Valentine’s Day at The Community Tap

This Valentine’s Day, a friend from our small group at Renewal Church was kind enough to watch the kids while Christina and I went out for dessert.  At least, it was supposed to be dessert – dinner didn’t get finished in time, so we took off without it to spoil the meal!

Having recently discovered a Greenville gem in The Community Tap (look, a Drupal site!), I saw through their Twitter account that they were offering what sounded like an awesome opportunity – a Valentine’s Day beer, cheese, wine, and chocolate tasting.  Christina and I had never done anything like that before, so it was a bit of a gamble surprising her, but she was suitably impressed.

Our Valentine's Day Tasting course listing - The Community Tap

The Community Tap Valentine’s Day course listing

Sadly, we didn’t grab any picture of the plates before diving in, but we did bring home a menu to remember.  Ed did the pairings and presentation, including:

  1. Cuvee Stephi Ebullience (sparkling white wine) paired with Cazelle de Saint Affrique (soft white sheep’s milk cheese)
  2. Black and Blue (Belgian ale) from Dogfish Head (hey, another Drupal site!) paired with a bon bon w/ a cinnamon / whisky flavored caramel center from Sweeteeth Chocolates
  3. A German Spatlese Riesling (semi-weet white wine)paired with a Blue D’Auvergne (cow’s milk blue cheese) and walnuts drizzled with local honey
  4. Red Spanish wine (a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Carginan grapes) paired with Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese, aged 6 months)
  5. Port wine from Niepoort paired with a dark chocolate bon bon with a sour cherry center

To top it off, he gave us a taste of Allagash Curieux, a bourbon barrel-aged tripel.  Since my wife can’t drink beer (pesky Celiac’s disease), I suffered through her Black and Blue and Curieux.  Of course, polishing off that second tasting of Curieux I began to feel the effect of a day without food and an evening of beer and win(e). 😛

Best of all, Christina enjoyed it.  I felt it was a gamble of a surprise, but the wine, cheese, and chocolate were more than enough to satisfy her.  Even better, they were selling bars of Sweeteth chocolate, so we picked up a couple.  The Cinnapsis (cinnamon apple) bar was amazing.

The whole experience was quite unique, and I’m sure we’ll take advantage of such an event again.  I’m a Community Tap customer for life, especially after Ed hooked me up with a 64 oz. growler of Lagunitas Sucks before it ran dry a second time.

I picked that up along with a Bell’s Amber growler and a six-pack of RJ Rockers Son of a Peach for tonight’s festivities – my 30th birthday, featuring said beer, a gourmet burger buffet inspired by Grill Marks, assorted sides, and a Nutella crème brûlée for dessert.  I’ll be following up dinner with a relaxing dip in Uncle Steve’s hot tub while some older friends in my life exhort me and my near-30 friends to live well in our 30’s.

The Community Tap made for a very special Valentine’s Day and will surely deliver for my birthday.  I can’t recommend them enough.

Finding the Local Startup Community in Greenville, SC

Throughout my time in Louisville, I never really connected with the local tech community.  The KY Open Source Society meetups were on a day I was typically unavailable, and the local Drupal user group we tried to kickstart never really got off the ground.  I still managed to forge some good connections that are alive and well today, but I never really got integrated into a community where things were already happening.

Before moving to Greenville, I was already excited about my prospects here, as I knew a couple local Drupal users and had seen the website and demo video for Greenville’s The Next Big Thing startup accelerator.  I didn’t know exactly where and when they met, but I was determined to find them “some day.” Little did I know that day would be sooner rather than later.

It was just over a week ago that I took my wife and daughter to a Chick-fil-a for lunch where Christina found a story about Greenville’s NEXT Innovation Center on the front page of the local paper.  It was a pretty exciting read for me, as the center and the NEXT initiative are offshoots of the local chamber of commerce intending to foster a high-tech startup community here in the South Carolina Upstate.  Browsing the NEXT website, I found the phone number of the VP in office and arranged a time to introduce myself and Commerce Guys to her and learn more about NEXT.

