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!

chefs breakfast hobnob undercurrents best

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. . 

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

5 Cool Places to Put on Your Dining Out Radar

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODTiz the time of the year for lists  and count downs. Today, I offer you my dear readers, a quick catch up on a blog post that never posted – originally presented as “Where to Eat Once the Thanksgiving Leftovers Are Gone” it is now  ” 5 Cool Places to Put On Your Dining Out Radar” this week, this weekend and into the new year.

I originally presented this list on my November  “Five Faves” Restaurant segment on Charlotte’s WCNC’s Charlotte Today  the day before Thanksgiving – but just in case you missed it; or in case you were elbow deep in apple pie fixin’s and couldn’t write anything down; or if perhaps you have just been waiting for me to get it all down  in writing…here are all the details.

On the list for this post … Two fine, fun and family friendly new spots to check out in Pizzeria Omaggio and Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India; and tasty Take and Bake suggestion in The Scone Shop; an old favorite in Fork Restaurant in Cornelius and a taste of Japanese food and drink from Yama Izakaya.

First in the line up for this segment is a new Indian restaurant in town, Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India.

Located in  Matthews Festival Shopping Center  at 10416 E Independence Blvd. in Matthews NC   Tamarind is open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week. Closed on Mondays.  You can call for take out or make reservations at 704.841.8979.

tamarind indianTamarind is a dream come true for chef and owner Bhim Thapa. My husband Tom and I first met Bhim when he was a waiter at Blue Taj in Ballantyne. Then we followed Bhim to Persis Indian also in the Ballantyne area; here Bhim was a manager and helped to get Persis off to a great start.   I consider Blue Taj and Persis both excellent Indian restaurants, worthy of your dining out consideration when you are in the SouthCharlotte/Ballantyne area; but I digress…

All along, through the years that we have known Bhim, we knew it was his dream to open his own restaurant. The native of Nepal is quite versed in cooking in general and int he  cuisine of India in particular. At Tamarind, he finally has a venue to share his talent, his knowledge and his passion.

He plays with flavors and technique, presenting Southern Indian spices and flavors cooked in the manner of Northern Indian Cuisine and visa versa. The results are really quite spectacular. One of our favorite dishes is the cauliflower entree I shared on the show – a dish created by Bhim – he says its one of his most popular.  Pair that with a sensational  whole wheat flatbread stuffed with spinach and  fenugreek leaf and you have a truly spectacular meal.

A host of new found favorites will await you at Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India located in Matthews NC

A host of new found favorites will await you at Tamarind Fine Cuisine of India located in Matthews NC

I joked during the segment, that while most chefs I feature on these monthly restaurant segments give me drawings and details of how the food should look on the plate, Bhim gave me a dictionary and a lesson in the culinary language of India.

Once you understand, you’ll get the info on what is in every dish. No worries though, you don’t need a dictionary to enjoy. Between dishes Bhim steps out of the kitchen as he can, to meet and greet customers, explain his philosophy and educate consumers on the cuisine of his homeland.   Go to Tamarind soon, and in addition to the mix of Indian flavors,  look for more Nepalese specials on the menu as we roll into 2016.

In the meantime, here is what I suggest for your first time out… as seen on the show – Gobi (Cauliflower) Matar (Chickpeas) Paneer (Cheese) Keema (Minced) a delicious blend of spice roasted minced cauliflower with chickpeas and cheese served over basmati rice – truly outstanding; and Palak (Spinach) Methi (Fenugreek) Paratha (whole wheat flout)  – some of the best tandoor baked bread ever! For more info follow Tamarind on Instagram and Facebook and visit TamarindMatthews.comTamarind Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

iphone Nov 30 2015 1459Next, a new Pizzeria in midtown at the Metropolitan, Pizzeria Omaggio  – a great find for a quick, well done lunch or dinner. 1055 Metropolitan Ave is the address, but this great little place is actually located streetside directly across from Target. Call 704.370.0777  for to go orders and catering questions.

I must admit I found this little place first on some other writer’s list, but then, ever in search of a good pie, I had to go in and see it for myself. These are individual sized pizzas made the way they do them in Italy. Great dough and high quality ingredients make for a crispy oven baked crust with a line up of toppings that range from the traditional to a bit more unusual –

compdining battle of champions 1074 My three favorites (so far) include the blue cheese and pear – ask for a bit of arugula to top it off and its heaven on a plate!  The Reggina Margherita is a delightful no meat offering perfect when you are craving the classic combo of tomato and basil; and for the meat lover, might I suggest the Abruzzo, made with delicious homemade meatballs, fresh mushrooms and pecorino Romano cheese. Ah yes!

Salads here are fresh and delicious and made with love, as are the soups and varieties of Panini. In particular, I loved the eggplant tower appetizer and the Sicilia Italian sandwich on ciabatta, stuffed with balsamic marinated eggplant, melted mozzarella, roasted red peppers, fresh arugula and a red pepper aioli. Served with Rosemary potato chips is the bomb.Pizzeria Omaggio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dine in or take out – you’re gonna love it! Prego, Prego! For more info and to see the entire menu, visit PizzeriaOmaggio.com or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

For A taste of Japanese and the very best selection of sake in town, turn to Yama Izakaya, located in Plaza Midwood at  1324 Central Ave  704.910.6387

yama izakaya storefrontIzakaya is the sister restaurant to Yama Asian Fusion, located at 720 Governor Morrison  across from the SouthPark area EarthFare.  704.295.0905. While Yama is more a standard Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, Izakaya  are Japanese taverns of a sort. A place to go after work for a beer or sake and some snacks.

In Charlotte, Yama Izakaya serves Japanese bar food, but make know mistake, these are not your mommas chicken wings – instead everything at Yama Izakaya, as at Yama, is done to the nines –  its a wonderful place to dine and fill up on all the little plates of ramen (noodles) served in a housemade slow cooked broth,  Yakatori (grilled skewers), sushi, sashimi and more.

iphone Nov 30 2015 1462Both restaurants are owned by Birdie Yang. Birdie and his dad Larry, originally brought the Yama concept to Charlotte in 2007. Larry  a trained sushi chef and Birdie, who knows sake like few people in the world  – in fact he holds a the highest degree in sake there is:  the Advanced Sake Professional certification issued  by Japan’s Sake Education Council.  Yang is one of fewer than 100 ASPs in the world and he is happy to share his knowledge and the incredible assortment of delicious sake at both of the Yama restaurants. We order a different bottle each time we go for sushi  and Birdie has never steered us wrong.Yama Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more information, follow Yama and Yama Izakaya on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or visit YamaIzakaya.com 

forkNext a little place in Cornelius, you’ve heard me talk about a lot lately, Fork!  located at 20517 N Main St in a restored old house in Cornelius, NC, just north of Charlotte proper.  Call 704.655.7465 for reservations and do check out their New Year’s Eve dinner menu as well

Chef Tim Groody takes his cuisine from Farm to Fork, quite literally, sourcing from dozens of local farms throughout the year. You can read all about Tim, his philosophy of cooking and sourcing from local farms in the winter issue of Charlotte Living magazine, on newstands soon. In the meantime follow this link, to the online flip book (you’ll find the Fork! story in my culinary section on the flipbook’s page 59).

