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New restaurants and happenings 

Tyler's and Pop the Cap; Dream Catcher Cafe; The Cupcake Shoppe

Do you like bitter beer? Are you looking for better bitter beer? Have you become embittered because there isn't better bitter beer, here? (OK, I'll stop now.) Tyler's Taproom (324 Blackwell St., Suite 400, Durham, 433-0345, will host a beer tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, just prior to a Durham Bulls game. Tyler's and Pop the Cap, the organization that successfully lobbied to raise North Carolina's 6 percent alcohol by volume cap on beer, will welcome Lee Chase of California's Stone Brewing Co. and several bitter beers.

Bitter beers are also known as "West Coast" or "West Coast-style" beers, says Sean Wilson, president of Pop the Cap. They are "those aggressive beers that manage to balance big, bitter hops with a nice malty undertone." Stone's beers aren't yet available in North Carolina, but they will be at the tasting. Tyler's will serve snacks to accompany the brews. Tickets are $25 per person and are available online at Pop the Cap's Web site (, or at Tyler's in Durham or Carrboro. Organizers are also offering a package deal for Bulls tickets afterward.

If a different kind of beverage suits your summer quaffing needs, head over to Dream Catcher Café (1129 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, 933-9410) on Wednesday, Aug. 29, for a "Sparkling Summer Reception"—a champagne dinner. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., you can sample five champagnes from the house of Duval-Leroy—located in the actual region of Champagne, in the actual country of France—served with Dream Catcher's French country cuisine. Cost is $25 per person.

As with all wine (and beer) dinners, it's best to reserve your space in advance.

And speaking of cupcakes ... whoops! Were we speaking of cupcakes? No? Well, we finally have an actual cupcake store to call our own. The Cupcake Shoppe (104 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, 821-4223, opened July 28 in the Glenwood South area. And it's perfect. It has pink décor, marble countertops, and 11 kinds of cupcakes, including the Plain Jane (vanilla cake with vanilla bean buttercream frosting), the Brown Betty (chocolate cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting) and the Big Red (red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting).

Owner Sara Coleman grew up in North Carolina, went to N.C. State, and spent about six years in the corporate world while baking as a hobby. Now she's back, with a commitment to local ingredients. The strawberries in the Pretty in Pink (strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream frosting) are local, and the coffee she serves is from Raleigh's own Larry's Beans. The Cupcake Shoppe is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Coleman serves assorted cookies and muffins, as well as milk, water and coffee. Custom cakes and cupcakes are also available.

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