The Lost General Store, and Old Crow

This is part 2 in an ongoing series of oddities from the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Pt 1 can be found here: http://biscuitswhiskeyandbeer.com/category/weird-finds/

A month or so ago I was off on a walk down a rural route, and noticed an overgrown but accessible gravel driveway into what was once obviously a bustling center of country commerce. The driveway was overgrown enough that there was no way anyone driving by would notice, and it was far enough from any houses/neighborhoods, that no one really would have any business stumbling upon it. If it had been a week or two later when the trees were in full bloom, I might not even have noticed it. I love old country stores, gas stations, and eateries, so this well preserved discovery felt like I had uncovered Atlantis.

There was a general store, a service garage, a house where I assume the proprietors once lived, and a barn. The buildings were arranged in such a way that if you were pulling in off of the road the service buildings were all on the left, and the house was on the right. After listening for signs of life, I took to kicking some rocks around loudly to announce my presence to any creatures that might lurking inside before beginning my entry into the compound. I’ve played enough Resident Evil, read enough horror stories, and seen probably too many slasher films to be comfortable walking in alone to not pause for a couple minutes. The house was NOT getting explored alone, and the barn and garage were mostly empty, but the general store had an open, almost welcoming doorway.

The store.
The house – no thanks, I’m good.
Garage – surprisingly empty except for some chairs.
Empty barn.

Inside I found a dusty, dirty, but surprisingly preserved store, and the first thing I noticed was that there was no vandalism. There were odds and ends, an old homework assignment, some Halloween masks…wait what?!

Do your homework!
Creepy and amazing.

That’s right, those old costumes with the detailed masks, and what were basically trash bags with a logo printed on them were here! I remember wearing one of these in the late 80’s before I was told Halloween was evil, and I was no longer allowed to participate. I was a “karate-man” that year, and it was siiiiick. That is until I hyper-ventilated in my mask while waiting in line for a haunted house in our neighborhood. An older kid in front of us in line had a REALLY good zombie getup, complete with blood capsules in his mouth. My dad was chatting with him, and as he showed the fake blood off, I freaked out. I was 6 or 7, and that was the last time I went trick or treating. Dammit young Charlie, why couldn’t you hang?! It was basically Stan from South Park throwing up when nervous – but real life! Maybe that’s the REAL reason I wasn’t allowed to go again…but I digress, trash-bag costumes were a part of the American Halloween experience for decades, and right here in front of me was a tiger, and a princess! So cool. I respectfully returned them to their boxes and left them to rest (rot) where I had found them.

Old, Old Crow…see what I did there?

Whilst poking about, I also found some old liquor and beer cases (empty), including some Old Crow Bourbon boxes! What a perfect segue way into talking about whiskey! Old Crow (or Dr. James Crow’s Old Crow if you want to get proper about it) is a storied, and significant member of the bourbon family tree. Billed as “the original sour mash”, it is recognized as one of Kentucky’s earliest bourbons, developed by Scottish immigrant James C. Crow. These days it is owned by Beam-Suntory, and shares the same mash bill and yeast as Jim Beam white label. The difference between the two comes from the aging and blending processes. It was favored by Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, WWII flying ace Bud Anderson, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson (he loved WT, but wrote a lot about Old Crow too), Fat Mike of NOFX, the Beastie Boys, and the band Old Crow Medicine Show obviously owes their name to this venerable liquid. So knowing now that this budget bourbon is so obviously storied and revered, how is it?

New, Old Crow
Neat.

Well, it’s got the color of a Werther’s Original (sp?), and it’s got a really sweet but alchololic, strong nose (seriously, this stuff smells quite loud). It’s loud and brash corn and sweetness up front, with an an afterburn worthy of its spot on the shelf. It comes in a little plastic bottle labeled as “lightweight traveler” which is a bit of a bummer, I do think it deserves the full glass bottle treatment on its history alone, but I guess that helps keep the cost down. There is also a “reserve” variety that I’d like to try at some point to see how it tastes when aged a bit longer.

So back to the store. I saw a little coffee tin, and immediately recognized the brand as something my grandparents kept around. Between the masks, and the coffee tin, I’d be willing to wager this place had sat since the late 80s. It was like a strange wormhole in time, like a museum of things you’d forgotten about from 1988. So, I’m looking around the floor, not wanting to accidentally step on anything, and spot a weird little metal bowl that’s discolored and forlorn, and decide its coming home as a souvenir. I get it home, and with a little Bar Keepers Friend and some elbow grease, it comes back to life! It now takes up a place on a bookshelf to hold knick-knacks.

