I’ve been really enjoying Raleigh-Durham this week, despite the rain forest weather the last couple of days. It’s a beautiful part of the country and everyone is much more relaxed and friendly than my previous east-coast experiences. It harkens back to a more civilized society and an implied respect for each other and for the community that I don’t see in younger cities (like Seattle). I think I could have been happy in an ivy-league, east-coast family. 🙂

What’s really made this week feel high-brow are the evening activities, though. Tuesday night the entire group found an exclusive sushi restaurant, where we started the meal with two sushi boats as an appetizer:

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and I followed that with an excellent 70-dollar Kobe beef filet mignon. It was a cornucopia of premium-grade protein. 🙂

Wednesday night, my colleague Diana and I toured the Duke campus, pretending we were ivy league grad students getting a feel for our future alma mater. We looked around the campus grounds a bit:

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and the Duke Chapel:

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and then headed over to the Washington Duke Inn at the Duke University Country Club for a delicious upper-class dinner experience. It was an awesome evening filled with class and old-world traditions, with gracious servers, real china and silver, and a sweeping view of the golf course grounds just outside. We felt like Kennedys all night and the meal was excellent, from the amuse bouche (a slice of braised duck and a fresh fig in a raspberry brandy sauce) to the cr?®me br?ªl?©e and lemon verbena ice cream (which i recommend you look for) at dessert. We took these classy heirloom photos on the way out in one of the maze of lobbies and sitting rooms, amidst busts of the generations of Duke men and pictures of them having lunch with JFK, and then tipped the valet and made our way back to our middle-class lives.

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I fly back to Seattle tomorrow morning, leaving the classic elegance of the southeastern seaboard and the unfortunate Miami-like weather, and returning to the land of overly-casual dining and an unnatural fear of dress codes. The next time I’m entertaining my visiting family at one of Seattle’s most upscale and impressive locales and the patrons next to us are wearing sweatpants, I’ll remember Raleigh, Chapel Hill and the Duke family and the rare corners of American society that still treat dining out as something special.