Fork! is perfect for dinner, but as I mentioned in this televised segment, don’t pass up the wonderful Sunday brunch. A great way to celebrate the joys of loving local at the beginning of each and every week.  Follow Tim Groody and Fork! on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or visit ForkDining.comFork! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finally this post, a take and bake Charlotte offering you simply must keep on hand. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you know I love to promote local product; so, here you go –  from-scratch scones from Charlotte’s own The Scone Shop.

iphone Nov 30 2015 1467These fresh made and frozen scones are the brainchild of Charlottean Feilding Williams, who sells her tasty creations in 14 locations across the Carolinas including Whole Foods in Charlotte at SouthPark and in Lake Norman; and the Central Avenue location of Healthy Home Market.

The dough is frozen and scored into 8 sweet wedges or 12 savory wedges. No defrosting necessary, baking them is as easy as cutting them up, placing them on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven. 10-15 minutes later – viola! The Scone Shop scones come in 4 sweet varities and two savory flavors including  Cinnamon Chip, Chocolate Cinnachip, Cranberry Orange, and spinach feta. it is enough to simply say I am addicted and there are two packages in my freezer ready  for New Year’s Day guests, even as I write this!

You can read more about The Scone Shop is the winter issue of Charlotte Living magazine, sorry it’s another shameless plug, I know – but the flip book for the winter issue is up online and you’ll find an adorable photo of Feilding and  The Scone Shop story on page 64 in the flipbook   read it all by clicking here once you finish up with this post.

Meanwhile I suggest you try the Bacon Cheddar Scone  found exclusively at the ebar Internet Cafe at ebar at Nordstrom Southpark.  ebar offers freshly baked Cranberry Orange Scone Shop Scones as well – both sweet and savory varieties are fresh baked each morning, ready to eat with your favorite ebar beverage. You can also find The Scone Shop scones, fresh baked and ready to enjoy offered at the cafeteria at Carolina’s Medical Center Main at 1000 Blythe Blvd. in Charlotte.

To find out more about The Scone Shop and to put your information on Feilding’s direct email mailing list, visit TheSconeShop.com

On set talking restaurants with Charlotte Today's Colleen Odegaard and guest co host Ramona Holloway

On set talking restaurants with Charlotte Today’s Colleen Odegaard and guest co host Ramona Holloway

Now that you are done reading – watch it all up close and personal. Here is the link to the video from the Charlotte Today segment – have fun – we did – and then come back to the blog to reference the details….

Charlotte Today FIVE FAVE November Restaurant Segment

After the show 

kids bestAs I do each of these restaurant segments on WCNC’s Charlotte Today, I always think it would be fun to film what happens after the show airs. We gather up all the food I’ve featured and everyone in the studio gathers round for a taste of this and that. Here two young viewers, the sons of one of this day’s guests, asked to hang around after their dad’s interview was over so they could taste the pizza – always my pleasure to share!

Cheers! and stay tuned for my first Restaurant Roundup of 2016 on Charlotte Today with hosts, and my buds, Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson on January 8, 2016 at 11 am  – see you then when I’ll have 5 more cool spots that simply must be on your dining radar! Don’t Miss It!

 

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD
 “Maybe it’s much too early in the game; Aah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same; What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?
“Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight; When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night; Welcoming in the New Year, New Year’s Eve”

 

NYE bottleNow that I have you in the mood, humming along, no doubt; here’s the scoop on ten Charlotte area restaurants and what they are serving for New Years Eve 2015 – Take a read, make a reservation and then Eat, Drink & Celebrate  as we welcome in 2016! Cheers!

300 East –

300East_front_5_13300 East. located as the name suggests at 300 East Blvd., is locally owned and  has been a mainstay in the Charlotte restaurant scene since 1986 capping off Charlotte’s ever developing East Blvd. restaurant row in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood.   If you are not up for a dinner out on New Years’ Eve – you might want to enjoy lunch instead and I’m happy to say that 300 East will be serving a midday meal on Thursday December 31 from 11-3:30.  Dinner  service on the 31st is  from 5-10PM. The full dinner menu will be available, as well as an optional 3-course package for $40. Reservations are highly recommended by calling 704-332-6507 or visit 300east.net   300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A big supporter of local farms, the 2015 New Years Eve 300 East menu features product from some of my favorite places to shop local as well  – Cheers to Boy & Girl Farm, Small City Farm, Bosky Acres, Clover Mushroom Farm, High Rock Farm, A Way of Life Farm, Windcrest Farm for making the dinner at 300 East even better… and here is what the talented staff of 300 East, headed by the dynamic duo of chefs Kristine Schmidt and Ashley Boyd, is serving as we welcome in 2016!

Diners may select one choice from each category for the  $40 prix fixe pricing , or you may order a la carte – the Full Dinner Menu will  also available!

Starters:  Sunchoke & Potato Soup, Roasted Lobster

Salad of Bibb Lettuces & Roasted Beets, Almond Crusted Goat Cheese, Clementines, Champagne-Mustard Vinaigrette

Mains:  Border Springs Lamb Osso Bucco, Rosemary Mint Gremolata, Gigante Bean-Taleggio Puree, Sauteed Rapini

Persian Spiced Brick Grilled Poussin, Tahini Yogurt, Freekah with Apricots, Walnut Green Beans

Seared Hawaiian Ono, Shiitake, Maitake & Oyster Mushrooms, Rice Noodles, Asian Greens, Ginger Dashi

Dessert:  Carrot Cake, Black Walnuts, Fromage Blanc Ice Cream, New Ginger Marmalade

French Broad Chocolate Cremeux, Chestnut Sponge Cake, Popped Sorghum, Caramel

 

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

Asbury LogoAs only the team of Chefs Chris Coleman, Matthew Krenz and Jossie Perlemutter can do it, New Years Eve guests are in for a treat at The Asbury with a special five-course tasting menu on tap for the evening. (The tasting menu is also quite nicely offered in a vegetarian version) Cost $75 per person with an additional $40 for wine pairings (plus tax and gratuity).  To whet your palate while you read on  The Asbury’s menu’s follow… the evening starts with Amuse, or a little bite to get your palate in the mood; gives you a pause to refresh with an Intermezzo  or midway and ends with “Mignardise”  small sweet tidbits to finish the evening. The Asbury is located adjacent to the Dunhill Hotel in Uptown Charlotte at 235 N Tryon Street. Parking in the deck directly behind the Dunhill and the restaurant will validate. For more info visit TheAsbury.com
Reservations are a must: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury  or call 704.342.1193The Asbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Asbury NYE Tasting Menu:
First Course: Salad of Bitter Greens | egg, mushroom, pepper gel, charred walnut miso, carrot
Second Course: Smoked Scallop Custard | juniper + thyme shortbread, citrus, mustard, chili, kale
Third Course: Bacon-Wrapped Duck Confit | beet tartar, arugula, pickled apple relish, cranberry, spiced pecan
Fourth Course: Thyme + Smoked Peanut-Crusted Lamb Chops | cranberry chutney, whipped sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli, coffee + cocoa demi
Fifth Course: Tasting of Chocolate

