I’ll never forget the day I took this photo of North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones. We were sitting in the middle of a field at Green Button Farm in Bahama, NC (pronounced Ba-hay-ma). He had just finished prepping a whole hog for the NC BBQ Revival, and I was patiently waiting for his famous storytelling. While sipping my Cheerwine, wide-eyed like a child, I listened as Sam relived stories from his past with the detail of a bestselling novel. He is a 3rd generation, award-winning pitmaster who is rising to fame in his own right. But in that moment, surrounded by blades of gold, I met a humble Eastern North Carolina man who didn’t keep with his family’s craft for fame’s sake. He was simply following in his grandfather Pete Jones’ footsteps.
Throughout the remainder of the day, we continued to bond over Southern gospel music, Dolly Parton, and Sweet Home Alabama (yes, the movie with Reese Witherspoon). Sam has since become like that family. So when planning the CurEat Raleigh Scavenger Hunt and the After Party at Transfer Co. Food Hall, I knew I wanted Sam to be there. And sure enough, he will be! Even though we won’t be on a farm in the middle of a field, I want folks to have a little taste of what I experienced.
It’s a Thursday night and I have a hankering for a cocktail and chef Scott Crawford’s apple-parsnip soup and warm malted wheat rolls. I’m single and my friends are busy. After all, the craving hit last minute, and I plan to walk in and sit at the bar. I throw on jeans and a sweater, slide my feet into the first pair of flats I see in my closet, and make my way to Crawford & Son.
Opening the heavy wooden doors, I am instantly greeted with warmth. Because I decided I needed soup and bread at 4:45 p.m. and Crawford & Son opens at 5:00 p.m., I am able to grab a seat for one at the bar. I chat with John May, who now serves as the general manager, for a few minutes before placing my order. The bartenders know me by name because I always sit at the bar whether I’m flying solo or introducing a friend to one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh.
Once my order is in, chef comes out to say hello. I have zero regrets about sipping a cocktail and eating malted rolls alone because I’m able to learn more about the men and women who create community through food and beverage. It’s quite magical.
Why am I telling you this story? I recently found CurEater Angela Hansberger’s “Seat for one at the bar” CurEat list for restaurants and bars in Atlanta and thought about how much I enjoy solo dining experiences. I scoped out a few menus from the restaurants on her list and chose the items that I would order when I find myself sitting alone at a bar in Atlanta.
The cocktails and dishes I chose while laying on the couch at 8 p.m. are the first that caught my eye. I would most likely change the dish after tasting the cocktail. But then again, I could always order a pre-dinner cocktail and a cocktail that would pair better with my meal. Regardless, I look forward to asking for a seat for one at the bar the next time I find myself in Atlanta. And, I will use CurEater Angela Hansberger’s CurEat lists to guide me.
Two-thousand eighteen has been quite an enlightening year for me as it has marked the dawn of my cider awakening. For the majority of my adult life, cider was the beverage on the shelf that sat nestled beside apple juice, and hard cider was the drink at the end of the store’s fridge past the cheap beer. It wasn’t until my work with CurEat introduced me to cider experts and makers like Mattie Beason, of Black Twig Cider House, Diane Flynt, of Foggy Ridge Cider, and Courtney Mailey, of Blue Bee Cider, that I acquired a taste for the ancient, fermented apple beverage. And thanks to a 45 minute conversation I recently had with Diane Flynt, I acquired countless bushels of respect for cider and its complexities, as well as inspiration from the woman who pioneered the revival of cider making in the modern South.
