Last week Chef Ludo Lefebvre brought a tasty new spin on NC 'Cue. My awesome pal Jordan got us a reservation, and when she geeked out over seeing Chef Ludo, she may have gotten on TV too! Here's hoping...the episode airs in July, I think, so someone DVR it and tell me if you see us.
But, really it was about the food. Chef Ludo spent some time in Raleigh & Chapel hill learning from some of our best pitmasters - Ed Mitchell (The Pit BBQ) and Keith Allen (Allen & Sons) - to learn exactly how we do barbeque in North Carolina. And Chef Ludo got the heart of what we do perfectly in the poached egg, mashed potato, and BBQ bowl. The beauty in the perfectly poached egg is ineffable. I don't know how we haven't thought of putting poached eggs and barbeque together already! If someone doesn't put that on a menu somewhere, I'm going to be very disappointed.
The most interesting course I saw was the fried pig ears. Gravy was packed, so we were seated at the bar and made friends with our neighbors. They ordered the fried pig ears with the chili & lime mayo dip and let us taste it. Honestly, to me, the pig ears tasted like Fruit Loops. Let me tell you what kind of conversation that'll start; the bartender & our neighbors all started talking at that point. Seriously, the fried pig ear without any dipping sauce had a fruity taste to it. Since it was seriously crunchy, it just had the taste & texture of Fruit Loops. And after discovering the Pop Rocks in the banana pudding, I have a feeling I might not be too far off in describing those pork ears.
Thankfully we got to taste our neighbor's pig ears so we didn't order that appetizer but instead ordered both desserts. A bacon créme brulee and a banana/bread pudding like dish. The bacon creme brulee was beyond words fantastic. While I'm a firm believe in both bacon and creme brulee, this dish was other-worldly. And to my pride's benefit, the TV cameras didn't catch this photogenic moment.
We did get to chat with Chef Ludo for a minute, but honestly, accents aren't my thing. I don't understand thick accents at all. He yelled at the kitchen once or twice and I couldn't make out a word he said. Pitmaster Ed Mitchell was gracious and said nothing but great things about Chef Ludo, so maybe if his "Ludo Bites America" TV show doesn't take off, he'll come back to NC for more BBQ and beer.
If you made it to the World Beer Festival in Raleigh last weekend you may have seen an article in the guide from me. What? You didn't read the guide? Pshaw! Well, aren't you lucky - I've pulled out some highlights of it here. Enjoy!
According to the National Beverage Insititute, NC consumed 21 gallons of beer per capita in 2003. In the last year the beer industry accounted for a little more than 5,000 jobs and nearly $750 million dollars in revenue for Wake County. From 2009 to 2010, the craft beer industry grew 11% by volume and currently the industry provides about 100,000 jobs in the United States according to the Brewer’s Association. It appears that in a time when jobs are scarce, the craft beer industry is growing & thriving in Raleigh and the United States.
Many North Carolina breweries - from Asheville to Mooresville to Kill Devil Hills - have won various awards, like at the GABF or World Beer Cups, and now Raleigh has its own history commencing. LoneRider, a brewery in its 2-year infancy, brought back Raleigh’s first gold medal from the GABF last year with their Sweet Josie Brown Ale. Opened in the bustling suburbia known as Brier Creek, LoneRider reaches out to the community with its Brew it Forward campaign that encourages local homebrewers to submit their brews in order to win a chance to have it kegged and
distributed by the brewery. You can always find LoneRider beer wherever beer is sold, but keep on the lookout for cask-aged variations of their gold medal winner at your favorite beer bars.
A former UNC Alumn Geoff Lamb, and seasoned brewer Brad Wynn, started a staple of Raleigh, the Big Boss Brewing Company in 2006. This brewery provides some of the best beer to a wide variety of bars & stores across the Triangle. It’s hard not to find a bottle of Bad Penny at your favorite location. Most notably, they provide one helluva brewery tour. Stop by at 2pm on the second Saturday of the month for a free tour. Or, if you have time after work, grab a pint or fill your growler at their taproom. They’ve got everything from darts to pool and a local food truck or two; the Big Boss Taproom is a favorite hang out for many Raleigh locals.