The Asbury NYE Vegetarian Menu:
First Course: Salad of Bitter Greens | egg, mushroom, pepper gel, charred walnut miso, carrot
Second Course: BBQ Shiitake + Ricotta Raviolo | butternut squash bisque, arugula, pecan gremolata
Third Course: Roasted Broccoli | tofu, pickled wheatberries, cranberries, goat cheese, cashews, pear
Fourth Course: Winter Vegetables | crispy oyster mushrooms, harissa spiced root vegetables, Carolina Gold rice, charred corn + bay broth
Fifth Course: Tasting of Chocolate

Fahrenheit Charlotte –

fahrenheitNothing like watching the New Year’s Eve roll in on one of Charlotte’s most popular rooftops as the clock stokes midnight, you’ll have a birds eye view of the city and can step outside to raise your glasses high. Special menu with lots of mouthwatering choices – Chefs Rocco Whalen, David Feimster and the Fahrenheit Charlotte team and working their magic to make it a spectacular evening with a four course menu to beat the band. Selections include Dutch Harbor King Red Crab Bisque with winter truffles, Vietnamese Chicken Springrolls, Garlic Black Pepper Lobster, Kobe beef short ribs, Beef tenderloin and Moroccan Lamb loin, just to name a few. Wind it all up with bread pudding, cobbler, creme brulee or my personal fave: Dark Chocolate Jolt Cake served with Fruity Pebble Cremeux and Marshmallow Cotton Candy! Fruity Pebbles – you just gotta love it! Fahrenheit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Complete Fahrenheit New Year’s Even menu with all the selections is up online at http://www.chefroccowhalen.com/fahrenheit-charlotte/events/

Reservations are required and must be confirmed with a credit card, Cost is $99 per person or $240 per couple. Pricing includes a bottle of Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne. Call for reservations 980-237-6718.  Located in uptown Charlotte atop SKYE Condominiums at 222 S Caldwell Street. Valet parking and adjacent lot make for easy access. For more info visit ChefRoccoWhalen.com

Fork!

forkWant to make it a farm to fork New Year’s Eve? Lots of these restaurants featured here use local product, But Chef Tim Groody, now of Fork! in Cornelius is credited with making the movement real in Charlotte when he was the first chef to ever put a famer’s name on a menu in the Queen City. You can read all about it in my culinary section of the winter issue of Charlotte Living Magazine! But first, if you live north of the city, consider New Year’s Eve dinner at Fork!

Lots of local on the menu which is prix fixe at $65 Per Person and features  your choice of two Bites, one main, & one dessert. There are sides two – for all the details visit http://www.forkdining.com/resources/NYE16.pdf  Be sure to as about gluten free options! For reservations call 704-655-7465 or visit Forkdining,comFork! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bites

Fried NC Oysters- spicy cornmeal crusted, marcona almond sauce

Foie Gras Torchon & Smoked Duck Gyoza – persimmon, apple salad House Made Whipped Ricotta & Oyster Mushrooms – shaved burgundy truffle, pickled beet oil

Brussel Sprout & Charred Vegetable Salad – carrots, turnips acorn squash, pomegranate preserved lemon vinaigrette Kale & Baby Lettuce Salad – granny smith apple vinaigrette, spicy pecans

Low Country Shrimp Cocktail – spicy tomato granite, broccoli okra slaw, carolina rice

Turkey Neck Rillets – raw vegetables, sea salt crackers

Sweet & Sour Fresh Bacon & Scallop – preserved damson plums

Mains

½ Ashley Farm Guinea Hen

Roasted Mills Family Farm Strip Loin

Carolina Bison Hanger Steak

Pan Seared NC Seafood

Pan Roasted Dry Pack Sea Scallops

and for Dessert –  Chocolate Mousse Cake, Dark Rum Sauce Cream Cheese Glazed Carrot Cake, Candied Bacon, Apple Pecan Nougatine Spiced Pumpkin Pot de Crème, ginger bread crumble, pomegranate                                   Chapel Hill Creamery Raw Milk Asiago sea salt crackers, rosemary honey, evoo

Heirloom Restaurant – 

heirloomTucked away in Charlotte’s Bellhaven neighborhood, near Moutain Island Lake,  Heirloom is an easy drive from Uptown, South or North Charlotte, there is plenty of parking and is a Charlotte hot spot you simply do not want to miss. Chef and owner Clark Barlow is making big waves, sourcing from local North Carolina farms and producers and won’t serve anything that wasn’t “Grown. Raised. Caught. Made.” in North Carolina. He and his incredibly talented staff celebrate each season and then can, jar and preserve the harvest for use all year round.  Clark has made appearances on The Food Network’s Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay.  Before opening Heirloom, Clark worked and trained at The French Laundry in California and at El Bulli in Spain, just to mention a few of his creds,  and now he’s taking that same small plate philosophy and doing doing it in spades with all North Carolina local product. Heirloom offers a regular 12 plate tasting menu, but for the end of this year and the beginning of the next, he’s raising the bar.   Celebrate New Year’s Eve in 16 Small Local Delicious Bites to ring in 2016.

$100 per 16 course menu, savor each bite, celebrate all that is local and start your new year at Heirloom.  New Year’s Eve service from 5-10 pm.  The complete 16 course menu will be up on the Heirloom Website on Tuesday Dec 29 by 5 pm.

Always happy to try to accommodate the customer,  Clark asks that for this specially prepared holiday meal, any one with any sort of dietary restrictions needs to call before making reservations. This would include those interested in vegan and vegetarian options as well.  Reservations Are A Must, by calling 704.595.7710 or with a visit to HeirloomRestaurantNC.com. Heirloom is located at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. Heirloom Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lumiere Restaurant –

lumiereLumiere French Kitchen is located in the heart of Myers Park in Charlotte at 1039 Providence Road. Owned an operated by Chef Tom Condron and Matthew Pera, Lumiere brings modern French cuisine to the Queen City. To read more about chef Tom Condron’s philosophy and all he brings to the table  (Pun intended) at Lumiere in the feature article I wrote in the culinary section of the new Winter issue of Charlotte Living. Then book a reservation for New Year’s Eve when Condron and staff will be offering a four course Four Course Tasting Menu with Lobster, Shrimp, Wild Boar to Dry Aged Prime Beef . For more info call 704.372.3335 or visit lumiereMyersPark.com Lumiere Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

modPALEO –

mod paleo logoHere ‘s an option for after the clock strikes midnight and you make that New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself in 2016. Just when you thought you were going to have to go it all alone, Charlotte’s modPALEO comes to the rescue! Chef Kris Reid and the talented team are here to help and have already come up with a plan of meals prepared with local and sustainable ingredients. All you have to do right now is register for the program  Dec 26-30. modPALEO is a Carolinas-based, pre-packaged meal service that offers a modern approach to healthy eating, based on the Paleo lifestyle. They believe in maintaining balance and wellness through the power of real food, well-sourced ingredients and sustainability

Commit to Eating Clean and feeling great  with this limited time offer. The “Keepin’ it Clean in 2016” package includes 4 weeks of modPALEO meals purchased in advance for the month of January. You choose how many meals and modPALEO will deliver 4 orders throughout the month (deliveries on January 6, 13, 20 and 27). Shipping and tax are included in pricing. Save between 5 and 25% by paying up front (depending on meal plan). Everything you need to make it happen is at https://store.modpaleo.com/news/Clean2016/  JustDoIt!

