Greek Yums

Snacks from Greece

The September box from Universal Yums was loaded with treats from the land of Greece. I’ll say up front it was a mostly solid box with nothing being awful but there were a few I’m ok with never having again.

We’ll start off with my favorite and also the winner of the least photogenic of the snacks.

The poor Serenata Triplo Hazelnut did not fare well in transit due to the ovenlike temps we were having. As much as it looked like something that would empty a public pool it was quite tasty. The milk chocolate was good quality, the hazelnuts were big generous pieces while the wafers and cream filling provided a delicious platform adding even more textures. A case of don’t judge the snack by it’s melty cover.

The second place finisher was a baklava variant call Soragli.

Phyllo pastry dough, almonds, walnuts, a hint of cinnamon and syrup wrapped in a roll, how can you not like that? I will say it did spike the old blood sugar but in small doses it’s a straight up winner.

I didn’t have a “This was nasty” experience so instead of a least favorite I have a most disappointing.

OK look at the package, now look at the inside of the cake. Notice the difference in the size of the cocoa cream filling? I know the pictures always show a best case scenario but come on that’s just false advertising. Aside from being a tad dry the bread itself wasn’t bad and the filling had a decent flavor even if it was spiced with disappointment.

Most unusual goes to another one that was also a bit of a let down.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the donut shaped, cakey looking item with the grapes on the package. I did expect something grapish about it though and that expectation was met only minimally. It was a wheat cake that was sweet and the 8th ingredient was grape juice and it tasted like that’s where grapes were in the priority. The texture was crumbly and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet in spite of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sorbitol beating out the grapes on the ingredient listing. It went ok with some strong black hot tea. There are too many other better snacks though to bother with this one again.

I want to give a shout out to the candies from the Yum Bag.

They were all three a hit with me and each was very different from the others. The white ball was an ouzo flavored hard candy that had a great anise taste. The middle one was a honey flavored toffee chew that nailed the honey flavor and the toffee just about melted in my mouth as I chewed it. The pomegranate jelly candy had the tartness of the pomegranate and the consistency almost like a Turkish delight with a light dusting of sugar crystals. All nice little nuggets of goodness.

There was also a peanut and honey bar that was reminiscent of a peanut plank, some oregano potato chips, a bruschettini pizza cracker, and some mini breadsticks with pesto flavor plus a chocolate coated wafer cookie that rounded out the box. According to the hints the next box should be an assortment from Austria. Looking forward to seeing what that includes.

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.

Friday Crab Day

Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted due to a combination of vacation and sloth. However it was the third Friday of the month and if you don’t know by now that’s Food Truck Friday, put it on your calendar.

This month started way less hellish than last month at a much more tolerable 82 or 28 for the C folks. The sun was shining and the music was blaring when I pulled into the parking spot and the early crowd was robust compared to the last few FTFs.

A quick swing by the adult beverage tent secured me a Damn Yankee IPA from Southern Barrel Brewing. It was a passable and hoppy way to pass the time as I wandered from truck to truck looking for inspiration and dinner. The crowd was larger than normal and there were so many children running around the fountain I saw 3 separate instances of mothers mistakenly grabbing somebody else’s kid when they got too close to the water.

The bright red of the Baltimore Crab Cake Co caught my eye and lured me in.

The offering was slim; a crab cake sandwich, she crab soup, coleslaw and chips. The up side of that was the service was faster than just about any I’ve ever had at a food truck. I got the crab cake sandwich and because they had a money back guarantee on their homemade coleslaw I felt challenged to try it.

Up to this point the band had been inoffensive, not bad, not great, just live elevator music but then they hit us with Wagon Wheel during the brief time I was at the Baltimore Crab Cake truck which earned them some point with me. Sandwich in hand I settled in to see what else they might have up their microphones.

