by Brian Clarey

Greensboro officially has no balls… to drop on New Year’s Eve, that is. After last year’s last-minute assemblage of spectacle by Greensboro artist Erik Beerbower and former Bin 33 GM Trey May — a big, shiny metal ball lowered from the roof of the downtown restaurant at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve — the city this year declined to issue a ball permit, leaving downtown revelers a little flaccid.

The big news in this first week of 2012 is the Big Eat, downtown Winston-Salem’s effort to drive restaurant business by signing on a group of area favorites and convincing them to run half-price specials on their most popular dishes every Tuesday night through February, excluding Valentine’s Day. This year’s list of participants is impressive — 28 of them so far. This week we’ll focus on Mooney’s Mediterranean Café (101 W. 4th St.; 336.722.4222; www.mooneysmedcafe. com), which is offering a $5 sampler platter as part of the Big Eat on Tuesday nights.

Over in the Gate City, Greensboro Farmers Market Inc. takes over operation of the curb market on Yanceyville Street, naming Elizabeth Gibbs executive director and market manager. Gibbs, according to a press release, holds degrees in biology and environmental management, has worked for and helped establish farmers markets across the state, has been a farm educator and, lookee here, has been an actual farmer since 2006.

Also big news in Greensboro: cuisine from the Dark Continent. Two restaurants specializing in African fare are up and running. African Continental Cuisine (257 N. Greene St., the corner spot formerly occupied by Riva’s Trattoria, specializes in Nigerian and Carribean food, with names like “puff-puff” (sweet dumplings in ginger sauce) and “efo” (greens stew). I’m really looking forward to trying this place out.

Cleopatra’s Restaurant (1310 Westover Terr. #107; 336.274.5003; serves Egyptian cuisine, which has more in common with Middle Eastern cooking, but hey, Egypt is still in Africa, right?

As far as culinary events are concerned, most Triad restaurants have nothing going on but the rent this week, which is ironic because I bet nobody feels like cooking. All I can find id the clearance sale at the Grove