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Big doin's in Durham, y'all

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Big doin's in Durham, y'all. The World Beer Festival is at the old Durham Athletic Park this weekend, but it's sold out—rats. Take comfort in knowing that the event brings about 8,000 beer lovers to the Bull City, infusing $1.3 million into the local economy.

Tickets remain, though, for Durham's Downtown Dinner Table, a benefit for Genesis Home, a downtown Durham nonprofit that houses homeless young women and families with children. At 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, chefs from several fave Durham eateries (Mad Hatter's, Rue Cler, George's Garage, Dos Perros) will be at the American Tobacco Historic District's Bay 7, cooking for anyone who shells out $50 (half of which is tax-deductible). Plus, there will be wine from Parker & Otis and beer from Tyler's Taproom. Buy tickets online (www.genesishome.org), or call Shannon Moriarty at 683-5878, ext. 22.

Also in Durham, new restaurants are sprouting like campaign signs on medians. Toast Paninoteca (345 W. Main St., toast-fivepoints.com) has signs up in the former Peoples' Clothiers in Five Points. A paninoteca is an "authentic Italian sandwich shop," and Toast's focus, according to its Web site, is "timely lunches, light breakfasts and late afternoon snacks using high quality ingredients." Projected opening: by the end of 2007.

Signs proclaiming the arrival of Ox & Rabbit, to feature "soda and sundries," are hanging in the dusty windows of the late, great McDonald's Drug Store on Ninth Street. Projected opening: unknown. (Thanks to bullcityrising.com for the tips.)

But long-awaited Watts Grocery (1116 Broad St., 416-5040, www.wattsgrocery.com) is now open. Taking its name from the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood where chef and owner Amy Tornquist has fond childhood memories, and the Watts Street Grocery from her childhood, Watts Grocery will showcase local ingredients—many raised, caught, smoked, pickled or cured within a two-hour radius. The lunch, dinner and late-night menus are up on the restaurant's Web site.

In Carrboro, the old train cars near Carr Mill Mall house a new restaurant: Southern Rail (201-C E. Main St., 967-1967, southernrailnc.com). Owner Mike Benson added an enclosed platform between the train cars to create a bar and patio. The menu is still in flux as the kitchen gets ... um, rolling ... but the coriander-crusted tuna over spicy Asian greens, crispy fried leeks with a spicy peanut sauce ($13), as well as Executive Chef Joe Brzoska's take on Maryland crab cakes ($15) are a great start.

In Raleigh this week, Tuesday's class at Chef Rameaux's School of Cooking and Louisiana Market (704 N. Person Street, 834-2510, www.cheframeaux.com) is a "Tribute to Mother's." That's not a typo; Mother's is a 69-year-old New Orleans institution. Chef Rameaux will show students how to prepare chicken and andouille gumbo, roast beef po' boys with "debris gravy" (a Mother's creation), and bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Class begins at 7 p.m. Cost is $45 per person; reservations are required.

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