Festival offers samples of local food, beers

Feb. 24, 2013 @ 10:01 PM

For Duke University senior Steve Moyer, the Bull City Food & Beer Experience was a chance to take a break from instant macaroni and cheese, a go-to option for a college student trying to save time and money.

It was also a chance to get a taste of North Carolina, said Moyer, who tried a sample of a chicken dish made with squash, black beans, and cactus from the downtown Mexican restaurant Dos Perros. With him was fellow Duke senior Gregg Thawley, who was on the verge of trying a tamale from the downtown restaurant Revolution.

“It’s a lot of restaurants I’ve seen, and only been to a handful of them,” Thawley said of the restaurants, which were offering items ranging from Cuban sandwiches to duck liver and foie gras spread and a sauce on a baguette from Durham gastropub G2B.

Tickets to the event at the Durham Performing Arts Center downtown, included samples of beer from local, craft or specialty breweries, as well as food samples from 21 Durham restaurants.

The event was also a fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Larry Brockman, chair of the group's land stewardship committee, said it also helped raise awareness for the watershed, which he said is small, but important for water quality reasons,.

“There are so many festivals; this is different, this is special,” said Dave Lee, sales manager at Green Man Brewery in Asheville, one of the breweries at the event. He said he believes the pairing of “good beer and good food” made it unique.

The event was a partnership of the Durham-based beer specialty store Sam’s Quik Shop, Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom and the DPAC. John Boy, owner of Sam’s, said the three organizations wanted to showcase Durham’s food scene, as well as what he called the craft beer “explosion.”

The event included a panel discussion by founders of breweries that are planning, or have, opened production facilities in the state.

California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is planning to open a facility in the Henderson County town of Mills River, south of Asheville. Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada, said the company is hoping to be testing its beer at its facility in July or August, and to be in production by the end of the year.

Grossman said he was a home brewer who opened a home brewing store before launching the brewery in 1980.

“The brewing community here has been open arms,” said Grossman, who said the company doesn’t want to adversely impact local beer brewers. “For us, I think we need to figure out how to tread lightly in everybody’s backyard there,” he added.

Kim Jordan, co-founder and CEO of New Belgium, said the company is not expecting to start testing beer at its new facility in Asheville until January 2015. The origins of the company date to 1991, she said, when she and her former husband began working out of their basement.

The company is at the limits of its capacity at its Fort Collins, Colo., facility, she said, adding that there are cost benefits to having an East Coast operation.

Dale Katechis, owner of Oskar Blues Brewery, said the company started shipping beer in December from a facility in Brevard. Katechis said he initially opened a restaurant, and launched a brewing operation when a customer and home brewer approached him with the idea.

Sean Lilly Wilson, CEO of Durham-based brewery Fullsteam, said he was interested to hear the comments from the three company executives, and to hear what their opening might mean for existing breweries in the state.

Wilson also said the organizers of the Bull City Food & Beer Experience put “a lot of heart and soul” into the event, and felt that although it was the first time it’s been held, he said he felt like it’s been around for awhile.

“I hope it is,” said Wilson, after sampling a rib with mole sauce and cabbage slaw served by The Federal. The ribs were paired with a Fullsteam beer, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Working Man’s Lunch.

Roberto Copa Matos, co-owner of Old Havana Sandwich Shop downtown, served a style of Cuban sandwich that he said Cubans used to eat when coming out of the theater, movies or the club. The shop also had samples of bean and pork soup made with chick peas, pork, Spanish ham and Spanish sausage.

Copa Matos said they brought close to 500 samples, which were paired with samples of Durham-based Triangle Brewing Co.’s beer. He said the event was a good opportunity for local residents to get a large exposure to local restaurants. He said about half of people coming to their table didn’t now about the restaurant.

“I think it’s a very good opportunity,” he said.

Durham resident Ellery Wiebe said she’s doesn’t eat a lot of beef and pork, but made an exception for the Bull City Food & Beer Experience.

She had a plate in her hand with ribs from Durham’s The Federal. She described as “nice and smoky,” with a small amount of sweet from the sauce.

She said she thought DPAC was an interesting choice of venue, but said she was really glad it was in Durham “really showing people the Durham food experience, and what it has to offer from its restaurants.”