The newest brewery to open up in Raleigh is Natty Greene’s. Originally born in Greensboro, NC, this brewery recognizes the craft beer hotspot that Raleigh is turning into! Their second brewpub opened up in Raleigh just about a year ago to wide arms and thirsty mouths. Open seven days a week, with 12 different Natty beers on tap, an excellent menu, as well as a perfect location on Jones St. in downtown Raleigh, Natty’s could easily be the go-to hang out where “everyone knows your name.”
Still in downtown, the Boylan Bridge Brewpub offers a unique view of Raleigh. On a beautiful day, there’s no better view of the downtown Raleigh skyline than one from Boylan’s deck with a crisp beer on the table. One of Raleigh’s more architecturally beautiful breweries, Boylan Brewpub opened up around 2009 and has been brewing simple, beautiful beers ever since.
Finally, Roth Brewing has been brewing beer in Raleigh since 2008. Their taproom then opened a couple of years later in 2010. In a similar path as LoneRider, the Roth Brewing Company originally began as homebrewers, making one fantastic beer after another. After enough pushing by friends and family, these guys opened up a brewery in North Raleigh, near the I-540 exit on Glenwood. While their beers are harder to find on tap, it might just be the thing that gets you out to their taproom; that, or that they have a Super Nintendo for guests to play.
If you’re looking to try out some craft beers from outside of North Carolina, one of Raleigh’s surpluses of bars could be any one of your destination points. Raleigh Times Bar, The Pour House, Tir Na Nog, The Remedy Diner, Foundation, Oak City Tavern, The Flying Saucer…and that’s just in two blocks of downtown!
From live music, to helpful wait staff, to the largest selection of beer on tap – drinking in downtown Raleigh can be quite a difficult decision. Bar hopping may be your best bet, unless you know what atmosphere you’re looking for. Among some of the more popular bars and restaurants, here’s a shortlist of bars and restaurants in Downtown Raleigh to get you started on your new beer adventure:
- Tir Na Nog: Right on Moore Square, this bar is well known for it’s live music choices, but Tir Na Nog also has a great selection of quality beers in bottles and on tap. You can find some local favorites on tap like Big Boss and Aviator, as well as some high quality craft beers in bottles like Avery Brewing and Left Hand, both producing delicious brews out of Colorado. Make sure to stop by on Monday when you can build your own craft beer bucket!
- The Busy Bee Café: Named by Draft Magazine as one of the Top 100 Beer Bars in the US in 2011, The Busy Bee, located on Wilmington St. regularly has beer dinners and a large selection of rotating craft beers on tap. From Great Divide to Terrapin, the Busy Bee keeps their selections cultivated to ensure guests get a great selection. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter to get the insider scoop on their special beer dinners and events.
- The Raleigh Times Bar: From local to vintage to international, the Raleigh Times Bar on Hargett St. offers up the widest array of beers in Raleigh. Add to that great food options and you’ve got an ideal after-work hangout! Make sure to visit often; their beer menu constantly changes in order to bring the best of what the craft brewers have to offer!
- Brewmasters Bar & Grill: Sports & beer lovers rejoice! Fantastic food, ample television watching space, and fantastic wait staff, Brewmasters Bar & Grill on W. Martin St. will entertain you all night long. Make sure to arrive early for major sporting events if you want to grab a table.
- The Pit BBQ: The smell of The Pit will guide you to their large restaurant space over on West Davie. Pitmaster Ed Mitchell sure knows his BBQ, and his beer and bourbon! The smell of the food will whet your appetite for a nice LoneRider or Foothills beer – available in half and full pints. Make sure you call ahead for reservations. Parking can be difficult, but they do offer a valet service.
- The Flying Saucer: No adventure in beer drinking can be completed without a stop at The Flying Saucer on West Morgan St. With over 81 taps and what seems like hundreds more in bottles, The Flying Saucer is Mecca for Raleigh “Beer Knurds.” Make sure to look up more information on their UFO Club and try for one of those awesome brass plates!
