3 Day Weekend: Durham NC

center-city-bull-for-the-bull-cityWhadaya say, time to get the heck outta Dodge and plan a relaxing 3Day weekend?

Consider a visit to the Bull City – just an hour and half way its an easy drive and you won’t believe what you’ll find there.   You probably know that Durham, NC is a part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region and that it is home to Duke University; but did you know that included in this city’s rich history is the fact that it is the site if the largest surrender of Confederate troops, effectively making it the city in which the Civil War ended or that it is now the happy home to Burt’s Bees?
bull-durham-tobaccoDurham is a great food-centric town and the perfect destination for a relaxing fun and flavorful 3 day weekend!

Known as the Bull City ,due to the fact that the first brand of Tobacco sold and shipped out of Durham was Bull Durham brand, Durham is home to many old textile mills and tobacco factories. A cast bronze bull now sits in the center city square and many think it good luck to give the bull a rub on the head. When Durham’s last producing textile mills closed in the late 1980s and  a decade later the last of the city’s working Tobacco factories closed. But instead of planning the demolition of these large mills and factories, or letting them sit empty to decay, city planners have wisely repurposed most to be shopping and entertainment  venues and malls.

thedurham-hotel-outsideTwo of my favorite hotels in the center city are repurposed properties as well  The Durham Hotel, with mid century modern interiors and a beautiful rooftop bar.

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And 21c Museum Hotel Durham, a  hip boutique hotel featuring funky art exhibits throughout. Both properties were originally banks and have since been repurposed and a grand places to call home during your Bull City visit.

 

the-durham-hotel-lobby-restaurantBoth hotels offer on property dining and while I have yet to eat at 21c Museum Hotel Durham, I enjoyed a fabulous meal at The Durham and would go back again, no matter if I stayed there or not. It’s no wonder the food was so well done, the restaurant in The Durham Hotel, serves a delicious locally-inspired menu designed by the Triangle’s  James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing.

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Durham is a walker-friendly city divided into districts that all offer shopping, dining and entertainment venues. and as you walk looks for these fun informational signs  that direct you to even more fun to be had and sites to be seen,

Cute funky little shops are all over town head to the Ninth Street shopping district or Brightleaf District where you will find your self wandering in and out of the shops at Brightleaf Square – have a blast.

scratch-bkery-2Start the day with Breakfast and delicious baked goods at Scratch Bakery or the Ninth Street Bakery. From pies to cookies, and more to enjoy on site or take to go, both of these places will make for a great start to your day. Check out the made-in-house tonics at Ninth Street Bakery and don’t miss a slice of pie at Scratch.

 

 

watts-groceryIn fact there are lots of great restaurants in the Durham area, many of them with menus that center around locally farmed or produced proteins, produce and product, so those of  you who know me, know I love that! Among don’t miss farm to fork spots to stop for a midday or evening repast: Piedmont, home to the talented Chef John May and Watts Grocery, the brainchild of chef Amy Tournquist.

img_3867Also make plans to enjoy a trio of restaurants and more to come by chef Matt Kelly, Currently Kelly owns or is a partner in  Mateo, a terrific Spanish tapas restaurant doing it right; an Italian Trattoria called Mothers & Sons and a classic deli known as Lucky’s Deli. By the Christmas holiday Kelly also hopes to have a seafood restaurant to add to his harem of well-know, well-done eateries – I’ll keep you posted!

fullsteam-on-tapLooking for a bit of night life then head to the Central Park District where you will find all sorts of repurposed automotive workshops and former gas stations. The Central Park district is home to Fullsteam Brewery – a front runner of the pack of uber popular North Carolina brews. The Plow to Pint is their motto as they incorporate local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and seasonal botanicals in each of their brews. The tap room is open every day from late in the afternoon to the wee hours of the morning.

parts-labour-1Across the street from Fullsteam is Motorco and the adjacent Parts & Labor. MotorCo is a popular music venue while Parts & Labor a bar and restaurant offering incredibly well done street food to enjoy at tables inside the bar out in good weather, outside at a host of picnic tables lit with twinkling white lights strung overhead.

Looking for coffee – lots of shops around town, but don’t miss a stop in a Cocoa Cinnamon – located right around the corner from Motorco.

220th_sm_0vb5sblmuhAnother fun area to explore is the American Tobacco Campus the former home to the American Tobacco company. This area is interestingly enough now a smoke-free campus with restaurants, office space, shops and entertainment venues.

heidi-with-burts-beesIt is also home to the headquarters for Burt’s Bees and the largest visible bee hive. The center of the factory  building is now a beautiful park, with tables and chairs for al fresco dining lined on either side. In the center a stream of running water, once used in conjunction with the factory now adds a wonderful water feature.

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Throughout the campus,  bits an pieces of Durham’s tobacco industry pay homage and tell the story of this city’s history. Check out this photo of me on a tractor once used to plant tobacco!  The American Tobacco campus sits next door to the Durham Bulls stadium and an Aloft hotel is adjacent to the property as well

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Of course the Duke University campus contributes to a major part of the Durham skyline. Take the family to enjoy one of the most hidden treasures in the Bull City, The Duke Lemur Center. This research sanctuary is dedicated to helping this endangered breed to thrive and grow and repopulate. It is the  largest lemur sanctuary in the world. Interesting and informative tours are available by appointment.

#TellThemHeidiSentYouIt was my pleasure to share all of this info on my monthly 3 Day Weekend travel segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today. The show originally aired at 11:45 on Wed Nov 14. Want to see for yourself? Simply Click here , then for more info visit http://www.durham-nc.com/                 #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

 

 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

imgresIt was a tremendous afternoon on Sunday Nov 6 in Charlotte! It was the first time I attended an Order/fire screening, but I can assure you it won’t be my last.

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From Left, Chef Greg Collier, Chef Marc Jacksina and Photographer Peter Taylor

The Web series, done in an exceptionally well thought out, casual documentary style, of sorts,  is a series of filmed interviews of Charlotte area chefs and farmers and is the brain child of Charlotte’s own videographer and award winning photographer, Peter Taylor and chef and on screen host Marc Jacksina.

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Greg and Subrina Collier

 

The screening this day was an afternoon of new and old friends all from and in support of Charlotte’s culinary community – chefs, farmers, media and more attended the Order/fire screening of Episode 3  of the series’ second season, featuring chef and owners of The Yolk in Rock Hill and @Dawn in Charlotte, chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina.

Both places are wonderful breakfast joints  with lunch and sometimes dinner options.  I personally love that  menus at The Yolk and @Dawn are always changing. Greg is an exceptional chef and always has something new and different up his sleeve that he is anxious to try out on his regulars. The wait for a table at The Yolk, the first and more established of the Collier’s two restaurants is sometimes long, but always worth it. Both places should be on your Must- Go-To-Soon list #TellThemHeidiSentYou

This Sunday, the afternoon family friendly  event in Greg and Subrina’s honor, an O/f viewing party  and benefit chicken dinner took place at Free Range Brewing in NODA.

imagesFree Range brewing is a great place with something for everyone. Have to admit it – I am not a beer lover at all – seems I am missing the beer-loving gene altogether, but I am thrilled that Free Range had other local options in addition to their line of lovely local brews.

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Old North brand shrubs – 2 bottled and one on tap at Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing

And its thanks to Free Range Brewing that I am now officially obsessed with farmer Jamie Swoffords seasonal Old North brand shrubs on the menu.

A shrub is an artisanal drinking vinegar often flavored with other ingredients. For Swofford that, of course, means local ingredients, often directly from his farm.The shrub is concentrated and may be used in cocktails or thinned with carbonated water for a good-for-you thirst quenching beverage.  The non alcoholic, fresh and fizzy muscadine and rose hips shrub is on tap NOW at Free Range and is simply delicious!  Two others, in the concentrated form, are available in bottles at Free Range Brewing. (You’ll be hearing more from me on these delicious drinkables these soon.)