Passion 8 – 

passion 8 logoMy friends Jessica and Luca Annunziata and their talented team at Passion 8 are making a night of it with a New Year’s Eve Masquerade party. Two seatings at the popular Elizabeth Avenue restaurant.  First at 6pm featuring  4 fabulous Courses for $85 ; and then the Second Seating at  9pm with  5 Fabulous Courses for $125 with Champagne. An hour before the stroke of midnight the photo booth opens up so you can capture the moment and there will be dancing and a live DJ. Complimentary Hors D’oeuvres & Champagne Toast at Midnight. its all happening at 1523 Elizabeth Ave. Complimentary Parking in adjacent lots.   Wondering what those four or five courses will be? Here you go…. and then Call for Reservations 704.910.3161 or visit http://thepassion8.com/12-31-15/  Passion8 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

To Start: Foie Steak, Peanut Butter Foam, Butter Squash, Walnuts Brittle, Apple Butter

Butter Poached Lobster,Snow Peas, Chanterelle, Lobster Consommé, Crispy Ramen

Beef Tartare, Potato Gaufrette, Quail Egg, Horseradish Crema, Winter Pickled Vegetables

-Salad / Soup-  Mushrooms Consommé,Pickled Vegetables, Truffle Bone Marrow Butter

Winter Green Salad,Goat Cheese Fritter, Sliced Apple, Candy Beets, Pecans,Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette

Crudo – Apple Fennel Salad, Yuzu Caviar, Shaved Radish, Micros Herbs, Wasabi Aioli

Mid Course-  Squid Ink Pasta,Snow Peas, Capers, Grilled Calamari, Fennel Broth

Exotic Mushrooms and Truffle Champagne Risotto, Shaved Ricotta Salata

Scallop,Parsnip Puree, Foie Gras Caramel Butter Sauce, Spaghetti Squash, Crispy Prosciutto

Entrees-  Poussin, Stuffed with Sausage & Truffle Bread Pudding, Jamon Iberico,

Butternut Squash Battonet, Spinach, Sage Pan Sauce

Branzino, Brussels Sprout Petals, Trumpet Mushroom, Black Rice, Fish Brodetto

Surf & Turf,Filet, Butter Poached Lobster, Pea & Macaroni Cake, Warmed Zabaione, Collard Greens, Apple Micro Salad

Elk Loin, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Peperonata, Crispy Kale, Coffee Bourbon Reduction

Dessert-  Chef’s Duet

Village Tavern

Village tavernThe annual New Year’s Eve Party at Village Tavern on 4201 Congress Street in the SouthPark area takes place from 9pm to 1am!    Enjoy another masquerade themed evening with the sounds of DJ Chase Morgan, drink specials, delicious appetizers and party favors for all!  $20 cover charge per person, alcohol and gratuity under separate cover. Safe transportation will be available. For more information and reservations, please call 704-552-9983 or visit http://www.villagetavern.com/locations.cfm/8/charlotte-nc/ Village Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Vivace Charlotte

vivaceFinally, perhaps a taste of Italian is what you’ll want to ring in the new year. Lots of great Italian options in town for sure, but one of my recent favorites is Vivace, located in the Metropolitan shopping area between Uptown and Southend at 1100 Metropolitan Ave.

Enjoy fine food and a beautiful view of the Charlotte Skyline from the outdoor patio or the upstairs dining area. Chef Mike Suppa is doing big things there – you won’t leave disappointed and that’s for sure. also impressed that there are regularly vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options on the menu.  For New Years’ Eve its a prix fixe menu with lots of choices, among them, lobster bisque with sage gnocchi and  chestnut crema; tuscan kale salad with pomegranate, caramelized winter squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved caprino and  white balsamic dressing; several pastas; rabbit lasagna with mataki mushrooms, rosemary ricotta, fontina and caramelized onions; lamb porterhouse with oregano potatoes, black olive crema, braised escarole and golden raisins; and for dessert – a host of the chefs sorbets and gelatos as well as peppermint tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake or banana budino. For the complete menu visit http://www.vivacecharlotte.com/menu/new-years-eve

Cost is $55 per person | $75 with wine pairings for each course. Dinner service begins at 5 pm.    For reservations  call 704-370-7755  or visit VivaceCharlotte.com Vivace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NYE bottle

 

 

The problem with any sort of list is that eventually it has to end –  Know that with every list I write and every televised restaurant segment I do there are always lots more of great restaurants and chefs in Charlotte to try as well. All  doing fabulous things for New Years Eve and all year long. Make it a point in 2016 to eat local and support  our incredible local culinary community – Cheers to them all.  

 

 

 

 

Holiday 2015 Wine and Dine

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

Just in the St. Nick of time, I’m here with a recap of my December restaurant segment on Charlotte’s WCNC’s Charlotte Today… read on for details and then watch the video of the December 19 spot using the link  at the end of this post – Thanks to Colleen Odegaard, Eugene Robinson, Natalie Ridley, Arve Byrd, Kim Thomas, Matt Hammond and Mary Alvarez and the team at Charlotte Today for making these monthly restaurant recommendation segments so much fun! And a special thanks to my wonderful husband, Tom Billotto who is always there on set – helping me set up the shots, and who keeps the food moving during the actual taped segment.   Cant wait to plan more for 2016, but first, lets talk about the next two week….

Lots of food and cooking going on this week and next –  here are five places I think can help you ease through the rest of the 2015  holiday season.

Lets start with a breakfast option – good for the holidays or anytime of the year…

Storefront of Brookyn Water Bagels at Ballantyne Commons East

Storefront of Brookyn Water Bagels at Ballantyne Commons East

Brooklyn Water Bagels  – Located at 15105 John J Delaney Blvd in the Ballantyne Commons East shopping Center; Open  6am – 3 pm   – New York’s borough of Brooklyn is the hot new food place to be; but fortunate for us in Charlotte, we don’t need to take a trip to the Big Apple to get the same wonderful bagels.  You see, when it comes to making bagels (traditionally prepared by boiling the round loops of dough first and then baking them) its all about the water.  They say that NY City water is some of the finest in the country – that’s because it comes from the Catskill Mountains.

bagels BWB

Nothing beats a perfectly made bagel – baked fresh each morning

So to make bagels like the ones you’ll get in Brooklyn, you need to have water like they have in Brooklyn and the fine folks at Brooklyn Water Bagels have figured out how to make it happen. These bagels are the real deal – made with specially filtered water that not only goes into the bagel preparation, but into the coffee and all the beverages as well.