Every Thursday night is a special glass night over at Rockfish Seafood Grill. My friend Jordan and I host the TriBeer Meetup for beer enthusiasts in Durham (and Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill & beyond...we won't turn anyone away from the party!) Not only are we drinking a local, limited edition beer that I've never had before, but we're having a glass swap to go with the fun! We've all collected some interesting glassware over the last few months, so now's the time to change it out for the glasses you really wanted. It's like Dirty Santa but not at Christmas. And nothing's wrapped. And it's not dirty. Oh well, it's just going to be a great time.
Pics to come.
Triangle Habanero Pale Ale
Triangle Brewing Company, Durham, NC
This spiced up Pale Ale is straight out of Durham! All of the peppers are locally grown in Farmer Needham’s Pepper Patch. This ale is light in body with an extremely enjoyable balance between the sweetness and heat of the peppers while still remaining a flavorful beer. This beer goes great with food and was the Bronze Medal Winner at the 2010 Carolina Championship of Beer.
This is a very exciting beer that promises to heat you up on a cold winter day.This Pale Ale come with an enjoyable citrus and peppery flavor that follows with hint of warmth on the pallet. This is not in your face heat, but just what the Doctor ordered!!!
A nice smoky hop aroma with subtle habanero pepper, but also hints of some other spices. The heat of the habanero was just enough to enjoy, creeping in as you swallowed the drink, giving you a pleasant warming sensation. If you like spicy food then there is a good chance you will enjoy this beer.
Pairs well with: fried seafood. Order up some Calamari or Hush Puppies while they’re half price (until 7pm)! A little more hungry? Get the fish & chips for a tasty combination.
This coming Thursday (3/3/11) at Rockfish Seafood Grill will be a special glass night featuring Durham's own Fullsteam Brewery! The El Toro Cream Ale is part of the Working Man's series, which are beers that are designed to be drunk after work with friends. So, grab your colleagues and meet up with us over at Rockfish at Southpoint for some good beer and good conversation! (Oh, and some pretty good food too!)
El Toro Cream Ale -
Cream ales are top fermented, then cold conditioned beers that are closely related to American lagers. The cold conditioning reduces most of the fruity flavors from the ale giving it a crisper, cleaner taste. The El Toro Cream Ale is a 4.8% ABV cream style ale that pairs really well with delicate foods. Like Kolsch and Blondes, the Cream Ale light, crisp, and well-balanced. The Fullsteam El Toro is made with barley, hops, yeast, water and...North Carolina grown corn grits. The corn is what sets this craft beer apart from many others. The added corn makes the El Toro a little bit lighter than many other American Cream Ales.
Thursday night should give us some beautiful weather, possibly making the patio open at Rockfish. Grab some half-priced appetizers (until 7pm) like their steamed shrimp, calamari, or the new crab cakes and join us for a beer or two. All draft beers are $2 on Thursday and you can get the 20 oz Fullsteam glass for only an extra $1 to keep. (limit 1 glass per person)
You probably are more familiar with a sputnik than you think. Granted, I didn't know until I Googled it, but a sputnik is a device that infuses a flavor into a liquid. Basically, when you make tea with a tea ball, that's a sputnik. You can even buy shmancy ones from Etsy. And when it comes to craft beer infusions, a sputnik does the same basic function, but just in a slightly different way.
When beer gets infused by sputnik, it all happens at the pour. When you infuse tea, the hot water warms the leaves in the tea and releases their flavors into your drink. The tea ball keeps the leaves inside so you don't get them all in your cup. Beer, like vodka, can be infused with flavors in multiple ways. The sputnik way puts the flavor into the beer at the time of the pour. It's like a fresh glass of flavored beer every time! The sputnik attaches to the tap and the beer is pulled through, blending the flavors.
If you're looking to try a sputnik infused beer, check out Rockfish tomorrow night for a special tasting of the Aviator Brewing company's Devil's Tramping Ground Belgian Ale infused with fresh hops and pineapple. The resulting taste should be a very lambic tasting beer. The action starts at 6pm and goes until they sell out. So show up early and watch the beer get infused!
More about Devil's Tramping Ground Belgian Ale from Aviator's website:
9.2% alc/vol. 21 IBU A hearty Tripel Belgian ale. This Tripel ale will grow hair in places you don't want. Our Tripel is a golden colored ale that has a fruity spicy flavor that finishes a bit sweet. The Devil's Tripel is light tasting from the addition of candy sugar. We add just the right amount of hops to balance out the sweetness.