The A Bao Time food truck in the parking lot on Sundays was a great addition as well. Note: you can learn more about all the events that take place at Free Range Brewing and all of their local brews here;  follow A Boa Time via the truck’s social media and learn more about Jamie Swofford , “The Chef’s Farmer” on his website and in his own Order/fire documentary on the O/f website.

For the Nov 6 event, chefs Geoff Bragg, Marc  Jacksina, Greg Collier and others hosted a Chicken Pickin’ for guests to enjoy.

 

img_6325Whole chickens were rubbed with Collier’s own Tennessee Rub, then smoked and served in quarters with a nap of Alabama white sauce – Wow. Sides of Mac and cheese, vinegar based slaw, baked beans and rolls were prepared by  the talented faculty and students team from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte – a real Charlotte treasure! Stop by the school to taste for yourself for breakfast or lunch or hire their team at Encore Catering to help with your next event!

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Life is short -I just had to taste the cookie first!

Yummy sugar glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies from 300 East made for a sweet finish to a delightful afternoon.  Chickens for the event were graciously donated by Springer Mountain Farms so that the proceeds from the event could all go to benefit the programs at the Community Culinary School of Charlotte.  

Not sure when the next screening for Order/fire  will be, but follow this blog and my social media and I’ll be sure you hear all about it. Meanwhile catch up on other episodes from this season and last  online at http://orderfireclt.com/  #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater: The Story of Seasonal Squash

Thought it would be fun  in the week before Halloween to serve up an update of a seasonal post on cooking  with pumpkin and winter squash. Plus, here is your advance notice to be sure to tune into Charlotte Today on WCNC on Monday Oct 31 for a special edition Pumpkin-Driven Restaurant Round-Up along with an accompanying blog post so you can see – and go to taste – what Charlotte area chefs are doing with this seasonal squash on their fall menus.

But before you can cook though, you must carve… learn all the tricks of the trade this weekend Oct 31, 4-7 pm at Lenny Boy Brewing Company from some of Charlotte’s finest chefs and farmers, all members of the Piedmont Culinary Guild who will be putting on their annual fund raising event for the fall season…Carved…

carved-2016-facebook-ogThe fun begins right at 4pm and runs through till 7 on Oct 31, 2016.  You and your family will watch pumpkins be transformed into clever and creative, sometimes ghostly and ghoulish  works of art.

I can promise you these aren’t your mama’s triangled-eyed Jack-O-Lanterns!  The photos I’ve posted here are from a Carved event a couple of years ago,  I took some of them, and some are thanks to the Piedmont Culinary Guild, but as incredible as these photos are, know the event just keeps getting better and better, so make it a point to make Carved a part of your family’s pre-Halloween festivities.

And, to add to the fun,  you’ll help add to the excitement by casting your vote for what you deem to be the best carved entry and your ticket will serve as your raffle number to possibly win one of the Carved creations! The lucky carver of the  winning creation gets the 2016 bragging rites and a custom-created leather knife roll and apron, crafted by Guild Member Brad Todd of Lucky Clays Farm.

In addition to the seasonal squash on display this year, Carved-goers will enjoy  fresh shelled popcorn-on-the-cob, courtesy of PCG Member Brent Barbee of Barbee Farms; fresh cider pressed on site from  North Carolina apples, courtesy of PCG Member Eric Williamson of Coldwater Creek Farms; and an antique John Deere tractor “ice cream machine” that will be set up to sample and demo fresh ice cream, courtesy of PCG member Bo Sellers of Allee Bubba Farms.

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Emily Russell from Zone 7 Foods at the 2015 Carved event

But wait theres more: Magic and balloon creations by Scott Link; Artistic caricatures created of you and your family on site by Sarah Pollack; Tin-type photographs developed on site by Jeff Howlett; and a Silent auction

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Chef Dave Feemster – Fahrenheit with his chili pepper pumpkin

There will be a separate Kids Competition on the Carving front. Kids, ages 11 and under who bring a pumpkin they carved themselves get in FREE and will be eligible for special prizes. Plus, PCG Member Megan Lambert of Johnson and Wales University will have a table of sugar skulls for kids to decorate, plus there will be games and other activities for children to enjoy.

Two options during the event  to purchase  food on site:  PCG Member Tara Diamante will have her Bleu Barn Bistro food truck at Lenny Boy – offering dishes created from locally-sourced meat and produce. While PCG Member Courtney Buckley will  be serving up sweets from Your Mom’s Donuts cart on site – offering all local product made from Got ToBeNc locally  milled flour, pasture raised dairy, and eggs.

Your ticket includes entrance to the event, a souvenir Carved 2016 cup, one Lenny Boy beverage (with supplied ticket) ( You may purchase more to drink on your own) and one voting ticket – which doubles as an entry to the Carved raffle to win one of the carved pumpkins created at the event.

Cost is  Adults: $18 in advance or $22 at the door; Kids – 11 and under: $5
(Remember – Kids who bring a pumpkin they carved themselves get in FREE)  Advance tickets are available online here and advance sales end on Friday, October 28. 

How to carve your pumpkin and eat it too!

Like the chefs and farmers participating in the Carved event,  most of us do not hesitate to go out and choose a real pumpkin for our Halloween Jack-o-Lantern, but when it comes to actually cooking this seasonal squash, we tend to forgot that “Eat Local” mantra and all the possibilities of using fresh versus canned. This year, I suggest you shop from local farmers, rather than the canned veggie aisle of your local grocer and make some puree you can freeze and use for months to come.

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Local Pumpkins from Dover Vineyards spotted at The Asbury booth at this year’s Dilworth Southend Chili Cookoff

It’s easy to put up your own pumpkin puree this season and I am happy to use this post to show you how its done. Fresh pumpkin, like all other varieties of winter squash is abundant in this area and makes for some very fine eating not only in pie, but in custards, ice creams, breads, cookies and muffins as well as savory recipes like soups, salads, pastas, tempura and pureed or baked as a side with grilled or roasted meats and is great for juicing, too.

Whew! Pumpkin is also quite nice served raw, either grated into salads or thin sliced and served with raw veggies and your favorite dip.

These seasonal squash are low in calories, yet abundant in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Pumpkin is a great source for vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E all are rich in anti-oxidants and anti-aging properties. Health benefits aside,  legend and folk lore has it that this grandest of gourd’s is also an aphrodisiac…so all of a sudden, pumpkin season could take on a whole new meaning … I’ll leave it at that and let you draw your own conclusions.

pumkins in the fieldPumpkins grow in a wide variety of sizes, some weighing in at well over 100 pounds. Save the big brusiers for winning awards at county fares and for carving contests. Nothing like a large Jack-o-lantern set out and lit up on the porch designed to welcome treat or treating seasonal guests. Keep in mind that once “Jack” has been carved and spent several nights out of doors, all sorts of ants and other creepy crawly things may take up residence, to say nothing of the melted wax. That’s all fine, if the plan is to keep the carved pumpkin outside, but if you were planning to cook and eat the pulp after the 31st, then best to buy another pumpkin or two or three for all  your upcoming culinary endeavors this season.

For eating purposes, look for medium to slightly smaller pumpkins, those with more tender and succulent flesh.  Like any other winter squash – butternut, acorn, golden and Hubbard – the skin should be free from blemishes and the pumpkin or squash heavy for its size. Store whole any winter squash, pumpkins et al, at room temperature for as long as a month or keep in a cooler place for as long as three months.

To easily get inside the tough outer shell, place your pumpkin in a large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, take it outside and drop it on some hard concrete – this might be one fun and good way for the kids to help with the process.. The pumpkin will split open into several pieces. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the bag, scoop out the stringy pulp that surrounds the seeds and then cut the firmer pulp from the outside pumpkin shell. Boil, steam, bake or fry the chunks of pumpkin as you would potatoes, or oven roast by placing the pumpkin chunks, skin and all, cut side down in a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, or an hour and a half or so, or until the pumpkin pieces are fork tender – about the same consistency as a baked potato. When the squash has cooled slightly, scoop is of the cooked shell.

