Durham: a neat place (part 1)

Having been abandoned by my wife, I decided to abandon Ann Arbor for more easterly pastures. First and only stop on the itinerary: Durham, NC.

Duham, I am sure, has a long and interesting history, of which I do not care and made no effort to discover. I did, however, attempt to consume mass quantities of food, drink, and pedantic discussion of trivial matters. In this I knew I would have great success because: a. I am very skilled at seeking out these activities and b. I would be there to visit my very good friend who has no qualms with copiously enjoying the aformentioned (a very common trait among those with whom I associate).

Since this was my first time flying to Durham I got a view of the area as we approached that I had not seen before. The Triangle Area, being made up of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, while being densely populated in those cities, is much less densly populated outside the cities. It’s not the typical suburban sprawl but looks more like a pine forest with small, dense subdivisions peppered about it. The populated areas vary significantly as some are clearly mansions of the rich and famous which appear to be near to pockets of inexpensive apartment buildings, typical middle class suburbs, commercial areas, or municipal facilities. It did not resemble the segregated plats typified by most urban areas or my late night creations in SimCity. Just something that struck me.

Upon arrival I admired the new airport terminal briefly, was promptly picked up, and off we were off for dinner and brew. The destination was Bull City Burger and Brewery. As with any place that has ‘burger’ in its name, I found the burgers to be a little too busy for my traditional definition of ‘burger’. I got their burger of the day which included bacon and brisket in addition to the traditional burger components. The brisket had too much of a tomato-based pot roast taste for my liking, but the bacon was a welcome addition as bacon usually is. Turns out burgers are not allowed to be cooked under 155F in North Carolina so they only ask if you want it “brown or some pink” (the kindergardeners version of doneness) and at best it ends up somewhere between medium well and well. The beef was good, but not the best, and the burger was juicy despite it being done more than I would have done at home. Overall, the burger was decent, but nothing to write on my blog about. The ‘Duck Fries’, which are finished in duck fat with fresh rosemary (not capitalized) and fleur de sel, were really good and I would happily order them again. The duck fat gave them a nice heavy flavor that made the tiny fries significant, while the rosemary lightened the mood, and the salt kept you wanting more. We got a pitcher of the wet-hopped Parish St. Pale Ale. It was not overly hopped, and definitely well crafted. I would happily place their beers a cut above many brew pubs I’ve been to.

Then it was off to James Joyce Irish Pub to finish the night. We ordered a couple of their finest bourbon (rather limited selection) and a couple local brews. We sat outside and watched as the pony ride purveyors rode up and down the street. The atmosphere was casual, the inside was dark wood, the prices were not terribly expensive. It would definitely be a good choice for a home bar. Supposedly the food is also worth a try.

The next morning we found ourselves in Biscuitville. No, this is not a small city full of fat people, it is rather a chain of restaurants in North Carolina and Virgina that happens to be full of fat people. And why wouldn’t they be? They are surrounded by delicious biscuits, grits, sausage, and gravy. I got the Chick-Fil-A knockoff breakfast (also known as breaded chicken breast between biscuits), with a side of grits and coffee. The chicken biscuit was no Chick-Fil-A but was good and, since we don’t have Chick-Fil-A near Ann Arbor, I’ll gladly take what I can get. The grits were actually quite good and buttery though I conserved them as my only form of sustenance throughout the day, which eventually led to them become a less delicious cold brick of ground corn. The coffee caused me to twich for several hours, so it seemed to work.

Hopped up on caffeine, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a run in the hottest part of the day. I strapped on the Garmin Forerunner 305 I bought for my wife and went out into the world. The area was not particularly well sidewalk-ed so I felt better running on less busy but labrynthian subdivisions. Eventually the caffeine was processed and I realized I was thirsty and had no idea how to get back. I then found that the Garmin will draw a line between where you are and where you started. So after several dead ends and thoughts of scaling peoples fences to get back, I kept at it via roads until the line was so small that it became a dot and then I was where I wanted to be. Without technology I would be dead many times over.

Upon completion of his duties at work, my friend and I went to Sams Quik Shop. As far as beer stores go this one is great. A huge selection of beer in all forms from all regions. We got a couple 750ml bottles of saison, a couple single bottles, a couple six packs of something ‘artisan’, a couple oil cans, and a mexican beer sampler. Basically the perfect summer sampler pack.

Before we were able to get too far along it was dinner time. This evening we were going to Dos Perros. Why, because it’s Mexican food and Mexican food is really good every time always forever siesta. This Mexican food happened to be very much great. The chips and salsa were awesome. The chips were fresh, greasy, and crunchy, the salsa had enough heat to satisfy my minimum heat requirements (very important). They had something containing the words “al pastor’ on the menu, so I didn’t have to look any further, but I did. Upon doing so I found the chile relleno and noticed my friend was ordering the al pastor, so I knew it would be tasteable. I ordered the chile relleno and while it was very good topped with wonderfully dark black bean puree, it was a little small on the portion for my liking. Then there was pork loin al pastor with grilled pineapple salsa. It was basically a very well-seasoned pork tenderloin with a well balanced sweet pineapple salsa served with really delicious and authentic beans and rice. Very good. I had a ‘lovely and regal drink” known as the Dos Perros Royale. It was tequila, hibiscus syrup, and sparkling wine. It was girly looking as a tampon in a tutu, but fresh tasting and, having only ate some grits since breakfast, got me feeling all special inside. Additionally, the gents at the table split a trio of ales made wth thyme, rosemary (lowercase), and sage from three breweries. It was a very interesting flight and, though they were all good, the differences between the three were staggering. Herbs and beer are probably good things to combine. This restaurant frequently has prix fixe menus that feature pairings with alcoholic liquids. It was at one such dinner than my friend discovered mezcal (the drink pictured above). It’s basically tequila made from cooked agave, which causes the drink to become extremely smokey. It really takes the bite off of what is basically a tequila blanco. There may be some other flavors in there, but the smoke is by far the most prominent, that’s why it is perfect for lots of mexican dishes or BBQ… a highlight of my next post, which will round off my Durham trip.

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