Tag Archive: Reviews

Restaurant Review: Sugarland Bakery and Dessert Cafe

Next stop, Sugarland.

The last two weeks before spring break is always blended with excitement, and then depression when students learn how much work is required before that last toll of the Bell Tower releases them. Balancing school, work and my visiting brother eager to bar hop during my mid-term week, was too much of a conglomeration of priorities. To say I was burned out and overwhelmed is a slap in the face of subtlety.

My brother is spending his spring break away from Burlington, Vermont, a place deprived of real hamburgers, and fixed with chicken byproducts mashed into a nugget formation. Sweets are decked in dark chocolate, sugarcoated with organic flour but lack the essence of satisfaction.

He escaped with a goal to enjoy North Carolina’s version of baked goods and winter temperatures. Early in the morning we set out on our adventure for good coffee and warm croissants.

Still being a newbie to the Franklin Street food venue, I had no idea where good coffee, not commercially grown or tasting of tar could reside. As the days reel by, I find myself craving a bit of chocolate; the bitterness of endless papers and taxing midterms boiling my brain into submission, eager to enjoy the taste of caffeine.

After walking a few feet on Franklin Street, my brother suggested several places before stopping at Sugarland, it seemed a quiet sample of European chic and Starbucks appeal, and we were hooked.

Walls decorated in robin’s egg blue and curtains draped in a subtle checkered pattern welcome guests to a cozy square of large, furnished mahogany tables and two glass boxes housing gelato on one side and cannolis, pastries and cakes in another.

The unsuspecting college student may not have time to process the depth to this place — the convenience of sugared treats wholloped in over-sized bowls, and coffee prepared in insulated containers enjoyed in round, large teacups.

The pastries are delicately flaked with crust, and the center oozes with apricot preserves. Hand-written menus scribbled in script stalk counter tops, and Splenda packets compete with sugar bowls for the interest of coffee-lovers.

Cream swirls in coffee, the cannolis are rich with cream — berry cream, and smothered with chocolate chips. The gelato melts before the container leaves the icebox and tiny baby spoons in electric yellow, peony pink and razzle blue frequent the sample section.

Martini glasses reign on shelves for decoration but are free of alcohol. The Sugarland coffee house blend is labeled as a mixture of beans from the African and Arabian regions—it is sweet with a hint of nutmeg. Beside it rests the decaf blend, warm and full to the brim, leaking, hoping to be noticed, but still the question lingers: what’s the point of decaf coffee?

We get a sample of each available sweet and take our seats, glancing out the window, happy for the unusual silence. Sugarland in time may snub the many commercially owned coffee cafes, and become a favorite among households. The slogan may be true, the South may rise again — but not until 10 a.m.

By Karen Kleimann

Oprah recommended it so it has to be good, right?

Never have I seen my family in such a frenzy over a book as when one of my cousins mentioned “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. No one in my family has ever been the type to get caught up in the hype of Hollywood trends, so it caught me off guard that the very book I watched an entire Oprah episode about was suddenly the rave of a family outing.

I figured if it’s good enough to get my uncles and aunts raving about its “life-changing” abilities, maybe I ought to give it a try. I headed over the Barnes & Noble, and picked up a little brown book with fancy lettering writing out the so very popular title, “The Secret.”

I have to admit that it took multiple attempts for me direct all of my attention into the book. At first I was too tired, later “Cashmere Mafia” was on and well… you can’t miss “Cashmere.” When I finally sat down and read the book (you can read it in several hours if you have the time and attention span) I realized that while the book itself failed to intrigue me (once they tell you The Secret, they sure don’t let you forget it), the concept behind it makes sense.

Focusing on the idea that we, by controlling our thoughts and feelings, can in turn control what happens in our life, “The Secret” enforces the importance of positive thought. While I can’t say that I agree with the author when she promises that you can get anything (yes, anything) you want through positive thought (and maybe that’s why I’m not yet a millionaire), I agree that ridding your mind of negative thoughts can assist in making life seem like more of a blessing than a burden.

If you’ve ever been curious about “The Secret,” I would recommend at least skimming through it. The propositions are valid, and reading it will pick you up if you’re feeling a little emotionally down. Even though the writing style wasn’t my favorite, it was interesting to delve into a new perspective.

