Category Archives: Beer

REVIEW: Trophy Brewing Company – Raleigh, NC

Looking for a trophy wife or a mail-order bride? You can find both at Trophy Brewing, a small, cozy brewery and pizzeria in downtown Raleigh. According to the website, the trophy wife  is “light and approachable; this beauty shows off a bright and a clean finish.” Okay, now get your mind out of the gutter. Those are beers I am talking about! I chose the Best in Show, which is an easy drinking beer with citrus undertones.

This small brewery was started by the owners of Busy Bee Cafe, who teamed up with brewer Les Stewart, to create small-batch craft beers. Trophy also offers a selection of artisan pizzas made with local ingredients. I ordered the Farmer’s Market pizza, which was full of root vegetables and goat cheese. The pizza does not normally come with goat cheese, but I highly recommend adding it. Ben ordered the Most Loyal, a pizza with roasted chicken and pesto. His also had the slightest hint of honey, which tasted surprisingly good with the pizza.

Farmer’s Market: basil pesto, roma tomato, swiss chard, vegetable medley, red onions

Farmer’s Market:
basil pesto, roma tomato, swiss chard, vegetable medley, red onions

Most Loyal: basil pesto, herb roasted chicken breast, mozzarella blend, roma tomato, and honey

Most Loyal:
basil pesto, herb roasted chicken breast, mozzarella blend, roma tomato, and honey



Trophy Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Steel String Brewery – Carrboro, NC

It’s brutally cold when I walk into Steel String, and after a long day I’m looking forward to a beer. Since it’s a Tuesday and 19 degrees outside, the bar is pretty much empty when I walk in. This is completely nonstandard, as most weekend nights the place is packed. Since opening up last spring they’ve managed to gain a following in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and have regular events like trivia night and live music which usually draw a crowd.

Tonight is an exception, and one that I frankly don’t mind. I pick one of the many open seats at the bar and settle in with a flight of four of their beers. Steel String currently has 10 taps, but have five for guests like Foothills, Mother Earth, or Old Mecklenburg. These are all great breweries in their own right, and work to fill in the taps that Steel String doesn’t quite have the production to cover.

One of the best things about Steel String is that they are a functioning brewery. It definitely brings a lot to the atmosphere, adding shining fermenters and the smell of steeping malts. Local art adorns the walls, and a beautiful bar counter gives the place a nice warm feeling. When it’s crowded it does seem to get smaller but overall it’s a great place to hang out, with games and music.


I sampled four of their beers, starting with their Big Mon IPA. This is a slightly heavier IPA, that lent more towards the bitter side of things than the floral. While it did have a solid West Coast citrus nose, it seemed to have more of a bitter finish than I was anticipating. This is not to say it’s a bad IPA, if anything it’s solid and easy to drink,  but the finish might surprise drinkers who are used to a lighter IPA.

Next up was the Sound City Altbier. This is a nice, caramel lager with a very smooth mouthfeel. It’s clean and crisp, but again has a bit of bitterness to it that differentiates it from other lagers. The bite to it is surprisingly refreshing and definitely had me wanting another sip.

After that was the Rubber Room Rye Pale Ale. Rye beers are very divisive in the beer community, with some people hating them and some people loving them. I like a good rye myself, but prefer a full on bitter bomb with the heartiness of rye worked in. Rubber Room is a lot softer than I was anticipating, with a surprising floral aroma. However, the beer itself was overwhelmed by the rye, leading to a strange compromise of rye flavor with the lightness of a pale ale that left me intrigued, but not quite sure how much I liked it. I would have preferred a straight pale ale or straight rye, but this beer definitely has potential.

Finally, there was the winter seasonal, the Secular Non-Denominational Holiday Ale. This was by far my favorite of the four I had. This was a nice, spiced winter warmer, with a higher ABV that drove away all the cold. It was easy to drink despite high alcohol content, which is perfect for this style. I think this beer more than any shows Steel Strings potential to be successful.