The phone rang as I looked over the questions I had prepped in Google Docs for Diane, knowing very well that our conversation would naturally evolve into more than the black and white words on my computer screen. Diane was in the thick of planning a party that some called her retirement party, but what she called a celebration of the 21-ish years of hard work she and her husband, Chuck Flynt, put into Foggy Ridge Cider. Yet, she answered with a warm, inviting “hello”. I knew immediately that our chat would feel as though we were sitting on her porch looking out at her sprawling 250 acre farm in Dugspur, Virginia, a little town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
After briefly introducing myself and thanking Diane for taking the time to chat, I congratulated her on her retirement. To which she replied, “I don’t like to think of it as ‘retirement’. It’s more of a celebration and a transition into what’s next.” Diane’s transition out of cider production and making doesn’t mean she is leaving her apples behind forever. She and Chuck will still maintain and grow the five to seven apple varieties on their orchard, selling them to cideries. Diane will continue to educate chefs about cider and offer tree grafting classes. Needless to say, we can all take deep breaths because Diane and her heirloom apples aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Being a four-time James Beard Award nominee and semifinalist, Diane is nationally known and respected for her work. But, I was curious as to how she found her way to the orchard, and why she chose to grow and graft her own apple trees on top of making cider. Her journey began in Georgia where she was surrounded by farmland. Diane’s grandfather was a farmer. As a young girl, she would spend time roaming the farm, eating apples from the trees that peppered the land. It was there that she would cultivate her love for agriculture.
Diane would eventually leave the farms of Georgia to attend college, but her career path was far from working the land. “I always wanted to work in agriculture,” she said as she recounted the early days. “It was the 70s and the economy wasn’t great, and I wanted to be able to pay off my school loans. You couldn’t very well do that in agriculture.” She graduated with a business degree, and it was a big deal to be a woman pursuing a career in banking at the time.
For more than 20 years, Diane wore many different hats in business and banking, which means she was in her mid-forties before she started Foggy Ridge Cider. “People thought I wanted to escape the corporate world, but I actually enjoyed it.” I could hear the sincerity in her voice. “I used a lot of the knowledge and experience I gained to operate Foggy Ridge Cider.” As someone who loves being part of a startup and equally loves the land like Diane, I was inspired by what she said next. “I see myself as a creative, and as creatives, we have the capability to do many different things. We evolve.” But, contrary to what many may think about sudden career changes, Diane’s transition from the corporate world to apple orchard didn’t happen overnight.
Diane studied cider making for years before she and Chuck bought their 50 acre (now 250 acre) farm. “Many people think they can take a two week cider making course and be good to go. It’s just not the case,” she said. She even spent time in California and England, honing her cider skills that would be invaluable to the success of Foggy Ridge Cider.
The decision to graft and grow her own cider apple trees, was quite intentional for Diane. Besides living in Virginia where apple trees thrive, making it a no-brainer to own an orchard, Diane loves growing trees. “I’m really good at growing wooded plants,” she said with humble confidence. “I wanted to grow something that would last forever.” Diane wanted to be the grower and the maker – which makes sense for someone who is a creative – and cider apple trees would allow her to be both.
Thirty minutes into our conversation, there was still so much I wanted to know. My curiosity was thirsty. So in order to quench that thirst, I continued to ask questions. I wanted to know how she made cider, the length of time it took for the trees to grow in the Foggy Ridge orchard, the history of cider apples in North America (there was 17,000 varieties at one point), etc. You know, all the things I could have Googled, but I wanted to hear it from Diane, and she kindly answered all my questions without hesitation.
Diane and Chuck planted their first cider trees in 1997, which was the beginning of Foggy Ridge Cider. They didn’t see the first fruits until 2000/2001. And in 2004, they were finally able to make their first batch of cider. I imagined giant oak barrels filled with fermenting apples, but that wasn’t the Foggy Ridge way. Diane chose to make cider in stainless steel barrels because she found that oak overwhelms cider’s already-complex flavors, and she wanted the flavors of the orchard to come through in every bottle.
We talked about other things besides Foggy Ridge Cider like the 3000 sq. foot garden that she and Chuck cultivate together. “We have plum trees, cabbage, rhubarb, berries, etc. If I can grow it, it’s in the garden.” Even when they cook, they cook as a team, with Diane cooking the vegetables while Chuck prepares the meat.
Although I could have talked with Diane for hours, I knew I needed to wind down our conversation. She wouldn’t let me go until I told her a little bit about myself, which I always have a hard time doing. And before we said goodbye, she invited me to her celebration party. I had no idea how inspired I would be after spending 45 minutes on the phone with Diane Flynt. She went from one male-dominated industry to being revered in yet another male-dominated industry, and she did so with a huge smile on her face and determination in her heart. Overtime, Diane allowed herself to grow and evolve and became like that heirloom apple that we all love and hope to find.
