Get Your Panther Game Day Eats On

img_4477Football season 2016 is kicking off and Carolina Panther’s fans of all ages are feeling the roar!  Time to suit up for the season, and start planning your tailgate!

If you don’t have season tickets (or a friend with season tickets) at the stadium, you might be looking for a new great place stop and take in all the action.

Sports bars may be the place that first comes to mind, but honestly, they aren’t  everyone’s cup-o-tea; and although they are often packed on game days, sometimes you just want more than the obligatory wings and spinach artichoke dip to go with your game.

Enter this month’s list for my Charlotte Today September Restaurant Roundup : Places you may not think of ( but you should) to go for Panthers’ game day eats in and around the Queen City.

This list was originally broadcast on WCNC’s Charlotte Today on Friday Sept 16. In case you missed it, you can watch the original video with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson here, then scroll down for photos, details and links to all the restaurant websites.

img_4494First up with the coin toss, Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte, located at 327 S Tryon Street. While Mimosa may not be the place to go and watch the game, it is definitely THE place to go to start your game day activities. A Panther Game Day -themed Sunday brunch starts at 10:30 am with a delicious hearty buffet plus several ala cart items and daily specials. Enter the Game Day Burger I featured on the show. This beefy  burger made from a ground mix of chuck, brisket and short ribs served grilled to order with bacon, cheese and  garlic aioli with salt roasted  fries is sure to fit the bill and is served on Panther game days only.

img_4490If you live north of the Queen City, make your running pass to the relatively new Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana -120 Langtree Village Dr #102, Mooresville, NC 28117. In the Langtree complex right off of I-77 this family run, authentic Napoletana restaurant is the real deal with  a matching pair of wood fired pizza ovens from Naples that turn out true Italian pizza in just 90 seconds.  My favorite pastas on the menu as of this writing include the Peppedew pepper puttanesca with buccatini pasta (pictured here) and the made to order deconstructed lasagna – in both beefy and vegetarian variations. Hot and bubbly  with just the right bit of char on the crust, the pies at Novanta are deliciously different from NY style pizza or Chicago pies or even other wood fired pizza’s you’ll find in the area. The magic is in the dough, made with Italian Typo 00 flour, just the right amount  of rising time and a lotta love. They are big enough to share, but small enough to order for yourself or to order a couple of alternatives to enjoy several variations as you watch the game from the bar or pizza bar at Novanta. Mozzarella is fresh made in house every day, meats are all local from Mills Family Farm in Mooresville and other ingredients are imported direct from Italy, including the vodka served on the rocks or straight up in the lemoncello martini – just sayin’.

img_4496Perhaps you do have tickets to the game and a space to tailgate, or you’re hosting a Panther party at your home in front of your own big screen, but you just don’t want to cook. While you play armchair quarterback, turn to any location of Midwood Smokehouse – there are  three around Charlotte – as your own personal offensive lineman when it comes to putting together your buffet. This season they are offering three different packages of your choice of smoked meats, sauces, sides and rolls each specifically designed to suit the size of your crowd.  Locations  at 1401 Central Avenue in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood;  in Ballantyne at 12410 Johnston Road; and now the new Midwood Smokeshack in Matthews at 3335 Siskey Pkwy. 24 hours notice is needed for the package deals, but you can always go in and order to go anytime. The Pittmasters at Midwood burn hickory wood, 24/7, so things are always smokin’.

img_4500If your looking for someplace you probably haven’t thought of yet to watch from the sidelines, check out Vivace in Midtown Charlotte, located at 1100 Metropolitan Avenue.

This contemporary Italian trattoria may not be a place you would think of for game day eats, but think again. With new executive chef Rodrigo Velazco now heading the culinary team, Vivace boasts a new line up of bar bites perfect for game day munching, among them this order of three algrodolce drumsticks with a balsamic drizzle and delicious crispy prosciutto crusted melon.

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There are televisions around the bar at Vivace but if you head upstairs, where there is also a beautiful view of the city; the game is piped in over the speakers and you can enjoy the action and the fabulous food play by play.

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Set on taking the game in at a sports bar? Then head to the Uptown Charlotte location of Duckworth’s, also home to The Cellar at Duckworth’s all at  330 N Tryon Street. As I said to Colleen and Eugene on the show, just five words for you here: “one-hundered-seventy-five-televisions” No doubt you can get a great view of the game from any seat in the house. Typical sports bar game day fare here, but the nachos are the bomb, constructed in layers of fresh house-fried tortilla chips, a mix of cheeses with or without chicken or chili and toppings that include jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, guacamole and sour cream. plenty for your team to share.

img_4473While Duckworth’s boasts an outstanding offensive line of cooks ( shown here) in the kitchen creating each platter of game day nachos, wings and more. Downstairs at The Cellar at Duckworth’s – open from 5-11 pm on Sundays, you can take a break from the game day festivities,  or enjoy an afterparty dinner and craft cocktails from  the creative gastrobpub menu.

 

img_4504Look for more of my Restaurant Roundup posts on this blog once or twice, each and every  month , or just subscribe to the blog and posts will come to your inbox as soon as they go up.

Also check out the  Saturday morning news on WCNC in the weeks ahead  for my appearance with Colleen on a segment called Tackle Your Tailgate for a slightly different version of our original Panthers-centric Restaurant Round-up video.

No Kid Hungry Dinner at Mimosa Grill set for Saturday, Sept 17 – Don’t Miss It!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Make your reservations for the Mimosa Grill Annual No Kid Hungry dinner now before its too late #TellThemHeidiSentYou

A wonderful annual event is taking place at Mimosa Grill this week in Charlotte,  NC Saturday Sept 17 with a cocktail reception at 6 pm and a seated dinner at 7 pm.  and I am happy to use this forum to tell you all about it.   Tickets are still available and you can reserve your spot and start to make a difference in hundred’s of children’s lives by clicking here.

If you asked Chef Thomas Marlow and  Chef  Scott Wallen of the Harpers Group they would tell you its probably one of the most important dinners they do all year as it benefits Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry Campaign to end childhood hunger.

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NO CHILD SHOULD GROW UP HUNGRY IN AMERICA But one in five children struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign is ending childhood hunger in this nation by connecting kids in need with nutritious food and teaching families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. You can help surround kids with the nutritious food they need where they live, learn and play. Pledge to make No Kid Hungry a reality at NoKidHungry.org.

Thomas Marlow

Chef Thomas Marlow Executive Chef Mimosa Grill in Charlotte hosts The 2016 No Kid Hungry Dinner

While Marlow and Wallen and Charlotte’s Harpers Group are the hosts of this year’s dinner, this evening features an outstanding line up of female chefs of note from across the southeast and promises to be an incredible event with the likes of Chef Ashley Auer  from Cooks & Soldiers in Atlanta, GA;  Chef Emily Hahn  from Warehouse Bar + Kitchen in Charleston, SC;  Chef Annie Pettry from Decca Restaurant in Louisville, KY; and Charlotte’s own Chef Alyssa Wilen from Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen all sharing the Mimosa Grill Kitchen to bring this wonderful meal to the table.

Take this unique opportunity to spend this Saturday evening at Mimosa Grill and see what this great group of talented ladies can bring to the table.

Before the seated dinner begins, the evening starts with a 6 pm reception and appetizers by Chef Marlow and the team at Mimosa Grill featuring:

Summer Melon  cucumber & bell pepper relish  with Charlotte’s own Uno Alla Volta marinated feta

Springer Mountain Fried Chicken Biscuit  brown sugar mayo – pickle relish

Heritage Farms Hot Bacon Carolina griddle cake –  spiced peaches
mallorcan almonds & basil

Local Harmony Ridge Duck smoked goat cheese & creamed corn

To drink  at the top of the evening, guests will enjoy  Death’s Door Gin with Fino Sherry, Plum, Hibiscus Flower, Lemon, and Bubbles;  and  Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel with Citrus, Cilantro, Agave, Chickpea, and Mole; two signature cocktails crafted for this evening by guest Mixologist Madison Burch of Tavernpointe, Seven Lamps & GRAIN in  Atlanta, GA  

Guests will also enjoy Mecktoberkfest, Old Mecklenberg Brewery;  and Hugel & Fils Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2013

The evening continues with a dinner of  four seated courses, each with a specially selected wine pairing by guest Sommelier for the evening, Laura Maniec from Corkbuzz in
New York, NY & Charlotte, NC. 

Tickets are  still available but the event is sure to sell out as it has in years past. Don’t wait, call your friends and make plans today…if you need to whet your palate a bit before you buy – here is the menu for dinner. A fun live auction will complete the evening. Its a delicious event for a wonderful cause – don’t miss it!

Hokkaido Scallop Crudo  apple & nasturtium by chef annie pettry | decca restaurant  Paired with Hugel & Fils Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2013

Beet Salad mepkin abbey mushrooms – whipped feta, toasted flax + spelt crunch, pickled red onion + parsley salad by chef emily hahn | warehouse kitchen + bar  Paired with Galerie Naissance Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California 2014

Carolina Amberjack with Kaffir Lime butternut squash – eggplant & chicken confit by chef alyssa wilen | chef alyssa’s kitchen Paired with  Siduri Willamette Pinot Noir. Williamette Valley 2014

Pistachio and Maraschino Cherry Mousse aerated chocolate cake – feuilletine soil – pistachio brittle & drunken cherries by chef ashley auer | cooks & soldiers Paired with Chevalier du Pastel Sauternes, Sauternes, France 2009

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

MAKE YOUR RESERVATION NOW – #TellThemHeidiSentYou
$175 per ticket  Table hosting  and other sponsorship opportunities are available as well.

Recipes from the Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage -Sept 9 2016

Twice a year I have the pleasure of hosting the cooking stage at the Southern Spring Show in April and Southern Shows Ideal Home Show in September. Back to back demos with tons of local chefs, caterers and other food-centric folk every hour on the hour!  I cook as well as host the activities and this year the fun takes place the weekend of Sept 9, 10 & 11 2016.

heres-what-was-cooking-at-the-southern-shows-ideal-home-show-friday-sept-9-2016

Still two days to go for this show with lines ups of great chefs sharing wonderful recipes on Saturday Sept 10 and Sunday Sept 11.  You can purchase tickets online here and use my special Friends and Family code of HeidiCooks16 to get a discounted price ( tickets are regularly $9 online,  $10 at the door, but with my code you can get them from just $6 a piece)

IMG_7417Before we get cooking today, here is the recap and recipes from all the fun and flavor on Friday… Just missing one set of recipes here and I will add them in later this weekend, as soon as I get them, so check back for updates….Meanwhile here’s the recap and the recipes.

The first day on the Southern Shows Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage 2016 day kicked off with chef Troy Gagliardo sharing his EveryDay Eats ( seen Tuesday Mornings on WCCB-TV) technique for homemade smoked pork butt, then transformed into a bbq pork fajita.

I followed Troy’s demo with a French Bistro style lunch or light dinner of Classic French Onions soup and my all local slider take on a Croque Monsieur using milk from Hickory Hill Farm in Greenville SC, biscuits from A Little Taste of Heaven in Monroe, Thin Sliced Prosciutto Style Country Ham from Goodnight Brothers in Boone,  and my favorite Herbs de Duxelle from the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood.

img_4181Next Chef Terra Ciotta for the International Culinary School at Charlotte’s Art Institute,  stole the crowd’s heart with her Gateway Cheese Grits and Braised Shortribs, sharing lots of great technique ( Do you know why to add the celery last when you are sauteing a mirepoix? Answer below).

img_4195Melanie and Andy Tritten were up next sharing the fabulous flavors of their four Locally made Got To Be NC Cannizzaro sauces with two great recipes – one for Zucchini Crust Pizza and the other for the cutest little Zucchini and Yellow squash ( instead of pasta) raviolis you have ever seen.

img_4203Private Chef Bill Bigham followed with a trio of tasty crostini – shrimp and garlic, prosciutto, honey and fig and  artichoke with feta – wow!!

img_4206Personal Chef Cynthia Ferich was new to the cooking stage this year and the crowd loved her stories of cooking with her grandmother, sharing family recipes and keeping family traditions alive with her cookbook Mama Mia Cucina and her Fabulous recipe for Meatballs and Sauce.

I finished off the day with a Local Love demo, sharing tastes of Uno Alla Volta Cottage cheese with Cloister Honey’s new Salted Honey, My Tenda-Bake Pancake Mix cobbler recipe ( see yesterdays blog post)  and another version of the earlier Croque Monsieur recipe, this time with slices of White Chocolate Baguette from La Farm Bakery in Cary topped with more Goodnight Brothers ham and a bechamel made again with Hickory Hill Farms whole milk and Ashe County Blue Cheese – its a keeper, folks!

#TellThemHeidiSentYouRecipes from our first day follow here as well as links to to all the chefs. My plan is to post the recipes each evening ( or the morning after) so just stay tuned for  more or just subscribe to the blog ( on the home page here) to get the posts each day in your inbox and then you’ll be among the first to receive my regular blog posts every week or so.

Chef Troy Gagliardos PRO Pork for the home cook   

More At http://cheftroy.net/

8-10 Pounds-Pork Butt-with fat cap, bone-in or boneless

To Coat-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite bbq rub

4 Cups-Hickory Wood Chip-soaked at least one hour

Sauce

1 Cup-Ketchup

¼ Cup-Cider Vinegar

¼-½ Cup-Cold Water

2 Tablespoon-Chef Troy’s Back Rub-or your favorite

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Directions

Pre heat oven to 225 degrees.  Pat pork dry and completely coat pork with rub. Place in a roasting pan fitted with a rack, cover with aluminum foil. Roast until tender, about 8 hours. Pre-heat grill/smoker for indirect low heat, about 225 degrees.  Remove foil, place rack with pork on grill, indirect heat side.  Add wood chips and let smoke for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  Remove and shred pork using two forks.  Sauce if desired and serve on buns, tortillas or on its own.

Chef Troy Gagliardos Pulled Pork Carnitas with Charred Slaw

1 Recipe-PRO Pork for the Home Cook (see recipe at http://www.cheftroy.net)

2 Each-Lime-one cut into wedges, one juiced

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Back Rub

1 Recipe-Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

Flour or Corn Tortillas

Directions:

Cook pork according to recipe.  Pull pork off in large pieces and place 6 cups in a mixing bowl and squeeze in lime juice to taste.  Season with Chef Troy’s Back Rub and toss to combine.  Place an iron skillet over medium high heat.  Place pork in skillet and begin to brown.  When warmed through and slightly caramelized, cover and remove from heat.  Warm tortillas in a dry pan or on low heat grill, keep warm in a clean kitchen towel. Top each tortilla with a mound of pork, a dollop of slaw {garnish with crispy ramen from slaw recipe}.

Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

3 Cups-Red Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

3 Cups-Green Cabbage-about a quarter head, leave core intact

To Bruch-Olive Oil

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Spice Mix

½ Cup-Carrot-shredded

3 Each-Green Onion-sliced thin

2 Tablespoons-Unsalted Butter

1 Pack-Dry Ramen Noodle-crushed

Dressing

¾ Cup-Mayonnaise

¼ Cup-Ketchup

1 Teaspoon-Tabasco Hot Sauce

½ Teaspoon-Worcestershire Sauce

3 Tablespoons-Chives-sliced thin

To Taste-Kosher Salt/Black Pepper

Directions

Preheat grill for direct heat grilling to medium high heat.  Make dressing by combining all ingredients and refrigerate.  Melt butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Crush ramen noodles, place in pan and cook until lightly toasted-3-5 minutes.  Place on a paper towel lined plate and allow to cool.  Brush cabbage lightly with oil and season with Spice Mix.  Place over direct heat and char on both cut sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove, allow to cool and slice thin.  Place cabbages in a bowl, add carrot/green onion and toss to combine.  Add just enough dressing to coat and toss to combine.  Add toasted ramen to taste and serve.

 

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto’s Classic French Onion Soup

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

3 medium onions, thin sliced

2 cloves Local or organic garlic

5 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar (not needed if you are using sweet onions or if you have the time to really cook the onions low and slow)

6 cups beef, mushroom or chicken broth or half of each

1 cup dry white wine

a bouquet garni ( made with celery bay leaf and other fresh herbs like thyme and parsley

½ cup Tawny Port

1/3 cup heavy cream or fat free half and half (optional) or you can also use an unsweetened coconut creamer

For finish and gratinee:
1 baguette of French bread
1 cup grated swiss cheese ( Emmenthaler or Gruyere are always good)

Here’s How Its Done:  Sweat the onions and garlic in the butter over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. During the last five minutes stir in the sugar. Add the stock and wine and bouquet garni. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Add Port and  creamer.

To serve: Pour soup into individual ramekins. Top each with a slice of the baguette. Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. Run under the broiler until the cheese melts

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billottos’s French Bistro Croque Monsieur Biscuits

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

Béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole local milk

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pink Himalayan seas salt from the Savory Spice Shop to taste

Heidi’s Hot Pepper blend from the Savory Spice Shop ( 1/3 each Black tellicherry peppercorns, Black lampong peppercorns and pink reunion peppercorns)

For the sandwiches:

8 A Little Taste of Heaven Biscuits

6 oz. Goodnight Brothers Country ham, biscuit cut or thin sliced prosciutto style

3 oz. Gruyère, grated (about 1½ cups) or for a fun local twist use Fading D Farm aged Buffola cheeses

2 Tbsp. Savory Spice Shop tomato powder  + 1 Tbsp Savory Spice Shop Herbs de Duxelle Mushroom Powder

For the béchamel:  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir cook until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.  The sauce may be made ahead and held in the fridge for a day or so or frozen – defrost overnight in refrigerator

For the sandwiches:  Warm the biscuits in the oven according to package directions, Cut each biscuit in half. Place the biscuit bottoms on a Parchment paper lined baking sheet, Top each biscuit with a spoonful of béchamel, then layer each with ham and grated cheese.Take a cup of the remaining béchamel and stir in 1 tablespoon of the tomato powder and 1 Tbsp of the Herbs de duxelle mushroom powder.  Cover each bundle with a biscuit top them, coat each with bechamel, then top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with tomato powder and herbs de duxelle. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Short Ribs

Artisan Restaurant at the International Culinary School – Art Institute Charlotte

4 oz Oil – Olive & Canola Blend

3 lbs. Short Ribs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour      to coat

1 lb. Onion

½ lb. Carrot

½ lb Parsnips

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 oz. Tomato Paste

8 oz Beer, Dark preferred

2 oz Brown Sugar

2 oz Worcestershire

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs Oregano (or other strong herb)

Heat the blended oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Preheat an oven to 325 F (162 C).    Season the short ribs with the Salt & Pepper and dust with the flour.   Sear the ribs on all sides in the heated oil, then remove them.  Saute the onion, carrot & parsnips in the pan.   Add the tomato paste and stir it in to dry; add the beer, Worchester and brown sugar.  Add some of the stock and return the short ribs to the sauce. The sauce should come half-way up the sides of the ribs. Adjust with additional stock as needed.  Place in the preheated oven covered and cook for two hours, turning the ribs over every 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place the ribs on a deep platter.   Using a submersible blender, puree the sauce. Adjust the consistency as needed by thinning with additional stock or thicken with a Corn Starch Slurry.

Crock Pot Method

  1. Complete steps 1 & 2 above, placing the Short Ribs in the crock pot.
  2. Follow steps 2 – 5 above, pouring the sauce over the short ribs in the crock pot.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours.
  4. Remove from short ribs from the crock pot onto a platter and continue to step 8.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Gateway Cheddar Grits

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

As needed salt

1 cup stone ground grits

4 oz. unsalted butter

4 oz. heavy cream

4 oz. grated cheddar

Bring stock and milk to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in grits.  Place in 350 oven to cook, stirring occasionally.  Add more stock if needed.

When grits are done, stir in the butter, cream, and cheese.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  Serve immediately or cool in a shallow pan.

To reheat: combine grits with a little heavy cream and warm gently on the stove over moderate heat.

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Shortribs

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce Zucchini Crust Pizza

More at https://cannizzarofamiglia.com/

1 Medium-Large Zucchini
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan
2 tsps Sea Salt
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata
Your Favorite Pizza Toppings

Shred Zucchini on a cheese grater over a clean dish towel.  Squeeze out as much water from the Zucchini as possible.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add zucchini, parmesan and salt and mix well.
Top a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray. Place zucchini mixture in the center and with wet hands (this will help with sticking) pat it down to about ½ inch thickness.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until it starts to lightly brown.
Top with sauce and all of your favorite toppings. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce  Zucchini Ravioli

2 Zucchini & 2 Yellow Squash
1 8 Oz Container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Beaten Egg
1 Jar Cannizzaro Marinara or Arrabbiata

Slice squash lengthwise very thin – using a wide vegetable peeler.  Layer 2 slices and then 2 slices forming a cross. Mix ricotta, parmesan, ½ of the mozzarella and the beaten egg.
Spray a small lasagna pan and fill with 1/2 of a Jar of Sauce. Place 1 Tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the cross.  Flip each side up to form a square ravioli.
Place seam side down in pan. Spoon remaining sauce over each roll & top with reserved cup of Mozzarella Cheese.  Bake at 400
̊ for 20 minutes or until bubbly & melty.