It’s clear that Steel String cares about their beer. The make sure to have proper glassware, and clearly aren’t afraid to experiment. I think with more time and practice, they’ll be a fantastic brewery. The setup is there as is the passion, and once they have a few years under their belts as a commercial operation I have no doubts about their future. I’ll continue patronizing them, and I think we can expect great things down the line.

REVIEW: Plates Neighborhood Kitchen- Raleigh, NC

“Globally Inspired. Locally Produced.” That is the motto and exactly what you will find at Plates Neighborhood Kitchen, a new restaurant in the Glenwood South neighborhood near downtown Raleigh. Plates opened November 1st and you will need to make reservations if you plan to go during the weekend. The atmosphere is comfortable and welcoming. The food is elegant yet the prices are reasonable. The servers and bartenders are helpful and friendly. What more could I ask for?


I went with two friends on a Friday night and we did not have reservations but luckily there were three seats open at the bar. The bartenders were very personable and we had a great evening. I started out with a lavender julep which was carefully made and thoroughly enjoyed. For dinner I ordered a smoked salmon and leek salad with a citrus vinaigrette. I would definitely order it again!


My friend ordered chicken with grits and kale. He especially enjoyed the grits and finished every last bit. For dessert, I saw that Plates had a persimmon creme brûlée. I don’t usually eat creme brûlée but I love persimmons, so I ordered it. I also tried some port with my creme brûlée. It was a perfect dessert.



The menu changes often because Plates uses fresh ingredients that they try to source locally whenever possible. You can expect local food with an international inspiration, served by friendly people.

The menu provides just a few options which is nice because you won’t be overwhelmed with choices. Until it comes to dessert… chocolate chess pie, creme brûlée, sticky toffee pudding and cheesecake.

Check out the New Year’s dinner menu at Plates.

I hope you enjoy Plates as much as I did.


Plates Neighborhood Kitchen on Urbanspoon


REVIEW: Venable – Carrboro, NC

Venable Rotisserie Bistro in Carrboro takes comfort foods like chicken pot pie, ravioli and udon soup and turns them into something fabulous. I lived in Carrboro for two years and I can’t believe I didn’t try this restaurant until now. It is one of my new favorite restaurants in the Triangle. Venable is a fine dining establishment with the attitude (and price!) of a casual Carrboro restaurant. We started our meal with the chèvre salad, “local beets with hazelnuts, goat cheese, mixed greens and a sherry hazelnut dressing.”

Chèvre Salad

This salad was perfect. Creamy goat cheese, sherry vinaigrette and a waffle-cut beet. The presentation was very nice but equally important is the taste, which was phenomenal. It was difficult to pick an entree, given the elaborate choices. Here are some of their options (check out the full menu here):

Bacon-wrapped NC flounder with butternut squash purée, braised red cabbage and roasted sweet potatoes

Rotisserie chicken with carrot, parsnip and celery root stew topped with puff pastry crust

Grilled Atlantic salmon with soy-ginger green beans and skillet-roasted fingerling potatoes

Grilled salmon

Grilled salmon

We went with the grilled salmon, and it ended up being a great choice. The photo above is a half-portion, but with the salad, it was just the right amount of food. We got our salmon cooked medium, as our waiter suggested. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. With the description of “fingerling potatoes,” I was expecting a heap of fried potato strings. I was pleasantly surprised with the healthier option of large cuts of sautéed potatoes. I would definitely get this dish again!

Bonus: Venable has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options! And check out their brunch menu…so many delicious options!

I hope I’ve sold you on this wonderful restaurant! It is a great place to eat dinner before checking out a show at DSI Comedy or enjoying a local band at The Station.



Venable Rotisserie Bistro on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Guglhupf Bakery – Durham, NC

I used to drive past Guglhupf three times a week on my way to an internship. I drove past it for months before trying it because by the time I would get off work, it was closed. Once I finally went there, it became one of my favorite cafes in the Triangle area. The unmistakeable European feel will put you at ease and allow you to make new friends out of strangers. The cafe is spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating and two floors inside. The adjoining bakery emits the delicious smell of freshly baked bread out onto the patio area. If the weather allows, sit outside and enjoy a sandwich or a snack like you have no where else to be.

