Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wine and Food highlights Blowing Rock's SAVOR festival

Biltmore Estate wines at SAVOR Blowing Rock's Grand Tasting.
Biltmore Estate was pouring its wines at the SAVOR Grand Tasting on Saturday, April 22.

By Dathan Kazsuk & Jennifer Primrose | April 26, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Blowing Rock, North Carolina. A small town in Western Carolina that has a population of roughly 1,200 people. The town is host to annual events, such as its yearly Winterfest which draws in people for its Polar Plunge and wine tasting events. But the town is also home to the food and wine festival known as SAVOR Blowing Rock. Entering its 12th year, this 4-day extravaganza features a handful of food and wine seminars, wine tastings as well as a 5K and a Grand Tasting to end the numerous weekend events. SAVOR welcomes roughly 3,000 attendees each year to sip, savor and learn about the delicacies the event has to offer while taking in the serenity of this quaint mountain town.

Being the wine and beer fans that we are and having attended Winterfest a handful of times we decided it was time to check out this event. Unfortunately, with limited time, we had to plan carefully. So, after perusing the list of events, that range from wine, liquor and beer seminars to restaurant showcases and cooking demonstrations - all ranging from $28 to $125 per person - we finally settled on the Corkscrew and Brew 5K at Chetola Resort and the Grand Tasting event, both taking place on Saturday.

Related Story: Upcoming 19th Annual 2017 Blowing Rock Winterfest

Our adventures began on Friday, arriving in town a little after noon. We decided to head over to Grandfather Winery as we had only been once before and wanted to give it a second try before heading to the Alpine Village Inn to check into our room. GPS decided it would be a wonderful idea to take us on a route that included driving down a gravel mountain road as we prayed GPS would not let us down. We arrived safely and enjoyed our time sampling what Grandfather Winery has to offer. 

Grandfather Winery, Banner Elk, NC

After checking into the Alpine Village Inn and being surprised with a free bottle of wine for staying two nights, we checked out the schedule of evening activities and decided to head over to Sunset and Vine wine shop for a free wine tasting and then to the Sip and Shop Downtown - which featured 21 shops along Blowing Rock's Main Street pouring samples of wine while you shop between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

We had a great time at Sunset and Vine chatting with the distributors and Christina from Shelton Vineyards. Next, we headed to Main Street to see what the shops were offering. Unfortunately, we found the Sip and Shop a little disappointing, as many of the shops we checked into were not pouring any wine. We didn't go into every shop, but of the 6 or so we went into, only half had wine or drink readily available for its patrons. The plus is that we discovered some shops we had not yet had the opportunity to check out on our previous visits. We decided to end the night with dinner at Blowing Rock Brewing Company.

Christina with Shelton Winery pours wine inside Sunset and Vine wine shop.
 Related Story: Brewery ProfileBlowing Rock Brewing Company

We thought about calling this next section, 'What were we thinking?,' but decided against it. For some reason that we can't quite figure outnot only did we decide to sign up for the Corkscrew and Brew 5K, but also decided to select the beer/wine option because that is what non-runners do. Sign up for a 5K - in the mountains - while drinking. Bucket list item - CHECK! Would we do it again? Probably. To read more about our adventures, check out our Corkscrew blog.

Related Story: SAVOR: Corkscrew and Brew 5K at Chetola Resort

Drinking wine and beer at 9 a.m. while jogging a 5K in the mountains ... it was a bucket list.

We spent the afternoon at the Grand Tasting, held on April 22, that offered patrons an opportunity to sample close to 100 different wines from around the state and U.S. The event also featured other small businesses and distillers who were pouring samples of their favorite poisons.

Some N.C. businesses included Banner Elk Winery, Linville Falls Winery, Crude Bitters, Call Family Distillers, Covington Vodka, Ugga Mugga Bakery and others. While some of the big names in distributors such as The Country Vintner, Fine Wine Trading and Advintage touted some great wines from California and the West Coast.

All in all, we had a great time at our first SAVOR Blowing Rock and look forward to future events and visits to one of our favorite small NC towns.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brewery Profile: Blowing Rock Brewing Co.

Blowing Rock Brewing Company opened in 2013.

Blowing Rock Brewing Company
152 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Phone: (828) 414-9600
Hours: Monday: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Tuesday: Closed; Wednesday: Closed; Thursday: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Brewery tours available on Saturday from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.   

Blowing Rock Brewing opened in 2013 when Jeff Walker and Todd Rice decided it was time for the town of have its first brewery. Located in the heart of Blowing Rock's downtown community at 152 Sunset Drive, the brewery is also home to a restaurant and an Inn – and is a nice place to stop when exploring the small shops the town has to offer.

In 2014 Blowing Rock Brewing opened another brewery and restaurant facility in Hickory, which is called American Honor Ale House & Restaurant located inside the historic Hollar Mill. 