Chef Big Bigham’s Garlic Shrimp Crostini  

More at http://www.chefbillbigham.com/

8 Large Shrimp, deveined, peeled

8 slices Baguette

3 cloves Garlic, peeled

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

Heat grill pan Grill bread until golden brown on both sides  Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil.  In a small saute pan, melt butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Finely dice one clove of garlic and add to the saute pan. Cook until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Thinly slice a clove of garlic. Add olive oil to a small sautee pan over medium heat. Cook until golden brown. To assemble, place one shrimp on the crostini and garnish with a garlic chip.  Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Manchego, Prosciutto, Black Fig Crostini

8 slices Baguette

8 slices Manchego Cheese, sliced to fit Crostini

4 slices Prosciutto, slice in strips

4 Black Figs, halved

Honey

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast  bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, place Manchego on a piece of crostini. Mound a few strips on Prosciutto on top of the Manchego. Place a halved black fig on top of the Prosciutto. Drizzle with honey. Serve immediately

Chef Bill Bigham’s Feta Cheese, Artichoke, Kalamata Olive Crostini

2 oz Feta Cheese

4 Artichoke Hearts, halved

8 pitted Kalamata Olives

8 slices Baguette

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grill or toast bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toasted slices on a large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with olive oil. To assemble, spread teaspoon of Feta on each crostini. Top with an artichoke heart and Kalamata olive. Serve immediately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks” Noni’s Spaghetti Sauce

More at http://www.cynthiacooks.com/

Salsa di Pomodori della Nonna

meatballs (see recipe below0

2 pounds of fresh Italian sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of tomato puree, fresh or canned

1-1/2 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole carrot

1 stalk of celery

6 oz. can of tomato paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Wash and cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a skillet and add the olive oil, sausage and onion.  Fry until the sausage is cooked and the onions are lightly brown and translucent in color.  Add garlic and cook until lightly brown.  In a large sauce pot, pour in the tomato puree, chicken broth, sausage, onion and garlic.  Bring to a slow boil, reduce to low heat, and add the parsley, basil, salt and oregano.  Cook for 2 hours.  Add meatballs, carrot, and celery.  Cook for 2-1/2 hours and remove the carrot and celery after they have cooked.  Add dissolved tomato paste to the sauce approximately 20 minutes before the sauce is cooked.  Remove meat and serve with your favorite pasta.   Serving Suggestion:  For a meatier-flavored sauce, add pork ribs, braciole, and soup bones along with the sausages and meatballs.  The meats add a fabulous flavor.  As a little girl, I woke to the smell of spaghetti sauce every Sunday because that was ‘pasta day.’  This is my grandmother’s recipe as she instructed me to prepare it in her own words.  She said “you add the tomato paste during the last 20 minutes so that the sauce doesn’t become bitter.”  I often double the recipe, and freeze the sauce for a later date.  Don’t store the meat with the sauce, as the meat will absorb the sauce.  Store them separately.

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks”  Meatballs or Polpette

2 cups of day-old Italian bread, cubed with crusts removed

3/4 cup of water

1/4 pound of ground veal

1/4 pound of ground beef

1/4 pound of ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Soak cubed bread in 3/4 cup water.  After the bread has been soaked, squeeze out the water a handful at a time.  Combine all ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until blended.  Roll into balls.  At this point, the balls can be fried on all sides in a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  They don’t have to be cooked through if you are adding them to the sauce, but they need to be browned so that they will not fall apart when added to the sauce.   Note:  This recipe makes 1 pound of meatballs.  I often triple it and freeze the uncooked balls on a cookie sheet until frozen, and then put them in freezer storage containers for later use.  You can add the meatballs to the sauce frozen.   My great-grandmother used to say, “don’t handle the meat too much or the meatballs will get hard.”  She only used a wooden spoon to mix the meat.  I start with the spoon, but end up using my hands.  Your hands contain heat, so be careful not to heat them up too much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenda-Bake Pancake & Waffle Mix isn’t Just for Breakfast Any More

UPDATED - NCDAThose of you who follow this blog in particular and my cooking classes and television appearances in general already know that I am a lover of all things local.

In the state of North Carolina, agriculture is our biggest industry and so, to take a quote from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s marketing campaign,  I am always on the lookout for great things Grown, Raised, Caught or Made in North Carolina.

With lots of grains grown in our state, it only stands to reason that we would have lots of mills. Think back to the story of The Little Red Hen – she planted the seed, tended the crop, reaped the wheat, took it to the mill and then baked it into bread. As the folk tale explains, the process is a lot of work for one little hen… the truth and the bigger story is that taking grains to grits, meals and flours  takes a team.

logoFamers grow the grains, take them to the mill to be ground into flours and meals, send them to our local grocers shelves, where we make the purchase and take them home to feed our families. Recently I met the fine folks at Renwood Mills based  in Newton, NC, loved their 80 year old history, their all-local story and their products and wanted to share it with you.

I constantly try to share the local love of farmers and producers large and small, through this blog, through other articles I write, my television and personal appearances and cooking classes. While companies often give me sample product to promote, for me, it is about backing  brands I believe in and I am here to say that Renwood Mills produces products that should be on your radar.

Renwood Mill sources grains from some 500 local North Carolina farmers in and around the Newton-Conover region of North Carolina.

Just as they did years ago, these farmers still  deliver local grains each week to be ground into corn meal and flour. In 1935, Renwood Mills started as the Maiden Flour Mill where owners sourced local grain to grind to flour and cornmeal. While the company has grown that “support local farmers” philosophy has stayed true and that’s one of the things I love about this company and these products.

s-02Renwood Mills flours are packaged for commercial use under the name of Southern Biscuit  where they package an all purpose flour and a self rising flour and a Just-Add-Buttermilk biscuit mix called Southern Biscuit Formula L . Renwood Mill cornmeal and flour products are also packaged under the Tenda-Bake brand and include not only cornmeal and cornmeal mixes but pancake & waffle mixes as well.

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In developing recipes used with the trio of Tenda-Bake Pancake mixes as a shortcut ingredient, I started with basic recipes calling for a mix of flour and baking soda or baking powder;  or recipes that called for a coating or batter of some sort. To that end I wound up today’s recipes for Not-Just-For-Breakfast recipes featuring the Tenda-Bake products: a quick and easy cobbler made with the MapleBurst Pancake Mix; a tasty chicken and dinner waffles make with the 7 Grain Tenda-Bake Mix.

img_3569I featured the cobbler on a recent edition of WBTVs Bounce Tv with hosts Delano Little and Brigida Mack and as you will see when you view the clip at the end of this post, its a winning recipe for sure. The maple chips in the MapleBurst Tenda-Bake melt down into the butter and gives it a slightly caramelized finish to the cobbler that’s lip smackin’ good – just ask Delano!

 

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Heidi’s Tenda-Bake Peach and Blueberry cobbler assembled and ready to bake

Tenda-Bake MapleBurst Pancake Mix Peach & Blueberry Cobbler

Recipe developed for Renwood Mills, makers of Tenda-Bake By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

8 Tbsp melted butter

2 cups Tenda-Bake Maple Burst Pancake and Waffle Mix

1 cup whole organic or local milk

4 cups peeled and sliced peaches

2 cups blueberries

½ cup granulated organic sugar

Pour melted butter into the bottom of a square 9 inch oven to table 9-Inch baking dish. Mix together the pancake mix and the milk; stirring in milk just until combined. Pour over the melted butter in the pan. Do Not Stir.

Spoon the sliced peaches and blueberries over the top of the pancake mix/butter layers, but again, do not mix. Sprinkle the sugar over all. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35- 40 minutes or until the cobbler is nicely browned.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or your favorite  ice cream

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Time for Heidi’s Tenda-Bake Chicken  &  Dinner Waffles

Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix Chicken & Dinner Waffles

Recipe developed for Renwood Mills, makers of Tenda-Bake By Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

For the Dinner Waffles:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

1/4 cup chia seeds ( optional, but  this adds a healthy kick of a bit more protein)

1 cup local or organic whole milk

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. dried Thyme leaves

4-6 local or organic chicken thighs, skinned, bone in or boneless, as you please

2 local or organic eggs, beaten

 

Make the waffles first by combining 2 cups of the pancake mix with 1/4 cup of chia sees, 1 cup of whole milk and 2 Tbsp, of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the mix onto a not lightly greased waffle maker and cook until the steaming stops. Waffles for this dish may be made ahead of time and then reheated in the oven.

For the chicken, Combine 2 cups of Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix with a bit of salt and pepper to taste and 1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves.

Cut the boneless thighs into strips  or prepare them whole. Pat the chicken dry them dust them in the seasoned pancake mix mixture. Once dusted. Drop the chicken into the beaten egg wash and then once again into the seasoned pancake mix mixture to coat. Now, here is the trick, place the breaded chicken on a wire cake rack for 2-3 minutes to allow the egg and pancake mixture to form a coating.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of canola oil in a 10-12 inch skillet. Place a wooden spoon in the oil and when little bubbles start to form around the wooden spoon, he oil is hot enough for frying. ( otherwise, your chicken will absorb the oil and will taste greasy)

Redust the rested coated chicken in the seasoned pancake mix and then drop into the hot oil. Cook until lightly browned, then carefully  turn to brown the other side. Once the chicken has browned, remove from the pan and place on a rack fitted over a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 5-8 minutes.This will allow the whole chicken thought to cook through, but won’t over brown the coating.

Serve the chicken and waffles with syrup or local honey or make your own honey mustard as a condiment if you would like.

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Here is the Video from WBTV’s Bounce TV with Heidi Billotto and Delano Little putting together the cobbler recipe you have here – check it out to see how easy it really is!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouFor more information on Renwood Mills, the products they produce and where you can purchase them, visit their website.

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Cooking Up A Storm at the Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage Sept 9,10 & 11

adding the olive oilI’ve gotta lot cooking this weekend  – Sept 9,10 & 11  – and I’d love for you to consider this your personal invitation to  join me and a host of talented chefs for a taste or two of it all  at the Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage!

That’s right! Its time for the annual Southern Ideal Home Show! It takes place this weekend, Sept 9,10 & 11; and Parking is free at The Park Expo – 800 Briar Creek Road!   The cooking stage is just a part of what goes on at this annual home show; but as I have for nearly a half dozen or so years now, I’ll be there all three days  presenting cooking demonstrations myself and acting as  host of  the cooking stage personally introducing you to some of my favorite restaurant chefs, private chefs, foodies and farmers with back to back cooking demos every hour on the half hour each day of the show.

Dates & Times – Mark your calendars, phone your friends and make plans now to join us. The action on the cooking stage takes place on Friday Sept 9 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm; on Saturday Sept 10 from 10:30 am  to 5:30 pm; and on Sunday Sept 11 from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Plus, check it out,  I’ve got a special price on show tickets for you as well!

Tickets  – Once you are in the door, you can check out all of the exhibitors and can come to any of the cooking stage demos throughout the day. Adult tickets are $9 in advance, $10 per person at the door , but you can buy them in advance here, online,  for just $6 per person  with this special HeidiCooks16 code! ( kids 15 and under may attend for free with an adult)

Recipes – Come for the fun of it all – and for some great new recipe ideas for all you’ll be cooking this season. The recipes each chef prepares for this show will be up on this blog each evening of the show day, so you can easily circle back and make a copy of the ones you loved and want to try for yourself.

And More –  At the cooking stage, you can look for tasty samples, coupons, and great giveaways at each of the demos as well as a chance to meet each of our Home Show Cooking Stage chefs up close and personal. You won’t want to miss a single bite!  I am thrilled to have students from the Charlotte Community Culinary School volunteering at the stage, assisting our participating chefs, as well. I can’t wait to see  you there! 

Here’s the 2016 line up of chefs for this fun and  flavorful weekend…the only thing missing is you!

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Friday Sept 9, 2016

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Heidi Billotto and Chef Troy Gagliardo

11:30 am   Everyday Eats  Chef Troy Gagliardo, WCCB Charlotte’s CW
12:30 pm   French Bistro Style  with Cooking Stage Host, Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
1:30 pm   Sophisticated Comfort Food Chefs Terra Ciotta and Phillip Lloyd, Art Institute of Charlotte

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Melanie and Andy Tritten

2:30 pm   Getting Sauced  Melanie and Andy Tritten, Cannizzaro Sauces
3:30 pm  Crostini for a Crowd  Chef Bill Bigham, Private Chef

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Chef Cynthis Ferich

4:30 pm  Mama Mia Cucina Chef Cynthia Ferich, Cynthia Cooks
5:30 pm    Local Love – 5 local products you’re going to love having in your kitchen and on your table  Cooking stage host, Heidi Billotto, Charlotte Culinary Expert

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Saturday, Sept 10, 2016

10:30 am  Italian Appetizers  Chef Vincent Caminiti, Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana

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Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

11:30 am   Good, Better, Best – Take one master recipe and then servie it up three ways!
Chef Jill Aker Ray, Private Chef
12:30 pm   Fresh From the Farmer’s Market  Chef Adam Reed, Sante Restaurant of Matthews
1:30 pm     Under the Tuscan Sun Chef Rodrigo Velazco, Vivace Ristorante

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Chefs Emily and Chris Russell, Zone 7 Foods

2:30 pm     Fresh Local Good  Emily and Chris Russell, Zone 7 Foods
3:30 pm   Wine and Dine   Chef Ashley Owens, Napa on Providence
4:30 pm    Southern Comforts   Chef Michael Griswold, The Pump House in Rock Hill
5:30 pm    How to Bake Biscuits and More   Chef Geoff Bragg, Community Culinary School of Charlotte

Southern Ideal Home Show Cooking Stage – Sunday, Sept 11, 2016

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Heidi with chefs Sam Stachon and Clark Barlow

11:30 am    From the Fall Farm to Your Kitchen   Chef Clark Barlow, Heirloom Restaurant
12:30 pm    Here’s Whats Cookin’ in Hickory   Chef Sam Stachon, Highland Avenue in Hickory

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Chef Luca Annunziata

1:30 pm    Cooking with Certified Organic Ginger  Mary Roberts, Windcrest Farms and Heidi Billotto, Charlotte Culinary Expert

 

2:30 pm   The Art of Cooking with Local Mushrooms, featuring Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro  Hiram Ramirez and Michelle Smith, Urban Gourmet Mushroom Farms
3:30 pm    A Little Sweet, A Little Savory   Amy and Scott McCabe, The Savory Spice Shop in South End

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

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Four Day Weekend:Greenville, SC…Yeah, That Greenville WOW!

In need of a September vaca? On the lookout for more food, drink and music than you can shake a stick at? Well, you’ll be glad to know that just an hour and half or so drive south of the Queen City is where its at! Greenville, SC is a great three or four day weekend getaway.

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Shoeless Joe Jackson statue in Greenville

Greenville, SC is the home of Duke’s Mayonnaise, baseball’s Shoeless Joe Jackson (you can visit his home, now a museum); Fluor Baseball Field, modeled after Fenway Park with its own smaller version of the “Green Monster”;  Furman University, and The Liberty Bridge, a suspension pedestrian bridge that stretches over the Falls on the Reedy River which flows through the city.  

Greenville, SC is also just a stones throw from the high tech BMW manufacturing plant (where tours are also available) in Spartanburg SC in one direction and Clemson University ( home of Clemson Blue Cheese) in the other. Add all that to the  fact that the city’s annual extravaganza dubbed euphoria is right around the corner – the weekend of September 22-25 to be exact – makes timing for a Greenville Getaway practically perfect!

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You can still get tickets to this  four-day weekend that features celebrated chefs (including Chef Chris Coleman from Stoke restaurant & Coco and the Director at the Marriott Uptown, Chef Clark Barlowe from Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte and Chef Joe Kindred from Kindred’s in Davidson); plus lots of beverage professionals, celebrity singers and songwriters, and a diverse offering of wines, craft beers, and spirits.

euphoria 2016 offers over 30 all-inclusive events – from a tasting event appropriately named Feast by the Field to a food truck rodeo to multi-course dinners with wine pairings. Certainly something to fit every foodie style! 

Get your tickets to euphoria 2016 and then plan a Greenville getaway while you are there.

Three of my favorite places to stay in Greenville include a great little B&B, a historic hotel and a contemporary getaway just outside of the city

IMG_1932The Swamp Rabbit Inn, 1 Logan St, Greenville,  is located just two blocks off Main Street and as is the case with most B&B’s offers a  great alternative to a regular hotel stay. With a half dozen rooms, several with private baths, this fun & funky, colorful comfortable home offers guests a full kitchen, shared living room space and great back deck. In addition, you are welcome to bring your bicycle or rent one here.

If you didn’t already know Greenville is a town of cyclists and the owners and staff at Swamp Rabbit Inn & the adjoining Bike Shed can help you plan your route and get you hooked up with anything you need. If you’d rather not cycle, the convenient location is an easy walk away from everything happening on Main Street.

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For more conventional hotel lodging, stay in the historic Westin Poinsett, 120 S Main St, Greenville, SC.This elegant hotel  is right in the midst of  all the Main street actions an each walk from The Peace Center performing arts venue or to Falls Park on the Reedy. The hotel’s 1920 roots remain in the stunning foyer of the hotel while the rooms offer a taste of modern day luxury.

If you just need some space, but still  want to be close enough not to miss out – then book  room at Hotel Domestique10 Rd of Vines, Travelers Rest, SC,homefullwidthjust 30-40 mins outside of Greenville center city . This stunning European villa is owned by world renowned cyclist George Hincapie, and while programs and activities are geared towards bicyclist enthusiasts, bike or no, its a wonderful place to take a day or two and get away from it all. A salt water pool, yoga classes and on property massage services are just a few of the amenities.And while you are there be sure to make dinner reservations at the hotel’s  Restaurant 17.

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Overhead view of the Sobe’s open kitchen from Table 301

For dining in town, just stroll down Main Street to check out all of your options. Several of my favorites are all a part of the Table 301 group which includes The Lazy Goat, Passerelles Bistro, located right at the entrance to The Falls at the Reedy and the restaurant that started it all, Soby’s. At Soby’s, upstairs with a perfect view of the open kitchen and the rest of the restaurant is the original Table #301, the best seat in the house,, for which the ever growing restaurant group is named. When you make reservations ( and yes, you do want to make reservations) at Soby’s, be sure to ask for Table 301.

IMG_2018If you are in shopping mode, you can’t miss Beija-Flor Denim Salon.  Actually this shop is worth the drive down to Greenville in and of itself and while you can purchase these jeans online, its worth taking a looksee in person at the Greenville, SC Beija-Flor  located  at 618 South Main Street.

The graphics on the window offer a quote saying “These jeans changed my life” and indeed truer words were never spoken. The concept was started by two women who wanted other women to look and feel good in what they wear. To that end, they work with sustainable and sometimes recycled denim to make the best looking, best fitting jeans ever. I’m sold – you really just have to see for yourself, visit them when you are in Greenville or check it all out online. They really do offer the perfect fit.

IMG_1836Set and looking good in your new jeans, as you walk down Main Street in Greenville, you’ll pass the entrance to Falls Park. Each time I visit Greenville, I like to start my day with a walk around the falls, its peaceful and centering way to start the day. Start with a stroll across the Liberty Bridge and then wind your way along the river. Lots of public art and bronze sculpture all around the city; and beautiful sculptured gardens en route- even under the overpasses.

IMG_1838And if you have to work -what better place than in a park – when need a break from the flourescents – take your laptop outside and check email while you sit along side the river, as the entire center city is wifi-ed.

If you are out to exercise, walk or bike all or part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Developed with a grant by theGreenville Health System, the 19 and some mile Swamp Rabbit Trail links the cities of Travelers Rest and Greenville. Directional signs and maps abound so its hard to loose your way.

swamp-rabbit-cafe-greenville-scAlong the trail, or by car, just a short drive from Main Street, be sure to include a stop at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

IMG_2147Great sammies here all make on fresh baked Stecca Bread. If you’ve a passion for local foodstuffs, this is the place. Part old fashioned grocery, part farmers’ market, part sandwich and coffee shop – take it all in and enjoy.

IMG_2165And finally, while  we are talking local and while you are in the Greenville area; follow my lead and take the circuitous route back home vis a vis a stop in Belton SC at the wonderfully infamous Grits & Groceries restaurant.  The restaurant is really between Belton and Due West, SC but for GPS purposes Belton will be what pops up. Run by husband and wife team Heidi and Joe Trull, the Grits & Groceries concept really deserves a blog post all its own, and I promise one is in the works, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it here and truth is – one most really experience a meal at Grits & Groceries, rather than just read about it,  to truly appreciate it all.

The restaurant’s tag line is “Real Food. Done IMG_2168Really Good.” and that about says it. Pretty much, Heidi cooks, Joe bakes; and with each dish is a big heapin’ handful of oh so Southern Hospitality from these talented and just plain friendly folk. The couple traveled the world sharing their culinary craft as they went, but when it came time to raise a family, they decided to come back to the country to settle down.

The restaurant is in an historic building, once home to an old country store at Saylors Crossroads,  at the junction of South Carolina state highways 185 and 284. Get set to enjoy a fine taste of all that is local in this part of South Carolina from Heidi’s pimento cheese balls to Joes fried pies.

If you’ve got a hunger  for more before you can make the pilgrimmage, pick up a copy of the Trull’s newly released cookbook, you can order one here. But then just plan a date to enjoy a weekday breakfast or lunch or weekend brunch  and get on the road. How do you know when you are there? Just look for Rudy – the Giant Rooster on the corner – the restaurant stands right behind him

North Carolina Chefs Showdown

Its a food and lovers’ dream dinner. The 2016 North Carolina Chefs Showdown.

Chefs showdown logoThis is the inaugural year of the NCRLA – the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s North Carolina Chef Showdown and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to have played a part in putting it all together. The evening features 16 of North Carolina’s best chefs and pastry chefs as well as six of the Triangles most creative mixologists, all together at one venue at Raleigh’s 214 Martin Street/Market Hall for an ambulatory evening of sweet and savory food and drink as a part of the NCRLA 2016 Expo in Raleigh North Carolina.

The 2016 NCRLAExpo is predominantly for the culinary trade and hospitality industry and takes place in Raleigh Aug 29 and 30. The Chef Showdown event is for the trade with tickets now available to the public as well and I am telling you, no matter where you live in the Carolinas, this event will be worth the road trip.

The NCRLA 2016 Chef Showdown in this Monday night August 29; doors open at 6 pm.

You food-centric folk  are going to Eat This Up!!!

