Saturday, April 16, 2016

A potpourri of topics ... from N. Carolina

CARY, N.C. -- Mobility is a major reason to have a high-performance laptop, but I've come to appreciate a related reason for having one, and it's something people who do extensive traveling discovered long ago: I can turn around a blog post while on the road in short order if I use photos taken with my iPhone.

I bought my first laptop five years ago, but it suffered from speed deprivation. Adding RAM to the device made very little difference. So I invested in another recently, and this time I didn't short myself when it came to quality. I went solid state on the hard drive, got an Intel i7 processor, and 16GB of RAM. It really flies, so with this post, I took the bold of filing my first-ever post while on the road. I'm in North Carolina again, visiting family ... and just getting away from Indiana.

The subject of this post is kind of a potpourri, and isn't that appropriate given the name of this blog? I lead off with a handful of photos I took this morning at the West Wake Farmers Market, which is in western Wake County, N.C., very near to the common border of Cary and Morrisville. This part of the country has a climate that allows for outdoor farmers markets year-round. Today here was a wonderfully pleasant day; temperatures were in the mid- to upper 50s in the morning and peaked at 68 in the late afternoon.

The photos below highlight baking goods displayed by La Farm Bakery in Cary, including a loaf of multigrain Scandinavian rye bread, of which I purchase a half-loaf. I'm eating a slice with my dinner tonight; the jury is still out. Also on hand at the market was a representative of Great Harvest Bread Co., and we sampled other breads and scones there. I managed a quick photo of a trio of musicians who had performed most of the morning before I arrived; they finished their last song as we entered the grounds.

From other vendors, we picked up some asparagus, smoked pork chops, sausage, kettle popcorn and coffee, and at the very end of the vendors lane, I noticed a booth for Brueprint Brewing Co., of nearby Apex. That made me smile on two counts -- one, because I had just dropped in on the brewery for the first time the night before; and two, the company names all of its beers with "Brue" as part of the name, often creating a pun in the pocess.

In fact, Brueprint was the first North Carolina craft brewery I'd dropped in on, and I ordered a flight (four samples) of their beers from the menu last night -- two year-round products, the crisp Pale Brue Eyes pale ale, and Brue Scarlet, which the brewery describes as a "sultry amber ale" ... and two seasonals, the Zambrueni craft lager and the Brue Diamond IPA (India Pale Ale).

I'm very pleased to report that I was not disappointed in any of the four brews. The lager went down quickly; it was refreshing and easy on the palate. Pale Brue Eyes was equally refreshing, but it had more flavor and slightly more heft. Brue Scarlet was a bit heftier yet and also darker than the two others, and the IPA was the most flavorful, its hops about as strong as I like in my IPAs before it gets too bitter. Before leaving the brewery,  I bought a six-pack of the Pale Brue Eyes to take home.

At Brueprint, I sat next to a young man, Steve, who said he'd moved to the area six months ago and had quickly warmed to it. Before that, he aid, he'd been a lifelong resident of St. Louis. I told Steve about Indy's booming craft brew community, and he said St. Louis was nothing like that -- no doubt, he surmised, because of the heavy presence and influence in the community of mainstream beer titan Anheuser-Busch.

We talked about about another local craft brewery, Fortnight Brewing, in Cary, which I'd thought about visiting last night; I opted for Brueprint because I happened to be closer to it at the time. Steve also suggested checking out a couple local establishments that offer good selections of craft brews and highly recommended the Raleigh Beer Garden, which opened last year quite auspiciously -- by setting the Guinness World Record for having the most draft beer taps -- 366, including 12 dozen (that would be 144, if you do the math) just from North Carolina breweries.

Indeed, as the story with the Guinness record link indicates, Raleigh is growing its craft beer industry. When I pulled up a map of craft breweries in this area, the majority are sprinkled in and near Raleigh. Nearby Chapel Hill (home to the University of North Carolina) and Durham (Duke University) also have a fair share of them.

While shopping at a Fresh Market store in Cary today, I bought a six-pack of a Kolsch made by White Street Brewing Company of Wake Forest, N.C. I'm enjoying it with my dinner tonight (it's good!). That explains the photos of the White Street bottle and package below. The community of Wake Forest, incidentally, is not where the university of the same name is located. The town is a northeast suburb of Raleigh; the university is in the much larger metropolitan area of Winston-Salem, which is quite a ways west of Raleigh.

Lunch this afternoon was at Char-Grill, a burgers place that reminded me of Five Guys Burgers and Fries ... but without the barrel of peanuts and with fries that are not seasoned. It's practically next door to the Fresh Market, so it seemed logical to stop there for sustenance ... and pictures. Thumbs up on the burgers; jury is out on the fries.

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As my regular visitors know by now, I keep photos from what I consider my valuable and/or important shoots at I'm chagrined to admit that it wasn't until last week that I learned I had control of determining the featured photo in each of my galleries. The featured photo is the image visitors see representing a gallery when they arrive at my site. So I've been spending a lot of time going through the galleries these past few days updating the featured photo so that it not only is of higher quality than SmugMug's default choices, but also -- in most instances -- more representative of what's inside the full gallery. The new lineup of featured photos can be seen in the last photo of this post, a screen grab of my home page at SmugMug.

As always, you can click on any photo in this post to see a larger, and hopefully sharper version of the photo (which is especially important if you access this blog on a mobile device).

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