Booze of the Month! – August

There have been a lot of tasty bevvies on tap in August, but no one cocktail compares to the enlightening insanity that is Raleigh Beer Week:

  • 14 establishments
  • Daily tastings of  limited-time casks, kegs, bottles and cans
  • Pairing menus
  • Specialty happy hour deals
  • And most importantly: A 1-week excuse to be at the bar every night for “educational” reasons

Follow all of the action at and keep up with my home-town friend and brewha guru Kevin Pelham broadcasting live from the end of every open tap in Raleigh:

twitter: @raleighbeerweek

Instagram: @leftstage

Cheers to Raleigh, “America’s Smartest Beer Drinking City!”

Bull City Secrets

There’s some shady and delicious things about to go down in Durm’ for the next two weeks. It’s called Bully City Secrets, a digital scavenger hunt supplying participants with secret, off-menu options at dozens of bars and restaurants around Durham. It’s a smartphone speakeasy smorgasbord starting today (8.16)!

Long story short: Download the PopUp app, follow Bull City Secrets, and learn about all of the hidden menu items around town.

Long story long:

See who’s eating and drinking where, compete to hit as many as possible, and win prizes all for being a sneaky snacker. I’m planning on winking and nodding at every bartender in town, what could go wrong?

Booze of the Month! – July

The tale of July’s liquor libation has been passed down thru the years. Like The Odyssey or Iliad, but for drunks. The story’s details fizzle in and out of existence, characters arrive and disappear, and the inventor is everyone and no one simultaneously. In my own eyes-mind, the story goes something like this….

Location: Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill.
Date: Unknown
Time: Approx. 3AM

The party has become a nomansland, bodies are strewn across the floor, pool table, and futons as the morning hours tick by. The remnants of poor decisions abound…In the kitchen, a shirtless company of squinted-eyed zombies mindlessly comb the cabinets for further refreshment. Cans are kicked, bottles tossed, cups are smashed and hope fades as the search appears fruitless.

Then, in a shining moment of incandescent revelation, our hero pulls from the depths of the refrigerator a green bottle. Jameson? Jager? Walker?!

A crescendo of sighs welcomes the bottle of bottom-shelf gin. Celebration lasts a mere moment as reality sets in…Gin as a final pull before pulling the plug? Even our drunken hazed comrades know this idea is folly. Back to the fridge!

Pickle Juice? Mustard? Hot Pockets? No no! Gatorade? We’ll need that in the morning…

Then, like some non-fictional Moses, our Hero parts the sea of condiments to reveal: an expired bottle of grapefruit juice.

Gin…Juice…hold on, I think we’ve heard this somewhere….GIN & JUICE! Let the slurring of lyrics begin.

The kitchen erupts in song and laughter as the contents of both treasures are mixed into an aromatic witches brew of elation, vitamin C, and notes of juniper. The day is won and all of the maidens awaken in topless jubilee!

Desperation is the mother of collegiate invention – even if what’s being invented has already been invented, apparently:

Gin & Juice (The Greyhound)

2oz Tanqueray Gin

1/2 Cup Grapefruit Juice (fresh squeezed or expired…)

Large Ice Cubes

Anyway you can manage, combine all three of these ingredients and enjoy!

Sundholm Secrets

China called, and Shaun Sundholm answered. A braj of many hats, @F_Letter left our shores a few days ago for bigger, better, and more MSG-laced things but not before introducing an A-Team of adventurous coworkers to some of the best eats in Raleigh (ironically Shaun lived in Durham).

A couple of these grub-hubs were once on level-5 Baldwin& lockdown, shared only with the few and privileged, but our memories must live on by the mouthful, so lucky you for landing on the receiving end of our bon-voyages.

1. Soo Cafe

If you’re looking for the best traditional fried chicken in the area, there’s no beating Beasley’s. BUT, if you’re looking for the next best thing to shove in and around your mouth then try Soo Cafe. Located incomprehensibly  next to School Kids Records on Hillsborough street, the ‘cafe’ is known for their Korean Fried Chicken: Double Fried and coated in sticky, sweet, spicy sauces. I’d recommend something else, but there’s really no reason – get the chicken and prepare for a meal full of erotic noises.

2. Seoul Garden

Speaking of Korean, on the outskirts of town is another korean outpost full of many and varied specialties. Seoul Garden is a large, Korean Barbecue style restaurant outfitted with grill-top tables and copious amounts of  HITE beer. The Bento Box is a steal during lunch, crammed full of dumplings, tempura, and your choice of protein – Short Ribs or Pork Bulgogi are nuts. The cold Bimbambap is off the hook, while the grill-top options are great but overpriced.

