SpiceBreeze part 2

As mentioned in the SpiceBreeze review I decided to make at least one of the recipes included with the spice blends from each of the three envelopes I received. Each of them turned out pretty well and the spice blends played key roles in every case.

The first one was using the “Tacos al pastor” seasoning mix.

This recipe called for creating a thick, onion heavy marinade that included the spices, some oil and tomato paste then coating the pork with it and letting it marinate for a while. It also called for frying up some pineapple rings to go along with the meat. The recipe called for the pork to be cooked then cut into strips and then fried again. I had some salsa in the fridge and threw that on as well to get the end result you see below.

They were terribly tasty tacos that had a smoky flavor imparted by the spice blend. Was worth my efforts.

The next one was a spice blend for and Indian dish, Summer Aloo Gobi Matar.

This hearty dish is a stew of potatoes, cauliflower, and peas that also included garlic, onion, tomato and ginger. In my case I exercised one of the suggested options and included a bit of chicken. Served with the suggested Basmati rice and naan this was filling and had some nice color. The spices in the blend played well together and it was savory and satisfying as well. For the curious the spices were; fennel, cumin, turmeric, coriander and cardamom. As an aside there was another pack in the envelope of whole cardamom seeds with a Mango Lassi recipe that also got used. I love mango lassi.

The last one was a Kabob Koobideh spice blend. This is a ground meat grilled kabob popular in Persian communities, as well as with others who just like good food.

Now I’ll admit up front these aren’t as visually appealing as they could have been and bear a striking resemblance to something you might not want to eat but trust me they tasted better than they looked. The restaurant versions of this dish I’ve had were a little thinner and were formed such that there were little ridges along the length almost like delimiters for bite sized chunks.

The recipe called for lamb, beef or chicken and had the store had lamb I’d have gone that way but instead I settled for lean ground beef. The recipe is fairly basic other than grating an onion and squeezing out all the juice, which isn’t difficult just something I’d never done to an onion before. Next up was adding some garlic, egg, spices and then the meat. Then you knead it for a while to incorporate everything and give it texture. In this case the spice blend consisted of sumac, turmeric, black pepper & parsley. The recipe called for just shaping the meat into long patties and frying but I was having none of that and decided they’d be shaped on skewers and grilled like they should be. The end result, when paired with the marinated cabbage (also included in the recipe) and some rice, was very good and bonus there were plenty of left-overs.

I have to give the SpiceBreeze team props for some fairly simple recipes that were delicious and did a good job showing off the spice packs they sent. So while it wasn’t something I wanted to continue I could certainly recommend it to others who might want to try their hands and discovering new cuisines.

Beach Week 2020

In spite of efforts by COVID-19 to destroy this year my family still got together in Surf City for our Beach Week vacation. Dining out, however took a big hit and instead of eating both breakfast and lunch out most days I only ventured forth 4 times and 3 were to places covered in other blog posts but I’m going to revisit 2 of them in this entry because I got something new at both places. The first place, Hot Diggity Dogz, was just a short walk from the house.

My brother-in-law and I strolled over and grabbed a couple of dogs each and wolfed them down at one of the picnic tables. I got the Carolina dog that had mustard, chili & coleslaw plus a Hawaiian dog that had cheese sauce, jalapenos and crushed pineapple. The grilled all-beef hot dogs were served on potato buns with toppings that were fresh(ish). I say ish because some of it came out of a can but it seemed like the can was recently opened so I’ll take it. I’m sure somebody is going, “back up there big kahuna and explain what was up with that Hawaiian dog” so I’ll tell you. It’s pretty obvious the only thing remotely Hawaiian was the pineapple but that was weird enough to get me to try it. It never occurred to me that pineapple and jalapenos would be a great pairing much less throwing in some cheese but it turned out to be a successful three way. The sweetness of the pineapple took some sting out of the jalapenos but left enough to let you know this wasn’t a wienie for weenies and cheese goes with anything. I might get it again but they have a handful of other dogs I need to try before another repeat.

One day a subset of the family headed to the Riverview Cafe. Another repeat but on this trip I got the scallops with two sides special.