Guglhupf Bakery in Durham, NC

Guglhupf Bakery in Durham, NC

I visited Guglhupf before Thanksgiving to spend some quality time with my friend Liat. It has become somewhat of a tradition for us after I took her there for the first time last year. I don’t usually stray far from my favorite item on the menu, a turkey, brie and apple chutney sandwich. However, this time I got something a bit different, a turkey, grilled pear and gorgonzola sandwich. The sandwich was heavy on the turkey, but the strong flavors of arugula and gorgonzola cheese complemented the sweet, grilled pear. I still prefer the turkey, brie and apple chutney sandwich, but this one is a close second. Guglhupf also has an assortment of small plates and salads.

House-roasted turkey with a grilled pear, arugula and gorgonzola on rustic house bread

House-roasted turkey with a grilled pear, arugula and gorgonzola on rustic house bread

Liat got what she always gets – the strawberry tart. I have yet to try it because the sandwiches always fill me up. The menu is not large but there is an option for everyone, whether you are craving a hearty soup or something sweet. After, or even before, going into the cafe, check out the bakery. I dare you to walk out without trying anything.

Nutzen den tag!

Guglhupf Bakery on Urbanspoon

Asheville Day Trip: Wicked Weed, French Broad Chocolate Shop & Urban Orchard

Asheville makes for a great day trip, if you’re hungry, thirsty and willing to make the drive. Our first stop was Wicked Weed, where strangers and locals meet to drink great beer. And that’s exactly what we did. We sat downstairs in the tasting room, at a community table, and met a local gentleman who suggested some of his favorite items on the menu.

When I go to a brewery, I usually don’t expect anything more than average pub food. So, when I saw the food options, I was surprised by the creative combinations on the menu. Just check out these sandwiches on their menu:

Sandwich Menu

Sandwich Menu

I ordered the fried chicken sandwich. The crispy fried chicken was complemented by the sour, fermented cabbage (kimchi) and the sweetness from the miso mayonnaise. It was different than any sandwich I’ve ever had and it was quite satisfying.

Fried chicken + kimchi + miso mayonnaise

Fried chicken + kimchi + miso mayonnaise

Classic beef burger + lettuce + tomato + onion + pickle

Classic beef burger + lettuce + tomato + onion + pickle

My friend ordered the classic burger. If I were him, I definitely would have gone for the bison burger with haystack shallots and blue cheese coleslaw. However, he enjoyed his classic burger, although he said it could have been juicier.

If you are an IPA fan, you must also try Wicked Weed’s “Freak of Nature Double IPA.” The Freak of Nature is 8% abv and has too many ibu’s to put a number to it. They have quite the beer selection, ranging from local IPAs and pale ales to Belgian and wood-aged beers. I sampled the muscadine beer, because I have only ever had Muscadine wine, and I was intrigued. I am not a fan of muscadine wine, but the beer was pretty good. They also had “apple pie saison” and perhaps the most interesting was “sweet potato and grits saison.”

Selection of pale ales

Selection of pale ales

After getting some food and beer, it was time to visit the highly regarded French Broad Chocolate Shop. This is where you want to go to indulge. Try one of their brownies, whether you eat it there or take it for later. I took mine for later (ate it that night) and ordered Mexican hot chocolate. I could not let this delicious sounding concoction pass me by: “contemporary Mexican-style hot chocolate with house chocolate, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, and milk.” It smelled delicious and after letting it cool enough to drink – or so I thought, until I burned by tongue – I was disappointed because it didn’t taste as good as it smelled. While the chocolatey taste was phenomenal,  the chili powder was overpowering. I was hoping to taste more of the other flavors, like the cinnamon and almond. Nevertheless, still visit this lovely shop if you’re in Asheville. Just make sure you will like what you order!