For pumpkin puree, mash or process the roasted, boiled or steamed chunks in a processor, blender or by hand. Season to be sweet or savory, as you choose and then use as directed in your favorite recipe. Cooked pumpkin pulp will keep in your freezer for six to eight months.

In addition to being used as a base for many sweet and savory recipes, pumpkin or winter squash puree may also be served on it’s own as you would mashed or creamed potatoes. Simply add a little butter to the puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.

From Little Seeds, Big Pumpkins Grow

pumpkin heirloom-seeds-740x493The pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, may be rinsed from the stringy pulp, which holds then in place inside the pumpkin and then baked. Because you will remove them before setting your Jack-o-lantern outside, you can bake and eat the seed from pumpkins you carve as well as those you cut up and cook.

First, rinse the seeds well, removing all of the pumpkin pulp. Then, pat the seeds dry between several layers of paper toweling. Spread the dry pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a lightly oiled or buttered baking sheet. Season them generously before baking with your favorite spice or spice combination. Use something as simple as a mix of salt and pepper or go for a zestier blend of garlic salt, chili powder and a dash of cumin. Toast the seeds in a preheated 200 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, turning them over halfway during the baking time. When the seeds are dry and toasted with a crunchy consistency, remove them for the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and enjoy over the course of the next several weeks and months.

Pumpkin pairs well with other veggies of the fall season including locally grown carrots. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for oven roasted pumpkin and carrots – serve it up in carved out small pie pumpkins in place of bowls for an extra touch of something special. Enjoy!

 

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Heidi Billotto gets into the act at the 2014  Piedmont Culinary Guild’s Carved event several years ago – tons of fun for all!

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

Recipe from Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

1 medium sized pumpkin or 2-3  butternut or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise

3-4 whole organic carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 shallots, minced

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Water or broth to cover

1 cup heavy cream or fat free half and half, more if needed

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the pumpkin or squash on a parchment paper lined baking sheet cut side down. no need to scrape the seeds out first unless you’d like to go ahead and roast those separately. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the outside of the pumpkin or squash begin to brown. When the pumpkin is  cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds, then gently scoop the pulp from the skin. Reserve.

In a stockpot, Heat olive oil for a minute, till it becomes aromatic. Add carrots and shallots or leeks and saute until they start to brown. Add butternut squash, cover with water or broth; bring to a boil and allow to boil until carrots are tender.

Use an immersion blender or a food processor to puree the squash and carrots and stir into broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the heavy cream or half and half for a creamier soup if you would like. Adjust seasonings.

Serve hot, freezes well. Thin with additional broth or water if desired.

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Stay tuned for another pumpkin centric post on Monday Oct 31, as a share how local Charlotte chefs are serving pumpkin on their fall menus and be sure to tune in to see 5 of my favorites on Monday’s Halloween edition of Charlotte Today on WCNC in Charlotte.

If you’d like to be the first to see each of my blogs posts as they appear on this site, then simply subscribe to the blog as prompted and each and every post will come right to your inbox.

Greensboro, NC Getaway Plan A 3Day Weekend this Fall

 

heidi head shot 1 -In Need of a little getaway this fall season? Might I suggest that you look no further than North Carolina’s Triad region connecting three major cities all within a half hour drive of each other and about a hour and half in travel time from Charlotte, making a trip to any of the Triad cities –  High Point, Winston-Salem and Greensboro – worthy of a three day weekend status.

Fun to do my October 3 day weekend segment for WCNC’s Charlotte tOday on the city of Greensboro, NC. The details are all here in the post, but if you want to watch the video, scroll to the end and simply click on the link.

Greensboro, home to the sit in protests of the 1960s, Harlem Globetrotter “Curly” Neal and the place where Vick’s VaporRub was invented, is also know as the Gate City due to the heavy flow of railroad traffic that went in and out of the city in the late 1800s. Today Greensboro is still a major Amtrack  hub with trains arriving and leaving from The Greensboro Southern Railway Depot, now known as The Depot, originally built in 1899.

gro_stationinteriorHow to get to Greensboro, Nc

While Greensboro is an easy car ride from Charlotte, a fun nod to our state’s history would be to take the train for your three day weekend visit, and then uber or bike around the city as needed. Amtrack tickets from Charlotte start at just $19 one way and you can book a reservation for your bike as well. While the original Greensboro Depot is now the home to all sorts of transportation, a portion of the original train station still remains and makes for a fun and historic way to kick off your trip.

What to do in Greensboro

imagesOnce you get off the train at The Depot in downtown Greensboro, you are a quick walk or bike ride from the Greensboro Children’s Museum, a great place to spend some time with the kids.

One of the most fascinating exhibits for kids and adults alike is Greensboro’s Edible SchoolYard Garden, the only sanctioned Edible Schoolyard garden to be a major exhibit in a museum.

This working hands-on garden is used to teach kids about growing and planting, raising crops taking care of farm animals – the garden includes its own family of laying hens for fresh eggs, as well as taking care of and feeding the hungry in the community.

The garden is used as a major source of product for adult and children’s cooking classes taught year round int he museum kitchen. And chefs around town also teach at teh museum and use produce from the garden in their seasonal menus. For more information about regular events at the museum as well as the schedule of cooking classes, here’s where to find  the details.

Agriculture is king in North Carolina and there are lots of farms in around the Greensboro area with lots of fun events coming up this fall season – any one of them would be a great anchor around which to plan your three day weekend Greensboro getaway.

images-4Among them High Rock Farm, in Gibsonville, NC. The farm house on High Rock Road was originally used as a stage coach stay in the 1800s and has also been a tavern and a post office. Now it is home to High Rock Farm owner Richard Teague, who planted the first chestnut tree on the property in 1991. High Rock Farm is now the largest working and producing chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic Region. The farm celebrates it harvest each year with an annual Chestnut Roasting Festival, this year on Nov 6, from noon – t5 pm. Admission is just $8 per person. The fun includes hay rides through the orchard, music, food trucks, tours of the historic home and more. Kids under 10 are free. For more info HighRockFarm.com 

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Goat Lady Dairy in Julian, NC, a stones throw away from Greensboro is home to a large goat cheese making operation and the dairy offers monthly cheese-centric 5 course Dinners at the Dairy as well as farm and dairy tours. The remaining dinner dates for this year are Nov 11 and 12 and December 2 and 3, so make your reservations now. For more information visit GoatLadyDairy.com

If you, like me love to shop for housewares and china, old and new and find the fun is int he hunt for that can’t live without piece; then you simply cannot miss a trip to Greensboro’s own Replacement’s.

Located at 1089 Knox Rd. in McLeansville, NC, just outside of Greensboro, Replacement’s is  the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver, and collectibles.

great-wall-of-china-in-replacementsThe 500,000-square-foot facilities (the size of 8 football fields) house an  inventory of 12 million pieces in more than 425,000 patterns, some more than 100 years old. You can order from Replacements online, look for a missing piece to your grandmothers good china or browse through the inventory online, but there there is nothing quite like being there and to my mind this one of kind shopping extravanganza is worth the 3 day weekend jaunt in and of itself. For more info, or to buy or sell your favorite china pieces visit the website here

unknown-2Where to stay for the trip?

Lots of choices from the historic, charming  and said to be haunted 1903 era boutique Biltmore Hotel in the downtown area  – an easy walk from the Amtrack station. Visit the website for more info or reservations

unknown-1To The O’Henry,  an elegant hotel located a short and easy 4-minute walk from the Shops At Friendly Center.  Beautiful guest rooms have tall ceilings, unique furnishings, plush beds and en suite bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate dressing rooms. Your reservation includes a free Southern-style breakfast is served in the pavilion or the garden, while afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails are available in the lovely Craftsman-style lobby. For reservations and more info visit the website here

proximity-hotel-photos-exterior-hotel-informationThe Proximity , the sister property to the O’Henry, may be one of my favorite hotels in the area. Its the first green LEED hotels in the country with strict sustainable practices designed to save energy and help the environment while still offering a luxurious place to stay. 100 sun panels on the hotel roof, heat the water in the hotel and the energy the elevators create going down, allow them to go up as well. Bicycles are available for guests to ride on the nearby five-mile greenway that extends to over 75 miles of trails and routes throughout the Greensboro area. For reservations and more info visit the website here

Where to eat in Greensboro

Once you have your hotel reservations and have honed in on what you want to see and do in the area, you’ll need to decide what and where to eat. The restaurants at both The Proximity Hotel – Print Works Bistro , fresh local ingredients used to create fabulous comfort food;  and at the O’Henry Hotel – Green Valley Grill – informally elegant interiors serving seasonal favorites in a Mediterranean style-  are both excellent choices.