This was like an instant coffee, instant flashback. I remember the commercials and everything.
Thar’ be treasure!
Just like that, good as new-ish.

So there you have it, another adventure, and another whiskey.

Til next time biscuiteers!

-Charlie

PS – Plans are beginning to take shape for this year’s Triathlon-A-Thon, Triathlon-A-Thon 2: The Fundraisening. In light of that, expect more content than usual to distract you at work through the summer.

Links

Here are examples of those costumes:

http://www.plaidstallions.com/collegeville/1983.html

Georgia on My Mind – An Epic Quest Through the American South

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Biscuits and More in Marietta, Georgia. It’s an unassuming place, located in a strip mall, with friendly staff, and you get the sense that there is a real community of regulars. Additionally, beyond the regulars exchanging knowing glances at each other and the staff, there are newspaper articles and local sports memorabilia on the walls (including local high schools), that also give the sense that Biscuits and More is a part of the larger surrounding community as well.

It reminded me of a deli I went to a couple times as a teenager, and I immediately loved the place.

I was accompanied by my grandfather for this visit, it’s his preferred spot, and we were in his neck of the woods. Having heard about it from him for some time, I was really excited, and was not let down. I stuck with what he said was a solid choice: I had a standard bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit with a small black coffee. There of course was more on the menu (it is Biscuits and More – no just capital ‘B’ Biscuits), but I kept it simple.

There really were biscuits, and more!

The biscuit itself was comparable in size to McDonalds, softer in texture, which was a surprise, but I have to say, it had a great buttery flavor, and the bacon was GREAT. Holy crap, that was a long sentence. Back to the bacon – it was crisp, but chewy, which is my preferred form of bacon. The eggs were folded over VERY neatly, and the American cheese was your standard slice. It was a solid, no frills, low-price flavor bomb, and I could’ve destroyed about half a dozen of these things.

I inhaled half this thing before taking pics…whoops.

There’s something magical about road-trip biscuits that can cause rose-tinted biscuit vision, but this wasn’t a travel-weary overhype, Biscuits and More is a legitimately great locally owned biscuit spot that means a lot to its clientele. The staff knows this, and the clientele in turn mean a lot to them.

Thanks for the tip Pop, let’s go again sometime!

See you next time biscuiteers!

-Charlie Mewshaw

Dad duds – a metamorphic process.

It’s been about a year since we expanded our family unit with a brand new human, and man does it feel like I’ve discovered the secret to time travel. By adding the element of a baby into your everyday life, you too can careen through space and time! The rub here is that you can only speed things up, and go forward.

I saw my reflection in a store front window the other day, and realized that this form of time travel has had an unexpected, and rapid transformative process in my appearance. It seems that previously held notions of what was acceptable for every day casual wear have shifted from “that looks alright” to “what will hide stains, and support my back”.

Let’s take a look shall we:

Day Zero Outfit : A typical outfit worn out of the house for years prior, acceptable at the grocery store, to dinner, or to go see show (remember doing that?! You used to do that all the time!)

Black hoodie

Black shirt featuring some kind of band related art

Black Jeans

Black Socks

Black Chuck Taylor low-tops

Current Thoughts: too much black, every weird stain that comes from holding a baby is immediately obvious on this getup. Also, the jeans do not allow for holding baby-related accessories, and the shoes are fine for carrying a new-born, but not lugging a 30lb pre-toddler, and the related backpack full of supplies.

Six Month Outfit: This outfit is acceptable to wear to the store, running errands, or bopping about town. Still not all in for nights out, I was still making an effort when those would arise.

Grey Hoodie – (move up a size)

Grey shirt / plain – (move up a size)

Grey Cargo Shorts – (holding on to the same size…getting tight! Also, cargo shorts, bane of women everywhere and gift to dads from above are now my exclusive legwear)

Black socks

Old Running Shoes – sorry Chucks, I’ll wear you the next time I go out (ha!), but I need some support, shoes I cut the grass in? You’re back in the rotation.

Current Thoughts: Learning to hide stains and prioritizing comfort, way to go! Getting a little bigger, but hey, its ok, you’re a dad! Those cargo shorts are killing it for holding pacifiers, bottles, and toys!

Year 1 Outfit: This outfit is not acceptable anywhere to those without kids, and is a mish-mash of whatever’s handy, but its comfy, I don’t care, and it’s getting worn EVERYWHERE

Black Shirt – (I’m still me! See! I’m wearing my old shirts…just bigger!)

