Featured Participants

Poole’s Diner with An Approach to Relaxation

An Approach to Relaxation

While Richard Betts was catching lizards & crashing bikes in the desert, Carla Rzeszewski was wrangling horses & waves in California. Who knew they’d someday collide in a flurry of light, rivaling Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as the finest accomplices to roam the land?  Their paths took them separately through all sorts of twists & turns; Carla to NYU for acting & Richard nearly became an attorney (that would have been very bad.) Anyways, eventually they figured out that you can have a damn fine time (& make a living!) throwing a good party, thus, they found their way to wine. Carla served the stuff up at some tony joints in NYC for a while, while Richard found the dearth of oxygen & excess of disposable income in Aspen more suitable to his wine service.

Then, on one hot, muddy & muggy afternoon they found themselves in the same park at the same time &, well, Carla was wearing this hot pink tank top & pouring excessive quantities of sherry, & that was it. Boom. They were on their way to the sun.  After banging around the solar system for a while they realized they needed gas money or at least a break on the wine, so they asked themselves ‘how do we make our own supply from which to get high?’ Whelp, turns out they both love the same wines & Richard had a little experience making this & that, so they headed to OZ to make some dee-lish hooch, & that’s what this site is all about.

After a long academic journey that included a BS, an MS and nearly a JD, Richard Betts finally found his way to his real love: Vino. While traveling in Italy, he fell in love with the country’s dining tradition and came to regard wine “as a grocery and not a luxury.” He was the wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen from 2000 to 2008. In the spring of 2003, Richard passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, the ninth person ever to do so. He co-founded his first wine label Betts & Scholl in 2003 and also co-founded Scarpetta Wines and “cc:” Wines. Today, Richard is guiding his highly-regarded mezcal project, Sombra, as well as this wine project which includes “Saint Glinglin” from Bordeaux and “my ESSENTIAL” from California and Provence. Richard is also the author of The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, a kids’ book for adults.

This is it – if you had to have one and only one, this is the one it should be. Making good on our mantra of “wine as a grocery, not a luxury”, we’re producing extraordinary wines that can be, and frankly, ought to be, consumed every day. In each case, we’re looking for the essence of the place and expressing it in an ultra delicious wine. So far, we’re doing a red and a rosé that we LOVE; after all, that’s the point. Heck, if you won’t drink it, we’re prepared to drink it all so we might as well make it how we like it. We’re also exploring other ”essential” ideas around the world so who knows what is to come.



Poole’s Diner

"Life is short, eat dessert first." John Poole may have taken Winston Churchill's words to heart when he opened Poole's Pie Shop in 1945. For six years the cozy spot was a veritable holy grail of pies - all sweet - but soon their patrons wanted more. In the early 1950's, "chicken slick," sandwiches, and a daily "hot plate" made their way onto the Poole's menu, and the line to be served wrapped around the corner. The pie shop moved out, as Poole's Pies became Poole's Luncheonette, and a downtown hot-spot was born. In its latest incarnation Poole’s Diner has returned to its diner roots under the ownership of Chef Ashley Christensen.  Marrying a clean aesthetic with retro-chic charm, Christensen restored and highlighted the “bones” of the original restaurant, including the double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes, pairing it with modern elements like Lucite chairs, and oversized blackboard menus that change daily based on season and availability.

http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/badaily/ashley-christensen-pooles-diner.jpgSince making Raleigh her home, Chef Ashley Christensen has sought to foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood. Ashley began cooking during college, throwing dinner parties for her friends and family.  These intimate gatherings helped her recognize her passion for cooking and sharing food, and ultimately led to her first professional cooking job at the age of 21. Upon taking the position, she knew she had found her life’s work. After working in some of the Triangle’s top kitchens, Ashley opened Poole’s Diner in 2007, which takes its name and décor from the building’s original tenant--one of downtown Raleigh’s first restaurants.  The shotgun space offers an evolving chalkboard menu of comfort-food classics, re-imagined through a philosophy of locally grown, seasonal ingredients and French-influenced technique.

When she’s not in the kitchen, Ashley focuses her time on a number of local and regional charities. She has served as a board member of the Frankie Lemmon Foundation and a co-chair of its annual fundraising event, Triangle Wine Experience. She has also served on the board of Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. She is an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and founded the biannual event Stir the Pot, in which she hosts visiting chefs in Raleigh to raise funds for the SFA’s documentary initiatives.

Ashley’s work has gained national attention from such publications as Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The New York Times, Southern Living and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’sYour Business.

In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” Her first cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, will was released by Ten Speed Press in September 2016 to accolades from the New York Times.


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