4213690For burgers, beef, vegetarian and otherwise, Hops Burger Bar  with two locations in Greensboro, is a popular local favorite you won’t want to miss. Parking is tight and there is often a wait, but its worth  each and every juicy bite-o-burger! If Mexican is more your style, go eat where nearly every chef in the Greensboro area sent me – El Camino Real – an understated Mexican joint in a strip center  at 4131 E. Spring Garden Street.

undercurrent-outside-gsoFinally for more white table cloth dining, check out Undercurrent Restaurant in downtown Greensboro, Listed as one of the “Top Ten Restaurants in Greensboro” by USA Today, the focus at Undercurrent is farm to fork. Sourcing all sorts of local ingredients from farms large and small, Chef de Cuisine, Michael Harken­reader  and the Undertcurrent’s team will wow you for sure. Open for lunch dinner and brunch, Don’t miss the opportunity to eat at Undercurrent soon!

Here is the link the to segment I did on Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson sharing a couple of reasons why you need to think about visiting Greensboro this fall. Enjoy!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

For more info on all that is happening in Greensboro, North Carolina, visit the Convention and Visitors Bureau   #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

October Restaurant RoundUp: 6 Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar

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Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto in the WCNC Charlotte Today studios with all the dishes featured in her October Restaurant Roundup lined up and ready to roll.

Updated Blog post to go along with my October Restaurant Round Up segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today originally airing this morning (Wed., Oct 19) at 11:47.

A link to the video from the show appears at the end of this post and I’ve updated each restaurant’s section with photos of the featured food and several shots from the show. Always great fun to share my thoughts on chefs, restaurants and food that really should be on your radar.

In addition to the photos posted here, I’ll also post them all on all of my social media with links back to the blog and to the video.

To be the first to see them, Friend me at Heidi Billotto or like my page at Heidi Billotto Cooks on Facebook; follow me on Twitter at @HeidiCooks and Follow me on Instagram @HeidiBillotto.

The segment on Charlotte Today  featured five restaurants that, if they aren’t already, really should be on your radar. The sixth, included in this post relates to a dinner I attended last night.

Check those social media feeds now and you’ll see photos from a fabulous dinner I attended last night at The Asbury in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte.

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

img_5423It was the last Collaborative chefs dinner of the 2016 series and it was an extraordinary evening. A pairing of the culinary talents of The Asbury‘s culinary team led by executive chef Matthew Krenz and guest chef John May from Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. This dynamic duo turned out 9 plates of fabulous fall flavor, each course paired with a wine especially selected for the evening by Josh Villapando of The Assorted Table Wine Shop also located in uptown Charlotte in Seventh Street Station.

If you haven’t eaten at The Asbury yet, don’t wait a second longer to make reservations. With a focus on all that is local and seasonal, and a nod to our Southern roots, Chef Matthew Krenz is really doing something special and the new fall menu is now up and running. And when next you visit Durham, be sure that a dinner at Peidmont Restaurant, home to chef John May, is a part of your plans!

There were nine courses at the dinner last night so can’t picture them all here – and its hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed I would have to say it would be John May’s salad with a poached egg and Matt Krenz’ roast lamb with stewed white beans and bitter greens. Both truly outstanding. My favorite wine of the evening  – this is another hard pick, but I think I’d have to say the rose paired with May’s salad. After nine plates and nine wines, the name escapes me so just call Josh at The Assorted Table Wine Shop and ask – he’ll be glad to tell you all about it!

Look for more on Krenz,  The Asbury and the fall menu in my culinary section of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine out soon – Subscribe to this blog and you’ll be among the first to know when the fourth quarter issue hits Charlotte newsstands!   Now on to the five restaurants featured on air this morning.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Concord, NC  30 Raiford Drive

concordstoreoutsideThis newest Dunkin’ Donuts celebrates its Grand Opening on Friday Oct 21 and has the distinction of being the 50th Dunkin’ Donuts to open in our area. The fun at the Grand Opening begins bright and early at 6:30 am. Free coffee to each guest from 7-9 am, and one lucky customer will be picked at random and will win free coffee for a year!

img_5430All the other Dunkin’ Donuts locations will also be celebrating with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent donuts all day long on Friday Oct 21 – For more details on all the events planned at the Grand Opening and for a several fun recipes with Dunkin’ Donuts products as ingredients check out one of my blog posts from earlier this week here.

Fern, Flavors of the Earth at 1419 East Blvd. in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood 

img_5304After four year in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Fern, Flavors of the Earth, takes up new digs in Dilworth. Now with an open kitchen, seated at the bar, inside and outside on a beautiful patio, there is more room to sit and enjoy the great vegan and vegetarian dishes chef Matthew Martin and his team are turning out.

On the show today I featured Fern’s,  Buffalo Cauliflower appetizer and well as two entrees: the raw noodle pasta dish and the Seitan Steak. After the show, My husband Tom and I stopped by to drop off some containers and stayrd for lunch which led us to discover two more favorite Fern Fall Flavors – the black bean burger and the Buddah Bowl, a mix of black Forbidden Rice, sauteed tofu and mixed seasonal vegetables – can’t wait to go back for more!

Clean Juice with three locations in Charlotte, at Birkdale Village, Sonecrest at Piper Glenn and in CrossFit Vitality in Concord

img_5366This is a great new juice and smoothie bar with a clean fresh and all organic approach to eating on the run.  I love the smoothies and the bowls, but don’t miss the little bites like the pumpkin, avocado or almond toast offerings. And if you are interested in juicing or a juice cleanse – the folks at Clean Juice can set you up and get you headed in the right direction.

As I said on air, the thing I love about this place is that this chain of juice bars are USDA Certified Organic, which makes their healthy offerings all the better. On air I showed the chia puddings, the carrot, pineapple and orange juice, spiced up with a big of good – for you turmeric; a wheat grass shot, the blue Panther Fan smoothie and my favorite of Clean Juice’s seasonal bites, the Pumpkin butter toast, made with homemade pumpkin butter, bits of cocoa nibs, cinnamon honey and sliced apple.

The last two restaurants featured today are  old favorites. Solid members of the Charlotte culinary skyline, both are located uptown.

Aria Tuscan Grill located at 100 N Tryon Street on the lower level of Founders Hall

img_5368With modern contemporary interiors that include  a dining room with a picture perfect view of whats going on in the kitchen, a private chefs table dining room open to the kitchen, a large and comfortable bar area and private dining rooms for larger groups, the fall menu at Aria features many seasonal old world Italian favorites as well as several new delicious spins on classic recipes.

Featured today – chicken cacciatore served atop homemade pasta with mushrooms and olives; Aria’s signature caramelized gnocchi in a truffled cream sauce, with thin sliced prosciutto and grated pear; and a melt-in-your-mouth polenta topped with Taleggio cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Funny enough I stumbled over the pronunciation of the word Taleggio – just for future reference for us all, its “Tall-Agee-O”. No matter which way you say it , its smooth and creamy, pungent in aroma but rich in flavor and a perfect foil for the umami of the mushrooms and the base of creamy polenta.

City Smoke at 100 N Tryon with an entrance off of the bottom floor of Founders Hall at the foot of the escalators.

img_5367If you are thinking barbecue, well, you are right, but City Smoke is so much more. Much of the fall menu comes from the rotisserie and its all about the smoke.  Classic Oysters Rockefeller, shucked ot order and topped with a spinach cream and then served on a bed of course salt, pepper and bay make for a fine start. My favorite recipe of the season at City Smoke might be the  smoked and grilled octopus salad – sliced grilled octopus served with roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted red bell pepper all atop a bed of lightly dressed arugula. Finally we have the Lamb roast done on the roitisserie and served with a rich brown sauce topped with a pine nut gremolata along side a bowl of roasted beets and blue cheese – This one had my name all over it!