Camo Cargo Shorts – (social rules be damned, the camo hides all stains and spills! Also, I’m tired of snug pants, moving up in size.)

Whatever socks are clean

Brand new Merrell’s – Old man shoes! They’re so comfy! How did I live without you?! I’m flying! I didn’t know what these were until a month ago, but now I wear them everywhere, even to work.

Current Thoughts: #Dadsohard, I am the pinnacle of dad-fashion, a doughy, sleepy, but happy guy.

Conclusion

This entry was a little text heavy, but if you made this far, you must’ve enjoyed it. Tune in next week for a road trip edition of Biscuits Whiskey & Beer!

Your sleepy host,

-Charlie Mewshaw

Ring Mah’ Bell – Exploration Edition

I like finding weird old stuff. I like to look at it, I like to think of the adventures it may have gone through, and I like to collect it (when appropriate – I don’t go just TAKING things). One of the benefits of living where there’s big open fields like this:

So majestic.

Is that often times, not too far, on the edge of said fields, are weird things like this:

I rang this thing so good.

This particular item is, you guessed it, a fully functioning bell – that I rang. Loudly. Repeatedly.

It was made by the C.S. Bell Company in Hillsboro, OH. Fine purveyors of bells that they are (turns out they still exist! http://www.csbellco.com/), how did one wind up in woods? I did some digging and the owner of this fine parcel is a non-descriptly named LLC that had hoped to develop the plot into a subdivision called “Bellhaven Estate”. Since that obviously never happened – now there’s a giant bell in the woods. There’s no contact info on the company except for a residential address quite far from the bell’s location. I’m guessing this bell will remain in the woods until it rusts out, or is stolen by someone with such a vehicle that  can transport a giant, bell that must weigh quite literally a ton.

It’s a shame really. Next time, I’ll post some more weird stuff I’ve found on hikes…ok, they’re just walks, but hikes sounds better.

-CM

4 Dollar Biscuit

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about a biscuit…whoops. So lets bounce back in style with a gourmet one. A biscuit alone, no sandwich, just a biscuit made from flour that was ground by diamonds from gilded grains. A biscuit who’s dough was hand kneaded by the supple hands of michelin rated cherubs, brushed with butter made from a combination of arctic glacial salts, and cream from a local, grass-fed, antibiotic free, free-roaming cow on the open plains of the North Carolina piedmont…why else would it cost four bucks?

Last year I wrote about the bourgeois biscuits of Raleigh’s Fiction Kitchen. It was for the wife’s bday brunch, an annual tradition. This year she chose a brunch Acme in Carrboro, NC. Now full disclosure: I do have an aversion to brunch culture – I think it’s a bit done-up/overly fancy, and that brunch should just be a good breakfast spread eaten later than a normal breakfast. Instead, it’s evolved into something fancy, and boozy, and it’s just not my thing.

So we arrive at Acme, and she takes our kid to the bathroom straight away, leaving me alone at the table. I swear to you, the people sitting next to me were some of the worst stereotype brunchers ever. They were loud, dumb, and actually kind of offensive in the things they were saying. They were also really hard on the server, and I felt awful for him. So the wife rejoins us after the wee one’s wee is clean, and she’s even like “those people are awful…”

The food comes out, it’s excellent, and mine includes a biscuit. It was really good, the bottom reminded me of McDonalds, crispy but buttery. The top was a golden mountain range of flavor bumps, and the middle was light but slightly doughy, it was really, really good. Also, it was big, that’s worth noting.  On the side was a strawberry butter…having never had such a thing, I was quite taken with it and ate a lot.

Flavor bumps!

I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the food, staff, or ambience of Acme, I think as an upscale dining establishment its great…BUT…that side biscuit was FOUR BUCKS! Not a value, and special occasions only for sure.

See you next time!

Charlie Mewshaw

Military Special Bourbon

Military Special is a brand found exclusively on US military bases, providing troops with bargain basement priced liquor. Since it’s produced for the government, the contracts obviously go to the lowest bidder, and predictably the quality is generally accepted as less than what we’ll call “refined”. The different bottles have different awesome little pictures of military regalia to inspire its customers to greatness, and are made of a thin, safe plastic. I say safe because I imagine the decision to go with plastic serves two purposes:

-Its cheap. Like, I’ve had bottled water with sturdier plastic.

-When PFC Ding-dong whips the empty bottle across the room in his on-base housing upon hearing what Jodie’s been up to with his lady, it will cause less damage where it lands than a heavy glass bottle would.