That plate full of fried scallops was down right dee-licious. A quick word about the restaurant. It’s in Snead’s Ferry, NC, has a nice view of the New River and they make better than passable pies. As for lunch they have a multitude of options and change specials daily but I’ve only ever gotten seafood and after this trip I see no reason to change that up. The scallops were beautifully fried tender morsels of seafood goodness. The cheesy, garlic potatoes had no choice but to be good just based on the ingredients and the broccoli casserole offered redemption to broccoli for being broccoli. Between the lot of us we wound up taking home a box of seafood and a box of sides to be consumed later because the portions were so generous.

The last place I wanted to cover was a new (to me) place I checked out on the last full day we were there. It was also within walking distance, just a few steps past the hot dog joint actually. I was solo this trip but I think next year I’ll be able to talk some folks into going to The Fast Fish with me.

The Fast Fish is a Poke place with some other stuff too as you can see from the menu board.

I’d never done the poke thing before (stop laughing) so I decided to get a bowl. I started with one of the daily specials, spicy soy salmon, as the protein with rice for the base and kept it relatively simple with pickled vegetables and green onions for add-ins.

This was a very tasty lunch. In case you can’t tell from the picture the salmon was not cooked but the spicy soy sauce it was marinated in dressed it up just fine. The pickled vegetables were mostly cabbage and carrots but there were some onions, cucumbers and a jalapeno or two floating around. The whole thing was topped with toasted black and white sesame seeds. Stirring up the bed of white rice into this mix made for an excellent lunch that was filling but not heavy. Would very much recommend this place if you’re ever visiting Surf City, NC.

Now I’m just going to throw in a gratuitous food pic and let it speak for itself.

Trail Head

So as I mentioned in the last entry my plan was to start hitting the international flavored restaurants again and while Legal Remedy Brewing doesn’t represent any country specifically there are some tenuous international connections which I’ll point out a bit later.

What kind of derailed my initial plans were the weather and downloading the Visit York County app so I could do the Brew Trail & Taste Trail. One is a list of breweries in the county and if you check in at 6 of 8 you can get a t-shirt and the the taste trail has a list of 15 or so restaurants and if you hit 12 and have their “signature” dish you can also get a t-shirt. I saw these as win, win, win contests and I love winning contests. I decided to start both at the one establishment that gave me a twofer being on both lists. Legal Remedy Brewing is also a place I’m familiar with and like.

Their signature dish for the Taste Trail is an appetizer, Southern Poutine.

Here’s our first international connection, Poutine is a Canadian dish, eh. The LRB Southern version happens to be well fried, semi-crispy French fries topped with smoked jalapeno pimento cheese, bacon, and pepper jelly. Initially I disdained cutlery and proceeded to play a sort of edible jenga game where the goal was to get a hold of the fry with toppings and not get any on me. That led to a leisurely dining experience until people started noticing the intense concentration and deliberation with which I was eating and I think they started worrying about my sanity. When the fork and knife were brought to bear the pace was accelerated and the bacon and pimento cheese disappeared in a frenzy of fries.

The pimento cheese was good but I didn’t notice much smokey or jalapeno-y about it. The pepper jelly was an interesting addition that was more jelly and peppery. The bacon was just right. Overall it was enjoyable the portion generous enough I didn’t even finish it all. The beer might have helped in making me feel full.

As is my want in a place that offers the option, I got a flight of the seasonal offerings. As you can see I got a mix of light and dark. I started with the heaviest and went lighter as the meal progressed. The Barrel Aged: Elements of a Crime was an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and conditioned (I have no idea what that means) on Brazil Monte Verdi coffee from a local roaster. And there’s the other international connection, Brazilian coffee. The stout was just that and had very much embraced the barrel and its bourbonness.

The next dark beer was Exhibit:Gingerbread Porter. A mild porter that had some hints of clove but that was about the only one of the winter spices it was brewed with I could discern. After the two dark ones I had the Probation Pilsner, a German pilsner with a light flavor and hints of evergreen. I saved the Bribery Bittersweet Orange Wheat for dessert. A sip of that provided a nice flash of orange that quickly dissolved into a bitter finish, in a good way.

In summation your honor it was a good lunch and a great start to the trails.

Holiday Yums

Well after several weeks of laziness I decided to drop the December Holiday Yums box entry.