Here is the link to the video segment in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it
Then make breakfast, lunch or dinner plans ( as it applies) to each of these great places soon. and remember to tell them Heidi sent you! Cheers!

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

If you enjoyed this post, I suggest you sign up to follow HeidiBillottoFood.com  where prompted on the home page.

That way each and every post, restaurant suggestion and recipe will come straight to your in box as soon as is goes up online.

Eat Your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee & doughnuts and cook with them too!

img_5272Did you know that this perfect paring of coffee and donuts isn’t just for breakfast, your next coffee break or a great midday or late night snack any more.  That’s right, now you can drink and eat your seasonal pumpkin Dunkin’ Donuts latte and  donuts and cook with them too!

Today’s recipes are thanks to the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens at the company’s home base in Canton, Mass.  But once you see how their culinary minds work the application is easy and you, too, can start to shortcut a recipe – for example, substituting ground donuts for graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a pie crust and using Dunkin’s seasonal pumpkin latte in place of the milk, sugar, and flavoring for your own fun pumpkin pancakes.

tl-horizontal_mainSame goes for the  Dunkin’ Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Donuts – chocolate covered doughnuts with a rich peanut butter buttercream in the middle just as is the candy of the same name. Enjoy this sweet treat as you celebrate the season of ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Simply place 1-2 0f these donuts in a food processor to grind them up; shape the mix into small bite-sized balls – about the same size as a Dunkin’ Munchkin – freeze, dip in melted chocolate or refrigerate and roll in Dark cocoa or chocolate shots and there you have it – quick and easy chocolate peanut butter truffles.

The Dunkin’ Donuts concept began in 1948 with a donut and coffee restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts called “Open Kettle”, then the name changed to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. I can almost guarantee that founder William Rosenberg had no idea that his dream to serve guests donuts and coffee to kick off their morning, would one day be over 12,000 donuts shops in 44 countries strong; and I  feel certain he never entertained the idea that customers would buy his famous donuts as an ingredient in their seasonal recipes!

img_5276I grew up eating Dunkin’ Donuts in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla – coffee and a DD French cruller became my go-to morning break snack when I was in high school. (It was a time when seniors could leave campus between classes. With really no where to go, we all camped out at the DD in the neighborhood, till it was time for class again.) While my personal Dunkin’ Donuts fave is and always has been the light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth French cruller; this time of the year the Apple Croissant Doughnut is a great seasonal stand in. The taste is that of an apple turnover wrapped in a light a fluffy cruller style doughnut. In addition to the Apple Croissant doughnut, another seasonal selection you won’t want to miss is Dunkin’ Donuts pumpkin glazed doughnut. Also available in Munchkin sized bites, this seasonal crowd pleaser is also great for dunking and as you will see, does double duty as an ingredient in your favorite seasonal recipes  as well!

Save the Date | Friday Oct 21, 2016 – Dunkin Donut’s 50th Charlotte area store Grand Opening in Concord NC 

concordstoreoutsideThe first Dunkin’ Donuts in the Charlotte metro area opened in 2004.  This week in Charlotte, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and doughnut fans across the city will be celebrating as the 50th store in our Metrolina area opens for business. The newest member of the Dunkin’ Donuts family  is in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm.

On Oct. 21, from 7-9 am the new Concord Dunkin’ Donuts will be giving away free cups of coffee. Mayor Scott Padget will be on hand to help serve guests and will help present one randomly selected guests as the lucky winner of free coffee for one year!

At 7-7:30 am, don’t miss the fun as Dunkin’ recognizes several local heros at the new store opening with a Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee Dance-off event. Charlotte’s own Braylon Beam,  the six year old who captured the nation’s hearts a year ago with his Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance and dancing-as-therapy videos promoting his #JustKeepDancing campaign and Charlotte’s hearts as the Panthers’ honorary coach, will lead teams of Concord Fire Fighters and teams of Concord Police in a fun and friendly dance-off.

Also from 7-9 am look for on air personalities from Fox 46 to be on hand, serving free medium-sized coffee and doing love broadcasts, as well ,as a part of the station’s monthly “Free Coffee Friday” promo.

img_5275Across the city every Dunkin’ Donuts will be celebrating the 50th shop opening with 50 cent cups of coffee and 50 cent doughnuts throughout the day on Friday. 

In Concord, the new shop is looking to sell 500 cups of coffee after the free pours Friday morning have come and gone. If the goal is met, as a part of the Kickin’ Cancer with Coffee event, Dunkin Donuts will donate $5 for each cup sold for a total contribution of up to $2500 to the Bring it 4 Braylon Foundation.

 

Before Friday’s celebrations begin, you can stop by your closest Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up Hot Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin donuts or Pumpkin Munchkins and The new Reese’s Halloween Donut for more that just a morning or midday treat. Use them as ingredients in your next homemade recipe as well…

Drink your latte and eat it too – Pumpkin Latte Pancakes (See this recipe on Video from Fox 46 Charlotte here)

img_5347Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

1 ½ Cups of all-purpose flour

3 ½ Tsp of baking powder

1 Tsp of salt

1 Small ( 10 oz) hot Pumpkin Latte, chilled ( in this recipe the latte takes the place of the milk, sugar and pumpkin flavoring you might otherwise add to your own pancakes)

1 Egg

3 Tbsp. of butter, melted

img_5342Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk them together.

Then, add the remaining ingredients and stir until they are evenly mixed.

Heat a pan over medium/high heat and spray it with cooking spray.

Once hot, spoon the pancake batter into the pan, then flip to make your pancakes. 

I added my own “Keep in Local, Charlotte” touch here by finishing the stack-o-pancakes  with toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzling of local sourwood honey.

Pumpkin Donut-Crusted No Bake Pumpkin Pie

Recipe courtesy of the chefs in the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchens in Canton, Mass.

img_53463 Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Cake Donuts, crumbled

1 Package of cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 Cup of pureed pumpkin

1 Cup of powdered sugar

1 Tsp of cinnamon

1/4 Tsp of nutmeg

1/4 Tsp of cloves

2 Cups of heavy whipping cream

1/4 Cup of ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast coffee

img_5338Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and press the crumbled donuts firmly into a pie pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then cool thoroughly, just as you would a graham cracker curst.   

For the filling,  combine the cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, powdered sugar, and spices until smooth.  

img_5339In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the pumpkin mixture.   Pour the pumpkin cream mixture into the donut crust and smooth out with a spatula.   Refrigerate overnight.

 

 Just before serving, make the coffee flavored whipped cream to top your pie.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine ground Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast with 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Strain the Dark Roast out of the cream using a coffee filter and set aside.  Whip the remaining heavy cream in a bowl and once it reaches soft peaks, add in the Dark Roast cream.   Pipe the cream onto the top of the pie and enjoy!

For another variation on the theme, instead of the using the roasted coffee beans to flavor the coffee, try what I did on the Oct 20 broadcast of WBTV’s Morning Break Charlotte. Video Here

img_5488Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Latte Pie Topping – Combine 1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of Dunkin’ Donuts  pumpkin latte, chilled and  1/4 cup of powdered sugar with about 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until light but smooth. Pipe on the pie as your would whipped cream and decorate with chocolate covered coffee beans. Enjoy!