French Broad Chocolate Shop

French Broad Chocolate Shop

While at Wicked Weed, the gentleman told us of a cidery down the street. Urban Orchard is a new establishment in Asheville, serving a selection of ciders and beers. We both ordered the flight, which included a seasonal cranberry cider and an apple-ginger cider. The ginger cider was my favorite and tasted the most like actual cider. I also enjoyed the unfiltered apple cider. However, the other ciders seemed to be missing the crisp, refreshing taste that I am used to in ciders, rather leaving me with the taste of flavored champagne. Urban Orchard is a good spot to meet friends, kick back and have a beer. But if you’re going for cider, don’t waste your time on the flight. Go for the ginger cider. With that said, I like the idea of the company, which sources apples from Hendersonville, NC, and crafts the ciders in-house.


Urban Orchard Cider Company

Urban Orchard Cider Company

Noble Cider was also recommend and I sampled their cider at Wedge Brewing Company. We didn’t stay at Wedge long because it was getting late, but I will be going back because of the friendly laid-back vibe and the big outdoor courtyard that hosts food trucks and corn hole games.

Thank you for all of your suggestions on our Facebook page. I will be making a trip back to Asheville soon to try some more of your recommendations. If you haven’t already liked our Facebook page, you can find it here:

Have a great week!


REVIEW: Aviator Brewing Company SmokeHouse – Fuquay Varina

“Life is about the journey, not the destination,” my friend says to me during dinner. And that’s exactly the attitude you should have when eating at Aviator. You will need to put aside the thought of what the consequences may be, and just enjoy the crispy, beer-battered, blue cheese-smothered journey.


I recommend starting off your dinner with the Aviator beer-battered onion rings. These crunchy delights are served with a spicy-sweet mustard sauce. It’s a huge portion and definitely big enough to split between 2 people.


I got the chicken wings with the “Aviator” sauce, which is the mildest. The sauce options for wings are listed on their menu as:

Moco Loco: This will remove the flesh from your tongue.

Crazy: Very Hot! Habaneros, Jalapenos and Thai Peppers!

Monster: Habenero, Jalepeno, Honey and Spices…manageable.

Buffalo: The sauce that made wings famous.

BlackMamba: Our BlackMamba stout with a little kick to it.

Thai Red Devil: Little bit of spice with our Devils Tripel.

Aviator: Our sweet and tangy sauce….delicious.


The wings are served with blue cheese and ranch, both of which are homemade. You can tell that everything is fresh and homemade. The wings are smoked and fried to perfection and then covered with your choice of sauce. I enjoyed the sweet-tangy Aviator sauce and the homemade blue cheese. It’s about the journey, right? So, hand over the onion rings and deep friend wings.

My friend got the “Brewers Beef Brisket,” which he finished to the last bite, along with french fries and coleslaw. I tried some fries and they were extra crispy and delicious.


Remember, life’s about the journey!


Olde Rabbit’s Foot — Symbol of NC Beer’s Collaborative Spirit


North Carolina is in the midst of a craft beer explosion. 2012 brought with it announcements that three of America’s most popular craft breweries were building East Coast facilities in the Olde North State. As Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues begin to set up shop in North Carolina, one thing remains unchanged: our state’s brewing industry is firmly grounded upon a foundation of incredibly passionate people who seem to genuinely like each other.

This collective passion was especially evident this past Saturday in Winston Salem, as Foothills Brewing released this year’s installment of Olde Rabbit’s Foot. Olde Rabbit’s Foot is an Imperial Stout, brewed with honey and cocoa nibs. The bottles were only available for purchase in the Foothills Brewpub, but the beer itself came to be through a collaborative effort between Foothills, Duck Rabbit Brewery (Farmvillle, NC) and Olde Hickory Brewing (Hickory, NC). For the fourth year in a row, each brewery provided wort (wort contains the sugars that are eventually fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol). Once fermented, the viscous stout was left to age in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. In most sectors of business, these companies would be in direct competition with each other; in the beer business, they combine their efforts to deliver a superior product.

