon and a long time professor at Duke), his friend and possibly new Duke professor Ina, born in Russia, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and who now lives and works in Arizona. Austin’s wife Dani also spent part of her childhood growing up on a kibbutz in Israel. This mix made for great conversation and coupled with the fantastic food and excellent wines we indulged in a wonderful night out.

    I encourage anyone reading this who lives or is visiting the area to be sure to check out both 3 Cups and to look for and enjoy Austin and Dani’s food and to check out their blog at BoxCarr Farms

  • Live to Eat or Eat to Live Here in “the Research Triangle.”

    Posted Under: General Area in Chapel Hill, Shopping & Local Amenities in Chapel Hill, In My Neighborhood in Chapel Hill  |  June 4, 2012 12:11 PM  |  846 views  |  No comments

    It’s that time of year again where restaurants here in Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and surrounding towns strut their stuff during the Annual Triangle Restaurant Week starting today. Here’s the chance to eat great at a discount and to support our local businesses. Check them out online and start making your reservations. Triangle Restaurant Week.

    Additionally it A Southern Season Annual Sale. You can count on my going and stocking up with many of my gourmet must have supplies, salts, vinegars, oils, coffee, chocolate, wines etc. This is the big one and if you’ve never been into A southern Season in Chapel Hill’s University Mall, you need to check it out. Regardless of whether you buy anything or not, this is a must see destination for anyone whether you Live to Eat or Eat to Live.


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  • Downtown Durham Inc. - Keeping the Momentum Going!

    Posted Under: General Area in Durham, Quality of Life in Durham, Shopping & Local Amenities in Durham  |  October 9, 2011 2:37 PM  |  1,502 views  |  No comments

    Earlier this week I went and listened to William “Bill” Kalkhof speak to a group of Durham Realtors about Durham. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Bill speak before over the past few years and have  always found him to be interesting as well as informative about what’s going on here in my adopted home town of Durham, NC. This time I left the meeting really pumped up after listening to him Speak.

    Bill is one of the founding members and President of Downtown Durham Inc. a nonprofit private organization devoted to the revitalization and development and promotion of Durham’s downtown and historic district. Founded in 1993, DDI has been instrumental in Durham’s tremendous renaissance, playing a significant part in bringing about such additions as The American Tobacco Projects Phase I, II and III, the Durham Performing Arts Center, the new Ballpark, Diamond View II and III, the Durham Transportation Center and others. They have helped numerous property owners, developers, and business owners put their deals together, find the space they need and more. Guided by three basic core disctates:

    Is the project consistent with the Durham Master Plan?  Is the project a good deal for the Durham taxpayers?  Is an incentive needed?

    They have proven themselves to be an invaluable asset, often serving the role as liaison between the private sector and the City to the advantage of both.

    With economic tough times they have voluntarily given up their primary source of funding, 1% of all Durham Property Taxes which funded the trust which they used to promote, Durham, lure investors, and as incentive money when needed, yet they continue to play an active role and drawing new ventures, jobs, and creative energy to Durham. They got the momentum and their keeping it going.

    If you are interested in what’s going on here in Durham or are considering relocating or starting your business in Durham you need to check DDI out, I know you’ll be glad you did.

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  • What's going ON?

    Posted Under: General Area in Durham, Shopping & Local Amenities in Durham, In My Neighborhood in Durham  |  October 4, 2011 12:32 PM  |  1,399 views  |  No comments

    Living and working here in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina one of the things I enjoy most about my job as a Realtor is the people I get to meet and help find a good home. At heart I’m a people Technology Problems person which is why I love what I do and here in Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and Cary where I work there’s no shortage of interesting and talented people for me to meet.

    Over the summer I had the real pleasure of helping one new couple find a great house in Southwest Durham. Ashleigh’s here attending Duke and Neil left his job where he was overseeing an IT department for Deutsche bank and after taking some down time and exploring the area a little has started his own tech business theONButton. Designed to help you with your technology challenges at home or work, quickly, one on one and at very reasonable prices. Neil will come to you and either help you by teaching or if you prefer simply take care of your computer, smartphone, audio-visual, or other technology issue. He’s available by appointment 7 days a week and In less than a month he’s already getting positive reviews. I highly recommend him. You may also be interested in seeing what Neil is working on and writing about. He’s just started posting a Blog, check it out.

