December was a Blur – Raleigh, Savannah, & The Carolina Chocolate Drops…

1 Mar

Every year the month of December shoots us off into a whirlwind of activities that never seems to settle down until well into the new year. December 2013 did not disappoint…and I sit back (now in March) in amazement at all we’ve done in the last 3 months. Here are the highlights (in several posts) – of all places and events that we’d recommend to anyone who has the chance to experience them – just maybe not crammed into such a short period of time.

Raleigh Birthday Weekend | Dec 8-9th

With birthdays only two days apart, and a great friend’s (Adara) birthday being another two days away, we always try to celebrate together. This time it was a trip to Raleigh for the weekend. We started the day at Busy Bee Cafe for a beer and then headed over to the Raleigh Times Bar for some lunch and continued drinking. Pulled pork nachos were recommended by foodie friend, Kristen Baughman, who knows a lot about all things food and drink in North Carolina (check out her blog Gadabout Food). We chose right! Fresh jalapeno sitting on layers of chips, cheese, and pulled pork – what’s not to love?

Next, a visit to Crank Arm Brewing for a flight of beer and a round of Cards Against Humanity got us even more in the birthday spirit. A couple doors down is Videri Chocolate Factory – try some free samples and then pick up a bar or two for the ride home. A short cab ride to Stanbury for dinner – wow….Cheese plate, Crispy Pig Head, Fried Oysters, and a homemade pop-tart dessert. Go there now!

We finished the night at Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co…Rose Gose and Next Best In Show Saison were wonderful. When we drink…we eat. Our 2nd dinner was a slice of the “Most Outgoing” pizza (local mushrooms, caramelized onion, fresh arugula, brie, mozzarella blend, tomato sauce). The trip really opened our eyes to how great a city Raleigh is, especially if you like to eat and drink. At every turn, there seemed to be another place we wanted to try. Guess we’ll just have to make a return trip soon.

Carolina Chocolate Drops @ Neighborhood Theatre | Dec. 14th

If you haven’t seen or heard the Carolina Chocolate Drops…stop reading and go listen to them. The Grammy award-winning group was mentioned in Rolling Stone Magazine…”The Carolina Chocolate Drops are…revisiting, with a joyful vengeance, black string-band and jug-band music of the Twenties and Thirties—the dirt-floor dance electricity of the Mississippi Sheiks and Cannon’s Jug Stompers.

The show happened to be one of the last two performances for founding member Dom Flemons, who has ventured out on a solo career. While hearing their album is enjoyable, they’re best heard live. The classically-trained voice of Rhiannon Giddens is one to be heard, and could probably stand on its own without the use of a microphone. Add in the musicality of the entire group, and you’re sure to witness a unique concert experience that should be the norm, but unfortunately is rare these days.

Cornbread and butterbeans and you across the table…

Brews+Bards Pop-Up Meetup: Chickspeare @ Actor’s Theatre | Dec 20th

Back in October we co-founded Brews+Bards, a social meetup group centered around craft beer and local theatre. So when Chickspeare and Actor’s Theatre put on a production of “Twelfth Night” with NoDa Brewing on-hand serving up beer, it was a no-brainer for us to attend. Head Brewer Chad Henderson randalled Coco Loco through cherries and vanilla – a must try if you ever have the chance. The “chicks” of Chickspeare put on a great, and very funny show, and was the perfect primer for the upcoming Christmas vacation.

Roadtrip to Savannah, Georgia | Dec 22-24th

Because our jobs keep us pretty busy throughout the year, the last two weeks of the year are usually the only time we can manage to get time off together. So once every couple of years we forego a trip to Florida to visit family, and try to get away (just the two of us). Savannah was our trip this past December. We really love the city, as there is so much to see and do, if you like walking!

Had a great lunch at Crystal Beer Parlor (CBP), a place that’s been around since 1933, making it Savannah’s second oldest restaurant (not sure who beat ’em out). When in Savannah, you have to try the she-crab soup, and CBP was so good. They have a nice beer list, including a section called “Beer of our Fathers” with the likes of Dixie, Mickey’s, and Genesee. We opted for the Gangway IPA by Red Hare.

A walk around Forsyth Park got us thirsty for another beer. After checking into our room at the East Bay Inn, we headed down to River Street. There we found Dub’s Pub at the end closest to the bridge. A couple of beers by River Dog Brewing Company (IPA & Chocolate Rye Porter) and an Iron Lion Pale Ale by Southbound, and we were ready for dinner at 22 Square (a Farm-to-Fork restaurant) located in the ANDAZ Hilton Hyatt. A good, but very quiet (we were the only ones in the restaurant) dinner set us up for the Haunted Pub Crawl that took us to 5 bars with entertaining ghost stories.

The following day, we walked around a lot of the squares in Savannah before touring the Mercer Williams House (made famous in the book/movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil“). I wasn’t sure if the tour would be worthwhile, but I was really impressed. The owner, Jim Williams, was in the antiques business, and had quite a collection of unique items throughout the house spanning centuries. Afterwards, we had a great lunch at The Public Kitchen and we were off exploring some more of the city.

Rain tried to wash us out, but we only had to face a light drizzle by the time we headed to B. Matthews Eatery for dinner. While often mentioned for brunch, the dinner menu looked amazing. We opted for a charcuterie plate, which the staff was happy to custom-combine a mix of meats and cheeses for us. I think it was my favorite bite of the trip.

Afterwards, we walked the block to Abe’s on Lincoln. I think we’ve mentioned it before, but if not, Abe’s is one of our favorite places in Savannah. It seems to be more of a neighborhood bar for locals, with the occasional tourists (us) wandering in. The dimly-lit tavern has some nice craft beer options, friendly patrons and bartender, and lots of stories from everyone who walks into the place…oh and a jukebox too!

The weather prevented us from venturing too far from the area around our hotel. We finished the evening at Planter’s Tavern, which is located under the very popular Olde Pink House restaurant. While we’ve never been upstairs for dinner, on a previous trip to Savannah we had dinner at the Tavern, which offers the same menu in a more casual setting. On this particular trip, we were so full from eating all day that we shared a scallop dish. The bonus of the night was the old woman playing piano in the corner. She was belting out jazz and looked to be someone who’d have a lot of stories if you could get her away from the piano.

The next day we were in search for fresh muffaletta bread, which we were going to take home with us for Christmas. Turns out you have to order it ahead of time, so no one had anything that worked, but we did pick up some desserts from Back in the Day Bakery. One extra bonus was finding a liquor store that stocked Westbrook & Cigar City beer, which we can’t yet get in Charlotte. We escaped the city with a trunk full of good beer, a box of desserts, and some great memories!

As you can see, it was a busy few weeks. I’ll stop here – as we had more adventures, but I’m sure you’re tired of reading this already long post. We would love to know your favorite places to visit when you’re in these cities. Please leave comments below, as we love to discover all that’s great in the cities and towns around us! Thanks for reading.

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