As the doors to the brewery opened, I quickly realized that the brewers weren’t the only ones with a collaborative spirit. With two hours before the beer officially went on sale, hoards of people, from all over the south, shared unbelievably rare beers with friends and strangers. If this selection of collectible beers wasn’t enough to please your palate, Foothills also offered Olde Rabbit’s Foot and Sexual Chocolate on draft. When the back room finally opened, people efficiently moved through the line and scooped up their four bottle limit. The rich stout, with balanced flavors of oak and bourbon, was certainly worth the wait (and the nearly dollar per ounce price tag – read as $20 per bottle).

While the eclectic mix of North Carolina beer options will continue to grow, we can rest assured that the breweries responsible for establishing North Carolina as the Fertile Crescent of craft beer will continue to push the boundaries in their beer and their business plans.

Follow Up: Pittsboro Pepper Festival 2011

Lots of folks at the Pepper Festival in Pittsboro

Lots of folks at the Pepper Festival in Pittsboro

If you couldn’t pick a pepper at the Pittsboro Pepper Festival, you were in the wrong place on Sunday! My friends and I have been talking about this event for several weeks. Although I am still tentatively stepping up the heat for my own palate, my friends like all kinds of peppers. I was interested in going to this event, because so many of the great local chefs from the Triangle region would be here and I could be in one place and try lots of their food at one time!

We started our foray into the myriad of food vendors by tasting the jalapeno ice cream from the Bean and Barrel. It was creamy and cool with just the right bite of spiciness to remind you that you were eating a pepper dish. We all loved this ice cream and, in fact, would dare to say it was on the best dishes of the afternoon.  They also had some stuffed peppers which everyone was raving about, but somehow we missed them and by the time we tried to make it back to their booth, they had run out.

Vimalas Curryblossom Cafe had a booth

Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe's booth.


The gazpacho from 18 Seaboard was sweet and creamy with a little hint of spice

One of my other favorites of the day was 18 Seaboard’s Gazpacho made with sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes. It was sweet, creamy and very refreshing. I could have had several more servings of this soup.

Another favorite was Lucky 32’s butter bean pate with pickled peppers. The mild butter beans played nicely with the tartness of the pickled peppers.  I also loved the pork with two pepper aioli sauces from the Granary.

Dos Perros had a habanero aioli sauce that my friends liked so much they went back to the booth to ask whether the restaurant sells it. Sadly they do not sell it and they only serve it on occasion, as the dishes they serve are all seasonal.

Zily and Ritz, from Raleigh, served a strudel that was also excellent. I had to go back and have seconds of this dish. I know I will have to seek out the restaurant sometime soon and eat there, if this is any indication of the type of food they serve. The strudel was filled with sweet lamuyo peppers. Who knew you could make so many delicious desserts from peppers? I surely didn’t.  I also really enjoyed the Market Restaurant’s creme fraiche cheese cake with chocolate mole graham cracker crust and tobago infused honey caramel. I had seconds of this one as well.

My friends loved Glasshafull’s smoked pepper soup with shrimp, cilantro, lime creme fraiche and a fried tortilla. I thought it was OK, but not my favorite.

Cackalacky had a booth featuring a pepper sauce

Cackalacky's booth featured a pepper sauce you could buy

There were plenty of beverages as well.  My favorite was Starrlight Mead’s  Cranberry Orange Mead, which was an off-dry Cranberry Orange Mead with Chipotle Pepper. It had some smokiness to the flavor, which was actually pretty good, though I’d never think to have a smoky mead before.

I tried Fullsteam Brewery’s Escazu Chocolate and Chipotle cask beer. The person working the booth warned me it would not be as bubbly as I would be used to in a beer and he was right. It had a bit of a bitter taste to me and frankly it was not for me, but another friend who was with us loved it.

Triangle Brewery’s Tobago-Habanero Pale Ale was a winner though. Perhaps it’s because I like lighter to amber beers, but don’t always like a dark, heavy beer. This was light and had just a little bit of spice to it. It would be perfect on a hot summer’s day.

Pepper queen and runner up

Pittsboro's Pepper Queens

While focusing on all the eating and drinking, there was also music, dancing and the crowning of the Pepper queen. The festivities were held at Brier Chapel’s new community park. While we were there, we also ducked into the model home that will be one of the houses featured in the Parade of Homes the next couple of weeks. It was a really nice home with a great floor plan.