At Brooklyn Water Bagel, Coffee Ice Cubes make a regular Iced Coffee a "Cubsta"

At Brooklyn Water Bagel, Coffee Ice Cubes make a regular Iced Coffee a “Cubsta”

Not to miss – the coffee ice cubes that come when you order a “Cubsta” iced coffee and the chocolate egg creams made with Fox’s U-Bet seltzer. Both are exceptional and the latter may be  my new favorite carbonated beverage.

In addition to the house blended cream cheese, and bagel sandwiches for breakfast or lunch,  try the Bagel Bites, as a great way to have a taste of it all the BWB varieties.  Holiday entertaining note: these bagel bites also make for exceptionally cute appetizers at your holiday party served with smoked salmon or smoked trout of your choice or BWB white fish salad.

If you don’t trust my opinion on the quality of these fabulous bagels, know that BWB now makes all the bagels served at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge –delivered fresh baked each morning. To pass the mustard of the likes of Chefs David Moore, Ben Kallenbach and Michael Rayfield, you know I’m not pulling your chain.

Like the bagels and the U-Bet seltzer Egg Creams, the Black and White cookies at Brooklyn Water Bagels are the real deal!

Like the bagels and the U-Bet seltzer Egg Creams, the Black and White cookies at Brooklyn Water Bagels are the real deal!

After the  bagel and the beverages,  authentic cake like, perfectly iced Black and White cookies are a must. Plenty of room to dine in or you can take out, of course; but if you stay and sit a while, you can enjoy another taste of old time Brooklyn culture by enjoy the reruns of Jackie Gleason’s classic – The Honeymooners while you eat. If I had one suggestion for Brooklyn Water Bagels, it would be to turn down the music and turn up the sound on the video – nothing like the fun and laughter these old reruns bring to the table.

 

Next up you’ll surely want to be wining and dining this week and next, or want to give a gift of a great bottle or two. Time to make a toast to the year that has gone by, the year that is to be, and the holiday season in between.  No where better to cover your bases on all angles than at the new location of

Foxcroft wine co barFoxcrefot wine co logoFoxcroft Wine Company  now in  Dilworth at  Kenilworth Commons Shopping as well as in their original SouthPark location at  7824 Fairview Rd.  The new location is taking the Dilworth Neighborhood by storm. The retail operation and wine bar Open 10 am to 11 pm; the kitchen opens at 5

This is the perfect place to celebrate with 40 something wines by the glass, hundreds by the bottle;  and while there is a fair share of beef, chicken and fish on the menu, I love and appreciate the fact that there are also great vegetarian and vegan entrees and well.

Turffled french fries and some of the best Brussels Sprouts in town are both a great way to start the evening at Foxcroft Wine Co.

Truffled french fries and some of the best Brussels Sprouts in town are both a great way to start the evening at Foxcroft Wine Co.

The flat breads are a divine way to start, and whatever you order by sure to add on  the French Fries and Brussels Sprouts as sides. My oh my – perfect fried potatoes with a dusting of Parmesan, a drizzle of truffle oil and a truffle aioli on the side for dipping. The sprouts are poached then sautéed with a mix of butternut squash, caramelized onions and a Asian glaze – possibly the best Brussels in the city right now and those may be fighting words…

In season, enjoy the  patio dining… and

Exciting news – and you heard it here first – Foxcroft Wine Co. is upping the bar as one of the two 2015 Competition Dining Charlotte Champs – Chef Brent Martin is joining the culinary team, so along side the talent of Chef Justin Solomon, Shawn Harrison and the rest of this talented culinary team – look for dynamic things to come with the new year.

 

The Speedway Club logoLooking for a fun family holiday tradition to start? Turn to Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway S, Concord, NC, for the biggest light show in town and while you are there enjoy dinner at  The Speedway Club, open during the month of December to the public.  For the majority of the year, this is a members only club; but for the whole month of December the club is open to the public by reservations made by calling 704-455-3216.

The dining rooms at Charlotte Motor Speedway's The Speedway Club - over look the track and this time of year, give diners a birds eye view of the holiday light display.

The dining rooms at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s The Speedway Club – over look the track and this time of year, give diners a birds eye view of the holiday light display.

The cuisine is old country club style dining and I say that in the very best light –  a throw back to classic continental cuisine –excellent crab and lobster cakes with big chunks of lobster, perfectly done steak and a delicious take on fish and grits with a citrusy twist, and a beautiful assortment of desserts – its a back-to-basics old school approach to food in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. At a recent dinner, as we were in the NASCAR mode, at least for the evening,  we opted to try of the Childress red wines on the menu – both excellent selections.

A delicious take on The Wedge salad from the chefs at The Spedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway

A delicious take on The Wedge salad from the chefs at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway

If you are interested in becoming a member and would like to see or know more, contact  GM George Krail who would be happy to help you arrange to come for dinner, holiday time or no for test drive – pun intended, thank you.

This time of year though, the added benefit to enjoying dinner at The Speedway Club is the spectacular holiday light display called “A Speedway Christmas”

speedway Christmas Now through Dec. 30 but closed on Christmas Day, you can enjoy the creative display of  Three Million Lights and  Holiday Music, , a huge infield Christmas Village with photos with Santa, a bustling Bethlehem village, petting zoo, holiday crafts and more  and the unique chance to drive the track, and  Classic Christmas Movies on the 16,000 square foot Big Screen

 

The Speedway Christmas drive-through light show is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Day). Christmas Village is open Thursday through Sunday. The movie schedule includes showings of Frozen Dec 21-24 and Dec 26 and 27 at 8 and 10 pm
For tickets, the pricing is as follows:  Christmas Village open: Thursday & Sunday: $25 per car; $50 per van (max 36); $175 bus (max 57), Friday & Saturday: $30 per car; $50 per van (max 36); $175 bus (max 57), Military Discount: $3 off, Fast Pass: Move to the front of the line with a fast pass for an additional $10 to the above price

Light Show only: $20 per car; $40 per van (max 36 people); $140 per bus (max 57 people), Military Discount: $3 off

Visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) for pricing and more information about Speedway Christmas.

I just adore the light and crispy waffle cones at Elizabeth Creamery some of the best I have ever tasted!

I just adore the light and crispy waffle cones at Elizabeth Creamery some of the best I have ever tasted!

During the remainder of the holiday season it’s for sure you’ll be entertaining a bit, and if you are looking for a little homemade ice cream to go with your line up of holiday desserts look no further than Charlotte’s own Elizabeth Creamery.

Elizabeth Creamery, is located at 1535 Elizabeth Ave,directly behind Carpe Diem… 

With so many places to dine in Charlotte now, different places capture our attention at different times. This family owned and operated ice cream parlor came back onto my radar as I was writing an article about the Elizabeth Ave revitalized restaurant row for the new issue of Charlotte Living magazine out before the end of the year.  Owner Sun Jae Kim has been making ice cream in Charlotte since 1996. He believes in simple honest flavors that are steeped in tradition.