Note: I have a book of scary, AND TRUE!, ghost stories called The Devil's Tramping Ground. I might bring it tomorrow to the beer tasting for ambient effect. Or, who's in for a craft beer camping trip!? Campfire, s'mores, beer...and ghost stories!!
The other day I went to Parker & Otis near Brightleaf Square for brunch. Parker & Otis is a Durham restaurant and gourmet food store. Plus, they always have a really fun candy section featuring old school candy like Bottle Caps and new school candy like War Heads. You can buy milk, cookware, and lunch all in the same place - what could be better?
Every week Parker & Otis changes out a handful of sandwiches for something special and this week apparently they had my new favorite peanut butter sandwich - the peanut butter, banana, bacon & honey; grilled on wheat bread. They may have gone overboard slightly with the amount of peanut butter (creamy, not crunchy) on my sandwich, but I'm telling you this is the best thing I've eaten in a long time. It's a perfect hangover food. And now I can't wait to go to Graceland sometime and have a friend peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Thankfully Parker & Otis has a great beer selection to go with the good food. While I'm not sure if you can buy beer & wine in their grocery section and then drink it in their restaurant, this would be a great place to stop for picnic supplies. You can get a sandwich made to order and pick up some nice desserts and drinks (even those of the non-alcoholic variety). Parker & Otis has immediately matched, if not surpassed for me, Whole Foods in Durham as the go to place for sandwiches to go and beverages. Whole Foods definitely doesn't have the variety of craft beer that Parker & Otis does like Mother Earth, Terrapin, Highland, Harpoon, Allagash, and New Belgium.
So, it's taking me two days to catch up to life and recover from what was one of the most awesome World Beer Festivals in Durham. The weather was perfect (so perfect that we started drinking a few hours earlier than the festival started) and then spent the afternoon in the sun drinking and dancing to music.
There were over 100 breweries with over 300 beers. While some of my more favorite beers weren't represented this year, there was plenty of new, craft breweries to try.
- Overall, Legend Brewery out of Virginia had to be my overall favorite. They make a fantastic Brown Ale and Porter, but all of their samples were delicious.
- Original Sin not only has a sexy, pinup girl as their logo - they also have a delicious cider.
- It was convenient that all of the commercial breweries were lumped together in one tent...much easier to avoid that way.
- Sticker winner had to be Heavy Seas - eye patches and tattoos!
But I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stickers and beer labels provided by the brewers. I think that's the point of Beer Fest some years - how much can you drink and how many stickers can you get?
Some highlights from Beer Fest are here, but if you want more, make sure to check out my Flickr page or do some searching on your own!
For the last few months I've been helping to organize a little conference called ConvergeSouth at NC A&T University in Greensboro. ConvergeSouth is one of the best southeast blogger/social marketing/techy/geek conferences. It has headliners like Brent D. Payne and Craig Newmark. It has North Carolina politicos like US Congressman Brad Miller and NC Senator Don Vaughn. And oh yeah, this year it's got Sean Wilson from Fullsteam talking about the Future of the 'Net (along with a great panel of people).
When the ConvergeSouth committee got together to discuss what small businesses proved social marketing could build their brand I literally shouted out "FULLSTEAM!" I do not joke with you about this. I was a little embarrassed. But, if you love Fullsteam like I love Fullsteam, you want to know what they did to earn the die-hard online fans. Every event I've attended at Fullsteam has been mobbed and, if you didn't already know, Sean was one of those guys that Popped the Cap in North Carolina to raise our ABV to 15%.
Tickets for ConvergeSouth start at $10! This is great for students or those of you who are trying to build your new business online. You don't have extra cash to spare, so use it wisely. Meet some awesome people who are fanatics about online marketing and get the connections you need to succeed.
How could you pass this up?! $10 can get you to see all the speakers + a Saturday Luncheon with the politicos. AND you can go to dinner with Sean (and Michael VanDervort and Will Carroll) at Bin33 in Greensboro. And a little birdy told me that there might be some Fullsteam beer at the Saturday night BBQ...one ticket gets you a conference & beer. Do the math, it just adds up to ConvergeSouth.