While it will be dinner and a ton of fun, its also a competition and to that end, I’ve rounded up a tremendous panel of judges all involved in the  industry, including Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte; Chef Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh; Certified Master Chef Tony Seta of Butterball; Andrea Weigl, Food Editor from Raleigh’s The News & Observer; and Tim Parrish, Marketing Specialist at North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This awesome panel of judges will be charged with the task of naming several awards to be announced by our host for the evening, television personality Ken Smith of Raleigh’s WRAL, including recognition for one  dessert plate and one savory dish that make the best use of a North Carolina Grown, Raised, Caught or Made product, produce or protein; One dessert plate and one savory dish  offering the most creative presentation; and then of course the big overall award – the 2016 NCRLA Chef of the Year and the 2016 NCRLA Pastry chef of the year.

In addition there will also be a People’s Choice Awards for the best savory dish, the best dessert and the best craft cocktail  and there is  also an interactive Instagram contest to boot! It’s going to be an exciting evening for sure. The chefs are ready to roll, all that is missing is you!

Don’t Miss This Inaugural Event:

Get your tickets NOW for the Monday night 2016 NCRLA Chef Showdown event with just one click right here

Have I whet your palate? Need a bit of a push – well then, this will seal the deal.. let me tell you  who will be there cooking. You won’t believe that all this culinary talent will be in one room!

2016 chef showdown chefsThese chefs are cooking in this competition without any boundaries or parameters, serving guests and judges alike, with plates that best represent their personal style and what they do on a daily basis at their restaurants. Its going to be fabulous! 

From Charlotte, Luca Annunziata Passion8; Matthew Krenz The Asbury; Tom Marlow Mimosa Grill; Matt Tilman Gallery Restaurant; Ashley Bivens Boyd 300 East and Heritage food & drink; Jossie Perlmutter Block & Grinder – Langtree; #NoellGogg The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge.

From Hendersonville, Jess Roque Never Blue

From Hickory Sam Stachon Highland Avenue

From the Triad: John Bobby A Noble Grille ,Richard Andrew Miller Graze Restaurant, #PabloDelValle Atelier on Trade,Jay Pierce The Marshall Free House

From the Triangle Chef Gerry Fong at the Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center at NC State University

John May Piedmont Restaurant and Christopher Scott James The Angus Barn.

Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery, by Tamara LackeySo what’s dinner and dessert without a little bread and butter?  Guests with a passion for bread ( and who among us doesn’t have that)  will be delighted to know that the evening also includes a Bread Station compliments of the talented team at La Farm Bakery.

Heidi Billotto 2008

And did I mention there would be wine, beer and  craft cocktails, all compliments of these fine Triangel based mixologists: cheers to Alex Flynn, The Haymaker, Raleigh; Kyle Hankin, Fox Liquor Bar, Raleigh; Quentin Hill, The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill; Drew Schenck, RallyPoint Sports Grill, Cary; Jarod Sneed, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Raleigh; and Tim VanBeek, The Washington Duke Inn, Durham

Cost for the evening is $125 per person. Tickets Available Here and I will see you there! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Delicious Ways to Eat your Fruits and Veggies

Heidi BillottoWith Chef Mark AllisonDirector of Culinary NutritionDole Food Company (1)Always great fun working with my friend Chef Mark Allison and Monday morning of this week was no different.

The occasion: a food styling gig for Dole ‘s Get Up And Grow‬ tour.

This is annual event for the California- based company, touring all over the United States challenging old and young alike to beef up (pardon the expression) our intake of fruits, salads and vegetables and  in the process  teaching us all how easy and delicious it is to cook and eat healthier.

My job this week was to prepare four recipes Dole is promoting on the tour and to arrange and “style” everything on the set so that Mark could concentrate on the message of the segment and share the details of the tour. Honored to be entrusted to prep and style Mark’s recipes, I am delighted to tell you that these are four keepers and while I don’t always make a point to share recipes I work with on gigs like this – these are definitely four I will make again and wanted to share them with you as well.

For those of you who know Mark, have seen him on television or were perhaps one of his students at Johnson & Wales, you may be interested to know what he is up to now.

The North Carolina Research CampusThe Dole Institute Kannapolis NCHis job now covers all recipe development for the Dole food company, he also write recipes and develop menus for  Dole owner Mr. Murdock,  and is  currently writing a  book on nutrition together with the Dole Nutrition Institute. Basing out of Kannapolis NC, he travels nationally and internationally on behalf of Dole giving presentations on healthy food and nutrition.

In Kannapolis, Mark’s office is located at  one of the top research centers in the world, Dole’s North Carolina Research Campus, dedicated to the advancement of nutrition, agriculture and human health.  Working along scientists from universities, industry, government and non-profit organizations who are finding new ways to promote healthy lifestyles and to prevent, treat and cure the most prevalent diseases of our times like cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and other diet and lifestyle-related disorders.

Catch the tour, pick up fun giveaways and enter to win a dinner cooked in your homeThe Get Up and Grow Tour is Dole’s  fun and flavorful campaign to spread the good word about  good eating, one city at a time and this week they are in the Charlotte area August 18-20, 2016 check the Get Up and Grow website for specific tour dates, times and locations. Aug 18-20.

Stop by to pick up one of the tour’s bright signature blue t-shirts and other gifts reminding you to eat your fruits and veggies; and if you sign the Get up and Grow pledge, your name will be entered in a drawing to win the chance to have Chef Mark Allison come to your home and prepare a healthy and delicious dinner for 8, compliments of the fine folks at Dole.

Meanwhile, its easy to prepare the same dishes we did for the television broadcast. Here are all the recipes with my notes and a few Make-it-even-more-local suggestions. Enjoy!

Salad SippersDole’s Salad Sipper – an easy and delicious way to eat you greens!

3 cups unsweetened almond milk
4 cups DOLE® Power Up Greens Baby Kale or DOLE Baby Spinach
1 large or 2 small DOLE Bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh DOLE Tropical Gold® Pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 cup local or organic Blueberries
2 Tbsp, local honey, optional

Combine almond milk, baby kale, banana, pineapple, blueberries, and honey into blender.  Cover; blend until smooth.  Divide mixture between four glasses. Cheers!

Cafe Banana FrappeDole’s Cafe Banana Frappe – try this one as a great start to the morning or instead of a mid to late afternoon snack

3 shots espresso or 2 tablespoons instant espresso with ½ cup boiling water, cooled
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 DOLE® Banana, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. local honey, optional
1 cup ice

Combine espresso, almond milk, banana, honey, and ice in blender.  Cover; blend until smooth.  Divide mixture between two glasses.

Brussels Sprouts & Grilled Pineapple SaladBrussels Sprouts and Grilled Dole Pineapple Salad

1 cup fresh DOLE® Tropical Gold® Pineapple wedges
12 oz. DOLE Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup local or organic Blueberries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. local honey
2 Tbsp. your favorite Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. smoked almonds, chopped
2 oz. manchego cheese, shaved or, instead, use my new cheesy favorite -Local Water Buffalo aged cheeses from Fading D Farm in Salisbury !

Try Fading D’s Sapore or Roco in this salad for a great burst of local flavor! Check out all of the other Fading D Farms cheeses on their website or on Saturdays in at the Cotswold Farmers’ market in Charlotte, NC, The Davidson Farmers’ market in Davidson NC or the Salisbury Farmers’ Market in Salisbury NC.

Here are the directions for the salad: Grill pineapple wedges. Remove from heat and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine Brussels sprouts, pineapple and blueberries in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine lemon juice, grated lemon peel, honey and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over s Toss gently to coat evenly. Divide salad evenly between six serving plates and top each with smoked almonds and cheese.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook or who have read other recent blog posts here, this next recipe could also be called How-I-Used-My-Uno-Alla-Volta-Cottage-Cheese-This-Week.

On Dole’s Get Up and Grow website, the name of this recipe is  simply Strawberry Toast, but on air on Monday Mark called them Strawberry Toasties which I love so much more, so strawberry toasties it is! For a fun colorful and nutritious twist blend an avocado in the ricotta or cottage cheese mixture for a slight different spin on the original recipe

Strawberry ToastiesDole’s Strawberry Toasties

2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese ( instead I used 2/3 cup of Charlotte’s own Uno Alla Volta locally made Cottage Cheese with amazingly scrumptuious results!)
1 DOLE® Banana, peeled
1-1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. local honey
8 toasted whole grain baguette slices
1-1/4 cups sliced DOLE Strawberries
1 cup DOLE Spring Mix
1-1/2 tablespoons Honey Balsamic Dressing (see below)
1 Tbsp. sliced almonds

Combine together ricotta cheese and banana. Stir in grated lemon peel and honey.  Spread ricotta mixture over toasted baguette slices and shingle sliced strawberries on top.  Tuck several spring mix greens under strawberry slices, securing them on the toast.  Drizzle with honey balsamic dressing and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Honey Balsamic Dressing: Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 tsp. chopped Green Onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Finally, you may have noticed that the drink recipes all call for almond milk. Lots of good brands on the market, but even more fun to make you own and here is my recipe for how to do it. For Chef Mark Allison’s Salad Sipper and Cafe Banana Frappe Recipes just use your almond milk unsweetened, but for regular drinking or in other recipes fro baking or smoothies you might want to sweeten or flavor it slightly with vanilla or local honey.

Make Your Own Almond MilkMake It Yourself Almond Milk

1 cup raw organic almonds

2 cups filtered water

Soak the almonds in water overnight at room temperature or for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. The longer they soak, the creamier your final product will be. Drain and rinse the soaked almonds and place them in a blender. Add 2 cups of filtered water to cover. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth lined fine strainer. Sweeten to taste – or not. Fresh made almond milk will keep int he refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Keep the leftover almonds by drying them in a dehydrator  ( as per the instructions that come with your unit) or in low over for several hours and then using them in any recipe as almond meal or grind the dried almond meal for your own almond flour.

 

 

 

A Bite of GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte from Behind the Scenes

DSC_0655As many of you know I travel with the GotToBeNC Competition Dining series organizers across the state of North Carolina – promoting chefs and their culinary prowess as they participate in  dinner events set up like a live version of a mix of Chopped and Ironchef.

Slide95My job is not to cook, but  instead to tell the tale of chefs and farmers, restaurants and featured products; and in addition to handle all the social media, the sponsors and relationships with our competing chefs.

I love what I do and have met some very cool people in each city, but have to say I am so happy to be in Charlotte this month as The GotToBeNC Competition Dining series kicks off a seven night series in the Queen City.

 

Team Radical Range Riders

Team Radical Range Riders

Monday Aug 8 was evening one. This first preliminary battle saw chefs Paul Verica from Heritage Food & Drink; Ashely Boyd from 300 East and Heritage Food& Drink and Joe Bonaparte from the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach on Team 3 Cooks up against chefs Adam Reed from Sante of Matthews, Terra Ciotta of the Art Institute of Charlotte’s Artisan Restaurant and Jess Cochran from CPCC’s culinary school who came to play as Team Radical Range Riders.

Team 3 cooks

Team 3 Cooks

The concept of a dream team of chefs – all from one restaurant or from three separate restaurants is new to the GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series this year and the chefs and the audience are loving the experience.

I, too, had a blast yesterday. I have had the pleasure of knowing all of these chefs for years – save for Jess who I just met the other day and am looking forward to getting to know.

Its been great watching all of them grow, hone their skills, make their marks both individually and together to help carve a place for the Charlotte culinary community in the statewide, regional and national spotlights.

Yesterday was no different and the fact that all six of these chefs were good friends with similar cooking styles, made it all the more fun from the Chefs’ Breakfast at the start of the day to the announcement of the winning team about 9:30 Monday night.

images-2One of this year’s Competition Dining sponsors, Alsco, treats the chefs in each region across the state to a relaxing breakfast as a start to the day and in Charlotte our breakfast spot is @Dawn, located at 2130 Ayrely Town Blvd at the intersection of I-485 and South Tryon Streets, the relatively new breakfast concept brought to you by Greg and Subrina Collier of The Yolk, a great  little breakfast spot in Rock Hill. After a family style meal of local eggs cooked to order, two kinds of grits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fresh local fruit, coffee tea and more and some fun photos the crew all headed over to Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, our home base for each of the Charlotte events.

chefs at the reveal

Chefs meet each day with Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder for the Secret Ingredient and Mystery Basket reveal

Back at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located on Cleveland Ave in the Dilworth neighborhood,  Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder from Sanford, NC, sets up a refrigerated mobile pantry, sponsored by Pate Dawson Southern Foods full of great items for the chefs to cook with and make a part of the meal. The pantry has all the basics and includes lots of North Carolina product.

 

 

In addition Chad UPDATED - NCDAalso shops at local markets in each city so that the end result of each six course meal features a good mix of  local farmers, NC  Produce, product and proteins as well as a mix of other regional and seasonal items.

At the reveal each morning of competition, chefs learn of the secret ingredient they will be working with – to be featured in each of their 3 courses to make a 6 course meal. In addition, they have a group of mystery basket ingredients to choose from that they must include somewhere in the meal.

To that end, the first Charlotte preliminary  dinner featured Black Mountain Chocolate cocoa nibs and Dominican Chocolate as well as several varieties of local chiles and peppers.

The chiles and peppers came almost entirely from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market from my friends Mark and Mindy Robinson at Tega Hill Farm and from Cathy and Eric McCall at As Hot As Possible Hot Pepper Herb Farm. Poblano chiles were from Coto Farms at the Atherton Farmers market and the spicy Thai Chiles were from Ma Cha at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market

DSC_0594

Chef Paul Verica | Heritage Food&Drink

From the  Mystery basket selections, chefs were limited to two proteins – duck from Joe Jurgielewicz & Son – a fourth generation sustainable duck farm in Pennsylvania and one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America ; and Greenbrier Farms pork, a farm I discovered and was happy to bring to the Competition Dining table and to the attention of Pate Dawson when we competed in Greenville SC last year.

DSC_0561

Chef Adam Reed Sante of Matthews

Also in the Mystery Basket this first night of Charlotte competition, other local favorites from the Savory Spice Shop in Southend and from Charlotte’s own, award winning Cloister Honey. Basics in the kitchen also came from lots of local farms all of whom sell at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays including watermelons, onions, and more from A Way of Life Farm; cucumbers, blackberries and more from Burton Farms; Tomatoes and Peaches from Lincoln County; Blueberries from Blackwood Berries, a farm located not far from Fayetteville, NC

These six chefs did both secret ingredients and all the mystery basket and pantry items proud in six courses that featured flavors from an rich Manchamanteles sauce served in The Radical Range Riders course 3 to a light NC Peach and Thai Chile sorbet a part of the plating for Team 3 Cooks course 6. The intriguing mix kept the crowd guessing all through the evening as to which team made which plate, but as Competition Dining host and creator Jimmy Crippen always remnds guests, it is always best not to guess who made what, but instead to simply vote your palate.  For final results of this first battle and a detailed description of each plate visit the Results Page at the Competition Dining Website

In the end, it was an excited Team Radical Range Riders who took the win and will go on the compete in the Thursday August 11 semi final round.

They will go up against the winner of tonights August 9 battle which will find Team Bistro 127 from Hickory NC with chefs Shawn Bank, John Edwards and Jeff Croft all going up against Team Vicious & Delicious with chefs Ryan Forte and Phillip Platoni from Southminster in Charlotte and chef Brigitte Oger from Craft Cakes of Charlotte. Check out these pages on Wednesday Aug 10 to see the results of the  Tuesday Aug 9 nite event.

As I write this Monday night recap, chefs are in the kitchen with 2 very cool secret ingredients, one a local seasonal favorite and the other one you might be surprise to find is an ingredient produced in the state of North Carolina.  Here are all of the Aug 10 chefs at the

 

Its anyone’ game. Tonight’s  preliminary battle and the August 11 semi final battle are already sold out with a waiting list, but tickets to the  Aug 22 and 23 preliminary battles are still available.  Treat yourself to a night of North Carolina’s favorite culinary sport and join us, if you will.

Tickets for the preliminary events are just $74.78, exclusive of beverages. Here are the direct links:

August 22 between Team Lucianos Charlotte and Team Fahrenheit CLT

August 23 between Team Heirloom and Team Trois Petit Cochon with chefs from The Fishmarket in Ft. Mill and Cafe Montes in Charlotte

Don’t miss a single bite of the action – if you can’t make it you can follow along on all the social media – I look forward to seeing you there – Cheers!

 

Tomato Time

Tomato TimeFresh off the VineFor years – honestly,  more summer seasons than I would like to admit –  I have  tried to grow my own produce. Nothing big, mind you, just some patio tomatoes, a few cucumbers and maybe a melon or two. A couple of seasons ago I finally decided to admit defeat.

I still do plant in my raised bed garden and patio pots each season, but now its really more for the fun of it than the anticipation of any great harvest. Tomatoes, in particular have seemed to be my nemesis.

After buying the plants, the potting soil, the lime so the soil will be well balanced, the food, the stakes, the natural bug spray so I wouldn’t get bitten while I was out planting, and all of the stuff to keep the squirrels and other  critters away, I figured that any tomatoes I might be lucky enough to harvest without the dreaded circle of black bottom rot that seems to appear overnight would wind up costing about $50 a piece, to say nothing of what the maintenance and upkeep of the cucumber and melon plants might run me. While I guess I could say that the process does prove therapeutic; I just finally  decided it’s just easier, cheaper and frankly much more fun to make a regular trip’s to any one of our areas fine local farmer’s markets  and buy from growers who know what they are doing.

To that end, my purple thumb and I have retired from the vegetable garden business and have spent this summer season resigned to the kitchen where we seem to know what we are doing. These mid to late-summer months find us at the height of the season for an abundance locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, melons, squash, zucchini, eggplant and berries and I am having a ball with the abundant harvest. Today we’ll leave the other veggies for another post and concentrate on my love of local tomatoes..

I think I could eat fresh picked ripe and ready tomatoes everyday till the season has passed and still not tire of the flavor. So many ways to prepare them it’s uncanny; but then you could can (or freeze) and have that fresh off the vine flavor for cooking all year round.

You Say Tomat-ah, I say Tomato Sandwich and Tomato Pie

tomato sandwichToday I share my favorite recipe for Tomato Pie, as recently seen on the WCNC broadcast of Charlotte Today.  But before you slice and bake, though, don’t miss one of summers greatest pleasures – the unadulterated old fashioned ‘mater sandwich – a classic for sure.

Don’t even think of adding sliced turkey, roast beef or a leaf of lettuce to this one. The classic recipe calls only for two slices of soft white bread dressed with a little mayo ( Your choice of brands, but I’m a Duke’s gal). Sandwich thick slices of firm but ripe tomato seasoned with a little salt and pepper in between and have at it. If you have really gotten it right, you’ll have to lean over the kitchen sink to eat it as the tomatoes will be so ripe and juicy, that has you take each bite the juices will run from your mouth and hands down to your elbows – consider it a rite of passage of eating your first  (or your 100th) tomato sammy of the season..

For a little more elaborate sandwich, use whole grain bread, spread with homemade  pesto and layered with thick slices of ripe tomato and locally made Uno Alla Volta mozzarella cheese in between. To turn this sandwich into a summer comfort food, wrap it in foil and warm it in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes or so.

tomatoes and uno alla volta cheeseMarinate tomatoes for full-flavored summer salads. Use your favorite vinegar based dressing or  make your own by combining a half cup or so each of red and balsamic vinegars seasoned with a couple of tablespoons of local honey,  one quarter cup of fresh minced basil leaves and a small minced shallot. Layer the tomatoes in a shallow glass or plastic dish,  top with the vinaigrette, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three to four hours. Serve over a bed of crisp greens or toss with fresh sliced Kirby cucumbers and enjoy.

This summer has proved to be a season to indulge, as my friends Zack and Victoria Gadberry have added a new hand crafted cheese to their line up of  already fabulous locally made artisan mozzarella, ricotta, buratta and feta cheeses – behold, local Uno Alla Volta Cheese Cottage Cheese. I swooned at first taste. We all know the joyful burst of flavor to be found in the combination of mozzarella and tomatoes – but just try a ripe and ready-to-slice local love apple with Uno Alla Volta Cottage cheese – my oh my!

IMG_1519

Cottage Cheese Pie By Chef Matthew Krenz The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte, NC

Must give credit where credit is do – Chef Matthew Krenz at The Asbury at the Dunhill in Charlotte, NC is the first to ask Zack to make cottage cheese and even provided him with the recipe. Zack has made it his own and Matthew often features this new cheese  of the summer season on The Asbury’s menu – go to The Asbury and look for Krenz’s cottage cheese pie on the menu this summer season – its a keeper for sure! When you go to The Asbury , be sure to tell them Heidi sent you!

Aside from pairing them with cheeses of all sorts, tomatoes go great on the grill as well – use firm but still ripe tomatoes and a grill grid, so nothing will fall through the cracks. Slice the tomatoes thick and grill for a minute or two on each side or until the surface starts to char a bit. No need to add any olive oil prior to grilling, save any dressings for after the tomatoes are cooked. Serve the grilled tomatoes, just as they are, chopped and stirred into your favorite gazpacho recipe, topped with grated parmesan, tossed in salads or in the Tomato Pie recipe below for a slightly richer taste.  Grilled charred tomatoes also do well chopped and combined with grilled onions, jalapenos, grilled corn, grilled red bell peppers, salt, pepper and lime juice for a terrific grilled summer salsa – ole!

But on to matters at hand, my recipe for tomato pie. You’ll find a link to the video at the end of this post, so you may want to watch before you cook, but the recipe is an easy one…and technique is little more than layering. Use any variety of local and just harvested tomato that you would like, slice or chop. I love the  vodka pie crust recipe I have included below, but if you want a store bought one to make things easier, I recommend the Immaculate Baking Company’s organic refrigerated crust. Love that it is organic – always nice, and important, to know what is in the food we eat.

Heidi Billotto's Tomato Pie

 

Heidi’s Taste of Summer Tomato Pie

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

Pie crust recipe for a 1 crust pie ( see below)

3-4 firm but ripe local tomatoes cut into thick slices, or use small chopped tomatoes, or a combo of both 

fresh locally grown basil

Fine grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Panko Crumbs

1 local egg ( I used Rowlands Row Family Farm eggs here, available from The Queens Pantry at the Atherton Farmers’ Market)

1 local egg yolk

1 cup local whole milk or heavy cream ( Homeland Dairy Milk again from the Queen City Pantry at the Atherton Farmers’ Market)

Roll the pie crust out to 1/4 inch thickness and fit into a 9-inch French false-bottomed tart pan. Layer tomatoes basil, grated Parmesan and Panko crumbs in the crust until you come to the top – finish with a layer of Tomatoes. Combine the eggs and milk, Pour the custard into the filled pie shell. Top with shredded basil, Panko crumbs and cheese. Carefully place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the pie in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 mins.