All of the ice cream is made fresh on location with the very best ingredients.  And the waffle cones are light and crunchy – they melt in your mouth along with your flavor of choice and are some of the best I have ever eaten…

Three favorite seasonal flavors you simply must try: Mocha, Ginger and Smurf!

Three favorite seasonal Ice cream flavors at Elizabeth Creamery you simply must try: Mocha, Ginger and Smurf!

Elizabeth Creamery is a great stop for a family outing after you drive the neighborhoods to see holiday neighborhood lights – or before or after a ride around through the Elizabeth Ave corridor to Uptown on Charlotte’s only street car in 77 years.

After you’ve enjoyed a cone or two –be sure to take home a pint of your favorite flavors –  perfect for your holiday desserts – try the ginger with a slice of gingerbread, a cinnamon rolls or ginger cookies; or a scoop of mocha in your next cup of hot chocolate! And, just because you’ve gotta love blue food and as a favor for your sweet tooth don’t miss the cotton candy flavored Smurf.

 

 

Here is a platter representing the incredible seafood display you'll find at Christmas morning brunch at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Here is a platter representing the incredible seafood display you’ll find at Christmas morning brunch at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

Finally, a banquet at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge is the perfect destination dining stop and this year a great place to continue on the celebration the holidays with friends and family – once gifts are opened, take a deep breath and relax as the talented Culinary team at Ballantyne Hotel  & Lodge as done the work for you.

Snapper is also on the brunch buffet - prepared here pan seared with parsnip puree, candied pineapple and Spanish onion

Snapper is also on the brunch buffet – prepared here pan seared with parsnip puree, candied pineapple and Spanish onion

The hotel will offer Christmas Brunch on December 25, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The elaborate buffet will include a variety of salads, an assortment of cheese and seafood displays, breakfast items, an omelet station, carving station and indigenous desserts. There will be live holiday music. Cost is $75 per person, $35 for children, ages 5-13, and complimentary for children ages 4 and under (pricing does not include tax or 23% service charge). Private dining rooms are available.

Gallery Restaurant will be open for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant will feature its regular menu as well as offer a prime rib dinner special.

Reservations are required for dining on Christmas Eve and Christmas. To make a reservation, please call 704-248-4100 or visit www.gallery-restaurant.com.

Be Sure to visit Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge before the holiday season is over

Be Sure to visit Gingerbread Lane at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge before the holiday season is over

While you are there visit  the Hotels annual Gingerbread Lane open now through Sunday, December 27. Vote on your favorite entries with $1 minimum donation per vote. All proceeds will benefit Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH), dedicated to caring for the physical and emotional needs of children and their families.

Here I am with the Seafood Platter from Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge in hand, ready to tease the Charlotte Today segment just before a commercial break

Here I am with the Seafood Platter from Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge in hand, ready to tease the Charlotte Today segment just before a commercial break

 

 

 

To see the video with my take on all these December restaurants click here for the segment on Charlotte Today with Hosts and my friends Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson  http://www.wcnc.com/story/entertainment/2015/12/18/take-a-break-from-cooking-and-visit-these-5-restaurants/77567784/

The Apple of My Pie

 

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgThanksgiving 2015 is right around the corner…. you’re probably smack dab  in the middle of menu planning so here’s a suggestion to toss into the mix, if you don’t  already make pies for the holidays –  why not start a family tradition this year and let the baking begin!

But what to bake?  This time of year I say go with tradition and start with apples. Local apples.  If you think the availability of locally grown North Carolina apples is just for the months of September and October, think again. The local NC apple harvest is  still in full production and these  juicy GotToBeNC gems make  holiday pies all the better!

To make the process all the easier, I’ve got a fool proof pie crust recipe to share that comes out perfectly every time  making your holiday baking easy as…. well, you know.

24_PieCrustsIf you can’t get into making from scratch crust, no worries, no stress –  I recommend working with Immaculate Bakers’ Refrigerated Pie Crust – works  like a charm every time and its organic!

Crust done, lets get back to the apples. If you have limited yourself to eating only the well known Red Delicious variety of apples, you might be surprised to learn just how many different types of apples there are in the world and even more surprised to find out that the state of North Carolina ranks seventh in apple production in the United States. Amazingly, according to my friends at the NC Dept of Agriculture, our Old North State has over 200 commercial apple operations comprised of 9,000 bearing acres of apple orchards and  turns out millions of bushels of apples each year, about 60% of them are used in juice and applesauce production.

NC apples bestWhile apples are a staple in every grocery store produce department, like everything else – fresh picked from the farm local produce is always your best choice and apples are no different – North Carolina’s apple producing region centers primarily in the mountains around the Haywood and Henderson counties, the Mt. Mitchell area, and Wilkes and Yadkin counties. The better part of the apple trade in North Carolina comes from trees producing Red and Golden Delicious apples as well as Rome Beauty, Stayman and Gala varieties; but  Empire, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Suncrisp, Jonagold, Granny Smith,  Arkansas Black, Crimson Crisp, Cameo, Pink Lady, Goldrush,  Limbertwig, Rome, Blacktwig and  Mutzu  apples grow in our area, too, as well as hundreds of other heirloom or antique varieties.

North Carolina’s apple growing season runs from July to late December and a quick day trip up to the mountains early this week  will prove to land a tasty harvest from any one of the many roadside stands you’ll pass along the way. If you are in Charlotte, its under a two hour drive up to see my friends at Perry Lowe Orchards in Moravian Falls, NC up on Highway 16 South where they pick approx 4 million apples each apple season from some 29,000 apple trees that grow on the 6th generation North Carolina farm.   

While all apples are good for eating,   I lean toward the sweet-tart to tart varieties  like Granny Smith, Macintosh, Empire, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp and Limbertwig for cooking, finding they fare better baked, steamed or fried then a lot of the sweet apple varieties. Figure three medium sized apples, cored and sliced, to measure about a cup.

apple ciderApples are also great for juicing, on their own or mixed in your own house blend – try them juiced with mango and banana or use them to slightly sweeten your favorite green juice blend – yum!

Rich in pectin, high in potassium and weighing in at only 61 calories per medium apple, this popular fruit helps to keep cholesterol in balance,  the high potassium/low sodium ratio of apples can reduce cardiac problems and has been touted as a help in regulating tension headaches, too.  With  ZERO FAT and 5 grams of fiber per serving, apples are a great snack food and good to enjoy at every meal.

perry Lowe dried applesOnce you purchase fresh apples, they are best kept under refrigeration, as room temperature apples soften 10 times faster than they will in the refrigerator. While you’re gathering the fruit, don’t forget about a jug or two of fresh homemade cider – hot or cold, there’s nothing quite like it and while you are at the Perry Lowe Orchards apple house don’t miss the packages of dried apples made from 10 different varieties of their fresh picked harvest – a real treat that lasts all year long and is great for cooking as well (see the fried pie recipe below).

Like all of us if you are pressed for time this week and can’t drive up to the mountains before Thursday’s feasting, the happy news is that local NC apples are available at lots of local farmers’ markets in and around Charlotte and across the state as well. And farmers market shopping isn’t just a weekend affair – lots of local  and regional markets are open weekdays this week right up until the holiday.