By Amy Leonard

Movie Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

I’ll admit it. I get weak in the knees for chick flicks. So yes, the cover of The Jane Austen Book Club with its cute women smiling and laughing on the front cover immediately attracted me.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the plot was not some commercialized spin-off of Jane Austen’s novels. It was, in fact, an accurate portrayal of the difficult balance of giving in, and yet not giving up.

The movie is about five women who are all in very different places in their lives. They encounter problems with their significant others, and through the “gospel of Austen” they realize that maybe others aren’t the only ones to blame.

The movie’s opening scene is a series of shots of things that can go (and usually do go) wrong throughout the course of a day. Your credit card doesn’t work at the gas pump, the soda machine won’t accept your money, your coffee spills all over you while you’re driving.

Sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes things are out of our control. But, something we do have control over is our reactions. This small fact ends up changing the course of the characters’ lives by the end of the film. And maybe, it will change yours too.

If you are looking for a feel-good, uplifting movie this Valentine’s Day, watch The Jane Austen Book Club. It may just leave you wondering, “What would Jane do?”

By Anika Anand

Eat, Pray, Love: A Book of Infinite Virtues

We all know that if a book makes an appearance on Oprah then it must be good. Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love is no exception.

Divided into three sections — Italy, India, Indonesia — the book delivers just what its title suggests, gracing its readers with the affirmation that indulgence is fine, spirituality is important and love is essential.

Girly? Yes. Emotional? Yes. Cliché? No. Eat, Pray, Love engages the reader from the beginning as Gilbert briefly recounts the heart wrenching events that culminated with her year-long sabbatical. Gilbert maintains that genuine honesty and sarcastic wit throughout her memoir.

The book provides new perspective for any reader, detailing what it’s really like for a middle aged American woman to go on a “spiritual journey.” These details include insight into the absurdities of life in an ashram, the trials of learning a new language and the desperate longing to obtain that ever elusive comfort we call “love.”

She also offers quite a bit of wisdom on eastern religion, eloquently interjecting the basics on meditation and worship as well as Yogis, Buddhists and Hindus.

Just when her words start to sound a little preachy or simply too good to be true, Gilbert hits the reader with a twist of luck, a bite of sarcasm or a ridiculous travel mishap.

The fascinating individuals Gilbert encounters during her travels add warmth and sincerity to her tale. From suave Italians to Richard from Texas to a kinky medicine woman in Indonesia, Gilbert gives her story life and novelty with anecdotes provided by her characters.

The book makes a strong impression, providing comfort and hope to those in despair and inspiration to those in a slump. Far from your typical self help book, Eat, Pray, Love lures and dares readers across its pages. You will put down this book with higher self esteem, an abundance of love and a big craving for some authentic Italian food.

By Mary Lide Parker

Ballet over books

Now that the turkey is carved and the pumpkin pie is safely stored in our bellies, it is officially time to start looking forward to the holiday season.

Unfortunately, the sleigh bells and mistletoe of Christmastide coincide with a less than joyful time of year: final exams. While we all wish we could be caroling, trimming our trees, and drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), we are more likely found in the depths of Davis Library, furiously highlighting an Organic Chemistry textbook.

In order to save the diligent Carolina students from working themselves into an academic coma, I propose a study break steeped in holiday tradition.

The Carolina Ballet is performing The Nutcracker at Memorial Hall this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. General admission for adults ranges from $30-$60, but UNC students may attend for the bargain price of $10.

I know ‘tis the season for all-nighters and emotional breakdowns, but I truly believe that a few hours spent in the dream world of little Clara can bring the stress down a few necessary notches. Ballet may not be your cup of tea. But, I suggest you forget that toe-shoes are involved, especially if this is a masculinity issue, and simply enjoy a Christmas classic for what it is. This children’s story may seem juvenile to some but the talented dancers of all ages, the familiar Tchaikovsky melodies, and the beautiful costumes are sure to conjure visions of sugar plums dancing in even the most Grinch-like person’s head.

Though this review may be preemptive, I attended this production last year and do not regret a second of time that could have been used to study Econ 101. So put down your forty pound course-pack and buy your tickets online at the Carolina Performing Arts website. Happy Holidays!

By Madeleine Clark

Global warming is gathering dust

Unfortunately for the planet, the topic of global warming is already starting to put people to sleep.