Cool slightly, remove from the pan and cut into wedges. Make your pie ala mode topped with a scoop of Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese ( available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market or the Yorkmont Road Charlotte Regional Market, directly from Zack or Victory themselves.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving. 

If you want to do a Gluten Free version of the same – skip the crust and use finely ground local grits ( you can fine ground stone ground grits in a coffee mill ) and then use them as you would the panko)

Gadberry's Uno Alla Volta Cottage Cheese Tomato PieI’ve used Parmigiano-Reggiano in the recipe here – not a local cheese, of course, unless you are from Parma Italy; but obviously one of the best. Feel free to substitute any kind of local cheese -If you are in the Carolinas, Uno Alla Volta regular or smoked mozzarella, Ashe County cheddars, Clemons Blue cheese, and Bosky Acres Feta cheese all work well – as does the Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese and I am proud to say my television spot even inspired the cheese makes to get creative with there own cottage cheese tomato pie – just take a look at these photos I received by text from Zack Gadberry last night – yum!

Easy Vodka Pie Crust

– Its the Vodka that keeps it light and flaky – who knew??

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp  salt

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup cold vodka

1/4 cup cold water
Use a food processor fitted with the metal blade to pulse together  flour and salt. Add butter and shortening and process until blended just the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, but there is no trace of the flour.

Add the cold vodka and cold water over mixture. Pulse again with the processor just until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the bowl. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days, the roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and use in your favorite pie recipe.

video graphicHere is the link to the video Always so much fun cooking on Charlotte Today. Thanks to guest host Ramona Holloway and host Eugene Robinson for making this segment so much fun. And as a bonus – here is the link to a related blog post from this site with a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes so much fun to cook with all of this seasons bountiful harvest!

 

2016 GotTobeNC Competition Dining Series Comes to Charlotte

BlackCompDiningLogoIts called Competition Dining – The GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series – to be exact.  Its a series of interactive dining events held across the state of North Carolina.  Think of it as what you would get if  you combined the cooking and competition premise of  the television shows Chopped and  Iron Chef and then add in the fact that YOU get to be the judge as teams of talented area chefs create a number of courses centered around a “secret ingredient” each night of competition.

As many of you may know, I work and travel across North Carolina with the Competition Dining team headed by the uber-enthusiastic host and creator or the event, Jimmy Crippen.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODI absolutely love what I do as the face behind all the #CompDiningNC social media, newsletters etc,  coordinating relationships with local, regional and national sponsors; helping to connect local farmers and chefs and in general making sure that our dinner guests have the most fun possible as we competing across North Carolina, this year with regional series in Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington.

Its fun to travel meeting talented chefs across the state, but I am particularly excited to be home in Charlotte next month as the competition kicks off August 8, showing the state what Charlotte chefs bring to the table. Excited, too, to be the first to share the news in this post as to which Charlotte-based chefs are competing and when they will be in the GotToBeNC Competition Dining spotlight, that’s right – you heard it hear first!

bring your own battery packs - CopyAs a dinner guest at any Competition Dining event, you and your dining companions will enjoy a six course meal, but you won’t know which team of chefs prepared which course. You’ll have fun voting on the specially designed app on your phone, voting and posting on your own social media if you would like, as you enjoy each sweet and savory forkful. In the end, your votes are tallied, the teams come out to meet the crowd, the scores are reveled and one team wins and the other goes on the cook another day.

UPDATED - NCDAThere really is nothing else like it... with the NC Department of Agriculture as the title sponsor, The GotToBeNc Competition Dining series comes with a focus on promoting local NC and for this series Charlotte area produce, proteins and products.

Here’s how it all works – Every GotToBeNC Competition Dining Series dinner event includes two chef teams battling it out, each preparing three courses centered on a featured North Carolina ingredients  – its like simultaneously eating at two of your favorites restaurants.

bonterra_thumbnailIn Charlotte all of the  events will take place at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located at  1829 Cleveland Ave. We book out the restaurant on the days of competition; our chefs start early in the  morning with the reveal of the secret ingredient or ingredients, cook all day and then plate and serve guests at the event that night. Doors and the bar open at 6 pm and the show starts about 6:45.

verica in actionWhile the chefs are cooking in the kitchen, as ticketed guests, you can get in on the action as well, savoring a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which plate.  As you enjoy the dinner, you’ll vote on each dish using the free app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. Guests attending the finale in each region receive a gift bag of coupons, swag and samples compliments of our Competition Dining Sponsors.

While the Charlotte Food-centric crowd has been enjoying the competition for several years running now, its always fun to have a new twist. New to GotTobeNc Competition Dining for 2016, the creation of All-Star Dream Teams allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together for the three-person teams, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

In just a few weeks the Queen City series kicks off. In Charlotte, 24 highly competitive chefs on eight individual Dream Teams go up against each other for the regional Charlotte win.

The Charlotte series will take place in two heats, the first with 2 preliminary Battles on August 8 and 9 and a semi final round on August 11. The second heat sees preliminary battles on August 22 and 23  and a semi final round on August 25.

The Charlotte Finale will take place on Sunday August 28. The finale is already sold out. No doubt that each of the preliminary rounds and the semi final showdowns will soon be sold out as well. I don’t want you to miss out on all the fun – check your calendars, call your friends and make your reservations TODAY .

Here is the lineup of talented Dream Team chefs  all are in contention for the big Charlotte win…. I don’t want you to miss a single bite of the action, so to make it easy, I’ve included the brackets with competing teams plus links to tickets sales for each battle. Can’t wait to see you there! Just click on the red dated link to purchase tickets for each individual battle

Aug. 8 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team 3 cooks Comp dining cltTeam 3 COOKS from Waxhaw: Paul Verica, owner and chef at Heritage Food & Drink; Joseph Bonaparte, executive director at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach; and Ashley Boyd, pastry chef at Heritage Food & Drink and 300 East in Charlotte.

Radical Range Riders comp dining CltTeam Radical Range Riders from Matthews: Adam Reed, owner and chef at Sante of Matthews; Terra Ciotta, culinary instructor and chef at Artisan Restaurant in Charlotte; and Matthew Sganga, owner and chef at the Stone Table in Monroe.

Team Bistro 127 Comp Dining nc CLTTeam Bistro127 from Hickory: Shawn Bank, executive chef at Bistro127; John Edwards, sous chef at Bistro127; and Jeff Croft, assistant sous chef at Bistro127.

ViciousandDeliciousTeam Vicious and Delicious from Charlotte: Ryan Forte executive chef at Southminster; Phillip Platoni, chef de cuisine at Southminster; and Brigitte Oger, owner at Craft Cakes in Charlotte.

 

Aug 11 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 8 winning team versus Aug. 9 winning team

 

Aug 22 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team LucianosTeam Luciano’s from Charlotte: John Soilis, executive chef Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; Daniel De Dios Guerrero, chef de cuisine at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; and Giovanni Bassi, sous chef at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano.

team black mamba 2Team Fahrenheit Charlotte from Charlotte: David Feimster, executive chef Fahrenheit Charlotte; Rachel Child, pastry chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte; and Lewis Carter, sous chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte.

 

Aug 23 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team Heirloom comp dining cltTeam Heirloom from Charlotte: Clark Barlowe, chef and proprietor at Heirloom; Zack Gragg, executive sous chef at Heirloom; and Ann Marie Stefany, pastry chef at Heirloom.

Team Les Trois Petit Cochon comp dining cltTeam Les Trois Petit Cochon from Fort Mill: Neil Bratton, executive chef at Fish Market Bar and Grill; Jon Ernst, executive chef at Café Monte in Charlotte; and Wade Waller, former executive chef at Standard Brewing Co. in Maryland Heights, Missouri, now relocating to Charlotte

 

Aug 25 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 22 winning team versus Aug.23 winning team

August 28 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Finale – Winner of the Aug 11 semi final goes up against the winner of the Aug 25 semi final for the Charlotte regional prize package including the coveted red chefs jacket compliments of Alsco, a check for $2000 in cash and prizes from Pate Dawson Southern Foods, an autographed book from Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La  Farm Bakery in Cary NC and a hand forged knife from Charlotte Bladesmith Steve Watkins of Ironman Forge…and then of course there are the braggin’ rites and entree to the November Battle of Champions.

 

Summertime & Charlotte Restaurant Week Makes the Eating Easy

imgresIts Time, Charlotte.

Starting Friday July 22 and running for 10 solid days through to July 31,  its the Summer 2016 Edition of Charlotte Restaurant Week, affectionately, officially and appropriately known as Queen’s Feast. This is the Charlotte area restaurant promotional phenomenon brought to you by Charlotteans Bruce and Jill Hensley of Hensley Fontana Public Relations that, over the past 8 years, has captured the attention and appetites of thousands of diners across the metropolitan Charlotte area. Pull out your calendars, call your friends and start making reservations.

Charlotte Restaurant Week has grown into a multi-county promotion in which numerous upscale restaurants will offer a prix fixe, three-course dinner at a cost of only $30  or $35 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

This summer there are 130 plus restaurants participating across eight counties in the Charlotte metro area from Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Iredell, Cabarrus to Union, and York, so you know there is a participating restaurant near you!

CRW%20Summer%20header%202015This special 10-day long pricing, substantially less than what a typical three-course meal would cost at any of the restaurants involved, doesn’t mean “dumbed down” food or less-than-fabulous service.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The premise here is to give potentially new patrons, who might not otherwise  step in the door of a more high-end establishments or have always wanted to try a new place that just opened, a chance to try out the eats and the experience at an easy-on-the-pocket book price tag. At the same time the promotion adds value to the dining out experience for restaurant regulars. Truth is, the restaurant week promotion helps the dining establishments, too, bringing in a broader cliental base at a time of the year that is generally slow for the restaurant industry at large.

imgresPlus this season there are some added bonuses. If you are a AAA member, or thinking of becoming one, now is the time to do so. Just take a look at this: During the summer 2016 Queen’s Feast, select restaurants are offering AAA members an exclusive bonus. While dining in the restaurant during Queen’s Feast, just present your current AAA membership card for the opportunity to purchase a $50 gift certificate from the restaurant for only $25!

AAA members must present a valid membership card while dining in the restaurant during Queen’s Feast (July 22-31, 2016) during dinner hours to take advantage of this offer. The gift certificate will not be redeemable during Queen’s Feast. Other restrictions may apply. With this writing here is a short list of the restaurants participating in the Charlotte Restaurant Week-AAA promotion: BAKUBella Fresco Italian Mediterranean KitchenBonterra Dining & Wine RoomBrazz Carvery and Brazilian SteakhouseThe Cajun QueenCampania CafeCopper Modern Indian CuisinePassion8,  Primo Tuscan GrilleROCKSALT and Vivace

So that’s 12 of the participating Queen’s Feast restaurants, just over 100 more to go including new comers to the event such as Five and Dine and The Pumphouse  both just over the SC border;  Aix en Provence in Eastover; Kid Cashew in Dilworth and the new location of Global in Pineville – all, in this food writer’s opinion, worthy of your consideration as are long time Queen’s Feast participants such as Gallery Restaurant at The Ballantyne Hotel; Bistro La Bon in Plaza Midwood;  Heirloom in Charlotte’s  Coulwood neighborhood; and Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte.  

The twice annual Charlotte Restaurant Week has become an event patrons plan for, gathering groups of friends, making reservations well in advance to get in at all their favorite spots. With the ten-day stretch of the event, and this round with over 130 restaurants participating, there is a lot of eating to be done!

And there is no guesswork involved. Everything you need to make your Charlotte Restaurant Week: Queens Feast plans in up on the Charlotte Restaurant Week website – here are just a few tips for making it all the easier.   Once you get to the Queens Feast Website you’ll find the restaurants listed first by region or county and then in alphabetical order, take a look through the list and then…

  • Click on individual restaurant names for location, menu, and reservation information.
  • The Prix fixe price is $30 or $35 per person; all menu items are per person unless otherwise indicated.
  • Know that the Queens Feast Charlotte Restaurant Week menus are available for DINNER ONLY.
  • Be Flexible. Most of the participating chefs plan menus based around lots of local product. With the popularity of Charlotte Restaurant Week, know that menus are subject to change without notice based on product availability, but even if there is change, chefs will still offer their very best to give you the  regal experience you are anticipating.
  • If you happen to have coupons for any particular participating restaurants, know that these may not be accepted during Charlotte Restaurant Week after all you are already getting a phenomenal deal on your Queen’s Feast dining out experience.  Please check with the restaurant and/or refer to coupon restrictions for redemption policies or better yet, just save them for another time and enjoy the Queens Feast experience for what and all it is.
  • And finally, and most importantly, if you are unable to keep your reservation for any reason, PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE AND CANCEL as soon as possible to give other diners and the restaurant the opportunity to fill those seats!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIf you still have questions, simply call your favorite restaurant and just ask. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

Farm to Fork For The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

Six Spectacular Chefs, One Incredible Evening six chefs for the matthews market

Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Restaurant in Charlotte, NC

Joe Bonaparte, Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach  in Myrtle Beach, NC

Tim Groody, Fork! in Cornelius, NC

Joe Kindred, Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, NC

Adam Reed, Sante of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, NC

 

What do these six well -seasoned North Carolina chefs have in common? A love for all things local and an abundance of culinary talent  often showcased at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning series of cooking demonstrations. And now these chefs are all giving back as a part of the Matthews Market’s 25th Anniversary celebration and you are invited to join in on all the fun.

 Joe BonepartThese chefs are longtime supporters of local sustainable agriculture and lots of area markets including The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market. They are collaborating on this event to help the market raise money to meet mounting operating costs and make needed site improvements. The Matthews  Market, is celebrating its 25th season of bringing farmers and community together over locally grown food, hopes to raise $25,000 by August 1.

38c00bab-e20b-4b77-ada1-34ec19ccd227There are several ways you can support the market this year, first and foremost Shop Local every week. You’ll be amazed how easy it really is to find all the local produce, protein and product you need for your weekly shopping list and how much better tasting it is than commercially produced product.

The next way is to attend this dinner – You’ve read my blog posts before and you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. On the contrary this is the right thing to do. You still have time to purchase tickets and, think about it, with these six chefs working together to prepare a summer feast using all local product, its a win-win. Just imagine, it’ll be like eating at SIX of your favorite restaurants simultaneously and you’ll be supporting the market at the same time.

The menu will feature the best of the seasons local harvest complete with wine pairings for each course.. The date is Monday July 18 at 7 pm. Advance reservations are a must and get excited because in addition to the dinner a wonderful silent auction will take place as well.

You are going to eat this up, quite literally, The Fun, Food and Festivity will all takes place at  Passion8 Restaurant, located at 1523 Elizabeth Avenue,  in Charlotte.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

Cost is $150 per person.  Click here to purchase your tickets now! Don’t wait until its too late!



The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market is a taxable non-profit. Ticket purchases and donations are not eligible for a charitable tax deduction.
Want to do more? Become a “Friend of the Market” or a 2016 Business Sponsor – read more for details

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODWith Fourth of July weekend on the horizon, I know many of you will be grilling for the holiday celebration. Wanted to take this post to share one of my favorite grilled recipes: Bistecca Fiorentina.  Also called Bistecca alla Fiorentina or Bistecca Florentine, it is the signature charcoal-grilled steak of Italy’s Tuscan region. I consider myself fortunate to have tasted “the real thing” in perhaps the most perfect of settings in a small Tuscan walled city while on a tour of Tuscany with my friend Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy several years ago.

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The view of the moon rising over the horizon in Tuscany as we enjoyed our 2011 true Italian “steak night” and my first taste of Bistecca Fiorentina

As food memories go, this one is a favorite – we dined at sunset, on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, a roof of tiny white lights the only thing separating us from the soon-to-be starlit sky. The view was perfect, the company divine and the food, oh the food. The precursor to the steak was a pasta course of blue cheese, pear and walnut ravioli and I can still taste it melting in my mouth, but that recipe I will save for another day – on to the grilling.

For authentic Bistecca one must grill over hot charcoals and must use a cut of beef from Italian cattle called Chianina, perhaps one of the oldest breeds of cattle originally raised in the  Chiana region of Tuscany.  In addition to being one of the oldest breeds in the world, it is also one of the largest, so it follows that steaks cut from the Chanina cows are also quite large. The cut used for authentic bistecca is  the porterhouse , a large, thick cut of a t-bone that separates a full tenderloin round from the top sirloin steak we call a New York Strip. In Italy these large porterhouses are massive and will feed a crowd.

IMG_2194Short of being in Italy with access to the breed of Chianina beef, this recipe is worth seeking out a porterhouse of high quality, trimmed beef – the steak I have pictured here came from The Peach Stand in Ft Mill SC, where they have a specialty butcher shop full of a wonderful selection of Certified Angus Beef Brand and local grass fed beef. In determining how much steak you will need for your Get-Your -Grill-On Crowd, know that, generally speaking, a porterhouse is plenty for 2 ,maybe 3, to share.

As with most cooking in Italy, this classic recipe is written as it should be, to simply bring the flavor to the beef to the forefront. To that end, ingredients here are few and of very high quality. Excellent olive oil, high quality salt and pepper and fresh cut rosemary are all it takes. If you have a charcoal grill ( set to burn with real chemical-free charcoal – no lighter fluid, please) you’ll get the addition of the fabulous flavor the charcoal adds to your crusty sear, as they do in Italy; but if you are without charcoal, don’t dismay,  this recipe is also delicious done over a gas flame or in a pinch in a grill pan on your cooktop.

IMG_2196Prepare the steak ahead of time, giving the flavors of the olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary enough time to blend and penetrate the beef. I like to rub the steaks with a salt and pepper blend of coarse pink Himalayan salt and a pepper blend I grind myself and aptly have dubbed Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend. I purchase the pink Himalayan salt and a trio or peppercorns: Lampong, Tellicherry and Reunion Pink Peppercorns from my go-to spice source, the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd Charlotte. If you can’t remember the names of the peppercorns I  use for my blend, no worries, Just go in and ask for the pepper Heidi uses and Amy, Scott or any of their very knowledgeable staff will get you just what you need. I grind the peppercorns ( equal parts of each variety) until they are a course mix in my coffee grinder with no worries about spicy coffee the next day.

To clean the grinder, simply follow the peppercorns with a tablespoon of coffee beans.  Here is all you have to do: once you have ground the pepper, take it out of the grinder,  and set it aside for your recipe or future use – I usually grind about a third of a cup at a time. Once all of the ground pepper is out of the grinder, add in a tablespoon of any whole bean or ground coffee. Let the grinder run for a minute or so and then discard that batch of ground coffee. Here is how it works, the coffee acts like a filter and will clean the taste and aroma of the peppercorns – or any other whole spice – from the grinder. No need for a separate spice grinder at all!

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As for the olive oil, select a fruity flavorful variety. I frequently pull my favorites from the current harvest selection at Pour Olive on East Blvd, but have also recently discovered another great Greek variety of oil locally bottled by a family in Waxhaw, NC.   Olive Crate’s wonderful organic  late harvest extra virgin, eco-sustainable Kores Olive oil comes from Greek Manaki olives grown by their family in Greece. The oil as well as a selection of vinegars can be found at the Saturday morning Waxhaw Farmers’ Market as well as at the charming little farm store at Grace Roots Farm on Providence Road, less than a mile from the Waxhaw market location. The flavor of this Greek oil is superb – do check them out!

Time to Get your Grill On…

IMG_2202Now that you’ve got everything you need, lets get back to the prep and the grilling. Its easy-peasy from here and you’ll never grill a steak any other way. For those who don’t eat beef, I’ve also had excellent results using the same technique with salmon. In fact in anticipation of writing this post and my coordinating segment on Charlotte Today, my husband Tom and I enjoyed my version of Salmon Fiorentina just last night with a side of local Tom Thumb potatoes from New Town Farms, beens from Tega Hill Farm and first of the summer tomatoes from A Way of Life Farm all tossed with a bit of the Kores Olive oil and my homemade pesto.

IMG_2198Marinate the salmon, the same way as the beef – chop the rosemary together with the salt and pepper to make a rub and rub it into the top side of the fish fillet, or onto both sides of the porterhouse.  Add the olive oil  and rub over the fish or beef as well. Allow to sit for at least an hour for the fish – best overnight in the fridge for the beef, or if you forget to do it the night before, at least of couple of  hours unrefrigerated;  and then simply put the steak or fish on the grill. Cooking times and temperatures follow.

Heidi’s Bistecca or Salmon Fiorentina

4 long sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and minced

5-6 sprigs of fresh Thyme leaves, stripped and minced ( optional, not a part of the traditional recipe, but a flavorful addition)

1 ( 2 1/2 lb.) porterhouse steak or wild salmon filet

1/4 ( or less) cup your favorite extra virgin olive oil

coarse pink sea salt and Heidi’s pepper blend to taste

2 lemons cut into wedges

Rub the steak or salmon with a mix of the fresh herbs and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Allow to marinate a room temperature for at least 1 hour. Season steak ofr salmon to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill -preferable over charcoal 5-10 mins per side for the steak depending on your desired degree of doneness, or use the “10-minute” rule for the fish – 10 minutes over a hot flame for each inch of thickness.

Dress both steak and fish with a quick squirt of lemon and serve garnished with fresh rosemary…enjoy! It really is that easy!

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To go along with this post you can watch the television version of the recipe in my monthly cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, originally filmed the morning of June 30, 2016 at 11:29 am. In case you missed the original air time, here is the link to the video of the Bistecca Fiorentina Cooking segment, enjoy!

