It’s ridiculously tempting and easy to trot into one of Charlotte’s sundry coffee shops and order your favorite mocha-latte-cappu-frappe-espresso goodness, but what about those days when the success of your wake-up/mid-morning/post-lunch mug of Joe depends on your own brewing skills?
Find a roaster that you can trust. There are number of great roasters throughout the country. You just have to look for them. (Trust issue: Folgers uses scented extract to make your coffee actually smell like coffee and leaves it to stale for days before packaging it neatly for your consumption)
This week, we look into the rise (or lack thereof) of creative craft beverages sans alcohol. Mocktails. We asked Kevin Gavagan, owner of the pop-up cocktail concept Haunt Bar, to fill us in on what he uses for tasty non-alcoholic beverages and he talked of shrubs. No, not bushy plant life, but vinegar-based infusions made typically with fresh fruit and herbs.
Gavagan likes to make a sophisticated soda with his shrubs and shared his recipe for Haunt Bar's popular grapefruit shrub which he uses in alcoholic beverages such as the Paloma Paradiso and a Grapefruit gin and tonic.
At home, Gavagan says, he likes to add the shrub to club soda or seltzer for a nice homemade soda. Experiment with additions like cinnamon and clove or add different vinegars for a new twist.
Haunt Bar Grapefruit Shrub
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Vinegar (Apple Cider is a good choice)
2 Medium Grapefruit
(Spice or other Additions)
Peel and rough chop the grapefruit
Put vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan, warm and stir until sugar dissolves
Add grapefruit and peel (along with any other ingredients)
Bring to a boil and turn off and cover
Let it steep until cool
Bottle and keep for up to six weeks in the fridge.
Grapefruit Summer Spritzer
Fill a glass with ice
Start with one part shrub to two parts sparkling water
Give it a stir, garnish with a piece of grapefruit peel
Sip, and enjoy.
If you ever thought working at Creative Loafing would be the coolest job ever, well, you're right. We are now the home of the first cold brew coffee on tap installation in an office setting in Charlotte, thanks to the good folks at Smelly Cat Coffee.
Look at the head on that brew, man.
It's all a part of our publisher's master scheme to keep us productive throughout the day.
Interested to know more? Fox News was in the offices doing a story. Check it out at 10 p.m.
If you're trying to find comfort or a glimmer of hope after seeing the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon last week, you can look to businesses like NoDa Brewing that pull the community together to offer their support. On the evening of Wednesday, April 24, NoDa Brewing Company, located at 2229 N. Davidson St., will host Beers for Boston to benefit the Be Strong Stay Strong Fund, which was set up to benefit two local runners who were seriously injured by the bomb explosions in Boston.
The event will kick off with the weekly Wednesday run by the NoDa Brewing Run Club, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Putney's End will provide live music, and food will be available from Auto Burger and Fry Guys and King of Pops. "People really like to eat a cheeseburger after they run," says Brian Mister, director of community optimism at NoDa Brewing.
You can support the Be Strong Stay Strong Fund by just showing up for the event and purchasing food and beverages. The following donations will be contributed from the attending vendors:
- 10% of all sales from NoDa Brewing
- 10% of all sales + all tips from Auto Burger and Fry Guys
- 50 cents from each popsicle sold from King of Pops
The fund will also accept cash donations at the event.
The event will be held in the NoDa Brewing parking lot and the band will be on the patio, weather permitting. More than 100 people RSVP'd through the Facebook event page on the first day that the event was announced, so Mister expects to have a huge turnout to support the cause.
Cold brewing coffee is a revered process for coffee communities in the know. Since a trendy surge in 2011, all the coffee meccas from New York to Portland to Seattle have been mastering the cold brew and selling it to hoards of coffee enthusiasts. Though the concept might sound counterintuitive to the piping hot nectar of the gods, the cold brew process, which steeps ground coffee for hours in cold water, yields a surprisingly smooth flavor profile next to its heated brethren. Now Central Coffee, the well-loved corner spot off Central Avenue is brewing and bottling its own cold brew coffee and coffee concentrate for grab-and-go convenience.
Jimmy Kleto, the fuzzy-faced owner of Central Coffee, says it's been a project he's been working on for the last eight months. Kleto, a coffee lover since way back in his college days at Appalachian State, is always looking for new ways to elevate coffee culture in Charlotte. For the last four years, Kleto has been building a coffee community in his corner of Plaza Midwood and when the idea of bottling his own cold brew came up, he thought, "Why not?"
He settled on the Toddy Cold Brew method, a trademarked cold brew system that distills five pounds of coffee into crisp, clean, black as night coffee concentrate. The cold brew process preserves the sweet and spicy nuances of the Joe Van Gogh Guatemalan blend that Kleto uses for his brew and it comes in two options, ready-to-drink cold brew and cold brew concentrate. The concentrate is great for those who prefer to exact their own perfect cup. Kleto says, "You can make it as strong as you want."
But, be warned. The concentrate is known to pack an eye-dilating wallop as evidenced by a story of a friend who forgot to dilute the stuff and then sped off to sell insurance to unsuspecting senior citizens. No word yet on whether cold brew makes for a better salesman, but we do know that it does the trick and tastes mighty fine. Order a cup of cold brew in-house or grab a bottle from the to-go refrigerator.
Come summertime, cold brew coffee will be the coolest kid on the block. Ya heard.
