Entrance to the distillery.
Back in the fall, I spent a few days at TOPO Distillery’s facilities as part of the Terra VITA Sustainable Classroom. It was a strange sort of torture being so close to their organic, 99.6% local (more on that later) array of spirits that includes white whiskey, vodka, and gin. So I asked Esteban McMahan, TOPO’s spirit guide, if he wouldn’t mind hosting a tour and tasting for food bloggers in the Triangle. And he said yes!
The evening started with us bloggers slowly trickling in, a few having fallen prey to the oft-made mistake of going to Top of the Hill restaurant and brewery down the road first. That restaurant provided us with some delicious appetizers.
Salmon, cucumber, and herb cream cheese bites.
The pork banh mi on crostada was especially delicious.
It’s also quite loud to crunch on when someone’s speaking. I may or may not know that from personal experience.
Esteban plied us with libations featuring their spirits as we filtered in, and I loved the blueberry cocktail.
It was made with blueberries, simple syrup, lemon juice, and TOPO gin. The gin was a subtle undercurrent, which suits me quite well as I can often find gin overpowering in a drink. Other drinks which I did not sample were a vesper cocktail, heavy on the gin with a pretty curl of lemon—
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One of my goals before we move is to hit up a few North Carolina heritage sights I’ve wanted to explore but have never gotten around to before now. One was checked off the list on Memorial Day when my friend Ellen invited us to join her at Bennett Place in Durham.
What’s Bennett Place? Only where the largest surrender of troops took place at the end of the Civil War! The peace was signed in Hillsborough, but the troop surrender happened at a farmhouse in Durham about halfway between General Sherman’s and General Grant’s headquarters in Greensboro and Raleigh, respectively. The actual farmhouse was a victim of fire, as is often the case. Its chimney survives today.
The rest of the restored home was moved from up the road and decorated to reflect to the time period of the troop surrender.
One of two bedrooms in the farmhouse.
There is also a smokehouse and kitchen on site, in addition to trails, a large meadow,
and the Unity Memorial.
Bennett Place is located in western Durham (4401 Bennett Memorial Drive) and is easily accessible. It is free, though donations are accepted. On a normal day, I’d say 90 minutes would be enough to tour the grounds and the museum in the visitors’ center. But on Memorial Day, they hosted a weekend of events, complete with reenactors from many different US wars, so more time was needed, and I’d imagine that’s the case with any special event. Especially if one of those reenactors whisks you away to teach you Southern dances and games.
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