 

#TellThemHeidiSentYouThe 50th Dunkin’ Donuts shop in our Metrolina area is open for business in Concord NC, at 30 Raiford Drive. The grand opening is on Friday Oct 21 and the festivities start at 6:30 am. Regular hours at the Concord location are 5am – 10 pm. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

About the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation: The mission of the Bring It 4 Braylon Foundation is to help alleviate the burden associated with pediatric cancer by providing comprehensive support to families and individuals who are fighting the disease. Founded on Braylon’s philosophy,  wise beyond his years, calling on us to “Be Brave. Be Positive. Have the Heart,” in the hope that together we can help to face and alleviate the challenges pediatric cancers patients and their families face everyday. For more info on how you can help make a difference visit, http://www.bringit4braylon.com/

Stuffed Squash Blossoms: A New Take on Ham and Cheese

img_5252I’ve been doing a lot of cooking this month on television and for catering jobs and cooking classes. As my regular readers know, I am all about local and cooking in the season, so this month, in particular, I have celebrated the end of the squash season with  several recipes for stuffed squash blossoms. Recently I made a delicious (if I do say so myself) ham and cheese stuffed version of my baked stuffed squash blossoms, originally for a brunch I catered for the Charlotte Food Bloggers.

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Earlier this week, I shared the recipe on WBTV’s new program, Morning Break, in the television kitchen with my friend Kristen Miranda  and you’ll find the video of this recipe prep is at the end of this post, as well as a special bonus recipe from the Charlotte Food Bloggers’ Brunch.

My friends from Goodnight Brothers Country Ham were good enough to help sponsor the brunch I prepared for the Charlotte Food Bloggers and so as a way of saying thanks I wanted to come up with several new and interesting ways to serve Goodnights thin sliced dry cured country ham. You might consider it North Carolina’s answer to Italian prosciutto. This thin sliced ham is locally available in Charlotte at Earthfare and Whole Foods.

dsc_0734What I love about the ham is first is all its a local North Carolina product all the way around. Goodnight Brothers, based in Boone, NC,  doesn’t raise the pigs – they just cure the meat, but they are selective in the meat they use.  The Goodnight products are produced from pigs pasture-raised on North Carolina family farms. These animals were raised in an antibiotic-free environment and when the meat was cured it was done so without the use of added nitrates or nitrites except for those naturally occurring in sea salt and celery. The ham comes thin sliced in 4 oz packages and slices are separated with parchment paper to make using the ham even easier.

 

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Heidi’s Ham and Cheese salad with Goodnight Brothers Thin sliced ham, grilled Bosc Pears, boiled quail eggs, Tega Hill Farm Lettuce and Uno Alla Volta cottage cheese, dressed with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic from Pour Olive in Charlotte

I’ve seen chefs across the state use this tasty ham in multitudes of recipes as Goodnight Brothers products have been featured in many of the GotToBeNc Competition Dining  series battles I have worked; and inspired, I have used it myself to make ham-wrapped everything from shrimp to pretzels, in salads, on biscuits and in combination with another local favorite of mine, Uno Alla Volta feta cheese to stuff local squash blossoms, available from Tega Hill Farms.

As I write this, it is the middle of October, and by the end of the month, squash season will be over in the Tega Hill Farm greenhouses and the vines of beautiful yellow blossoms will make way for pea tendrils and other seasonal greens. But don’t you fret, this wonderful ham and cheese stuffing can still be made and used in many ways – here are just a few suggestions before we get to the squash blossom recipe.

img_4985Cut jalapenos or small sweet peppers in half, scrape out the seeds, fill the pepper halves with the ham and cheese filling, top with a sprinkling of panko crumbs and grated Parmesan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until brown for a great spicy or not ham and cheese popper.

The stuffing can also be piped onto toasts or into small savory pastry shells and baked as you would the peppers, or mix the stuffing recipe here in its entirety with 2 ( 8oz) blocks of cream cheese and then baked in small well greased muffin tins at 375 for about 30 mins to make bite-sized ham and cheese cheesecakes!

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You can also use the ham all by itself to make a mean mini ham biscuit – I particularly like these dressed with a new mustard I just discovered. Its Korean Mustard, produced by a South Carolina based company called Burnt and Salty and is available in Charlotte at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend. The sweet salty taste of the dry cured ham and the sweet spicy taste of the mustard are a match made in heaven and perfect on a one or two bite fresh baked biscuit!

 

 

So many variations -hope you have fun trying them all, but first back to the matters at hand. The Squash Blossoms and the master recipe for my local Ham and Cheese  stuffing.

Heidi’s Ham and Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Honey and Bechamel 

img_5267For the Squash Blossoms:

1 cup Uno Alla Volta feta cheese

3 local eggs, divided

1/2 cup chopped local parsley or spinach

½ cup shredded Goodnight Brothers Thin Sliced Dry Cured Country Ham

orange zest

12 squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm

Flour

¾ cup breadcrumbs

For the béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

img_52571½ cups whole local milk ( I used Hickory Hill Milk produced just outside of Greenville SC and available in Charlotte at Earthfare – its a wonderful cream top milk and – fun fact – is the milk from which Clemson Blue Cheese is made!)

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard ( or you can use the Burnt and Salty Korean Mustard for a nice kick!

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Directions for the blossoms:

Mix together feta, 1 lightly beaten egg, shredded ham and  parsley or spinach and orange zest. Season to taste.

Put the remaining 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Carefully remove the stamen of each blossom and then pipe the  filling into each squash blossom and twist loosely at the end to close.

img_4991Dust the stuffed blossoms lightly with flour. And then dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg, then breadcrumbs, and transfer to a wire cake rack. This is the secret – allow the breading and egg to rest for about 5 minutes before placing the breaded blossoms on a parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, in a preheated 400 degree oven until the blossoms are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

For a savory dish, top the blossoms with the béchamel. For a sweeter note, drizzle them with local honey from Dancing Bees Honey before serving.

Directions for the béchamel:

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and stir cook, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes.

Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth.

Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the bechamel from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season to taste with salt.

video graphic

And now click here to link to the video from my WBTV Morning Break cooking segment earlier this week. As I mentioned on air, the cheese from Uno Alla Volta and the squash blossoms from Tega Hill Farm and the honey from Dancing Bees Honey will all be available at the Matthews Community Farmers Market on Saturdays. The blossoms will only be available through the end of October, so get cooking and enjoy this special taste of the season.

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Chef Wolfgang Puck and Charlotte Based food & restaurant writer Heidi Billotto

Just as a reference, you will hear Kristen and me talking about chef Wolfgang Puck. The evening before my cooking segment, WP Kitchen & Bar restaurant in Charlotte had an event to raise funds and awareness for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. The restaurant used the occasion to kick off the new fall menu and Wolfgang Puck and his brother Klaus were in town to help celebrate. This was the second time I had the pleasure of meeting Puck – he’s a great guy with tons of contagious energy and enthusiasm and is a huge supporter of the Food Bank. “If all of us just do a little,”,he said.” It makes a huge difference.”

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Bonus Recipe… In addition to make the ham and cheese salad and the stuffed squash Blossoms for the Charlotte Food Bloggers brunch, I also made homemade fresh baked Cheese Danish and Sticky Cinnamon Rolls. I promised the recipe and so here tis – enjoy!

Heidi’s Homemade Danish or Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup sour cream

½ cup organic sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup melted butter

½ cup warm water

2 Tbsp. yeast

2 local eggs

4 cups organic unbleached flour

For the cinnamon roll filling:

melted butter
, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar

For the Danish filling:
 1 (6 oz) block cream cheese
, ¼ cup sugar
, 1 egg
 Your favorite jam or fruit spread

For the dough: Dissolve yeast in warm water with one teaspoon of the sugar. Stir and when a foam forms on the surface it is ready. If no foam appears within five minutes, then either your water was too hat or your yeast was old. Start again with cooler water and another package of yeast. 
Once the yeast starts to foam or proof, combine it with the other dough ingredients to form a soft but sticky dough.
Let rise 1 hour. Turn out onto a floured worksurface. Knead until smooth then roll dough out into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick.

For cinnamon rolls: generously spread the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugars and cinnamon. Roll up like a jelly roll. Cut the log of dough into 1 ½ inch thick slices. Place the slices in a buttered pan, cut side up. Drizzle with additional melted butter
Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

For the Danish: combine cream cheese, egg and ugar and beat until smooth. Spread the filling down the center of the dough rectangle. Top with your favorite jam or fruit spread. Cut small slits along either side of the dough so that the dough on either side of the filling will resemble fringe. Starting from one end, fold the “fringe” pieces up and over the filling to encase the cream cheese and jam.
Place the finished Danish on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

 

 

 

Seasonally Speaking: It’s Time for Local Organic Baby Ginger

img_4511To every time (and to every fruit, flower, herb and vegetable) there is a season.