I was first introduced to this brand in San Antonio when I saw MS Rum at Lackland AF base while visiting a friend. While perusing the booze aisle for fuel for the night’s impending shenanigans, I noticed the rum’s familiar location of origin and immediately pegged it as rebranded Port Royal (a heinous and painful poison). I was fascinated that all of these bar staple liquors were available in bottles with pictures of canons, eagles, flags, and fighter jets. That trip was a lot of fun, I saw the Alamo, goofed off, ate some great bbq, and was searched before getting back on my plane AFTER I had cleared TSA (must’ve looked shady).

Fast forward a few years, and this same friend procured me the MS bourbon, assuring me that it was a poorly kept secret that Heaven Hill made it, and sold it on the cheap to the government. To say I was excited would be an understatement, this was a rare and special gift for a civilian like myself.

Legendary.

MS bourbon has a color similar to the “severely dehydrated” end of the spectrum on a “what should my pee look like” chart. It smells like burning, and tastes like the first whiskey you remember trying. It’s loud, dirty, burns, and is all oak flavor.

Truth be told, I kind of like it in a cocktail. It makes the bourbon flavor cut through any blend. I’ve been doing a splash of bitters, a cherry, and MS bourbon on the rocks for about half the bottle now, and I gotta say it has really grown on me.

Til’ next time biscuiteers!

-Charlie Mewshaw

Iron-guy-whatever

Totally non biscuit, whiskey, or beer related post:

So Marvel’s Iron Fist isn’t getting good reviews, and I have to say that I’m a little relieved. Time is at an all-time premium in my life at the moment, and I just can’t imagine getting hooked into a Marvel show right now. Hopefully watching the full season won’t be required for understanding The Defenders mini-series that will follow. Ideally just reading a wiki of the plot will be enough to fill in the details.

I’ll get back to writing about booze and grease bombs shortly, but you know time and all that.

-CM

Wicked Weed Malice

Triathlon-A-Thon 2016 Golf Champion, and devoted Biscuiteer Andrew Scercy recently blessed my household with a bottle of Wicked Weed’s “Malice”. It’s a complex and mature beer for fans of sours based on blood oranges, lime zest, tamarind, and ancho chiles – I feel classy already.

At only 6% its got a reasonable ABV.
It’s a very serious beer you guys, seriously.

The bottle has art and verbiage that conjurs Mayan lore, with statements like “The underworld holds secrets beyond words…”. Instead of being whisked away on a journey of the mind filled with mystery and suspense, I am taken to my first and only (to date) trip to Mexico with the Mrs. We were staying at an indulgent “all you can anything, all the time” type place an hour or so south of Cancun but still North of Tulum. It was fun, we ate a lot, drank a lot, hung on the beach a lot, and time passed too quickly. Having never been to a place like this, on day three or so, I foolishly concocted a conspiracy theory that they were watering down the hooch, so to test this I asked the bartender to give me some shots of tequila…at 10:30 in the morning. After washing those down with some beers I soon realized that they do not in fact water down the booze (at least at this one), and I needed a nap by lunch. Another key bit of information regarding the all-inclusive resort experience that took a day or so to sink in was that the buffet did not in fact have a wide variety of cheeses, but instead, the same kind of cream cheese shaped and rolled in different spices and seeds. High-grade stuff, really.

Mexico.

At this point I’m in Mexico, having a good time, but the resort bubble is starting to feel constrictive. We decided to hire a guide, venture out past the armed guards, and go on a real adventure. Our guy drove us waaaaay into the jungle like an hour further southwest from the resort to a little village that accepted tourist guests. We hung out, got a tour, ate some lunch that the village ladies prepared, and went to check out a nearby cenote (underground water filled cave). So we go on a long hike to get to this place with a dude we were told was the village Shaman. When we get close to the hole in the ground, he burns some herbs and crystalized amber, before saying some stuff and blowing the smoke on us. Our guide says it’s because ancient traditions dictate that the cenote was viewed as a portal to the underworld, and the blessing is to protect us from harmful spirits. Very mystical, and cool from a cultural learning perspective, but I ain’t afraid of no ghost. So we got our blessing, and were lowered like 50 feet down on a rope by some villagers into this dark cave. We swam around a bit and climbed the scariest 50 foot rope ladder back out. It was a great day, and easily a highlight of the trip.