GotTobeNC Competition Dining is in Greensboro

comp dining promoPutting my Competition Dining hat  on this week for the second Triad event of 2016 GotToBeNC Competition Dining series.

Last month we competed in a very successful series Winston-Salem and this week we are in Greensboro, NC.  One preliminary battle under our belts and a second scheduled for this evening with the regional finale on Thursday of this week, its fast and furious, but its been exciting as we have gotten the week in Greensboro underway.

 

Proximity Hotel photoWorking with our area lodging partner Proximity Hotel in GSO has afforded me the opportunity to experience all that America’s first Green Hotel has to offer.Proximity Hotel is the first hotel in America to receive the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Its really quite a feat, hot water heated by solar panels, energy created my the motion of the elevators, well groomed plants and gardens all around – this is environmentally friendly done right in a luxurious setting that is down to the last detail – next time you visit Greensboro it is definitely one of the places you should stay!

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Chefs from Undercurrent and The Hobnob with Competition Dining founder and host Jimmy Crippen and Jamie Hinson from 2016 sponsor Goodnight Brothers Country Hams

A trio of our sponsors, Goodnight Brothers Country Hams, the Greensboro CVB, and Joyce Farms, hosts our chefs to pre-battle breakfasts this week all at the Proximity’s Print Works Bistro – a charming cafe located on the lower level of the hotel. The restaurant is surrounded by gardens, the interiors are understated yet elegantly comfortable and the food is excellent. the green concept goes to the restaurant and kitchen as well with water cooled refrigeration and more. 

IMG_1624My first night in town I opted for a simple dinner at the Print Works bar –  I started with what may well be my new summer cocktail for the 2016 season -a French 702- a refreshingly delicious sip of gin, St Germain, lemony simple syrup and sparkling wine, oh my!  as I was in the mood  for just a bite or too – Printworks tomato and arugula flatbread,  and a bowl of incredible chilled cucumber soup  made for the  perfect “wind down meal after a busy day of traveling” repast and just another reason to visit Greensboro!

Competition Dining Greensboro Preliminaries

Four very talented teams will compete in the course of the trio of Competition Dining dinners in Greensboro.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.03.28 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.02.56 PMLast night, the first night of the competition, hometown  chefs Michael Harkenreader, Noah Sheets & Chris Rosato , “Team Wiley Pickle Weasels” from Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro took on a trio of talent  found in chefs Matt Montandon, Donald Francis and Justin Neal all a part of “Team Hobnob”, the dream team from The Hobnob Restaurant  and Jordan Street Cafe, both in Brevard NC. It was battle Miso and Mushrooms – an evening of umami!

misoThe two  featured “Secret Ingredients ” for this flavorful evening both have North Carolina roots. The first a product one might be surprised to be a locally produced ingredient – traditional Japanese miso! Got To Be NC  organic, GMO and gluten free misos from Miso Masters Miso,  produced by North Carolina’s own The American Miso Company located in the foothills of Western North Carolina in the town Rutherfordton, NC. Who’d of thunk it?  But its true, in fact, for more culinary offings from Rutherfordton – check out the link at the end of this post; but, in the meantime, make no mistake, this miso is indeed the real thing, produced with care and quality beyond reproach. The American Miso Company is the largest producer of  traditional miso in the world and is proud to  produce high quality traditional misos, aged naturally ( sometimes for years) using traditional ingredients. Miso Masters makes 7 different varieties of traditional miso ( available to consumers  – as well as chefs – at area EarthFare and Whole Foods stores.

correct mushroom photoAlong with the Miso, the Undercurrent and Hobnob Competition Dining chefs also had six different varieties of locally grown wild mushrooms all from a relatively new Charlotte-based mushroom farm called Urban Gourmet Farms based in Charlotte NC.  I’ve written an article on this mushrooming operation for the Summer issue of Charlotte Living Magazine, on Charlotte area newsstands  and online soon, so look for more to come, but suffice to say that these mushrooms are some of the best locally grown product I have ever seen and many Charlotte area chefs agree. I was personally thrilled to be able to bring Urban Gourmet Farms into the Competition Dining series in hope that chefs across the state would be exposed to the quality and the flavor of this wonderful product.

Six Miso and Mushrooms plates later the first evening of Competition Dining ended with the win  going to long time competitor chef Michael Harkenreader and Team Wiley Pickle Weasels from Undercurrents restaurant in Greensboro. After having tasted Michaels talent for several years of Competition Dining I am excited to eat at Undercurrents soon; but  will also be planning a trip to Brevard as I was so impressed with the skill and talent of the team from The Hobnob.

That’s the thing about these Competition Dining dinners held across the state and why I love being on the core team that plans, promotes and executes these regional series. Not only does each series -held this year in Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington – expose diners to a tremendous amount of locally grown, raised, caught and made local product, produce and protein; but it also exposes Competition Dining guests – and our thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to a vast array of culinary talent in our state.

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I Love bringing together farmers at all of our Competition Dining events, here we have Michelle Smith and Hiram Ramirez from Urban Gourmet Farms with Randy Lewis from Ran-Lew Dairy

I always look for every opportunity to incorporate local farms into the mix and the Competition Dining pantry provided by our sponsors at Pate Dawson Southern Foods. This week in Greensboro I am proud to have worked with Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder to have brought produce from The Specialty Farmer, from the Waxhaw Farmers Market in Waxhaw NC; Rabbit from Clearview Farms from Lincolnton, NC and squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farms in Tega Hill, SC and of course Urban Gourmet Farms mushrooms into the Competition Dining pantry. In addition I have loved working with dairy farmer Randy Lewis from Ran -Lew Dairy to provide pint sized packages of his exquisite cream top whole and chocolate milk for our birthday gifts for this week!

Looking for your next new place for a spectacular meal, I encourage you to visit the Competition Dining website at CompetitionDining.com  and take a look at all of this year competitors for a list of some of the best restaurants in North Carolina.

In addition to my work with Competition Dining, this year I am working on a series of 3Day Weekend articles, taking in all the sites in each region as we compete  and will be sure to include all of these chefs and restaurant details in each article or post.

More Competition Dining Greensboro to come

comp dining promoBut last night was just the beginning in Greensboro. The second preliminary battle takes place this evening – Tuesday June 21 – and tickets are still available. Another team of Greensboro locals -chefs from Sedgefield Country Club, “Team Culinary Crushers” will take on “Team The Natives” from Native Kitchen and Social Pub from Swannanoa, North Carolina. Tickets for this second preliminary battle are still available – just click here to go directly to the reservation page

But wait, there’s more….If you would like to attend the Greensboro Finale on Thursday June 23, to see who takes it all and who gets to wear the coveted red chefs jacket, those tickets may still be purchased here

For the Rest of the Story, subscribe to this blog and follow me at HeidiBillottoFood.com. Heidi Billotto or Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook, @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @HeidiBillotto on Instagram

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

For more about attending a Got to Be Nc Competition Dining event, in Greensboro this week, In Raleigh next month, in Charlotte in August or in Wilmington in September, simply visit CompetitionDining.com and click on the icon for each city – competing chefs and brackets are announced about a month out of each series.

If you would be interested in being a sponsor for the 2016 season of Competition Dining its still not too late to use this fun and exciting format to connect with North Carolina chefs and guests alike, and it just so happens that I am the person to talk to abut setting up a sponsorship for you your product or your company – just give me a shout at Heidi@CompetitionDining.com

For more on great eats  in Rutherfordton NC , check out an article I wrote for the Lake lure and Blue Ridge Foothills website and find out why I think the best burger may be found at the Rutherfordton County Airport! Here you go…

For more on Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro, visit Undercurrent.com Undercurrent Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on The Hobnob in Brevard, NC, visit HobnobBrevard.com Hobnob Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato ; For more on Jordan Street Cafe in Brevard, NC, visit TheJordanStreetCafe.com Jordan Street Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, visit Sedgefieldcc.com

For more on Native Kitchen and Social Pub in Swannanoa, NC, visit NativeSocialPub.com Native Kitchen & Social Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more on The Proximity Hotel and Printworks Bistro, visit  ProximityHotel.com Print Works Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

To see how Miso Master Miso is made, watch this informative video to get the whole story – great stuff!

For more info on Urban Gourmet Farms mushrooms, visit UrbanGourmetFarms.com – check out the story I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine online at CharlotteLivingMagazine.com in the next couple of weeks!

For more info on Ran-Lew Dairy, visit  Ranlewdairymilkco.webstarts.com

And stay tuned for more about planning a Three Day Weekend in Greensboro, but if you just can’t wait, check out the website at Visit Greensboro – lots of great ideas for places to stay, places to visit and places to eat!

 

 

May 2016 On the Farm Cooking Class: A Taste of Honey

a taste of honey cooking classMark Your Calendars…Save the Date and be prepared to “Catch the Buzz” as we turn our attention to the “Business of Bees” in my May On The Farm hands-on cooking class.

The fun takes place in the honey room at Dancing Bees Honey Farm in Monroe, NC and in addition to meeting the bees, learning how they affect the harvest of the food you eat and tasting the honey, you can even have your photo taken in front of Robin’s new ride, affectionately dubbed “The Bee Mobile”

Nothing sweeter (or better for you) than the taste of local honey! Just wait till you taste! And then just wait till you see what we’re going to prepare – a five course feast with honey in every dish!

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Robin and Jeff Knight of Dancing Bee Honey Farm in Monroe, NC will show you how their bees do their thing and then we’ll cook with this local liquid gold in all its flavorful variations along with lots of other locally sourced produce, products and proteins to make a five course meal from beginning to end. My friend Josh Villapando of Assorted Table Wine Shoppe at 7th Street Station in Uptown Charlotte will be on hand, too, to provide “perfect-for-summer-sipping” wine pairings with each course.

Cost $85 per person – and includes a farm tour plus 5 hands on courses with wine pairings and a recipe packet with wine notes for each class participant. . 

cooking class date

Its all happening on Sunday May 15, 1-4 pm. Reservations are a must, so just let me know that you’d like to attend via an email to Heidi@HeidiCooks.com 

A day or two before class I will send an email to all of our class participants with any specifics you need to know as well as directions to the farm.

I do hope you can join us.  You’ll learn lots about the importance of bees plus have a sweet time in the process. Honey and lots of other sweet things from Dancing Bees will be for sale as well.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Reserve your spot by emailing me now at  Heidi@HeidiCooks.com 

To read more about Dancing Bees Honey Farm and all you will find there at our class, take a looksee at this article I wrote about the farm as it originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Charlotte Living Magazine…

Idb_logo116s’ll admit it, I have a strong sweet tooth. But instead of a spoonful of sugar, I’ll opt for a quick pick me up of a spoon of honey every time. Make mine sticky sweet and locally harvested, a bowl of “Dancing Bee” deliciousness, please. The golden elixir or liquid gold we call honey is actually just a simple by product of the business of bees, living in the microcosm of a hive, working together to get the job done.

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I love finding local bees and honey in each city I visit – here I am at the hives on display at  the Burt’s Bees offices in Durham, NC ( I know it looks like it, but I swear I was not touching the glass!)

 

I like to taste and buy different local honeys when I travel. Intrigued by the regional differences in the taste and color, and mystified as to how it all works, I went to visit Master bee keeper Jeff Knight and his wife Robin at the apiary adjacent to their home in Monroe, North Carolina. I have often bought honey and bee products from Robin at the Dancing Bee stand at the Matthews Community Farmers Market, and this season fell hard and fast for the NC Mountain sourwood honey the couple harvested last season. The taste and the difference between the Dancing Bee wildflower honey and this rich, luxurious second cousin, led me to further investigation…. to read more about Dancing Bees Honey and the fascinating “Business of Bees”, just click this link to Charlotte Living Magazine’s Fall of 2014 issue: http://www.charlottelivingmagazine.com/department_articles/food_and_entertaining/past_food_articles/The_Business_of_Bees.pdf

The Hands That Feed Us: A Celebration of Art, Food & Drink

In the Queen City and looking for a unique and tasty way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo Thursday May 5, 2016?

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Scratch your plans for  chips and salsa and make a reservation now for this week’s Culinary Canvas dinner brought to you by the team at CLTure in Charlotte.

CLTure is a blog based in Charlotte, bringing news to your inbox about regional and local music, food, film,  and performing and visual arts events.  Once a quarter or so they sponsor a unique collaboration of chefs and artists coming together to create a special evening of food and art.

This week the May 5th dinner featuring the talents of  my friends Chefs Paul Verica and Ashley Boyd, Mixologist Bob Peters and Charlotte artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner to benefit Charlotte’s own Friendship Gardens organization.

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Paintings by Charlotte artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner tell the story of migrant farm workers

Friendship Gardens is an expanding network of community, school, faith-based, institutional, public, private, and backyard gardens. Most of the garden partnerships share their harvest for the benefit of Friendship Trays. For the community Friendship Gardens offers educational workshops, volunteer and leadership opportunities, community connections, and food access to those with limited options. Beyond the gardens, Friendship Gardens has developed a mobile market to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in food desserts and are currently working to add SNAP / EBT access for that service. At the heart of the mission is the development of an urban farm and learning center to grow food, train volunteers, educate our community and support the urban gardening community at large.

Friendship Trays  is our local community’s Meals on Wheels.  Friendship Trays’ mission is to deliver daily, in a caring and friendly manner, balanced meals to individuals in the community who are unable to obtain or prepare their own meals because of age or infirmity.  The volunteer driven organization delivers more than 700 meals each weekday to elderly, handicapped, and convalescing people who are unable or greatly restricted in their ability to prepare or secure meals.

The theme for the May 5  Culinary Canvas five course dinner  was inspired by a recent series of paintings done by Rosalia. “The Hands that Feed Us” series of paintings is a Torres-Weiners tribute to Latino migrant workers, in this area and across the nation.

For chef Paul Verica, the theme is a nod of the cap saluting what he does everyday at Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhax  and to what Pastry chef Ashley Bivens does both at Heritage and her home base at 300 East. That is to pay homage to local farms and farmers.

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Nothing like cooking and eating fresh from a local farmers’ market. These radishes from New Town Farms at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

Shake the hand that feeds you, I like to say, for without farms and farmers local and across this country, there is no food wth which to cook or to write about.  Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised is equally important. As you get to know the local farmers at any one of the Charlotte area’s dozens of local farmers’ markets, you’ll become a part of the circle – shop local, cook local, eat local.  Shop at local farmers markets each week with local farmers, support  your local community and local agriculture. Nothing quite as much fun on a Saturday morning as going to see what was just harvested the day before and could be on your table that evening. From locally raised beef to bamboo shoots, you’ll find it all in our regions local farmers markets, so let this dinner (or at least this post) be your inspiration as well, to shop with and support the hands that work so hard to feed our community.

Ah, but I digress…

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Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food + Drink k in Waxhaw, NC

In addition to the art of Rosalia Torres- Weiner and the dinner from Chefs Paul Verica and Ashley Boyd, there will also be drink in the guise of craft cocktails created by another good friend, Bob “Bob the Bartender” Peters. Bob can usually be found creating and mixing libations at The Punch Room on the 15th floor of the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton, but this night he’ll  be shaking and stirring with Tito’s Vodka (a sponsor of the event) and creating craft cocktails for the crowd.

 

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Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd from Heritage Food+Drink in Waxhaw and 300 East in Charlotte

I will be there too, acting as emcee for the evening, and enjoying the food, art and drink. Its still not too late for you to make plans to join in the celebration of all that is local in Charlotte, meet the artists, both culinary and visual,  and a few of the  farmers who will make this evening special – all people you need to know –  and to help lend a hand to those who lend a hand to others everyday in the process. Come in join in the fun.

 

 

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Bob Peters, Mixologist Extraordinaire from The Punch Room, in Charlotte

 

The May 5 Culinary Canvas dinner takes place at a unique  Charlotte venue: the C3 Lab, a collaborative co-working creative space located at 2525 Distribution St. Charlotte, NC 28203 in South End.

 

 

 

 

 

Iheidi head shot 1 -nterested? Here is the link to purchase your tickets.

The event is from 6:30-10pm Thursday May 5.  5 courses  of fresh from a local farm fare plus dessert and craft cocktails as only Paul, Ashley and Bob can do…Cost is $80 a person, you won’t want to miss it – hope to see you there!

Want to Know More?

On Friendship Trays: Visit FriendshipTrays.org

On Chef Paul Verica and Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw at 201 W. South Main Street ,Waxhaw, NC, Visit HeritageFoodAndDrink.com or call 704.843.5236  to make reservations. Heritage Food & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On Chef Ashley Bivens Boyd and 300 East restaurant in Charlotte at 300 East Blvd, Visit 300East.net or call 704-332-6507 to make reservations. 300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On Mixologist Bob Peters and The Punch Room on the 15th Floor of Charlotte’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, Visit The Punch Room or call 704.547.2244 Punch Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On the art of Rosalia Torres-Weiner, Visit ArtByRosalia.com 

To subscribe to the CLTure Blog, Visit clture.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When 2 Chefs are Better than 1: A Chefs Collaborative Dinner

chefchriscoleman-copyThe Asbury Restaurant located in the Dunhill Hotel in Uptown boasts a creatively crafted menu of Modern Southern cuisine. The underlying mantra of each meal and seasonal menu is to honor the past, celebrate the seasons and to keep looking forward. Under the direction of  Charlotte native Chef Chris Coleman, food and beverage director at The Dunhill and at the helm since The Asbury’s inception in 2014.

The restaurant now operates with what most would call a dream team of chefs. With Coleman, Chef Matthews Krenz, chef de cuisine and pastry chef Jossie Perlemutter are at the restaurants core. The trio heads a great culinary team of line cooks,  service staff and beverage aficionados who make a culinary concept that features  regional heirloom ingredients as well as specialty items grown by small, family farms throughout the region, work Chef Coleman searches out the best quality he can find—much of it coming from within the local region work, in spades.

Just after The Asbury’s first anniversary in 2015, Coleman thought it would be fun to reach out to farmers and friends and feature them at special monthly dinners, and so began The Asbury’s  Collaborative Series. After all what could be better than two great chefs working on one dinner together?

low country dinner prep“I’ve wanted to do this since I was first hired by The Dunhill, even before the Asbury concept became a reality,” Chris explained. “I’ve got a lot of friends in the industry and to plan a time that we can take a day and cook together, makes it fun. I love what I do on a daily basis, but bringing friends into the kitchen is  a great way to learn from each other,  share new techniques, and see what I do every day from another chef’s perspective.”

Each dinner in the series has a separate seasonal theme and  brings together chefs, food lovers, farmers, and artisan food makers together to celebrate the bounty of our state and region.

IIMG_8221 was delighted to attend the first Asbury collaborative dinner of 2016 with pooling the talents of The Asbury’s Chris Coleman and Executive Chef Ben Harris from Poogan’s Porch Restaurant in Charleston, SC.

It was a night of Lowcountry feasting and fun and even now as I write, I can still taste the nuances of every individual dish. I knew that any evening that started with Chris and Ben shucking oysters in the bar was going to be great and my hunch was not wrong. I’ve noted a couple of my favorite courses from that memorable Taste of the Low Country dinner below, and if you weren’t there, you be sad to know what you missed.

But just so that doesn’t happen again, you first must know about a similar opportunity TONIGHT you will not want to miss…all of the info you need to know to be a part of tonights  exciting beer -centric dinner is at the end of this post. Meantime here is just a taste  of the Lowcountry dinner and what you can anticipate from this wonderful chef’s Collaborative concept.

 

IMG_8228Back in March the dinner started with serve-yourself bright briny  local oysters  served on the half shell and no one was shy about helping themselves. Accoutrements included hot sauce, lemon and a fermented cabbage or sauerkraut mignonette of sorts that was to die for. Truth be told I could have bellied up to the oyster bar all evening,  and finished off the jar of sour cabbage and the remainder of the oysters all by my lonesome; but as the crowd was called into the dining room, I knew I didn’t want to miss the culinary adventures that waited ahead.

IMG_8240The First Course and the third plate were both tired and true Chris Coleman. To start a picnic plate  comprised of boiled farm eggs, pickled okra, Benton’s ham, chicken liver mousse, pimiento cheese, spiced nuts, and olives. A recent trip to Charleston inspired the platter shared at our table. Each little bit was in and of itself a wonderful way to begin the post oyster repast. Coleman’s second plate, the third course, was Hoppin’ John. It was simple and delicious, and I could have eaten bowlfuls. With a nod to the heirloom varieties of rice and beans

IMG_8238The second plate of the evening was Ben Harris’ She-Crab Soup with NC Roe, Sherry and Cultured Butter . This plate came with all of the soup’s core ingredients artistically arranged on the inside  rim of the bowl and then the warm rich broth was poured tableside.

A presentation like this seems to often leave the diner puzzled; questioning just how best to eat this veritable work of art in the bowl. At first we sipped the broth and took a small taste of each of the components – the row, the butter, the foam, but in the end, found the best way to enjoy this as it was intended was to stir the ingredients to blend the individual flavors into one. The result was nothing short of spectacular.  I must admit, I thought I had come to the place were I was over the presentation of a deconstructed plate, but this bowl of soup may have changed my mind.

It was a playful presentation allowing us to experience each of the components of the dish before they were rolled into one. With a simple stir each dinner guest turned sous chef  as we found ourselves compounding the flavors in the bowl. Whats fun for the chef is fun for the diner as well – gotta love  the opportunity for a bit of interactive dining.

IMG_8242Chef Harris also presented the fourth course, this one a bit more traditionally  presented  but full of fresh and refined flavors. Harris’ Shrimp and Grits was served with Jimmy red grits, house made tasso, an incredible Burnt Tomato, preserved lemon and benne. If you needed a reason to go to Charleston and see what Ben Harris is doing at Poogan’s Porch, this course might be it.

The dessert course brought out another talent from the Asbury kitchen as it will again tonight.  Whatever The Asbury’s Pastry Chef, Jossie Perlmutter creates is always a crowd pleasing sweet finish to the evening.

