On Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the Taste Durham Afternoon Tasting Tour. Personally I don’t think the name accurately describes the tour —”Taste of Heaven” would be much more accurate. Not only did I learn about the history of Durham, which is surprisingly interesting, but I also got to sample some of the best food I’ve had in a long time.
The tour started at Daisy Cakes, a cute café and bakery on Foster Street. There I met everyone else on the tour with me, and my knowledgeable tour guide, Dean Michaels.
The restaurant was so popular that we had to brave the cold and eat outside because there were no open seats indoors, but once I tasted the food I didn’t even notice. At Daisy Cakes, we sampled a roasted turkey avocado sandwich and a key lime tart. Both were very tasty and well presented.
Once we were done eating, we walked over to Bull City Burger & Brewery. On the way, our tour guide Dean enlightened us about the Duke family and how they revolutionized smoking in America. Before the Dukes came along, people would roll up their cigarettes by hand. The Dukes actually started the pre-rolled cigarette movement, he told us.
At Bull City Burger & Brewery, we sampled a burger, pickle chips and beer. (Well, actually, I sampled a soda as I’m only 20-years-old.) Along with our top-notch samples — I would eat those pickle chips with every meal if I could — the owner, Seth Gross, gave us an eloquent lesson on where the food came from. The sermon, as he called it, explained the advantages of pasture-fed beef over corn-fed beef. He also talked about how everything in the restaurant was made in house except the ketchup, which contains natural ingredients.
One of my new friends on the tour, B.J. Sacramento from Norfolk, Virginia, said he enjoyed the food and the sermon.
“I really liked it, and the history added to the overall experience,” B.J. said.
(Fun fact: Bull City Burger & Brewery is located on Parish Street, or what used to be Black Wall Street. The street used to have all African-American-owned businesses. Some say more money was exchanged on this street than any other in the U.S., besides Wall Street.)
On our way to the next stop, Old Havanna Sandwich Shop, Dean continued to tell us about the Dukes and their impact on history because of the cigarette.
“North Carolina’s all about pork. Pork and cigarettes,” Dean said.
Our next stop was Old Havanna, a Cuban restaurant, where we were served pork sandwiches and fried plantains. One of the restaurant’s founders, Roberto Copa Matos, explained that the pork was slow cooked and the ingredients used were for the most part local and fresh. Every ingredient in the sandwich was delicious and complimented the others perfectly. The bread was a little crispy yet soft, the pork was tender and flavorful. It was ah-mazing!
Next, we headed over to Toast, an Italian restaurant. On their website, they describe themselves as a “paninoteca,” or an Italian sandwich shop. At Toast, I sampled a goat cheese crostini with honey and some tomato soup. I had never tried cheese with honey before, so initially I was a little hesitant, but it was delicious. My taste buds thanked me for being adventurous.
B.J. said he enjoyed the pairing as well. “It was an interesting twist on home comfort food,” he said.
As the tour began to wind down and food comas began settling in, we walked over to The Parlour, an ice cream shop. We sampled a yummy banana-flavored ice cream with chocolate sauce on top. It was a little strange eating ice cream on such a cold day, but this stuff was way too good to pass up, regardless of the weather.
Our last stop on the tour was Alley 26 — they call themselves a fine drinking establishment, and I would agree. Although I was served virgin renditions of the cocktails, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. We were also served an appetizer plate, which included a pimento cheese spread — so good!
My experience on the tour was one for the books. I met great people and ate some fantastic food. I learned that Durham restaurants are using mainly locally grown and fresh ingredients, and it definitely pays off. I am almost overwhelmed with the number of new restaurants I have to bring my friends to — good thing Durham is only eight miles away, rain or shine. (Yes, that was a dig at Duke.)
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