The 2019 Holiday box had 13 snacks from 13 different countries; Spain, Uruguay, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Philippines, France, Jordan, Austria, Croatia, Belgium, Japan, and Poland. There were a couple of repeats from previous boxes but mostly it was new stuff. My favorite was a repeat.

The Jabri Mixed Baklava was my favorite from last year’s Holiday box as well. The regular is great but the birds nest version with pistachios is just a special treat. It did have some competition this year in the form of a Belgian treat.

If I haven’t said it before I’ll say it now, white chocolate is not my jam but add some cinnamon cookie bits and I’m inviting you to the party. It was like an uber-sweet snickerdoodle. A little went a long way sort of like the most unusual paring of the box.

The Spanish weighed in again with a twisted chip flavor because someone thought, “you know what this chip needs? Raspberries!” It really didn’t. It was better than I expected but I had the bar pretty low going in. The raspberry flavor was reasonably muted so it was more like a distraction from a quality chip that an enhancement. The French, not to be left out of the chip wars said “hold mon bier”.

Roasted chicken chips? I had high expectations in spite of past experience with most “meat” flavored chips. First chip had me impressed and thinking “by golly these do have a roast chicken flavor” by about the 4th chip though I was over it.  It was just too much of the roast chicken flavor, which is something I never imagined saying. I could’t even finish the bag. Croatia managed to come in with powerful entry though that I did finish.

As soon as the package was opened the garlic smell ventured forth like it was planning to conquer the world or at least the room.  The pretzel sticks were good and crunchy even with the hollow core that was loaded with garlic.  I do mean loaded.  It was so garlicky I had to go brush my teeth and gargle just so I could move on with my day. 

Most interesting taste sensation goes to the Polish gingerbread.

This was actually the first thing I had from the box. Gingerbread snacks have been hit or miss but this entry with black currant icing was tasty and light with a hard glaze icing.  For the interesting taste sensation. As I was biting it I got a strong hint of black currant that was like a combination of scent and taste but it hadn’t yet hit the tongue. This certainly has happened with other foods but this was probably the most remarkable because the black currant taste on eating it was very subtle until I was finished and then it lingered. Good start, good finish.

The other snacks were mostly good with a couple of so so but the grade for the Holiday box was an A-.

The next blog entry will have me out and about again for a lunch at one of a couple of new (to me) restaurants I’ve found.

   

BBQ Bonus

I was travelling to the eastern part of North Carolina for a family gathering and decided to go a bit out of my way to try a restaurant that is on just about any Best BBQ in NC or Southeast list you care to check out.

Skylight Inn BBQ is not exactly on the beaten path unless you’re from Ayden, NC but it’s worth trodding the unbeaten for.

I got there early for dinner, about 4:30, and there were a half dozen cars in the lost and people walking out with bags of to go food. The main area has seating with dining rooms off to the side and is shaped like a half hexagon or an isosceles trapezoid if you prefer. Going with the half hexagon analogy the bisecting line was the ordering counter. They keep it pretty simple with 3 tray sizes a sandwich and barbecued chicken plus just a few sides. I got a medium tray and drink for less than 10 bucks.

Well it wasn’t fancy but it was delicious and honestly it was some of the best BBQ I’ve eaten. The coleslaw was just cabbage slaw and was really too sweet in my opinion but I can see it going nicely on a BBQ sandwich with the slightly tangy sauce. The cornbread can only be described as a slab. It was dense and heavy but much better than I was expecting. In contrast to the slaw it was not nearly as sweet as a lot of cornbread you get at restaurants. Now the BBQ. As you can see it is pretty well chopped but you occasionally get chunks of solid meat. The smoked flavor is easy to taste but not overpowering and there are also crispy bits of skin mixed in like little prizes as you eat. I ate most of it without adding any of the sauce found on the table but I did try that as well. It was ok, not as thick as a lot of store bought sauces but similar enough that I don’t think it really added much to the meat.

So if you find yourself in the neighborhood or want to go wandering definitely give them a try.

A Tail of Two Crabs

After months of having an Opening Soon sign out front a new restaurant opened just down the road from me. Knowing it was a seafood place and boils were going to be a thing with them I was eagerly waiting to give it a try. In the meantime another, similar restaurant opened a few miles further away so when this one finally opened I figured I’d give them both a try and compare.