Our favorite part of Seoul Garden: The Banchan or small dishes that are served alongside everything. From small crispy fish and potatoes in honey to sesame stringbeans and fiery kimchee, they’re unlimited and always on point.

NOTE: Put Go Chu Jang (hot sauce) on everything.

3. Pho Cali

I was a frequent visitor of Pho Cali before I started at Baldwin& and met the infamous F_Letter but the frequency definitely increased in the cold lunch months after. I say cold because the house speciality, Pho, is a giant bowl of steaming hot beef broth littered with tender beefy bits. Not ideal in 90% humidity, but they have plenty of cold-noodle dishes as well as other fiery soups like the Pork & Lemongrass or Tapioca Noodle. There’s also the added bonus of cold, suspiciously-flavored Bubble Tea to cool your bones.

Our crew typically started with the pork Bahn Mi cut into smaller pieces as a starter. It’s not your traditional Bahn Mi, but damn good when the breads freshly toasted.

4. Taqueria El Toro

Known only as Secret Tacos, Taqueria El Toro was our greatest kept secret. Slipping out the front door unannounced on pilgrimage to this holiest of holy taco tanks, Secret Tacos remained a secret until Shaun’s last day when the agency saddled up and rode out 20 deep. Secret Tacos then, and forever, became Public Tacos.

Everything is good, nothing is not delicious, but if I had to call out a few main attractions I’d say go for the tongue taco, el pastor gordita, and the Menudo (tripe stew) available only on Saturdays.

Layer your tacos up with the half dozen salsa options at the salsa buffet (yes, that says salsa buffet), toss in a few roasted jalapeños, some spicy cabbage and pickled carrots maybe. Pop a Victoria, wipe your brow and enjoy the meat sweats while watching Mexican soccer.

Until your return, Zai Jian Amigo!

Booze of the Month! – June

From my experience, Italy is not a beer drinking country. I may have only lived there for 6 months, but within those transformative weeks I guzzled far more Irish and Scottish beers than Italian brands.

It makes complete sense really. Why drink beer in a country with such an unlimited wealth of world-class wines, liquors, and cocktails? More over, it seemed the only locals chugging local beer were the gypsies suckling Birra Moretti 40’s on a stoop at 8am…Not the scene to wet one’s palette.

But change and variety is imperative to living a good life, not to mention lightly-buzzed, and Italy is now gaining some esteem and respect for it’s balanced and delicious brews. Craft beer stores are stocked with a catalogue of exciting new draughts from the boot, but today’s time-honored classic will forever be the flagship Italian pour:


Peroni Nastro Azzurro

Product Details: 5.1% Alcohol lager brewed in Rome, founded in Lombardia in 1846.

Appearance: Similar in many aspects to a Heineken, Peroni is bright blonde with a sparkling white foam and energetic bubbling on the pour.

Aroma: Fresh, lightly malty with a crisp whiff of hops.

Taste: Clean pilsners and lagers have always been my favorite beers. What they lack in over-saturated flavor they make up for in refreshment, clarity and simplicity. Peroni is exactly that: refined and balanced with a tip to classics like Pilsner Urquel and Grolsch (owned by the same company unsurprisingly). It’s a great example of the classic saying: ‘Quanto Basta” meaning just enough – it’s beer, with just enough of what you’re looking for to make it a perfect pint.

Food Pairings: The few times I enjoyed a draught tumbler of Peroni in Italy, it was accompanied by an oven-roasted pizza, fried calamari or small vegetables, and grilled meats. I’d raise the bet by challenging anyone to find a dish this clerical beer won’t accompany well.

Price: $8.99 for a six pack at your local grocer. However, my friends and I have been ordering kegs of the good stuff for special occasions, which runs upwards of $165…totally worth it. Peroni on tap is sublime.

Overall: I’ve mentioned this thought to a lot of craft brewers I’ve met over the years: if you want to change the game, make a beer like Peroni. Not only is it tastier than Sofia Loren in a bikini circa 1960, but it’s the ideal session beer with that unmistakeable thirst-quenching quality that ironically never quenches your thirst. Microbrewers take note: coffee stouts are great, but a seamless session pils will please the masses.

NOTE: Interestingly, Peroni Nastro Azzurro translates to Peroni Blue Ribbon or…oh my gahhhhh….PBR!!!

Happy Drinking & Salute!

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