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HV Bottle Shop doesn’t look like much and the name doesn’t really make sense (as in Hope Valley), but further investigation reveals a much needed spot for more casual wine drinking and two very helpful owners. Thomas and Drew have been around the block for a while (having worked at Nana’s and Foursquare(?) or the like) before opening their welcoming bottleshop in Woodcroft Plaza.
All of the Carpe Durham squad has been there by now and the results are officially tallied: it’s a great place. They have a handy-dandy wine dispenser for tastes and up to full glasses. There are frequent tastings as well. Every Saturday from 4:30 to 7pm they pour free tastings, usually three whites and three reds and a smattering of crackers and cheeses. I’ve found some fantastic stuff during these tastings and they usually mark down the featured wines significantly. And tastings aren’t just for Saturdays. It has seemed like every week now there has been an odd-ball tasting on a weeknight (a Monday, Tuesday, and the more common Friday). Tonight was a so-called 90+ tasting, meaning all the wines scored ninety or above in the wino magazines. Delicious.
The wines are nearly all neatly lined up against the wall in a readily recognized fashion. There is also the beer corner, full of great stuff, lots of it in big bottles. And there are nice couches to hang out on and try some juice from the dispenser. But even more than that, the place excites me because of their promotion of alternative packaging. They are constantly looking for more tetra packs (the carton looking thing) and boxed up wine. No not that box wine. Please. There is nothing bad that can come from storing wine in a box or carton. Maybe aging is up in the air, but who’s really sitting on bottles and bottles instead of drinking and drinking. Which is what you can do when you get three liters of wine for a whole lot less.
They also have a few of these liter bottles. They have a bottle cap. I bought one, it was tasty. Crisp and apple like as I remember it. If it is ready to drink, why risk the cork? The organic treatment of the grapes keeps the cost up more than I’d like. But at about $10.50 or so for the liter it was still worth the try.
Keep an eye out for their Irregular Bin of random single beers and their Fire Sale wines. I got a box of Pinot Evil for real cheap a little while back. I might remember the cost if I didn’t enjoy my three liters so much.
Tomorrow’s tasting is all North West wines. I’m excited about the pinot gris and noirs from Oregon. There’ll also be a cab blend that should be serious business.
A helpful reader alerted us to this ice cream stand, which was very useful because it’s not the kind of place we otherwise would have happened upon. It is out on Hwy 98, close to Wake County (5220 Wake Forest Hwy), but definitely worth the trip.
First and foremost, this place is cute. I recommend taking a date here; anyone who doesn’t have a heart of stone would have to fall for the country setting, friendly man in a cheerful little booth, and picnic table area for eating.
To top it off, the ice cream is also delicious. They have chocolate, vanilla, or swirl, and a variety of toppings. We got a small with strawberries, whipped cream and cherries (he gave us two because he guessed we’d be sharing–aw!) for $2.25. As soon as blueberries from the adjacent farm are ripe, they’ll be available as a topping as well.
The stand is only open during the summer, and only in the evening (4 – 9:30pm Sat, weekdays 6:30 – 9:30pm). You can pick your own blueberries as well, starting in late June.
Palmas de Caribbean (821 N. Miami Blvd) is where Doctor’s Cove Caribbean used to be, but despite having the Caribbean in common the two restaurants are very different. For one thing, there’s been a major makeover inside:
If you ever went to Doctor’s Cove you’ll appreciate the difference.
The menu at Palmas de Caribbean is Dominican and offers some options that I haven’t seen on a menu in Durham before. I was especially excited to try mofongo (a mashed plantain dish). I will eat and love any form of plantains imaginable.
You can choose from a few different kinds of meat and/or cheese to be mixed in with your mofongo; I chose pernil (roast pork) and cheese. The dish was awesome. I loved the pork’s flavor, though I might not get it next time because it was a bit dry. I would love to hear how this compares to other mofongo from someone who’s had mofongo before (TSQ, I’m looking at you!) but all I know is that I couldn’t stop eating this or thinking about it later.
Our second entree was the bistec salteado (sauteed steak), which was good, but not much more exciting than an above average fajita. The more exciting part of the meal was the two sides that came with it. We of course chose maduros (fried sweet plantain), which was amazing–you can’t really go wrong with this, the best dish on earth, but these had an especially good balance of mushy and crispy and were nice and rich.
We also got yucca; this one was a surprise because it wasn’t fried, as it so often is, but was the best yucca we could remember having in the area. It was just boiled, but the saltiness and texture were ideal.
Our waitress (one of the owners) suggested a couple of times that we come back for their breakfast (they open daily at 6am). We’ll definitely be back at various times of day, I’m sure, because there are so many delicious-sounding options on the menu. The actual menu is much more extensive than the one on their website, but they don’t necessarily have everything every day–at least the sides and possibly the entrees vary by day. I know I’d eat anything they made for me.