The place near me is called Yummy Crab. When they first hung the Opening Soon sign it was going to be called Crazy Crab. I don’t know if the mental health community or Big Crustacean got involved but the name got changed to Yummy Crab before it opened.

The building they were in was also previously a seafood restaurant and it has a very large seating capacity that was largely unused when I went for lunch. This suited me fine as I got good service and got in and out rapidly while having a good lunch. They have fried and boiled seafood but I came for the boil so I really didn’t pay the rest of the menu much mind. I got the lunch snow crab legs. (The original pics I took I accidentally deleted so this is from a second visit)

The boils come with different types of seafood and they have combos and add-ins. I kept it simple and got the 1/2 lb snow crab legs lunch special which came with a potato, small cob of corn and a boiled egg (this was a new thing to me). Once you pick the seafood and add-ins you pick a flavor, I went with Cajun, and a spice level, medium for a first try.

It was delivered to the table in a big plastic bag, along with a bucket, bib, claw crackers (I had to ask for these on the first trip), and gloves. I’m a big fan of the gloves. The cajun spice was obviously the powdered version and in spite of the copious amounts you can see it really wasn’t that cajuny. Medium was fairly weak on the spiciness front. On the upside everything was well cooked, the crab came out of the shells nice and easy and it was a great lunch that didn’t leave me stuffed. I rated them 4 stars because I had to ask for the claw crackers and sweetener for my tea plus boils like this should have sausage not egg. Obviously since the picture is from a second trip I liked it enough to go back.

The place that opened first that I visited second is named Fiery Crab Juicy Seafood. When I first saw the name I thought, “you couldn’t work moist in there too?”. Fortunately the web site and menus all just have Fiery Crab on them. I don’t know what this place was before it was Fiery Crab but it also has a large seating area that was marginally more occupied that Yummy’s. Again I was good with that because the service started good and I did get my food in a timely fashion.

To make the comparison equal I got the same thing at this place.

Here you can see the plastic enclosure it’s served in. The accouterments accompanying the meal were essentially the same but the gloves were slightly different and they didn’t provide any wet wipes. I got their Cajun flavor with was called Fiery Cajun with medium spice. You may be able to tell from the pictures that they use the liquid boil mix instead of the powder and their overall spice level at medium was significantly higher than the other places. Another difference was it came with two potatoes and a couple of pieces of kielbasa sausage in lieu of the egg. The crab didn’t come out of the legs quite as cleanly but did have a good taste. I gave these folks 5 stars because I didn’t have to ask for anything and sausage was a default ingredient.

Comparing the two I think the actual crab was superior both times at Yummy but Fiery has the edge on overall flavor and they have sausage. Either one gets a thumbs up from me.

Food for the Soul

Southern US

A couple of Saturdays ago I was doing a dry run trip from my house to the Spectrum Center arena to get the timing down and see how close to the arena the light rail got. Turns out it’s really close.

Since I use my head for something other than a hat rack sometimes I also timed it so I’d be down there around lunch time so I could try a little something different. I did a little scouting via Google on the trip down but decided I’d just walk around and see what I found and I wound up at Mert’s Heart & Soul.

I’d seen this on Yelp and if you’re a Food Network fan you may have heard of Mert’s since it was on Diner’s, Drive Ins and Dives or something like that. I was more than happy to come up on it as I wanted to try them out at some point anyway.

The first thing I notice is how dim it is in there compared to the bright sunny day and the pictures reflect the dimness. The second thing that was evident was somebody in authority loves plays and musicals as there are framed, autographed posters all the flat surfaces. The third thing was the menu and I decided quickly to go for the app sampler.

I wanted to try the soul roll but didn’t want to get the app and then an entree so the sampler worked out just fine. It came with the soul roll, a salmon patty, chicken wings and cornbread.

The cornbread came out first and let me just say it was an excellent start. As you can see from the photo it was a mini loaf that was fresh out of the oven hot and served with butter that was already soft and ready to spread. It was a sweet cornbread. So much so I save half of it for dessert because it was so cakeish.