 

Foolproof Pie Crust

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups  organic 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.

 

apple tartHeidi’s Apple and Pistachio Tart

Dough for one nine-inch pie

FOR THE PISTACHIO CREAM:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

4 Tbsp. butter, softened

1 1/3 cup ground pistachios

2  eggs

3 Tbsp. cream, for glazing

FOR THE HONEY BUTTER:

2 Tbsp. honey

3 Tbsp. butter

¼ cup apple cider

Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment paper and then fit into a 9 or 10-inch false-bottom tart pan. Chill the pastry shell in the refrigerator.

To make the pistachio cream: Combine the sugar and butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add the ground pistachios and the  egg.

Spread the pistachio cream in a smooth layer in the bottom of the pastry shell.

Cut the apples into thin slices and arrange then in concentric circles on top of the pistachio cream.  Bake the tart on a baking sheet in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven drizzle with honey butter cool slightly  and serve

For the Honey Butter: In a saucepan combine the honey, butter and the sweet white wine. Stir to mix. Bring the honey mixture to a boil and cook until it has reduced by half.

 

Heidi’s Two Crust Apple Pie

½ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

2 Tbsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp. cardamom

Pinch of salt

8 cups peeled and cord apples, cut into chunks

¼ cup butter, melted

Dough for two 9-10 inch rounds

 

Combine sugars, flour and spices with apples and butter, toss well. Reserve.

Fit a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with a pie crust. Spoon filling into crust, mounding it slightly in the center. Top with another crust, this one slightly bigger so that you have about an extra inch of crust around the edges.

Fold the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust to seal and then crimp edges with your fingers or a fork to give a decorative finish. Cut decorative slits in top crust to allow steam to escape while baking. Place pie on a baking sheet – to catch any juices that might come out during baking – brush top crust lightly with milk and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 ½ hours, or until crust is a delicious golden brown.

Perry Lowe Orchard’s Fried Apple Pies 

1 package of your favorite variety of Perry Lowe Orchards Dried Apples 

3/4 cup sugar

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. vanilla extract

(2) 10 oz. Cans canned biscuits ( or use your favorite pie crust recipe)

Vegetable Oil

Combine apples and water to cover in medium sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until tender and dry.  Add sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Stir well and set aside.  Separate biscuits and roll each biscuit into 5-inch circle on lightly floured surface. Or roll out your favorite pie crust dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 5-inch rounds.  Place 2 tablespoons apple mixture on 1/2 of each biscuit circle.  To seal pie, dip fingers in water and moisten edge of circle.  Fold in half, making sure edges are even.  Using a fork dipped in flour, press edges firmly together.  Heat oil to 375 degrees in dutch oven or electric frying pan.  Fry pies until golden brown on both sides, turning once.  Drain on paper towel.  Yield 10-12 fried pies.

Note:  To bake pies place on lightly greased baking sheet bake at 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.

 

 

 

 

 

As Much Fun To Make As It Is To Eat – Happy Popcorn Month!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODOctober is National Popcorn Month, so let me be the first to say Happy Happy!   I don’t know about you, but when my thoughts turn to popcorn, my food memories kick in and I go back to a time before microwaves and air poppers.

Like many of you, I go back circa  mid to late 1960’s. My brother Jaimie and I were 8, 9 or 10ish and when we were in need of a snack, our mom would let us make Jiffy Pop. If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a culinary gadget and the Jiffy Pop “cook it in the package” marketing was – at the time – the ultimate. I loved the process probably even more than the popcorn itself, inspired, as were many my age by the classic commercial with the magic genie in the lamp touting this popcorn as “The Magic Treat” “… as much fun to make as it was to eat”  Before we go further – take a step back in time and watch it with me now…  

 

popcorn popper advertisementIf you didn’t have the luxury of Jiffy Pop, then  you had to go back to the kettle type electric popcorn popper or a large heavy pop on the stove – both required working with hot oil and at least to my mom’s mind – were too dangerous for us to handle ourselves.

As I got older electric popcorn poppers became a bit more refined and when I was in college ( again in the days before microwaves) we used the non stick bowl or base of our electric popcorn poppers much like an electric skillet to cook everything from Kraft macaroni and cheese ( boiled first in the small hot pots we used to heat  coffee, tea and soup) to browning ground beef or searing hamburger patties as much as we used it to make popcorn.

As I recall my popcorn popper then was made by Hamilton Beach and I  know I opted for Flame Red over the Avocado Green and Harvest Gold colors offered. I honestly don’t really recall that it was endorsed by Joe Namath, but according to this old Spiegel Catalog ad – looks like that was the case.

Today technology has sadly eliminated the need for the same type of culinary creativity we had to muster back in the day and  most people turn to the microwave to pop corn ( and make Mac and Cheese), but if you ask me – I still like popcorn popped in oil on the stove – calories or no – its all about the flavor.

popcorn with spicesNow, instead of vegetable oil I suggested using canola oil to start and then finish the fluffy popped kernels with a drizzling of real melted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt;   or mix it up a bit with a grating of aged Parmesan cheese or a blend of salt and pepper; or better yet take a trip over to The Savory Spice Shop – I’m a regular at Charlotte’s SouthEnd location  – Let owners Amy and Scott McCabe and their friendly staff help find one or two spice blends of flavor combos you like. Then just sprinkle them on and let the snacking begin!

 

However you pop it, Celebrate in style this month! Make some popcorn from scratch and enjoy life the old fashion way, one buttery kernel at a time… and then use the leftovers ( or pop a second batch) to make either of the two sweet treats or for a savory splash of popcorn, grind the popped kernels and use them in place of bread crumbs to crust chicken or fish or in addition to the flour for a bit of texture in your next batch of homebaked bread, pancakes or waffles  – Happy National Popcorn month!

CHOCOLATE CHIP HONEY CARAMEL CORN

hhfmolassesInstead of buying commercial brown sugar -I like to make my own by combining ¾ cup of organic sugar and ¼ cup local molasses and stirring until well blended. Worth noting here that my go to for molasses is local NC Sorghum Syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms – Doug Harrell tells me they’ve just finished up the 2015 season and its bottled up and ready to roll – order you can buy it in several shops up and around the Burnsville. NC area or call and order directly from the farm – for more details visit http://harrellhillfarms.com/molasses.htm ) Now onto the recipe…

10 cups popped popcorn

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup local honey

1 cup butter

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of fine ground salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups dark chocolate chips

 

Divide the popcorn and spread in simgle layers over two large parchment paper lined baking sheets with sides.

Combine the brown sugar, local honey, butter, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently until all the kernels are coated.