Tonight, Tuesday April 26 The Asbury’s Chef Chris Coleman invites Hickory’s Highland Avenue Chef Kyle McKnight and Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery for a night of Carolina feasting and fun. Chris and Kyle are just coming off two separate dinners served at the James Beard House in New York, so the stories these chefs have to tell should be worth the price of the admission alone. Add to that this incredible 5 course meal, each course paired with pour of Fullsteam and well, if you are not planning on being at The Asbury tonight then you will really be missing something! Its not too late to make a reservation…  Cost is $65  Reserve your seat now: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury or call 704.342.1193

 

IIMG_8983 was fortunate to meet Chef Kyle McKnight from Highland Avenue in Hickory, NC just last month at his annual Kyle and Friends extravaganza.  Here we are with Chef Sam Stachon, formally of Kings Kitchen here in Charlotte and now baking up a storm in Hickory at Highland Ave.

Chef Kyle McKnight says a need for new sneakers landed him in a restaurant kitchen. As a teen, the Woodbridge, Virginia native needed money for a pair of Adidas and found work washing dishes in a local restaurant. The creative, high-energy atmosphere filled with camaraderie inspired McKnight to pursue a career as a chef.

A graduate of Johnson and Wales University, McKnight’s career led him through Europe, Charleston, Miami, St. John and Argentina. In 2012, McKnight was named Best Chef America for his commitment to the Slow Food movement and his advocacy of local farmers while at manna in Wilmington, N.C.
McKnight moved to Hickory, N.C. in 2013 to assume the role of Executive Chef on the opening team of Highland Avenue, the farm-to-table destination restaurant on the second floor of the beautifully renovated Hollar Hosiery Mill. His proud achievements include designing the kitchen, menu development and establishing the restaurant’s unique charcuterie program. Under his direction Highland Avenue has been named one of “The South’s Best Restaurants” by Southern Living.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Kyle tonight at The Asbury and see what he is cooking up with Charlotte’s own Chef Chris Coleman and Fullsteam Brewery’s Sean Lily Wilson. Sean is owner and Chief Executive Optimist of Fullsteam, a “plow to pint” brewery and tavern in Durham, NC.

Its going to be spectacular and it is after all, NC Beer Month, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate! Hope to see you there.  Cost is $65  The link for reservations again is: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury or call 704.342.1193

 

A Taste of Spring: Asparagus

cooking with springtime asparagus 2Spring is my favorite season. In my hometown of Charlotte, NC it starts with the first crocus, then the cherry trees add a pop of color and after a long winter’s break, the beautiful Bradford Pear trees which line many a street in town, burst forth with blossoms. For about a week, the city is awash in white blossoms and that’s when you know it – you’re on the cusp of asparagus season.

Before you know it we’ll be slicing into tomatoes and spitting watermelon seeds, but lets not rush things. Time to enjoy the flavors of springtime and that first taste is of asparagus.

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Doug Carrigan and team with local asparagus at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ market

I planted my own little asparagus bed when we moved into our home – about 10 years ago. We now have a healthy little crop for the two of us to enjoy, albeit, one or two stalks at a time. Alas, I am a hobby gardener, and while its fun to watch the tiny green heads peep up out of the ground and grow up to reach the sky; when its really time to cook, I turn to farmers who grow professionally like Doug Carrigan of Carrigan Farms.

IMG_9171Carrigan Farms is a 5th generation farm in Mooresville, NC and is a beautiful destination for weddings, farm to table dinners; and just after asparagus season, pick-your-own-strawberries and more, but lets not rush things.  For now, Doug is my go-to asparagus guy. Every Saturday between somewhere around the end of March to about the middle of April Doug brings bunches of the bright green stalks to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. This time of year, you’ll find other local farmers with their bumper asparagus crops bound in bundles ready for you to take home and enjoy at  the regional Charlotte market and other local farmers’ markets as well. The season is short, so eat it up while you can.

Today the focus is on several quick and easy asparagus salad recipes I first shared with you on a late March 2016 television segment on Charlotte Today. We filmed about the same time Doug and his family where picking the first crop to bring to market. As you will see on the tape, I wasn’t expecting to find fresh locally grown asparagus for a week or so, but was delighted to find Doug and his son selling at the market the Saturday just after the show. Timing is everything.

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note the difference between the end of the asparagus stalk several days old (left) and the freshly snapped one

A stalk of asparagus is just like a fresh picked flower: to keep it tender, it must be kept in water. If you are buying fresh picked asparagus from a local source and cooking it immediately, then there is no need to trim the stems – you can eat the whole thing.  If you are purchasing from a grocery store or working with market asparagus you purchased several days ago, then you’ll want to pop off the dried part of the stalk. Just bend the end – the asparagus will snap naturally where it goes from tough to tender. The tougher ends can be used to make vegetable stock, the tender tips may be eaten raw, steamed, poached, grilled or roasted.

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I think the best way to cook fresh asparagus is the roast them – or just enjoy them raw!

For the easiest method of cooking I turn to the grill or the oven. place the stalks in a single layer, roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 minutes. That’s it. Roughly the same timing on the grill, although if you have thin stalks, keep an eye out that the flames aren’t too high or hot.

Once the asparagus are roasted or grilled, you can turn them into a host of different salads, as I did on the March Charlotte Today cooking segment and as I have outlined here.

Here are some easy peasy ideas on how to turn fresh raw or just roasted asparagus into a meal.

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Cut the stalks into bite sized pieces and toss with fresh blue berries, raspberries or strawberries. Add orange zest and a popover ( see recipe below) and a bit of fresh mint. Drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinegar  or local honey and serve atop a bed of locally grown leaf lettuce.

 

IMG_8897While the asparagus is roasting, fry a local egg to your own personal degree of desired doneness (I’m a sunny side up gal, myself) Serve the egg along side the bundle of warm asparagus, drizzle dark roasted sesame oil over all and then top with a sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds. The egg may be served over toast as well or for a great open faced sandwich variation on this same theme. Top the toast with some grated  sharp cheddar cheese and run under the broiled just until the cheese melts. Top with the roasted asparagus and hot fried egg. Add some sauteed mushrooms (check out the wonderful selection of locally grown ‘shrooms from Urban Gourmet Mushroom Farm at the Atherton Farmers’ Market) if you would like, drizzle with the sesame oil and you are good to go.

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As spring morphs into summer we will start to see greenhouse tomatoes making appearances at local markets, or you can make this recipe with oil packed sun dried tomatoes with very successful results as well. Make up a late spring or early summer bruschetta topping of chopped tomatoes, peppers, black olives and basil. Toss the mix in a bit of your favorite olive oil .Arrange the bruschetta mix over the hot or cold roasted asparagus, then dust with a sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan cheese  and there you have it!

 

IMG_8865You may notice that each of the asparagus plates above includes a popover. Popover are an easy, fast and fu alternative to any other bread and their light and fluffy nature makes for a great foil to the crisp green crunch of the freshly roasted asparagus. You can use a popover pan or a metal of silicone muffin or brioche pan does the trick just as well. The beauty of the silicone pan is that the popovers pop out without a fuss. I am generally not a big fan of silicone, bowls and “pans” but in this case, I make an exception…

Heidi’s Parmesan Popovers

1 1/2 cups organic all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp. your favorite fat ( you may use olive oil, melted butter, melted leaf lard, bacon fat, etc)

1 local or pasture raised organic egg

1 1/2 cups organic whole milk

Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ( I Love local product and am a big supporter of all kinds of local cheese, but when it comes to Parmesan cheese, just pretend you live in Italy and go with the real thing)

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Preheat the oven 475 degrees – it is important here to start with a hot oven.    Prepared the muffin tins or popover pan by greasing them with butter ( unless you are using a silicone pan). Place the pan in preheated 475 oven for 2 minutes, to heat the pan ( unless you are using silicone) while you whisk together the flour, salt eggs, milk and melted butter until smooth. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and carefully fill each cup less than halfway full with batter. Sprinkle the top of each cup of batter lightly with grated Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

 

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Now that you know all the tricks, enjoy the video of my March Charlotte Today  Cooking with Local Asparagus segment once again. Show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson always make my time on set tons of fun!  Watch Now!

Ten of NC (and VA’s) best, take NYC by Storm

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODThis weekend, April 16-18, a bit of Southern charm, flavor and a lot of local culinary talent is headed up to the Big Apple.  Ten chefs will share the flavors of our region at the James Beard House in two separate dinners, the first A Taste of Charlotte on Sat April 16, and the second, Small Towns, Big Flavors on Monday April 18.
In  the second half of this post you’ll find a beautifully filmed  presentation of the local Charlotte production called order/fire by videographer and photographer Peter Taylor and chef Marc  Jacksina. The focus of this most recent edition of order/fire is the group of five Charlotte-based chefs and their journey this weekend to New York City where they have been invited to cook at the James Beard House on Saturday night April 16, 2016.
Taylor and Jacksina explain the order/fire project as “a lighthearted, conversational approach” to filming the life of someone in the culinary industry. “Each episode aims to get to know the area’s leading culinarians, mixologists, restaurateurs, purveyors and farmers to paint them in a more multidimensional light.”
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Heidi with the five chefs featured in the April 16 James Beard dinner along with Bonterra sous chef Mike Long and 300 East Assistant Pastry chef Miranda Brown

As a food writer of several decades in Charlotte, I have watched these chefs grow through the years, define their technique and style and even at their young age become a part of the old guard in the Charlotte culinary community.  I am so proud of this group of five representing Charlotte in such a big way and even prouder of the fact that they are bringing locally farmed and produced product of so many local and regional farms and farmers along for the ride. Watch the video and see how many local products you can count!
Go and show them how it done Chef-Chris Coleman The Asbury; Paul Verica, Heritage food & drink; Ashley Boyd, 300 East; R Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining & Wine Room; Bob Peters The Punch Room, we’ll be here rooting for you!
But that’s not all…here are five more reasons for us to take pride in our regional cuisine. That’s right, it’ll be a double dose of the Carolinas ( and a bit of Virginia) for the food-centric New York City crowd as chefs Kyle Lee Mcknight, Highland Avenue in Hickory; Nate Allen, Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, NC; David Bauer, Farm & Sparrow Bakery in Candler NC; Ian Boden, The Shack in Staunton, Va; and Harper Bradshaw, Harper’s Table, Suffolk Va bring together their incredible pool of culinary talent to present a five course dinner  April 18, 2016.
Click the links in the first paragraph of this post to see what both of these talented teams will  be cooking in NYC and then file the info below when you are ready for a short road trip for some great eats… #TellTheHeidiSentYou
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Chef Kyle McKnight, Highland Avenue, 883 Highland Ave, Hickory NC  For reservations, Call 828.267.9800 or visit www.highlandavenuerestaurant.com

Highland Avenue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

allen_nateChef Nate Allen, Knife & Fork Restaurant, 61 Locust Ave in Spruce Pines, Nc, For reservations call 828.765.1511  or visit KnifeandForkNC.com Knife & Fork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

baeur_davidChef David Bauer, Farm & Sparrow Bakery in Candler Nc  Call 828.633.0584 or visit Farm and Sparrow.com

 

boden_ian_photo_sera_petrasChef Ian Boden, The Shack, 105 S. Coulter Street, Stauton VA, Call 540.490.1961 or visit TheShackVA.com The Shack VA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

bradshaw_harperChef Harper Bradshaw, Harper’s Table, 122 N. Main Street, suffolk VA, Call 757. 539.2000 or visit HarpersTable.com Harper's Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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Heidi with Chefs Sam Stachon and Kyle McKnight of Highland Avenue in Hickory NC

“To be in New York celebrating Highland Avenue’s success with our culinary team is an honor and a privilege. We believe in the mission of the James Beard Foundation and we believe that food, philanthropy and community will build a better tomorrow for all.” says Meg Jenkins Locke, owner of Highland Avenue. While not  mentioned on the Beard site, Chef Sam Stachon ( formally of King’s Kitchen in Charlotte and now at Highland Ave.) will be with Kyle and the Small Town, Big Flavor chefs as well.

So you can’t get to NYC this weekend, but still want in on all the action on Saturday and Monday nights from the comfort of your own home? The dinners start at 7 pm both nights, click on the James Beard Kitchen Cam  just before that and I think you’ll be able to watch all of the chefs in action…
And now on to the order /fire video featuring the Taste of Charlotte chefs learn more about their excitement and a bit about what local flavors they are bringing along. Its going to be a great weekend for these 10 culinarians… New York City prepare to be WOWED!. Kudos chefs – To each and every one!

(This post and video as originally seen on the order/fire website.  Credits to Peter Taylor and Marc Jacksina)

This Saturday night, if you’re in NYC and if you’re lucky enough to have one of the tickets to the dinner, you can have a Taste of Charlotte at the James Beard House.

4 Charlotte chefs, all past and future guests on order/fire, and one Charlotte mixologist, (arguably one of the best in the world) Chris Coleman from the Asbury, Blake Hartwick from Bonterra, Paul Verica from Heritage, Ashley Boyd from 300 East and Bob Peters from the Punch Room. These guys will be doing their best to wine and dine and impress in New York.

A couple of weeks ago order/fire stopped in as they prepped for their shake down dinner, a preview of the same dinner they will serve at the JBH, at Bonterra. We talked to each one a little about what they will be doing and what it means to get to cook at such a revered place of honor. Check it out here!

If this weekend whets your palate for more here is where you can go next week to find each of these talented Charlotte-based chefs and taste for yourself!! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

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Chef Chris Coleman

Chef Chris Coleman, The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel, 235 North Tryon Street Charlotte NC Call 704.342.1193 for reservations or visit TheAsbury.com The Asbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

hartwick_blake

Chef Blake Hartwick

Chef Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte NC Call 704.333.WINE for reservations or visit BonterraDining.com Bonterra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chef Paul Verica

Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food | Drink, 201 West South Main Street, Waxhaw NC  Call 704.843.5236 for reservations or visit HeritageFoodanddrink.com Heritage Food & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

boyd_ashley

Chef Ashley Bivens

Chef Ashley Boyd, 300 East, 300 East Blvd, Charlotte NC Call 704.332.6507 or visit 300East.net 300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  Ashely is also the pastry chef for Heritage Food | Drink

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Mixologist Bob Peters

Mixologist Bob Peters, The Punch Room (in the Ritz Carlton) , 201 E. Trade Street, Charlotte NC Call 704.547.2244 or visit twitter.com/THEPUNCHROOM Punch Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

blog headerKeep up with my latest restaurant finds, cooking class schedules and recipes too as well as some three day weekend travel ideas with tips on where to eat drink and sleep and what to see while you are there. Simply subscribe to HeidiBillottoFood.com in the space provided in the side bar on the home page. In the meantime, follow me on Facebook at Heidi Billotto and Heidi Billotto Cooks; on Twitter @HeidiCooks; on Instagram  at Heidi Billotto and on PInterest @HeidiBillottoFood

 

Nibbles and Sips | 3.28.16

Anniversary Hors D’oeuvres, Birthday Tea Fit for a Queen, Benefits to Feed the Hungry and an Annual NC  wine-centric Tribute to Rescue Dogs

sante logoMarch 31, 2016 |  Cheers and Happy 15th Anniversary to Sante Restaurant in Matthews, NC.  Located in the heart of downtown Matthews, directly across from the Matthews Community Farmers Market, Chef Adam Reed and his wife Victoria  have been serving the Matthews and greater Charlotte communities their own style of fine dining cuisine  continuing to evolve as customers tastes and trends change. The charming historic Matthews location  remains constant, reminiscent of European eateries where candlelit dining is enjoyed in the cozy dining room or in the secluded year-round garden room. Join them to say Happy Anniversary as they treat customers new and old alike to complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 5:30-7 pm on Thursday March 31. Stay after and enjoy  springtime dinner inspired by lots of local from the farm  seasonal produce and proteins. Sante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

logo_nkhMonday April 18 | The Annual Taste of the Nation Charlotte   Every year, the country’s best chefs, sommeliers and mixologists join together with one goal in mind: ending childhood hunger in America.These dedicated culinary professionals lend their time and talents to Taste of the Nation® for No Kid Hungry events in more than 30 cities across the nation to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign work to connect kids in need with the healthy food they need, every day.

One hundred percent of proceeds from Taste of the Nation events benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign, locally, Harper’s Restaurant Group has been doing its part to ensure no child in America grows up hungry for more than 21 years. Tom Sasser, president of Harper’s Restaurant Group and founder of Charlotte’s Taste of the Nation, is proud to be a part of this premier culinary event each year. “Working together we are able to get healthy food to the many children in need in the Charlotte area. Remember, 100% of ticket sales from Charlotte’s Taste of the Nation benefit local organizations Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Culinary School of Charlotte.” 

This year’s Taste of the Nation takes place at The Fillmore Charlotte. General Admission is $85, doors open in 7 pm; or enjoy a special VIP admission for $120 and enter early at 6 pm. Are you a Citi cardmember? Enter the first 6 digits of your Citi card as an ACCESS KEY to enjoy 10% off!  All ticket sales are final and non-refundable.  For Tickets                               Please note: No one under the age of 21, including children in strollers accompanied by their parents, will be admitted to Charlotte’s Taste of the Nation. Please bring valid government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport for proof of age.

tea-cup-2April 20-23 , 2016 | Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Tea    One of my favorite things at The Ballantyne  Hotel & Lodge, save for dinner at The Gallery Restaurant, and perhaps a day at the spa is the fact that they serve afternoon tea with the most delicious pastry and finger sandwiches – and the addition of Champagne if you would like or an afternoon cocktail makes a Ballantyne Hotel tea party oh so grown up!  This April the chefs are raising the bar, featuring tea in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Tea from Wednesday through Saturday, April 20 – 23, 1-5 p.m. The culinary team has consulted with Buckingham Palace chefs to present Her Majesty’s favorites with the option to add a Champagne Royale for $8 or Pimm’s Cocktail (Queen Elizabeth’s beverage of choice) for $10. The cost is $36 for adults and $18 for junior patrons (excluding tax & gratuity). Reservations are required at 704-248-4100. Gallery Restaurant - Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28277 704-248-4000 www.theballantynehotel.comGallery Restaurant 704-248-4100,  www.gallery-restaurant.com

 logo_raff_medNow Until April 28, 2016 | Make Your Rescue Dog A Star     Attention animal lovers! Raffaldini Vineyards is searching for a living rescue dog to feature on the label of its red wine, Pino Vino VIII. This is the eighth release of Pino Vino, and like the previous vintages of Pino Vino, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Pino Vino VIII wine will be donated to local animal rescue organizations in support of all rescue animals.   “Our goal for this competition is to raise awareness for rescue pets and provide them with the compassion that all animals deserve,” said Owner and Winemaker Jay Raffaldini. “We are touched by the unconditional support Pino Vino participants havepvvii shown for animals in need.”   Raffaldini Vineyards is accepting submissions of rescue dogs until April 28, 2016. The winning rescue dog will be revealed at a special unveiling ceremony at 1pm on Saturday, June 18.  Entries can be sent to pinovino@raffaldini.com. Please include your name, contact information, your living dog’s name, a digital photo of your rescue dog, and their rescue story in 50 words or less. The Pino Vino VIII winner will be notified on May 8. Every sip supports local animal shelters! Purchase a bottle of Pino Vino VII and a portion of the proceeds directly support local animal organizations.                    The 2015 Pino Vino VII rescue dog ambassador is a French Bulldog named Mac, a puppy mill survivor currently working alongside his owner as a spokes-dog for ending animal cruelty and puppy mills.  Every sip supports local animal shelters! You may still purchase a bottle of Pino Vino VII  at the Raffaldini website.                                    About Raffaldini Vineyards: One of Wine Business Monthly’s Top Ten Hot Small Brands in North America, family-owned Raffaldini Vineyards is known as “Chianti in the Carolinas,” producing Central and Southern Italian varietals such as Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and, the food writer’s personal favorite, Montepulciano. This year, the Raffaldini Montepulciano Riserva was named “Best in Class” at the California Grand Harvest Awards and San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest domestic wine competition in the United States. Raffaldini hosts public and private events throughout the year. Visit the web site, www.raffaldini.com, call 336.835.9463 or email info@raffaldini.com for more information.

 

Sugar-Shock-e1458847944119-1024x766Save the date: Monday May 16 | Sugar Shock  Ever Crave dessert for dinner?  Here is your chance! Join some of Charlotte’s best pastry chefs for a 6 course tasting of unforgettable desserts! The evening will begin with light hors d’oeuvres and each course will have a beverage pairing, featuring Old North Sodas, Topo Vodka, Pure Intentions Coffee, and wine. Take your sweet tooth to The 658 Center, 3646 Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205; 7:00 – 9:00 (Light appetizers served from 6:30 – 7:00)
Tickets are $65.00   FOR TICKETS  Featured chefs include: Jossie Perlmutter, Sweet Affairs and The Asbury; Alyssa Gorelick, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen; Jason Lemon, Global; Samantha Ward, The Fig Tree Restaurant; Miranda Brown, 300 East;  Cara Jorgensen, Gâteau Baking Company; Sam Dotse, Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth.       All proceeds from the evening will go towards the Project 658 Culinary School and Community Feeding Project. We encourage you to bring a seasonal clothing donation for the Project 658 free clothing store, which provides essentials to members of the community in need.   

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Love sharing these Nibbles and Sips – My April Cooking Classes Calendar will be out in just a few days, for info directly to your inbox, subscribe to this blog on my home page.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of whats’s coming your way; Save the date and make your reservation now by emailing me at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com

May 15,  1-4 pm | A Taste of Honey On The Farm Cooking Class with Robin and Jeff Knight of Dancing Bees Honey in Monroe, NC.  Nothing sweeter than the taste of local honey! Robin and Jeff will show you how their bees do their thing and the will cook with this local liquid gold. Cost $85 per person – Farm tour plus 5  hands on courses with wine pairings. Honey and lots of other sweet things from Dancing Bee will be for sale as well. Email me and make your reservations now!

