Friday, June 17, 2011

Eating Up Downtown Durham

For the past month, one half of GWG has been exploring the convenience of her new home in downtown Durham. The desire to devour all things Durham was already there, but this newfound ease of access provides a seemingly insider’s view that fuels the drive to see and do and try it all—a Durham “habit” has developed.

So Wednesday evening, the GWG paired up at this new home base and headed out to browse Durham on foot. Tempted by the food trucks in formation along Rigsbee, we quickly agreed to head over to the NoCo hotblock for beer, food, and whatever else might come up. A typically impromptu Durham adventure ensued as a bite to eat turned into four hours and several beers later.

While we did not set out to create blog content, we could not resist another chance to highlight a great evening brought to you by Durham, NC. The following stream of conscience entry intends to mimic the mood of the night and is packed with all the local goods we encountered along the way:

Must get out of the way I think as runners (hundreds??) stream straight toward us but all I see are the FOOD TRUCKS in my near future; guess I haven’t earned my calories like the running brigade, but not planning to let that stop me. Today it felt great outside—I wish it would stay like this. Okay, what are we here for?—beer and food. First stop, FULLSTEAM. Let’s start a tab—two CARVER SWEET POTATO LAGERS (please) to tide us over as we wait to order up some slices from PIE PUSHERS. Look at that…she’s being reasonable—one slice of BARB’S MARGHERITA (with ELODIE FARMS goat cheese) should be enough, but I’m going for two: BACON & PINEAPPLE = sold…and one other slice with a name I’ll never remember (sausage and brie). Let’s find a picnic table tucked in the shade and begin to indulge. It’s great to see all these people (and dogs) out…really should try out that FULLSTEAM AHEAD! RUN CLUB...back to the pizza. Now the food is gone, the beers are drained…time for round two. Maybe I’ll go for something different…don’t think I’ve tried the SUMMER BASIL FARMHOUSE ALE…and two meat tamales from DOS PERROS, por favor! It’s dangerous to know about these great tastes happening just around the corner…is the ice cream truck still here?…keeping my eye on that. Tamale goes down with a swallow and the beer follows quickly behind it…is the ice cream truck still here? (yes, but I’m getting nervous). Time to make our move...THE PARLOUR bus waits for us across the street (and parked in the front of my mind). Scan the menu…decisions…single or double scoop? I’ll go big. Two scoops of SALTED BUTTER CARAMEL with HOT FUDGE and homemade PRALINE PECANS. And my counterpart will have a scoop of BLUEBERRY with PRALINE PECANS. Hey look at that, it’s PINT NIGHT at MOTORCO…just enough reason to stay out a bit longer. So many NC beers to choose from…don’t know them all but pretty sure you can’t go wrong. One NATTY GREENE BUCKSHOT AMBER and one CAROLINA BULLPEN ALE and now we are feeling good. Hey, there’s Jeff from WHISKEY…and an offer for another beer…NATTY GREENE BUCKSHOT AMBER v2. Now, down to business…we were gonna talk about the blog…yeah, let’s do that. But you know I could really go for another scoop…let’s split a double of vegan MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE (in the name of research). This frozen goodness could make me go vegan for an instant. Just got a text from Margaret…she’s around the corner at GEER STREET GARDEN…small world! Oh, forgot to close my tab so back over to FULLSTEAM…wow, there are still a lot of people out. Pretty cool Wednesday. Okay, time to be reasonable as both of us have to work in the morning...so we start our reverse trek along GEER replaying the night’s events and trying to figure when can we do this again??

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Cuy Adventure in Peru

If there is one lesson in life that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that you should try new things. Traveling is a great way to try new things and I did just that on my recent trip to Peru.

During the planning process, our group of four read about the local cuisine and we set our minds on trying guinea pig—or cuy (koo-ee) as it is known there. Little did we know, our guinea pig experience would end up being a traditional Peruvian celebration.

In Peru, the guinea pig is served for special occasions with the head of the cooked animal going to the person of honor. Since we were advised not to try guinea pig before our trip to Machu Picchu—because of the fatty, oily nature of the meat—we held off until our second to last night in Peru, which happened to be the birthday of one of our group members. The timing could not have been better.

Guinea pig must be ordered two to three hours in advance of the meal to insure the freshest meat. (Yes, what you are probably picturing right now is correct, they go to a market and catch a live one—or so we were told.) We were fortunate to make friends with a staff person from our group tour who called ahead and ordered the guinea pigs for us and set up other birthday arrangements to make the night extra special. She even came along for the party.
We ordered two to split between six people and given the pasta and stuffed pepper that came along with the pigs, it turned out to be the right amount of food for everyone. Once the pigs had been prepared they were brought to the table for their Kodak moment. Fully intact, we were all laughing nervously as we considered what we were about to eat. No backing out now though, once all the pictures had been taken, the pigs were taken back to the kitchen and cut up—making it much easier to eat.
The skin was cooked to a very crisp shell, the meat was indeed fatty and oily—very similar to duck meat—and there were lots of small bones to avoid. The meat was gamey like rabbit and tasted like no other meat we typically eat. It wasn’t a bad taste but doesn’t rank as one of our favorite meats either.
While in Peru we also tried alpaca meat. From the camel family, the alpaca is known for its soft fiber that is used to make knitted and woven items. The meat from the alpaca was tender and flavorful and when served in an elderberry sauce was one of our favorite meals on the trip. In the end, we probably preferred the alpaca over the guinea pig; although, the guinea pig celebration as a whole was difficult to top.
I’d highly recommend a trip to Peru and I would even recommend enjoying your own cuy experience while you’re there!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guilty Pleasure at Geer Street Garden

Recently the GWG braved the heat to hang out (and pig out) on the patio of Geer Street Garden. Located on the corner of Foster and Geer Streets, this repurposed gas station maintains its original charm while offering Durham’s newest setting for a cold brew and a bite of southern comfort.
Lured in by “The Pile,” a mound of calories lathered in more calories, the GWG’s decision was only confirmed when we were told the dish is not very upscale. We’ve never been about fancy food—just good (and usually greasy) food.

Listed as an appetizer, “The Pile” is a basically a southern version of cheese fries. Loaded with fried chicken, bacon, jalapenos, melted cheese and gravy, the dish comes with your choice of two additional sauces. We chose the srirachanaise and spicy mustardayonaise, flavors that stood out in the heap.
Bottom line is this dish makes a great guilty pleasure that goes down well with beer. The fries were fresh and well seasoned making a nice bed for the layers of meat and cheese, while the combination of the four sauces pulled everything together. We had to leave a few fries on the plate but it was only because we were stuffed to satisfaction.

The Geer Street menu offers a nice survey of Southern staples without trying to do too much—deviled eggs, fried chicken, pimento cheese, banana pudding and a large variety of sauces to lather over everything.

Recently they’ve made additions to finish off the patio space including a trellis and umbrellas that add shade and a soft touch to the concrete space. (We suggest adding a misting system and this will be a favorite spot for the summer).
Between the two of us we’ve also had the burger and the grilled pimento cheese and feel safe to say there is a new competitor on the block.