Blowing Rock's beers have been broken up into the Legacy and Ale House series. The Legacy features beers such as its Blowing Rock IPA, High Country Ale and Mountain Shadow Black IPA. While the Ale House series features more selections of stouts, porters, IPAs, Belgium beers and a Barleywine.

We were in Blowing Rock during the weekend of its food and wine festival, SAVOR, and were able to sample a few Blowing Rock beers such as its Big Chocolate Porter, IPA and a brand new release, Ridge Radler grapefruit IPA. While at the brewery we tried the Double IPA along with a Gouda burger and flatbread. We thought the beers were alright, but can always find something to enjoy while kicking back in the restaurant, hanging out at the small bar or out in the back playing a friendly game of corn hole.

If you decide to stay at the Inn, they feature five rooms and all are named after beer terminology such as Stout, Hops, Pint, Amber and Wheat rooms.

While visiting or staying in Blowing Rock, we recommend visiting these other places:

Sunset & Vine | 150 Sunset Drive | A wine store that sells local North Carolina wines and wines from all over the world. Stop in to see if they're doing a free wine tasting.

The Spice & Tea Exchange of Blowing Rock | 1087 Main St. #4 | Reminds us a lot of Raleigh's Savory Spice in Lafayette Village. Tons of spice and rubs for grilling and an assortment of loose teas. 

Ugga Mugga Bakery | 1107 Main St. | A new find for us and a pleasant one. Stop in for homemade cakes, muffinspies and Macaroons. Also grab some coffee while you're there.

Canyons Restaurant | 8960 Valley Blvd. | You have to make your way out of downtown Blowing Rock, but this restaurant has a nice scenic view of the mountains, a good menu, and something we love for dessert called the Chocolate Enchilada, a chocolate crepe filled with chocolate mousse and topped with a chocolate Ganache sauce and whipped cream! 


Sugar Magnolia Café: A 20-year dream becomes reality

Christine and Howard Sadel (center) opened Sugar Magnolia Café and Emporium in Wake Forest.

By Jennifer Primrose | April 26, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Howard and Christine Sadel always knew they wanted to open a café. Howard recalls 20 years ago, while still living in New Jersey, that opening a café would help create a better life for them and their family. "We always had this idea of opening up a dessert café that included selling art," says Sadel.

"I had been training in multimedia at the time and Carolco Films studios in Wilmington popped up in my job search," he says. While viewing Wilmington as a great place to make their dream a reality, the timing was not right. After moving to Raleigh in August of 1996, their family began to grow with their second child - their daughter, Hannah, who was later diagnosed with congenital heart failure. "This put us on a path of 4 years of multiple heart surgeries and procedures both here at UNC and in Chicago," says Sadel. Later, they welcomed a son, Tyler, but the dream of owning a café was never far from their hearts.

Now, many years later, with their eldest son Nick in his seventh year in the USAF, Hannah in her first year at Meredith College and Tyler a sophomore at North Raleigh Christian Academy, it is time to pick up their dream. "God has given us a location that truly fits what our vision was 20 years ago," says Sadel.

Related Story: Carronni's Hand Crafted Creations have N.C. wineries in mind

Excerpts of our 5 Questions With for April were answered by Sugar Magnolia's Howard Sadel.

Tell us a bit about the idea and concept behind Sugar Magnolia café. The concept is to offer fresh made soups, salads and sandwiches, along with great coffee and local craft beer and wine – in an environment that is inviting and as comfortable as your own home. As a marketing digital strategist, I know very well how we have become online "social" but offline to the people right around us. Christine and I hope to be a part of the movement that brings people back to local community awareness and support by making Sugar Magnolia Café a place of gathering and celebration.

You chose a location in Wake Forest on a street that seems to be known for much of the similar things you are doing now. What will make you stand head-and-shoulders above the rest in that area? We see Sugar Magnolia Café as catering to a little different niche and not so much as being a competitor. We are really just as much a restaurant as we are a café – we offer a great solution for private parties and events. (We're) also expanding the craft beer options ... giving craft beer lovers a wider opportunity to sample beers from around the state. We love White Street Brewery, and see them, as we do with all other businesses on the street, as partners to bring more people to White Street.

Sugar Magnolia will be serving sandwiches, desserts and coffee. How much of your ingredients are local? Have you selected local roasters, farmers, etc. to work with ... and how important is it to you to source locally? We are all about local. It's great that it's a global economy and all, but if we jump over people right in our backyards to source a product far away, are we really helping each other? We have so many great artists, artisans and suppliers right here in Wake Forest and the surrounding communities. Our strategy is to seek out local first. Even if that means we need to pay a little more, that's fine.