Old man Hammond about to burn the amber up to ward off malicious dino-spirits.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m perusing National Geographic and there’s a thing about THE EXACT SAME CENOTE/VILLAGE. At this point I’m like “awesome!”, until I get to the part where they laid out how the villagers don’t tell tourists that make the trek out that the cenote was believed to be a portal to the underworld BECAUSE ITS WHERE THE BODIES OF THE DEAD WERE LOWERED TO REST. So I swam around in a dark pit of bones and death. 75% baller, 25% off-putting. I share all of this to say that the Mayan lore on the bottle scares me not, because that prior experience gets me at least few notches closer to Indiana Jones levels of awesome.

Me in the pit of the dead.

So I opened it up, and poured it out, and its got the color of crystalized amber! Whoa. Maybe this is getting spooky?

Spooky beer.

It’s got a sour nose, but that’s kind of what Wicked Weed does, so it’s expected. First impression is tart – WHOA, really tart! Like biting a lime, but then it mellows into sweeter citrus. It’s made with chiles and they’re definitely present on the backend, warming your throat and belly a bit. But wait…whats that aftertaste? It’s familiar – yet foggy, like a forgotten citrus treasure….the aftertaste is similar to 5-ALIVE! I LOVED 5-Alive! My grandmother always had it in her fridge, and I hadn’t thought of it since who knows when. I’m going to try and find it again now, that and Donald Duck Orange Juice with the little cartoon on the side of the carton are the pinnacle of citrus, and this beer has brought them both flooding back into my consciousness. The beer doesn’t taste like 5-Alive mind you, the aftertaste just reminded me of it, so don’t thinking this isn’t an overly solid beer, it is.

My kingdom for a Five Alive.

Boom. Done. This is a must do-again beer for me.

See you real soon biscuiteers!

Links!

Wicked Weed Brewing

https://wickedweedbrewing.com/

Behold the Pappy!

Pappy Van Winkle is considered by some to be the holy grail of bourbon. It is dispensed in single servings at absurdly priced tastings, sold by the bottle at auction at even higher prices, and is generally unobtainable unless you are comfortable lavishing extravagance upon ones self. Recently, for the second time in my life, I was presented the opportunity to try it. St. Anthony of Catonsville, patron saint of bourbon blogs happens to be a biscuiteer that possesses a bottle of the 20 year variety. Acquired six years ago at retail (before the sky rocketing prices), the living legend uncorked his bottle that I may write this extra special entry and start 2017 off in a stellar fashion.

I blew it and only took this photo…I was too excited. I bet you can guess what the next whiskey review will be too…

The first time I tasted the Pappy it was of this 20 year variety from 6 years prior, and I wasn’t thinking about capturing its essence in the written word, but I knew it was special. Fast forward a few years, and now its an exciting chance to revisit.

It’s really REALLY smooth, not a bit of harshness, great nose (subtle wood, with vanilla hints) , and wonderful warm (not hot) finish – with the perfect amount of sweetness. It’s easily the best bourbon I’ve ever tasted.

It’s great bourbon, and if you’ve got the resources to blow over a grand on a bottle of bourbon good for you, but really…you’re a ding dong if you spend that kind of loot on whiskey. It’s like those really expensive Yeti coolers, yeah they’re great, but if you spend hundreds of dollars on a cooler, chances are good that you’re at least 1/10th asshole.

See ya real soon!

-Charlie

End of the Year Bests / Worst

Year End Recap – 2016

It’s the time of year for reflective evaluation of what has transpired over the previous 12 months. In the spirit of the season, here’s a recap/ranking of the year in biscuits, whiskey, and beer!

 

Biscuit Rankings

Best : SUNRISE BISCUIT KITCHEN – Value, quality, and uniqueness make Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen the best biscuit of 2016.

Worst: HARDEES – I wrote about biscuits at a hospital this year. You got beat by a hospital Hardees…think about what you’ve done, and try harder next time.

 

Whiskey Rankings

Best: HENRY MCKENNA BOTTLED IN BOND – This was a big surprise, a previous unknown (to me), propelling it ahead of other more “top shelf” selections based on value and big flavors.

Worst: BOHSHINE – fun, quirky, not too bad, but still…c’mon, it was never going to be the best, and always going to be the worst.

Beer Rankings

Best: Bull Durham Brewing Company Lollygagger Kolsch – to quote me “It’s got the perfect balance of malts and hops, and really is just exactly what I think a beer should be. I only wish I could have it at home, but then again, maybe what makes it special is knowing you can only have one at the game.”

Worst: Trader Joes Simpler Times Lager – it tastes the way a beer fart smells.

Honorable Mention: Steel String Rollie Pollie – so good, but not a daily drinker so unfortunately couldn’t be the best.

There’s some great stuff lined up for 2017 – see you then!

Your host,

Charlie Mewshaw