For more information about Diane Flynt and Foggy Ridge Cider, visit the Foggy Ridge Cider website. You can also find Diane’s restaurant and bar recommendations by following her on the CurEat App.
CurEat founder Steve Mangano spoke at Charleston Wine + Food’s Pecha Kucha + Choir! Choir! Choir! If you aren’t familiar with Pecha Kucha, its an event where speakers have 7 minutes to present their topic with 20 slides. Steve inspired the audience to seek and share positivity instead of leaving negative reviews that live on a review website for eternity. Watch his Pecha Kucha speech and be inspired to make a change in how you search for restaurants and bars! Hint: the CurEat App will help you make that change.
The heat in New Orleans in the summer is not a joke. Seeing that Raleigh, NC has its fair share of piping-hot days, we know all of the great bars and restaurants with good patios and refreshing menus. We are headed to the Big Easy in July and found ourselves asking, “Where do we beat the heat in New Orleans?” So we tapped into our CurEaters’ to see what they had on their New Orleans lists for us to bookmark for the trip.
When you want to cool down in a sweet courtyard with a cold cocktail to beat the heat in New Orleans, Cane & Table is it. We found this gem on CurEater Amy Langrehr’s “New Orleans” CurEat list and immediately bookmarked it. After taking a look at the menu, we know that we’ll 100 percent order the Coconut Marinated Cucumber Salad, Little Gem Salad, Coctel de Mariscos, and basically the entire small plates menu.
We don’t always crave sandwiches when it’s hot out but we can’t resist the urge to try Cochon Butcher, especially since it’s on 14 CurEaters’ New Orleans lists. We would order the Moroccan Spiced Lamb or the Cold Roast Beef and add on a cocktail.
There are many reasons why we want to try Chef Kelly Fields’ Willa Jean. For one, it’s on CurEater Lisa Donovan’s New Orleans CurEat list. They also serve up frosé. We couldn’t think of a better beverage to beat the heat in New Orleans. You can choose dishes made with fresh, local ingredients from their breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menu. Kelly Fields is a stellar chef and person, so we would eat anything that she puts on our plates.
Thanks to CurEater Keith Rhodes and 8 other CurEaters for the Compère Lapin recommendation. Chef Nina Compton received the James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South 2018, so we definitely bookmarked Compère Lapin. For brunch, we would go for the Bottom-less Brunch Punch/Dealer’s Choice, chilled shrimp, and goat bolognese. After looking at the menu, we know we can’t go wrong with the playful dishes that are inspired by Caribbean folktales.
Being from North Carolina, we’re serious about barbecue — real serious. We may be a little partial to NC ‘cue, but we know that the taste varies from state to state. Now that summer holidays are upon us it’s time to indulge in the American classic, whether you go a barbecue restaurant or serve it up in your backyard. To guide you to the ‘cue this summer, follow our 7 barbecue CurEaters.
Known as the barbecue heiress, CurEater Amy Mills is the daughter of barbecue legend Mike Mills. Amy co-authored the James Beard Award-nominated Peace, Love, and Barbecue with her dad and owns OnCue Consulting. She is known as the go-to girl for all things barbecue, and it’s obvious why. If you find yourself in St. Louis this summer, it’s imperative that you check out her and her dad’s 17th Street BBQ. Amy also has CurEat lists that highlight more than just BBQ. We’ve always wanted to know where a barbecue maven eats when she isn’t slinging ‘cue.
If Amy Mills is the barbecue heiress, then pitmaster and CurEater Sam Jones is the barbecue heir in North Carolina. He is the king of whole hog ‘cue in eastern NC and a 3rd generation pitmaster. Just in case you were unsure, eastern NC BBQ is vinegar based. (The rival between western NC and eastern NC barbecue is another story.) Sam’s grandfather opened Skylight Inn BBQ in 1947 in Ayden, NC where he smoked whole hogs over wood. Sam took over Skylight Inn and opened a second restaurant, Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, NC. You can bet your bottom dollar that Sam’s CurEat lists are filled with some great barbecue classics!