The Emporium, in the bottom level of the café will feature many local artists. This is very similar to Going Local, which used to be located in north Raleigh. Tell us a bit about this idea? Christine used to sell her jewelry at Going Local in north Raleigh until they closed. The Emporium has a very similar collection of local artists, and we even have one of their managers, Karen Lussi, now working with us. We currently have 35 different local artists and artisans. Each artist leases a space and pays a 10 percent commission on sales for marketing and sales support. After being in this position ourselves, we wanted to create a fair business arrangement that allows both sides to thrive. Charging high rates to artists just forces them to raise prices, slowing sales and discouraging them. We want people to get great exposure, sell their work, and be able to sustain their business. 

What is your game plan for year one? Any special events coming up that people should know about? After a two-and-a-half month build out, we are just thrilled to be open for business. Operating for about 6-weeks now, our grand opening will be the weekend of April 29 then it's full steam ahead. Our location does have a 20-year history as the Olde English Tea Room, and a very loyal following. That said, we intend to honor that history and will be continuing tea service, including afternoon or low-tea. Every Friday night we will be hosting our very own "Art on White" featuring one of our artists starting on May 5.

Keep up to date with Sugar Magnolia Café by visiting their web page at or follow along on Facebook at

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a monthly Five Questions With, please send an email to

Monday, April 24, 2017

NC Beer Month: North Carolina Sweet Sixteen IPA Beer Bracket

By Dathan Kazsuk | April 24, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

Sure the NCAA Final Four is over, and our very own UNC Tar Heels are now the champs.Yay! And in honor of the trophy coming back to North Carolina, and being that April is NC Beer Month, we at Triangle Around Town decided to do our own tourney! A beer tourney!

We called this one our NC IPA Sweet Sixteen! It's easy to figure out. We pitted 16 North Carolina IPAs, from the mountains to the coast to compete in this challenge to the road to our own Final Four.

Since Jen doesn't like IPAs we put her in charge of the bracket. She compiled the bracket to this blind tasting by pairing one brewery against another. But unlike the NCAA our bracket is totally a toss up. Those heavy hitters, such as Wicked Weed or Burial could be ranked anywhere from No. 1 to 16 – so this is a true tasters challenge.

Each of the five participants in judging, including Dathan, were all responsible for getting IPAs from different NC breweries (bottles or cans – no growlers or crowlers allowed). All beer was purchased from local Raleigh bottle shops. Other than Dathan, no other participant knows what the other 12 beers were for this challenge. Jen poured the two breweries squaring off into small Dixie cups. The five judges then picked a winner, and that winner moved to the next round. Unlike the Final Four, we decided our winner in one evening

The judges for the challenge were Dathan Kazsuk, John and Charnell Trembeczki, Jason Emory and Matt Lill. With a little over 9,600 unique beers under our belts in terms of unique check-ins on Untappd, we decided to have some fun with this tournament.

Round 1:
• Trophy Brewing's Cloud Surfer vs Fullsteam's Rocket Science
  Winner: Trophy (5-0) 

• Greenman's Trickster vs Lonerider's Hoppy Yi-Yay
  Winner: Greenman (5-0)  

• Deep River Brewing's Mango Tango Foxtrot vs Southern Pines' Suit and Thai
  Winner: Southern Pines (3-2)

• Wicked Weed's Hop Burglar vs Foothills' Terrain IPA
  Winner: Wicked Weed (4-1)

• Burial's Surf Wax vs Catawba's CLT
  Winner: Burial (3-2)

• Ass Clown's Brewer's IPA vs Appalachian Mountain Brewery's Long Leaf
  Winner: Appalachian Mountain Brewery (4-1)

• Hi-Wire's Maneater IPA vs Weeping Radish IPA
  Winner: Hi-Wire (3-2)

• Triple C's 3C IPA vs Big Boss High Roller with Blood Orange
  Winner: Big Boss (5-0)

Round 2: 
• Trophy Brewing's Cloud Surfer vs Greenman's Trickster
  Winner: Trophy (4-1)

• Southern Pines' Suit and Thai vs Wicked Weed's Hop Burglar
  Winner: Wicked Weed (4-1)

• Burial's Surf Wax vs Appalachian Mountain Brewery's Long Leaf
  Winner: Burial (4-1)

• Hi-Wire's Maneater IPA vs Big Boss High Roller with Blood Orange
  Winner: Big Boss (4-1)   

Round 3 (Final Four):
• Trophy Brewing's Cloud Surfer vs Wicked Weed's Hop Burglar
  Winner: Trophy (4-1)

• Burial's Surf Wax vs Big Boss High Roller with Blood Orange
  Winner: Big Boss (3-2)

Round 4 (Championship Battle):
• Trophy Brewing's Cloud Surfer vs Big Boss High Roller with Blood Orange
  Winner: Trophy (5-0) 

Congrats to Raleigh's Trophy Brewing for its Cloud Surfer IPA. Sorry we don't have any trophy to hand out to Trophy, but we'll celebrate by drinking some of its beer this weekend! 

Editor's Note: We already discussed our next battle will be an Elite 8 of some of our favorite barrel-aged stouts from our cellars.