 

 

Kindred’s in Davidson NC Garners James Beard Accolades

JBF_AWARDS_MEDALLION-BLOGOn Wednesday February 17, 2016 The James Beard Foundation announced  its list of Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for the 26th annual James Beard Foundation Awards. Selected from more than 20,000 online entries, the prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations in ten different regions across the United States, to the nation’s top wine & spirits professionals, best new restaurants, rising star chefs, pastry chefs and bakers.

For the uninitiated, a James Beard Award is  the culinary equivalent to an Academy Award, a Grammy, and a Tony all rolled up into one. Its the Superbowl ring for chefs, bartenders, restaurants and cookbooks – the proverbial  gold seal of approval.

Carolina Chefs are on the World’s Radar

We are most fortunate across the Carolinas in general, and in the Charlotte area in particular, to have many chefs and restaurants worthy of award-winning consideration  –  guys and gals who love what they do and it shows. Chefs who turn out top notch fare day in and day out, support local farms and producers with the honor and respect they deserve; and treat clientele as they would friends and family.

I consider myself fortunate to be among those  who have the pleasure of telling the story of many of these chefs on a daily basis.  Sharing their talent in print, on the radio and on television; all the while posting social media chronicles of nearly each and every delicious bite!

This year, I am incredibly proud to see confirmation that the world is watching, as is evidenced by the fact that so many North and South Carolina chefs and restaurants appear on the list of 2016 James Beard Award nominees.

Among the great reasons for the ever wining and dining crowd from across the country to come to explore the culinary talents of North & South Carolina are Raleigh’s Death & Taxes, nominated in the Best New Restaurant category; the, oh so, talented (and my good friend) Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary NC nominated in the Outstanding Baker category; Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Dinner in Raleigh nominated for Outstanding Chef; and these 2016 nominees  for Best Chef in the SouthEastern Region (Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions):  Nate Allen of Knife and Fork, Spruce Pine, NC; Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh, Charleston, SC; Brian Canipelli of Cucina 24, Asheville, NC;  Scott Crawford of Standard Foods, Raleigh, NC;  Steven Devereaux Greene of Herons in the Umstead Hotel, Cary, NC;  Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer, Kinston, NC; Kevin Johnson of The Grocery, Charleston, SC;  and Matthew Kelly of Mateo, Durham, NC.

I am thrilled to see each of these chefs singled out from the thousands of entries, I am proud to say I know most of these chefs, have eaten in these restaurants and have written about many of them.  And, I am  particularly proud to also see my friend Joe Kindred of chef and owner of the popular Kindred’s in Davidson NC also among the list of Best Chef nominees.

The Calm Before the Storm: Joe & Katy Kindred at the bar before Kindred's was open to the public

The Calm Before the Storm: Joe & Katy Kindred at the bar while Kindred’s was still under construction

You may remember an article I wrote for Charlotte Living Magazine shortly after the much anticipated Kindred’s opened for business.

Well, maybe you don’t remember – my article came out the same week (in fact the same day) as Bon Appetit magazine published and named Kindred’s one of 2015 Best New Restaurants. As you can imagine, my article was a  bit overshadowed; but that’s okay, it was for good reason and  I felt in good literary company.

My feature on Kindred’s is still up online on the Charlotte Living website – I’d be pleased if you would read it by using the link at the end of this post.

Then as he does now, Joe credits his wife Katy and his talented staff as the forces behind all the accolades. He is right – it takes a team; but every team has a leader who sets the pace. the tone and the positive sense of spirit.

Kindred's Milk Bread is one of the dishes that sparked the attention of Bon Appetit magazine...and with good reason!

Kindred’s Milk Bread is one of the dishes that sparked the attention of Bon Appetit magazine…and with good reason!

Being a chef, a great chef or even a good chef, is hard work – any award or accolade is a fabulous but fleeting moment in the day to day life of a leader who must still inspire the team, honor the farmer, shop the market, write the menus and keep up the rhythm to cook from his heart, and please customers every day with the same hustle he or she had from the start.

Joe Kindred is that guy.

When I visited Kindred’s while the restaurant  was still under construction, Joe took me into Kindred’s kitchen, showed me around and introduced me to each and every chef on the line. He shared what their individual specialty and background was and how they came to be a part of his culinary  team and how they had and would contribute to the whole.

Its that kind of spirit and willingness to share the spotlight that makes a good chef, a great chef. In a Facebook post after the nominees were announced, Joe shared the limelight once again, saying…

“Thanks for all the shout outs and support yesterday. I (heart) y’all. Although I am beyond grateful for the recognition, let’s tell it like it is. I don’t cook your food, our kitchen team does. Sure I lead them but they’re the ones that are executing day in day out on a high-level, so this is for them. And if it wasn’t for the brilliantly creative and hospitable people like my wife Katy, Blake Pope, Justin Burke-Samson  and our crazy good service team you would be being served food, by me, in a poorly lit gray box, listening to my bad music, and believe me it wouldn’t be nearly as magical as it is at Kindred Restaurant. All of us chefs are kidding ourselves if we think for a second we would get any recognition if it wasn’t for the people that set the stage for us. They are the difference makers.”

As are you Joe Kindred, as are you. Thanks for letting all of us come along for the ride! Cheers!

 

summer 2015 CLM coverIf you haven’t had the opportunity to eat at Kindred’s yet, you must; but first read the piece I wrote just after they opened in the Summer 2015 Charlotte Living issue.    Kindred: Crafting Culinary Experiences to Soothe Your Soul  While the seasonal featured menus may be different, all the love and attention they put into what they do still applies.

It’ll whet your palate for more and you won’t be able to wait to make a reservation! Kindred’s is located at 131 North Main Street in Davidson Nc. Kindred Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

heidi head shot 1 -But that’s not all,

In addition to handing out awards, the James Beard Foundation also promotes chefs across the country as they cook at series of dinners promoting their local cuisine. In 2016 two teams of talented Charlotte chefs will participate in two separate James Beard Dinners.

The first, a group of five invited to fly up to New York and cook at the James Beard House. Four tremendously talented chefs and one craft cocktail driven mixologist will represent the Queen City at the Beard House in March. They are: Executive Chef Blake Hartwick – Bonterra Dining & Wine Room 
Executive Chef & Owner Paul Verica – Heritage Food & Drink       Executive Chef Chris Coleman – The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel
Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd – 300 East & Heritage Food & Drink and Mixologist Bob Peters – The Punch Room in the Charlotte Ritz Carlton Hotel. 

The group is going to hold a Preview Dinner of what they will be cooking in New York at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room on Feb 28. The dinner is already sold out, however you can live vicariously through me that night as I will be in the kitchen taking photos and at the bar sampling each and every dish (as well as the cocktails Bob mixes up with NC own organic TOPO spirits) and posting live on Facebook and Twitter with each and every bite!

But wait, there’s more….

CCT logo_40On March 23, 2016  6:30-10 pm The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour is back for the second year in a row at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, located at 1829 Cleveland Ave. in Charlotte!  Five more of Charlotte’s bright and brilliant chefs will cook their way through a menu of amazing food & wine pairings.  Proceeds from the dinner benefit the James Beard Foundation.

Your host this night is chef Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining & Wine Room and he will be joined in the kitchen by Chef Joe Kindred of Kindred Restaurant, Davidson, NC; Chef Bryan Skelding (visiting chef from) The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Spring, WV; Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink, Waxhaw, NC;  Chef Rocco Whalen, Fahrenheit, Charlotte, NC (and of Fahernheit & Rosie and Rocco’s both in Cleveland, Ohio); Charlotte, NC and Pastry Chef Jason Lemon of Bonterra Dining &  Wine Room

Tickets for this March 23 dinner are still available, but going fast! I’ll be there dining & wining & tweeting, posting it all – but instead of just reading about it, why don’t you just come and join me?

I’ve posted the menu below to tempt you… use the caption to my logo as the link to make your reservation and order tickets or call the number listed below. Hope to see you there!

2016 Charlotte James Beard Celebrity Chef Dinner


Passed hors d’oeuvres:
Joe Kindred : North Carolina Shrimp Rolls on Milk Bread ( Yes THAT milk bread)

Bryan Skelding: Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon “Old Fashioned”, Bourbon Cured, Orange Confit, Luxardo Cherry

Jason Lemon: Ashe County Cheddar Gougeres , Lusty Monk Mustard, Fines Herbs

Blake Hartwick: Cold Water Creek Griddle Cakes, NC Ostera Caviar, Benne Seed Oil Ice Cream, Pickled Ramps

Paul Verica: Green Garlic Panna Cotta, Shaved Veggies, Petite Greens and Flowers

Rocco Whalen: Rare Beef Roll, Greens, Sprouts, Miso, Apple Syrup

Entree :
Joe Kindred: Flounder Crudo, Sea Urchin, Carrot, Trout Caviar

Bryan Skedling: Smoked Heritage Farms Pork Loin, Ham Hock Fritter, Boudin Noir, Bloody Butcher Grits, Fried Spoonbread, Ramp Aioli, Bacon Jus

Blake Hartwick: Pinot Braised Chicken Thighs, BBQ Cauliflower, Sweet Potato Nage, Foie Gras Stuffed Morel Mushrooms, Fried Chicken Skins

Paul Verica: Brasstown Beef Tenderloin, NC shrimp, Root Veggies, Spinach, Demi

Rocco Whalen: Chilled Thai Cucumber Soup “Raita”, Served with Crispy 27 Vegetable Samosas

Dessert:
Jason Lemon: Marcona Almond Clafoutis, Honey Spelt Crust, Blond Chocolate Cremeux. Bee Pollen, Cacao Nibs

Tickets for the March 23 dinner are  $150 per person, all inclusive (includes wine pairings & gratuity)
6:30pm cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres; 7:00 pm dinner
For reservations use the link listed above or please call 704.334.6944 #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

Winter Farmers’ Market Cooking Class

Fresh From the Winter MarketCooking ClassAlready lots to celebrate this month and its just the second week of February!

Between the Superbowl Bowl, the Chinese New Year and Valentines Day  we’ve had a lot of occasions to cook and gather with friends in the kitchen.

Now, here’s is one more  – a fun hands on  At Home With Heidi cooking class this Thursday evening Feb 11, 2016.

The evening starts at 6:30 pm.

Our local farms grow and produce product all year long and this past weekend I had a the pleasure of shopping at three local markets – its my very favorite Saturday morning activity!  I found delicious local product, produce and proteins at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, The Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Road and the Atherton Mill and Market and will pick up a few more freshly harvested items and locally produced product this week as I prepare for this fun hands on cooking class on Thursday night. Look for my recipes to feature local lamb, chicken, pork, cheese, milk, honey, eggs, smoked trout, lettuce and microgreens, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and more – wow

I love teaching and with this casual, comfortable hands-on format, I can demonstrate technique and talk about the product and then you can get in on all the slicing and dicing, too!

In the end, we’ll put it all together for four courses of Farm to Fork fare for all of us to enjoy.

Count on enjoying tasting pours of wine pairings with each course ad going home with a complete packet of recipes and wine notes plus coupons to several of my favorite food-centric spots in town. Its always a blast and the only thing missing in this week’s class right now is You!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Cost is $75 per person.  Call your friends and plan a fun night out. Make your reservations my emailing me at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com and I’ll send you all the details.  Your advance payment confirms your spot in class. Looking forward to having you join us! Cheers!

 

Superbowl 50: The Party of the Year!

Heidi's football shotAsk anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you  – even though I can dress the part – as evidenced in the photo here, I really don’t know much about the game of football. That said  I do know how to throw  party and I love a theme! This year with the Carolina Panthers in the Superbowl its time for the party of the year!

If you live in or around Charlotte, the Carolina’s Panther themed stuff is not a hard find, particularly this week. Jerseys, blankets, flags and all sort of ways Panther fans can strut their stuff and express their pride in the home team is to be found on nearly every street corner in town. For even more of a selections local fans can check out the team store at the stadium; and those out of town can place orders online.

What to serve to your arm chair quarterbacks is always a dilemma, but it shouldn’t be – the formula here is easy: keep it simple, filling and good. Wings, BBQ, a sandwich platter or always good-tos, but today I think I’ve got something even better…

The classic recipe for Chicken pot pie is a crowd pleaser and one that transforms beautifully into stunning Superbowl fare ( particularly when its served with the “out of the pie pan and into the helmet” approach I shared on the video that will accompany this  post.

On Feb 3 at 11 am I’ll prepare the recipe below from start to presentation on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, but thought those of you who subscribe to my blog might want the recipe ahead of my broadcast.  You can make it your own by creating a pork, beef, seafood or veggie version of the same.

video graphic

 

Later today I’ll update this post with photos and links to the video, and then will post it out to the public via social media – so you’ll want to check back for the rest of the story, but for now – here’s what I’ll be cooking on WCNC’s Charlotte Today this morning, Tune it at 11 am!

 

 

Perfect Chicken (pork, beef, seafood or veggie) Pot Pie

-a classic recipe you can put your own spin on and have crowd pleasing results every time…

4 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons organic flour

2 1/2 cups rich chicken beef or vegetable broth (make the broth rich by taking 5 cups of broth + 2 carrots, a bay leaf and a small onion and reducing it with a slow simmer to one half the volume)

2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme leaves

Sea salt and Heidi’s pepper blend

1/2 cup organic or local heavy cream or half-and-half or whole milk

6 cups cooked chicken, beef, pork or seafood, sliced or shredded

1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, sautéed

2 cups  artichoke hearts from a can or jar, drained ( you may use marinated or unmarinated as you would like)

6 local or organic carrots, sliced

1 recipe for Vodka Pie Crust or 2 rounds of your favorite organic refrigerated pie crust (see below)

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour in a medium sized saucepan. Cook the “roux” until well blended. Gradually whisk in the rich broth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cream. Stir to blend well.

Add the chicken, mushrooms artichokes and carrots. Pour the filling into a buttered 13 x 9″ pan.   For the crust use strips of pie crust over the top of the casserole shaped into in a basket weave pattern. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated 400° oven.

Vodka Pie Crust

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp.  sugar
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds .

Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

 

 

 

 

Queens Feast Continues…

rest week logo

Charlotte Restaurant Week Winter 2016 Queens Feast

Now in its 8th year, Charlotte Restaurant Week, affectionately, officially and appropriately known as Queens Feast continues to be a restaurant  promotional phenomenon that over the years has captured the attention and appetites of thousands of diners across the Metropolitan Charlotte area.

Charlotte Restaurant Week has grown into a multi-county promotion in which numerous upscale restaurants will offer a prix fixe, three-course dinner at a cost of only $30  or $35 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

This special 10-day long pricing, substantially less than what a typical three-course meal would cost at any of the restaurants involved, doesn’t mean “dumbed down” food or less than fabulous service.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The premise here is to give potentially new patrons, who might not otherwise ever step in the door of some of these high-end establishments, a chance to try out the eats and the experience at an easy-on-the-pocket book price tag. At the same time the promotion adds value to the dining out experience for restaurant regulars. Truth is, the restaurant week promotion helps the dining establishments, too, bringing in a broader cliental base at a time of the year that is generally slow for the restaurant industry at large.

In Charlotte Queens Feast has become an event patrons plan for, gathering groups of friends, making reservations well in advance to get in at all their favorite spots. With the ten day stretch of the event, and this round with over 135 restaurants participating, there is a lot of eating to be done!

snow man as chefThis year, news of Charlotte’s Winter Queens Feast spread far and wide. So good was all the promo, in fact that even Snow Storm Jonas came into town to celebrate the kick-off weekend.

Like an unexpected 15-yard penalty on the first yard line,  Jonas came in for the evening and covered the city in snow and ice making it next to impossible for patrons to drive for reservations.

Many restaurants remained open that first day or two, serving walk in neighborhood traffic with limited hours, hashtagging on social media #WeAintAfraidOfNoSnow; but the truth of the matter is the storm did affect many reservations and disappointed lots of Queens Feast enthusiasts.

Many a regal repast

The great news now is that as we now approach the last official weekend of 2016 Winter Queens Feast,  many of the participating restaurants are hosting what author and speaker Jon Acuff would call a Do Over.

Perhaps in this case, we could more cleverly refer to  it, as a Royal Redux  (a term I wish I had thought of, but I didn’t. I must admit I stole from the talented PR team at Vivace Charlotte, one of the participating Charlotte Queens Feast restaurants).

“There is always such excitement about Queens Feast  among diners,” said Vivace Charlotte’s Executive Chef Mike Suppa. “The icy conditions during the event’s first weekend were disappointing to a lot of people. We want to extend the concept – and the savings. We’re proud of the menu we developed for the occasion and are ready to wow our regulars and newcomers.” 

“In the restaurant business, you get very good at being flexible and innovative,” he added. “Adding another weekend was a no-brainer for us.” 

No matter what you call it – an extended schedule, a Do Over or a Royal Redux, the fact is that Charlotte area diners can look for many of the  Queens Feast restaurants to extend the 3 for $30 or $35 offer into the first week of February.

cute place settingThat’s right, the semi-annual Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week continues as originally scheduled through January 31 with 135 participating restaurants in 8 counties offering prix fixe menus of three courses or more at dinner for $30 or $35 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

And now, dozens of restaurants are also extending their Queen’s Feast menu offers for varying dates the following week to accommodate patrons whose dining plans were thwarted by last weekend’s winter storm 

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODHungry? You can make reservations for your choice of Queens Feast dinners directly from the Charlotte Restaurant Week website… if you haven’t done so already, take a moment to check it out, make a reservation or two and enjoy the last weekend of the Feast.  Then plan to enjoy the opportunity again at many of the participating restaurants as a part of  the Royal Redux !  

Details on individual restaurant extension dates for the following week are also available in the Charlotte Restaurant Week website, or if you still have questions, simply call your favorite restaurant and just ask. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Chefs give back for Soup on Sunday

Bowlfuls of good tastes served Sunday Jan 31 to benefit Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

soup-on-sunday-logo_50Soup does a body good… true. I’m a soup lover any time of the year, but particularly when cold climes embrace us,  I find soup is the best warm up around.  Soup is the perfect starter to whet our palates for a bigger meal to come and the perfect accompaniment to sandwich or salad for a simple but satisfying lunch or dinner. Possibly the original comfort food, a bowl or cup of hot soup warms our stomachs and soothes our souls.

That said, I’d be hard pressed to think of a more appropriate food to feature at a benefit designed to raise money for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Hospice professionals also soothe souls, providing comfort and care in times of physical and emotional pain and need. When no one else can offer a cure, the calm and caring nature of Hospice staff and trained volunteers enables patients with life threatening illnesses and their families to experience the end of life with dignity and grace, no matter the disease or the circumstances.  In addition, Hospice’s mission includes relieving suffering “and improving the quality and dignity of life through compassionate hospice care for those at the end of life, through palliative care for those with advanced illness and through community education.”

The annual Soup on Sunday event, is traditionally Hospice’s first fund-raising event of the New Year. This Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 marks the 17th year for the popular Charlotte event, which will take place from 11am to 2 pm in Central Piedmont Community College’s Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center, 425 North Kings Drive, at the corner of Kings Drive and Seventh Street.

From soup to nuts

General admission for Sunday’s event is $30 per person and includes food and beverages. If you want to Souper-Size that (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist), buy a ticket for the Soup Lovers’ Special which includes food, beverages and a beautiful handmade pottery soup bowl. Children ages 7-12 can enjoy the soup samplers from $10 and children 6 and under may attend and participate for free.

soup graphicDozens of different area restaurants, chefs, catering companies and three local culinary schools will participate offering sample-sized portions of soup.  Soup lovers who want to be in the know can find the entire list of Charlotte’s local participating culinarians at hpccr.org; but to share just a taste of things to come, chowda choices will range from Barrington’s Artichoke with Roasted Mushroom Soup (a stunning example of Chef Bruce Moffett’s soup karma) to the much loved Tomato Bisque from Fenwick’s; from the delicious New Orleans Seafood Gumbo from Gallery Restaurant to the oh so Southern Midwood Smokehouse’s Brunswick Stew; and from The Fig Tree’s classic Mock Turtle Soup to the local flavors of the Butternut Squash with Gorgonzola Bisque from the kitchens at 300 East, just to name a few. A complete listing of all the participating restaurants is at the end of this post – just you wait till you see who’s going to be there!

To round out the offerings my good friends from Great Harvest Bread Company will be there slicing as they have been every year and Nothing Bundt Cakes will have an assortment of little bites to tempt your sweet tooth and Bojangles will be on hand with their famous iced tea – the perfect pairing for any soup or stew!

The Soup’s a Simmerin’….

It’s a “don’t miss” culinary experience with all of the proceeds directly benefiting Hospice. The chefs or restaurant owners who contribute to the Soup on Sunday benefit  are there because they believe the work Hospice does is important to Charlotte’s well being. Many chefs have family members who have received care from a hospice organization see it as an opportunity to give back while helping to raise funds and awareness.

The helping hands of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region offer many services, including intermittent skilled nursing visits, 24-hour on-call emergency nursing, pain management and an in-home aide program that provides clients with assistance needed for many phases of personal care. Additionally, volunteers trained by Hospice are available on an as-needed basis for respite, companionship and emotional support.

For clients and their families, there are chaplain services and a medical social work staff. An expressive arts therapy program, available to children and adults, provides a safe and structured setting in which to explore and appropriately express thoughts and feelings about grief and loss.

Hospice’s Kids Path offers specialized health care and supportive services for families coping with a seriously ill child. Even after a client’s passing, Hospice continues to provide grief support as needed for family and loved ones, a service also extended to the community at large.