The soul roll is like it sounds, an egg roll with soul. It has black eyed peas, collard greens, rice & some bits of chicken wrapped in a egg roll wrapper and drizzled with a spicy honey. I could have lived without the honey but that’s probably the diabetes talking. The salmon patty was another pleasant surprise. The salmon to other stuff ratio was outstanding and it was not that canned stuff with the bits of bone and skin but a good quality salmon as well. There were onions and green peppers scattered sparsely throughout and the remoulade sauce was very nice. I wound up dipping everything in it at least once.

The sampler had two full chicken wings so it was more like 4 of what most people call wings. They were just skin on, lightly floured and spiced just like I’d have gotten in my granny’s kitchen. Not flashy but filling and quite the delivery vehicle for the sauce. And of course I finished it up the meal with my, somehow still warm, cornbread dessert. Whew that was good comfort food to make the ride back to South Blvd an my car a pleasant one.

I’ll definitely go to Mert’s again.

WOB Wow

Prior to going to a concert in Augusta, GA some friends and I decided to give the World of Beer a try. I mean what could be more perfect for a blog about international foods right? I mean world, it’s right there in the title.

So after deciding to start with the $10 Local flight to hold us over while we were perusing the menus (food & draft beer) and waiting for our friends to arrive I never got into any of the other beers of the world. What happened was that I found one I really liked among the “local” brews and got one more of those with my meal. So let’s talk about the flight of beer I was working with.

When you order the Local flight you’re leaving it to the bartender to pick the brews and when the server delivered our flights I got the one with the dark beers and I could see what looked to be at least one fruity beer and one what I was betting was a sour on my friend Renee’s flight which I didn’t think she was going to love. I was right.

I’m not going to spend a lot of space talking about all the beers but I did want to talk about two. The first was the Reformation Cadence, the first on the left in the photo. It was a really smooth Belgian Dubbel that had a nice complex flavor. Renee liked it too so I traded it for two of hers she didn’t care for. The other was the far right very dark one. The Beerista from Terrapin Beer Company was great. A high alcohol content, barrel aged coffee stout. The minute you get it near your face you smell the coffee followed by a whiff of bourbon. As I drank the taste of the coffee was followed again by the bourbon both packed in a creamy stout that just made this a favorite. I got a full snifter of this 11.2% beer. Good stuff. Now for the food.

I was advised by my niece (thanks Paige) to try the pretzel and beer cheese so we ordered two of them plus some pesto hummus to nibble on while we waited for our friends (one who we forgot has gluten issues, sorry Swain).

Aside from being huge they were warm and soft and damn good by themselves. They came with a course ground mustard that was strong enough it opened up my sinuses. We also popped for the beer cheese because I’m a good uncle and heed recommendations. OMG that was the best damn beer cheese I’ve ever had. At one point I realized I was double dipping (you pick up savage habits living alone). When I apologized for this social faux pas I was told “We’re a little past that now.” I could only infer I came in second in the “who’ll be double dipping first” race. It was on after that. I may have even triple dipped. We only ate one of the massive pretzels since there was food coming as well.

Because of the appetizers I reined in my gourmand tendencies and just got the chicken sliders. They had promise, the bun was soft, the aioli was good, the pickle was pickley but the chicken was overcooked. I got three and they seemed to be progressively move overcooked from the first to the third. They had a good flavor but unfortunately they were almost like jerky when I got to the last one.

So the World of Beer was a mixed experience but on balance I give them a thumbs up. The beer was good, even the gluten free beer my buddy Mike got was actually drinkable and we found beer our scotch drinker Kim didn’t hate. The pretzel was great but the beer cheese was amazing and the star of the visit in my opinion. On another night the sliders would probably be solid. Throw in good friends and it is definitely worth revisiting.

Surf City 2019

I was running a little early for check in and decided to stop for lunch when I got near Surf City. I was keeping an eye out for something that looked local rather than fast food or a franchise. I saw the Village Cafe in Hampstead, NC and decided to give it a try.

There weren’t many cars in the lot but it was a little after the prime lunch hour so I wasn’t that concerned. When I walked in it took a few moments for anyone to see me waiting and when they did I got a lady who walked over and smiled and asked “Can I help you?” “I thought I might get some lunch,” was my response and that got a surprised “Oh, OK.” I don’t know what she thought I was doing there and I’ll admit I wasn’t sporting my dress shorts and beach polo shirt but I don’t think I was channeling my inner hobo either. She offered a seat at the empty bar first and then reluctantly offered to seat me with the other patrons if I really wanted. I flirted with asking to sit right next to one of the two other occupied tables just to freak her out but I preferred the bar anyway.