    In the future I plan on featuring some of my other clients and what they’re up to as I am a firm believer in both networking and in supporting local business and entrepreneurs like Neil. If you live in the Durham-Chapel Hill area and are interested in my writing about you and your business send me a message and let me know what you’re up to. Perhaps I’ll feature you here on my Blog.

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  • Show Me Your Beef or Chapel Hill a Meat Market.

    Posted Under: General Area in Chapel Hill, Quality of Life in Chapel Hill, Shopping & Local Amenities in Chapel Hill  |  May 22, 2011 12:48 PM  |  1,922 views  |  No comments
    Sorry, this isn't about UNC Fraternities, Sororities, Undergrads, Medical Students or any thing else related to college life, it's about The Meat House; Chapel Hill's newest butcher shop catering to the area's lovers of fine foods.


    I had a few spare moments yesterday and thought I'd stop in and check them out and will admit I was impressed. It's looks great, clean, contemporary and focused on customer service. The staff was friendly and the guys I spoke with behind the counter seemed to know their meat. The prices were pretty good for the quality of their products, certainly comparable to other higher end stores like Whole Foods, A Southern Season, Cliffs Meat Market and others. They had a nice selection of wines, spices, pastas and the usual upscale condiments as well as breads from Durham's Guglehopf Bakery.

    Honestly the local food scene, specifically here in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham is one of the things that convinced my wife and I to relocate here 7 plus years ago and it only continues to get better.

    The farmers market scene featuring locally grown produce, meats, eggs, dairy etc has exploded. I come across new sources for local foods of all types nearly every single month. I love getting high quality locally sourced/produced foods from local folk as passionate about their food as I am.

    Per capita I think the restaurant scene in Chapel Hill – Carrboro – Durham rivals nearly any major city in the US. As a former executive chef and someone who likes to travel, I've had the pleasure of eating numerous times at some of what are considered among the best restaurants in the country, I've eaten in NYC, DC, Napa, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Charleston and more and my local restaurants are right up there with the restaurants of any of these great food meccas.

    I keep meaning to put together a list of the top 50 restaurants in the area, but that would be a tough list to create given how many excellent places there are here and it only gets tougher as nearly every other month someplace new and exciting pops up.

    If you are a foodie and live here in the area, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what local restaurants should be listed on the Top Fifty. Feel free to leave your comments below.

  • Your Kitchen’s So Ugly Even Roaches Won’t Eat There!

    Posted Under: Shopping & Local Amenities in Chapel Hill, Home Buying in Chapel Hill, In My Neighborhood in Chapel Hill  |  March 10, 2011 3:03 PM  |  1,178 views  |  2 comments

    Do you wish you had a better looking kitchen? A kitchen that looked and functioned Modern kitchenwell, that made you happy to be in and proud to have guests over for a meal? 

    The folks at EcoLogic- Studio located in the Eastgate Shopping Center in Chapel Hill North Carolina are having an Ugly Kitchen Contest and the winner (must be located within a 30 miles radius) will receive a new

    Energy efficient BOSCH dishwasher, a total redesign of your kitchen space including full color 3-D renderings, and a gift basket full of kitchen goodies from the nationally renown, local Chapel Hill mecca A Southern Season.

    It as easy as submitting your entry on the  entry form.

    EcoLogic Studio is a collaboration between Curt Hendrickson a local builder of fine homes in the Chapel Hill, Durham, Wake and Chatham county area for many years (Magnum Fine Home Builders) and Residential Designer Ryan Edwards. Together they bring more than three decades of design build experience to bear on projects as small as doing over a bathroom to designing and building state of the art custom homes from the ground up.

    If you haven’t visited their studio located just a few steps away from Trader Joe’s in the Eastgate Shopping Center, do yourself a favor and drop in.

    If your tired of the way your kitchen looks and always dreamed of a new one, here’s your chance see just how spectacular your kitchen could be.

    As a Realtor, one of the things I most appreciate about EcoLogic is their willingness to listen to their customers particularly when it comes to budget and then quickly show them full renderings in 3D exactly what could be done working within the stipulated budget. I would recommend their services to any of my clients without reservation.

