by Brian Clarey

Just as things start slowing down in the Triad restaurant biz, a few items worth mentioning get on my radar.

Sam’s Old Fashioned Meat Market on Summit Avenue, which has long been my favorite place in town for steaks, has been sold, and the original owner, Sam himself, has set up a new, bigger shop near the corner of Holden and Vandalia roads. Expect a report soon.

Noble’s has brought back Chef Phil’s famous gumbo, made with crawfish and andouille, perfect for these chilly days.

The Popcorn Fanatic has opened near Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, featuring all manner of kettle corn, including their signature flavor Sweet Cheeses.

For some reason, the US Commerce Association keeps on sending me the announcement that Cincy’s Downtown, the fabulous Cincinnati chili joint in Greensboro, has again won a Best of Greensboro Award. Stop by and see for yourself why.

McDonald’s will be adding oatmeal to its breakfast menu in January.

And Whole Foods Market in Winston- Salem continues its 12 Tastes of Christmas event, with sales, tastings and samplings, through Sunday.

All weekend long, the Grove Winery celebrates Wine Release Weekend, featuring its award-winning 2009 merlot.

And Total Wine & More tastes Bordeaux at all three Triad locations on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, Greensboro’s Fresh Market holds a (semi) sweet dark chocolate tasting.

Sunday, Santa himself comes to Taste Yogurt Shop in Greensboro.

And Tuesday sees a Duck Rabbit beer dinner at Bert’s Seafood Grille, five courses with beers for $49.99 plus tax and gratuity. Call the restaurant at 336.297.4881 or hit the website at for a reservation.

Got room for one more? Of the Top 20 2011 restaurant trends named by Nation’s Restaurant News website the ones I deem the most interesting are as follows: artisan liquor, children’s nutrition, “culinary” cocktails, ethnic breakfast items and artisan cheeses.