After sorting this out and spending a minute with the menu I ordered the chicken Gouda sandwich with house made chips.

The sandwich was not bad. The avocado was an interesting touch but the chicken breast was really small, chips were probably made the day before and the bun was meh. Definitely not a great start to a culinary week.

Sunday morning I decided to venture forth for breakfast and set out walking towards the business area. I passed up a place I visited last year and was lured in by the aroma of the Xanadu Market bakery.

The shop is split into two sections customers can wander around in. As you enter there are a few tables and the bakery case, coffee urns and cashier in the first section. A large opening lets you into another section where you can see the bakers busily going at it and the products on cooling racks plus some being packaged.

Unlike most bakeries I’ve visited these had a lot of items already wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled so grab and go was certainly quick. From the case I got a cranberry orange muffin and just because I love them a blueberry scone. The cranberry orange muffin was good, a little moist and enough of both flavors to enjoy but let the batter taste still make it through. The scone was not as pleasant. The flavor was ok but it was too dry and crumbly and the consistency was not quite sconey (I’m sure that’s a word) enough. I also got some croissants to take back for the family and discovered they were the real deal. I got plain, chocolate, spinach, and red pepper & cheese. I had half of a spinach and half a red pepper & cheese and they were both great. They were buttery, sweet and savory with a fantastic texture. Definitely better than the scone.

The next new experience was lunch at Surf Dog with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Another place in walking distance so we got a little exercise strolling down to the shopping plaza where Surf Dog is located. They atmosphere is beachy. They have a decent number of tables and a good size bar / counter to eat at. The menu isn’t complicated but they certainly embrace the dog theme with the names of the hot dogs. I settled on a Boxer & a Mutt with homemade chips.

I liked the presentation of the dogs with the interesting bun that was like a cross between Texas toast and a top sliced bun. It did a good job of holding the grilled all beef dogs and the toppings. The Boxer was topped with pimento cheese, bacon, onion and jalapenos while the Mutt sported their secret sauce and sauerkraut. The pimento cheese was warm but not messy like I’ve had when it’s been a topping on burgers I’ve had in the past. The secret sauce wasn’t special but the kraut was tasty. Both were delicious. In summary the dogs were tasty and toppings were plentiful without being too messy. The chips were thick, fried enough to be crunchy, and based on the nice color in oil changed reasonably often. My sister gave the fried chicken sandwich a thumbs up. Surf Dog definitely worth a do-over unlike the next contestant.

We had just about the whole crew rounded up and carpooling to Coastal Wing & Spirits Co. We had high hopes for this place and they were across the street from a brewery so it felt like it should be a twofer; good food and local craft beer. It was barely a onefer. We were seated relatively quickly by the one person working the floor when we walked in. She pulled some tables together so we could sit in a big group so the initial impression was good, from the service point anyway.. The first bump came when the other server came to get our drink orders. They didn’t have any of the beer from the place, literally across the street, and the one beer I tried to order they were out of. At noon. On a weekday. Spoiler, it wasn’t going to be the last disappointment.

We got our food order in after determining they were out of something else, I can’t recall what. I ordered Uncle Carter’s Chicken Bog.

So the description on the menu was Long Grain Rice, Pulled Chicken, Smoked Sausage, Spices, Roll. That’s lifted right from the menu. The rice was long grain and the sausage might have been smoked at some time, there were some grey bits. The chicken was pulled alright, from a can. It still had the rounded contours from the can on some hunks. The main flavor was salt with stray hints of other spices. I never saw a roll so that might have been a warning to roll on out of there but I wasn’t smart enough to decode it. On the other hand the fries were competently done and the tea didn’t suck. And to be fair the waitstaff was very nice and friendly trying to work with what they did have. In case you haven’t guessed I’d not recommend this spot.