The photo will serve as my awkward segue back to the sandwich. The crab cake was loaded with lumps of real crab and spiced with Old Bay seasoning and enough filler to hold it together during cooking and long enough to get it to the bun but then all structural integrity was out the window. They had a mustardy, slightly spicy remoulade to accompany the sandwich. All good but I’m not sure I’d do it again for $11. The coleslaw was good enough I didn’t test the guarantee. It was mostly diced cabbage rather than the more common shredded or sliced. It had a bit of dairy flavor I couldn’t quite peg like they added a touch of sour cream or buttermilk to the recipe. Thankfully they didn’t add sugar and make it a sweet coleslaw. Overall it was a decent meal and with the amount of real crab I was okay with the price point.

That pretty much covers the food portion of the blog, now we’re on to the experience of the evening. After finishing the meal I wandered over to the other beer tent and got a Passion Fruit Kolsch beer from New Belgium Brewing. For those of you that gagged a little right there let me say it was really decent. I’m a big fan of passion fruit and was a mildly disappointed the flavor wasn’t stronger. This had just a enough of a hint that if you didn’t know what it was you’d think it was just hops. It also was more fizzy than heady. Not a bad choice to kick back and enjoy the band that was getting me even more on their side with the Zac Brown / Jimmy Buffet Knee Deep song.

I found a good spot along a low wall to perch and enjoy the PFK, the band who has belted out Black Water at this point got some applause out of me. I’m feeling in a generous spirit, watching this diverse crowd of all ages, ethnicities and Breakfast Club stereotypes enjoying a night out in harmony and thinking this is just people being people. It made me smile and feel good about my community.

Now before you start thinking “Damn, the pod people got James”, let me just tell you I wasn’t quite ready to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with everybody. There was a dude next to me talking to a couple of his buddies going on and on about his golf equipment, his carbon shaft, big club heads, putter faces and in a tone of voice that made it sound just that dirty and creepy. Then he started talking about this guy he played with the other day. He regaled them (and me due to proximity) for 10 minutes with stories this guy told him about holes in one and famous people he’d golfed with, etc. and finished with “but he’s a drug addict so he might have been lying.”

As I was rolling my eyes a fellow who looked like a 5′ 5″ Lebron James miniature walked by and the band started playing Drift Away. So I smiled at mini Lebron and drifted away from that group.

Friday Night Dumplings

The August Food Truck Friday started and ended as a hot one. When I headed down there at a bit after 6:00 pm it was 91, “feels like” Hell’s front porch and got hotter by the time I arrived. According to the weather app it was 93, “feels like” Satan’s armpit. OK, the “feels like” might have been numbers but sweat was dripping on the screen so I had to interpret. Anyway I went gamely forth to acquire food and drink.

Of course the first stop was the beverage tent where there were plenty of uninteresting options plus one called Shadow of Death from Snafu Brewing. I really wanted to try that but it was so hot the thought of that heavy stout made cringe so I settled for the Kick Plastic Pilsner from SweetWater Brewery. It was much lighter than the stout and more appropriate for the conditions. I didn’t take a picture because you’ve all seen a cup of Miller or PBR.

After scouring the choice of trucks this month the Dumpling Girls grabbed my attention with their pan fried dumpling combo. The Batman hat the young lady taking the orders was wearing didn’t hurt either.

They had pork & shrimp or chicken variants to choose from. I got chicken dumplings with 2 spring rolls as my side accompanied by the spicy sauce on the side.

The dumplings were steamed and then pan fried. I’m not sure what else they had in the pan but they picked up some fond from the pan and a soy glaze that went nicely with the ground chicken, herb filling. The “spicy” sauce was a bit of a disappointment on the heat front has it had no kick but it did have a good flavor. It was thin chili oil sauce that complimented the dumplings very well and honestly I was dredging the spring rolls through it as well. So it wasn’t hot but it was tasty. I’ll tell you what was hot though. the temperature.

