Tag Archive for durham

Food Writing Bragging: A Food Tour Through the South’s Tastiest Town at WRAL

Imagine my shock when I realized I never posted here on this article I wrote for WRAL’s Out and About back in May! I do try to make sure you all know when I have new writing out for your perusing eyes, but this one slipped through my fingers. It’s surprising because it’s actually one of my most popular food articles thus far. In it, I cover several of Durham’s tastiest spots that all happen to be within a few blocks of each other.

Here’s your teaser:

Durham, N.C. — For foodies, the intersection of Magnum and Parrish streets in downtown Durham is a Bermuda Triangle they may never want to escape. Within one block of it, in any direction, is a plethora of eateries, bakeries, and bars that prize local ingredients, quality products, and creativity. Consider this your guide to a perfect food lover’s day in Durham without doing more than crossing the street.

Stop 1: Breakfast at Monuts Donuts (110 East Parrish St.). This donut and bagel shop used to operate out of a tricycle. Cake and yeast donuts come in flavors like chocolate chai and the delicious maple bacon bourbon I sampled. Bagels are also a hot commodity and can be topped with eggs, cheese, and … maple sriracha? Counter Culture iced coffee should help with that morning headache….

For the rest of the article, head to Out and About right here. And now, I leave you with a photo from my walking tour to give your tastebuds that extra little push:

Pain aux pistaches from Loaf.

If reading is too much for you, take my walking tour through photos here instead! No matter your choice, tasty treats are in your future.

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Abandoned Durham Funwerks Photo Blog

For eight years, I lived in Durham, NC, and for eight years, I told myself “Someday!” when I drove past the abandoned Durham Funwerks amusement park on Garrett Road, right before the 15-501 intersection. Someday, I would explore the mysterious giant castle. Someday, I would hike my way through the overgrown mini-golf course to the tiny castle.Someday, I would indulge my love of strolling through vacant spaces I probably shouldn’t be in at all.

It took nearly the whole eight years to get to it, but a few weeks before our move to California, I set aside an hour to trample the grounds and see what it hid from view of the road. Turns out it hid a lot! The park had only closed the year before I moved to Durham, but visitors to the park, both of human and animal form, had been busy in that time. I started in the main building, which no doubt held an arcade once. Now it houses a lot of graffiti.

Did I warn for swearing? Oops.

The building’s side actually holds the more interesting graffiti in that it created aesthetically pleasing lines and shades to my eye—I realize that sounds really pretentious, but I’m being honest, I swear.



Beyond the main building is a large concrete slab that likely hosted baseball cages or some other sports-affiliated activity at one point, but I couldn’t tell you what that once was. It wasn’t very exciting, but I was intrigued by the gate I spotted far off with my zoom lens.

Read more →

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Counter Culture Coffee Cupping

Counter Culture Coffee
4911 South Alston Avenue
Research Triangle Park

Durham has several notable coffee roasters–Joe Van Gogh and Bean Traders make my list–but none have as large a profile and the nationwide distribution that Counter Culture does. The company is headquartered here and Durham hosts one of their several training facilities. Counter Culture has a tradition at all their training centers: at 10:00 am every Friday, they hold a coffee cupping. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, a coffee cupping is a method of tasting and evaluating coffee, much like a wine tasting.

Making Counter Culture’s coffee cupping has long been on my list of “musts” for Durham, and I finally made it last week with the threat of my move in a month serving as motivation. Arrive a little early—the cupping begins promptly and parking can go fast in their lot. There were roughly thirty people this morning, which is more than most but each week is different.

Several Counter Culture employees were on hand to explain just what a coffee cupping is to those unfamiliar with the idea and to talk about the coffee being sampled.


A different employee leads the cupping each week, but the host of lurking employees make all the grinding, steaming, and extracting a seamless experience. This week, the focus was a deconstruction of Counter Culture’s Toscana blend, featuring the three coffees presently used to make it: Finca Magallanes, Dulce Nombre de Jesus, and Finca Nueva Armenia.


I will spare you my individual thoughts on the coffees for each stage of the cupping, but a quick rundown of how it’s done follows. First we smelled the freshly ground beans, evaluating their fragrance—


Sniffing in progress.

Sniffing in progress.

–then we smelled the grounds again right after adding water to the cups to let them steep.


Then came the break, the final smelling component. “Break” refers to breaking the crown of coffee grounds on top of the cup. You generally want to do that four minutes after pouring in the water to avoid over- or under-extraction.

The line of participants making it through the tasting.

The line of participants making it through the break.

The focus shifts to taste next by evaluating the coffee for brightness, overall flavor, body, and aftertaste, all by slurping up just a spoonful of brew (slurping increases the aeration like swishing a glass of wine) and rolling it around in your mouth.


Of the three coffees, the Nueva was my favorite for its strong chocolate notes and its lower acidity—I’m not a big fan of citrusy or fruity coffees. The Dulce had a heavier-than-expected body for a light roast and was probably the brightest of the three, and the Magallanes was fruity, vegetal, and left me thinking of bready pastries.

After we shared our thoughts on the individual coffees, the staff pulled us short espresso shots of the Toscana blend. They made fast work of pulling them for that many people!



I was surprised by how different the blend was from any of the individual coffees. It tasted strongly of berry to me with an acidity similar to oranges and a lingering sweetness. The Nueva’s chocolate was there, serving as a subtle balancing agent for the other elements of the blend.

I definitely recommend taking advantage of this free service Counter Culture provides, and they did an excellent job of demystifying the experience for first timers, taking pains to note that building a coffee palate takes time and assuring the participants not to feel bad if they couldn’t distinguish flavors well.

A free tour of the roastery and headquarters is held after each cupping, but I opted out that morning. Demandy has some photos of the tour on her website from a few years ago, if you’re interested.

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