The last place I want to mention is Topsail Steamer and the food we got there. We take turns cooking supper for the whole group and my folks know how to make good grub. Each year I do a low country boil which other folks know by different names but it is essentially shrimp, sausage, corn & potatoes all boiled together with seafood seasoning. In the past I purchased the ingredients and we always had local shrimp. The issue in the past has been big cooking pots at a rental spot. Last year I saw Topsail Steamer (it’s next to the doughnut shop) and had been mulling that option for a year. In addition to the combo I wanted they have several others varying or adding the seafood plus you can add additional amounts of this or that ingredient. The big deal is they put all of this in a light single use (but you can find other uses for them) pot and they use local shrimp and have options for the seafood spice as well. Simple steaming instruction and a few containers of butter and cocktail sauce not to mention the brown paper for the table. It’s not as cheap as buying all the ingredients yourself and putting it together but I loved walking in, paying for it then coming back and picking it all up at the time I wanted. The end result was fantastic. This is the first of 3 piles to hit the table.

Photo courtesy of Keith Beasley

The quality of all the ingredients was good. The shrimp were a nice size, we had two kinds of sausage and they both had good flavors and the corn was sweet and the potatoes did their potato job and filled you up. They will be my go to next year on my night to cook.

This year I didn’t try as many new spots and my luck wasn’t as good as last year but as the saying goes, “just wait ’til next year.”

Beach Beer

I decided to add a new activity to our family beach vacation this year. On the way to get some cider for the trip I thought it might be fun to have a beer tasting and introduce people to beer they might not otherwise try and have some fun with their reactions. My thought was to keep it local by only including NC & SC beers and have 4 pretty different styles.

We used small cups as our tasters so it only took two bottles / cans for everyone to have a decent taste with little waste in case someone didn’t care for one of the selections.

The first one we tried was RJ Rockers Peachy King. Let me say now I’m using internet images because some brain surgeon forgot to take snaps of the containers.

RJ Rockers is out of Spartanburg, SC and the Peachy King is a wheat ale brewed with, you guessed it, peaches. It’s also 9% alcohol which got peoples attention even with the little shot cups. I didn’t do a word cloud but some comments were; creamy, bitter, peachy, pecan?, yuck and a straight up shiver of dislike. We had one person enthusiastic about it and several others like it while a third did not and a couple were in the OK camp. Personally I liked it.

Our next contestant was the Lenny Boy Ground Up Coffee Stout.

Lenny Boy is a Charlotte brewer and the name of the beer pretty well lays out what it’s all about. It is a 5.3% beer. The consensus was the coffee taste was there but it was mild. It was not as bitter as the Peachy King but we had several people who weren’t coffee fans so that didn’t help them much. No one was enthusiastic about this one, although a third liked it. It did get a nod for best aftertaste from one of the panel. As much as I like stouts I have to say I didn’t love this one.

Our third beer was from Sycamore Brewing, their Strawberry Lemonade Gose.

Sycamore is from Charlotte and I’ve been there a couple of time on a Friday when they had food trucks so I was already feeling positive towards the beer. If you aren’t familiar a gose is a sour beer that usually has a salty taste as well. This one is tarted up even more by being brewed with lemons and they say there are strawberries involved as well but it was a real struggle to find any. Initial impressions were; sour, lemon, lemonade flavor, acidic, and no. It is a summer beer that should be ice cold when you’re drinking it. About a third liked it, most were jumped on the OK bandwagon and one just didn’t like it at all.

Our final entry was the White Zombie white ale from Catawba Brewing.

Catawba is headquartered in Morganton, NC and I’ve visited the Charlotte location which has a very nice taproom. The White Zombie is a Belgian style wheat beer of 5.1% alcohol and a hint of citrus courtesy of the orange peel added to the brew. Interestingly this had the most initial likes but didn’t finish as the top beer in our final review. Early comments included; pissy (yes that’s what I typed), light, least bitter, watered down, a hint of orange. My feelings were it was meh.

When all was said and done Peachy King was the overall number 1, White Zombie took second, Strawberry Lemonade avoided last place by being third and the poor old Ground Up Coffee Stout was easily in 4th place.

Thanks to all the guinea pigs, I mean tasters; Lynn, Mr B, Dee, Alex, Haley, Chris, Paige, Garrett, and Lauren who joined us in spirit and can for real next year.

We all enjoyed the activity and plan to do it again on next years trip with the twist that everyone who wants to participate will bring a beer to ante up. Very much looking forward to it. Only 51 weeks to go.