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  • Blue Skies – A Carolina Indian Summer in Chapel Hill NC

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Chapel Hill, Shopping & Local Amenities in Chapel Hill, Moving in Chapel Hill  |  September 24, 2010 1:48 PM  |  951 views  |  No comments

    I’ve been feeling a little guilty about writing about all the reasons I love living in Durham; while failing to talk about Chapel Hill which after all is where my office is located and where I spend a good part of each day. I’ve been meaning to share some of my favorite things about Chapel Hill and Carrboro but I’ve had a super busy week and the time just seemed to slip away.

    Franklin St in Chapel Hill

    I certainly can’t complain, I’ve got a new listing in Pittsboro;  that I’m feeling good about, 2 acres, and home that’s almost 3000 square feet and in decent shape for under $220,000. I think this should go pretty quickly. I started working with two new Buyer clients, one who has made an offer already that we’re negotiating. Yesterday I got a call from a client who bought a home with my help a few years ago in Carrboro. He’s inherited a small condo here in Durham that he and his sister want to sell, it’s in Woodcroft and I’m going to evaluate it on Monday. Finally I’m speaking with another past client who is discussing listing their home. This is a magnificent 14 acre country estate right outside the Chapel Hill city limits. It has a drop dead gorgeous spring fed pond and the house was custom-built to maximize the views. The surrounding properties are all larger home sites and all the neighbors are committed to green and sustainable building and lifestyles. It’s a one of a kind property and I’ll be curious as to whether they are ready to part with it yet.

    When I think of Chapel Hill, the first thing that comes to mind is the people watching.  I confess, I’ve always been someone who enjoys watching people and Chapel Hill and Carrboro are some of the best places I know of for indulging this addiction, To sit downtown on a the first day of fall with the temperatures in the high 80’s and watch all the kaleidoscope of people strolling by is truly a guilty pleasure. I have always had an optimistic view of life, and watching and overhearing all of the wonderful (and perhaps the occasional not so wonderful) people who are out and about and enjoying life, their time at UNC, the restaurants and street that line Franklin Street; just make me feel good.

    I like walking South from just outside the Morehead PlanetariumUNC Chapel Hil
    heading down Franklin towards
    Spanky’son the corner of N. Columbia and Franklin. Across the street on the south side of Franklin is one of my favorite spots The Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery. I love sitting out on their balcony on a nice day, enjoying one of their specialty brewed beers and a bite to eat and watching all the people right below. This is something I enjoying taking out-of-town guests to do. There’s a dozen or more great restaurants right along Franklin St. most with either tables outside or big windows overlooking the street, and given UNC’s Alumniand the strong connections so many of them maintain with the school, there’s no telling who you might see walk by on any given day. There are dozens of famous actors, musicians, athletes, businessmen, teachers, politicians and others who’ve either attended UNC, grew up, taught or got their start here in Chapel Hill and who return regularly to enjoy one of the premier college towns in the country.  Continue walking south and in 10 minutes or so you walk right into the town of Carrboro and a couple of minutes further brings you to one of my other favorite people watching spots, The Carr Mill Mall and Weaver St. Market.

    This is an old converted textile Mill and the heart of Carrboro. Any time the weather’s nice this is a great place to see and be seen. If I write that it’s colorful; I’d probably be guilty of understating.  Saturday morning is a great time to be here and if you are, be sure to wander down to the
    Carrboro Farmers Market  Weaver Street Market @! the Carr Mill Mall on a Saturday Morning

    For those of you who don’t already know it I’m somewhat of a Foodie, and no visit to Chapel Hill is complete without a stop by A Southern Seasonin the University Mall on Estes Drive. A Southern Season is like Zabars combined with Williams and Sonoma on steroids. Trust me if you eat food at all you’ll want to stop in here. The University Mall is worthy of a visit on it’s own. It’s not too big and there a number of really unique local stores there. This isn’t your usual generic Mall.

    Chapel Hill is definitely a strong contender for the title Biggest Small Town, it absolutely small and charming and yet for it’s size there’s a remarkable amount to do and see and enjoy and though I live in Durham, I count the proximity of Chapel Hill and Carrboro among the many benefits my wife and I by making our home here.

    Want more information about Chapel Hill Click Here for Carrboro use this Link  

    To search for real estate that's currently available for sale in either Chapel Hill or Carrboro Click Here 

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