Iris restaurant inside the North Carolina Museum of Art

My kids couldn’t join me on my trip to Raleigh and Fayetteville, North Carolina, for the Midwest Travel Writers Association conference. But, I’m trying to get as many ideas from my travels–and tastes–as I can to bring back and try with them.

Here are just a few from my stop at Iris, the North Carolina Museum of Art‘s restaurant where I had lunch. The seasonal menu had plenty of tempting dishes, but I always try to choose something I can’t do at home, so I went for the risotto. From the menu: farro piccolo risotto, lemon, thyme, dijon parmigiano-reggiano cheese garlic sauteed broccolini crispy fried leeks.

Whew, what does that translate to on your plate? A whole grain cooked like risotto, generously doused with Parmesan cheese, fresh lemon and hints of thyme and mellow dijon mustard. To the side, the tender broccolini, slightly cooked in butter and garlic, all topped off with thinly sliced, fried leeks (think gourmet French’s fried onions).

At home: I’m going to try using whole wheat berries more in savory dishes. My kids grind wheat berries for flour, but I’ve been meaning to try them

Farro risotto

toasted then tossed into salads. Maybe one of these days I’ll even try making them into risotto…

For dessert at the NCMA (you didn’t think I was going to skip it, did you?) I had the apple tarte

tatin with roasted cinnamon ice cream. Presented in deep white bowl with a web of spun sugar, the combination of warm apples and cool cinnamon paired perfectly. Now, if I were to try spun sugar at home, I’d like set off all the fire alarms with the smoke I’d create trying to get the cooked sugar to that just-right temperature where it was melted, but not burned.

At home: For all the flavor of this dish, without all the work, you could peel then saute apple slices in butter and sprinkle them with a little fresh lemon and cinnamon before serving. Instead of making cinnamon ice cream from scratch, soften vanilla bean ice cream until you can stir in ground cinnamon (I’d throw in a little nutmeg and a hit of cayenne too). Then you can either re-freeze the ice cream or serve it just after you mixed in the spices. Place the ice cream atop the sauteed apples and in lieu of the more dramatic spun sugar, my thought is to dress up each individual portion with a cinnamon stick.

Apple tarte tatin

Your turn: do you have a family favorite dish (or dessert) inspired by one of your travels?

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