Through my meeting with Brenda from NEXT I found out that I should really be meeting with the folks from The Iron Yard (the new name for The Next Big Thing) and Greenville’s Cowork, a slick coworking space located right downtown.  Naturally, as we were winding down our conversation, Peter Barth, founder of The Iron Yard, walked in the front door and off I walked with him to see their space and learn more.

pitch-practice-edit

I ended up spending most of the day working out of their office in the NEXT Innovation Center (located at the corner of University and Church St. not far from my beloved Falls Park downtown).  They’re just about to start this year’s round of their Labs program, a 13 week startup accelerator program where founders get funding, office space, and other resources to help launch their businesses.  The program ends in a Demo Day where they each pitch their businesses to a gaggle of VC’s and other local entrepreneurs.

Pete was very welcoming, inviting me to spend a day a week working from their offices and getting to know their teams.  I shared lunch with a few of the guys who have already showed up, and I’m excited to see what they’re able to do in the coming weeks.  If all goes well, I hope to report on some of their ideas and needs, and I can say for certain right now that at least a couple will be looking for Node.js / JavaScript and Python developers if anyone is interested in getting to know the Upstate up close and personal. 😉

With my introduction to The Iron Yard, I feel very “at home” in the Greenville startup community and look forward to helping out where I can.  We have plenty more to do at Commerce Guys to prove ourselves, but there are already business lessons learned that I can pass on and general software development experience I’ve gained over the years that I can share.

With a little luck, we’ll get a local Drupal user group started up in one of these spaces in the near future.  I’ll be sure to say when and where. 🙂

A Greenville Gem: Reedy Falls Park

For a split second I thought of a cheesy Hallmark title for this blog post – Falling in Love with Reedy Falls.  Thankfully, that would have been misleading… I was in love with the park long before I moved here.  The new title is quicker to the point.  Falls Park on the Reedy River is one of Greenville’s gems and will most likely be featured over and over in my blog.

One of my earliest memories with my wife’s family is a picnic lunch we shared here when Christina and I were still dating.  I thought it was cool, but since I wasn’t thinking I’d ever live here, it was nothing to get too attached to.  However, as work grew ever more “travely” and the possibility of moving here became more a reality, the park was something I immediately knew I wanted to live near.  I’ve been to many big cities and seen many of their parks, but few have such an impressive feature – not to mention right in the middle of a city that has been perfectly built up to take full advantage of the waterfront.

Lest you believe I am overstating my case, allow me to illustrate with a picture the perfection of the park on a sunny afternoon:

Reedy Falles Park

Taken from the Liberty Bridge, an impressive suspension bridge arching over the river.

Yep, that’s right.  Lion King is in fact playing in the theater downtown.  Sharp eyes you have there.  Also, in case you missed it, the waterfall is amazing!  There are paths winding down below the bridge to the waterside with a trail that runs 2.5 miles to Cleveland Park by the Greenville Zoo.  Christina and I hope to walk it soon, though she might need a few rests along the way with that third trimester baby wearing her out!  In the Summer you’ll see people splashing about in the water and some adventurous souls sliding down the rocks to their early graves.

The walking path along the river that you can see in this picture takes you to some fine dining, art galleries, and a bubble tea bar.  I’ve only eaten at Soby’s, which is on the other side of that bridge you see in the background, but it was amazing.  Best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had, and I look forward to more.  It’s part of a restaurant group called Table 301, and I’ll be reviewing them more in full as I try them.  I’m definitely looking forward to a nice meal overlooking the water some day soon.

So, if you ever need a reason to feel good about a move to Greenville, let this be one of the primary reasons.  Make sure it doesn’t trump having family nearby (easy to ensure when your family is as awesome as mine), but make sure it ranks highly.  Every house we looked at I actually plotted on a map to see how far from Reedy Falls Park it would be.  Anything over 15 minutes was out of the question.  Where we are now is 12 minutes away (and 12 minutes the other direction to the airport… another place I’ll visit often), and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve lived in Greenville two and a half weeks and been downtown to the park now 5 times.  It hasn’t even started to get old, and I haven’t explored the half of it.  I love my new city.