Back in 2011, it was my pleasure to join a small but excited group at  Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC for the first harvest of a new crop of  organic baby ginger! Mary  and Ray Roberts-Tarlton, owners and farmers at Windcrest, a certified organic farm, grow all kinds of cool and unusual herbs and veggies, but this first crop of baby ginger was something special. Fast forward these past five years and the annual every growing ginger crop at Windcrest has become an occasion to celebrate!

Roberts and her team start the ginger from organic seed from brought in from Hawaii early in the year and then transferred the tender young plants to their home in the ground in one of Windcrest’s many greenhouses. As the tubers grow beneath the ground, the stalks and leaves shoot up to heights from 4-6 feet tall. The joy here is that the whole plant can be used from stem to stern. The leaves can be dried and crumbled for tea, to add to various dried spice, salt or pepper mixes and the roots can be candied, pickled, stewed, sautéed, simmered – the list goes on and on.

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Heidi Billotto on the cooking set of Charlotte Today with show hosts Coleen Odegaard & Eugene Robinson

 

Each year around this time, I feature the Windcrest organic baby ginger in one of my television cooking segments. This week I was on WCNC’s Charlotte Today and ginger was the star of the show as I used it to prepare one of my favorite recipes for quick and easy local BBQ baby back ribs.

The glaze on these ribs was inspired by one of my favorite cocktails made with bourbon, a ginger-honey simple syrup, orange and ginger ale, and believe me, its a keeper! What I love about it is that its not too thick, so while the gingery glaze adds a fabulous sticky sweet and spice flavor, it doesn’t overwhelm and one can still taste the meat.

img_5026I recommend using local pork – lots of choices at any one of Charlotte’s several Farmers’ Markets, and if you can’t find pork ribs, use chops instead. The key to make the recipe move along faster cut the rack of ribs into double chops. The recipe also works well on chicken, seafood and tempeh ( although cooking times will vary slightly) – see my variation notes at the end of the recipe.

Several recipes to share hereCandied Ginger and as a result a Ginger Simple Syrup to use in cocktails  or to make your own ginger ale. The recipe for the ribs I cooking on television this week and a fun recipe for the Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing we all love each time we eat at a Japanese steakhouse.  You’ll find the video from the Charlotte Today segment at the end of this post  – just look for the pink television screen with my logo!

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgOctober’s On The Farm Cooking Class For more ginger how-tos and to see it for yourself, I’d love to have you join me and Mary Roberts for a ginger-centric On The Farm cooking class at Windcrest on Sunday Oct 16, from 1-4 pm. The class includes a farm tour where we see the farm up close and personal and will hear from Mary about sustainability, why it is important to her to grow organically and all about raising crops year round in a greenhouse environment. Plus we’ll cook and enjoy 4-5 new recipes for 4-5 delicious courses of local fare all with a ginger-centric theme. In addition to the tour and the food, the class also includes wine pairings from Assorted Table Wine Shop with each course, a recipe packet for each participant, and gift bag with sample sized local goodies and coupons. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com. 

The lovely thing about cooking with baby ginger  is that when it is harvested it comes without the hard, heavy skin grocery store ginger always has – the ginger develops that skin as it ages – and has a light and delicate flavor plus tons of health benefits as well.

Hope you’ll  attend our On the Farm cooking class later this month – reservations are a must, please, and visit Mary at the market this week and next to get a taste of the 2016 local ginger harvest and enjoy  the pleasures of cooking with the baby ginger while it is here and available, fresh and in season – its really something special!

Classic Japanese Steak House Ginger Salad Dressing

3 Tbsp. minced onion

3 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar

3 Tbsp. finely minced baby ginger

2 Tbsp. organic ketchup

1 Tbsp. Mushroom-flavored soy sauce

1/2 clove minced garlic

Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Combine onion, oil, vinegar, ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and process until combined.Spoon over a plate of your favorite mixed greens.

Homemade Candied Baby Ginger

1 pound fresh baby ginger, thin sliced

4 cups organic granulated sugar

4 cups water, plus more for the initial cooking

pinch of salt

Put the thin baby ginger slices in a large stainless steel pot, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for ten minutes. If you are making this recipe with older store-bought ginger you will want to repeat this precooking process one more time.

Mix the sugar and 4 cups of water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F measured on a candy thermometer

Remove from heat and let the ginger stand in the syrup for at least an hour while the mixture cools.

Remove the ginger from the syrup, reserving the syrup, and place the sliced ginger on a cake rack fitted over a baking sheet with sides. Drain the ginger and then sprinkle with additional sugar to coat both sides of the ginger. As the ginger cools more sprinkling sugar may be necessary.

For your own Ginger Ale

Combine:

1 to 2 Tbsp. of ginger syrup left over from making the candied ginger

sparkling water

Juice of one lime

Fill a tall glass filled with ice, add ginger syrup and the juice of a half of a lime and top with soda water. Adjust flavor adding more ginger syrup or lime as needed. Stir to blend and garnish with lime wedge or a sprig of fresh mint

And finally for the Ginger and Honey glazed baby back rib recipe that Charlotte Today co-hosts Eugene Robinson and Coleen Odegaard raved about on air –

Heidi’s Local Honey and Organic Baby Ginger Baby Back Ribs

img_5032One of my favorite honey-centric cocktails is with bourbon or aged rum, honey, orange and ginger ale – take the same flavors mix them with the baby ginger and apply then to a glaze or marinade and viola…

For a fuller orange flavor in this recipe, I used the Blood Orange infused EVOO from Pour Olive, my go-to artisan olive oil shop on East Blvd. in Charlotte

What make the ribs tender enough to saute is parboiling them first. Bit be sure that the Parboiling Liquid has plenty of flavor – for the parboil, combine

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Make your parboiling liquid flavorful!

2 Tbsp. Pour Olive Blood Orange EVOO

4 thick  slices of Windcrest Farms Organic baby ginger, minced

1 cup toasted  baby ginger leaves – simply crisp them up in a 200 degree over for 10-15 minutes to concentrate their delicate flavor

¼ cup fresh Italian leaf parsley

1 bottle of pale amber beer

2 cups mushroom broth

1 rack local Baby Back Ribs, cut into double ribs

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Glazing the ribs with the basting liquid sears the flavor on the meat

 

Basting sauce:

2/3 cup teriyaki, ponzu or hoisin sauce

¼ cup dark sesame oil

¼ cup minced fresh Windcrest Farms Organic Baby Ginger

1 cup aged whiskey or aged Rum ( I love to use NC’s own  organic TOPO aged whiskey here)

Juice and zest of two oranges or 2 Tbsp. Blood Orange EVOO from Pour Olive

Dash or two of  Crude Bitters orange & Fig bitters ( available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte

1 cup Spicy Hot Blenheims Ginger Ale – made in Blenheims, SC!

½ cup Dancing Bees Farm Honey – your favorite variety ( I love the sourwood honey here and its available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Road.

 Condiments to serve – Texas Pete (if you’d like to spice it up a bit!)

img_5038Combine parboiling ingredients in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer of 30-40 mins or so.

While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining all of the ingredients, except the honey and ginger in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by one third. Remove from heat and stir in honey and ginger.

Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Bathe the ribs in the glaze and place the ribs on a saute pan or grill pan, basting with the glaze until it just starts to brown on the meat, or  place in a roasting pan under the boiler for 2-3 mins on each side.

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Use chicken, seafood or your favorite vegan or vegetarian tempeh with the same delicious ginger glaze

 

To make a vegetarian version of the same – use tempeh or tempeh style “chicken” patties ( available at Earthfare in Charlotte) No parboiling needed – just saute the patties in the Blood Orange oil until nicely browned, then bathe in the glaze and cook down until the glaze has thickened slightly. Same method will work well for your favorite seafood.