I didn’t stay long after I finished my meal and beer but I did have to linger long enough to hear the band finish one of the most unusual mash-ups I’ve heard. The band was the Kevin Nichols Band and they skewed towards country but played other stuff as well. The one that caught my attention as I was about to leave though was Folsom Prison Blues. It was going along fine, I was finishing a spring roll and all of sudden the words weren’t making sense so I paid attention and there it was. Pinball Wizard sung to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues then he just segued right back to Johnny Cash and finished it off. I was left with that “what just happened” feeling and as you try to wrap your head around how that combo was possible I’ll just sign off.

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.

Columbian Yum

Seems I haven’t included a Yum box in the blog for a while so let me jump back in with the box from Columbia.

I have to say Universal Yums did a great job with this stash of snacks. I’m not sure my usual MO of highlighting the top 2 plus the worst and most unusual will be maintained. Let’s see where the train of consciousness stops. We will start with one of my all time favorites though.

This little box was just fantastic. It pushed several of my buttons (the good buttons), it had variety with 6 different flavors, they were sweets and smooth creamy textures were a joy to eat. Caja de Dulces Surtidos, assorted sweets. There was a milk caramel that was essentially condensed milk and sugar cooked down into a silky consistency and sweet taste that belied it’s simplicity. The Coffee took that fantastic caramel base and added Columbian coffee that tasted fresh brewed. The Guava had a layer of guava paste on top of the caramel to give it a wonderful tropical flavor and add a second texture. The Panela was made from unrefined cane sugar and had kind of a brown sugar taste on top of the dairy goodness. The Orange had orange zest adding some citrus notes and some bitterness to contrast with the sweet of the candy. Finally the Coconut added a different tropical taste and consistency to the dulce de leche and different was good. I’m almost glad they don’t sell these here as I might become an addict.

Picking a second favorite was hard because there was nothing close to the favorite and almost nothing I didn’t like but I’m going with the Bacon Lime chips.

I wasn’t sure about them when I grabbed the bag, I mean bacon and lime? When I saw they looked like little bacon strips I started to come around. The composition was like a rectangular cheese puff and you there is a bacon aroma and flavor right at the start but then the lime joins the party like a diva headed for a microphone. In spite of the fact they look a bit like a dog treat and the lime is a tad strong I really did enjoy these chips.

There wasn’t anything I thought was just bad so the worst in this case is just my least favorite. They were unexciting enough that I forgot to take a picture of them. They were plantain cookies which were crisp and slightly sweet and that’s about all I can say about them. On the other hand I have two for the unusual category.

The first picture is of mayonnaise chips. Some of you may be gagging, some going Yum!, and others just intrigued or a little chip curious. For the most part it isn’t a combo you see in US stores. They were not bad at all. The chips were decent ruffled crisps and the mayo flavor was there but not at all overpowering. Honestly they’d probably be great on a sandwich you were putting mayo on anyway.

The pastel Easter egg looking candies were candy coated white chocolate bits with a gummy bear center. It was quite interesting to take a bite and just like the package shows, have a little gummy staring at you. If you throw a whole one in your mouth you get the crunch of the candy shell followed by the smooth white chocolate and you end with that chewy gummy so it has quite the mouth feel. They were good but also quite unusual.

There were some other nice snacks both sweet and savory, like the garlic plantain chips, the coconut cream wafer cookies, the cheese & butter arepa chips and the passionfruit lollipop with bubblegum in the center to name some.

There is one I’ll mention because the packaging threw me.

I saw this package and just knew I was going to get some turnip flavored gummy candy and that sent a shiver up my spine. I’m game though and gave it a try. Strawberries and cream? Heck yeah! The flavor may have been enhanced by sweet relief but even so I’d recommend them.

Well that’s all for the Columbia Yum box. The next one in queue is from Indonesia and there’s a few interesting tidbits in that one too.

Indonesian Yum

Welcome to the country of islands, 17,508 according to the booklet with the snacks.

If this box is a representation of the Indonesian snacks as a whole they have a bit of a sweet tooth in southeast Asia. Two thirds of the snacks were sweet rather than savory. The ones I’m highlighting betray my own sweet tooth, starting with my favorite of the box.

