I was raised in the booming state capital of Raleigh, a city that sprawls outward from old streets lined with oaks and lacy Victorian porches. When I was young, those who came through the area usually had practical reasons: government careers, a stop at the area's top-tier universities, a job in one of the glassy sci-tech engineering complexes. Savvy tourists headed for the rest of the state, if not to Charleston or Atlanta. The culinary hallmarks of plain-Jane Piedmont were straightforward fare, like barbecue, pimento cheese, and slaw-topped hot dogs. Recently, though, I've watched Piedmont become one of the South's most exciting places to eat, partially because so few people have been paying attention.