It was great to celebrate the multitude of peppers grown in the Triangle and cooked by some of the most famous chefs in the Triangle. I would highly recommend you plan to attend this festival next year!

Wanderlust: Fullsteam Brewery’s Cherry Imperial Stout – Durham

Fullsteam Brewery is Durham is one of the hippest breweries in North Carolina right now. They are brewing great craft beer and it has been a consistent spot to find the greatest food trucks in the Triangle. The brewery has won multiple national awards for its beer and they continue to be innovators in the craft beer industry while being advocates for the North Carolina craft beer movement. Did I mention that everyone that works there are incredibly nice and welcoming? It is just a great place to hang out with friends and drink good craft beer.

The creativity of the brewers at Fullsteam is one thing that I think sets it apart from other breweries across the state and the country. I was lucky enough to get to taste a one-off adjunct ale that they made a few months ago called G’narlins brewed with red beans & rice while I had lunch at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Asheville. Additionally, I picked up their first bottled release, First Frost, which only had a run of 800 bottles. It was a winter warmer style winter ale brewed with hand picked persimmons from Chatham County, NC. If you can still get your hands on a bottle of this, it is well worth a high price tag. Fullsteam is even working on a way to use kudzu, a non-native, fast-growing, invasive vine that chokes out other native vegetation, which could help contain the outbreak in the southeast United States.

On July 11th, they debuted another one-off brew called Wanderlust which is a cherry imperial stout. It was a special occasion limited release because Fullsteam was selected to represent North Carolina on National Rainier Cherry Day (July 11th) for the Northwest Cherries’ Tree to Table campaign. Fullsteam was one of fifty places across the nation (49 restaurants & one brewery) which “geeked out” the brewers at Fullsteam. Each participating restaurant/brewery was sent 40 pounds of freshly picked Rainier cherries to make whatever they wanted to with them.

The timing of the selection to participate in the Northwest Cherries’ Tree To Table campaign worked out well for Fullsteam because they were in the process of brewing an imperial stout that they were about to barrel age. They set aside four kegs of the imperial stout and then blended the imperial stout with crushed Rainier cherry juice.

Traditionally, Fullsteam focuses on using Southern ingredients for their beer but they just couldn’t pass up this great opportunity to be a part of this selective campaign from Northwest Cherries. That brings us to Wanderlust which “takes us to faraway, amazing lands” like the Pacific Northwest. Wanderlust is an 8.5% ABV Cherry Imperial Stout that they served at Fullsteam starting on July 11th with a keg each day until they ran out which I have the feeling was pretty quick with the great reception that it got from Fullsteam-ers. I know that I didn’t stop with just one glass of Wanderlust.

The first 50 people that attended the debut of Wanderlust on July 11th also received Cherry Bounce hand pies which was created by Fullsteam’s “Chief Executive Optimist” Sean Wilson and local baker Ali Rudel who worked at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, the place in Brooklyn to go for the best pies. The Cherry Bounce hand pies were also made with freshly picked Rainier Cherries and a hint of bourbon. As you know from previous possts, I am not much of a dessert guy but I thought these little guys were fantastic plus the “PIE ME!” ticket was awesome, too! The pie paired very well with the Wanderlust.

I thought that Wanderlust rivaled the very sought-after Sexual Chocolate that is brewed over at Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem. I hate that I probably won’t be able to get my hands on Wanderlust again but I have the feeling that Fullsteam will brew some equally tasty beer to please craft beer lovers like myself. I am just glad that I was able to experience Wanderlust with a bunch of other beer lovers on July 11th. It was a fun event!

I hate posting about things that you (the reader) may not be able to try but I felt that this was definitely post-worthy. If you are in Durham, you should stop into Fullsteam for a beer and dinner from whatever food truck is parked outside. Follow Fullsteam on Facebook and Twitter or check out their website to find out on what’s on tap as well as what one-off brews they have planned for the future so you don’t miss them.


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