On Thursday, November 8th, famous climatologist and leading expert on global climate change, Micheal Mann spoke to a packed auditorium in Carroll Hall about the causes and effects of global warming. As an ardent environmentalist, I was very excited about the talk. Michael Mann is an originator of the “hockey stick” temperature graph and is one of many scientists who share the Nobel Peace Prize recently awarded to Al Gore.

The presentation was divided into six segments including the scientific consensus, the basic principles and concepts of global warming, the observational evidence to prove that it is occurring, theory versus observations, projections of future climate change and overall impacts.

While Dr. Mann covered each segment thoroughly and concisely, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated as I heard yet again what the “greenhouse effect” is. I was president of the environmental club at my high school. I have taken three classes on environmental action. I own the movie, An Inconvenient Truth. In other words, I know why and how global warming is occurring. Please tell me something new.

I think that most people in attendance already knew or had at least heard the information Dr. Mann covered. Unless you live under a rock or choose denial as a way of life, you must know that global warming is occurring and the main contributing factor is the exponential increase of human generated CO2.

So, did I learn anything new? Yes, Dr. Mann did briefly introduce one phenomenon I have not yet heard about— geo-engineering which is essentially “engineering” our way out of the climate crisis. Instead of enforcing conservation and preservation, some scientists and politicians have suggested creating artificial devices to counteract the causes of global warming. Potential ideas include pumping excess CO2 into the bottom of the ocean, constructing “fake trees”, placing mirrors in space to reflect sunlight and seeding clouds. I agree with Dr. Mann’s remark on the issue, “I am fairly uncomfortable with this.”

Although Dr. Mann’s talk was a good general overview of the reality of global warming, I left the auditorium that evening disappointed. My biggest concern and criticism of the presentation was the absence of new information or different perspective on such a crucial topic. People are already growing immune towards the dire effects of global warming because the information is simply put on repeat sounding like a broken record.

One student summed up my thoughts as we exited the building, “We just watched An Inconvenient Truth minus Al Gore.”

By Mary Lide Parker

Plate by plate

This week at Lenoir, I have seen several different versions of Mexican cuisine served at the World Fare. While the meat morphed from greasy chicken to grainy ground beef, the same unappetizing black beans have been making a continual appearance for four straight days. Though the food may resemble the slop found in a pig trough at the State Fair, Lenoir is convenient and prepaid by our parents. We feel obligated to use up our meals and a parallel obligation to save what minimal pocket money we do have for Thirsty Thursday.

Places like Qdoba or Biski’s might be within your budget, but for those of us unwilling to part with $7, or maybe not even hungry enough for a full meal, there are few smaller items on the menu to fulfill our needs. So what can you do when you cannot stomach Barbeque Monday or Tuesday’s tequila lime shrimp wrap? Never fear Carolina students! Affordable and delicious alternatives to the daunting dining hall really do exist on Franklin Street.

Tucked behind Qdoba on Martin Luther King Blvd. is a great little place to get instant gratification for a cheap price. No, this is not a subsidiary University Massage, but a bustling sushi bar called Kurama. Though usually crowded around dinnertime, I recommend taking a seat in the central island which features a circular conveyor belt. From this vantage point, you are able to watch the sushi chef dice, chop, and roll popular specials at a frenzied pace to be placed on the belt for your convenience. You can simultaneously choose something for your palate and for your price range as the plates are color-coordinated according to cost. The pink dishes are $1, the yellow are $1.50, the pale blue are $2 and so forth and so on up to the $5 gold plate.

If you are a sushi connoisseur and prefer something above and beyond the pink-plated California roll, there are several more elaborate and pricy dishes listed on a board above the chef. The spider roll, consisting of tempura fried shrimp, spicy Japanese mayonnaise, and vegetables, is my personal favorite. Lava rolls, the UNC roll, and spicy crunchy crab are other popular dishes among veteran Kurama lovers.

For those of you who are wary of raw fish, I do not recommend this locale for your dining experience. There are soups and salads on the menu, but not enough to make a full meal out of. I also regret to inform you that the service can be quite slow once the meal is finished and you are waiting for your check. Be assertive and you should not have a problem but I do not recommend stopping by if you are on a tight schedule.

By Madeleine Clark

Revisiting a ‘Nightmare’

I’ll admit it. When “Oh my Gosh, let’s see ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ in 3-D,” hit the conversation about Friday night’s activities, I was a little weary through my excited smile. Shameful as it is to admit this, the movie horrified me as a child and the idea of facing this literal “Nightmare,” yet again, wasn’t all that appealing.