Pitmistress and CurEater Alex retired from architecture to open ZZQ* Texas Craft Barbeque in Richmond, VA with her husband Chris Graf. ZZQ* blends together the flavors of Central Texas and the influences of Central Virginia. If you missed our blog post about Alex in April, you can head over to read more about her. You can also follow this pitmistress on CurEat to see where she enjoys BBQ in Austin, TX!
Co-founder of Southern Smoke BBQ and CurEater Matt Register smokes pork the old-fashioned way, slow and over oak wood. Matt co-founded Southern Smoke BBQ with his wife Jessica in Garland, NC, which is also in eastern NC. (We’re noticing a trend, here!) Matt and Jessica also make two barbecue sauces that are highly sought after in NC. Follow Matt on CurEat and check out his BBQ Peeps list to see some of his favorites.
Barbecue man and CurEater Wyatt Dickson was on the law school track until he stumbled upon the world of whole hog BBQ. In 2016 he opened Picnic, a whole hog barbecue joint, with chef Ben Adams and heritage pig farmer Ryan Butler. Southern Living called Wyatt’s whole hog barbecue the “next generation ‘cue”. We’re pretty lucky to live in driving distance to Picnic. We highly recommend you check out Wyatt’s NC Barbecue Musts CurEat list.
In out highlight post about F Griffin Bufkin back in February, we learned that Griffin spreads the Southern food/BBQ gospel. He opened Southern Soul BBQ with pitmaster Harrison Sapp on St.Simons Island, GA about a decade ago. Griffin may not be the pitmaster, but he does know a thing or two about barbecue and Southern food. If you want to taste the soul of Georgia, Griffin’s CurEat lists will guide you to the best places.
We recently discovered that almost every member of Help One Now downloaded CurEat and created profiles. When we make discoveries like this, we want to learn more! We asked Help One Now’s Chief Operating Officer Brigid O’Boyle why their office decided to use CurEat and what food means to the team! Here’s what she said:
While our work is international, we’re headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina; with staff also in AR, TX, and AL. Our favorite moments are when we get to engage our local communities and form relationships with one another. We love when we are the common thread between people, or even groups of people – people who would otherwise not interact or develop friendships. The best way to do this is sitting down at the table, where everyone has a seat to enjoy good food and conversation, and where relationships are born. The power of sharing a meal is never lost on us, and we love the way food can bring us all together.
In the rare times we are able to have our entire team together, it usually centers around food. Whether at some of our favorite Raleigh spots or in the homes of our friends and supporters, we cherish the time to join around the table and share life together.
Seeing that the Help One Now team is comprised of individuals who have lived in different parts of the country, we know they all have good lists! We encourage you to open CurEat, find them and follow. We’ll even help you out!
In Raleigh, NC, it feels like we skipped over spring and steam rolled right into summer. That being said, you’ll find us drinking fresh, craft cocktails on breezy patios or in cool (cold) bars. This spring/summer whether you’re in the mood to go out and socialize with a big group or pick up some beer for your backyard barbecue, we know exactly where and what you should be getting.
Located inside the Ritz Carlton hotel in downtown Charlotte, The Punch Room is the perfect place to grab craft cocktails made by CurEater and master mixologist, Bob Peters. He is a Charlotte native and winner of the 2015 Global Bartender of the Year for the Ritz Carlton, is the head mixologist at the Punch Room. Thanks to Bob, the charlotte beverage scene is on the up and up, and all we can say is that you don’t want to miss out.
What to get?
Roman Punch: Brandy, Dark Rum, Lemon, Raspberry Syrup, a Splash of Port and Prosecco.
If you’re throwing a porch party or a hosting barbecue this season in Raleigh or Asheville, NC, might we suggest picking up some beverages from CurEater Johnny Belflower’s Tasty Beverage Co. Tasty Beverage Co. has locations in Raleigh and Asheville and is dedicated completely to beer. The best part? You can place an order online for pickup or delivery. Game changer.
What to get?
Jam Band Berry Ale: It’s a fruit wheat beer with blueberry, red raspberry and tart cherry flavors.