Central Coffee Ready to Drink Cold Brew, $4.99 per bottle and Central Coffee Cold Brew Concentrate, $9.99 per bottle. Central Coffee is located at 719 Louise Avenue, Plaza Midwood.
Keia Mastrianni loves to tell stories about local food products and the people behind them. When she's not scouting out local discoveries, she's steadily working in her vegetable garden, spending time in the kitchen and nosing through cookbooks. She maintains a happy food blog called The Sunnysideup where she shares recipes and her culinary adventures.
Tired of waiting around for those print journalism assignments that no longer come your way? Weary of seeing press releases run in spaces that once housed actual news stories?
Did that blogger for welovemusic.com snag your free tickets to Madonna's last tour? When you make that follow-up call for the investigative story you've been working on for the past five years, do your sources just laugh at you?
Never fear. There's a beer for you - a malted barley beer as "dark and bitter as the future of American journalism."
Tonight, Halcyon will host the Foggy Ridge Cider Dinner, pairing Foggy Ridge hard ciders with Chef Marc Jacksina's creative dishes.
The first pairing on the menu features this Cider Side Car with Serious Cider with a Pumpkin Marrow Bisque. Mixologist Maggie Rupert has graciously provided the recipe to this "serious" cider cocktail so you can make it yourself at home.
Don't let the egg white deter you. This is a popular ingredient that makes the cocktail frothy and, according to Rupert, the alcohol kills any bacteria that may exist in the egg white.
Fern, Flavors from the Earth is excited to present a very special event — a completely vegan dinner with white wine pairings from Carmel Road Winery on Monday, Aug. 20. The event will begin with kombucha cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at 6 p.m. and the vegan feast will begin at 7 p.m.
Vegans and non-vegans alike will be impressed with Chef Alyssa Gorelick's ability to transform animal-free foods into hearty delicious dishes. If you have ever dined at Fern, you know their menu offerings have the ability to win over carnivores and omnivores alike. This meal is sure to do the same.
Check out the menu and be prepared to salivate. Details for reserving your spot at this incredible meal follows.
VEGAN WEISSWEIN DINNER WITH CARMEL ROAD WINERY
Lenny Boy Lost Cove Kombucha Cocktails
Chilled Apple, Melon & Fennel Soup
Crispy Bread, Cream Cheese Schmear, 'Smoked Fish,' Onion & Tomato Powder
Monterey Pinot Grigio
Smoked Chickpea-Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Ginger, Cayenne & Maple Glaze
Mustard Greens, Baby Tomato Salad
Olive Oil Cake
House-Made Vegan Ricotta, Grilled Peaches & Summer Berry Sorbet
Monday, Aug. 20
Cocktails at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.
$60 per person
Reservations by phone only, call 704-377-1825
I've joined the blog bandwagon and tried making and drinking Green Monster Smoothies. (Read about the movement here.)
After reading a bunch of blogs in which people rave about spinach-filled smoothies, I just had to try them for myself.
Once I got over the gagging and dry heaving at just the thought of spinach mixed with milk and bananas, I was able to steel myself and toss all the ingredients into my rocket blender.
My first attempt was just so-so. My mix of frozen blueberries, a banana, 2 handfuls of spinach, and 1/2 cup of vanilla unsweetened almond milk wasn't awful.
Miraculously, the spinach flavor was masked by the fruit, as promised by other bloggers, but the smoothie definitely had a "green" aftertaste to it. You know how you get that green taste in your mouth after mowing the lawn? It tastes like that.
After gulping down half the smoothie, I held my nose for the rest of it and then chased it with M&Ms... probably negating all benefits of the smoothie.
On my second attempt, I added a slice of frozen mango and half a scoop of vanilla protein powder. Bingo! The green taste was totally gone and the smoothie actually tasted good thanks to the added sugar from the mango and the creaminess from the powder.
I'm going to try incorporating green monster smoothies into my diet a few times per week. Don't be scared of the Monster. Try it for yourself:
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever you have on hand)
2 handfuls spinach
1 banana (room temp, partially frozen, or frozen chopped pieces)
1 small handful frozen blueberries (or whatever you might have in the freezer)
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
Frozen mango pieces, or other fruits
honey (to sweeten)
Throw everything into a blender and give it a good whirl until everything finely blended.
Espolón Tequila asked three top mixologists from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco to craft what could be the country's first Taco Truck Cocktail Pairing just in time for Cinco de Mayo. To pair with tacos, the mixologists came up with tequila drinks like Bebida de Puebla (made with Benedictine and coffee liqueurs), Sidra de la Mula (Apple Cider Mule, made with bitters and Sidral Mundet), and Bucking Borracho (made with ginger syrup, lemon and lime juice, and chocolate bitters). Click here to see all the cocktail and taco recipes.
Wanting to get in on the fun, I came up with my own tequila creation: The Cara Cara Espolón Margarita. Made with fresh Cara Cara oranges, limes, simple syrup, and Espolón Tequila, this Mexican cocktail is refreshing and light.
Never one to really enjoy those calorie-laden, super tart and syrupy sweet margarita mixes used a restaurants, I made sure these are just sweet and tart enough, and not artificial-tasting and over done.
I only made a couple of these citrus margaritas, but you might want to make a whole pitcher of these tomorrow.
And if you prefer your margaritas be made for you, check out Creative Loafing's big list of Cinco de Mayo parties here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/atlarge/2011/05/03/cl-presents-our-list-of-2011-cinco-de-mayo-parties/
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