The Coffee Joy cookies were as named. They were thin crispy cookies with a hint of coffee taste and topped with a sprinkling of sugar crystals. I sat there enjoying them watching TV and was surprised when I realized I reached the last cookie. Nothing complex but a complete treat.

My second favorite came from the Yum bag which has the little bite sized candies. In this case one of the several gummies in the box.

The Cola Burger, on the far left in the photo, did in fact taste like cola. This took me back to youth and the first cola flavored gummy I ever had in Geneva. I’m sure the nostalgia bumped it up in the rankings but it really did have a very nice cola flavor and the burger shape was fun. Since you saw them in the pic I’ll say the tamarind hard candy was interesting and I wouldn’t mind one every now and then. The melon milk chew was a contender for the oddest thing in the box. It wasn’t horrible but not two flavors I love together. Speaking of odd.

The track record for meat flavored snacks has been spotty and best and this one didn’t improve the record. They have a slightly weird smell I’ve started to associate with artificial meat flavor and find off putting. The little balls are made of tapioca and have a slightly sweet flavor and a decent crunch. The size and shape make them a pain in the behind to grab a few and eat though. If the flavor had been different they might not have been my least favorite snack in the box but alas it was fake beef and just kind of nasty.

This little bowl of fun I thought was the most unusual, but in a good way. Both the egg and noodles are like gummies with some slightly sour fruit taste but sweet overall. The noodles had a slight sugar coating that also made them easy to separate. I don’t know what the flavor was but I like it and it was definitely a snack that brought a smile as I ate it.

I just wanted to mention these because of the savories it was my favorite and sort of like corn nuts I can get here. The difference was instead of being the swollen kernels we have these are regular corn size kernels and just as light but with a crunch that makes a sound like an 18 wheeler driving down a gravel lane. Bonus they were garlic flavored.

Overall the Indonesia box was solid with only a couple of duds. Well done Universal Yums.

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.

Nice Doggy

You’re probably saying to yourself “I hope he’s eating hot dogs and not hound dogs,” and I can understand why you might not be certain.

Well let me assure you no dogs were done in to further this blog. Puppies however were consumed. Hush puppies that is.

I’m traveling to a family reunion and lunch time rolled around just as I was getting into Kinston, NC where there’s a BBQ place called King’s and it reminded me they have an item worth blogging about.

First a bit about King’s. It’s been around longer than I have so you know it’s old and it has a loyal clientele built on years of serving good Eastern NC style pork BBQ and since that’s where my people are from that has always been “real” BBQ to me. The outside looks like a step up from a warehouse so pretty isn’t going to pull you in. Over the years they’ve expanded and the inside is nice but still definitely a BBQ joint. They have a buffet dining area and one for a la carte dining which also has an oyster bar. I was seated in the latter and soon had my dish of choice in front of me.

This, my friends, is a Pig in a Puppy. Just about the ultimate barbecue sandwich. It is a generous helping of pork topped with coleslaw (optional) served in a giant hush puppy instead of a roll or bread. I don’t know who had the idea but it was genius.

Amazingly with a puppy that big they manage to cook it just right so it’s not doughy inside or really overcooked outside. It is a little crumbly but that’s why they bring you a fork too. I said it was about ultimate, if I’d had some of the Pucker Butt Voodoo something or other hot sauce I have at hot to lightly sprinkle on it that would have pushed it over the edge.

In case the sandwich didn’t melt your heart they give you a basket of puppies too.

How cute are they? They were good but a little sweeter than I prefer. If they dropped the added sugar and maybe added some onion powder it would be better in my opinion.

If you find yourself in Eastern North Carolina around meal time and Kinston anywhere near your route give King’s a try.

Side note, this is the first blog entry I’ve done entirely on the phone so fat fingers are going to be my excuse for any errors, factual or otherwise.