Walking into the theater, my excitement about wearing the classic “3-D glasses” took center stage, pushing my nerves aside. Nothing can evoke childhood flashbacks quite like wearing cheap, plastic glasses that make your eyes burn a little for a few hours after taking them off.

The previews were enticing. They included everything I loved about 3-D movies as a child. My friends and I sat there and swatted at the air as digital images came uncomfortably close to our faces.

Come movie time, I was prepared to endure an hour and a half of ghoulish terror. All of Tim Burton’s movies have a tendency to terrify me, “James and the Giant Peach,” included. I mean, what’s more terrifying than a giant piece of fruit and an exotic spider? Nothing in my book, no sir.

As the movie’s signature, “This is Halloween,” theme song rang out, I remembered that the tune was somewhat catchy and realized that it would be stuck in my head for a while.

Not to criticize a classic, as I understand that this could potentially be a touchy subject, but not only was the film much less terrifying than I remember it (although Jack Skellington’s face is forever sketched into my mind and therefore my nightmares, how apropos), the story itself was a lot slower than I remember. The message of course, is good. Don’t try and be someone you’re not. Jack Skellington can’t be Santa Claus. I’ll have to agree.

I looked at the clock on my cell phone several times throughout the film. I’m generally easily entertained, but this movie failed to do the trick. I will admit, some of the characters were so ridiculously absurd that I smirked a couple of times, but the amusement was short-lived.

I did however, overcome what I assumed would be a lifelong fear of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” No longer am afraid that a Halloween freak show will invade my favorite holiday.

All in all, the experience was fun, but the re-release of the movie in 3-D got a little more hype than it was worth. The 3-D glasses are always fun, but the 3-D effects in the movie weren’t nearly as impressive as the effects in the previews, which was quite a let down. No witches came flying at our faces, we didn’t have to dodge any digitally created pumpkins. Nothing.

My advice? Don’t spend eight dollars on the 3-D version of this classic. If you get the hankering for some Tim Burton, just head to Blockbuster and save a few bucks.

By Amy Leonard

Britney’s back

Pretend you didn’t know. Go right ahead. But it’s no secret that we all marked our mental calendars for Oct. 30. This date does not simply sit right before Halloween; it marked the significantly more important release date of Britney Spears’ much anticipated album “Blackout.”

If you pride yourself on your very exclusive, non-mainstream Indie Rock collection, or if you live under a pop-culture rock, you may not have properly prepared yourself for the return of the pop princess. However, in true Britney fashion, the starlet’s fifth album release came with controversy.

If the sex-filled lyrics of songs like, “Gimmie More” and “Get Naked (I Got a Plan),” aren’t enough to make your parents blush, check out the racy pictures on the inside of the CD-case. Sparking fire upon being released, pictures portray Spears flirting with what is depicted to be a priest in a confessional.

What happened to the good little girl from Louisiana, you ask? She crashed, burned, shaved her head and is officially a “baby mama” times two. Though her image is likely un-salvageable, “Blackout” proves that the talent the world fell in love with circa “…Baby, One More Time,” is still in there somewhere, beneath the tacky clothes and gaudy wigs.

So there I was, eager to cast mental judgment on Brit’s latest and what I assumed would be a train wreck of an album. In the midst of custody battles and drug allegations she couldn’t possibly have found time to provide us with a worthwhile collection on songs, right?

Popping in the CD to kick off a four hour long trip home, I was prepared to be amused, if anything. The first three words on the album rang out, “It’s Britney, bitch.”

She’s back alright. And if it isn’t already apparent, you shouldn’t expect bubble gum pop songs reminiscent of her early songs like, “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” (1999) or “Oops! …I Did It Again” (2000).

Addressing everything from her failed marriage to her poor image, “Blackout” is proof that Spears is more than apathetic about how people see her. And while some of the songs sound too much alike, if you’re one of those people who like to have personal dance parties in front of the mirror when you’re by yourself (I’ll include myself in this group) this album is perfect to dance to as it doesn’t include a single gloomy slow song.

So whether or not you want to admit it, you’re a closet Britney fan and you’re curious. Go buy it. Or at least download it. Legally, of course.

By Amy Leonard