The restaurant is new and it was quite empty–please check them out, I’d have to have my mofongo source dry up!
Coleman’s (later known as Thompson’s) used to be a free-standing restaurant that was a favorite of ours. The owner, a really friendly guy, has now leased that space out and operates out of this trailer, which parks at the intersection of Riddle Rd and Hwy 55, Wednesday through Saturday.
The mobile version of Coleman’s has a much-reduced menu but the quality has not gone down at all. When we went by, they were offering fish, chicken, and pork chops (all fried). I’m not sure if the selection changes from day to day. We got pork and chicken “sandwiches.”
Both were delicious. Their batter is on the thicker side, and extremely crispy and flavorful, with a bit of spiciness. Both meats were also wonderfully juicy. The bread was a much-needed way to sop up some greasiness and allow us to eat the fresh-from-the-fryer meat when it was still too hot to handle. The sandwiches were a delicious deal at $3 each.
Local Yogurt (2501 University Dr) is the new dessert place on the Durham scene. It’s cute, light-hearted and kid friendly (they get free sprinkles), but the best part for me was that the yogurt tasted like actual yogurt! The plain flavor was slightly, but surprisingly, tart, and not too sweet. The mango flavor (they rotate three flavors other than plain) was a bit sweeter without losing that yogurty tang.
The extensive topping choices are also a plus. They have a bunch of the traditional options (M&Ms, several candy bars, and of course sprinkles) a few types of cereal (fruity pebbles, Cap’n Crunch), some that change with the season (fresh strawberries right now) and, my favorite, at least one salty option (I got the potato chips). Yum!
This Saturday, May 30, is the 7th Annual Bull City Chili Challenge. How have I managed to live here for six of those seven years and not hear about this event until now?
In case you were worried, this cook-off is sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI). It will take place in Durham Central Park and benefits go to the Special Olympics. Tasting starts around noon for chili (11am for salsa), and you get a “tasting kit” (spoon and small cups for the chili) for $4. Can you handle the heat??
There were signs (one outside, one inside) touting “Entertainment All Day,” which must have referred to the TV and/or overhearing other patrons’ conversations. Either way, it was a fun time. Below, note the substitution of “Freedom” for “French.”
We got the Steak & Gravy meal with two sides ($5.50) (sorry for the photo quality–we were trying to be subtle by using an iPhone instead of a camera).
The meal (including the sides) was ok–not a bad deal, but probably not something we’ll order again. The greens satisfied my (constant) greens craving, but weren’t among the best I’ve had.
Our other order was much better: a chuckwagon sandwich with a side of fried okra ($1.90 + $.085). The chuckwagon was delicious.
The reason to go back, though, is the hush puppies. They might well have been the best I’ve had in Durham (though I’m sure I’ve said that before). Perfect crispiness, fried to order, exact right density/fluffiness. This is surprising because the batter isn’t homemade (apparently they get it (and their other bbq foodstuffs) from Hursey’s Bar-B-Q) but maybe there’s just something magical about the Speedway fryer oil.
The Speedway Cafe might not be the best in the county, but it makes for a friendly and charming stop during a drive in the country–especially in combination with a stop at Moe’s next door.
You might have thought (hoped?) that we were done with tacos for a while. But no, somehow we are not sick of them.
There’s a new truck parked outside of the Sabor Latino club (4527 N. Roxboro Rd)–now it’s Taqueria Lopez truck #3. (Are there really 3 of them?)
This truck offered quite a few meat options in their tacos, including some of the ones you don’t always see. We got four: carnitas, al pastor, asada, and campechano (which is chorizo and suadero (brisket)). They got them all out to us disconcertingly quickly. You might have noticed that our fave truck, Benito’s, always has a line–and it’s in part because he refuses to precook any of the meat. We were also disappointed that our car did not fill up with the thick, wonderful taco aroma that it often gets in the short drive between truck and house.
Still, the tacos weren’t bad.
The al pastor was an especially pleasant surprise because it actually included a discernable number of pineapple chunks, unlike many of the ones I’ve had around here. The campechano was an interesting combo of meats that I hadn’t tried before, and I definitely liked them together (though the chorizo was bordering on too salty for me, something I almost never say). The asada was just ok, and we agreed that the carnitas were somehow a bit odd, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. We were only given one salsa, a green one, and it was nice and spicy.
I’m not sure whether the Lopez truck has permanently replaced Benito’s (Sabor Latino) truck, which used to park outside this club, but I think in the future I’ll seek him out instead. I’m not sure if he has a new regular spot (though I know he’s been going to Third Fridays at Golden Belt and sometimes to Pinhook), but he’s sure worth trolling the streets for.
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