For chicken –  no parboiling needed – simply season  bone-in ( this adds more flavor) pieces with salt and pepper and bake  in a preheated 400 degree oven in a covered roasting pan for 30-40 minutes. Remove the lid of the pan and add the basting  liquid. continue to bake for another 5 minutes  or broil the chicken for 2-3 minutes until the glaze starts to brown.

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Watch the video from my October 2016 cooking segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today here.

 Then, be sure to register to attend my October Ginger-centric cooking class at Windcrest Farm on October 16, 1-4 pm. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations, simply email me directly at Heidi@HeidiCooks.com and I’ll send you all the info you need to complete your reservation. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Get Your Panther Game Day Eats On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

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

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

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

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

Thomas Marlow

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

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

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

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

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

Springer Mountain Fried Chicken Biscuit  brown sugar mayo – pickle relish

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

Local Harmony Ridge Duck smoked goat cheese & creamed corn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Troy Gagliardos PRO Pork for the home cook   

More At http://cheftroy.net/

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

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

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

Sauce

1 Cup-Ketchup

¼ Cup-Cider Vinegar

¼-½ Cup-Cold Water

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

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Directions

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

Chef Troy Gagliardos Pulled Pork Carnitas with Charred Slaw

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

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

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Back Rub

1 Recipe-Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

Flour or Corn Tortillas

Directions:

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

Charred Slaw with Spicy Russian Dressing

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

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

To Bruch-Olive Oil

To Taste-Chef Troy’s Spice Mix

½ Cup-Carrot-shredded

3 Each-Green Onion-sliced thin

2 Tablespoons-Unsalted Butter

1 Pack-Dry Ramen Noodle-crushed

Dressing

¾ Cup-Mayonnaise

¼ Cup-Ketchup

1 Teaspoon-Tabasco Hot Sauce

½ Teaspoon-Worcestershire Sauce

3 Tablespoons-Chives-sliced thin

To Taste-Kosher Salt/Black Pepper

Directions

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

 

Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto’s Classic French Onion Soup

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

3 medium onions, thin sliced

2 cloves Local or organic garlic

5 Tbsp. butter

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

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

1 cup dry white wine

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

½ cup Tawny Port

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

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

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

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

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

HeidiBillottoFood.com

 

Béchamel

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole local milk

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pink Himalayan seas salt from the Savory Spice Shop to taste

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

For the sandwiches:

8 A Little Taste of Heaven Biscuits

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Short Ribs

Artisan Restaurant at the International Culinary School – Art Institute Charlotte

4 oz Oil – Olive & Canola Blend

3 lbs. Short Ribs

Salt & Pepper to taste

Flour      to coat

1 lb. Onion

½ lb. Carrot

½ lb Parsnips

3 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 oz. Tomato Paste

8 oz Beer, Dark preferred

2 oz Brown Sugar

2 oz Worcestershire

2-3 cups Beef Stock

3-4 sprigs Oregano (or other strong herb)

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

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

Crock Pot Method

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

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Gateway Cheddar Grits

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

As needed salt

1 cup stone ground grits

4 oz. unsalted butter

4 oz. heavy cream

4 oz. grated cheddar

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

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

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

Chef Terra Ciotta’s Braised Shortribs

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce Zucchini Crust Pizza

More at https://cannizzarofamiglia.com/

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

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

Andy and Melanie Tritten’s Cannizzaro Sauce  Zucchini Ravioli

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

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

Chef Big Bigham’s Garlic Shrimp Crostini  

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

8 Large Shrimp, deveined, peeled

8 slices Baguette

3 cloves Garlic, peeled

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

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

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

8 slices Baguette

8 slices Manchego Cheese, sliced to fit Crostini

4 slices Prosciutto, slice in strips

4 Black Figs, halved

Honey

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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

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

2 oz Feta Cheese

4 Artichoke Hearts, halved

8 pitted Kalamata Olives

8 slices Baguette

1 clove Garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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

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

More at http://www.cynthiacooks.com/

Salsa di Pomodori della Nonna

meatballs (see recipe below0

2 pounds of fresh Italian sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of tomato puree, fresh or canned

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

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole carrot

1 stalk of celery

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

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

Cynthia Ferich’s “Cynthia Cooks”  Meatballs or Polpette

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

3/4 cup of water

1/4 pound of ground veal

1/4 pound of ground beef

1/4 pound of ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tenda-Bake MapleBurst Pancake Mix Peach & Blueberry Cobbler

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

8 Tbsp melted butter

2 cups Tenda-Bake Maple Burst Pancake and Waffle Mix

1 cup whole organic or local milk

4 cups peeled and sliced peaches

2 cups blueberries

½ cup granulated organic sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Dinner Waffles:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

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

1 cup local or organic whole milk

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

2 cups Tenda-Bake 7 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. dried Thyme leaves

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

2 local or organic eggs, beaten

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Want more great recipes, links to videos and stories on all your favorite chefs, restaurants, 3 Day weekends and lots of food-centric events? Simply subscribe to this blog and you’ll be the first to see each and every post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heidi Billotto and Chef Troy Gagliardo

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

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Melanie and Andy Tritten

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

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Chef Cynthis Ferich

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

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

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

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Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

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

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Chefs Emily and Chris Russell, Zone 7 Foods

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

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

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Heidi with chefs Sam Stachon and Clark Barlow

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

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Chef Luca Annunziata

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

 

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

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

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

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

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Shoeless Joe Jackson statue in Greenville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Carolina Chefs Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Miss This Inaugural Event:

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

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

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

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

From Hendersonville, Jess Roque Never Blue

From Hickory Sam Stachon Highland Avenue

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

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

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

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

Heidi Billotto 2008

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

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

Delicious Ways to Eat your Fruits and Veggies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberry ToastiesDole’s Strawberry Toasties

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

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

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

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

Make Your Own Almond MilkMake It Yourself Almond Milk

1 cup raw organic almonds

2 cups filtered water

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

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

 

 

 

A Bite of GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte from Behind the Scenes

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

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

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

 

Team Radical Range Riders

Team Radical Range Riders

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

Team 3 cooks

Team 3 Cooks

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

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

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

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

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

chefs at the reveal

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

DSC_0594

Chef Paul Verica | Heritage Food&Drink

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

DSC_0561

Chef Adam Reed Sante of Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

August 22 between Team Lucianos Charlotte and Team Fahrenheit CLT

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

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

 

Tomato Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_1519

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

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

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

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

Heidi Billotto's Tomato Pie

 

Heidi’s Taste of Summer Tomato Pie

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

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

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

fresh locally grown basil

Fine grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Panko Crumbs

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

1 local egg yolk

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Vodka Pie Crust

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

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

1 tsp  salt

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

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

1/4 cup cold vodka

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

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

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

 

2016 GotTobeNC Competition Dining Series Comes to Charlotte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 8 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Aug 22 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

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

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

 

Aug 23 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

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

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

 

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

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

 

Summertime & Charlotte Restaurant Week Makes the Eating Easy

imgresIts Time, Charlotte.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Farm to Fork For The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

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

Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Restaurant in Charlotte, NC

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

Tim Groody, Fork! in Cornelius, NC

Joe Kindred, Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, NC

Adam Reed, Sante of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, NC

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

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



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

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Get your Grill On…

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

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

Heidi’s Bistecca or Salmon Fiorentina

4 long sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and minced

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

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

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

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

2 lemons cut into wedges

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

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

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

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

GotTobeNC Competition Dining is in Greensboro

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Competition Dining Greensboro Preliminaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Competition Dining Greensboro to come

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

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

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

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

cooking class date

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

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

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

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, but I digress…

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Want to Know More?

On Friendship Trays: Visit FriendshipTrays.org

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

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

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

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

To subscribe to the CLTure Blog, Visit clture.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Taste of Spring: Asparagus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Heidi’s Parmesan Popovers

1 1/2 cups organic all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

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

1 local or pasture raised organic egg

1 1/2 cups organic whole milk

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chef Chris Coleman

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

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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