Sing it with me, y’all: “Santa Claus … oops, I mean Rachael Ray … is comin’ to townnn.” She has a new cookbook out, Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book, and she will sign copies at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at the Barnes & Noble at Cary Commons (760 SE Maynard Road, 467-3866). In lieu of tickets, store staff will begin handing out 500 numbered braceletslimit one per adultat noon.

The Franklin Hotel (311 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 442-4091, will host a breakfast to coincide with the 2008 Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade Saturday, Dec. 13. You can dine on muffins, granola, eggs, etc., and watch the parade from the balcony. Breakfast will be served 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. (The parade begins at 10 a.m.) Cost is $25 per adult, $15 for those ages 7-18 and free for the under-6 set; reservations are required.

Here are two ways to combine holiday fun with buying local. First, The Regulator Bookshop (720 Ninth St., Durham, 286-2700, hosts Local Crafts and Food Weekends at their downstairs digs, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Christmas. The food vendors scheduled to sell their wares are Chapel Hill Creamery (Dec. 6 and 13), Locopops (Dec. 13), Ninth Street Bakery (Dec. 13-14), Artisan Cupcakes (Dec. 14) and Dolly Mama Handmade Chocolates (Dec. 14, 20-21).

And here’s something a little different from your average holiday outing: How about touring a working gristmill? We have one! (I never knew.) Yates Mill (4620 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh, 856-6675, is “a fully restored, circa 1756 gristmill” and “is the only restored operational automatic mill in North Carolina and one of just a few in the country.” It’s open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to sunset for tours, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, it’s selling stone-ground corn mealground right there on the premisesalong with other mill-abilia.

Congratulations to Apex-based Pepper Dog Salsa (, whose medium salsa recently won a first place “Scovie” award in the all-natural salsa category in the 2009 Fiery Food and Barbecue Contest in Albuquerque, N.M. (The Scovies, according to this nice press release I have in my hand, recognize the top fiery food products from around the globe. They’re named for Wilbur Scoville, who pioneered a rating scale for spicy foods that has become the industry standard for excellence among tongue-torching aficionados.) Pepper Dog’s products are available in 30 states, including ours.

Mad props also go out to The Fearrington House Country Inn and Restaurant (2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, 542-2121,, which not only earned its 15th consecutive AAA Five Diamond Award recently, but also became a Certified Green Restaurant (CGR). It is the only entity to win both.

A national not-for-profit organization, The Green Restaurant Association (, dictates that CGRs use a comprehensive recycling system for all products accepted by local recycling companies and eliminate polystyrene products, among other steps. Fearrington keeps its own bees, hosts a farmers’ market, and harvests vegetables, fruits and herbs from its own gardens.

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