Bake for 1 hour in a preheated 200 degree oven, stirring every 20 minutes. Add the chocolate chips during the last 2-3 minutes of baking. Pull from oven and stir once again to mix chocolate in and around the caramel corn.  Allow the popcorn to cool on the pan as the hot caramel is VERY hot, then, break the cooled pieces apart for easier eating and storage. When it has cooled, store  the popcorn in a tightly sealed container and enjoy!

pink popcorn ballsHomemade Popcorn Balls

I first made these about the same time I first made Jiffy Pop. My very first cookbook was  “Betty Crocker’s Boys and Girls Cookbook” among my favorite  recipes was the one for Pink Popcorn Balls – you can make these any color with just a few drops of your favorite food coloring and if you want to add a bit of flavor, add a quarter to half tsp of any extract or flavoring for a treat fun of any occasion!

6 cups popped popcorn

3 Tbsp. butter

1 (10 ounce) package marshmallows

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.

Remove from heat.  Add popped popcorn and  toss with a buttered spatula to coat. Coat your hands with melted butter or wear plastic gloves and shape the warm coated popcorn into balls. Allow to cool on a waxed paper or parchment paper lined tray, then wrap with plastic wrap to hold, or enjoy on the spot!

 

Summer Faves: Fried Green Tomatoes

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODI don’t know who decided to fry the first green tomato – but I’m glad they did! Credited with strictly Southern roots, a quick bit of investigative research indicates that recipes date back as far and the mid to late 1800s, several from Jewish and Kosher cookbooks, too.  The popularity of this crunchy summer favorite, however, soared with the popularity of Fanny Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe  and  later the movie of the (abbreviated) same name in the late 1980’s. Since then chefs around the country, and perhaps the world, cleverly continue put innovative spins on the basic batter, bread and brown technique.

green tomatoes

Fresh picked green tomatoes from Tega Hills Farm in Ft. Mill SC. Mindy Robinson of THF sells to the public on Saturday Mornings at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and at the Yorkmont Regional Farmers’ market in Charlotte, NC

Anyway you fry it, do try this fabulous summer treat before the seasons end.

As I write this, it is August in the Carolina’s and ’tis the season for the late harvest of red ripe juicy tomatoes. But before these gems turn red, they’re firm and green and equally delicious to their red ripened counterparts. As is the case for ripe and heirloom tomatoes of all sorts, the best place to buy green tomatoes is from a local farmer and any local farmers market – or you could grow them yourself, but I have found over a long period of summer growing seasons, that I am much better cooking with tomatoes than growing them) so I am happy to rely on the harvest of local farms and farmers with greener thumbs than mine to stock my tomato larder.

The tomatoes photographed for this blog post and for the Charlotte Today television segment with which these recipes coordinate came from Tega Hills farms in Ft.Mill SC and Black’s Peaches in York SC  – always most important, I think, to Shop Local so you can Eat Local.

Heidi on ct set with green tomatoesThis week I cooked with Local South Carolina green tomatoes, pairing them with ripe red tomatoes, Fishing Creek Creamery Goat cheese from Chester South Carolina and Clemson Blue Cheese from Clemson South Carolina as well. If you’d like to see the video presentation  from this week’s WCNC Charlotte Today broadcast, click here then come back for all the details, recipes and more.

Quartered green tomatoes from Black's peaches in York South Carolina, tossed with watermelon, arugula and Clemson Blue Cheese for another version of a tasty late summer salad

Quartered green tomatoes from Black’s Peaches in York South Carolina, tossed with watermelon, arugula and Clemson Blue Cheese for another version of a tasty late summer salad

Of course green tomatoes aren’t just for frying, cut them and toss in spices and vinegar to make your own house pickles, season with salt and pepper to use in place or in addition to cucumbers;  or scoop out, stuff and bake as you would bell peppers.

 

Three Ways, and then some, to serve Summer Fried Green Tomatoes

fried green tomatoes - gerinMaster Recipe

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

By Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

2-3 local firm green tomatoes, thick sliced

organic All Purpose Flour

2-3 local or organic eggs

dry seasoned bread crumbs

canola oil or your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Dip each slice of tomato first into the flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs

Dip each slice of tomato first into the flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs

Dip each slice of tomato first into the flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. The secret is to allow the battered and breaded green tomatoes to rest on a wire rack, for at least a minute or two before you fry.  This time allows the egg, flour and bread crumbs to firm up around the tomato and create a bond that will not come off in the hot oil. To fry the breaded green tomatoes traditionally, Heat about ½ inch of oil in a sauté pan or frying pan using wooden spoon test

Heidi's Wooden Spoon Test to see when  oil is hot enough to fry

Heidi’s Wooden Spoon Test to see when oil is hot enough to fry

To test to see if the oil is hot enough for frying, place a wooden spoon in the pan of oil. As the oil heats, little bubbles will form around the edge of the spoon just as they would if a piece of food were in the pan frying – when you see the little bubbles, the oil is hot enough to fry.

To fry with less fat, use a non stick pan and coat lightly with a flavorful olive oil. Brown as you sould in the greater amount of oil.

When the oil is hot, put the breaded tomato slices in, cooking just until brown. Remove from oil and drain on several thicknesses of paper towels.

Joes tomato salad The Flipside Cafe

The idea for these sliced Fried Green Tomato croutons came from Chef Joseph Cornett of The Flipside Cafe in Ft. Mill SC

Lots of ways to serve – with pimento cheese and red ripe tomatoes for a stack;  with watermelon, local goat cheese and arugula for a late summer salad;  in a Parmesan casserole as you would fried eggplant or chicken; cut into Fried Green Tomato croutons to top a ripe tomato salad; or with the bacon jam recipe found below, layered  with local lettuce and slices of ripe tomato for an innovative BLT.

Spread green tomato slices with soft local South Carolina chevre from Fishing Creek Creamery in CHester SC or Clemson Blue Cheese from Clemson SC; and then proceed with the Master recipe for a cheesier version of fried green tomato flavor

Spread green tomato slices with soft local South Carolina chevre from Fishing Creek Creamery in Chester SC or Clemson Blue Cheese from Clemson SC; and then proceed with the Master recipe for a cheesier version of fried green tomato flavor

For another variation on the theme, spread sliced green tomatoes with soft local goat cheese. Refrigerate to keep firm. Coat and bread the cheese and tomato “stack” as you would just the tomatoes in the Master Recipe.

Variation on t he theme - top tomatoes with your favorite local cheese and then bread and fry

Variation on the theme – top tomatoes with your favorite local cheese and then bread and fry

Serve drizzled with Balsamic vinegar and enjoy this last taste of the summer season!

 

The perfect Fried Green tomato condiment:

Bacon and Local Pepper Marmalade

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

1¼ pounds sliced bacon, diced

2  local onions, finely chopped

2 organic carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 organic celery stalks, finely chopped

1-3 sliced local jalapenos or hot peppers

2¼ cups North Carolina apple or South Carolina peach cider

⅓ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. local molasses ( my favorite by far is from Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville, NC)

1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme or savory leaves, roughly chopped

 

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery and sliced Jalapenos, cooking until the vegetables are tender, 6 to 7 minutes.  Pour in the cider and the vinegar, increase the heat to high and cook until the liquid is thick, 7 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the  molasses, cooking until the bacon looks glazed, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and move the skillet to a cool burner. Stir in the thyme leaves and cool to room temperature.

Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.