If you’re the type that loves to make your own cocktail, we have the ingredient that will crush your cocktail game. CurEater Craig Rudewicz’s Crude Bitters, a North Carolina-based cocktail bitters company creates handcrafted bitters and syrups that are just the thing to take your craft cocktails to the next level. The Crude Bitters website features a recipe section, and we’ve found the perfect spring, craft cocktail recipe and we’re passing it on so you can turn those
What to make?
Ol’ Rita: with Tequila, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Cointreau, Crude Bitter, Marriage bitters and one drop of “Tiki” bitters
CurEaterPhoebe Lawless’ The Lakewood Restaurant is the place to go on the weekends for crisp, craft cocktails. You can enjoy a house cocktail at the bar or grab a table on the rooftop for bites and drinks. One of the coolest parts? The Lakewood is in a historic building that was home to Durham, NC’s Davis Baking Co. for more than 60 years! Our personal favorite is the tin ceiling!
“We got into the Southern food game early, when people were realizing it was a vibrant and important cuisine.”
CurEater Jason Alley, of Comfort, Flora, and Saison in Richmond, Virginia proves that restaurants are more than a delicious meal (though he has that covered, too). His first restaurant, Comfort, uses reinvented southern classics, putting Richmond on the map as a culinary destination. After years of serving acclaimed classics and drinks (like their Dolly Parton themed drink menu), Alley decided to give back. As of March of 2018, Alley and his team started donating all profits from Comfort to FeedMore a Virginia food security charity.
“After being an active part of the Richmond Community for the last 15 years, we have decided that now it is time that we give back in a more permanent and meaningful way.” he wrote on Facebook, “We will donate our all of our net profits from the restaurant to fight food insecurity in and around Richmond.”
After the success of Comfort, Alley opened Pasture, a southern small plate restaurant with an emphasis on local ingredients. Like Comfort, Pasture earned accolades and gained a loyal following. For his next venture, Flora, Alley looked a little further south. The Oaxacan-inspired cuisine from chef Sergio Gomez features classics like shark tacos alongside bar food, which comes in handy if you’re catching a show — Flora is also a music venue. Chef Alley will soon add to his empire with a gastropub-arcade called Bingo in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood.
For more from Jason Alley, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also worth reading: Jason’s moving essay about sobriety in an industry that can make it tough. To find out how Alley navigates Richmond’s burgeoning culinary wonderland, follow him on CurEat.
Lone Star BBQ in the Old Dominion? Alex Graf of Richmond’s ZZQ says absolutely! While not as famous as the headline grabbing ‘cue style of the Carolinas and Tennessee, Virginia has a style of pulled pork all its own–a style that was beloved by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. But Graf, a Virginia native, and her husband, native Texan, Chris Fultz saw room in Richmond for something different, something tasty: Beef Brisket.
Graf (the pitmistress) and Fultz (the pitmaster) got their start through a series of pop-ups in Richmond around 2015. One of their pop-up customers, Lars, gave ZZQ the name “meat church”, which is a pretty accurate description. In addition to brisket ZZQ offers spare ribs, pork shoulder, and sausage along with sides like jalapeno mac and cheese, blackstrap molasses collards, and Texas caviar (they also serve smoked seitan for the carnivorously agnostic). Based on the early success of their weekly BBQs, Richmond locals’ appetites were ready for a daily supply.
In March of 2018 they got their wish when ZZQ opened in a gorgeous space in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Graf was part of the architecture team that designed ZZQ, as she worked with Fultz & Singh Architects until she retired from the firm in December 2017. (Fun fact: Graf also designed Brittanny Anderson’s kitchen at Brenner Pass.) To compliment their classic meat and sides, they offer a full array of drinks, including an outstanding cocktail program by Derek Salerno (try the ZZQooler: Sotol, Green Chartreuse, Cucumber, and Pineapple Gomme). They have a rotating selection of desserts (be on the lookout for the Graf’s Rhubarb crumble). In true Texas style, they even have some pretty killer beltbuckles.
If you’re in Richmond see what all the fuss is about at ZZQ. See what they’ve been smoking on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. To find out which restaurants light Alex Graf’s coals, follow her on CurEat.