For more information about Soup on Sunday in particular and Hospice fund-raising and special events, in general call 704-335-3524. For details about Hospice’s  programs or volunteer opportunities, call 704-375-0100.

pointed fingerIn the meantime, if I’ve whet your palate soup, tickets for the 2016 Soup on Sunday event may be purchased online at hpccr.org/shop-hpccr.html; at the door or in advance by phone at 704-335-4312

As of Jan 28, 2016, Here is an update on the list of all the restaurants participating and what the Soup they will be serving on Sunday..yum! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

300 East – Butternut Squash w/Gorgonzola
Barrington’s – Artichoke w/Roasted Mushrooms
Beverly’s Gourmet Foods – Harvest Squash Soup w/ Pistou (vegan & gluten free)
Brick Top’s – Lobster Bisque
Brixx Wood Fired Pizza – TBD
Chuy’s Tex Mex – Chicken
Tortilla
Community Culinary School of Charlotte – Exotic Mushroom & Wild Rice
CPCC – Many Bean w/ Ham
CPCC – Corn Tortilla
eeZ Fusion Sushi – Shoyu Ramen w/Smoked Pork Belly
Dogwood Southern Table / Dresslers – Roasted Cauliflower & Chorizo Chowder
Fenwick’s – Tomato Bisque

Foxcroft Wine Co. – Tuscan White Bean and Sausage
Gallery Restaurant @ Ballantyne Hotel – New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

Global – Spice Coconut Sweet Potato
Good Food on Montfort – Curried Chickpea
Heart & Soul Personal Chef Service – Salmon and Sweet Potato Chowder

Johnson & Wales University – Shrimp Bisque
La Tea Da’s – Southern Veggie Chowder (sweet potato, collards, mixed winter veggies & ancient grains)
Mert’s Heart & Soul – Salmon Chowder
Midwood Smokehouse – Brunswick Stew
Newk’s – Lobster & Crab Bisque
Nolan Kitchen – Caramelized Onion & Parmesan w/Braised Short Rib Tortellini

Red Rocks Café & Bakery – She Crab Soup
Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern – Texas Sirloin Chili
Sante’ – Roasted Butternut Squash

St. Mark’s Soup Kitchen, Chef Naomi Knox – Potato Cheddar
The Art Institute of Charlotte – Venison Stew w/Lime Cream Chives
The Art Institute of Charlotte – Succotash Chowder w/Pork Belly & Cilantro

The Fig Tree – Mock Turtle Soup
The Liberty – Roasted Tomato
Village Tavern – Potato Leek
Vivace – Smoked Chicken w/Roasted Tomatoes, Escarole, & Mini White Bean Ravioli

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

 

Tickets for the 2016 Soup on Sunday event may be purchased in advance online at hpccr.org/shop-hpccr.html; at the door on Sunday, or in advance by phone at 704-335-4312

Planning The Best SuperBowl Party Ever

You Better Believe It!… The Carolina Panthers are Superbowl bound!

Now that we’ve all had a day to let reality sink in  that our Carolina Panthers are going to  Superbowl 50; those of us here at home will want to cheer on our home team  by celebrating in a big way!

superbowl party cooking class (2)
Despite my ” All Pro” looks of the photo here (the pink shoes make the uniform, don’t you think?), I really don’t know much about the game of football; but I do know how to throw one heck of a Superbowl Party, and I’ll be sharing all my tips and tricks and lots  recipes featuring all local produce, proteins and product at my January 31 On The Farm Cooking Class at Windcrest Farms in Monroe NC.

I started offering On The Farm cooking classes several years ago – teaching occasional classes at a half dozen plus Charlotte area farms. These classes are great fun and will really make you stop and think about the food you eat and where it comes from, and how it is grown. One talk with a local farmer and you’ll look at the phase, “You are what you eat, in a whole new way.”

windcrest LogoFor this class our hosts are organic farmers, Mary Roberts and her husband Ray. Mary  will kick off the class with a farm tour of her organic greenhouses, sharing her philosophy of organic farming and telling the story of how she went from corporate American back to the land.  

After the tour,  we’ll settle in to a cute makeshift kitchen and we will cook (eat and enjoy) 4-5 different all local Superbowl specialties using Mary’s fresh picked produce as well as proteins, produce and product from several other local farmers and producers –  all of which  will set your party apart. 

The class fee includes beverage pairings, recipe packets, farm tour and class as well as coupons to the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd and Pour Olive on East Blvd and special Superbowl surprises for all class participants.

I do hope you’ll join in all the fun! The “Plan Your Superbowl Party” Cooking Class is Sunday Jan 31,2016 from 1-4 pm. Cost is $85 per person.

Just email me – Heidi Billotto – at HLNC@Carolina.rr.com  to make your reservation and to get on my email newsletter list where you will recieve anemail every other week or so with updates on my cooking classes and culinary appearances. I’ll respond to your email immediately and we’ll get you signed up for class and the email newsletter list – your payment by cash or check will confirm your cooking class reservation.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODLooking forward to seeing you soon – if not on Sunday then at one of my upcoming February or March cooking classes – this list will be out in an email  and up in a blog post this week. 

Cheers!

Heidi 

Hurry, Hurry…Read All About It

Lots to read about in the culinary sections in both the Fall and Winter issues of Charlotte Living Magazine – ICYMI ( In Case You Missed It), today I wanted to share links to my recent culinary, giving back , art and travel articles 

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODIn between cooking classes and catering, articles and recipes on HeidiBillottoFood.com and posts on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, I write four times a year for a fabulous publication in Charlotte: Charlotte Living Magazine.
These perfectly bound glossy pages pair my words with wonderful photos and give me a chance to write in more detail about many of my favorite people and places.
You can pick up a copy of Charlotte Living Magazine at lots of places around Charlotte, including The Savory Spice Shop in Southend, EarthFare, Whole Foods, and The Atherton Mill Farmers’ Market, just to mention a few; or you can read it online in it’s flipbook format at CharlotteLivingMagazine.com.
The Food and Entertaining section online offers links to archived articles I have written over the past year on Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, The Fig Tree Restaurant, Bonterra Dining and Wine RoomPassion 8 Restaurant, Chef Bruce Moffett’s Trio of Restaurants: Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford and Stagioni , a piece about three ever favorites: The Heirloom, The Asbury and Fahrenheit Clt and more.
While a portion of the content in these archived articles may be dated by seasonal references,  the basic information is still current and it is important to note, that these restaurants continue to be places to put on your dining out radar.
over shot for fall recipesOn these pages you’ll also find stories about local product such as Charlotte’s own Cannizzaro Sauces.read more here…. and  a fun story on a new beverage category hitting bottle shops and grocery stores all over the southeast: Islander Ginger Beer.
What makes it new, is this is Alcoholic Ginger Beer and what makes is pertinent to you and Charlotte is that this Ginger Beer has North Carolina roots!
I won’t print any spoilers here – just…read more here… and then I know you’ll head out to buy a four pack for your next batch of Moscow Mules, Mimosas, or perhaps a Dark and Stormy or two. Islanders are available in Harris Teeter’s across the state and locally in Total Wine and Earthfare too.
2015 Fall issue of Charlotte Living
In the Fall 2015 issue we put an incredible dessert by Chef Ben Kallenbach, executive pastry chef at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge on the cover and the cover story is about the hotel’s Gallery Restaurant and the talent Chef David Moore and his team bring to the table. Read more
This fall issue also includes a Three Day Weekend article all about Winston-Salem, the gate way to the North Carolina wine country and home to a host of great places to stay, eat and explore, such as Graze Restaurant, Atelier On Trade, Meridian Restaurant and more …Read More
2016 Winter issue of Charlotte Living
The culinary section in the Winter 2016 issue  is filled with places and products  you simply must try sooner than later if you haven’t already! Pick up an issue as you’ll want to devour each and every page. This issue is on newstands now, but until you have the issue in hand, I’ll tease you with a taste and a link back to my featured stories:
On Chef Tom Condron and his modern take on French cuisine at Lumiere French Kitchen in Charlotte’s Myers Park neighborhood… Read More

On Chef Tim Groody and his farm to The Fork! fare in Cornelius… Read More…in addition to nightly dinners, be sure to check out Fork’s Sunday brunch, too!

elizabeth ave Charlotte Living story heidi with chefsOn the all new Elizabeth Ave corridor in Charlotte, The Queen City’s first streetcar in 77 years  and the chefs ( Luca Annunziata of Passion 8, Paul Ketterhagen of Carpe Diem, Marc Jacksina of Earls Grocery, Trey Wilson of Customshop, Jose Garcia of 1900 Mexican Grille and Tequila Bar and Sun Jae Kim of Elizabeth Creamery) that are making this two block stretch Charlotte’s newest restaurant row… Read More… A big shout out to all of these chefs who came to help a writer out when I called them on a cold and rainy November Monday to come out for a photo at one of the Elizabeth Ave street signs – they all happily obliged and I couldn’t have been more thrilled – here is one of the shots I jumped in for fun just before Jose got there!

And speaking of Charlotte chefs, hope you will enjoy reading a recap I put together on a great giving back effort coordinated by the Charlotte-based Piedmont Culinary Guild and lead by chefs, farmers and people who cared  when our neighbors in South Carolina were affected by the October 2015 flooding. They all pitched in, not for publicity, but because it was the right thing to do, but I wanted to give them a little love and tell the story…Read More

Looking for a great way to Eat Local at home? Don’t miss the detes on my new favorite with Take and Bake product: frozen scones from Charlotte’s own The Scone Shop ( and YES, there is a package in my freezer, even as I type this – so you now I practice what I preach)… Read More

Food is art they say and it was my pleasure in this issue to write about the very talented Loren DiBenedetto, a Charlotte artists who paints the food you love to eat ( You’ll see when you…Read more… that Loren also paints detailed pet portraits, so if you have four legged friends, you’d like have captured on canvas, you might want to reach out to Loren for details. We own 6 of Loren’s charming paints ( 4 cats, a pear and a study of figs) and we love them every one.

blossom shop logoFinally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share one link for an advertisement in this Winter issue – its the back inside cover ad for The Blossom Shop. The Blossom Shop is owned my my dear friends and family by marriage Ted Todd and Debby Sacra. It’s been my go-to florist for years ( even before I married Tom and info the family) and I can’t say enough good things about the work they do – always making every special event in life even more memorable.  Call them, you’ll be thrilled you did.

Heidi Billotto 2008

To see The Blossom Shop ad now, follow this link – which will take you to the  online flipbook, then flip over to page 83. Here you’ll see a wedding photo of my my niece and new nephew from their September 2015 nuptials. As you will see, the bride and groom, Kendel and Chad Parks, were dazzling and the flowers were stunning!

Cheers to photographer Critsey Rowe for capturing it all on film and to the talented staff at Charlotte living for transforming it all into the best ad ever!

Time To Get Cooking – Heidi’s January Schedule of Hands-On Cooking Classes

Jan 2016 cooking classesIt’s time to get cooking with Heidi Billotto’s all new At Home With Heidi and On The Farm January Cooking Classes

While life has been busy over the past few months catering for many of you and teaching private cooking classes for many others, I’m ready to get back to my regular schedule of classes.

Its important to me to use the best and freshest product in these classes, so I cook with all local produce, proteins and products in each and every class and on the rare occasion that I can’t find what I need from farmers or producers locally, I buy organic from local supermarkets.
I invite you to join in on the fun and register for any one of these hands-on classes listed below simply by emailing me at HLNC@Carolina.rr.com to make your advance reservation. Unless otherwise noted all of these classes at At Home WIth Heidi and take place in my home kitchen. Once you have confirmed your reservation, I will send you directions and any other details you may need to know.
Remember, there are never any hard and fast rules at my classes – if you would rather just watch, sit back, eat and drink and enjoy instead of trying your hand, that’s fine too – just come and have fun!   Looking forward to cooking up a storm with you real soon!
beer class

If my regularly scheduled class times don’t suit; but a topic is of interest or you have a special occasion coming up or a group of friends you’d like to entertain,  then perhaps you’d like to plan a private cooking class or team building event all your own!

 I have several groups doing just that I am happy to accommodate you all – just give me a shout and we’ll get a date and topic for YOUR class on the calendar.
wine glassesA private class at your home kitchen or in mine is a fabulous way to entertain friends, family, celebrate birthdays or get to know your co-workers better – plus we have a blast – so you’ll be the host or hostess with the mostess for putting it all together!
Check out this  list of  upcoming classes  and make your reservation today… I can’t wait to get cooking!

Sat. Jan 16 – 12:30-3pm – Gluten Free Gourmet – Cost $75 per person

With so many really great gluten-free ingredients in the marketplace now (many of the ones I feature are locally produced), there is no reason you can’t put together a really tasty glutenfree meal with all the things you love. Say yes to pizza, baked goods, stuffing for braised meats and more. In this class, a complete gourmet gluten-free meal for all – cheers! To register, email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com
spices

Wed. Jan 20 – 6:30-9 pm – Cooking With Winter Herbs and Spices – Cost $75 per person

Let the herb garden rest and winter over, for this class I’ll shop the spice tins at Savory Spice Shop in Southend and bring back all my favorite blends of herbs, spices and seasoned powders. Together well prepare an entire meal from appetizer to dessert. To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com

Sat. Jan 23 – 1-4 pm – Fresh from the Winter Market – Cost $75 per person

Who says you can’t shop local in the Winter months, local farms produce all year round and this day I’ll shop 3 or 4 favorite markets in the morning – Matthews, Waxhaw, Atherton and Yorkmont and come back to cook with you that afternoon. we’ll put together a great seasonal meal with all of our farmers’ market finds. To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com
Heidi cooking with Pour olive oil

Tues. Jan 26 – 6:30-9 pm – The Art of Cooking with Oil – Cost $75 per person

I simply loves all the flavors you find in all of the current harvest selections from Pour Olive, an artisan olive oil boutique on East Blvd. and excited that we in Charlotte can now get the same lovely olive oil we enjoyed so much on our Italian vacation with Nada Vergili from Nada’s Italy ( offices on East Blvd as well). For this class, I’l pick up a selection of nut, seed, and olive oils as well as some fabulous artisan Balsamic vinegars and we’ll cook 4-5 dishes (apps, entrees and sides) using them all.  To register email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com

Heidi's football shot

Sun, Jan 31 – 1-4 pm – On the Farm at Windcrest Certified Organic Farms for a Superbowl Feast – Cost  $85 per person

Who doesn’t love all the great game date eats Superbowl Sunday brings? In this class we’ll start with a farm tour of the Windcrest Certified Organic Greenhouses to see how its done; and then cook with lots of fresh from the farm to make a championship spread of all local fare your superbowl viewing guests are going to love. What Mary Roberts doesn’t grow on the farm, I’ll supplement with Saturday morning farmers’ market buys the day before. Score! To register, email Heidi at HLNC@carolina.rr.com  

Super Foods and Farmers’ Markets are the Recipe for a Healthy, Happy New Year


cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgNothing sacred about the beginning of the new year, the beginning of a new month or a new week – you can start eating healthier anytime you want. Give yourself a break and remember that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing deal, just do it a meal at a time, adding fresh and local ingredients as you can. Use a few of the tricks I’ve shared here to bring in a few super foods for more protein, less fat and lots of antioxidents, vitamins and minerals. Just do it and you and your family will be eating healthier  in no time.

Step one to eating healthier – find and farmers’ market near you

Its winter, but that doesn’t mean that local farms shut down till spring. On the contrary, winter crops abound and in many areas, like my hometown of Charlotte NC, local farmers markets go on a winter schedule but they are still open each an every Saturday morning and often during the week.  Shop on a Saturday and see how much of your regular shopping list you can get at the market – then supplement with missing items from the supermarket making organic choices when and where you can.

In Charlotte, I’ll see you shopping for vegetables, herbs, beef, chicken, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese and bread at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, The Atherton Mill and Market, The Waxhaw Farmers’ Market and the Yorkmont Road Regional Farmers’ Market!

Once you’ve bought everything you can at the market, introduce a couple of these “Superfoods” for more protein and less fat in your everyday diet.

Forget that “vintage” Chia Seed pet circa 1980chis pet – chia seeds aren’t just for indoor “gardening” anymore!

These are not your momma’s chia seeds. Now we realize that this ancient superfood is the next new thing. The consumption of Chia seeds boosts energy and increases stamina. They are high in protein, fiber and amino acids, and not only are they naturally gluten/grain free, but they are also rich in antioxidants and essential Omega 3 fatty acids.

You can also use Chia seeds as a real diet aid.  Chia seeds absorb about 12 times their weight in water, so a chia seed beverage can help to make you feel full and stave off the craving to snack between meals.

I won’t lie to you, in their liquid form Chia seeds tend to have a rather slimmy texture; and because of that, a beverage may not be the best Chia seed recipe for everyone. But baked you won’t even know they are there and your body can still revel in all the benefits. Use them in place of or in addition to eggs or as a supplement to almost anything you make from waffles and pancakes to salad dressings and energy drinks.

Chia Seed Whole Wheat Waffles

1 Coldwater Creek Farm locally grown and milled Whole Wheat Flour ( available at the Atherton Mill and Market in Charlotte on Sat Mornings or reach out to Donna and Brad via Facebook or Twitter)

¾ cup High Rock Farm chestnut Flour (HighRockFarm.com)

1 Tbsp. Baking Powder

1 Tbsp. organic Sugar

Pinch of Salt

1½ cup local or organic Milk

2 Chia “Eggs” (recipe below)

3 Tbsp. melted butter

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturers directions.  Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Add remaining wet ingredients to mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.  Pour waffle dough onto waffle iron and bake according to manufacturers instructions.  Serve with your favorite sweet or savory waffle toppings

To make one chia “egg”, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 30 minutes until a gel forms. This is ONE chia egg.

Super Food, Super Grain

From seeds to grain. Now that the Quinoa trend has caught on and is widely embraced, its time  to mix  in some other ancient grains into your diet. Enter Hemp and Amaranth.

Hemp seeds are considered to be a perfect superfood as they are a complete protein. Eating raw hemp is touted to have positive affect with many health benefits including depression or anxiety; help with weight loss; providing increased and sustained energy; helps to insure a rapid recovery from disease or injury; lowers cholesterol and blood pressure; reduces inflammation and improvement circulation. Plus it is a grain high in protein.

Hemp seeds are a more digestible protein than meat, whole eggs, cheese or cow’s milk; they are Rich in Vitamin E and they add a sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture for those unable to tolerate nuts, gluten, lactose or sugar. Interestingly there are no known allergies to hemp foods, so toss them on or in just about anything you’d like to add a little crunch and a lot of super health benefits.

Peanut Butter Protein Balls

1 cup rolled organic oats

dash sea salt

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates

2 Tbsp fresh made organic peanut butter

3 Tbsp organic Hemp seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon

Combine oats and salt in food processor. Process until finely ground.  Add remaining ingredients and process until blended. Add a few drops of water, if needed, to form balls.  If you would like, fold in 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips. Shape the mix into balls, roll in additional hemp seeds,  toasted coconut or finely ground nuts if you would like and enjoy!

 

Amaranth may be consumed as a grain or a vegetable (it is often used as a microgreen as well). It can be popped like corn, cooked similar to rice or pasta, or ground to flour. The amaranth grain is cooked like rice but has 15x the iron of rice and nearly twice the protein. Cup for cup it also offers more protein than oats as well. It’s low in carbs but high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. use it in this next recipe as you would bulgur wheat.

“Taboulied” Amaranth

1½ cups water or broth ( I like to keep it vegetarian and use water mixed with 1 Tbsp. tomato powder and 2 Tbsp powdered Herbs in Duxelle Seasoning, both from the Savory Spice Shop – my go to location is in Charlotte’s SouthEnd neighborhood at 2000 South Blvd. in the Atherton Mill and Market shopping area)

½ cup uncooked whole-grain amaranth

2 cups chopped local or organic cucumber

½ cup thinly sliced organic celery

¼ cup chopped organic fresh mint

¼ cup chopped fresh organic flat-leaf Italian parsley

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Zest of one lemon

Zest of one orange

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

sea salt and crushed red pepper to taste

½ cup cooked or canned organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained

1 cup local Uno Alla Volta or Bosky Acres feta cheese, crumbled

2 chopped local firm but ripe tomatoes ( in the winter, when local hot house tomatoes are gone till summer,  I turn to canned pomodorini tomatoes (These are available in Charlotte at Pasta & Provisions on Providence Road)

Bring 1 1/2 cups cold water and amaranth to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until water is almost absorbed While amaranth cooks, combine cucumber and all the remaining ingredients.

Place amaranth in a sieve or cheesecloth or coffee filter lined fine colander, and rinse under cold running water until room temperature; drain well, pressing with the back of a spoon. Add to cucumber mixture; toss to blend.

Are you Coo Coo for Coconut Milk?

All kinds of health benefits here – Selenium found in coconut milk is an antioxidant, which relieves arthritis symptoms and decreases the risk of joint inflammation.

Though coconut milk contains saturated fat, it can actually reduce cholesterol levels in comparison to butter and dairy based creams, so its the perfect falvorful substitute to use to make a “Whipped Topping” for your favorite desserts.

Coconut milk is a rich source of good-for-you magnesium, providing around 89 milligrams per cup. This miraculous mineral helps to calm the nerves, lessen the frequency of headaches and can help a body to maintain normal blood pressure. If you have sore muscles or have muscles that cramp a lot, the addition of magnesium to your diet can help to alleviate the problem.

Coconut milk  is also rich in fiber, which makes you feel full for a longer time, so used in moderation, in place of dairy full milk and cream and other milk substitutes coconut milk could  help to control weight gain as well.

For more great recipes using coconut milk and for the differences between coconut water and a variety of coconut milks on the market - watch this - Heidi Billotto Cooks with Coconut Milk as first seen on Charlotte Today July 2015

For more great recipes using coconut milk and for the differences between coconut water and a variety of coconut milks on the market – watch this – Heidi Billotto Cooks with Coconut Milk as first seen on Charlotte Today July 2015

For Dairy-free whipped cream:

1 (14 ounce) can full fat Thai Coconut Milk, chilled in the refrigerator overnight

1 Tbsp (or more to taste) coconut sugar or local honey, optional

Chill  mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes before making the coconut whipped cream.

When bowl is chilled, remove the thick and hardened coconut cream from the can and transfer to your mixing bowl, leaving any excess moisture/coconut water in the can.

Using a whisk attachment, beat on medium high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Scrape down the bowl. If adding sweetener, add coconut sugar or honey, then continue beating for another 2 minutes.

You can serve the whipped coconut cream immediately, or transfer to an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. It will harden up in the fridge. Just whisk for a few seconds before serving again.